top of page
Podcast Transcript

From Eagles to Flamingos

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  0:10  
Welcome to "Your Authentic Path To Powerful Leadership with Marsha Clark" where we believe there's a better way to be a woman today. With research tools, books and our own personal experiences, join us on this journey because in every episode, we uncover what it takes to be a powerful leader in our organizations, our communities and our lives. So Marsha, welcome again... We're back for another week! What will we be talking about today?

Marsha Clark  0:45  
Well, thank you very much, Wendi. And I'm excited to be back for another week. And hello again to to everyone that's in our listening audience today. Today's topic is entitled "From Eagles to Flamingos." Again, hopefully, as sort of a provocative title that invites you in. And what we're going to do today is we're going to explore the impact of organizational culture. And really the way that it that our cultures can drive both individual and group behavior and literally leads to how it influences our ultimate results.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:22  
Okay, so I have to ask the obvious question in the room... What do eagles and flamingos have to do with a book about women's leadership and power and organizational culture?

Marsha Clark  1:34  
Well, so you that that is quite a stretch, isn't it? So I want to say and you know, I use a lot of EDS references and I want the listeners to understand you have your own company references and and my guess is is that that there are aspects of by stories that you could just replace the the name EDS with your own company, and it would you would have similar stories. So I just want you to know, I'm using EDS is illustrative because I've worked with hundreds, hundreds, hundreds of companies to understand it. So I just want to be clear about that part. But you know, growing up in EDS, there was a very significant plaque that spoke to the culture of EDS, almost every EDS er could quote this, and the quote is, Eagles don't flock, you have to find them one at a time. And that was a quote from Henry Ross Perot, ah, Ross Perot, that was the founder of EDS. And we took that to heart We really, that was like a badge of honor. So the EDS culture glorified, you know, the the idea of individual eagle soaring, right? And that Eagles were the symbolism of Eagles were present throughout my career. And throughout even the offices in, you know, the areas that we worked in. So there were statues, there were coffee cups, there were riding pins, there were lapel pins. And this sounds kind of crazy, because we all laughed about it. But even there was a little like, at our headquarters in Dallas, and it was supposed to be in the shape of an eagle. You could question that because it was it was not exactly perfect. But yes, everything around us was eagles. And so I want to talk a little bit about, you know, thinking about for our listeners, what is the symbol that would represent your organization's culture. So I'll share with you some thoughts about what the eagle represents what I learned when I was there, when I lived when I was there, and then, you know, doing a little bit more current research around it. So the eagle is an icon for strength, for patriotism. And it's even an emblem for, you know, powerful nations. So the idea of strength, we wanted a strong company we wanted, we wanted, the strength of our financials, the strength of our customer service, the strength of employee development, and so on. And so as I said, I did a little research in preparation for this podcast and I looked at other things, or the things that you know, eagles represent. And I can see clearly see the connection that these things that I found as part of what my lived experience was at EDS so the the things that eagles represent our inspiration, freedom, victory, longevity, speed, and pride. And so you'll see things like make our mistakes at full speed and don't make the same one twice. Yeah. I mean, that's just a simple little one. But you know, we weren't in this for the long haul. It wasn't what we always talked about. It's, it's a marathon, it's not a sprint. And so those things were clearly reflected. And, I really think about my time in DC at EDS is when I grew up, you know, it was my formative years and really looking at the early stages of my career.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  4:55  
So it sounds like identifying having yourself identify as being an eagle was something to be proud of there.

Marsha Clark  5:04  
It really was. You know, the the idea of we couldn't wait to get our eagle pin...

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  5:09  
Oh! There were pins!

Marsha Clark  5:11  
Lapel pins and writing pins and so on. But the lapel pin, you know, we all had to wear suits back in those days that was like so. And so to have that angle on your lapel pin was really meaningful. And I'll tell you I recently downsized and I'm not kidding you. I had a cedar chest full of EDS memorabilia, because oh, wow, you work there 21 years you collect if you have tchotchkes as well. And so I had bronze eagles, I had ceramic eagles, I had crystal eagles, I had wooden eagles. I mean, there he goes out out the wazoo. And I know we have a we have a pretty active EDS group Facebook page. And it's always fun to see people who are finding things from their EDS days.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  5:58  
So how did that culture of soaring individually play out on a day to day basis for people who work there? Like was that exhilarating? Exhausting? Confusing, with all those eagles flapping around? Like what was that?

