Rewind – How to Be a Better DEI Leader | Kelly Beattie


What does it take to be a better DEI leader?

This week, we’re rewinding to my conversation with Kelly Beattie.

Kelly is an expert in leadership development in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

In this episode, she shares how leaders can handle challenging social topics in the workplace and be strong and positive role models for their teams.

Kelly also shares:

  • How leaders can develop the 4 areas of emotional intelligence

  • 3 steps to develop leadership empathy

  • The most effective way to give feedback 

  • And more

Mentioned in this episode:


Kelly Beattie: Don’t be content, be willing to grow. Those leaders who are most successful are never content.

Voiceover: You’re listening to The Build a Vibrant Culture podcast with professional speaker, coach and consultant Nicole Greer.

Nicole Greer: Welcome to The Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. My name is Nicole Greer. They call me the vibrant coach and I am here with Kelly Beattie today. She is the President of FirstStar Consulting Group and an expert in train the trainer programs for diversity, equity and inclusion. She provides teams and executives with the tools they need to feel emotionally comfortable dealing with some of the most contentious social topics of today. With nearly three decades of experience in emotional intelligence training, Kelly has become a renowned guide in the area of leadership development. So we are going to be two peas in a pod because right prior to beginning she told me she was in Michigan. So I’ve got a little bit of that Midwest, Michigan, Ohio blood me. Good to have you on the show.

Kelly: Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

Nicole: Yeah, so I went to high school in Toledo, Ohio. And then shortly thereafter, I moved up to Michigan, I lived in Dearborn. And are you familiar? Do you remember, Kelly, the Bill Knapps restaurant? Do you remember this thing called the Bill Knapps restaurant? I worked there. I worked there for about six years of my life. And I just adored it. And they told me it’s gone, which blows my mind, but probably had something to do with leadership. But anyway, I love talking to Michigander as we like to call them. So the first question out of the gate, Kelly is always how do you define leadership? I’d love to know your answer to that.

Kelly: Well, I define leadership as the ability to influence others behavior, regardless of title. I don’t need to have a big fancy title to be a leader. Organizations, as you’re talking about culture, organizations have informal leaders throughout and they can either be positive influencers, positive leaders, or they can be negative. And so leadership is really about being able to influence behavior, regardless of the title that you hold.

Nicole: I love your I love your definition, right? So it’s influence everybody’s an influencer, everybody’s a leader. Okay, so you hit on on a subject. So when I teach about leadership, I talk about positive influence. And you said they either have a positive or a negative. So will you do me a little favor and kind of talk about what a positive leader with positive influence does?

Kelly: Absolutely. These are, these are the people within the organization that are the role models. They are the ones that, that lead by example. And they are the ones that are emulating the behaviors that the organization desires. So most organizations have a set of values that they live by, and these positive leaders are those that are personifying those values. So if you’re talking about teamwork, or what does it mean to be a good team player being part of that team? They’re the ones that are emulating those behaviors.

Nicole: Okay, fantastic. All right. Well, let’s go to the dark side. What about the negative leaders? Because buddy, they’re alive and well out there. So what are some things that you see people doing that have the negative influence over things?

Kelly: Absolutely, these are, these are the these are the people within the organization that oftentimes have stronger influence. Because of the negative side of things. People are often drawn. These are the folks that are undermining the organization, they are, they are holding the organization back, due to either lack of commitment to change or unwillingness. You have a group of people when you have a negative leader, who are gossiping and stirring things up, and really, really causing significant challenges for the organization to be able to accomplish their goals.

Nicole: Yeah, and I think you totally nailed it that this sometimes for whatever reason, they have a strong pull on people, you know. And, you know, I don’t, I’m a little curious about why we’re not drawn to the light, why we’re drawn to the darkness. So you know, pay attention out there. But I love what you said about a lack of willingness. So for those listeners who have heard me say this before, I’m gonna say it again, I think willingness Kelly is the ultimate trait of a leader. 

Kelly: Absolutely.

Nicole: I have a little definition that I got from Mike Kornacki’s book. And it says a willingness is the ability to do what needs to be done without reservation, refusal or judgment. You just go. Yeah, so what what how would you add to that or shape that a little bit? What do you think about? Why is willingness so important? I think this is a huge, huge subject.

