You’re An Executive, But Are You A Leader?  | Sonya Shelton

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How Can Leaders Create a Shared Vision in the Workplace?

In this episode of the “Build a Vibrant Culture” podcast, host Nicole Greer interviews executive leadership consultant and author Sonya Shelton. They explore the critical role of vision in leadership, emphasizing the need for a shared vision that is actively lived by everyone in an organization, not just stated on paper. Sonya shares experiences, including her work with Nestlé, to illustrate how aligning purpose, systems, and processes can create a meaningful impact and foster a vibrant culture. They discuss the importance of leaders being present and engaging their teams in the vision-creating process. Practical advice is given on how to effectively communicate the “why” behind initiatives to accelerate engagement and buy-in. The episode wraps up with resources for further connection with Sonya’s work.


  • The Power of Presence and Vision in Leadership
  • Cultivating a Shared Vision
  • The Role of Leaders in Shaping Vision
  • Aligning Systems and Processes with Strategy


As the host of the “Build a Vibrant Culture” podcast, I had the pleasure of engaging in a profound conversation with Sonya Shelton, an executive leadership consultant and the author of You’re an Executive, But Are You a Leader? Our discussion delved into the core of what it means to be a leader in today’s fast-paced business environment, focusing on the critical elements of leadership, vision, and the creation of a shared vision in the workplace.

The Power of Presence and Vision in Leadership

One of the most impactful points Sonya brought up was the need for leaders to be fully present, especially in high-pressure situations. She shared an enlightening story about a client whose career growth was significantly influenced by her ability to be present. This anecdote underscored how a leader’s presence can resonate throughout an organization, fostering a culture of attentiveness and engagement.

Sonya also illuminated the importance of a clear and compelling vision. A vision should be more than just words on a website or a slide in a presentation; it should be a living, breathing aspect of the organization that is palpable to every employee. As leaders, we must not only envision the future, but also consider how our actions and decisions will shape the company, affect our employees, and ultimately impact our customers.

Cultivating a Shared Vision

During our conversation, Sonya stressed the significance of enrolling everyone in the organization in the vision. It’s not enough for a vision to exist; it must be owned by each person in the company. Sonya shared her experience of asking random employees to articulate the organization’s purpose and vision in their own words, demonstrating how personal ownership of the vision contributes to a dynamic and vibrant culture.

She also highlighted the profound impact of having a purpose behind the brand and vision, drawing from her work with Nestlé. Finding the purpose behind the product can create a meaningful connection with customers, transforming a simple transaction into a relationship built on shared values and goals.

The Role of Leaders in Shaping Vision

Our discussion also covered the crucial role leaders play in involving their teams in the vision-creation process. Sonya and I explored the importance of bringing together diverse perspectives to forge a shared vision. We agreed on the value of aligning systems and processes with the vision, encouraging employees to challenge the status quo, and seek improvements in efficiency and quality.

Aligning Systems and Processes with Strategy

Sonya and I delved into the necessity of aligning systems and processes with the company’s strategy and vision. Creating business cases to support new ideas and initiatives is essential for organizational growth and innovation.

Sonya emphasized starting with the “why” to ensure that both the leader’s purpose and the company’s purpose are clearly communicated. This approach accelerates engagement and buy-in from the team, fostering a vibrant culture within the organization.

Practical Advice for Leaders

Throughout our conversation, Sonya provided invaluable insights and actionable advice for leaders aiming to enhance their leadership skills and cultivate a positive work environment. She underscored the significance of practicing presence, casting a vision, and getting systems and processes aligned to achieve success in leadership and executive roles.

Conclusion: A Journey Towards Vibrant Leadership

As we wrapped up the episode, I expressed my gratitude to Sonya for her valuable contributions. For those looking to connect with Sonya and access additional resources, she is available through her website and LinkedIn profile.

The insights and strategies shared by Sonya Shelton are not just theoretical concepts, but practical tools for leaders and executives committed to building a vibrant culture within their organizations. As we continue to navigate the complexities of leadership, let us remember the power of presence, the necessity of a shared vision, and the importance of aligning our actions with our purpose. Together, we can create workplaces that are not only successful, but also inspiring and full of life.

Mentioned in this episode:

  • Special Gift URL: (How To Create Your Winning Dream Team)


Sonya (00:00:00) – But I talk about the vision that needs to be seen. That’s why it’s called a vision. Need to be able to see it step into that future. What will it look like? What will people be saying about you? What will we be doing? How will our customers or clients be talking about us, by saying, you know, how we’re going to impact them? What’s the impact we’re making at that time?

Voice Over (00:00:25) – This is the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast, your source for the strategies, systems, and insights you need to turn your dreams into your destiny. Every week, we dive into dynamic conversations as our host Nicole Greer interviews leadership and business experts. They’re here to shed light on practical solutions to the challenges of personal and professional development. Now here’s your host, a professional speaker, coach, and consultant, Nicole Greer.