Marsha Clark  6:13  
Well, you know, I will tell you, it's both exhilarating and exhausting. So if I'm really, you know, honest with, with myself and with with our listeners, you know, it created that pride and that solidarity, you know, that one at a time, I felt special, and yet I was part of a special team of angels as well. And, you know, having the term and the symbol of bagels was really did create pride. And so that part was the exhilarating pace. And I also want to say that, you know, we gather them one at a time was, I think, reflective of diversity. So we didn't want everybody to be the same, we wanted to have complimentary factors and strengths and skills and experiences that were brought to the table as well. And we were driven. I mean, we were you know, that they all type A personalities, we were, you know, there were there were many of us in that category. And so when you have that type A personality, and if you don't have the sense for and the the courage to set boundaries, to really recognize what balance you needed to self manage yourself, and quite honestly, how you're going to respond and you know, different situations, you can get burned out, you know, and we even talked about, we play hard, we work hard, we play hard, I mean, so we just were hard, we were all full go. And so the culture was for everyone. And yet, if you were there, and you really, it really was aligned with who you are, and your value systems and so on, it was a great place to be.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  7:49  
So I want to go deeper on this idea of culture. What advice do you give leaders today who are trying to create culture changes or cultural shifts in their organizations?

Well, first, I salute their efforts. Because culture, it's like the water we swim in. And so either it's clean water, or dirty water or murky water, whatever. And so I salute your efforts to create the kind of culture and be deliberate about that. And in my opinion, the best cultures are those that are based on a set of values, because I always felt like the values of EDS aligned with my personal values, and when they didn't, is when I left. And so but that was critically important to me. And so I think when you have that kind of alignment, you're going to get more commitment, more loyalty, more engagement, more productivity, I want to be there, and I want to do good work. And so that's the importance of cultures. And it's not just for the employees of the company. But what I know is that we heard a lot from our clients, our prospects, the vendors we worked with, and even government agencies that worked with us that that our culture was very clear, and one that they admired. It was an attractor for many. And, you know, having said that, I also for those out there who are wanting to look at their own cultures, culture is rarely one, it uniform, if you will, across an organization and especially if your company has grown or your organization has grown through mergers, acquisitions, you know, bringing different groups together, there are a lot of subcultures. So recognizing, and then there's a place and a purpose, a good purpose for subcultures. If I'm on a client facing that culture may have its own unique characteristics versus being in a support function. So thinking about it. And then the other thing I want to tell you about cultures is that we've gone through many cycles of there's plaques on the wall, there's, you know, posters, there's the laminated card that you carry in your, you know, your wallet, or whatever. It that's not culture. You know, you got to walk the talk, you got to live what's printed on those plaques and posters and that laminated card. And if you don't, it's a, it's a hollow. It's an empty culture, if you will. And then the last piece that I would offer up is, you've got to make sure that your policies, your practices, your leadership, competencies, whatever, all those things are that that helped make your company go, that they reflect and reinforce your culture or your cultural values. Because if you don't, things are always intention or at odds. So you know, if we say we value people, what do our policies and practices and human resources say about how we value people? What are we what are we teaching, promoting hiring leaders who care about, you know, helping their people grow and develop? So those are the kinds of things that you want to make sure are also aligned?

Well, obviously, you did very well at EDS in that eagle culture. So that makes me curious to go back to the original question... Qhat's the deal with flamingos? That's quite a visual leap when I think about eagles and flamingos.

So I have to tell you, we really have to give Tracie Shipman a lot of credit here. So she was a colleague at EDS, and we've been friends for over 30 years, so and she's one of the most creative people I've ever met. So I want to give her credit for this. So when we begin to think about this, because I have tried to take the best of the eagle culture, if you will, and reflect it in my own organization. And there's more, it's not just eagles. So we played around with a lot of different ideas, thinking about, okay, the Eagles were strong there. What's, what's our bird, right? What? What's this, so what's different, and I wanted something that represented collaboration, something that was out of the norm, because women's leadership problems, when we started all of this were certainly out of the norm. And you know, that it stood out from other things. And so, Tracy brought me a couple of birds. And then we decided, Oh, my gosh, it's flamingos. Now I got to explain this, just as I talked about, just as I talked about the power of eagles, I'm going to talk about the powerful mangoes. So flamingos are unique, I mean, that whole part of the one at a time, and the unique can have some similarities. But again, I think unique also relates very much to the authentic aspect of leadership. Mm hmm. It's beautiful in its intent and design. And I like to think that the programs, the tools, the work that we do, the book that I've written, are, you know, beautiful in its intent and design. And flamingos flock together. So like eagles don't flock together, and one at a time, flamingos do flock together and support one another and protect each other against attacks. And I think this is a part of the women supporting women, you know, aspect of my work. And when you see that bright pink, on a flamingo, it really represents that they're healthy. So they're eating well, they're taking care of themselves. And we, you know, put a lot of focus on self care, taking care of ourselves so that we can be there for all the other people in our lives. And one of the other things that I just loved dearly is that when they gather our flock, they're called a stand.