Kelly: It really is. Because the willingness is that investment in the in whatever has to get done. If I am a strong leader in my organization needs me to stay late, in order to help prepare for a big presentation, my willingness to do that will help to support the success of the organization. Well, I think one of the strongest characteristics of a leader is going and taking that willingness to that next step, and the willingness to learn, right. Just being gauged with whatever needs to happen. And to never, never be satisfied with where you are now. It is great to celebrate achievements. It’s great to be able to recognize accomplishments, but strong leaders and that willingness, and that the willingness is broad, right, willingness to grow, willingness to learn willingness to strive, to stretch themselves, really, really emulates a characteristic of a strong leader.

Nicole: Yeah, absolutely. I was sitting in a classroom working with some folks last week, and I was talking about, I was talking about goal setting. And I said, you know, the statistics say that the average adult does not have written down actionable goals that they refer to frequently. And this guy raises his hand and he says, he says, well, isn’t it okay to be content? And I said, no, it’s not okay to be content. And he said, why not? I said, because we’re in business, and business must grow. It must get better. I mean, you have to keep up with the what’s going on in the economy and the market and that kind of thing. You never be content. And he was just blown away by that, you know, that we just can’t be content. What do you what are your thoughts on being content? Because I love what you said striving, stretching, learning growing, never satisfied. Yes, I was so excited to hear you say that. 

Kelly: You know, when when organizations are content, and they stop growing, they stop adapting. And the world around them does not stop. The world around them is not content. There are always new adaptations. There’s always new technologies coming, there’s always something down the pipeline. And so leaders have to be willing to strive for that next thing and to spend time strategizing. And thinking about where they are in the market. And what what are the trends coming down the pipeline, and how are they going to adapt to whatever’s happening? I get that question a lot. Isn’t it okay to just be content? Right. And you can be content for a Friday afternoon. Hey, I had a great week. Awesome. That’s celebrate that. Absolutely. Big win. Awesome, great job. But come Monday, what are you going to do next? What’s going to happen next, because the strong leaders have people looking to them and they will follow whatever that leader is doing. So if the leader is content, then they get a group of their employees who are also content and that can be stagnant for the for the company.

Nicole: Absolutely. You know, twice now, Kelly, you’ve said you know, you can stop you can celebrate. So I’m sensing that this is something that great leaders do. They celebrate. Talk a little bit about this comment you keep making about celebrating. I love it.

Kelly: Yes, so far too far too often we are checkbox. Oh, I accomplished that I got that results we brought in the month. That’s fantastic. We need to be able to pause and highlight the good in what people are doing. It motivates those employees to be able to feel like they are their work is valued. And when when the strong leaders stop and find a way to celebrate that, it really is invigorating and it energizes the employees within the organization. Because if if you know sales brought in and hey, you know what they crushed their number this month. Let’s celebrate that. Yay. I mean, fantastic job. We often have this mentality of well, that’s what sales does, or that’s what that group is supposed to do. But without pausing and recognizing it and saying, you know, you crushed your goal, or way to go you accomplished that. That’s the human side of leadership to be able to recognize that and to be able to have the former leaders within a company, pause and recognize the work that was done.

Nicole: Yeah, absolutely. I love it. Yeah. So I’m recurrently. Right now I’m reading a book, I think it’s a pretty old book. It’s called Touch Points. Okay, and so in there, he talks about, you know, that you need to have calendared touch points with people to check in to celebrate. And so I’m sharing that with a client right now. So everybody go get that book. I think it’s so far so good. I love it. All right, Kelly. Kelly says I got it. So it must be a good one. That’s awesome. Yeah, so you work with all sorts of different leaders. And so when you when you think about that, what are the skill sets that you think people, you know, leaders need to really hone in on what do they need to be working on or building or edifying in their style and in their leadership?

Kelly: I think across the board, one of the top skills of a successful leader is demonstrated emotional intelligence. Being able to break down those key components of emotional intelligence. First, being self aware. Understanding, we are all human, we all have our triggers. Anybody that has worked with me knows that if I don’t have a Diet Coke in the morning, I’m grouchy. Right? And so I’m aware, right, I need that. But being self aware, and knowing what my strengths are, and knowing where I need help, and being able to recognize those components of who I am, then following that is that of self management. So if I didn’t, if I miss my Diet Coke, if I forgot my Diet Coke, and I am grumpy being able to own that, and to be able to modify and monitor my behavior, to be able to say, oh, you know what, I’m feeling grouchy today. And I might come off as being a little bit more sensitive, or I might be a little bit more harsh than what I normally am. 

