top of page
Podcast Transcript

Oh Yeah Says Who

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  0:10  
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, welcome back.

Marsha Clark  0:23  
Thank you.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  0:24  
Yes, and we have a great episode today that is a bit of a diversion from our typical podcasts in that today we're going to go outside the lines of your book, "Embracing Your Power", and talk about something very different.

Marsha Clark  0:38  
You're right. And, you know, the vast majority of the topics that we cover are either inspired or straight out of the book. But today, we're on an excursion off of our traditional route. And you might call it a short side trip. So today we're going to explore the nature of accessing and learning from our peer role models and the importance of providing that kind of support system for people, especially in a learning and high change environment. And so I just want to say, it is off the beaten path, and yet we close every episode with "women supporting women", so it's kind of like that.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:18  
Oh yes, I love it. Okay, so the title, "Oh Yeah... Says Who?" means what?

Marsha Clark  1:23  
Well, that's it. That's "Oh yeah, says who?" from our childhood. But it's gonna become I think ever more clear as we talk. But, you know, the bottom line is that sometimes people don't always listen or they might remain skeptical about what they're hearing until you put someone in front of them who has more credibility in their eyes, right? So I can't just say something is great and expect you to believe me, especially if we don't seem to have any genuine connection. And so your skeptical response to me and my situation or suggestion might be, Oh yeah, says who? You? And so if I want to influence you or help you see the potential in what I have to offer, I may actually need to bring in a different voice, someone you relate to on a different level, before you'll even consider what I have to offer or say. And I do want to say there's one other connection that I make as I (you know) think about this, and that is, sometimes we have to borrow other people's power.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  2:25  
Hmm. Ah, okay. I look forward to getting into that a little bit. But I love that we're talking about this topic after exploring the importance of a safety net or a support system in our last episode. This feels like it's kind of an extension of that conversation.

Marsha Clark  2:44  
That's a good connection, Wendi. And I think it is an extension and maybe not as far off the path as we might have thought about when we came up with this topic.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  2:54  
Yeah. So you mentioned in the introduction, that we're going to explore the role of peer role models. Now, I know that was a very specific learning strategy you used a lot in your women's leadership programs, "Power of Self" being one of them. And I went through that program and that was very much a peer role model situation. So is that the focus for today? And if it is, what do you hope our leaders can leverage from today's episode?

Marsha Clark  3:25  
Yes, it is the focus. And it's a really good question. And I think the goal for our listeners is to help anyone who finds themselves needing to develop their talent on their teams,  - and whether you're designing workshops or learning sessions, or on a larger scale if you're trying to take an entire organization through a significant change - find the value of identifying, connecting and amplifying peer role models. And know that that can be a huge advantage to helping people get over or get through obstacles that might or dare I say, inevitably, come up.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  4:02  
Right. Okay. So for some context, it might be helpful if you share a couple of things. One, when you say peer role models, do you mean... Do you have a specific definition for that or is it pretty much what it sounds like?

Marsha Clark  4:18  
Yeah, both haha. You know, it is as simple as it sounds. And we do have a couple of what I would call go-to definitions about role models that we can offer up.  And so the first one comes from the book Chapter Four, Women Supporting Women. And in that chapter, we talk about role models are people who can help define goals for positions you might assume in the future. They not only show us what is possible, but also our source of valuable information about the opportunities and problems associated with a given role.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  4:56  
Okay so I remember this definition now. And already there's three things in here that jumped out at me. Number one, role models show what is possible, number one, and number two, they can provide information on potential opportunities and or problems associated with this new role or project or changes or whatever it is you're proposing. And so I guess I'm curious then. You specifically said peer role models. What's the difference when you add the word "peer" to the phrase role model?

Marsha Clark  5:31  
Yeah. And that's that third thing, right? That's the jumping out of what is it that peer represents. Okay, so I've heard the phrase, this number three "peer", used to describe a very strategic use of role models who the target audience can more easily and readily relate to. And as a result of that more easily and readily relating to, potentially have even greater influence over the target audience. So let me share how we use peer role models in our programs to maybe help give some greater clarity.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  6:09  
Perfect, perfect.

