top of page
Podcast Transcript


Wendi McGowan-Ellis  0:11  
Welcome to "Your Authentic Path to Powerful Leadership" with Marsha Clark. Join us on this journey where we're uncovering what it takes to be a powerful woman leader. Well, Marsha, today guess what? Today's our eighth episode with a special guest in the studio with us. We're not going to know what to do with ourselves in the next few weeks when it's just the two of us. Like we're getting used to other people in the room now.

Marsha Clark  0:40  
We'll be like empty nester podcasters.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  0:45  
That's hilarious.

Marsha Clark  0:47  
But really, no kidding, it's been a whirlwind of excitement and engaging discussions for these past few weeks. I've loved all of our guests and I've learned so much from all of them, which is why I can't wait to add one more incredible speaker to our guest list today.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:00  
I know. At some point soon, I think we're gonna actually have met everyone in your know, love and trust circle because I know we're adding one more name to that list. And that's today's guest.

Marsha Clark  1:10  
That's right! We're definitely working our way through the list. And I'm thrilled to welcome my dear friend and trusted colleague, Susie Vaughan, to the show today. And we're going to have an opportunity to explore some of the intersections between the work that she's done over the years with me as a part of the Power of Self Program. And then the content that she's also certified to deliver from Brene Brown's work on Dare to Lead. We quote her all the time on here. And another important and relevant intersection for today's episode is that Susie is a retired public school principal. The majority of her coaching clients are in her private business today, after she retired, are currently principals or assistant principals. So she's offering great support to them. And our last four episodes have focused on women who are working in or serving in the world of education, and who support educators. So it's a perfect capstone to this arc of exploring and celebrating education. And so, welcome, Susie.

Susie Vaughan  2:08  
Thank you. Thank you. I'm happy to be here.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  2:11  
Well, so Marsha, how did Susie end up in the now renowned and highly coveted know, love and trust circle of yours?

Marsha Clark  2:19  
So I met Susie in the Leadership Plano. (I gotta get the title right.) And I don't know, we clicked and we did some follow up work. And I did two sessions for them. One was a Myers-Briggs thing at the beginning. And then we did a FIRO-B at the end. And so we got together and we talked and we fell in love. That's the way I think about it.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  2:39  
That's so sweet. So I'm guessing that the program, right, that you delivered was deeply discounted. I mean, so what was it about Susie or her situation that compelled you to support them in that way?

Marsha Clark  2:52  
Well, she got the work. I mean, when I think about it, Susie, that's what I think about is that she saw the power of the work, she saw the value of the work, and you wanted to dig deeper and explore further and you got curious about it. And you know, one of the questions I always ask anybody that I work with is are you willing to take a risk and are you willing to do deep work? And if you're not willing to do either of those, then I'm not your girl. And so we talked about those kinds of things. And you were willing to step up because you wanted to do the deep work and not just scratch the surface or checklist kind of work.

Susie Vaughan  3:25  
Right. Right. And when I brought Marsha in it was deeper work. And it was a little risky, and it was a little awkward. I was the principal of a campus of about 100 staff members, all women. And so the things that we did were pivotal in us. I had just opened that campus maybe a couple years earlier, and it was pivotal in us having authentic conversations, actually, for years to come because we did the naming elephants exercise where, as Marsha would say, just because they're not talking about it doesn't mean it's not there. So that was a, it was a risk. And I am certainly glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone on that.

Marsha Clark  4:14  
And the other thing, Wendi, that I would offer up and is the work that I had done for most of my adult life I had been in for profit businesses. So working in an education environment was an opportunity for me to learn as well, because I think you were one of the first school systems that we went into to take what we were doing at a corporate level. We'd done a bit of the nonprofit world, but not even much of that. So it really was seeing how broadly applicable this material was. And as I say I learned a lot about working in an education environment from that.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  4:49  
Yeah. So Susie, did you go through the Power of Self Program?

Susie Vaughan  4:53  
I did. I actually did. So that's a story in itself. Is it time for that? (Yeah.) So I was impressed with Marsha and again had those three touch points, really Beginning of Leadership Plano, End of Leadership Plano activities, and then really come in having her come in as a consultant. And so we stayed in touch, and she consistently encouraged me to consider attending the Power of Self Program, which again, you're speaking to discounted rates or speaking to nonprofit environments. You know, there was a little bit of a reach for me thinking that this was a corporate program for corporate women for profit. And educators maybe didn't fit in that in that venue. So Marsha, you know, continued to encourage me. I pushed back a little bit on expenses, time away from my campus, things like that. There was just that idea that Marsha continued to talk with like that positivity and this idea around possibilities, and that it wasn't a closed door for me. So we kept talking about it for quite a while, (and then you figured out a way to make it happen.) Right. So because I was working for a public school district that it again was out of the norm even for them to consider a 19 day program, yeah, off my campus. And so the first time I approached the administrators about me, I was told no,. And then we went back to work. And with Marsha's support, we created a bit of a proposal, and I would say was probably my first lesson in negotiations, which comes into Power of Self later, but really like, what can I offer the district if I'm allowed to participate in this awesome program. And so I was able to participate a couple years after we first started talking about it in 2010. And then I was able to bring back some of the content that was particularly applicable to leaders that I was working with throughout the district. And so I offered the Thomas Killman, conflict TKI conflict instrument and some training at no cost to district leaders who were interested in it (as a way of giving back), as a way of giving back for that opportunity to go. Yes.