And being able to not worry, we’re not talking about, like minimizing or ignoring the emotion, but really owning the emotion, and being able to behave in a way that says, you know, I’m angry, and I’m frustrated, because we missed that number, or I asked you to do that. And it wasn’t done. I can, I can communicate, my disappointment, my anger, my frustration, without raising my voice. And actually strengthen the relationship with the person that I am engaged with. So they feel more confident. We want to make sure that we are creating a culture that allows people to make mistakes, it’s okay. And let’s work with it. And let’s own it. The third component of emotional intelligence is social awareness, and really being able to recognize if I have an employee who normally comes in, upbeat, positive, and today that employee came in didn’t say hi to anybody, that should be a trigger. Right? 

I as a leader need to be attentive and aware and to say, are you okay? I just I, you don’t seem to be your normal, happy self. Are you okay? And just being able to have the that social awareness. And then the last component of it is relationship management. And this is how do we how do we engage through conflict? How do we demonstrate empathy towards others? How are we how are we connecting as humans? Again, we have tons of technology at our disposal, but we still need that contact in order to in order to really be able to have that strong relationship. And the stronger the relationship between people, the easier it is to get work done.

Nicole: That is 100% Correct. All right. She just said the better the relationship, the more work gets done. All right. Write that down. Maybe put it on your desk somewhere. Right.

Kelly: There’s an excellent book called The Speed of Trust by Stephen M Covey. And yes, you need a huge bookshelf. The stronger the relationship, the easier it is to get business done.

Nicole: Absolutely. 100% Yeah, and so Kelly just downloaded a bunch. So I’m gonna do a little quick review, as you know, I like to do. So the number one skill set, after Kelly has worked with all of these leaders is demonstrated emotional intelligence. And there’s four buckets, self awareness, self management, social awareness and relationship management. And that type that that dovetails just beautifully with the Touch Points book that we just mentioned a minute ago. And you need to get Speed of Trust. In fact, if you want, if you will email me at Nicole@vibrantcoaching, I will send you a little like cliff notes version of Speed of Trust. I adore that book too, the 13 behaviors. Did you hear it took her breath away. Oh my gosh. I love it. Yeah, so this is really really great stuff. Right? 

Alright. So I think one of the things in a Speed of Trust that I think is, is something that people that leaders really need to practice is I call it truth telling honesty and candor. Covey calls it straight talk. And I think this is something you have to start doing with your employees. Like on day one, onboarding day one is like, hey, hey, I want you to be awesome. I want us to be awesome. And in order for us to be awesome, we got to tell each other truth and give each other a lot of feedback, you know, so let’s pinky swear right now, that that’s what we’re gonna do. And like, here’s a little tool, I have a little tool for feedback. I’m curious, do you have kind of a methodology for feedback that you give to leaders to use?

Kelly: I do. Before I answer that, I cannot stress the honesty, candor enough. Because the stronger the relationship that we have, the easier it is for me to provide that feedback, because I know it’s coming from a point. That is, you want what’s best for me, and I want what’s best for you. So if I’m sharing something with you, it enables positive intent. Most of the time when we get feedback, you say, hey Kelly can I talk to you for a minute? And I panic, oh, my gosh, what did I do wrong? Am I in trouble? What’s what’s happening? Right? The stronger the relationship, and the deeper the trust that we have, even if you’re giving me something, even if I did make a mistake, I know you’re coming at it from a really positive point, and you want me to be successful. Most leaders, when they ask for feedback from somebody, the person on the other side struggles to think, right, oh, gosh, I know you’re doing everything great. Everything’s fantastic. 

So the methodology that I that I recommend to leaders, as they’re building that feedback loop is to ask, what should we start doing? What should we stop doing? And what should we keep doing? It provides a really nice framework, that opens up the door for people to provide feedback, because it doesn’t become personal to the leader. Oftentimes, I don’t want to tell I don’t want to tell my boss that they’re doing anything wrong. But if you if you frame it in start, stop, keep that enables, and you get a lot of really great ideas, and you get a lot of information that maybe you wouldn’t have gotten before.

Nicole: Yeah, and I love what you said about how, if you don’t don’t have this relationship, people panic. But you know, I think the complete 180 from that is also true to your point, which is if Kelly was going to give me feedback. Nicole I need to give you some feedback on this podcast. And I’d be like, oh, yeah, I know, I know what went wrong. Like, you know, you don’t even have to say anything. If you have a strong enough relationship. They’re like, oh, my gosh, you saw it, I should have said something, you know, and then people start to confess their quote, unquote, sins or whatever they’ve done, or their shortcomings, and then they’ll just tell you, you know. 