So it's a stand of flamingos, when you see a bunch of them together?

Oh, yes, yes. So it's not a it's not a flock, it's a stand. And I love that because at the end of all of our programs, we ask people to write, you know, over the course of the program, to write their own leadership stand. So there were so many parallels to this, that we just had to pick flamingos.

I love it. I love it. Yes, I remember at the end of the program that we created and shared, all of our leadership stands, those of us who were in the class together. And so will you share an example of what a leadership stand would sound like for our listeners, because they may not be familiar with that phrase.

So I'm going to describe what a stand is. Everybody always wants an example. And I refuse to give it to them. You know this because it annoys me. You know, where's the template? Where's the PowerPoint deck? You know, where's the master slide? So because it is your leadership stand, if this isn't a competitive analysis, or, you know, it's not you're not trying to one up or make sure you're yours is different. We want it to be different. That's why it has to come from within you. So a leadership stand is 50 to 100 words, and we don't count them but you know, just as a directional, brevity, direct Yes. It represents your leadership philosophies, your principles and your values. So it's not what you do as a leader because we spend an awful lot of time in the world, thinking about What you do as a leader, this is about who you are as a leader. So it's part real, what's true for me today. And it's also part aspirational. What kind of leader do I aspire to be? In my best way and my best self? And and think about this leadership, Stan is if you were asked in an interview, tell me what your leadership style is, or your leadership philosophy, you'd want to be able to answer that clearly, crisply. Quickly, succinctly. And so the leadership, Stan helps prepare you for those kinds of conversations. Or maybe you're taking over a new team, and you want them to get to know you as a leader. Then you can you can use this information and sharing about yourself. And then also think about it. If you're a parent, a spouse, a partner, a sister, a daughter, whatever it may be, what what do I want to be with in that role as well? So, you know, I believe, as I've said, leadership is a mindset. So I can use the same sentiments based on who I am and what my values are, regardless of whether I'm in a professor professional or a personal, you know, space.

Right, so, I can see the appeal of using flamingos and and their stand is there also another name for a stand of flamingos or a flock of flamingos?

Yes. And so this is another one of those fun words. And I'm also thinking about all the ways we've used alliteration here. So this is called. This is called a flamboyance of flamingos. And so I mean, again, that word attracts me...

... as a fabulous word. Right?

And so I, you know, when I saw this, I said, Okay, I'm gonna go look up, what flamboyance means, you know, in the dictionary, which I often do to really understand a more generic or more universal meaning of it. And so flamboyance is the tendency to attract attention, because of one's exuberates confidence and stylishness.

Oh my God love that sentence.

So when I think about the work that we're doing, again, just like I could track it back to what the eagle represents, I can now track our work back to what the flamboyance means. Yeah, because when I think about exuberance, the passion and the purpose of this work, not just by me, but by all of the people that work with me on this as well as the people who come into our programs. And I think the people who read the book, so how can I get passionate and purposeful about who I am as a woman later. So if I may, so I also want to increase when we talk about, you know, exuberance, confidence, our whole lot, one of our, you know, major metrics, even if the will is, am I gaining more confidence as a female later, so that there are many things associated with bringing that to the table. And I believe that good leadership never goes out of style. So that's the stylishness of it, it may take slightly different forms based on the role I have, or the level I am or whether I'm thinking about my personal life or my professional life. And yet, it's still leadership, and it never goes out of style.

Right? Right. So what section of your first book do do you get to this area around creating your leadership stand? Because I remember it at the end of the program, when it was when it's an in person program, but I'm just wondering, like, where in the book, can our reader expect to address this or start putting together her stand?