Marsha Clark  7:22  
If I'm remembering right, wasn't that also around the time we were trying to figure out if we were going to run a power lab here? So the Power Lab is from an organization called Power and Systems. It's a 24 by 7. It's often referred to as a societal lab and its total immersion and all that kind of stuff. And it had been run for many years up in Cape Cod. And we were trying to, we were thinking about exploring whether we could do something like that here. And you had a chance to participate in that as well.

Susie Vaughan  7:51  
Yeah. So three of us attended the 2013 Power Lab. And it was, in addition to myself, it was Kathy Edwards, and Tracie Shipman. And I know, you know, if you're listening, you're thinking, "Oh, wow, Cape Cod. How lovely." But it was in April, it was cold and rainy. And without getting into too much more detail, it was not as glamorous as it sounds.

Marsha Clark  8:16  
Wasn't Martha's Vineyard. (No, it was not.) It was a church camp and it was very rudimentary, I guess it'd be the best way to say that. And I know that we decided not to bring that to this area for a lot of reasons. But when you think about, I want to remind our listeners, you know, we had the Power of Self Program, the name of the book is "Embracing Your Power" and we're now talking about a Power Lab. So these were all places where we were exploring what was power? What did power mean? How do we harness it? How do we embrace it? How do we acknowledge it, that sort of thing. So So talk a little bit about your Power Lab experience?

Susie Vaughan  8:55  
I would say anything, it was a total immersion into a different way of thinking. It was it was that 24/7 lab setting. And I think prior to that, that word power, even though I had been through Power of Self, you know, was not one, and I'll speak for myself, but I believe many educators, we don't think about power, we don't think about positional power. And so even though we're principals we're saying, Oh, we're part of the team, and we're collaborative, and you know, we kind of level that playing field. But I do think that the immersion into the idea of power and how I can, how I could really impact a system so the system's thinking and then the choices that I make and how that impacts the people that are at my lateral level and how it might impact the people above or below me. And so there was a lot of really powerful learning there and I learned a lot about myself as an individual and also as a leader. And it also gave me the second opportunity of having a coach. And so I think those things are pivotal into how I moved forward after that, that was 2013. I left my position in 2015. So all of these were building blocks toward my next future.

Marsha Clark  10:24  
The next chapter in your wonderful life. And I just for our listeners, the Power Lab is still they can talk to Power and Systems or go look up and find them. And it's a way of understanding. We always talk about it in terms of you throw a pebble into the pond and all the ripple effects that it can have. And what the Power Lab does is help you understand how you as an individual impact an organizational system. So organizations can be seen in terms of, you know, for profit companies, not for profit agencies, churches, health care, education, they're all systems and not technical systems. They are human systems with processes and policies and all that and I was talking about, you have to diagnose the problem at the right level to fix the problem at the right level. So you can think about that in terms of the individual is a problem, interpersonal is a problem, team is a problem, or organization. And I think the organization is the most misunderstood, that we often go to the well if we just got rid of Joe or Susie or Bob or whatever, this would go away. And then we bring another person in, and guess what? It still exists. So, you know, this is a part of helping you to understand more about that. And even as you think about the system you worked in as is as a principal, your school campus was a system and Plano ISD was a system and part of the Texas, you know, state school systems. And so all of those had their own unique dynamics and learning more about that.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  11:54  
Yeah. So for our listeners who aren't familiar with the Power and Systems Power Lab experience that Marsha and Susie are talking about right now, we talked about Marsha's profound aha moments and her experience in Episode 9 of this Podcast. Episode 9 was called Cape Cod Coup, so go back and listen to that after you listen to this.

Marsha Clark  12:17  
Yeah, there you go. So yeah, so talk a little bit more about how you brought that back into, you know, the role that you were playing as still being a principal.

Susie Vaughan  12:26  
Well, I will say that I really spent the time from when I was in Power of Self, which was 2010 through 2011, or May of 2011, really thinking about what's next for me and exploring some possibilities. And I will say, I did that very quietly because as a school principal, you impact the system, right, or the organization. And so it would, I felt it was very important to keep that to myself as well as some of my trusted colleagues that I would talk to, but I really wanted to make sure that I didn't negatively impact the campus or the district by announcing something before I was certain and the time was right for that. So but the natural progression for me, when I look back at being a school principal, what I had known or seen other people do was to move into another administrative role, a different campus, central office, some kind of a director, managing director role. And as I paid attention to those things, I realized that those were not for me. And I think I go back to one of our mantras from Power of Self, which is you always have a choice, right. And so instead of just saying that's the way it's going to be or the natural progression, I really feel like I leaned a lot on the lessons from the Power of Self, the Power Lab and the opportunity to have a one on one coach to integrate that that content. So I started getting more clear about what I wanted to do. And really after having an opportunity to have a coach, I really saw the benefit of possibly coaching as a future and specifically coaching principals. The other thing I think is really important and I think when you look back at it, Marsha, you were ahead of your time on thinking about marrying the content with the coaching and also the just the way you deliver the program throughout a year long or basically a year, or nine months. But I think that coaching really is critical for you to really make change within yourself and raise your awareness and implement some of that new content rather than just learning something new, which we all do, and then moving on to the next thing.

