How do we adapt, collaborate and stay resilient in a fast paced and constantly changing environment? The answer, we cultivate and embrace the feminine qualities of leadership and empower multiple leaders to guide. In this interview with Coco Brown, CEO of Athena Alliance we talk about the importance of cultivating leadership qualities that are often associated with feminine energy and relate to increased collaboration, empathy, communication, and nurturing. You will learn how to prioritize and create a foundation of these important leadership qualities from the top down so that everyone feels empowered to lead together. Lastly, you will hear why having more women at the helm will support a more sustainable and equitable workplace and world.
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Carley Hauck 0:11
Hi, my name is Carley Hauck and I am host of the shine podcast. This podcast has been flickering strong since May 2019. I began the podcast due to all the research I was conducting. In interviews with organizational leaders, lead scientists, academic researchers and spiritual teachers for my new book shine, ignite your inner game to lead consciously at work in the world. I wrote my book to inspire a new paradigm of conscious leadership and business that was in service of higher purpose to help humans flourish, and regenerate our planet. The podcast focuses on the science and application of conscious inclusive leadership, the recipe for high performing teams and awareness practices that you can cultivate to be the kind of leader our world needs now. I will be facilitating two to three episodes a month. And before I tell you about the theme of our season, please go over to Apple podcasts, hit the subscribe button on shine or go to your favorite podcast platform carrier. That way you don’t miss one episode. Thank you. This season is going to be focused on what leadership skills are most needed to create a healthy organizational culture. Leadership and manager effectiveness has been deemed the number one priority for HR in 2023. And every person listening whether you have a formal leadership title or not, you are a leader. We all have the responsibility to lead around something that we care about whether it’s at home, with our family, in our communities, and or in the workplace. And on to the podcast. Hi, Shine podcast listeners, I am delighted to be with my friend Coco brown. This is going to be an incredible conversation. Hi, Coco. Hi. So great to have you here. Thanks for being with me.
Coco Brown 2:33
I’m excited to be here. Thanks for having me here.
Carley Hauck 2:36
You’re so welcome. Well, I know a lot about you. But for our listeners, tell me a little bit about what you’re feeling excited about. And perhaps even just sharing some of the roles that you wear from, you know, daughter to mother to CEO any identity identities that you want to share?
Coco Brown 3:00
No, okay. Yeah, I, let’s see my identity start with mother. I think within that identity, my biggest complaint from my kids about me is that I inhabit a seven year old mind maybe at the wrong times. I I’m playful and fun. And I like to I like to be young. And I’m trying to I think I’m trying to hold my kids back in that in that younger age. They’re now in there. They’re 22 and, and almost 19 So you know, my kids are growing older than me, I guess is what I’m saying. So, but they’re my obsession, and I’m old by life and I’m a neighbor and Family is very important to me. Communities important to me. My my parents are are 3000 miles away from me. So as a woman in her early 50s I our mid 50s, mid mid early 50s. Now I worry about aging parents and I worry about kids launching into this crazy world. So those are that’s I guess me personally, I I’m a potter. Not a great one, but a decent one. So I make pottery I am obsessed with pickleball although I’ve only played it a few times, and I play the beach volleyball as often as I can. And then on the work side of me. I am a fourth time entrepreneur. I have in one of those cases the very first one when I was in my early 20s. I created a product I couldn’t take anywhere other than to sell it to another company. So and in the process. I talked to one on one venture capital firm, which is never advised you’re supposed to talk to a lot of them and then As I became as Satya Nadella says a re founder, I became the second owner or sorry, the third owner of a company that needed to be pulled the Phoenix pulled from the ashes as it crashed in the.com bust and became really a shell of its former self. And I became the turnaround leader of that company and then ran it for about 10 years and grew it to a size where it could be sold. It was eventually sold to IBM. And my third entrepreneurial endeavor was really around, building a consulting practice and working with CEOs to build advisory boards for them and lead their annual and quarterly strategy planning sessions and help them build their teams cohesiveness. That was a lot of fun for a little while. And then I started Athena Alliance, and that is my, my passion. My kids are my obsession and my Athena’s the passion project. I am growing Athena, which is an ecosystem of community content and coaching for executive women.
Carley Hauck 6:07
Mm hmm. Amazing. Well, I didn’t know about the Potter or the pickleball fan. But yes, I did know about the four time entrepreneur and I’m just amazed at your energy, Coco. And so do you want to share a little bit more about why you launched Athena? And why that is so important right now?