Marsha Clark  6:11  
So most of our longer leadership programs are multi day events, right, so they're spread over whether it be three to four sessions, or six months or nine months. So in that first session, usually on the second of three days, we like to bring in a few of the alumni to sit as a panel. And we choose the women very carefully to ensure that we've got a diverse group of graduates or who represent a wide variety of industries, roles, ages, ethnicities, and so on. And we're intentional about making sure the women who are about to embark on this new very rigorous learning journey have the opportunity to see themselves in the seats of the panel. So I can see myself in that woman or that woman, and it's not the same woman for everything, right. But I can see myself. I can connect.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  7:05  
Right, right. So I have to see it to be it kind of moment.

Marsha Clark  7:08  
Yes. And we call that panel discussion The Power of Experience. So you know, we're all about power. So here's the power of experience. And it's designed to give the program participants really a chance to ask the questions that they might not feel comfortable asking me or any other member of our delivery team, at least not in those first few days. So when we bring those peer role models in, those women who were literally in the seats of the current participants just a few years ahead of them, we create more psychological safety for the participants to open up and ask their deeper, more candid questions. And the women then begin to see themselves in those panelists and even eventually see themselves as graduates and alumni themselves.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  7:55  
Ah, yes. So I know we've talked about psychological safety before. But for our listeners who maybe didn't hear that episode, do you mind giving a brief description of what you mean when you say that?

Marsha Clark  8:07  
Yeah, so psychological safety exist in those environments where group members feel safe enough to be vulnerable and to take some interpersonal risks with one another in order to achieve their goals. In the case of our programs, it's to achieve their learning goals. And it exists when you know that you can ask questions and you don't have to worry about the fear of ridicule or shame, or when you can offer a different point of view or a different perspective without, you know, the overwhelming resistance of rejection, that kind of thing. And then your contributions are invited, they're acknowledged and considered in the process of the group arriving at a decision or delivering on the desired results.

Got it. So bringing in the peer role models on the panel is a way to help create this safe environment for the participants to get real and honest. Okay, so what makes peer role models effective for influencing or accelerating learning or helping with change in organizations?

Yeah, so the whole idea behind leveraging peer role models is that they're more relatable. So it's not more complicated. And in our case, it was program participants. So the same idea can be applied or said for any group of people that are embarking on a change, especially a change into an unknown future. So I've never been in this chair before. I've never been in this position before. So when people are facing a change or starting something new, it can be incredibly effective to provide them with  peer role models, who may be just a few steps ahead of them on their journey. And you know, it enables them to reach back and help guide the new learners along the way.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  9:56  
Right. So effective in what ways? What are some specific benefits to leveraging these peer role models?

Marsha Clark  10:04  
Yeah, I have what I think is a very specific and powerful example from our leadership program. You know, when women have had the opportunity to meet and speak with other women who have had similar career, you know, situations, life trajectories, there's this element of feeling connected (I go back to the relatable, you know, term) amongst the women. And if I can hear my own story, my experiences reflected in the stories of other women then I can begin to align with those women, not just our, you know, past alignment, but I can project that into the future. And I want to offer a source here from from where some of this research has happened. And Dr. Nicole Mills, who's the joint director of language programs at Harvard University, she says, "Visualizing the successes of comparable individuals in terms of age, level and ability can raise a person's efficacy beliefs by fostering the belief that he or she could also master comparable tasks." I often refer to this because it comes up in diversity as I want to look up the organization chart, higher levels than me and see people who look like me. Because if they can do it, I can do it.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  10:37  
I can do it. Yes. And in the case of your programs, you bring these alumni in on the panel early on in the program so that the participants can connect, relate and feel comfortable asking their questions about the program, right?

Marsha Clark  11:44  
Well, that's exactly it. So in the case, we want to, in the case of the programs, we want to build up the safety through a process of self disclosing that eases the participants into asking their tough questions. And one other thing I want to say, early in the program for the women who come in and don't know me from anybody else in the world, our experiences are often, "Well, you're just telling me all the good stuff, or you're just, you know, trying to sell me on this, or you're..." but when we bring other women in, and they tell their personal stories, that's just another level of credibility as to the experience. It's not just me telling them what other women have experienced. It's the women who experienced it telling them.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  12:28  
Right, so is this process something that our listeners can replicate and leverage within their own groups or teams, or is this just a workshop strategy?