Marsha Clark  14:48  
Yeah, the personal dare I call it customized support that you get from a coach even when you're all part of the same program. A coach can help you work on your individual specific goals or challenges or opportunities or whatever that might be. And certainly, you know, Susie, I always saw you as a coach kind of leader anyway. So for me, you going into the coaching role, seeing that there is such a thing, and then experiencing it personally and recognizing that your strengths and your abilities play naturally to that, I think, probably easier for others to see that in you versus you seeing yourself because you saw yourself as an educator.

Susie Vaughan  15:29  
Right. And then I will say that I, when I left the school district in 2015, I had done quite a bit of work already in, in doing some training, in addition to POS. But it's some coach specific training to get I wanted to be certified by the International Coach Federation, and also achieve that accreditation because I think it gives gave me some validation and credibility within the school district.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  16:02  
Your accreditation came through the International Coaching Federation, is that correct? (Correct.) Okay, Marsha, why don't you, for our listeners who aren't familiar. I know there's different levels of that.

Marsha Clark  16:14  
There are and you know, one is the the first level if you will, is the Associate Certified Coach. So if you see the letters ACC after someone's name, that's what that stands for. And you have to complete 60 hours of coach specific education, and 100 hours of client coaching experience. So you got to go deliver coaching. And then the second is Professional Certified Coach. So those letters are PCC, and you have to complete 125 hours of coach specific education and 500 hours of client coaching experience. So you're beginning to see how you accumulate the skills and experience. And then the highest rating is Master Certified Coach or MCC. And you have to hold or have held this PCC credential, completed 200 hours of coach specific education and 2500 hours of client coaching experience. And that's a lot of work to do. And I think about you coming from the education field, where credentials are everything, right? And so it's no surprise that that you did that work and achieved those levels. So where are you now in the context of all of that?

Susie Vaughan  17:22  
So I am a Professional Certified Coach. And I'm working toward, you know, continue, you work towards mastery, you work to get better at coaching as you go along. And the one thing that they also require in the International Coach Federation requires you to do hours in order to stay current on your certification. So for example, I just completed 40 hours of certification training, which will now renew my certificate through 2025.

Marsha Clark  17:55  
Yeah, so it's like continuing education. It's like that for accountants, lawyers or whatever, which is what I love about the International Coaching Federation, that it you can't just hang up, you can hang up the shingle, but you got a whole lot more credibility when you have those kinds of certifications.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  18:12  
Definitely. And so Susie, after you'd left the school district and stepped into this coaching path, weren't you also facilitating some of the Power of Self workshops with Marsha?

Susie Vaughan  18:22  
Yes, wonderful opportunity to join Marsha's team as an associate. And I delivered some of the content that I know we'll continue to talk a little bit about through the podcast. But we talked already about the Thomas Killman conflict resolution, I delivered that information. I delivered the content around brain styles, where we look at how how there's four different types of brain styles and how we how that might impact how we approach to problem solving and decision making. I did love working in the area of the trust modules and really trust in betrayal and how we lose trust, regain trust. And then I also did coaching with Marsha and there would be I did about five clients every year in the Power of Self through 2020. And so I had the opportunity really to turn around and apply a lot of my learning into the Power of Self Program.

Marsha Clark  19:28  
And I just think about when I said I saw Susie grasp this work really easily and deeply. The fact that you threw yourself into all of those content areas, went and got your certifications even on delivering those. She's now building quite the resume of capabilities and skills that enable you to do to continue to do this work. So, you know, one of the reasons I wanted Susie not only to be here but to share her background story is her career trajectory took a significant pivot, and it was later in life. I mean, you were a few years away from the retirement pace. And you really created a whole new path for you. And were you dare I say, stepped into your power in a bigger way and designed a new life for yourself, but and it was not one where she was escaping or running away from something, but she was running to something. And, you know, we we've done our episodes on managing your career with intentionality, and all of that. And I think you're a perfect icon or example of being able to do that.

Susie Vaughan  20:35  
Yes, and absolutely, that's true. And it was pivotal for me to have the support of the content that I learned, the coaching that I had, the community that supported me. Another thing we haven't really mentioned, but maybe mentioned it elsewhere, is the community. The Power of Self community is powerful.

Marsha Clark  20:58  
And it is about women supporting women. Yes, yes.

Susie Vaughan  21:01  
And the idea that there was support for learning and growth and self awareness. And so I do think that that all helped me sort of give me strength and, and actually meaning and purpose to crafting this new way of being or a new existence, at least professionally for myself.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  21:24  
Right. And then at some point in this journey, you became certified to deliver or facilitate the Brene Brown Dare to Lead content. So what sparked that and tell us all about that.

Susie Vaughan  21:37  
Okay. So I did have the opportunity to go to San Antonio in June of 2019 and was a part of a group of about 150 people who were certified. That year, she trained over 600 people for certification, and I had been a fan of hers for years. And in all honesty,

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  21:58  
She has that down home Texas style.

Susie Vaughan  21:59  
She sure does. She sure does.

Marsha Clark  22:02  
And even though Susie's from Wisconsin I wouldn't know it now.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  22:06  
I couldn't hear it.

Susie Vaughan  22:08  
But I had been a fan, I had taken a couple of core online courses from her listen to some TED Talks. I used her content on Braving Trust, which was the seven pieces of trust that she talks about. I don't know that I made a conscious decision to go toward that work. But it really has a lot of intersections with your, the trust model you discuss, and the a lot of the other content that I had been immersed in prior to knowing about Brene Brown.