Coco Brown 6:35
Yeah, I, you know, Athena has many mothers in a lot of ways. Athena has started in 2005, which is almost 20 years ago. Because I was finding myself in more and more high stakes environments as the President CEO of of Taos, I was walking into rooms where people had chief titles, and they were our customers. And I would run into women. Our customer was the CIO. So on the tech side, and I’d run into women, and they’d say, I’m the only one, you know, I’m the only CIO in the valley and, and it started, I started a dinner group to get us together, because there were more than just one. And I happen to keep running into the others. And there were about eight of us at the time. And so and I know there were more than eight, but eight is what I started with, and, and that grew and grew and grew and 10 years into it 2015, I had 80 Some women and by sorry, by 2012, I had 80 Some women, and by 2015, it was 157 women. And in 2012, I stepped down from running Taos, and it had been 10 years. And I stayed on the board two years. But I had a lot that I was trying to figure out. And these women who had been my, my, I don’t know, what would you call it, that there was just like this nice place to go every two months where we’d have dinner and cocktails together. And we didn’t talk about you know, woe is me, it’s hard to be a woman or you know, we talked about our data center strategies and business continuity planning and network, you know, redesigns and that sort of thing. But it was this nice, easy place to be having those work discussions and, and that group of women said to me, when I when I was leaving everything behind, after so many years of being in the tech world, they said Don’t leave us behind. And the many mothers became, you know, really evident. In the early days back in 2005, I think it was sunny as a day who suggested that I even start the dinner in the first place. And then Thomas tam Oliver, who said, I used to have these back in, in the 90s. And these dinners I called the no name group and you know, so I got inspiration from others. And in 2012, when I was walking away from the tech world for what I didn’t, you know, I didn’t know how long I was walking away from it. Gina Ray Haig said, don’t stop the dinners, I’ll pay for the first one. And then Cindy Reese said, I’ll pay for the second one. And, you know, we we just kept going and, and then I got this mandate, you know, almost a flurry of emails. And after a group of us met with Senator Mark Warner, who was out from Virginia doing a hearts and minds tour, and he, you know, he said, what’s on your mind and somebody said boardroom and I got a flurry of email the next day emails the next day saying that’s it, Coco. You heard what was being said in that room. You know, we’ve got to get women on boards and you’ve got the ecosystem go solve this problem. And so it sort of started with me solving a problem. And starting it as a nonprofit and getting you know, we’ve got over 450 women to boards and then figuring out a commercial company that became even bigger than that.
Carley Hauck 9:49
Amazing. Well, I love hearing that story. And I know that we’re gonna we’re gonna go more in depth in into why it’s important to have women on boards and and women in leadership, but I want to move into how you’re leading yourself. And also did just speak more into conscious leadership because I know we’re both really passionate about that topic. So as I’ve gotten to know you, you seem to be juggling so many things. And what I always notice every time we talk is that you feel at least from the outside, calm, grounded, you may not feel like that on the inside, but you present that way. And I think there’s this this quality of I don’t, I don’t know how you do it. But it’s like, I never hear you frazzled. Even if you haven’t eaten anything all day, which sometimes I’ve talked to you like, Yeah, I haven’t eaten anything all day. I was just thinking
Unknown Speaker 10:48
that I actually haven’t eaten today, and I’m really hungry.
Carley Hauck 10:51
Oh, no, oh, no. Okay, well, but I want you to eat. worry, don’t worry. But I guess what I’m wondering is, I know that there are certain things that you’re doing and being that are actually really supporting you to thrive in the midst of all the things that you’re juggling. And so what are some of those things that really support you? And what is it look like on a daily practice?