So I encourage you to start now. That's right, right now, write a draft, write a draft. It's not etched in stone. But if I were to sit down and write my leadership, philosophy, my beliefs, my values, you know that that sort of thing. Here's how I want to show us how I want to show up. Yeah, and so write it down. Now. We introduce it at the beginning, but then we share it at the end. And even though almost every single session, I would say don't forget your leadership stance. I would have people tell me, they wrote it the night before. But they needed that because until they had gotten through so much of the program, did it all come together for them on all the ways in which they wanted to talk about themselves as a leader, but it's not etched in stone. But you know, I would say write it down now keep it in front of you read it periodically and say, am I living my life in accordance with what is the kind of leader I want to be? And so that's where I would say if you can write it now, and yet it's not done? Right? Right. It's a Dynamic Document.

I love that. I love that. Okay, so getting back to the bird conversation, most people would agree There's a big difference between eagles and flamingos in the natural world. But how would you say you personally shifted from a culture of Eagles to creating a business that operated more like flamingos? And yeah, that's a really strange organizational question I just asked. So I'm going to admit that straight out, but I mean, but I think our listeners understand the philosophical difference between eagles and flamingos.

Marsha Clark  20:29  
Yeah, and here's what I want to say to you. It's a both and not an either or. Right like that. So much as we've talked about. great leaders know what tool to use when great leaders know when to be an eagle and when to be a flamingo, right. So I mean, if I can, if I can make that parallel. And so you know, when I think about my latter years, when I was responsible for leadership, and executive development was one of my responsibilities at HBS. We did some really, at the time, were provocative, very different kinds of executive development programs. And we got written up in all the big magazines, and media outlets accordingly. Because we were teaching, not just soft skills, because you know, those have kind of been around for a while, but but super soft skills, this idea of really looking inside getting clear about who I am, and, and recognizing the wholeness of me. So not just the professional me, but you know, all the things that I've experienced in life that create who I am today. And so those transformational programs, they enabled me to take some of those design elements in those concepts and bring them forth in the design of the program. And when I think about where the flamingos come in, it really is about the collaborative effort. And I'm not saying that we we work solo, because we didn't have EDS teams together, everyone achieves more kind of vibe, right? But, and the collaboration of creating something brand new, and doing it in a way that was cooperative, collaborative, and not competitive. And so at EDS, we believe that if we didn't design it, or develop it, it must not be good. So we created a whole bunch of stuff. When I went to my master's program, I thought, Oh, my gosh, this stuff existed, we just didn't tap into it. So there's lots of good stuff out there, right? So when I think about how, how developing the power of sub programming that, you know, subsequently leads to the book, we wanted to go see what was out there and then partner with people to bring the best to the table versus creating something that would be in competition, because we wanted to take the best of the best of the best put it all together. So when you think about even the material that I share, it's not I'm using other people's research and other people's work. And yet it's how we put it together that is as powerful as the content itself.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  23:12  
Okay. Okay. So, so you're becoming an entrepreneur was not really so much by some grand designer burning passion, but this desire to do it in a way that you felt spoke to women?

Yes, yes. When I, when I left EDS, I didn't know what I was going to do. And, you know, I didn't imagine being an entrepreneur at all, just, you know, friend says, Come help me. I, you know, did my DBA is Marsha Clark and Associates. And, you know, the rest is history, as they say, because I really found that I liked it. And I'll be honest with you, what I liked most about it was I got to do it my way. And, you know, I wasn't having to conform or comply to what's or even be obedient about what someone else told me to do. You know, there were a lot of people that said, other people, you know, O.P.M. was the big acronym, which was use "other people's money." And I thought, well, I don't want to do that. Because if I use their money, then they're going to think they can tell me what to do that so I probably had a stronger entrepreneurial spirit than I realized. And so I wanted to do it my way. So they the entrepreneurial part came. And that was then blending the place where I knew when to be an eagle and I knew one I wanted to be a flamingo.

What's an example of some content that you experienced during your master's program that influenced or shaped the work that you ended up doing?