Marsha Clark  22:42  
Yeah. And I will tell you, my draw to her is not only is she from Houston, Texas, and a graduate of The University of Houston and all that, but you read her books, and the authenticity is to me is what just comes screaming through. And it's so practical and relevant. And oh, I know that story. Oh, I can see myself in that story. Oh, I get that. I've had that happen to me as well. And so that plays, I think into that, as we talk about the Power of Self. That's a part of that too, right? Because people can see themselves in our work and in our content and our experiences. And we share those stories in a real way. And that's why I was initially drawn to her work.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  23:22  
Yeah. And Susie, I know one of the resources that you provide to your coaching clients, and your network is a monthly newsletter called Connections, where you share many of the insights and lessons not only from Brene Brown's Dare to Lead and other content, but also from other thought leaders on the topics of empathy, compassion, authenticity, leadership, and pretty much everything else that we talk about here. So let me say from a branding perspective, it's a beautiful newsletter. It really is.

Susie Vaughan  23:56  
I would thank my Patti. I'll make sure she listens to this. I do want to thank Patti who does my newsletter. She does a beautiful job on it. And I just appreciate that. Hopefully, the content is good, but she makes it look very good.

Marsha Clark  24:11  
Yeah. It's visually beautiful. And it's it's a perfect example of how Susie does illustrate the intersections between Brene Brown's body of work and many other relevant sources. You're a constant reader, and you're always bringing in great content. And so Susie, what I'd love to do for our listeners, since we kind of have the next best thing to Brene Brown sitting here with us is to unpack a couple of your newsletter topics and play with a few of those intersections of other content if you'd be willing to do that.

Susie Vaughan  24:11  
Well, that's quite a comparison between me and Brene Brown. So I'm thrilled with that.

Marsha Clark  24:50  
So the first newsletter that I'd love to highlight is the one that was April 2022, where you are talking about connections and in it you open with this statement, very provocative, "We are neuro biologically wired for connection." I mean, that's got a lot in just that. But will you share more about that premise and when you talk about in what ways are we wired for that connection?

Susie Vaughan  25:17  
So how much time do we have? What I do love about Brene Brown's work and as a researcher, she brings the research alive. And like you said, you can see yourself in the research rather than it feeling, you know, bland. Right. So, from an evolution perspective, connection was about survival, physical survival. So there's the, you know, the neurologically wired piece. And today, it's there, but it's there in a different way. And it's about bringing meaning and purpose to our lives less than physical survival. And but what we do know from her research and other researchers is people who have strong connections are happier, healthier, and better able to cope with stress.

Marsha Clark  26:11  
And we live longer. Yeah, I mean, that's one of the other, you know, sets of content that I read periodically, having meaningful relationships in our lives enables us to even live longer. And, you know, this is also a significant teaching point in the work that we've been doing in our programs, from the content on how even within the first 24 hours, you know, baby girls are more inclined to connect with their caregivers by, you know, staring into the eyes, looking at their faces, and so on and so forth, which is in contrast to the boys. That's our, what is it Giggly Girls, and Stinky Boys podcast. But when you look beyond that research, we also know that women are relational by nature. So whether we call it the flat structure, we're all in this together kind of thing. And between the hormonal flood of oxytocin in our bodies, which again, creates a strong urge to bond and women have more oxytocin than men biologically speaking. And that mysterious blend of nature and social conditioning that drive women to flatten out the structures, those hierarchical structures, in order to communicate and relate more easily. And I do believe we're built by design to connect. And I think about that in terms of where we are now, even after COVID with all the isolation and what that did to us, and it disconnected us, and now all the mental health issues we're facing as a result. And so how does that align with what Brene speaks to?

Susie Vaughan  27:35  
Okay. Well, absolutely. And I referenced that in that newsletter. And I do want to note that that newsletter is called Connections. And that was very strategic, because that's the reason I created that newsletter was to stay connected. And it was during COVID. So connection is a basic human need. And in some ways, it's down there right on that first level of Maslow's pyramid, with psychological needs. So we know that we need other people to meet if you think about the pyramid, you cannot meet all of those needs by yourself. So you cannot do that independently. And that's one of the myths that Brene Brown talks about and discusses and has the research, of course to support is that vulnerability, one of the myths of vulnerability is that I can go it alone which is not true. And although we want to be independent creatures, and many times we can be independent creatures, in order to really survive and thrive we need each other.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  28:48  
Yeah, Susie, I really resonated with your statement in that newsletter where you said, quote, "Because connection is a human need. When we feel disconnected, we suffer." Oh, yeah. (Provocative.)

Susie Vaughan  29:02  
Yeah, and I heard this. I've heard it from Brene and David Kessler, who studies grief and other researchers that it really does explain a lot of that stress and anxiety that you referenced earlier, Marsha, related to the past few years, when we felt that deep need for connection because there was all this uncertainty, all the unknowns, all this disruption in our lives and routines and relationships. And so we were deeply desiring connection and then guess what, we were more disconnected than ever based on those circumstances. So people were afraid and vulnerable and oftentimes felt very, very isolated. So it was a perfect storm. And again, that's when I started that newsletter. I started a Monday morning newsletter because most of my coaching clients were occupied elsewhere, just keeping the school doors open or handling that. So it was really nice to connect with them. And there was a lot of feedback that says, I'm glad to know I'm not alone.