Nicole (00:00:51) – Welcome, everybody, to the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. My name is Nicole Greer and they call me the Vibrant Coach. And I’m on a mission to help you build a vibrant culture. And today I have another amazing guest. I know I say that every week, but they are amazing. So this week I have Sonya Shelton on the show today. Let me tell you a little bit about her. When it comes to navigating the ins and outs of business, Sonya Shelton has seen it all. Oh my gosh, we’re going to get along great because I’ve seen a lot of things. But man we see different stuff happening all the time in this world. So anyway, she and I are like sisters from another mother. From successful startups with brand new ideas to well-established fortune 500 companies, Sonya Shelton founded Executive Leadership Consulting in 2007 from her passion for partnering with leaders and high achievers to create a clear vision, we’re going to talk about vision today people, and build work environments where employees are fulfilled and completely committed to their organization’s success. Well, I would call that a vibrant culture. She has captured her leadership tips and success stories in her number one Amazon best selling book, You’re an Executive, But are You a Leader? Look, I’ve got the book right here, people. Having been an executive as well as an international speaker and consultant, Sonya knows how to tap into lesser known hidden practices that drive true leadership. Her philosophy, background, and experience at a strategic, pragmatic and multi-dimensional approach to making strong leaders. Sonya serves on the Forbes Coaches Council and is a Certified Master Corporate Executive Coach through the Association of Corporate Executive Coaches. Oh my gosh, if you’re not just riveted right now, I don’t know what you’re doing. Get off the treadmill and get a pen and paper. Welcome to the show, Sonya!

Sonya (00:02:39) – Thank you so much for inviting me. I’m excited. I love your podcast.

Nicole (00:02:42) – Oh, that’s so good. That’s so good. Yeah, well, tell me where you are on the planet.

Sonya (00:02:47) – I’m in Los Angeles, California.

Nicole (00:02:49) – Okay. She’s in the L.A. people, so she’s hip, she’s happening. She’s funky. That’s how that works. All right, so this book you sent me, You’re an Executive, But are You a Leader? This is kind of close-ended, but this is a very powerful question. You know, because talk about the title for a hot second, I think it’s such a good question.

Sonya (00:03:11) – Yeah, absolutely. You know, I think that as I started coaching and I started executive leadership consulting, what I noticed was a lot of at the highest levels at the C-suite, a lot of, well, “I’ve already done that.” “I’ve taken all the courses,” “I’ve done all the leadership development.” “I don’t really need any more.” Right? And so just sort of stepping by their title, their people were saying, I think they might could use some of this. Right? But they were saying no. And so, when I came up with the idea for the book, I really looked at it from my experience as an executive. What would I want from a book? What would get my attention? And so I decided to just be provocative and challenging and I remember when the book came out, I was in the elevator of one of my client organizations, and I told one of my clients, oh, the book’s coming out. I’m going to give you a copy. Oh, what’s the name of it? You’re an Executive, But are You a Leader? And he literally stepped back three steps on the elevator. It’s like, whoa, right?

Nicole (00:04:16) – Powerful question!

Sonya (00:04:17) – Like, okay, we’ve got something here. Right? So that it is really not just leading by your title. Your title lets you be in that position, but doesn’t necessarily mean people are following you.

Nicole (00:04:31) – Oh my gosh, that’s so good. And you know, the other day I was with a bunch of colleagues and I made this statement and somebody was disagreeing with me. And that’s fine. You know, like I loved I love a little, you know, batting it around, you know, let’s discuss it. Let’s talk about it. Make me smarter. You know, I love that. But I think at every level of organizations, people get promoted because they’re good technicians or they have really good knowledge. But like, it doesn’t mean they know how to lead. That’s what I said. And they’re like, oh, I don’t think that’s happening that much anymore. And I’m like, I totally think it’s happening. So what do you think? Sonya?

Sonya (00:05:05) – Yes, absolutely, absolutely. You know, it keeps us in business, right? I think it is important to know your stuff, right, to know your business, to know your functional area, to know whatever that technical part of your job is or the what. But it doesn’t necessarily mean, and I think a lot of organizations make this mistake, like great, promote that person, reward them for, of course, what they’ve accomplished. But shore them up, right? Give them the mentorship, give them the training, give them the coaching that they need to be able to do all of the other things. Right? And I think even asking them, you know, I’ve had more than one client where, you know, particularly working on big projects and things like that where they literally will just say, this would be so much easier without the people.

Nicole (00:06:01) – Yeah. But here’s the thing. You can line up the copier behind you and the machines from the plant behind you, and you can line up the products behind you and you can go, “Come on, come on!” And that copier and those products and that stuff is not going anywhere. But you can line up people behind you and go, “Come on, come on!” And they’ll go, “Where are we going?” And see, that’s where vision comes in. It’s like, this is where we’re headed. Follow me. So I’m with you.

Sonya (00:06:31) – Right. And so I think it’s also making sure does that person want to lead people, right? I had a client who stepped in to a new promotion and she was talking about it. And there were a lot of goods in the conversation.

Nicole (00:06:49) – And I did it all over things.

Sonya (00:06:51) – Yes. And I said, do you really want this job? Right? And she was like, well, that’s the next logical step. It was the thing I was supposed to do. And it’s like, well, but do you want it? And she was like, not really. And she actually talked to the organization. They put her back in her old position and she was happy.

Nicole (00:07:10) – Happy clam doing her stuff, doing her thing. And she’s probably brilliant, you know, and has expertise and knowledge beyond and all that kind of good stuff. Yeah. So you know, I think leaders are special people who want to develop others. I mean, really that’s how I look at leadership is like, develop your people, you’ll develop your company. That’s exactly how it works. So that’s fantastic. Now, everybody, I want to tell you in her book, again, You’re an Executive, But are You a Leader? There it is. She’s got fifty chapters in here. They’re short, they’re sweet, they’re poignant. They’ve got stories. You’ll love it and what if a leader worked on this one week at a time for a year and took two weeks vacation? It would change. It would change how they show up, what it is like to experience them, don’t you think? I know you think so.

