The Leadercast Podcast
The Leadercast Podcast

Episode · 3 years ago

34. Blake Woolsey on What It Takes to Be an Authentic Leader


Authenticity in communication is very important for leaders who represent a brand or a team. 


As much as you want to write a script and as much as you rehearse, at some point you have to be able to put the script down and speak authentically.


On this episode, I got to talk about this month’s theme of authenticity with Blake Woolsey, President of Blake Communications, Inc..


What we talked about:

  • Giving a speech vs. telling a story
  • Understanding 1) who you are, 2) other people, and 3) how others perceive you
  • Asking for and receiving feedback and assessment
  • Delivering bad news and dealing with a PR disaster


Checkout these resources we mentioned during the podcast:

  • Leadercast Women XNA
  • All. the. Assessments. — Harrison, Birkman, Myers-Brigg, Hogan, DiSC, StrengthsFinder, Enneagram

This is the leader cast podcast helping you be a leader worth following. Leader cast women is an inspirational one day leadership event featuring renowned female leaders. Male and female audience members alike leave leader cast women with the tools they need to be leaders worth following. Attend the event live in Atlanta or at a host site near you. To learn more, visit women DOT leader castcom. Hello and welcome to another episode of the leader cast podcast. I'm Hayley Panny Akis, your host for this episode. So this month at leader cast we are focused on the theme of authenticity, which is the quality that, in my opinion, is very, very high on the list of values that make a leader worth following. So here to speak to our month's theme and more. Today we are joined by Blake Woolsey, President of Blake Communications Inc and former executive vice president at Mitchell, where she led its center for Business Training and leadership excellence. In this episode I chat with Blake about what it looks like to be an authentic leader, finding your why, how clarity, transparency and authenticity all work together and how to handle a PR nightmare. We are excited to have of Blake as MC for upcoming leader cast women xna event taking place November nineteen at John Q Hammon's convention center and Rogers Arkansas, a subset of our live leader cast women event which is happening in Atlanta on octo right. Team leader cast women xna is a new localized event where we bring leader cast directly to a leadership community. So we're very excited about it. Side about the event, excited to have Blake as MC and so honored to have her on our podcast today. So, without further ADO, like welcome. Thank you for joining us on the show. Wow, I'm excited not only about the podcast but of course leader cast cast x to day and what we're gonna be able to bring to our community, the Northwest Arkansas. So thank you for hosting me today. Yeah, absolutely, we're so thrilled. So you just want to get started? I know that you served at Mitchell for ten years as executive vice president, as I mentioned, and now I know that you work with leaders to create strategies for Innovation and Growth. So do you want to begin by just telling us a little bit about that and what you're up to now? Sure, I have had so much fun, which, as somebody who is almost fifty at in my departure with Vitchell, it was really with the idea of what am I going to do next, because of what I want to do. I really want to have deep purpose and do really what is leveraging my strength and talents to serve other people. Not that I wasn't doing that at Mitchell, but I just knew Mitchell Book of where they were supposed to be and they had wonderful leaders and with time for me... go on my own search. So now I really do things in three different buckets. One I do quite a bit of executive coaching and then I do training really in that calm space, that communication space, prepping people to speak as well as maybe to do interviews or even just in general getting better at polishing up the way in which they're communicating around a table with their colleagues or with clients. And then that third piece of facilitation, which is different than training, and I focus a lot of time on helping companies build strategies where they know what that business plans going to be like for the next eighteen months. They're really forcing them to look much farther ahead, even ten years down the road ahead. What is Daya telling us today? About population in our state or about where medicine is going, and what shall we be doing today about those things, because we know we're headed in that direction, rather than just waiting for something to happen to them? So I've had a really good time working with companies making that happen. Yeah, that's that's so awesome and I have a lot I want to ask you of. You know, okay, range of things that you've done, but you mentioned the communication piece, so I'm going to start there. So that and your background and pr I know that you preparely are to speak to Menia a lot or large audiences or you know their teams. So what are some tips that you commonly give of executives as they prepare for a speaking engagement or interview, giving like best practices that leaders should know well? You know, it's interesting because things have changed a lot when you're speaking to people, as well as even talking to the media. At the authenticity. I know some people are probably throwing their eyes or thinking, oh my gosh from what we see a lot on the news, but authenticity is very important. I think that millennials have driven this. I'll be honest. Everybody knows I'm a want to be with a millennials that I think that they've really forced us to do somethings that we've needed to do, and people want to be able to trust you. An authenticity has to come across. So, as much as you want to write a script and as much as you rehearse, at some point you have to be able to put the script down and to be able to think. How does this slow? Is a transitioning building? Is it easy on the ear? And are people understanding who I am as a person? Because really and truly, I am the person that is helping bring to life the brand for which I represent. You know, there's people are what make a brand live and breathe and people need to trust a brand, and so they need to see that in you. So that's usually what is most important, is that authenticity. And if it's self effacing humor, or whether it's telling a story about you and your family or the way in which you work, or even just stories about people who you're surrounded and you've seen their success or even there how they've skinned their knees and then they've been able to pull themselves back up. would be resilient. Those are things people want to hear. Yeah, I love that you mentioned authensicity, because that's our theme for them. So how would you defined authentic leadership? Well, I talk to audiences really about how to... a leader of influence, and the very first piece of being a leader of influence, in my opinion, is self awareness. And the moment you quit working on your self awareness is the moment you quit growing, and I think that's very, very important as a leader is to have that self awareness. And then I always build on that to say, then, what is it that you how intuitive you are, you about other people, that it's really not so much about you, it's really reading other people and how you communicated effectively with other individuals, one on one, or an audience, in the way in which they need to be communicated with, and I don't mean that in a strange way. I mean that in a do they need more detail? Do they need this sort of information in a sound bite? How should you this information be shared with them as you're communicating? And then, last to understand how you're perceived. And that's a hard one because you're having to seek feedback and as a leader sometimes it's not easy to be told things need to change or be improved about you. But if it doesn't fall on deaf ears that, if you do something about it, you engender even that much more trust as a leader, and so that is sort of the way in which I have worked hard. I hope that people who I've led wood would agree that those things are in important to me. Understanding who I am, understanding other people, understanding how other people see me. HMM. So I'm going to rewind a bit because there was a lot in there that I'd like to I know, I know, little bit earlier. A lotted it. No, no, it's great stuff, though. So let's start with you mentioned self awareness, and I know that self awareness is something that is being talked about a lot more lately, or at least I feel like it is. So how would you say leaders can be more selfaware? I think it's a question that every individual who aspires to be in a leadership role or even just be a good colleague, right, but good be member, means to think about and they're all kinds of assessments that are available to you today and even at my place in my career, if somebody offers to do an assessment of me for my behavior, my personality, I never turn them down because it is such a great reminder of Oh my gosh, that's right, those are the things that I am, those are the talents that God gave me. That's the natural place for me to go. That's why I do those things first, and then also those things that are were unreminded of. Yeah, Uh Huh. That's why I always put that off, I propressed tonight, because I'm not I don't like that part of my job or something else. So to me, assessments are an incredible place to be able to go and be able to remind yourself, because it's not like you're going to see a hundred eighty degree shift in your life. Usually to read those and you go, Yep, that's who I am, and that's the beauty of it, because that's that's how we are wired. I think journaling is another wonderful way of self awareness because you can always go back and go, well, Gosh, I've grown. Now, maybe I haven't change at the core of who I am, but I've grown. Am I thinking about this or...