Marsha Clark  30:19  
Well, and I think about this from two perspectives. One, we we talked about the importance of deep and meaningful relationships. We had a podcast earlier with Rabbi Heidi Coretz, and we talked about that, where she provides that in a faith based way on the SMU campus across many different religions and traditions, and so on, and then how that can have an impact on our mental health. And that, quite honestly, when we think about what COVID did, we're not going to know for a lot of years, what that long term impact is. And, you know, even now, as suicides are going up, and you know, hate crimes, I mean, there's there's a lot of stuff coming from that. That's one area. The other area I want to say is that this notion of isolation and the need for connection as it relates to women. When we're the only woman in a group, we're with a group, and yet we're still isolated. We can feel isolated, different than, not a part of and not connected to, because we think different, we look different, we talk different. And I just see that as yet another nuance in the kind of connections that we're talking about. And when we know we're all neurobiologically designed that way. And yet I just think for women, this relationship connection is so, so vital for us to feel seen and heard and valued.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  31:48  
Yeah, it's reminding me of something else that we talked about very briefly in the Rabbi Heidi episode was one of your favorite quotes from Meg Wheatley. "We were together. I forget the rest."

Marsha Clark  32:01  
I forget the rest. Yeah, yeah. It's all about relationships.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  32:04  
So Susie, tell us about the impact on the principals that you've been coaching and what they've been sharing related to disconnection and isolation. (Wow.) You know, challenges leftover from the lockdown.

Susie Vaughan  32:20  
Yes. And really, it is just beginning to feel a little bit normal. Yeah. Although, again, that's, you know, what's normal? Will we ever go back to the way things were? Not really, but again, over the last couple of years, I just felt that what they were asking for was connection. And so we're just an example I started some during COVID, some mini webinars where there really was not a big topic, except I might bring in the vuca concept or grief or dealing with uncertainty. And it was 35 minutes. And really, it was just to come in and share. I maybe had three slides, but the rest of the time was talking amongst the participants. And the feedback was, again, I am so grateful to be here. I'm grateful to have other people in my community that are going through the same not that I want them to go through what you're going through, you're not alone. I'm not alone. And so that's the consistent feedback I'm getting, I even get that with my one on one coaching clients is so nice that someone sat here, listened, listened deeply to what I have to say and helped me process that. And so even just verbally processing it is really important to people to begin to find some meaning in it and begin to take some agency for change.

Marsha Clark  33:47  
Well, and we hear, you hear from your clients, I hear from mine. I didn't know there was a name for it. Right? I mean, oh, you mean, it's not just me kind of thing. And that's what these conversations, webinars, groups, whatever it might be, and certainly coaches are there to help us make sense of it all, right. And we we need those people in our lives.

Susie Vaughan  34:08  
Yeah, and one thing that's been interesting, I've continued some group coaching cohorts and one's on their third year. And it's a small group of four people who come together a couple times a month, and it's really become an important part of their mental health as well as their skill development.

Marsha Clark  34:29  
Well it goes back to I thought I could do it alone. But oh, man, it's so much better to go through this with some people that have my back and again, can can be with me and sit with me and all of this. Now, you know, I know that in one of the newsletters that you shared Brene Brown's definition of connection and I'd love for you to share that with a group here.

Susie Vaughan  34:51  
Sure. Brene defines connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued, when they can give and receive without judgment, and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship. So if you listen to that again, and really listen for those words that stand out to you in that definition. Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued, when they can give and receive without judgment and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.

Marsha Clark  35:34  
I just I love this. I mean, you, the listeners know that I talk all the time about being seen, heard and valued. And I just think that is a part of the human condition, if you will. And also in the second book I'm writing a chapter on the power of psychological safety. And when I think about if I'm going to create a psychologically safe space, I want to create a space where people feel seen, heard and valued, where they can give and receive, you know, without judgment, and when they can derive strength and sustenance from a relationship. I mean, boy, there's another intersection, even right there.

Susie Vaughan  36:09  
Right. And, you know, there's this definition does have a link beyond your chapter in to some of the things that I've learned from you over the last couple of decades or the last decade, and you've been teaching over the last couple of decades. And one of those, you know, there were so many simple but profound exercises in the Power of Self community. And one was like, hold my stuff, which meant you and I could share. But we each had our role in that. And you might be the person sharing, and I might be the listener, and my job as the listener was to listen fully, and not give advice and not ask questions and not say, 'Have you thought of...' or not even say,

Marsha Clark  36:57  
I know that happened to you. Let me tell you what happened to me. Piling on, piling on process.

Susie Vaughan  37:02  
Not hijack my story. And so those are the opportunities sometimes also to walk and talk about that, where I had the opportunity to share that on a walk, and someone listened fully to me. Again, when you hear it coming from your mouth and you know someone's actively listening, that's profound.

Marsha Clark  37:23  
And to your point, Susie, we would have women who would share years later that had been a part of the Power of Self program. And we do that you know, day one of the program, and that they, in many cases, never had that experience where, you know, you're just listening and honoring the story of that the other person is telling and, therefore holding their stuff or holding that space. And that those were the very conversations that stuck with them the longest, and even were some of the deepest and best relationships were forged on day one with that person that then deepened beyond, you know, many years beyond the program itself.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  38:03  
I distinctly remember that day, that session.

Marsha Clark  38:07  
Talk a bit about just how do we become fully present with someone? How do we do that?