Coco Brown 11:23
I mean, one of the things I think about all the time, and I kind of think my kids for this, when my kids were born, I immediately started thinking about when they would leave the house, you know, like, I’m gonna lose them, you know, and this is like, 22 years ago, and I just was always so aware of, of the moment like feeling like I was going to, you’re going to look back on these this time, Koko, you’re going to, you know, and just always wanting to make sure that I didn’t miss a moment and, and that, I’m really glad that that was my, that that happened to me, because it puts you in a frame of mind whenever possible, sometimes it’s not possible to be your best self. But whenever possible, it puts you in a frame of mind to say, how can you make the most of this rather than why is this crappy? And, you know, so you just like, well, she wants to play Barbies again, and then you go, okay, how can I make this fun for me, and you just sort of try to find the ways to make everything meaningful, and to find the meaning and the things that are happening and to make the most of it, and to not focus so much on the complaint, but rather focus on the opportunity. And, and I think I, I went through a phase where I was really not happy for a long time of not at my end home, I you know, loved that part of it. But we spend more time at work than we do at home and I I was not enjoying for a long time, my sense of purpose in work, and I didn’t feel I had a sense of purpose. And in work the, the main objective of the company was to enrich the shareholders, of which there were three, myself and two others. And in IT tech, and it was before the days of, you know, purpose and culture and, and so you could have big personalities that were difficult to deal with. And that was more than accepted. It was praised in lots of ways and, and, you know, you didn’t have to have any reason for, for what you were doing on the planet. And, and I like this new place that we are as, you know, we can choose as individuals, not everybody works at a place where they feel valued, or feel that there’s purpose or meaning or impact, but I do and I choose to and the people that work around me choose to and I think most of us can choose to I think we often feel stuck, you know, when I’m in my day to day when I’m back to back of meetings, and I’ve got too much going on and I’m feeling exhausted and everything’s blowing up and it’s nothing’s going right. And I can’t get people to do what they’re supposed to don’t do, even though I’ve said it seven different ways and all the things that we deal with. Then, you know, I kind of I tried to remind myself that I choose to be here and that I can also only focus on what I can influence and what I can control. We control very, very little. We influence a lot more and so you know, how do you convey influence and so I you know, it’s kind of a long winded I don’t know how to fully answer this question. Well, other than to say,
Carley Hauck 14:56
what I actually here is and this is this is One of the nine leadership competencies that I have really researched as part of what actually creates a conscious, inclusive leader. But one of that one of those competencies is having a growth mindset. And I heard you say it, you know, very explicitly, how can I choose to make this, you know, joyful? Or how can I choose to have fun here? Or what, you know, instead of how is this happening? Or why is this happening to me? How is this happening for me? And how do I want to respond?
Coco Brown 15:34
Yeah, yeah, yes. And I think that’s, that’s extremely important in in every surgery,
Carley Hauck 15:41
for sure. Wonderful. Well, thank you. Thank you for sharing that. And so that is a daily practice having that mantra, we could say, or that narrative that allows you to bring your best to every moment, even when it’s a difficult moment.
Unknown Speaker 15:58
Carley Hauck 16:01
Thank you. I wanted to talk to you about a conscious leader that you’ve had in your life. Who was that person? Why would you call them a conscious leader? Like how did they empower you or support you or inspire you? How many more?
Coco Brown 16:22
You know, I in my own career,
I don’t, I feel like the the person I’ve witnessed as the most conscious leader is, is someone I didn’t actually work for or work directly with. So no, maybe that’s
Carley Hauck 16:40
a little rose colored glasses. And that’s fine.
Coco Brown 16:44
Yeah, so So a woman I’m a big fan of named Yvonne Watson, our associates. So just a quick on her, she, you know, early career at Accenture, or then ended up in a very, very important strategy role at VMware, and then ended up the CIO of New Relic. And then she ended up the CEO of Airware, and then CEO of puppet and she was on my board for a short time when I was for a nonprofit, prior to Athena. So we did work together in that sense. She’s one of the mothers of Athena, you know, a lot of early, early insights came from her, the thing I would say, that I admire about her that I see in lots of different I see her and in many different situations, we ended up speaking on stages near each other, or at the same events, or, you know, so she’s on a number of prominent boards at this point, she is always measured, and there’s a lot of people who are measured. Because they’re calculating, you know, the, the measurement is around, like, the calculation for how they can get what they’re looking for. And her measurement is much more about, it seems to me, you know, very practiced and very skilled. So it’s something she’s developed over a lifetime, but it feels to me like it’s the kind of thing where she’s being thoughtful. She’s just always being thoughtful, you know, what are you saying, Why are you saying it? What can come from it? How can I make it work for everyone? You know, you almost see, it’s like, you can’t, she’s like a hummingbird with the hummingbird wings there. It’s moving so fast, you can’t see it, or move. But the things that come out of her mouth, make it clear that she’s being measured, that she’s thoughtful, I get a lot of inspiration from her. Because when I watch her, and I listen to her, and the stories she tells or the way she plays things back to people, it’s always it’s always plus one, it’s always additive. You know, it’s always contributing, it’s never taking away.