Marsha Clark  12:38  
Well, it's, it's absolutely something that our listeners can leverage and replicate. And in any situation where there's new learning, or maybe you're going through some large change initiative, which every organization I know is, you can use and adapt this process to fit your needs.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  12:54  
Okay, so let's dive into what this process is and how it creates the psychological safety you've referenced.

Marsha Clark  13:02  
Yeah. So you heard me say, and I think about this in terms of everything, so when we can, we're going to wait until the second day, we're not going to do it on the first day. So the women have already had, when we do it on the second day, they've already had a full day and a half of some sharing and storytelling of their own. So they're already warming up to the women in the room. And they've done a few activities to break some ice. And so I would say that the first step is to do something to break the ice, and get people comfortable with each other. And what I will tell you that I know specifically as it relates to women, but it's true with men as well, I've done this in coed groups and all men groups, is tell stories. Ask a question and tell a story.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  13:48  
Yeah, yeah. And I would think that, even though, because I'm typically imagining this kind of scenario happening in a work environment, these may be people that you've worked next to for months, if not years. And yet the conversation is always about the project, the task, the initiative, the status, the quarterly end results, the whatever. And so shifting this entire conversation to something more personal in order to build trust in team and build a peer relationship, you're going to have to break the ice because this isn't how people are used to talking to each other.

Marsha Clark  14:29  
Well, and I want to offer too that in today's world with the millennials and Gen Z's being what the Gen Z in particular often being referred to as the digital natives, right, generation. They're not used to talking to people.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  14:29  
Exactly. That's the truth.

Marsha Clark  14:45  
So whether it is through a camera on a virtual platform or in person, and I think the more we can do in person the more we can accelerate the psychological safety.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  14:58  
Right, right.  

Marsha Clark  14:59  
So I just I want to speak about that particular piece as well, the importance of it. So, you know, step one, break the ice right there. And the more time you have the more it's like melting the ice versus breaking it, right? So it's not like we're going in with a battering ram, right, we've got to, we've got to chip away, and a series of those small opportunities to get to know each other through different lenses. So this is the incremental built over time. So by the time we hold our panel, you know, after lunch on day two, the group's already done a variety of exercises that are chipping away, or you can think about that as the metaphor or peeling back the layers and layers of self awareness that's going to happen throughout the program, or throughout a change effort or throughout a project in sharing those stories.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  15:47  
Okay, we've talked about some of this before, you talked about your process for building safety in the room. And I know it was the episode where we talked about how the Power of Self Program participants shifted from being strangers on the first day to... Okay, the episode was "From Strangers to Sisters", yes. Okay.  From Strangers to Sisters was the name yes, that was it. And so is this the same process you're talking about in that episode?

Marsha Clark  16:15  
Actually, it is. It's fundamentally this, I would say yes, fundamentally. So in this case, toward the goal of introducing the panel of the alumni or experts, is that you're setting up your group of peer role models. So that's the difference. And it's very specific to that.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  16:33  
Okay, yeah, not having outsiders into the board meeting, you're setting up your own group (right) as peers, okay. So I'm gonna look up the episode number so people can go back and listen to that if they missed it. And while I'm doing that, please go ahead and explain more about the process.

Marsha Clark  16:50  
Good idea to be able to have that reference first. So we have step one, which is breaking or melting the ice, getting people to talk to each other in the room using a series of activities to get everyone's voices out. And if our listeners recall from that episode, so what was it, Wendi? Have you looked at it?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  17:08  
Yes, yes, Episode 20.  Episode 20.

Marsha Clark  17:12  
So in that episode 20 we went into a lot of detail on how and why we build up the activities in the sequence and nature of the activities like we do. And the bottom line is that we want to break down as many of the barriers as we can that prevent people from being willing to share and be vulnerable and step out there. And as we create as many small positive interactions as possible early on, so for someone to ultimately feel safe to speak their truth, especially their truth to power. And I want to speak about that, that can be a boss, but I have recognized, and this was really hard for me to accept. I'm often the power at the front of the room because of the number of years I've done this work. And they don't, it's hard to challenge me, right. I'm the expert. I'm the... or whatever. So that speaking truth to my power, because maybe they've had a different experience than I'm describing, and it helps if they feel like they have allies in the room. So again, even though you may not agree with me on this, I do know that we have enough similar experiences that we're connected.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  18:22  
Exactly, exactly. So besides having the small interactions between and among the group participants, is there anything else you do to help create enough safety for them to feel comfortable opening up to the panel guests, especially if these panelists are strangers. Doesn't that kind of take you back a few steps in terms of creating a safe space?