Sonya (00:08:01) – Absolutely. I have evidence.

Nicole (00:08:03) – Okay. Talk about it.

Sonya (00:08:05) – The woman that I met at a speaking engagement and she bought the book. She literally followed up with me a year later. Never worked with her, never talked to her, and she said she did exactly that, right? She said she went through the book so that it’s designed to have the tip, the strategy for your leadership, an example of a composite client that put that into action, and then the coaching questions that I would ask you around that topic about, you know, how do you put this into action? And she did that. She went through it like a workbook, and she got a promotion within a year. And she said, I literally just went week by week and I put these things into action. I was blown away that somebody would and I never worked with her. And so she just took it and ran with it.

Nicole (00:08:50) – Yeah. And just imagine if you had the book and you had the coach, Sonya Shelton, you get two promotions, a big, fatter raise. I’m just saying, Sonya, I think that would happen. All right. So we’re going to start with the first chapter in the book, which is be present. All right. And so I love this. So it says, “the only moment in which we can take action is in the present moment. Awareness, which is one of my favorite things that I work with my leaders on, is you need to wake up, as my daddy would say, and smell the coffee. Awareness of what’s happening right now is critical to the success, to successful leadership, from self-awareness to the awareness of others, your team, your organization, and your environment.”

And I just say Amen to that. All right. So talk a little bit about being present. And then let’s talk about your little case study and what people might do to get conscious of how to do this exactly.

Sonya (00:09:44) – Yeah. You know, it’s one of the things that I learned as a leader about just being with people. And, you know, when somebody is talking to you, just give them your full attention. When you’re in a crisis mode or you’re dealing with a challenging situation by getting too far into the future and catastrophizing what could happen or or even being excited about the results you could create or going backwards to we’ve always done it this way and not really being open to change. And I think it’s different right now because we’re in a different time in the business world that we’re in a big time of uncertainty. People really can’t see too far forward because of the pace of change, which is the second part, which is that things are moving fast, right, with technologies and just the world. We’re able to communicate faster, get things done faster. So leaders are facing this where it’s really tough to be able to manage that uncertainty and that speed of change for themselves and for their team. And so that being present just helps you stay centered in where are you right now, don’t worry about what’s happening three years from now, don’t worry about what’s happening six months from now. Where are you now? And I had this experience when I left my last job before I started ELC. One of my managers reached out to me and he said, you know, I didn’t realize the impact of your presence until you were gone.

Nicole (00:11:16) – Oh my gosh, what a compliment.

Sonya (00:11:18) – Yeah. And he said that the person who took your place said, we have one on one meetings and he is like looking away from me on his computer, doing his email. And he said I. And I was like, are you listening? Like, are you like, are we having the conversation? It’s like, are you paying? And he was like, he was listening. But he said, it’s, you know, just the presence that you have when you’re just so with people. Right? And he said, I really miss that. And it made me see the impact of that and that really just being with people opens them up to be able to share with you what’s really happening. You learn so much when you’re present with people, especially the people that you’re leading.

Nicole (00:12:05) – Yeah, yeah. And so I do a ton of facilitation work. And one of the things that we learn in facilitating, which I’m sure you’re familiar with, is we call it holding the space. And, you know, you tell that to people and they’re like, hold the what? You know, like they never even heard this concept. But it’s like, you know, it’s practicing presence. It’s being in the room being the calming factor. And I think it’s really like emoting, you know, like emoting, like everything’s going to be fine.

I’m listening to you, you know, and most people, all they ever really need to like, come down from, like, some kind of, fear or worry is for somebody to listen. I mean, don’t didn’t that happen to you? You went to your mom, you went to your dad, you went to your grandma, you went to your sister. And you’re like, can I tell you something? And they’re like, sure, you know. And then they looked you in the eyeballs and paid attention to you. So you know that. And really, this is a big part of employee engagement. I think, you know, it’s like, why are our employee engagement numbers so low? Because we’re multitasking while we’re talking to people and they feel snubbed, that’s why.

Sonya (00:13:06) – Yeah. And it seems really small. But it goes a long way to communicate that you care.

Nicole (00:13:15) – 100%.

Sonya (00:13:15) – That this person in front of you matters, that they’re contributing to your organization, that they’re part of the team and that you respect them, right?

By giving them your full attention and your time 100%.

Nicole (00:13:29) – Yeah. And, you know, I teach a lot of different courses, and I’m sure you find yourself teaching all the time, too, but, you know, like even some general listening skills, like facial expressions, eye contact, body language, paraphrasing, summarizing, mirroring. Y’all, there are so many good things you can do in a conversation to hold the space. So it’s not just some kind of woo woo Sonya Shelton and Nicole Greer talking about. It’s like real leadership skills. All right. So, being present. So you talk in the book about Jerry, a division vice president for a fortune 100 company with a high pressure job. Hello out there. Does that sound like you tell us what happened with Jerry?