Carley Hauck 18:56
I love that. So measured, thoughtful, contributing, not taking away. You also said that she’s always thinking about, perhaps why she’s saying it. Versus just talking to talk. You know, there’s, there’s a way that she’s more deliberate and intentional. You give me an example of an unconscious leader, and what qualities did they showcase? How did that impact you or other people? Even if this is someone that you maybe didn’t know, closely?
Coco Brown 19:34
Well, I mean, I think I think I would be arrogant to say that it isn’t myself. You know, I think we’re all unconscious leaders at some point. You know, we’re like, Ah, why did I say that? Or? I know I shouldn’t say this, but I’m going to say it anyway. It’s almost like it just comes out and you just refuse to stop yourself. And you know, and you know, you can do better and you should do better. And you know, you know, you, instead of sending that email, you should pick up that phone. And instead of, you know, sending the subtle reprimand, you should once again say the thing that will be better received. And, and so I think the unconsciousness is when we’re, when we act out of exhaustion, and when we act out of our own fear, you know, or our sense of like, Ah, I don’t have time for this, or, you know, those sorts of feelings that we we have
Carley Hauck 20:37
were triggered, right? Yeah, I think what you’re speaking to, to some extent, is we’re being triggered. Yeah, acting from that place, it’s reactive versus responsive.
Coco Brown 20:47
And it’s extremely hard to be constantly in a state of, and this is why I admire, you know, Yvonne, it’s like, I feel like she’s, and I know, she also has hers where she, you know, she’s not her best self, I’m sure. Of course, and I see so much more of the best self all the time and the thoughtful self. And, and I think that’s what we strive for is like just giving ourselves a breath, not saying the thing that we want to say, because we know that even if it has the right effect, in the moment, it has the right the wrong longer term effect, just stopping ourselves from, from the bad behaviors that are so instinctual that our own self protection or fastest way to a response we want, even though it’s not the best way to the response that you want, things like that.
Carley Hauck 21:42
Thank you for that. I wanted to speak to some of the unconscious qualities that we all have, I agree, like, and then there are some that are even more harmful than others. And so I was actually having an interview with a colleague and friend of mine who wrote this book managing up. And we were speaking a bit about some of the research that has come out from basically reporting to a unconscious leader. And there has been found to be five to six years of time to recover emotionally, psychologically, from that trauma. And when I think about what’s been happening in the world, and what will continue to happen, I feel concerned that our workplaces are not trauma informed. When we think about what’s happening in Israel and Palestine, when we think about all the people that have died in the Ukraine, when we think about the climate related traumas that will happen as we have more fires and water shortages, and people are displaced from their homes, I’m bringing these two together when we think about unconscious leaders and trauma, because in my experience, a lot of unconscious leaders are acting from trauma, they’re not getting the resources that they need. Or they’re not even really aware that they have this deeper trauma to to work on. And so I wanted to get your opinion on one, how do we really inform our workplaces around trauma, so that HR professional so that the C suite is availing people of resources to get the healing to get the help? But also, what does it look like to remove a people leader who is creating so much trauma to everyone else in the organization, we remove them from being a leader of people to potentially working in some other skill set that is not influencing and managing so many people? So there’s kind of two questions in there. What do you think about
Coco Brown 24:11
I think on the, on the, on the sort of global traumas, you know, the, the, the things that we look at and affect us at a societal level, the job of the employer, the job of the leaders, is to understand how that is affecting the workforce and to be thoughtful about response. You know, I’m thinking about things like, you know, George, George Floyd and how much good, good response came out of that, but then also feels performative if it’s not genuine and long lasting. And so I think there’s an obligation in leadership to be be very thoughtful about what kinds of societal level impact the company can take on because at the same at the same time the company is running a business. So, you know, at the societal impact, where you’re talking about an entire race of people that are everywhere around you, it does impact every single business at a societal impact where we’re talking about a war in, in Europe, the Ukraine, it, it’s societally traumatic and, and devastating at a business level. The question is, is this impacting our, our business? Our employees? You know, do we have Ukrainian employees who have, who are over there or have relatives or, you know, sort of being sensitive to the level of impact to the business and how that and what people need to be feel supportive? Supported. But one thing i i take a little bit of issue with any sort of sentiment that, that that implies that businesses have to take it all on? Because I don’t think that that’s fair, I think that a business is a business and at the end of the day, it has to make money or nobody gets paid, right. And so, it, it does need to be able to function, move on appropriately respond, and then be able to move on. And I think that is a tricky thing for us to figure out together. And I think we’re really early days and in figuring that out. But but I think on the second layer question where you’re where it’s immediate, where the trauma that’s being caused is, because of the behaviors of people at work, that trauma, you know, that’s within the four walls of the business. And that’s within the business’s control. It’s not just even influence, it’s like, you’ve got a, you’ve got a leader here who’s causing horrific experiences for the people around them. And they walk home depressed, and they walk home angry, and they want, you know, like, Whatever, whatever that that is happening, they feel depleted, they feel at least, then I do think that the business has an obligation to address that and figure that out. Like, it’s not enough. sponsibility. Yeah, it’s not enough to say that, well, that leader produces, their team is producing, they’re getting the results, right, like, well, at what cost? Are they getting results? And are those results sustainable? And on a basic human level? Why do you want that, like, there’s other people who can perform and get results that aren’t also destroying everything in their path.