Marsha Clark  18:44  
Well, you would think so on that backtracking part, but, you know, I will tell you that our process seems to dissipate that tension. So it may be counterintuitive. Okay, so to the first part of your question, there are a few things that we do before the panel even arrives, you know, to help prompt everyone for some openness and transparency. So this to me is about setting it up and managing expectations. So in addition to building some safety all along with the other activities, we give everyone, you know, the heads up on day one, that we're going to be having the alumni come in on day two. So again, letting them know so that they're not surprised that day. And we set the expectation with the participants that the panelists are there to share their program experiences, both positive and those that were challenging for them. And we explain the why of bringing the panel in. And so the transparency of all of that rather than having, giving people the opportunity to make a lot of stories about it, they're just bringing reinforcements in to sell the program, we want the participants to know that we recognize and that we acknowledge that hearing about the program from their peers can be more powerful than hearing it from the staff. (Absolutely.) That also models our vulnerability, right?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  20:04  
Yes. Yes. So you prep the participants by letting them know about the panel ahead of time. And then you even remind the group a couple of times during that first day and a half to be thinking of good questions for the panelists.

Marsha Clark  20:18  
That's a really good memory, Wendi. I'm proud of you. You know, that's exactly what we do. And because we have an actual workbook for, you know, the participants, obviously in a longterm program like this, we want them to take some notes. And there's a specific section that's called out that is entitled, The Power of Experience. And we encourage the women after day one or anywhere throughout the day, before the panel gets there to jot down the questions in that section so that they can easily refer to them when the panel gets there.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  20:50  
Yep. So besides prepping, everyone, for the panel discussion ahead of time, what else do you do as a part of your process to help everyone feel comfortable about opening up and asking their questions?

Marsha Clark  21:02  
Yeah, and Wendi, I'm going to answer that question, but I want to go back to something for just a minute (Okay) in helping people get ready for when the panel reps. If I'm an introvert, I need time to think.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  21:13  

Marsha Clark  21:13  
So I just want to say that's another benefit, sort of building it up to, here's what's going to happen tomorrow, so I just wanted to say that. Alright, so your question about, you know, what else do we do? So there are a couple of very deliberate steps that we take as part of the panel discussion itself. So we typically like to have four panelists if we can, especially if the group itself is larger, so say over 20 people. If we can get the four to five panelists, then we have a greater likelihood that our participants can find, you know, at least one person that they strongly connect to. And so we open the panel discussion with individual introductions. So each guest, you know, has a couple of minutes to introduce themselves. And it tends to be much more personal and it's a warmer introduction than you might get in some sort of generic meeting introduction.

Okay, how so?

So, we all know what the typical business introduction name, title, organization, you know, and we do all that. So they include that just so they have a frame of reference. They also talk about things like which class cohort they were in. So was it last year was it 10 years ago, and we've had people that go all the way back to the original program. And that's part of our emphasis too, which is this stuff stays with you, (exactly) not the binder that gets put on the shelf, never to be opened.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  22:41  
And the women stay connected.

Marsha Clark  22:42  
That's right. And they also talk about the impact that the program had on them, in a very personal way. So it could be anything from it helped my marriage, it helped me be a better parent, it helps me be a better leader, whatever all those things might have been. And that's where the connections begin to happen with the women in the room. So it just gets very personal very quickly.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  23:05  
Good point. And I remember that. It was one of the things about the panel that seemed like these women had been in the room with us all along. And you know, even though they weren't, they fully understood our experience.

Marsha Clark  23:20  
And that's the key point, right? That's where the connection and relatability, they understood,  understand our experience, and can help prepare us. So that's the difference between simply being a role model and a peer role model. So the women on the panel did fully understand your experience, because they had walked it before you. And some, as I said earlier, a decade or more and some as recent as a year, and yet, that is absolutely where the power lies in tapping into those role models as well. I mean, it's a lasting and everlasting so we're trying to accelerate the connectedness, the preparing women to have the maximum or optimum learning experience. And we know that that can only happen if they're willing to put themselves out there. So this, you know, the peer role models, because there's usually a higher degree of credibility given to their peers can help us do that acceleration and deepening and this sense of they get us and they understand what we're going through is how that happens.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  24:25  
Umm hmm. Now, the title of this episode is really starting to click for me. "Oh yeah... Says Who? is about listening and or being influenced by people who are credible to you.