Sonya (00:14:09) – So it’s really, you know, I think a little bit about my own story, right? And that it is being so distracted and being in crisis mode around what, whatever you’re dealing with, right? So when I wrote the book, you know, I have confidential agreements with all of my clients, so I couldn’t say Jerry’s from this company, and I actually created these ten different people that were composites of different clients. And then I took different client situations and kind of mashed them together. And so it’s I think it’s really going back to, you know, having those stress levels that in a high pressure job, right, like Jerry has, right? So how do I handle that stress and how does my stress then impact other people? Right? So that how I show up ends up increasing or decreasing their stress as well, like you were saying. So that in that crisis mode, am I showing up with that calm with we’re okay today. We have a challenge ahead of us, but we’re okay today. How are we going to handle this challenge? And there’s, I believe and I’m sure that this isn’t because we’re sisters from another mother, that something you agree with, that any model that is scalable is the most powerful model. And what I realized is that, and I think this is especially pointing to today with the high increase in burnout, when a body is under stress, all of our energy goes to our limbs, right, arms and legs so that we can fight or flee. Freeze, right? All of those things in an organization that’s under stress. But there’s a lot of activity, right? There’s a lot of people running around doing things super busy, but not a lot of right thinking.

Nicole (00:16:09) – Thinking they’re multi-tasking. It is a myth. Hello, people.

Sonya (00:16:11) – But they’re not, they’re not fully present. Right. So they’re not thinking, they’re not being strategic, they’re not saying, okay, we’re under stress. What do we do? Let’s take a breath, see where we are and think through where we need to go.  They just start immediately jumping into action and everybody’s just running around. And I sort of had this “aha” moment when I saw an organization in stress doing exactly what a body does, right? And, it is when you create that present moment and you just come back to, okay, where am I now? What is happening today? The only thing I control is right now.

Nicole (00:16:52) – Yeah. So, I have a mentor. I talk about her all the time on the show, Sonja, her name is Anne Starrette, and she’s, you know, in her 70s. She’s like 70 pounds soaking wet, ball of fire. And she’ll see me kind of in that mode, you know, she’s like, you okay? And I’m like, I’m fine. And she’s like, hold on, let’s be here now. And you can be somewhere else later. I’m like, oh, that’s such good advice, right? This is good advice. Oh, my gosh. All right. So in your book this is chapter one, the one on being present and fifty chapters in her book. Let me say it again, everybody. You’re an Executive, But are You a Leader? All right. And she’s got an action plan at the end of every chapter. And she’s got two powerful questions. One is how aware are you moment to moment? Or, you know, like my grandma used to say, don’t be in a tizzy. Like I think people get in a tizzy. And then what can you start doing now to be a more present leader? And, you know, I don’t know what your advice is, but again, those are just those skills of making eye contact, relaxed body language, you know, if you relax your body then the rest will follow. Like you’re saying you’re that the parasympathetic nervous system follows, right? And then, you know, just mirroring people back. This is what I just heard you say. You know, being there for them.

So I love your little action plan.

Sonya (00:18:12) – Yeah. Thank you. There’s a positive intelligence called peaking, right, where, where you are really operating from that part of your brain that is calm, that is creative, that is innovative, that is going to be able to find the solution to your challenge. Doesn’t happen when you’re all over the place, right? So it really is coming into your breath. You know, one of my favorites is feeling my toes, right, to just like, just ground, be here, what’s happening right now to shift the chemistry in your brain, to be able to access the part that’s creative and that it’s going to help you with come up with a solution.

Nicole (00:18:52) – Yeah. That’s fantastic. Yeah. And so she’s got a quote in here too. And I know all of you out there are big quote people. This is from Gandhi. It says, “The future depends on what we do in the present,” which, you know, hello, is so true.

Now we’re going to do a little switcheroo here. We’re going to go to chapter twelve. And so in chapter twelve, we talked about the present. But we are going to say that the vision of the future is important, right? So you have to have an idea. You have to use your imagination of where you’re going. So in chapter twelve you talk about creating a shared vision. Let me read the first little, little bit here. “The word leader implies direction.” That’s what I was saying, you have to have people to follow you. Stuff won’t follow you. “Are you leading your team somewhere, but where?” the organization wants you to have a vision to to know where you want to go. And you can create this vision yourself and then communicate it.” Or better yet, get some folks to help you. I interpreted the last part. That’s how we talk in North Carolina in LA, they say, or could you find some professionals to follow you? Okay, so talk a little bit about vision. Create a shared vision. And the word “shared” is key right? Create a shared vision. Talk a little bit about that.

Sonya (00:20:03) – Yeah, I think, you know, I see a lot of organizations that say they have a vision and maybe it’s on their website, maybe it’s on the wall, maybe it’s just a PowerPoint somewhere, right? And they’ve communicated it and they expect that okay. That’s where we’re going.

Nicole (00:20:23) – Yeah. We did it one time. We’re done. Right. Everybody gets it. Everybody understands.

Sonya (00:20:28) – Right. But I talk about the vision that needs to be seen. That’s why it’s called a vision. Need to be able to see it, step into that future. What will it look like? What will people be saying about you? What will we be doing? How will our customers or clients be talking about us, be saying, you know, how we’re going to impact them? What’s the impact we’re making at that time? And the best visions are ones that have that. But that’s not enough. So even if you have a really strong, compelling vision, you can see it. If you don’t have everybody else enrolled in that vision, again, it’s just going to be the words on the website, on the PowerPoint, on the wall that they see, but it doesn’t really mean anything to them. And so one of the things that I do is kind of attest to when I start working with an organization is I’ll just ask five random people to tell me about the purpose and the vision of the company, like, in your own words. And, if they say it, but sometimes they won’t. They’ll be like, I don’t. Well, I don’t know. It has something to do with, you know, being number one or something. 