Carley Hauck 27:49
And we know that there are a lot of leaders that are left in those people positions, you know, even very high up in the C suite that are not being held accountable. And again, you know, in my experience working with lots of leaders and studying this, they are leading from trauma that they’re not actually getting the help for, and people are not, again, feeling empowered enough to really know how to navigate that. And so that’s, that’s where my interest in having HR leaders and whatnot, really being more informed on trauma, like what are the signs, how do we bring awareness to it? How do we hold it accountable? How do we help people get the healing that they need so that it isn’t creating this toxic work environment for so many. And as you said, we spend the majority of our time at work. And research also shows that the two people that have the biggest influence on our psychological and emotional health is our boss and our partner at home.
Coco Brown 28:54
Yes, so. Absolutely. Yeah, I think I do think that there’s there are there are other things that also you know, sometimes it’s not just it’s not just the overt sort of bullying or bat, you know, sort of mean, mean behavior boss, it can be really deflating and super, I guess, deflating it to to work. Yeah, with an ineffective boss too. And I think that’s the that’s also you know, people want to be amazing, we all want to be amazing. We all want to do great stuff. We all want to be you know, contributing ways that make us feel like you know, like the kid who walked home with that little art project and you know, gives it to mom or dad for Valentine’s Day like those the you want to feel amazing and that you’re doing amazing things and that people love it and and so there’s, you know, many ways I think leadership needs to be looked at and, and not just from the perspective of one person’s point of view, but the entire or ecosystem around that leader is that leader effective is that leader, able to get great results out of a team that go beyond the things they’re supposed to do to, you know, sort of the miracle moments that they can make. And that’s about how, how leaders inspire others to take charge of themselves and self managing. Yeah, I, my, my chief of staff, I absolutely love her. She took me very seriously when I told her and she’s, she’s fast moving in our in our company, she’s doing great. And when she first started working for me, I said, my two rules, time kills all deals, and it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission. She went with it, right? And that was super like, she was like, yes. Awesome. And not everybody likes that. Right? But she was like, self empowered, and very confident and, you know, used to being able to figure things out so that those statements were really fabulous for her. They’re fabulous for her and me in our dynamic, you know, though that same statement to somebody else might be exactly the wrong way to manage them and may not be the right management relationship. So I think no, no, it’s a complex one here.
Carley Hauck 31:22
Well, in your you know, I think the other piece around leadership is, especially in the midst of COVID. I believe that we are really reassessing what are the leadership competencies that we need now? What are the responsibilities we’re putting on leaders? Is it too much? Are people even equipped to take on the responsibility of leadership? Just because they can be promoted doesn’t mean that they should. And so I know, one of the things that you and I feel really passionate about is, how do we lead together? Because I do believe there is way too much responsibility on one leaders shoulders, and how are we empowering others to help us lead? What do you think about that leading together? How do you? How do we do? Yeah,
Coco Brown 32:07
I think, Well, I think there’s, I think there’s a lot of that we’re actually about to do a salon on we’re about to do a salon on five generations, we’re in the workforce, and we’ve got a silent generation, baby boomer, Gen X, or millennial, and Z. And we’re talking about how do we work together. And I think this is kind of at that. The heart of that, like, I believe that the hero CEO CEO is no longer relevant either, if you’re a leader is not relevant, like where, you know, you’re bringing a lifetime of career wisdom and guidance. And so you know, the formula in your playbook that you’ve used over and over again, is the one you’re going to apply again here. And it’s that, you know, you’ve you’ve refined this playbook and so you come in, and this is what you do. Like, that’s just not the right way to operate in today’s world, I because too, there’s too many complexities to the way people learn the way people communicate the way people take in information, you know, everything’s so different now that you have to be able to collaborate as a leader and figure out who am I dealing with it because one size does not fit all. And, and therefore, your playbook also does not fit all, because to me, every single thing comes down to a people that I started and people I’m always in people, people is everything to me, I think it’s you know, all about how you organize, organize and structure people is kind of the key to, to the product side of things and, and everything else. So So I think, you know, on that front, too, I’ve had my end Miss kind of reflects back to some of the other things we’re talking about. I, I had a moment in time, a day, a day where my my husband asked me, he said, and you were really frustrated with, you know, whoever you were talking to, on on the phone and