So I think that’s really, really huge. And, and I don’t, I don’t know what it is. I’m just completely convinced that like, onboarding in the first 90 days is like the linchpin of somebody’s career inside of a company, you know. You can really determine a lot of success or failure, right? I think it’s absolutely huge. So I need to do a podcast just talking about onboarding people. That’s all right. But this her her thing was, don’t miss this. If we’re thinking oh, my God, what did she say? Was what do we need to start doing what we need to stop doing? What do we need to keep doing? All right? So everybody write that down, put it on a sticky note, stick it somewhere. 

So you’ll start using that put that in your repertoire, as they say. Okay, all right. So that’s, that’s an important skill is emotional intelligence. And so I love all the goodies that you gave us on that one. Now, I also know that you are hired and put to work to help people look at diversity, equity and inclusion. And this is a hot, hot, hot topic out there right now. And I think a lot of leaders are delving into it before they really know what to do and I think the number one thing you need to do is know why you’re doing it. You know, figure out your why. But what are the skills or things that leaders need to think about? If they’re if they’re going to approach diversity, equity inclusion and do a great job of getting it part of their culture? How do they do that?

Kelly: It goes right to what you just said, what is their why? Why are they why are they looking at this? Why is this an initiative? When I go into organizations? They tell me, oh, we need to be more diverse, we need to be more inclusive. Well, that’s great. That’s a that’s a great objective. How are you going to get there? Why why is that important to you? And really, what we start looking at is, what are they seeking in a candidate? There is this great quote, and the person that said it, the person’s name is escaping me right now. But there is a great quote, and they can get the, the name of the person if needed. People hire for diversity, but onboard for similarity.

Nicole: Oh, my gosh, say it again. People what?

Kelly: Organizations hire for diversity, but on board for similarity. So I might. Yeah, I wish I wish I was the one that said it. Because it’s brilliant. But they people, organizations, look for diverse candidates. And then as soon as they and what you’re going to talk about, onboarding in the first 90 days, absolutely will set the tone for that employee’s career. And so when organizations are looking to increase diversity, equity and inclusion, you have to look at how are they hiring? What are what are their what are their criteria, and to be able to look at what they are seeking versus who are they seeking. And if they have clear criteria, and it goes beyond the job description, if they have clear criteria of what they need in that role, it actually broadens the potential candidate pool. And so inherently you get more diverse candidates.

Nicole: Okay, so, so talk about criteria, because I think people are like, okay, what does she mean by criteria? So, what you know, we want to look for criteria beyond the job description, and it will inherently give us better diversity. What are the criteria?

Kelly: So oftentimes.

Nicole: Let’s do customer service. Let’s do customer. I’m recruiting right now, for customer service people. Let’s talk about that. You help me.

Kelly: I’m happy to help you, Nicole. So customer service, one of the one of the things on the job description, you know, good customer service, friendly with clients, good communication skills, right. But that’s, that’s typically the job description. Right? So when you’re talking about the criteria, what does it look like? So in your organization, what does good communication look like? Is it written? Is it verbal? Is it both? Right? 

So what so as you are looking for diverse candidates, or as you’re looking for the criteria, you want to look at who in your organization is already doing it well, and to be able to give language to that? To say, you know, good communication means candid candor, honest, straight talk. I like to be able to give feedback in that moment. And so when you start to break down the, like, what behavior are you looking for? Then you can automatically go and build your interview questions around that. And you can say, tell me about a time where you had to give somebody really honest feedback. And so now you’re hiring to the criteria that you’re seeking.

Nicole: Okay, fantastic. All right. So I love what you said, you know, I have done a process in the past of you said somebody who’s already who’s already doing this well. I always ask folks, maybe this will just reinforce what Kelly just said is, you know, who’s your MVP? You know, you think of that position, who’s your MVP? And then let me go hang out with that person. And let’s figure out you know, what are the you know, the unique abilities of that particular person? All right. I love it. I love it. Okay, so, let’s talk a little bit more about you know, the strategy of doing DEI. 