Susie Vaughan  38:12  
It isn't easy. And when I think about and I thought a little bit about that question is the other thing you did, you know, from day one was a check in and check out where it wasn't about, you know, the content, but it was how are you? What's on your mind, you know, either good or sometimes challenging. Some of those people that would come sliding into their seats late and they had had a sick child or something like that, but the check in and check out if you really think about it, it took a lot of practice for people to get it right because we're used to saying, Oh, I'm so sorry, that happened, or do you need a Kleenex or, you know, kind of intruding on people's space when they're feeling the hard stuff, especially, you know. And so it took practice for people to learn the rules of check in and check out meaning I am going to be fully present. I am going to keep my mouth quiet even though I and I'm gonna probably have to sit on my hands so that I can just and I say just and it's not just as making that minor it's very, very important that I can be fully there to listen to you. And most of us don't like you said have that in our our daily lives. But what it does do is it builds that instant connection that you talked about, that sometimes creates a friendship that lasts for years and years.

Marsha Clark  39:40  
And we did and I won't know the name of the episode or the number but if people want to ask us send us a note, but we did a whole podcast on the power of check in and check out and how it does not only help others show up and us be present to them but how we want to show up in you know in what we want to share and, you know, one of the things we talk about is once you get your voice in the room, it's easier to continue to contribute and talk and all of that kind of thing. And, and so it is about holding that space. And, you know, really respecting, and listening, the listening part is critical and all of that to hear their story rather than making up my own stories about them.

Susie Vaughan  40:21  

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  40:22  
And now I'm having flashbacks to all of the trust content, both in the book and in one of our early episodes with Dr. Dennis Reyna on the seven steps for healing from betrayal. And weren't three of the seven weren't three of the seven describe it, talk about it, and seek help or something along those lines?

Marsha Clark  40:43  
Yes, yes. And, and so not only that, but I'm even thinking of the betrayal continuum, and the idea of major intentional betrayals, which definitely feel like a huge disconnection from that person  who betrayed you, or in the cases, even where we betray ourselves, we can get disconnected. So, you know, Susie, you talk about the impulses for emotional pain mirror the impulses of physical pain. And so, you know, talk a little bit about that.

Susie Vaughan  41:09  
Yes. They don't just mirror the impulses of physical pain, they literally follow the same neural pathways in the brain. And I do love the connections you're making between Brene's content and then Reyna's work on trust, betrayal, and healing. And I am constantly being reminded of their work as I as I read much of Brene Brown's work on trust/betrayal, she talks about connection/disconnection, psychological safety. And I know that sometimes it's just a little bit different language, but somewhat talking about the same things because she talks about container building. And that would be like the check in and the check out, yes, creating that space and holding that space. So it's so important. So important, good stuff. And then there's one other thing around disconnection that I wanted to bring up if that's okay.

Marsha Clark  42:05  

Susie Vaughan  42:05  
So one of the things that she notes is that to avoid pain and vulnerability, we might create our own disconnection strategies. So we might determine when you talked about being the only woman in the room, I might determine that it's safer for me to keep my thoughts and feelings to myself to myself rather than sharing them and risk them being rejected. If I don't feel like it's a psychologically safe environment. And then she also talks about quite a bit about perfectionism and how, when we are trying to appear to be perfect, because we know that that is a myth, we cannot be perfect, but it's trying to avoid being excluded or rejected and really, actually seen as our authentic self, because we're trying to be something that we're not, and that can actually lead to rejection by others because I think about the idea that if you look and seem perfect to me, I'm not necessarily really drawn to be your best friend because I know that I'm imperfect.

Marsha Clark  43:14  
That's right. Well, and I think about it, too, as it relates to the imposter phenomenon. And, you know, we, as women get a whole lot of messages about we're not enough, you know, whether it's we're not smart enough, we're not tall enough, we're not business minded enough. We're too emotional, you know, therefore not as stoic as we need to be. And, you know, so we learn this stay small, lay low, and don't risk the potential rejection. And it's all in our heads, right? And I say that not because there's something wrong with us, because all these messages that we've received, we take them in and those neural pathways are lined to, right. And so we hold those as being true. And so we're kind of you know, the idea of imposter phenomenon and impostor syndrome, that is one of probably the one I hear the most of, "Oh my gosh, I didn't know there was a name for it. And if there's a syndrome, it must be okay that I have it, that I'm not the only one and I'm not alone." So so much wrapped up in that not only the intersection of the two bodies of work, but in the the way that women receive that and live that.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  44:23  
Yeah, this conversation is reminding me of what a lot of movies do when they call when what they do is called dropping easter eggs. Disney does it a lot to reference the other things in their other movies so an Easter egg is little visual hints or references maybe in the dialogue that one movie will make to make you think of another and all of these intersections that we're talking about or overlapping concepts are starting to feel like fun little easter eggs, Brene Brown's work and Marsha's work.

Marsha Clark  44:57  
Subliminal messages. Yes. Yes. Yes.

Susie Vaughan  45:01  
Yes. And it's so relevant. You know, you started your work in 2000? (2000, uh huh.) And so if you think about the idea that we're still talking about vulnerability and authenticity and honest feedback and talk to me, not about me, you know, all of those things are still...(What else could be true?) Yes. Right. And one of the other favorite things about that April newsletter, I asked a reflection question, which I often do. So people, hopefully are thinking in between the times they're reading the newsletter is how can a greater awareness of connection impact you and those you lead? And it's just a good moment to stop and get curious about whether you really are genuinely connecting with others and if not, what cost that might be to the people you lead into your own mind, body and spirit.