Yeah, so the master's program is that was a Master of Science in organization development, and I got it at American University out of Washington, DC and it was a two year program so and what the biggest thing it gave me I think, was really understanding the research and literature. existed, and then how to ensure that whatever I'm teaching is researched based. So I don't make stuff up now. It's a combination, right? So when I do the research, I pull in that bell shaped curve. And you know, that's what gives it credibility. And even though it may not be my experience, it's a lot of people's experience. And so I need to recognize and understand that as a good leader. And that academic rigor and discipline have all associated with that. So that was one big thing. Because what I learned is that there were lots of things out there that I'll call it reflected my lived experience, oh, there's a name for that, oh, other people have thought about that, or experienced that, or felt that. So that was a big deal. And then the, it also gave me breadth and depth into how to design using adult learning theory, how people best learn. So we had done, you know, the visual kinesthetic auditory learning styles when I was at EDS, and but there was, this gave me something that I think has served the programs and the book and the learning well, because it builds. So if you think about, it starts with self awareness, it goes to interpersonal, It then goes to team and then to organizational and then to market or society, however you want to think about that, right? So if you if you envision the target, right, so again, I'm the center circle, right? I'm the I'm the bullseye, right? Yeah. And then, you know, interpersonal goes next, and then team goes next, and so on. And that's the, if you can take that visual image, because what the Center for Creative Leadership has shared with us is that some of the biggest derailleurs and showstoppers for people being effective leaders is this lack of self awareness. So I reinforced that a lot. And I start there. I think I'm showing up to the world one way, and in fact, the world is seeing me a different way. And I need to close that gap. Right? I want to show up the way I want people to see me in the way I desire to show up and that creates, and that requires a lot of self awareness.

It does. It does. And you mentioned that other leadership programs you had championed before when you were at EDS, they were co-ed, right. Okay, were they successful? Did you feel like they were successful?

Yeah, I feel very much like they were successful, because we, as I say, we peel back more layers, right. And instead of the stoicism, the idealized state, they I have to be strong all the time. And I you know, never admit when I don't know or admit my mistakes or whatever, we just tore down a lot of those barriers. And I'll never forget, there was one gentleman in one of the classes and he was a bit frustrated. And he said, Well, if you want me to be all these soft things, then why don't you teach me that. And I remember our vice chair and president of the company at the time, he kind of put his arm around this guy. And he said, if we hadn't known to do that, we would have done it. And so you know, we call it learning. And so it was an evolution of the kind of leadership we needed at that time, which was very different than the kind of leadership that was prominent and effective when the company was started.

Right, exactly. So it's speaking of evolution, I'm assuming that's why you felt like you needed to focus on a women's only leadership program when you left.

So it became clear to me after my power lab experience, which I talked about where women banded together, and change the system. And I thought, Man, I love the idea of this, the fact that I'm learning more about gender differences through my master's program, because the master's program in organization development is about the human condition. It's about people. And so seeing that through a new lens. So and then thinking about my own experience, I just left a company I loved because its values didn't align with mine. So when you when you bring all of that together, and so here's what I've learned in the 20 plus years that I've been doing specifically work with women. One is that when women are together with just women, we tend to ask more questions. Mm hmm. And if there were men in the room, we wouldn't ask those questions, because there wouldn't be room for us to ask questions or would be an opening for it. Or we wouldn't feel like they could relate to or understand what we were saying. So we would just we would just be we just keep it to ourselves. And so the value of having a women's program is that we ask more questions, therefore we get more information. The second is that women often feel isolated in organizations. Even though here we are 2021 it is not unusual for me to have many women come into the program and say I'm still Often the first the only, or one of few women in the room at the table or whatever. And so there's an aloneness to that. And so, because we don't ask our questions or being conversations around these things, we think it's just us. And so to go into a room of 20, or 30 women and say, Oh, you feel that way, or, Oh, you've had that experience, all of a sudden, I don't feel so alone anymore, right. And then, you know, the other is the networking opportunity. Men are very good at supporting each other. And the research shows us that they can have very loose connections with another man and still put him forth as a resource or a reference or make an introduction or whatever. For women, we often need to have deeper relationships in order to feel good about it. And we're not good at asking, you know, for business, or for what we want, or whatever. And so creating this strong network and giving ourselves permission to then use that network in a variety of ways, for support for learning for business is a good thing. Mm hmm. And then the next thing is around. Dr. Patricia Hahn calls it invisible rules or invisible differences. There are subtle differences between how men and women show up in their leadership styles. There's some similarities, we got learned behaviors and all of that. But understanding the distinctions and the nuance, I had a CEO once Tell me a male, that said, the higher you go in an organization, the more important important nuance becomes. And so the nuances associated with some of these gender differences are significant and can, you know, can get the ball over the goal line, if you will. And then the last one is about, as I've mentioned, women don't always ask for what we want. And so one of the things we teach women early in the program is tell us what you need, tell us what you want, doesn't mean we're always going to be able to accommodate it. But I want you to get into the practice and use it in a safe environment to learn and practice asking for what you want.