So you said you know, the questions we need to ask or why is this important to you, what you know, what are you seeking in a candidate and then hire for diversity and onboard for similarity, genius, and what are the criteria you’re seeking? Okay, so let’s say that we have this great person on board. They they they are somebody who is has these unique abilities, fits fits the mold perfectly. Miraculously, they say yes to us in this in this little market where it’s hard to find anybody to work. Right now it seems like it’s a challenge right now a lot of people to find people. So how do I, how do I onboard them for similarity? What does that look like?

Kelly: Well, actually, you don’t want to onboard them for similarity, you want you want to celebrate their diversity. So what I what I stated earlier is I will hire a diverse candidate. But as soon as I bring that person in, I will try to acclimate them, to make them like me, versus celebrating why I hired them in the first place. Right, I was working with an executive who brought in a, he bought, he hired a black male, for a senior leadership role. And as I was coaching this new candidate, I was he the candidate told me it’s like, yeah, they want me to say things that it doesn’t sound like me. 

But they want me to stick to the script. So it’s really about celebrating, and how do you how do you bring in and maintain that diverse candidate, versus trying to assimilate them to the kind of the same old culture that you’ve always had? Right? You’re we are we are D, E and I work is absolutely exploding, but it has to go beyond geographic. Demographic diversity is really about infusing different thinking, and being able to celebrate how that person thinks differently, why that person thinks the way that he or she thinks, and really being able to ask questions and being able to when you’re talking about the inclusion component of it, really being able to hear all the different voices.

Nicole: Yeah, yeah. And you know, when we you said that about hire for diversity, onboarding for similarity, the thing that came into my mind was that, well, you know, I have a friend who has traveled the whole world. And I’m extremely jealous and just have to say. She knows who she is. So she goes all these places all over all over the planet. I mean, she’s been doing all seven continents, the whole shebang, Antarctica. Oh, wow. It’s crazy. So she she says, she’s a Rotarian. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Rotary. But Rotary is all over the planet. And so she’s made the Rotarian. But she said to me, you know, Nicole, no matter who I strike the conversation up with. No matter what part of the planet I’m on, no matter who is sitting in front of me, we always have something in common. 

And I think, I think the thing about you know, hiring for diversity, but onboarding for similarity is like, you know, the minute I find common ground with somebody, I’m not the exact same as you, I celebrate your diversity, but we have something in common, and then that pulls the teamwork together, right? Because when you when I read that you were from Michigan, I was like, oh, I’m gonna love Kelly. I mean, like, there’s just something that bubbled up inside of me, because it’s like, I understand Michigan. I’ve been there. I lived there. So I think that’s really cool. But I love what you’re saying about understanding why a person thinks the way they think and that they have different opinions. Because that that is the part about not being content, right?

Kelly: Yes. Yes. And so So you’re absolutely right, it is it is human nature, to find what we have in common. Right. That’s how that’s how humans connect, is to be able to say, oh, you know, and when you mentioned that you were from Michigan, I wanted to ask a million questions about oh, are you familiar with this place? Right? Because that’s, that’s human nature. But really, D, E and I work is really about being comfortable, when there are no commonalities, or when, when I want to, I want to focus on what makes us different, versus connecting and finding that right. So there’s that there’s a really delicate balance. Because we have to we have to connect in order to build the trust and do all the things that we were talking about. But I also want to I also need to be able to hold space to be curious about how are we different?

Nicole: Yes, 100%. I totally agree. Because I think the experience of hearing somebody else’s background where they came from, can really broaden your thinking, right? That’s why you have to have the other person’s kind of thinking. I’m actually coaching somebody right now who is from South Korea. And so she was telling me her story. Like I cannot relate to her story. I mean, I can’t imagine the stuff that she has experienced. But the other thing that I think happens with diversity inclusion is like, when I heard her story, although I cannot relate to it, and I’ve never been to Korea, I have so much respect for what she’s been through. And, you know, how she is, how she is. How she was developed into the woman that she is today. Because it is so different. You know, so I do think I love what you said, it’s a delicate balance. And, and keeping that growth mind, mindset, you know, that, that you can learn from other people, and you can respect where they where they come from, what they’ve experienced and how they think. Absolutely. All right.

Kelly: It’s going beyond what we have in common, and starting to press into, where are we different?

Nicole: Yeah, absolutely. And then how we can learn from each other in that way? Yeah. And I do think that sometimes, if the problems we that have brought on this pressing need for DEI out there in the world is because we’ve been content with the way that we think and we don’t, we can’t be convinced differently, we have biases in place, right? We can’t get past. And so we got to like, wake up smell the coffee, as my daddy would say. Absolutely. Yeah. Okay. All right. So so, before we I don’t want to stop talking about D, E and I if you have other things that you want to share about that. Because I love what you’re saying.