Marsha Clark  24:38  
Yes, that's exactly right, with one not so subtle difference in our case. We weren't using this panel of peer role models to try and influence the group. They weren't there to sell them on the program. And we're very clear about that. It's the last thing I want them to do. We want them there to serve as a form of support for them, and specifically supporting them through the initial phases of uncertainty about the program, and leveraging the lessons that they've learned. And I know I think I said earlier that we do this right after lunch. Sometimes we do it right before lunch, if time permits, so that, and then we invite the panelists to stay for lunch so that there can be further one on one conversation and connecting.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  25:24  
Ah, love that and remember that, yes. And there's a definite difference in that approach. And I know that now, when I think back on it, the speakers weren't selling the program as much as they were sharing their personal experiences of what they loved, what they wish they could do over given the chance, you know, what they learned. It all felt really authentic.

Marsha Clark  25:48  
Yeah. And I'm glad to hear you say that, Wendi. That is what we're looking for, as the, you know, the intended outcome, and especially in the lessons learned. And that's really the last part of this process I, you know, want to share is how we set up the questions and the flow of the conversation. So after each of the panelists introduces herself then the facilitator would ask the following three questions of everyone. And we'd do it one at a time, go down, you know, let everybody answer one question, then ask two. So the first one was, what were your big fears, and we put that in quotes at the beginning, because if we're walking into an unknown or uncertain situation, let's be really clear, we're a little nervous about all this. And if I've had experiences with women that haven't always been positive then I've got, my fear, you know, radar's up even higher. And then what big questions did you have at the beginning?  So, you know, oftentimes the panelists have shared what the question they had, or that that's a part of what we're going through, and the women can relate to them, they are going back to that.

And then if I were in your shoes, in session one, and knowing what you know now that you've been all the way through the program, I'd be sure that I, and I've had women, you know, talk about in response to that I made a list of, you know, books I wanted to read. We give them a list, but guess what, there are more books than any of us can ever read, and other women will have read something that really appeals to someone, or maybe I organized my notes in these ways, you know. So that's helpful on the front end to then, even if they don't do it the way the panelists did, it makes them be more deliberate and intentional in thinking how are they going to keep their notes? What lists do they want to keep, you know, that kind of thing. And so once we work through all those questions, then we open it up to the group for whatever questions they might have, they're anywhere and everywhere, all over the place. But by that point, the panelists have demonstrated, you know, a very high level of vulnerability and transparency. They talk about, you know, changes in their own lives that came up during the program and how the program helped them. They talked about particular problems that they had, and how they use the tools to solve for those. So they don't try to sugarcoat it. They're, and they're reflecting high trust onto the group by their willingness to open up and share candidly.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  28:20  
Absolutely, I remember it well. And I remember at that point, the panelists have been modeling the behaviors that you wanted us as participants to practice, right?

Marsha Clark  28:33  
That's right. They're modeling self awareness. They're modeling self disclosure. They're exploring where they're learning edges work. They're seeking clarity and confidence in the face of the unknown, connecting with others, all those kinds of things. And so as a facilitator or meeting manager, whatever positional power role that you might have at the front of the room, in those moments, as the participants are engaging with the panel, my role pales in comparison. I move into the background and I let the magic of the panel, let that go into the foreground and as it relates to what's happening in that newly expanded circle of women. So the day before they met 20 or more, other women, now they're meeting four or five more women. So, and the peer role models on the panel, they can literally repeat something that I might have already said a couple of times, but somehow it lands differently when they say it. There's a collective almost 'Ah', or 'Aha', you know, we often, that rises up. And, you know, how many times have we heard the phrase, "You can't be a prophet in your own land."

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  29:42  

Marsha Clark  29:43  
And, you know, this is an example of that. Or, you know, we've also had this experience of "Wait a minute. I said that two days ago, or three days ago, or a year ago." I had a coaching call just this morning and it was like, now two years later, we're ready to hear it.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  30:00  
Does that get frustrating for you sometimes?