So you share in the book, you tell the story of how you pulled a group of colleagues together to help you design the power of self program, which is the precursor to this book series in the start of your entrepreneurial career. So I guess you were gathering your Flamingo stand even then, huh?

Yes, I didn't know I was but yes, that's what I would say in retrospect.

Okay. Yeah. So tell us about that gathering.

Yeah. So we, we, we, the program itself, was designed over a period of about 15 minutes. And it was collaboration at its finest. We met at my house, we pulled art off the wall, we had sticky notes on the wall, and all that kind of thing. And so it was a group of women, not just EDS, women, I pull women from lots of different walks of life. And and I would call it some deer and a few enlightened men that I thought we could also Yeah, yeah. Because, you know, I wanted to hear that perspective. But I want...

Exactly... how it would impact their ears as well. Right?

Marsha Clark  33:13  
Yeah, that's right. Yeah. And, and, um, but I didn't want it to be, oh, this nonsense, or Oh, we don't need this. I didn't want the the denial of the reality of that. So that's why I call them enlightened demand. And we met one weekend, a month. And we really explored the competitive marketplace, what what was out there, what kind of programs were out there. And there weren't many, there might have been a program with a piece of the content we wanted to share, but not something that was comprehensive, like we wanted to build. So I set these people that were a part of my, you know, collaborative thought group, we would send them to different classes, and we had this, you know, thick questionnaire, they had to come back and tell us all about it so that we can figure out if it was a good way, a good piece of content to incorporate. Right? And, you know, when I think about that, that really was more again about the cooperative and collaborative more than the competitive. So how did we partner with those great programs to bring it together in a more comprehensive kind of program? And we, we tried to there were a couple of things to say here. So the people I brought into the team to work on this were from engineers, accountants, you know, instructional designers, doctors, lawyers, I mean, it was a broad array. And after we got our first design done, we we did focus groups. And so I put on my business hat, my ego business hat. Yeah. And and I said, Okay, so we want to talk to diversity leaders, because this is a gender program. So we want to know what they think about this content and design. We brought in the women that we thought would be participant That's because we wanted to make sure it appealed to what their needs were. And then we also brought in the leadership development. And these were each different focus groups, the leadership development, folks, because they're the ones who are designing these kinds of programs. And then the fourth was the business people to say, do you see the business value of teaching this content. And because I think this is where a lot of times it breaks down, it would be those business leaders who either made the buying decision and wrote the check, or approved the budgets of the leadership development or diversity of people to write the checks. So it was taking a real business look at. And I think that's important for all of us. When we think about our proposals or ideas or recommendations, we got to know who the decision makers are, we got to know who writes the check.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  35:51  
Mm hmm. Yeah, exactly. So if we circle back to that idea that we talked about earlier, of either creating or shaping organizational culture, what were you doing intentionally here at the beginning to create the kind of culture that you wanted with this team of people?

Well, first of all, it was a collaborative effort. Any idea was a good idea, we I can't tell you how many sticky notes we had on walls over this time period. So the collaborative part was very much a way of getting the best ideas and inviting everyone's best ideas on the table. And again, that was a new experience for a lot of women, because we often didn't get invited. So that was one thing. The other thing I want to say, and this is a fun one, and I want to give my dear sweet friend and colleague, Denise renter, credit for this, we had something we had a flip chart, piece of paper on the wall, and we call it the chill factor. So our one of our metrics, was if somebody brought back and was sharing information about a program or an activity or something that they did that they were recommending we put in the program, if we all got chills, we knew it needed to be in the present.

I love that... that just gave me chills talking about it.

You know, it's our, it's our instincts. It's our intuition. It's our gut telling us there's something in this for us. So we would we would have to factor and if we got it, then we would put whatever that content or activity was on the board. And we made sure that adding corporate, you know, now I will tell you I've worked in, as I said, Have Said hundreds of organizations, I can't imagine myself going in and said let's do a chill factor.

Especially in EDS. Here's the page here. That's right. Yeah. of the whiteboard for when you get the goosebumps. That's right. Get you like, Where's the exit?