and, and in my own mind, I couldn’t pinpoint the moment. So I was like, Oh my gosh, I’ve been frustrated all day. And you know, that was a long meeting. And I was like, Well, who was I talking to? He’s like, I don’t know. And it was, you know, maybe around 11 I couldn’t quite figure out and then later that the next day, maybe it was my daughter said, Oh mom, you are really laying in on so and so you know on my team and I was like I did. I was like you’re right. I did I really was. And so I went to my board. And I said hey, I think I need a CEO review and what’s wrong with being and and they said, We don’t want to be I don’t want to be an asshole and I don’t I don’t want to be the frustrated leader who’s you know, like I told you guys this before and so there’s a problem right? There’s the when when you feel like you’re repeating yourself, you’re like I I’ve said this before we’ve we’ve gone over this before, you know why can’t I get through and you know, and no, we’re not going to do that. And you know, when when you find yourself in this situation where you’re like, why don’t they understand? Or why can’t they get it? Or why you know, which is, I think a lot of like a unidirectional leadership view. And so my point is, is that no matter where you sit in the organization, I sit at the top, there’s always something around me that I can draw from and say, Okay, we’re not, we’re not doing this right together. And I’m a piece of that. How do I make this
Carley Hauck 35:26
work? Well, right, what is the impact of me saying this having on this group, because for some reason, there isn’t shared understanding or shared agreement on next steps? That’s kind of what I’m hearing, right?
Coco Brown 35:40
Yeah. And sometimes it’s just, you know, we’re all looking at an elephant and firmly believing that we’re all talking about the foot right now and somebody else’s when we’re not talking about something else, and perhaps it’s the hey, we’re talking about the fact that the, you know, elephant is not ready. You know, we don’t have not ready to go back in the wild, it’s that we often think that things are more obvious than they are, and that they are easier to, to understand and come together and align on. And these things should be simple and formulaic. And it’s just, it’s complicated.
Carley Hauck 36:15
So what would be the first step that C suite leaders and, you know, Chief People officers should be thinking about as far as strategy and creating a different infrastructure to empower people, leaders to lead together being met, you’ve worked in so many different functions within the organization? Yeah, would you say? What’s the first step that they might want to start to think about and put in place?
Coco Brown 36:47
I think that from, if it hasn’t happened from the beginning, it should happen now. Which is, things trickle down from the top. And I think it’s very important that the CEO and her team, and then the team below that, and then the team below that, and the team below that, they they’re very articulate about what it means to funk to be high functioning together, and what kinds of things they accept, and don’t accept and believe together, because collectively, we will all say the right things like, of course, you shouldn’t do this, and you shouldn’t do that. And if leadership really buys in at the top, then it can go to the next layer, and the next layer and a n, the people function can be the facilitators of that, you know, I think, when you have a leadership team at the top that is really aligned and clear on what it how it will and will behave and what it calls out and how it calls it out, and how it works together to shape and solve things, then they take that back to their team who can take it back to their team and the HR team that is often embedded in different parts of the organization can can reinforce that and, and, and help you the facilitators until they get there and things are muscle memory, I think I think I’ve always been my my greatest passion in the HR field has, and it’s where I started was on the people management side of things on training, we would take our best engineers and make the managers and then they be horrible managers. And I would train them I’d sit with them while they did reviews and meetings and give them feedback and help them figure it out. And that’s what I did in my in my 20s. And it was I had an instinct for it. I had a psychology degree, I think psychology is a really important feature of business that maybe we need more rigorous discipline around having psychic ability and understanding
Carley Hauck 39:02
how to actually relate and communicate and collaborate. Right. Those are those are people skills, those are power skills. And that’s again, why I was speaking to to the trauma piece because most people that are going through deeper training as I did, because I was trained as a therapist first before I went into coaching and l&d and organizational development is I worked with deeply traumatized populations for a long time. And that informs the foundation of everything else that I do. I agree with you. I think some deeper training is needed in the in the people function. And as we are coming more to a close, I wanted to just leave you with another question as we’re thinking about, really this new paradigm, the opportunity the response It’s ability to be conscious companies to have more conscious leadership competencies that we’re training for that we’re encouraging that we’re holding you accountable? Where is the role of the woman in this, like these more maybe feminine qualities we can call them? Yeah.