...about that? Or I was able to overcome this and it wasn't nearly as big as I was making out at to be. So I think that those, those two things in particular can be very helpful in self awareness. Since you mentioned assessments, are there any specific assessments that you're thinking about? Maybe if you want to just list off a few tools that they just couldn't ask us? Well, I know, I know Harrison is one that you all are using, but there are a battery of them and it's I always kind of tease it kind of like the flavor of the month because because I've working with different corporations, I'm like, so, what's your flavor of the month? What is it? What is the assistinuble are doing today? If kind, it depends on the turnstyle of leadership coming in and out of a company. Like they have a preference for workmen or they have a preference for Myers brig or they have a preference for Hogan or disc. I've always want disc because it's so simple, it's also inexpensive and it helps you as much understand yourself as well as the help communicate effectively with other people. But that doesn't mean that that's the best one to use. I also love using strength finders. I know in my work with Hilton they have you strength flinders a lot and and I think using strength finders helps you really communicate to other people what you're good at. When people say, well, what do you want to do and what are you're good at? That's one of those assessments where it helps to communicate what you really know, those top five things which you're good at. But every single one of those assessments out there. The INNIOGRAHAM, I know, is being used by a lot of creative teams and it's compelling as well. You've Ben mentioned that leaders should care how they're perceived by others, which I find interesting because a lot of times, you know, we want to be our true selves and when it comes authenticity, you know the big part of that is being your true self and part of being your true self is maybe not caring what other people think. So is they're like a balance with that, like why should we care how we're perceived, and is there a balance with that to being our true selves? I think that it's not always about making sure people like to right, but there are times in which you can get feedback that doesn't always feel good. You know whether you're doing say, three hundred and sixty, if that is an assessment that you're provided and you're getting feedback from people and they give you some really good information where you think, well, I don't necessarily agree with it, but at the same time, if that's how I'm perceived, that I need to think about how I'm behaving in a meeting, because I wouldn't want somebody to perceive me that way. And so I feel like it's sort of been negative energy that you're not wanting. I deal with a lot of people coaching where they have had people tell them specific things and I don't know if it's so much of I see it and I agree with it. All that is this is how I am seeing and this is how I'm perceived and that's not how I want to be as an authentic leader. And so how do you make those adjustments so that you are being the best version of you, which I know...