Marsha Clark  45:58  
Yeah, I have to tell you about a coaching call I had just yesterday, and it was a woman who is a Gen Xer who has Millennials working for her and this is, she brought it up in the context of generational differences. And she had heard from one of her providers that my client, that one of my clients employees, was hard to work with. And it was, she never picks up the phone and talks to us, she always sends emails, and you never can read the tone in the emails. And she can appear to be rather terse, and rather demanding, and rather, you know, overwhelming at this. And so this particular coaching client of mine was saying, so how am I, you know, let's walk through how I'm gonna give her feedback and all that kind of thing. And I think about this in terms of what is the importance of connection, and it's a very different kind of connection when I text you or WhatsApp, you or Yammer you or, you know, email you versus I'm gonna have a voice, at least a voice to voice conversation, much less a screen to screen conversation much less so we're in the same room breathing the same air kind of conversation. And that the degrees of connection that you make along the way there and because of some of the isolation that COVID brought, and you know, all of that, that we still are in recovery mode from those moments, and yet it shows up in a lot of different ways. Yeah. So one other thing, I'm wondering about the idea of connecting with self. So you mentioned that earlier. And you know, the first book is all about self awareness. Who am I as a woman, a woman leader, a powerful woman leader, an authentic, powerful woman leader. So when you think about reflection, like the reflection question you just talked about, is an invitation to connect with self and create my own inner thoughts, you know, and yet my inner critic, my feelings, my fears, all of those things are a part of it. So if you're disconnected, as you said, with self, what is the cost of that to us because that's a really powerful question to consider.

Susie Vaughan  48:04  
As you're asking that question, I'm wondering, if I'm disconnected with myself, am I really able to fully connect with anyone else?

Marsha Clark  48:13  
I'm going to bet no on that.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  48:15  
Preach. Mic drop. Mic drop.

Susie Vaughan  48:18  
So, you know, I think about Power of Self and the idea that we're our own worst critic. And we, like you said, we get all these messages, we're not enough. And so, you know, I know that you helped us understand about, you know, loving ourselves first. And then I think oftentimes, as women, we are aware and responsive, so aware and responsive to the needs of others that we can lose touch with our own needs. And again, that's where Brene Brown uses the language of belonging to ourselves. So as much as we need to belong to others, we need to belong to ourselves first. And so if I can't share who I, if I don't belong to myself, I can't share my authentic self with people. So then how can I connect with people in a way that's real?

Marsha Clark  49:15  
Yeah. Something I've learned recently is the difference between fitting in and the difference in belonging. And so the idea of fitting in is I'm trying to conform to what you think I should be, the opposite of authenticity. And belonging is when I'm comfortable being myself and it doesn't really matter what you what you think I need to be. I'm being me, I'm being the best me that I know to be. And to me that's being connected to yourself. Am I on the right track with that?

Susie Vaughan  49:44  
That's actually in the book, her latest book.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  49:47  
Oh. Okay.

Susie Vaughan  49:48  
I think it's on page 152. I was looking at it yesterday and that was that is a tabbed page for me because it really does mean like because, again, when I was thinking about this idea of disconnection with others, what does that mean? If I'm willing to disconnect from myself, then there's no opportunity for me to be authentic in my connections. And again, if I go back to her neurologically wired for connection, well, then

Marsha Clark  50:21  
It's like we're operating dysfunctionally. (Exactly.) Yeah. One other tool that caught my eye in the October issue was that I thought about Brene Brown's engaged feedback checklist. So her list makes this incredible compliment to our seven step feedback model in the "Embracing Your Power" book on page 148. But Brene's model is really more about the mental preparation. So it to me it's a really nice, you know, parallel with it and the context for offering the feedback compared to our model, which literally gives you the step by step, you know, what words to say during the feedback conversation. But I love how the two really do provide a rich process for providing some high quality, meaningful feedback. So will you share that checklist with our leaders or with our listeners?

Susie Vaughan  51:11  
Sure. And anyone who's interested, if you're a fan of Brene Brown's work, you've probably been on her website and her Dare to Lead hub. So if you Google the engaged feedback checklists, you can find it online in multiple versions, but it really has 11 elements. And here's how it starts. I know I'm ready to give feedback when I'm ready to sit next to you, rather than across from you. I'm willing to put the problem in front of us rather than between us, or even sliding it towards you, which we often do. I'm ready to listen, ask questions and accept that I may not fully understand the issue. I'm ready to acknowledge what you do well instead of picking apart your mistakes. I recognize your strengths and how you can use them to address your challenges. (I love that one.) I can hold you accountable without shaming or blaming. I am open to owning my part. Yes, and how many times, you know, if you really think about problems, or you know, broken trust, or how many times do we have a part in it? You know, so I'm willing to, or I'm open to owning my part.

Marsha Clark  52:36  
Yeah, I think about one of the phrases I use in my training is you don't you're not allowed to get mad if someone's not met your expectations if you've never told them what your expectations are. That's on you, not on them.

Susie Vaughan  52:49  
Right, I can genuinely thank someone for their efforts, rather than criticize them for their failings. I can talk about how resolving these challenges will lead to growth and opportunity. And I can model the vulnerability and openness that I expect to see from you. And finally, I am aware of power dynamics, implicit bias and stereotypes.

Marsha Clark  53:15  
Well, and I think of the power dynamics as positional or hierarchical power. I think about the implicit bias, as you know, in the stereotypes we hold because you're whatever generation fill in baby boomer/Gen X/Gen Y, whatever you must be, you know, I look at you through that lens. And it may not serve either of us very well.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  53:33  
Wow, I bet we can have this conversation all day, (yes) but we're getting short on time.