Nicole (00:21:38) – And my next question is, according to who? What magazine? What are we going for? What’s the criteria? Yeah. Right.

Sonya (00:21:44) – Right. Or they might say they might have it memorized, right? So they have the exact words and they’re saying and they’re parroting what they’ve been told, but they don’t really own it, right? But if they tell me the purpose and the vision in their own words and what it means to them, then they have a vibrant culture, right? That it’s like, okay, they’ve got it right. 

Nicole (00:22:06) – Everybody’s lit with the vision. They see it, they see the light.

Sonya (00:22:10) – Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. Now I will have to admit that in the times that I’ve done that, it’s only happened once where all five people actually had ownership of the vision. It was a school.

Nicole (00:22:22) – Oh, wonderful. Oh, school. Hallelujah. That’s wonderful news.

Sonya (00:22:26) – School district. So it was the principals that I was working with. And they all had the vision for their district. I was blown away.  But that is the only time in almost twenty years that that has happened. So, it really is having them own it. And that’s what I mean by “shared” is creating that vision that they feel is their vision. They can help. They, like you said, can help you create that. Right? So what could we do? What would the future look like if we brought our purpose to life and took it into the future? What could we do with this purpose? How could we have an impact? How could we change the lives of our customers? And so sometimes I’ll work with organizations, they’ll say, well, we just have this product that we produce. So, you know, really our vision is to make money and provide a good product. And you would be surprised at how when you have a purpose behind your brand and a purpose behind your vision and where you want to go, the impact that you’re having on your customers. I remember one of my clients is Nestlé, and I worked with somebody in the beverage division who oversaw Coffee Mate. And when she talked about Coffee Mate, she said, we did a visit to a woman, you know, a Latino woman, not a lot of money. And she said that when she invited somebody over to have coffee, the fact that she could provide the Coffee Mate and share that moment with them meant so much to her. Right? And she said it completely changed how I looked at our product. Right? And so if you’re feeling like, well, our product doesn’t really have an impact, find it, because that’s going to create that vibrancy in your culture and that people are kind of going to connect to the purpose of what you’re really doing.

Voice Over (00:24:16) – Are you ready to build your vibrant culture? Bring Nicole Greer to speak to your leadership team, conference, or organization to help them with their strategies, systems, and smarts to increase clarity, accountability, energy, and results. Your organization will get lit from within. Email her at, and be sure to check out Nicole’s TEDx talk at

Nicole (00:24:40) – Yeah. And so, like, go to this woman’s apartment where she’s serving up Coffee Mate and, you know, for those of you who can buy a $4 thing a creamer every week, you don’t think twice about that. But what I’m hearing you say is that she was putting the caramel macchiato, however you say it, you know, creamer down in front of her guest and saying, look what I have to offer you. You know, this is special, right? So it’s all about perspective and attitude. Oh, my gosh. So good. All right. Well, in your book, you talk about creating a vision about Richard, the CEO of a retail corporation, one of her avatars, who wanted to create a new vision for the company in a rapidly changing environment. So there’s that rapidly changing environment thing again. And Richard has some ideas about where to go. But then he challenged his team to get in there and vision with him. So that’s the thing I think leaders are not picking up what we’re laying down here, Sonya. It’s not like you sit by yourself in a room and dream up the vision. You get your peeps involved, right?

Sonya (00:25:43) – Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. They’re the closest to the stuff. Right? Whatever it is.

Nicole (00:25:50) – Right next to the copier and all the things lined up. That’s right.

Sonya (00:25:54) – Right. Exactly. And one of our models is around, how can you create more synergy like less silos and more synergy in your company? Right? And so a way to create more synergy is one plus one equals three, right? When you bring people together, they have different perspectives of where the company could go, what the customer’s issues are, you know, and they can actually help exponentially grow if you get them involved. But you have to get them involved. You have to get their perspective.

Nicole (00:26:31) – Yeah. And you know the thing you’re saying, one plus one is three. So I’m harkening to the way back right now. So just for fun, everybody goes when this is done. Not before this is over. I want you to go to YouTube, and I want you to look up The Third Way by Stephen Covey. So, you know, I don’t know, Sonya , if you’re old enough, but, like, you know, I’m from the Covey era, and so, you know, Stephen Covey is like, you know, you put two brains in the room and they’ll get a third idea because it’s the it’s the mind meld. It’s the creative genius of two humans that make something spectacular. You know, two heads are better than one. You’ve heard that one before. So I think that’s absolutely wonderful. And so you’re saying in your little story, your case study, that Richard put together a cross-functional task force, and I want to say something about that. So I talk all the time, Sonya, about turkeys and eagles, that there’s two types of employees. There’s like, you know, turkeys. They just run around and they gobble, gobble, gobble and gossip and create chaos. And then we have eagles. And these are the people who want to fly and soar and make something happen. They just love their strategy and they love a vision and they love all that stuff. And here’s what I want you leaders to hear. Sonya was an eagle too. Don’t miss that. She said that earlier when her boss said she was gone and she’s like, oh my God, I can’t believe you’re gone. And you know, maybe I have a turkey instead of an eagle that, you know, that’s what is essentially what she said. So here’s the thing. Imagine you went to the eagles on your team and you said, I want you to be on this cross-functional team to help me do the vision. Those eagles aren’t going to be like even if they have a plate full of work, they’re going to be like, oh my goodness, I’m on the I’m on the visioning team. This is big stuff. And so I think leaders are like, well, that’s just one more thing we got to do. But I think it can just make your eagles beyond excited. What do you think about what I’m saying?