Coco Brown 40:23
Well, I think the feminine feminine qualities and business are gaining power, which is important, like you see, chief customer officer that didn’t that role didn’t even exist 10 years ago. And and it’s a very important and powerful role within the business and chief marketing officers and the Human Resources Officer, Chief People officers moving out from under the CFO and having you know, they are the hero role of the last four year at
Carley Hauck 40:53
the table. Yeah, they’re, they’re at the table.
Coco Brown 40:55
It’s their table, as someone said, it, you know, and so you see the roles that women have traditionally had more of a presence in the marketing, customer communications people, they are taking more and more leadership roles. And those roles are taking more and more power in the business, which, at an equal level, it’s not to say that, like, the technology roles and whatnot are diminishing, it’s just that the roles that have been thought of as the softer skill roles, the the people oriented roles are, are, are being valued at a different level than than they ever have been in the past. And that’s, that’s great. And, and that’s the feminine coming into power in the workforce, whether it’s a man or a woman running that role. And I think kind of going along with the no hero, CEO, individual CEOs are expected to take on the feminine and they’re expected to be vulnerable and collaborative and communicative. And, you know, they’re, they’re expected to have these feminine qualities and in addition to the risk taking and the fight for
Carley Hauck 42:08
the empathy, right, yeah, consider male qualities.
Coco Brown 42:12
So you see that in a Satya Nadella versus a guy who came before him Scott Ballmer, super soft as an example.
Carley Hauck 42:23
And it would make sense that having more women in board seats would also support more of that feminine coming through, and and making sure that the leaders that are put in those seats, are exemplifying more of these conscious leadership qualities, wouldn’t you think?
Coco Brown 42:44
Oh, yeah, definitely. I mean, I just as we value family structures that have multiple generations and genders and skill sets, we would never take that and say, you know, what the best structure is for just one gender to, you know, raise this child. With one point of view like that, it doesn’t make any more sense in sort of a neighborhood family societal structure than it does in a business structure. It just, it just doesn’t and, and then beyond that, women are just as capable as men and in every domain, and so there’s no reason that we should be locked out. And and then we also come from perspective, if half of the population is female, that’s half of your customer base to so in some form or fashion. And so, you know, you need to understand them. And that’s a great reason to have them around the table.
Carley Hauck 43:42
Mm hmm. Well, Coco, thank you so much for your thought leadership on all of these important and juicy topics. I also wanted to invite you to leave anything with our listeners, or is there is there a topic that we didn’t cover that you’d like to share on right now?
Coco Brown 44:02
Um, well, I, you know, we do a lot of work in this space. And one thing we’ve noticed, for sure is, women are not done yet. And I’m sure that’s true about men too. But we spend a lot of time with women and women who have 2030, maybe even 40 year careers behind them, and they’re looking at the next 1020 30 years and figuring out how they’re going to build portfolios of impact. And I highly encourage, you know, anyone listening to check out Athena and look at our courses that we do unleash your impact and, and talk to us about, about how we support careers and we also support people leaders to bring cohorts to Athena and, and help them elevate their leadership, both male and female in this case, and so there’s lots of we, we’ve we spend a lot of time on it. In the realm of elevating, supporting, advancing leadership and be happy to have your half the listeners, check us out.
Carley Hauck 45:13
Definitely, yes, I wholeheartedly recommend Athena as a wonderful resource and network and community. One question that I was feeling curious about because I know that there are a lot of senior executives within Athena that are advising and or looking to get on boards. What advice would you give to a woman leader in her 30s or 40s, that wants to step into advising other companies? How early should she start? And what are the steps that she can take?