Marsha Clark  30:02  
Well, yeah, I'll tell you the first couple of times that I was caught a little off guard and wondered, well, no, wait a minute. I just said that or so then I wondered, begin to doubt myself and say, Am I really getting through? Did I not say that? Did I just say it in my head? But after it happened again, and again, I began to realize sometimes we just have to hear different voices. And, you know, it's like us bringing guests on to our podcast (exactly) if we need a different voice and a different perspective. And we can connect to that in a different way. And so I got very okay with it as long as they heard it. (Yes.) You know, I moved to the what is the goal here, and the main point landed where it needed to, when it needed to, and I didn't care who got the credit.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  30:46  
Absolutely, especially given your role, your goal and role of developing women leaders or developing leaders, no matter what their gender. So all of this is making me wonder for our listeners who aren't running leadership workshops, but are maybe organizing meetings of stakeholders or offsites for their teams, you know, because of new projects coming up or a new fiscal year or whatever, how would you translate this idea of incorporating peer role models into their world?

Marsha Clark  31:20  
That's a really good question. I think the same powerful opportunity exists if a leader or someone is trying to help their team or organization work through some sort of significant change. I mean, admittedly, that's what our leadership program is, is helping people, you know, work through a significant change. It's a program to develop and support authentic and powerful women leaders and in moving to a more powerful place. So as a consultant, if a leader came to me, and wanted to use peer role models to help their team through some sort of significant change, I would ask a couple of questions to, you know, right up front. One of those questions would be: Do you want to use these peer role models as mentors or coaches over the time of whatever program or initiative you're doing or is this more of a one time Q&A panel type opportunity?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  32:16  
Oh, okay, because yes, those are two entirely different approaches, aren't they?

Marsha Clark  32:20  
They are and if we're talking about leveraging the peer role models as coaches or mentors, then I'm going to explore whether they already have an existing process for setting up the coaching and mentoring relationships and so on. And that the people really are good coaches and mentors, not just here's what you need to do, you know, they're not declarative, you know, do it my way. But working through that process really is an entirely, you know, separate podcast, to be honest.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  32:48  
Yeah, okay. Fair enough. And so we'll add that to the Future Podcast Wish List. Tracy, please listen. So for now, let's stick with the panel approach since that's been our focus for this episode.

Marsha Clark  33:01  
Yes. So once we've determined they want to do more of a panel, then I'm going to also ask, is this an intact team who knows each other really well, they've worked together, you know, for months, or years or whatever? And then what is the status of their working relationships? And then the third question, if it's part of a meeting or series of meetings, how much time are you willing to dedicate to build the safety that question two would tell me when we talked about the status of the working relationships?  Is this a high trust team? You know, we've gone through some hard things and we look at each other with, you know, a question in our minds, that kind of thing.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  33:42  
Okay, so how much time do you have to dedicate to building safety? I'm seeing a note here that says if necessary. Why do you why do you say if necessary?

Marsha Clark  33:53  
Well, so our listeners are going to relate to they've been on good teams that really work well together, and they've been on teams not so much. (Yes). So if this is a high performing team already with these high levels of trust, then the leader wouldn't necessarily have to do a whole lot around the topic of building trust other than to call out maybe their team ground rules or, you know, agreements for how they're going to work together. And in most high trust and high performing teams I know have already been established. And in that case, the leader can probably move pretty quickly to a peer panel discussion with a few concerns of, you know, regarding anyone holding back, and then people will likely feel very comfortable asking tough and meaningful questions from people who've gone through similar changes or have may have a different perspective.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  34:42  
Got it. Got it. Okay, well, hey, let's try a less easy scenario. In an organization, this is an intact team that isn't getting along or doesn't have high trust. Maybe there's been some major betrayals or something.