Sonya (00:28:24) – Yes, absolutely. 100% so what Richard did in this cross-functional team wasn’t just, oh, I’m getting my leadership team across functions and divisions together. No, because every level of the organization had somebody representing them on this visioning cross-functional team. Right. So it was different, almost like a matrix, like different divisions and functions within the company, but also the different levels within the company, different individual contributors, manager, director all the way up. So it wasn’t just the leadership team sitting in the room a little bit distanced from everything, coming up with a vision. It was everybody saying, what could we really create? And that was the most powerful vision and has been when companies are willing to invest in that, not only does it create the amazing vision, it signals to the organization we’re in this together, you helped contribute to it. And that spreads like wildfire through the organization of excitement. I was on this team. This is what we came up with and then other people get energized by it. So it actually helps in the communication of the vision as well, because people are part of it. They’re participating in it. And, you know, I think the idea that, you know, you have to spend six months going through this process to create the vision isn’t really true. I think people, like, they trip themselves up with how long it’s going to take, right?

Nicole (00:29:55) – Lots of doubt and lower thinking instead of like higher thinking, like what’s possible. They’re like what’s probable, you know, right?

Sonya (00:30:04) – Right. And, because you have all of these different perspectives, it actually happens faster. And when you were talking about bringing your eagles together and having those different perspectives and Stephen Covey, it reminded me. So before I started Executive Leadership Consulting, I was the head of internal communications at the Walt Disney Company. And so because of that, I know a lot about Walt Disney. I’m always looking to him for advice.

Nicole (00:30:34) – Oh yeah. I mean like they’ve got it dialed in down there with the mice and the mouse. I lived in Orlando. I lived in Orlando for several years back when I was in property management, and I had Cinderella living at my place. I had, you know, all the people that come in with their makeup on still, but they wouldn’t have their costume on, you know? I mean, it was fantastic being down there for a while. Yeah. Disney. Amazing.

Sonya (00:30:57) – So one of the things that Walt would do is if two people didn’t really get along, he would immediately put them on a project together because he said, that’s where the magic happens, right? When you have two people who have different perspectives of the world, see things differently, like they don’t really get along, but they have to come up with that third thing. They can’t. Neither can win. Right? So it really is seeing conflict as something that can be productive and can be really amazing. And creating that shared vision is like that too, right? Like bringing all these different perspectives together to create this amazing thing that nobody would have thought of on their own.

Nicole (00:31:35) – That’s right, that’s right. Yeah. And you can’t do this life alone. So many people are like, I’m just doing my job. I know, but you’re on this team. Don’t forget everybody, okay. All right. So let’s get the questions that you have in the action plan for this. If you’re sitting there thinking, okay, I’m going to do this, I’m going to get some eagles in the room, all levels of the organization. I’m going to figure out where this place is going. All right. So here are some questions that Sonja Shelton, the author of You’re an Executive, But are You a Leader? She says, what could your organization accomplish that you would really want to commit to? So there’s a little thing in there about, you know, you got to have your heart and soul in it in that question. I love that question, Sonja.

Sonya (00:32:16) – Yeah, absolutely. Because if we’re not bought into the vision, it’s not going to happen.

Nicole (00:32:22) – That’s exactly right.

Sonya (00:32:23) – Yeah, absolutely.

Nicole (00:32:24) – All right. And then what would make everyone in the organization proud if they accomplished it? And what would the vision look and feel like? So I want to say something about that. Proud what would make everyone in the organization proud. So, in my property management career, I worked for one guy. His name was John Gray, and it was Summer Properties, which is now Camden, which is a REIT, and on the New York Stock Exchange and all the fancy stuff. And, John Gray, people thought he thought he was crazy, but, you know, he said we’re going to be the number one like when we started talking about this, the number one apartment management company in America, according to the National Apartment Association and their annual review process. And so he announces this thing, and then we all, you know, get the list of all the things we have to do to be number one. And so it’s like product quality, customer service, all this kind of stuff. And so John is like, you know, this is what I think we should do to win and you all help me. And so we all got together and we, you know, we had all these managers and we figured out a way and oh my gosh, we started doing amazing things for the customers. Like we would like, walk people’s dogs and return their blockbuster videos. This was a long time ago, and we did all this kind of stuff, but then we ended up winning. And you know what he did? He put us in a plane, a train, in an automobile, and took us to the award ceremony. And we all got our nails done and our hair done and a dress with sequins. Talk about being proud and happy. We worked like a dog for John Gray. Do you know what I’m saying? Yeah, it was fantastical. Oh, my gosh, it was so fantastic. That’s probably the best college education that was in a college education I ever got working for him. So it was fantastic. So good. All right. So let’s read the quote from this chapter. The chapter we’re on is, create a shared vision. And it’s from You’re an Executive, But are You a Leader? by the amazing Sonya Shelton. And it says, “passionate hearts committed to a shared vision can accomplish the impossible.” I believe that.

Sonya (00:34:29) – Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely. And that’s one of the things that we really focus on is creating a passionate culture. Right? So you call it a vibrant culture. We call it passionate culture. Same thing..

Nicole (00:34:42) – Same thing.

Sonya (00:34:42) – Yeah. But am I passionate about the company and where we’re going and  am I passionate about my role in that? So it’s not just I’m excited about where we’re going and achieving that vision, but do I see my part and am I clear about my part? And am I excited about that? And is that getting me up every day in the morning to go to work super excited about and passionate about making that happen.