Kelly: You know, the the topic is, is I’ll just leave the D, E and I topic on this. Really being able to be inclusive, being able to provide, you know, equity is not equal, right, because everybody comes from, like, we don’t, we don’t want it to just be all the same, right? I don’t, I don’t want the trophy because everybody gets a trophy. But I want the same opportunity to win the trophy that everybody else has. And that’s really where equity comes in. Inclusion is about what we exactly what we were talking about, which is, I want to connect with you on our similarities. But I want to hear where we’re different. 

And being able to share our different thoughts and have it be great, right, just like you were talking about your client from South Korea, where you can’t relate. But I’m sure you were just fascinated in hearing everything, right. And just kind of leaning into the conversation and saying, oh, my gosh, I that’s like, that’s amazing. And you almost want them to just keep talking. A lot of times, we only want to hear people that think like us. And inclusion is about listening to people that think differently than us and having a safe space to understand their thoughts, their perspective and where they’re coming from. And then that, like I said, the diversity has to go beyond a demographic diversity, but really being able to celebrate those differences.

Nicole: Yeah, absolutely. Okay, I love it. I think you guys got downloaded big time stuff right there, too. So equity is not equal. I don’t want the same trophy as everybody else. But I want the opportunity to get the trophy, the opportunity to win the trophy. I love that. That is a very good example. And then the inclusion is we we touch base, we understand our similarities, but we’re open to hearing how people are different. And, you know, the thing that I talk about all the time with leaders is I say, you know, we all have blind spots. And those blind spots. You don’t know they’re there until you hit the car next to you. You don’t know the care is there until you hit it. And so getting your head wrapped around the skills and the strategy of D, E and I is absolutely essential before you hit the car, you know. So you’ve got to wake up and understand that this is an important skill set of a successful leader is to look at it understand it. So I love that. So need help with Kelly so she can help you. Go ahead. I’m sorry.

Kelly: I’m just gonna say and ask questions. Our blind spots are our blind spots, because other people see them, but we don’t. Right. Just like you were saying. I don’t see the car until I hit it. Alright, well be proactive and ask if anybody else sees the car. 

Nicole: That’s right. Is there anybody in the right lane? Does anybody see anything? Can I get over right now? You say you already do this. Can I get over? Hopefully, I get over.

Kelly: So I encourage leaders to ask the people around them. What do they see that maybe I’m not seeing?

Nicole: Yeah, what are you seeing? I’m not seeing, okay, I collect powerful questions. So I’m writing that one down. What are you seeing that I am not seeing? And I would suggest to all my listeners out there hello, that you start collecting powerful questions. In fact, Kelly, I don’t know if you’re familiar with a guy named Bob Teide. T e i d e, and he was on the podcast. And he that his entire subject is about ask leaders asking questions. So you would adore him, he has a website, everybody go check him out. He has free stuff, all sorts of free questions, you can start your collection with Bob’s collection, and that that would be an amazing collection to start with. So that’s awesome. All right. So let me ask you this. Why do you believe some leaders are successful while others struggle? You know, so people on the struggle bus, they don’t know what how to get off? How do they get off?

Kelly: It goes back to what we were talking about earlier. Don’t be content, be willing to grow. Oftentimes, though, well, those leaders who are most successful are never content. They always want to learn the next thing, they all they have a, they have a going back again, to what we’re talking about earlier with the willingness there, they’re willing to try. They’re trying, they’re willing to risk and they’re willing to fail. And it’s okay. Oftentimes, those leaders who do struggle, I would encourage them to take a look at, again, going back to self awareness, are they content? Right? Are they are they just resting on their laurels and saying, hey, we crushed this month? Let’s see what happens next month, right? Or are they constantly pushing themselves and those around them?

Nicole: Yeah, and I, my personal experience has been that I love being around people who are like, you know what we could do? We could do this. How do you think we ought to do it? I mean, that’s a much more exciting, eight hours, flies by kind of day than just keep what you’re doing. Just keep going, whatever you’re doing is fine. I mean, I would rather be around a leader who is in there, like saying, you know, I think you have genius helped me figure out how to figure this thing out, you know?

Kelly: Be pushing the boundaries of what’s capable, what you’re capable of.