Marsha Clark  37:51  
Exactly as she lost it again? Yeah,

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  37:55  
Exactly. So as a business leader, how do you ensure that the culture stays aligned with your vision or mission or values as the leader and and how hard is that to do if you have an organization full of solo flying eagles, or collective focus flamingos?

Marsha Clark  38:17  
Well, I'm going to take you back to it's not an either or it's a both and, and so when I think about cultures, there are times when I want my leaders at the top the people with the positional power, to be Eagles to give us direction to be very clear about, you know, the speed, the focus, the inspiration, the strength, we got to go do x. And when I think about what we've been through, in the last year, year and a half or so, we've needed the people at the top to set that direction and be be that source of strength and inspiration that we need to draw on. So I think that's, you know, one side of it, but it's also a both and at the same time, we need to be collaborating and allowing people and This to me is part of the re entry, you know, questions that we're talking about right now, which are, do we bring people back to work? When do we bring people back to work? Is there going to Are we going to offer them flexibility? You know, and I had a conversation just yesterday, I think how companies decide to do that is reflective of whether they have at least one aspect of it is whether they have a high trust culture or low trust culture. Yes. Because if I trust that you're working just as hard when you're at home, and you're producing the results I want you to produce. That's high trust. If I don't, that's low trust. So you got to come in here and I got to see you sitting at your desk to believe that you're working. And the conversation with my coaching client was we know that people could sit at their desk all day long and still not get their work done...

Unknown Speaker  39:51  
Could be doing all kinds of things because the computer monitor faces that way...

Marsha Clark  39:57  
That's right. I think I could be looking for another job. I can be playing video games? Yeah, a lot of things. Yeah, can be chit chat throughout the day, right? So the idea here is that I want a culture that really rewards, results, as well as the relationships I build in in conjunction with it. And the relationship side of this is, again, in the context of bringing people back. If I do give you the flexibility to work from home, am I going to Am I going to have the visibility of you, or the reminder of you sort of that out of sight, out of mind kind of thing? So am I going to pick you for projects? Or am I going to, you know, consider you to be ready for the next one if you're working from home. So that's the relationship side of this, the people side of it that we also have to take into account. So those are the kinds of things and you know, culture so complicated, we can't answer that in one question. But those are just some thoughts and considerations.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  40:48  
Right? Well, but I love the emotionality of your answer of trust. I think that's a big one when it comes to creating culture. So anyway, I remember you sharing the story that when you first started the power of self program, you guys had done all this prep work, and you're ready to launch the program. And then you almost had to cancel the whole thing. Talk about that...

Marsha Clark  41:13  
Yeah, gosh, gosh, gosh, so this was at a time we had spent these 15 minutes getting ready, we had our dates on the calendar, we had our hotel reserved, we, you know, the materials were were prepped and ready to go. And 911 happened. And we know that here in America, 911 changed everything. And so all the excitement and exhilaration and joy and the momentum we had came to a screeching halt. Because, you know, just like everybody we were, we were struggling with the uncertainty, the chaos of it, the fear, all of those things were at play. So over the next week, we were it was literally three weeks out that we were going to launch the program. And so I and what I was hearing was, we can't spend the money. So it became a financial decision for participants who had signed up to pull out. Now, I think that was a majority of the decision. But we also didn't know, you know, what, what availability, these people needed to have both in their families, their personal lives, their communities and their companies. So there was a bit of that as well. So we had had, like, I don't know, 36 people, I think sign up, we ended up with 26 people in the program. Okay. And so I talked with my husband, we, I said, Gosh, I really believe in this. And I think the world needs this leadership now more than ever. And so we I crunched numbers. And what we did was make the decision and I did it in conjunction with my husband. We crunched numbers, and I gave the program away the first year. And the program at that time was 23 days in seven sessions. It ended up being 19 days and six sessions because it evolved over time. But it was about a $350,000 decision. And we gave it away and it was it was big. It was huge. It was my first big decision as an entrepreneur and it was one that I feel I look back on now and I'm really glad I made it.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  43:29  
I just want to underscore this you gave the program away free for 26 participants and it costs you personally $350,000. That's a big commitment to women helping women. I mean, let's just underscore that and raise a glass to it. I mean, that's a huge decision. And as a business owner myself, I don't want to sound ungrateful because if I was one of those 26 women who was super excited, but what were you thinking?