Nicole (00:35:09) – Yeah, that’s fantastic. All right. So we’re going to go, okay. So I do want to put the two together. So we first talked about practicing presence and then we said it’s so important to be in the present. But then we went and cast this big future thing out in the future, the vision. But here’s what I want to say. You have to get back in the present, talk to your people to get the vision written down for the future. Like they go together like peanut butter and jelly. I don’t want anybody to think we’re saying two different things here. They go together.

Sonya (00:35:38) – Yes, absolutely. And, you know, in that presence, when you’re creating the vision, you’re not saying, oh, we tried that five years ago. Oh, this person said that, we’re not going to do that, or you’re not doing that. You’re not saying, well, I don’t see how we could possibly make that happen. You’re saying, what are we going to create? Right? So it is still being in the present moment in your creation and of that shared vision.

Nicole (00:36:04) – That’s right, that’s right. Okay. So I’m fortunate that we only have time for one more chapter, people, but you can get the book. It’s, Sonja Shelton’s You’re an Executive, But are You a Leader? We’re going to skip all the way to chapter twenty-seven and it’s aligned systems and processes. So here’s the deal. You’ve been in the present. You’ve casedt a vision in the present. And now we talk about how we are going to get her done. So we’re going to need systems and processes and we need to be in alignment. So let me just read from the very beginning of the chapter. “Once you’ve created strategies to move you in the direction of achieving your vision, align every aspect of your organization to support them, including your systems and processes.” So we’ve got this vision. There’s earlier chapters that talk about strategizing, but now we’re going to put systems and processes in place and systems and processes, ya’ll, that are repeated, that produce, that’s what we want to do. We make this easy on ourselves. Don’t want to reinvent the wheel every time. All right. Talk about systems and processes, Ms. Sonya.

Sonya (00:37:06) – Yes. So one of the things that organizations do, especially if they’ve been around for a while, is they will create systems and processes around other leaders. Right? Or what is it that this person wants to see or how do they like to view this report? And then that person leaves the organization and then we keep doing it that way. Right? So when you create, when you’re really clear about your purpose as an organization and you’re really clear about your vision and where you want to go, it’s empowering your team to say, okay, let’s take a look at everything we do and ask, is that an alignment with who we are and where we’re going right now? So, I think with the case study, it was around, well, you know, this process was done around this person who, you know, who wanted it this way because this was their, their style.

Right? And then when somebody asked, well, why did you do it this way? I said, oh, well, I don’t know. We’ve just always done it this way. I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard, well, we’ve just always done it this way. I actually worked with a client recently where we talked about this, and his team was complaining about these reports that they had to put together.  They had to do it every month. They had to send it out. And they were saying, you know, it takes a lot of work and we’re not really sure what people are doing with them. Right? So could we find out? Are people using them? And I said, okay, let’s talk to them. When I said that, I was like, let’s not send them out this month and see what you get back.

Nicole (00:38:45) – Like blowing a horn. Where’s my report?

Sonya (00:38:47) – Right, right. And so how many questions do you get about wondering where the report is because they need it? Zero.

Nicole (00:38:54) – That is fantastic.

Sonya (00:38:57) – They were spending hours, the whole team spending hours every month putting this thing together. Nobody needed it. Nobody was using it. Right? And it was like, well, you know, is this moving you forward to your vision? Right? And really empowering people to question that instead of saying, this is how we’ve always done it, or, you know, a lot of times employees think they can’t question the process, right?

Nicole (00:39:21) – I don’t want to get in trouble or what I hear all the time now is I don’t want to get fired. I’m like, people, nobody fires anybody. It takes an act of God to fire somebody anymore, right? Yeah. So, definitely question the process, yeah.

Sonya (00:39:33) – But so for leaders to be able to encourage that, we want to hear from you on how we can improve. How can we do this faster? How can we do this better with more quality? What are things that are getting in your way or that you find really annoying and let’s talk about that. And bring those to the table and say, is this really moving us towards our vision today? Maybe it was good back then, but it’s not good for now.

Nicole (00:39:59) – Yeah, I love that. Okay. So that just triggered a memory of mine. So I had John Gray on my mind. And then you just said this. So John Gray’s sidekick was Mary Beth Marshall. She was the VP. And one time she’s sitting in her office and she’s got 400 pieces of paper, because back then, we Fedex’d everything to the home office. There was, you know what I mean, like this was a pre fax machine. But anyway, so we’re sitting around. She’s getting these Fedex packages that are this thick from, I don’t know thirty properties in her portfolio. And she’s like, how in the world could I even do anything with all this mess. Right? So she got us all together in a room and we had a paperwork reduction day. And she’s like this piece of paper. Does this help you all? And we’d be like, no, and she’s like me neither. It’s out. Got rid of all this stuff because she’s like, what I really want you to do is be out there talking to your residents. I want you to be showing apartments. I want you to be following up on prospects. I want you to be selling. I want you to be marketing. I don’t want you to be filling these pieces of paper out. So that is fantastic. All right, so I have a paper reduction day. All right. So you talk about Richard again, one of your avatars, in his retail company. And when Richard talked about their progress in your coaching session, he mentioned that divisions were creating systems and processes to align with the strategy. You asked him if he required business cases. So talk a little bit about business cases. Tell us what you mean by that.