Marsha Clark  53:40  
So I resonate so much with Brene Brown's work because there are so many points of alignment and intersection. And I love that her research really reinforces so much of what we've been teaching over the years. And you know, as I had an old boss at EDS, and he would always tell me to triangulate the data. So this, you know, looking at her work and looking at our work is an opportunity to do exactly that.

Susie Vaughan  54:02  
Right, and it doesn't hurt that she's a Houston girl like you and she doesn't hold back on what she thinks and feels. Another connection. Yes. And she has been modeling authenticity and vulnerability based trust ever since her first TED Talk back in November of 2010. And that was entitled The Power of Vulnerability and it's the number four most viewed TED talk of all time. (Wow)

Marsha Clark  54:30  
Which tells us in and of itself how important that topic is. (Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely.) And so just for our listeners to hear again, her TED talk was The Power of Vulnerability. When I think about the power of vulnerability, the other thing that comes to mind where there's similarities is, here's the information in module one of the Power of Self, the power of reflection, the power from within the power of preference, the power of check in, the power of wholeness, the power of the invisible rules, the power of experiences, the power of authenticity, the power of the female brain, the power of health, the power of learning teams, the power of creating a vision and the power of using a coach. So I got the power!

Susie Vaughan  55:15  
You do have the power. You and Brene Brown.

Marsha Clark  55:19  
That's right. I like it. I like it.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  55:22  
Oh my gosh, this has been such a great episode. I love learning about all these intersections between Marsha's work, Brene Brown's work and, Susie, your work as well. You must be the most popular coach in the area with everything you're offering to your clients. I mean, the school districts are lucky to have you.

Susie Vaughan  55:41  
Well, thank you so much. It's been a privilege to continue to work in education, and to really influence strong leadership in the public education sector.

Marsha Clark  55:50  
Well, you know, I've loved watching you make these transitions and grow into your own authentic, powerful self, that you're delivering all your gifts to the world in such a meaningful way. And I do love all the clicking of the intersections, you know ding, ding, ding. So my absolute appreciation and love for you and thank you for coming in today to share your story.

Susie Vaughan  55:50  
Well, thank you for having me.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  56:08  
So, as we wrap up here, what are key takeaways? Marsha, Susie, jump in. Free for all.

Marsha Clark  56:18  
Well, I will tell you this, I have to say I'm really struck by the idea of how we might disconnect from ourselves and the pain that that can cause. And now learning and understanding more about how mental and emotional pain follows the same neural pathways as physical pain, that's a new concept for me, and I gotta read and think about that more. And I also want to reflect on that to consider how it might be showing up in my world, I mean, because we can get disconnected from ourselves pretty easily with all the stuff going on around us. So those are my big ones. So Susie, what about you?

Susie Vaughan  56:54  
I would say, really, this conversation has solidified just the really value and relevance of the work that you do and I do and Brene Brown's work in supporting leaders not only in developing skills, but in developing ways for self care and emotional health. And because I know that that's one of the resonating things that I hear from leaders as they're taking care of everybody else so who's taking care of them. So that is just really important that we continue to do the work. And I think it's, it's fun to see that we're in good company with Brene Brown and the connections between your work and her research and her work. And then the other thing I often think about is I don't know if it's such a term anymore, but we used to call the skills around trust and relationship, soft skills. And I would like to think that these are not soft skills, but they're essential skills to be successful not only as a leader, but as a human being.

Marsha Clark  58:03  
Yeah. So the work we did at EDS in the early 90s, we were featured in Forbes magazine, I think was Forbes or Fortune. And they were interviewing my boss at the time. And he of course, being an engineer, he made a formula out of it. He said f squared equals PS. Soft stuff S squared equals powerful stuff PS and it was recognition in a company that was very hierarchical, that was more militaristic command and control, great things, just not the only tool in your toolkit. But for our most senior leaders to have that kind of recognition, some 30 plus years ago. Powerful stuff is you know, or soft stuff is powerful stuff. I love, not just powerful stuff. I believe in today's world. I believe it's been around for a long time, but we're recognizing it now as essential as well. So I really like that.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  59:04  
Wow, powerful episode today, ladies. Thank you, Susie, so much for being with us today. Thank you, listeners, for joining us on this journey of authentic, powerful leadership. Please continue to download, subscribe and share this podcast from wherever you like to listen. Visit Marsha's website at, get her book. I mean, we referenced a page today so you don't want to be behind the curve.

Marsha Clark  59:33  
I'm also thinking we might want to send this link to Brene and let her know we're struttin' her stuff. I mean really I think it's important, you know. I'm not the only person out here doing this work and I love knowing that other people are doing the work so we can have some allies and partners and you know colleagues in that regard. But I, too, thank our listeners and, Susie, thank you very much for being here. We have these conversations on a regular basis and I always learn and I always love them so and I'll be at Susie's house on Friday night at her Galentine's party. We're recording this before in early February. But anyway, you know you are a dear friend and I appreciate you being here and for our listeners, hopefully this has given you some thoughts and maybe some additional resources if you want to dig a little deeper or broaden perspectives. This is I think, some information that can be helpful to you in that way. And as always, with my Wendi and my Susie here beside me, "Here's to women supporting women!"

Transcribed by

bottom of page