Marsha Clark  43:58  
Well, no, you're not the first person who saw so I you know, I talked to friends and colleagues and people that I thought could offer meaningful and useful advice. So I will tell you it was mostly men that I talked to again, thinking about most of the people that I knew who were I considered to be smart, savvy business people. And without exception, every one of them said two things. You shouldn't go forward with it, the timing is wrong. And secondly, if you give it away, the women won't value it. And and that just didn't ring true for me. And so in my woman head, I was saying that I don't get that and remember how I said a moment ago that I wanted to do it my way. So I bucked every single bit of the conventional wisdom that said don't do it and don't give it away. Now I want to give you the you know, the next chapter of the story or the the chapters as they unfolded So these 26, women could not have been more grateful for the experience, they'd signed up for it because they wanted it, they felt they needed it, they felt like it could help them be better leaders. And I also want to tell you that those women have been given me extraordinary add on business over the last 20 years, millions and millions of dollars worth of business. And so this idea of they won't value it, they valued it so much. They wanted to propagate it, right. They wanted to perpetuate it. And it's been from the organization they were in at that time to the next organization they went to, to the next organization they went to so I have no regrets. And it was a big, big, big gulp, at the time for them to make that choice,

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  45:48  
I'm sure but I think I want what I want to stress also is the momentum that you had, like you had been working on this for 15 months, you had a team in place, you had this ready to go. And I think another thing that I'd like to hear you talk about a little bit is the fact that yes, 911 happened. And so to me, women people, people need this kind of programming even more, you know, because of what was going on in our country. And we needed great leadership at all levels of our organizations and all kinds of leadership. Right? Exactly. Whether it be leadership with compassion, I mean, people were making decisions left, right and sideways. And and was it always was it from a place of anger? Or was it from a place of revenge? Or was it from a place that because the compassion needed for the citizens of the United States,

Marsha Clark  46:41  
I think was as important an aspect as anything. And so I just, I really did, I had the courage of my convictions, and I was, I was pretty dead level set. Remember when I told you I'm in? I'm all in? This was an effective I, man.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  46:55  
Exactly. So I feel like this has been kind of the National Geographic version of the podcast, setting the habits of organizational cultures through a bird-watching lens. And you're always so good about asking people in your programs to think about a key takeaway for me today. So what would you say are the key takeaways from today's podcast?

Marsha Clark  47:18  
Yeah, so what stands out for you today, it's one of my favorite. So here's what I would offer to you be your unique, authentic, one at a time self. That's the best strongest authentic leader you can be. The second is get really get really clear about who you are as a leader and be able to declare that through a leadership stand. So the clarity of who you are, and your ability to articulate that to others. The third is to create a culture that brings together and reflects the best of both eagles and flamingos. Again, it's a both and not an either or, and live the values of that culture. Hold yourself and others accountable to it. Because the the most I think, contentious situations or difficult, challenging situations are when there's a gap between speaking about what your culture is and living that culture. So you got to hold yourself and others accountable to that. So I also want to say supporting other women, who are also unique, and, and want to be their authentic selves, as well, that it may be different from my authentic self, thus the authenticity of it Right, right. But But thinking if you're different than me that somehow I'm in competition with you, or I need to talk about you, but you know, embrace your own uniqueness and authenticity, and enable and respect and support and embrace the uniqueness and authenticity of other women. Right? And then don't be afraid to go against conventional wisdom to live your dream. And I think that's a big one, because this is where support systems, you know, also come into play. I'm about to take a big leap, and and I'm flying solo or do I have a stand or a flamboyance of people there with me that are going to move through this together.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  49:22  
Oh, such beautiful concepts today. Well, thank you, audience for joining us today on our journey of authentic powerful leadership, we invite you to download and subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Google Spotify, or wherever you prefer to listen, and to visit Marsha's website at for links to all the tools or other resources we talked about today and subscribe to our email list where you can keep in touch with everything that's going on in Marsha's world, her book, and keep in contact with her social media.

Marsha Clark  49:59  
Just All of it. Yes. And I thank you, Wendi for hosting us again today. And I thank you, listeners for joining us today. And I want to reinforce please let us know what you're thinking how this information is landing with you what additional questions you might have, you know, we've had women already contacting us about this and we want to make sure that we're available and accessible, accessible to you, so that we can be a part of your support system as well. So thank you and we look forward to seeing you next week.

bottom of page