Nicole: 100%, you know, and that’s the thing. I work inside a lot of organizations, like, I’ve worked in some government spots and work in some police departments and fire departments, and, and maybe organizations that are like, kind of, you know, slow to change, banking, things like that, you know, very institutionalized stuff. And I think that they’re, they get very comfortable, you know, if you have it five year, 10, year, 15, 20. 25 year career, that is really where you need that self awareness piece for emotional intelligence. It’s like, you know, you need to wake up and understand that you’ve, you’ve gotten to be in a new place. Yeah, that’s fantastic. All right. Well, as you’re working with different leaders out there, you know, what are they calling you for? What are the challenges they’re facing? And what what solutions do you have for them?

Kelly: So the biggest challenges that I think most leaders are facing right now, are the D, E and I. How do they do it? What does it looked like? And the great, the best leaders develop a strategy. And oh, by the way, it includes D, E and I, right? If if leaders try to strategize specifically for D, E and I it’s not really becoming embedded into the culture. But leaders need to create a culture that inherently incorporates the D, E and I. And all of what we all of what we’re talking about, I think, I think the D, E and I work is probably that one of the top reasons why we’re called into an organization. 

Coupled by just leadership development, willingness to learn, willingness to grow, being able to add not being able to challenge the status quo, and to be able to say, where do we go next? What is it that we do? I think I would encourage your listeners to really self check their empathy. It is it is a difficult time where people are really struggling to find employees. Across the board. There is a severe shortage of workers, and it causes a very stressful culture, it causes a very difficult environment. And the best leaders will be empathetic to the people that do show up.

Nicole: And so let’s talk about empathy for just a second. Because I think sometimes it’s misunderstood. Is not feeling sorry for people. I mean, because that’s, that’s what I think people think is they’re like, why should I feel sorry for them, they’re working for me. It’s like, hold on, hold on, hold on. That’s not, that’s not empathy. Okay. That’s called feeling sorry for somebody. It’s a different thing. Alright, so define empathy for us. So we can get our heads wrapped around what you’re saying. It’s a very difficult environment, it’s stressful, they may be pulling the load of two, three people. So we have to be empathetic. Tell me how I do that as a leader.

Kelly: Empathy is really walking with the person and hearing, hearing, really listening to what that person is telling you. The flip side of empathy is often referred to as sympathy. Right? And I can be in this, you know, feeling sorry, and I’m sorry that you’re going through that. Oftentimes, when people are sympathetic, they actually take away from the person. So if you tell me that all, you’re really having a bad day, I’ll say, you know what, Nicole, I know, I hear you, I’m having a bad day too. And I just swooped right in, right? To be empathetic. It’s more about leaning in and saying, tell me more about your bad day. What is going on? And then the very empathetic leaders will come in and say, how can I help you? What is it that I can do? Versus well, I know, lunch, just take the rest of the day off. Well, maybe I don’t want to take, maybe I want to work or I can’t take the rest of the day off or, but really being able to just hold space for that person to share with you whatever they want to share with you. And have it be okay.

Nicole: Yeah. Okay. So, um, so Kelly is sounding like a coach right now. And I love it. Because she’s saying hold the space hold the space. Okay. And so well, first of all, let me say that she says empathy is listening. And number two, asking how can I help and three holding the space. So that’s almost like a little formula. Nicole Greer likes little formulas and strategies and systems and smarts. And so by write that down, empathy is listening, asking how I can help and holding the space. But I’d like you to talk just a wee bit about holding space, if you would. Like, tell me what that looks like. Because that’s like real coachy. And I love it.

Kelly: I do slip into my coaching mode. It’s it’s the holding space is the skill to to just let it be okay, if there’s silence. Oftentimes, when people are upset, or there’s something going on, I want to feel the quiet because it’s uncomfortable. You want to be able to have it be okay. And when I am working with somebody, there might be pockets of time where neither of us are saying anything. And that’s okay. Because the other person might need an opportunity to formulate thoughts, to reflect on whatever they’re struggling with. And so, instead of me peppering you with questions, I might ask you something, but then I need to be quiet.

Nicole: Yeah, I love it. I love it. So, you know, when I was coming up in my coaching program, they’re like, don’t be so quick to fix people. We don’t fix people. People don’t need fixing. Most times, they just need that. Don’t miss this, the listening and some help, right? Like so ask how can I help you instead of offering all of your genius, quasi therapy or whatever you offer them? And then I let you know whether you will you will you feel like you have to feel the quiet right holding the silence. And then another thing I was taught that, that I think is really important for holding space is no advising without permission. And so when I first heard that I was like, oh, aren’t they coming to me for advice? Answer’s no. Just no. 