Sonya (00:41:25) – Yeah. So a lot of times when I work with clients and they’re not the CEO, they’re trying to sell their idea to the CEO, or they’re trying to sell their idea to the C-suite. They’re not necessarily getting traction or they’re not moving things forward. Right? And it’s really about how this is going to impact the business, right? So, what is the background of why you have this idea? So a very simple formula. What is the background of what brought this idea? What’s the problem or the challenge you’re trying to solve? What’s it going to do for the business? Right? So is it going to make things more efficient? Is it going to help the business grow? Is it going to have people collaborate better? Right? And then what are three options that you could see as a solution? So they can see that you’ve thought this through. And then what’s your recommendation about how to solve this problem. It helps people make decisions faster because they can see that you’re not asking them to think. You’re not saying, okay, well here’s this idea and you figure out how I got there. You’re saying, here’s how I got there. This is why I think we should do this.

Every time I’ve had a client do this, they either sometimes they’ll change their idea or change their recommendation because they haven’t actually done the background work.

Nicole (00:42:44) – Hello. 

Sonya (00:42:47) – But once they do, they almost always get it through. Or there might be some tweaks of questions that the CEO might ask or things like that, where they’re like, oh, I didn’t think about that. Let me go find that out. And eventually they get something done. But it starts the conversation with, you know, really saying, what is the challenge that we’re trying to solve? How does this get us towards our vision? And being prepared when you bring that idea forward to say, here’s the business case on why I think this is a good idea or why I think this is the answer to our challenge. And so with Richard, what I said is, do you require business cases to help him move through those decisions faster? It speeds up the process of decisions. Yeah.

Nicole (00:43:31) – Yeah, yeah. And, you know, that’s pretty much what the CEO does all week long is sit there and listen to what everybody thinks he or she should do. And, you know, it’s easier to say no right than to figure out what you’re thinking about. So help a guy out, help a gal out and get your thinking all done ahead of time. Oh my gosh, I think that’s genius. All right, so, did you write that down? Require business cases when somebody brings you an idea and teaches your people and if you’ll rewind a hot second, she just gave you the recipe. Right. So of how to put together a business case. So I absolutely love you. Love you and love that. I love Sonya, she’s amazing. She’s my sister from another mother. Did you hear that earlier? Okay, so aligning systems and processes. Here’s her two questions that she’s got in here. Her powerful coaching questions. How can you better align your systems and processes to your strategies and your visions? So I think to, you know, and we’ve illustrated this, you know, why are we doing what we’re doing? What result is it getting, giving us? What asset does it become when we do this process? And what systems and processes in your organization need to be re-evaluated now? So get in a room like Mary Beth Marshall and look at your paperwork or your reporting or whatever and the group that she was talking about and get that figured out. You’ve got a Stephen Covey. There he is, Stephen Covey, a Stephen Covey quote in here. Management works in the system and leadership works on the system. So that’s the old working on the business or working in the business thing. Yeah. So I absolutely love that chapter. So, Sonya, that’s three chapters out of your book. That leaves forty-seven, people, that you can do on your own in Sonya Shelton’s book, You’re an Executive, But are You a Leader? We’re at the end of our podcast, but there’s people out there going, wait, hold on. Sonya ‘s got one more nugget to download for me. What nugget might you leave everybody with? If you’re an executive and you’re sitting there going, gee, I might not be the leader I thought I was. What advice would you give him other than to read this amazing book?

Sonya (00:45:36) – We believe in starting with why? Like Simon Sinek, right? So looking at what is your purpose as a leader, why do you do what you do and make sure people know that, right? And why? Why do you do what you do as a company and make sure people know that. If you have an initiative or a change that you’re putting into place, why are you making that change? Make sure people know that, right? So bringing people along with that “why”question is going to speed up their engagement and their buy in creating that vibrant culture much faster. Right? And sometimes we take it for granted that people know, but they don’t. Right? So it’s helping them always ask why with everything that you’re doing.

Nicole (00:46:22) – 100%. All right. So start with “why” people. Also, practice presence, cast a vision, and get your systems and processes aligned. Okay. So, just rewind. Listen to it again. Take good notes this time and, and get the book, You’re an Executive, But are You a Leader? by Sonya Shelton. And we’re going to have it in the show notes below. She’s got a freebie, a special gift at the URL, How to Create Your Winning Dream Team. So we’ll have that link down below. And you can do that. You can also find Sonja at Let me spell Sonya. S-O-N-Y-A  S-H-E-L-T-O-N. So go link in with her. Tell her Nicole at the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast sent you. Sonya, I’m so grateful you were on the show today. It was so much fun.

Sonya (00:47:15) – Thank you so much. And to make it super easy, if you want to get all the things, go to our website, Everything is there. All the links to my LinkedIn and the webinar and everything. So, yeah.

Nicole (00:47:31) – That’s fantastic. All right. Take advantage of all these goodies everybody. Thank you so much, Sonya . When I come to LA, I’m looking you up. We’ll go get a fish taco.

Sonya (00:47:38) – Please do! I would love that! Thank you so much for inviting me. It was a great conversation.

Nicole (00:47:43) – Bye, bye.
Voice Over (00:46:52) – Thank you for joining us on this episode of The Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. If you found value in today’s episode, please take a moment to leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform. Your feedback helps us improve and reach more like minded listeners. Remember, the journey to building a vibrant culture never stops. Stay inspired. Keep nurturing your vibrant culture and we can’t wait to reconnect with you on the next exciting episode of Build a Vibrant Culture podcast.

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