...that's a phrase that it's being used everywhere today, that you possibly can be, so that you get what you need from your team because they respect you and they they feel like you are person they can trust and that you are being the authentic you that you can be. HMM, because there's a difference between a you know, when you come through the office you're laughing really loud. It's disruptive. I can change that, right, versus you give us a directive and I don't know why and you don't give us any context and I'd really don't know what my purposes and what I'm doing. Then you go, oh my gosh, well, I could be communicating so differently. Right I can be telling them why and how they tie to this this change or this new activity or this work. So I think it kind of depends on what the feedback is that you're receiving, but I always say listen to it because, whether you or not, it's something that leaf needs to be considered. Hmm, I love that you mentioned finding your why. Do you have any advice for leaders on how they can go about finding their why? On their purpose? I do. I work a lot that come and he's on their why, because they do want to be bigger than what they're doing today and very aspirational, kind of like a almost like a big hairy audacious goal like Jim Collins shares. I think it takes a little bit of discovery kind of many ways, Hey Ley, what I did when I left Mitchell? What is it that I love and bring me purpose every day? How can I serve other people to make them accomplish things that they did not know or think or see where possible because they didn't have, you know, the tools or the road map or whatever whatever it might be. And I think I've go back to journaling. I'll go back to take time to really ponder and think. People do it in all different kinds of ways, right, you know, putting a prose in a cons list of things I love. I thinks I don't love, when I have found the greatest joy the projects that I love working on versus what I don't enjoy working on. Looking back through your assessments, you know, if you've taken assessments, seeing where you know you really blow and where you really shine. That me, you know, makes you pop out of bed and put your feet on the ground. What is and I don't think it has to be said in a paragraph. I think it can be said in the sentence or even afraid and build upon it. But I always take pen to paper. But that could that's my PR background, right. He figures to keyboard to really begin to define and refine what that might be. Yeah, it's very cathartic to do it, let's put it that way. Yeah, well, you're speaking to a writer. I love journaling. So well, good, good. I hope people really think about that because I talk to a lot of people who are in transition and they're like, I don't want to know what I want to do next, and I'm lying. Okay, so here's a path. Think about these things to help you move forward. HMM. Yeah, twitching gears a little bit. Going back to you know, your experience and pr kind of want... throw a scenario you. Okay, so say a leader is faced with a PR nightmare, whatever that looks like to you. In the spirit of authenticity, maybe they want to be open about the situation, and they should be open about the situation, but they can't share all of the details. So what should they do in that scenario where their authentic leadership says, you know, share the details, but they can't, whether that's a red tape, you know, legal reasons, what have you. So what advice would you give them? Well, I think that you communicate as much as you possibly can, whether that's external or whether that's internal. But let's pretend this is internal and you have your team, all these either looking at you, and my feeling is is that you tell them as much as you can and you can tell them. I am not able to tell you any more information at this kind of time, but as things continue to unfold, I will come right back to you and I will make sure that I share all of the news I possibly can with you. You know, this sometimes happens when they are layoffs this time, so you know downsizing your team. This can happen when there's a change in leadership and it's sudden and people don't understand. As long as people have experience things with you, where you're telling them as much as you can possibly tell them and where you can say I am telling you as much as I can tell you at this point in time and I promise that I will continue to share information as I'm able. Please just trust me that we have a plan or we have a road map or you know, we are going to all be okay. You know, I just need you all to support me as this change is happening or as this event occurred, and to support each other. So I think that transparency and it not being corporate language, that it's really is coming from you in your words and you, if you're able to look at them, that you can if you're able to look at your leaders and your leaders are able to translate that to their teams. That, I think, that help for people to know they're really are telling us as much as they can at this point in time. HMM. You have an example that you're allowed to share of time leadering and Countess. Well, you know, it's what been working with companies when they were doing a risk reduction and workforce when you can't always give all of the details as to why that might be happening. Because what are most people concerned about? Am I going to be let go? It is. It is my job in jeopardy, you know, and you want to be able to look at them and to be able to say today, your job is not in jeopardy, you're fine, but let's let's support each other in this, because we've lost colleagues, we've lost friends that we have been working with for however many years, and let's support each other as best we can, reach out to those who are no longer, you know, able to work here and give them the support, you know, thoughts and prayers, because that's another thing. As people will go as like what can I reach out to my friend, and it's like absolutely this was a layoffs. Please reach out and give them support. So those are you know, because that's a grieving...