Marsha Clark  34:58  
Oh, yeah. Has that ever happened? Okay. So, you know, at the risk of blowing past, I think we had three episodes on building trust and betrayal and rebuilding trust, I'll kind of offer up these thoughts. You know, if there's low trust in the group, then maybe the best use of peer role models is to have people who can speak to their history of working through trust issues and how they handle that, versus the change process or initiative itself. But how to build a high trust team. So leveraging the power of those lessons learned to break down the barriers preventing the group from, you know, working well together is where the value is. And I mean, you have to get to the core of your issues before you can work on higher level problems.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  35:43  

Marsha Clark  35:44  
And we know that interpersonal relationships, the foundation of all those is trust. And there's also group trust that's necessary to do our best work.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  35:53  
So would you recommend that they could still do a peer role model panel discussion, but that maybe the actual top of the conversation is about building trust?

Marsha Clark  36:05  
Yes that's certainly, yeah, that's certainly a possible option. So let's think about it. If there's low to no trust on the team, and I parade in a group of peer role models who start talking about some challenge or lessons learned that are so disconnected from the group's core problems or they're disconnected from their day to day reality, it's going to sound a whole lot like propaganda. And all I've managed to do is drive an even deeper wedge between me and the team because I don't even acknowledge what the real issue is.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  36:34  
You haven't read the room.

Marsha Clark  36:36  
That's right!.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  36:37  
Yeah, so good tool at the wrong time is still the wrong tool.

Marsha Clark  36:41  
Exactly. Yeah. And remember.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  36:46  
Marsha-ism! Yep.

Marsha Clark  36:46  
Good leaders know they have tools and great leaders know which tool to use when.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  36:51  
Yes, yes. So this is feeling like a good spot to start our wrap up. We've covered a lot of ground today talking about the value of bringing in peer role models to help a group as they move through some unknowns or change. So Marsha, what are the top takeaways you'd really like to reinforce for our listeners today?

Marsha Clark  37:10  
I think the first one is how we started the session that we as leaders need to be self aware enough to recognize that sometimes I may need to bring in a different voice or set of voices that are more relatable to my team for them to feel like they're getting credible, honest answers to their questions. And that no matter how many times I might say something is true or possible, they need to hear it from a peer who has been there and done that and you know, the old saying - has the t shirt to show for it. And then my second takeaway is the importance of being very intentional about why you would bring in this peer or set of peers to talk to your group, the timing of the conversation, (day one, day two, you know, week three, week four), and the conditions or environment for the discussion. So being realistic about the level of trust that exists or doesn't exist in your group, and take that into consideration as you set up the expectations for the meetings, and what topic you want to cover. And then third, don't take it personally if or when your group connects with the peer role models and might eagerly and easily absorb what they say when it mirrors what you've been saying all along. So I've got to really take the high road as a leader here and not let my ego, my pride get in the way. So be gracious and grateful that however it happened, the message has now finally clicked in and now the whole group can move forward.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  38:44  
Exactly, because that was the goal in the first place. So I love that advice.

Marsha Clark  38:46  
And it can be a challenge. I don't want to minimize it. But it's so worth it when, you know, as a leader I can let go of taking the credit for how my team connects with a message and simply ride the wave of, you know, accepting it and absorbing it and maybe even the enthusiasm when it finally clicks and who cares who says it as long as they're on board and moving in the right direction? And I'll tell you one more extension of that is remember the Marsha-ism of "It depends." The answer to every leadership question is it depends. I said I always love it when the class teaches it back to me. Because I'll you know, I'll offer a question say well, what do you think about blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and they'll go in unison, in stereo, "It depends." and oh bring it and it's yet another way you know, to think about it takes a minute sometimes for things to happen. But when you see the light bulbs come on or you know the switches click or whatever it might be, that's what you're going after.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  39:51  
Absolutely. Wow. Marsha, thank you for this episode today and "Says Who?" is Marsha! So thank you, for all listeners for joining us today on this journey of authentic, powerful leadership. Please download, subscribe and share this podcast where ever you, your friends, your co workers like to listen. Please visit Marsha's website at  You'll get all the links to the tools and resources we talked about today, subscribe to her email list so you can stay up to date on everything in Marsha's world. And you can also check out her latest book "Embracing Your Power" on the site and and purchase it. Well, and magnets. Gotta get that in!

Marsha Clark  40:41  
Well, Wendi, thanks again for guiding us through yet another session. And, you know, this idea of the uniqueness of peer role models, I think, again, links very closely to us being there for one another, to support one another to share our stories with one another, to learn from one another, to relate to one another. And all of those things are the best examples I can think of for "Here's to women supporting women!"

bottom of page