And so you say after you’ve listened after you’ve asked some powerful questions, and held the space and asked how you can help and all this other kind of things and done some fantastic active listening, then you can say, well, I have an idea. Would you like it? You know, the business after a considerable amount of holding the space time, right? That’s when you can offer your genius. All right. So I love that holding the space. All right, fantastic. All right. So, you know, we’re at the top of the hour already, I cannot believe it. But Kelly, I want to ask you this. If you were mentoring a single special listener right now, and they thought, oh, my gosh, this Kelly gal is smart as a whip, and I want to understand something more from her, she’ll download one more piece of genius. What one piece of leadership advice would you give them?

Kelly: Don’t be afraid to ask a question.

Nicole: Okay, talk about that. You’re singing my song over there.

Kelly: Don’t be don’t be afraid. Oftentimes, there’s this. And again, it goes back to the beginning of our conversation with my definition of leadership. How I would define leadership and it’s about influence. And so I don’t need a title to lead. And so oftentimes, there’s a dynamic between the individual contributor and the formal leader of an organization, and I might, as an individual contributor, have a great idea. And I come and I say, Nicole, I got this great idea. And you say, that’s wonderful. And then I wait for your direction. And you’re waiting for me to act. And so there’s this impasse, and well, why hasn’t this idea come to fruition? So when I, when I talk about, don’t be afraid to ask, my my philosophy in leadership is always ask for forgiveness versus beg for permission.

Nicole: Oh, I think I’m in that camp, too. We’re the same.

Kelly: Yes. So go ahead and say, you know, what, Nicole, I have a great idea. Can I go ahead and work on this over here. And then don’t be afraid to lead. Go ahead. And the my, my philosophy is always, I always keep moving until somebody tells me to stop. And it’s amazing how far you can get. Because that people, people, organizations want people who are willing to step up, and to be able to do what needs to get done. And if they’ve got a brilliant idea, the organization wants that brilliant idea to come to fruition.

Nicole: 100%. And right before we said the word willing, I was just like, chomping at the bit to say, you know, when you said also, I just keep on going until they tell me to stop. And and the thing is that keeping on going thing is active willingness, you know what I mean? Like that, that keeping ongoing thing, and I think why nobody is saying anything, they’re not saying great job or not great job. They’re just shocked that you took this on, and you’re doing something about a problem there. It’s almost like, whoa, wait, I didn’t, I didn’t tell her to do that. And then here, you go off fixing this issue. And so then probably the reason they’re gonna stop, he’s like, how did you know this needed to be done? Who told you to do you know, like, for whatever reason, they might jump in with their rules and regulations and whatever. But she said, oh, I just saw the need for somebody to take take action. So I did. 

And so that’s really what the world needs more of is the willingness to. Let’s go back to Mike Karnacki and his definition. Do what needs to be done without reservation refusal or judgment. Just get her done. Right. I absolutely. That is beautiful. Okay, all right. So that is just pure downloaded genius for you special listener out there. Kelly, I know people want to know how to get up with you. They want to ask you questions about emotional intelligence. They want to ask you about how to get D, E and I as part of their strategic plan moving forward. How do they get ahold of you?

Kelly: The best way to connect with me is through LinkedIn.

Nicole: Okay, fantastic. All right. And hey everybody, let me give it to you right now. It is and then it’s Kelly Beattie. So it’s k e l l y b e a t t i e 1 s t s t a r. Let me repeat the part after Kelly Beattie. 1 S T S T A R and she will be right there. So look up Kelly on LinkedIn. Tell her I heard you on The Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. Let her know where you came from. Kelly thank you so much for being with me. If you ever come down to near Charlotte, North Carolina, will you please look me up and when I come to a Michigan I’m when I’m going to be calling you. So be expecting that. Okay.

Kelly: I would love that. I would love to continue. Thank you so much for having me on. It was a wonderful conversation.

Nicole: All right, fantastic. All right, everybody. We’ll check you out later. Thanks for listening to The Build a Vibrant Culture podcast.

Voiceover: Ready to build your vibrant culture? Bring Nicole Greer to speak to your leadership team, conference or organization to help them with her strategies, systems and smarts to increase clarity, accountability, energy and results. Your organization will get lit from within. Email And be sure to check out Nicole’s TEDx talk at

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