...process for companies to have to go through and you want your people to be productive, but a lot of times they get very distracted because they're worried about themselves, the worry about their friends and where the company is going, and it's best to be as transparent as possible for that very reason that they get back up on the swing of things and are as productive as they possibly can be. Right. So it sounds like clarity and transparency and authenticity. I'll kind of work together. People know when you're dancing around something you want to say. I mean we've all read it like well, that sounded like that was written for somebody. That doesn't sound much. There was. It's very true and I think that counts for authenticity, that people can look at you in the eyes and think I can trust them and that they're going to come back to me with more information as they can, because a lot of times a leader is not telling you something really and truly to protect to you right right, if I can, if I'm really able to share that information with you now, I'm really trying to help you at this point because it's not information that needs to be shared further and I don't want you to have to carry that with you if it's something that confidential. I'll share it with you when it's something that can be shared with other people. Right, whether that's the reason or not, but it is something to be thinking you know, to you have to think about is why can't this be shared at this point? Yeah, so I know that you worked, you've worked, in both a nonprofit and for profit space. So how would you say that to differ in their leadership demands? This is a little bit of topical're talking about, but having you know, you worked in both the nonprofit and for profit so I just wanted to ask that questure. Sure, it's different, it is. It is a bit different, but you know, the leaders I've been able to work with are those who are very hungry to achieve things, particularly those in the nonprofit space or the government space. They get frustrated because it does sometimes take longer than they want it to take in order to get things done or things approved, and I love that about them. I will say that to them all the time. But well, I love that about you, that you get frustrated because you don't like complacency. You don't like things just to sit and swirl. You want to see movement and for things to, you know, happen sooner than later, just like in the corporate sector. You know things, you want things to happen so that the ship is turned faster than what most people think it can be turned. So but you know they're just by natural large organizations, governmental or corporate, just sometimes it just takes longer to do things right. Probably why I myself love the entrepreneurial space because I love to be able to testing quickly and if it fails, you feel fast and you fell forward and you move along. But you know, everybody's everybody's kind of hungry and learning to worldish sleeves and work in a different way than often we see in an environment where things are sort of set and stated and where there is there are, it's not terribly flat, as an organization where there are lots and lots of layers. Yeah, well, I feel like I've taken a lot of your time. More questions that...

I want to ask her. Your em seeing for la, your custom and X and, as I mentioned earlier, so when you look forward to most about I'm seeing for this brand new event that we're doing in Rogers Arkansas. I guess it's all of those that will be coming together. You know, I always feel like as leaders you cannot stop growing. I guess that same comment I made about self awareness and professional growth helps with our self awareness and I think that's what excite me is seeing a group of people together, primarily women, I'm going to be assuming, or going to be coming together and just the idea that will learn from who speaking, will learn from each other, especially if we come to be very present and want to sort of find that Pearl or those pearls that we can walk away with. And think these are the two or three things that I hope I can immediately put into practice. It can't be a host of ten or twelve, but that's what I think I'm most excited about, is how, you know, we can ignite new thinking for somebody who is looking for that next place they want to go in their career or even just did that skill set. Yeah, we're so thrilled, so excited to have you, as I'm see, and I just want to thank you for joining our podcast today. I know that our listeners are going to walk away with their own purls from this episode. So appreciate you, Tales. Thank you. I appreciate the invitation. I appreciate the invitation and you did a great job. I really thank you so much. Thank you, like listeners. Thank you for tuning in today. You can find Blake on Linkedin and be sure to join her as she MC's our upcoming leadercasts women xna events that I mentioned again. That's happening November nineteen at John Q himman's convention center and Rodgers Arkansas. So Visit Women Dot leadercastcom Backslas Xna to get your tickets. Please share this podcast and subscribe so you never miss an episode, and we will see you here next time for another episode of the leader cast podcast. Thanks for tuning in to the leader cast podcast. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player.

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