Coco Brown 45:55
She should start the moment she starts her career in thinking about how far she can go and opening the aperture. Like the best way to create an incredible career that has lots of doors opening and paths that you can follow and opportunities ahead of when you even thought they would happen is by being curious. And by having a utility player mindset, you know, being very interested in the business, not just your function, your tower. And so the earlier you start that the bigger your career will become and and advisory work is a great way to, you know, to get into more of an understanding across a business. So I would say specifically, learn about the boardroom, learn about what happens there. As you find yourself if you start to find yourself in like, you know, director level senior director level, that’s the time when you have to start looking left and right in the organization, you have to build strategic perspective, you have to have the utility player mindset, you have to start thinking about your career advancement, not in terms of just what’s my next promotion, what’s my next title? But how do I look left and right in my in the business and make myself relevant outside of my direct in impact, sort of the story I told earlier about how I got them to keep the San Francisco office open, right, that led to me becoming the VP of professional services at 20 years old, like it’s, it’s looking across the business is, is what’s going to allow you to keep climbing and that’s the same thing. And advisory work is if you’re being asked to come in and advise a company because of a skill set you have, you know, use that opportunity to to look across the business and learn about it. Yeah, I can’t say enough about getting started early and being curious.
Carley Hauck 48:00
And then if that person did want to move into advising, let’s say a startup, then how would they do that? Would they reach out to that startup? What What would you advise?
Coco Brown 48:10
Build your network is my advice. I mean, you you know, join a community like Athena where you can get to know entrepreneurs and get to know investors and get to know the places you know, the people who can introduce you to founders and investors who would be looking for people who could provide guidance and advice. And as I was talking, I was on a panel two weeks ago with a with a guy who awesome guy who got his big big break and basically, board work and investing work and in in and advising work, because he was the buyer of a product zoom, which we all use. And he ended up on the advisory board of that company in the very early days advising the see. And you know, what, a big break, right? So you’re, maybe you’re in a buying position and in the roles that you’re in and the companies that are coming and pitching their products to you. You can say you can say, Look, this product is not ready. It’s not primetime for my company, but I want to advise you, I want to help you. I like what you’re doing here. You know, I would, I would say, that’s one way of networking into into that opportunity. But putting yourself in the ecosystem requires relationship building,
Carley Hauck 49:38
and getting curious and learning. I hear that. Wonderful. Well, Coco, thank you so much for your time. We will leave show notes in order for people to find you on LinkedIn to look into Athena. And I just really appreciate your leadership and your contribution. Thank you so much.
Unknown Speaker 49:59
Carley Hauck 50:02
Wow, what a fabulous conversation. Some of the questions that Coco and I were trying to answer in this interview were, how do we lead together? What is the appropriate response in our complex world and workplace? How do we equip our leaders and ourselves with the skills and competencies to be effective to thrive, and to create high trust inclusive organizations that people want to stay in. If you want to connect more with cocoa or learn more about it, you know alliances, the links are in the show notes. And before we part, here are some high level takeaways that you can implement today. manage yourself, it is a complex time. And the more that we can cultivate the skills to increase our self awareness, self management, humility, and empathy, we will be the leaders that our world needs. Now, this is going to support more effective communication, collaboration, and resolution in the midst of conflict. And these typically are the biggest three people problems that I have seen. I call them the three C’s manage down laterally and up with remote distributed workforce, we need to begin to have conversations that invite people to share the responsibility together. When decisions are made unilaterally, it increases a sense of inclusion and trust across the leadership team and the organization. How can we create self organizing teams, and really put in agreements and accountability to support us to lead together this is an area I feel super passionate about, I help senior leadership teams with this all the time. So if you need help, reach out, I am here. And then lastly, invest in learning and leadership development for everyone at the company. This is the best way we can establish more community and connection in these times. It also is going to make sure that everybody has the skills to collaborate, to communicate, and to find healthy resolution during conflict. A fina has resources in this domain. And I have focused my life on creating content courses at Stanford, and even finding metrics to really measure these really important skills. And I have found wonderful results with the leaders and the companies that I have had the privilege to exclusively partner with, we have found huge increases in important leadership competencies, increased retention, internal mobility, psychological safety. And if you want to learn more about some of my experience, Coco and I did a podcast interview earlier on in the season, which I will highlight in the show notes and it talks about what the leadership skills are needed to create a thriving and healthy organizational culture, and how I am your next great leadership hire to solve for this. Many folks are hiring for internal director and above and learning talent and leadership development. And this is the role that I am so excited to accept and to serve. I am interviewing right now. And I would love if you would consider me for any new opportunities that you are looking to fill before end of year. If you want to reach out to me find me on LinkedIn or go to my email, Carley at Carley helped.com. And I would love to set up a meeting with you or be introduced to somebody that you think would be a good fit. And lastly, for HR leadership and talent, as Coco and I talked about, it’s really important that people but especially people leaders have the depth of knowledge around people. No, Coco said she studied psychology. So have I and my foundation was as a therapist. And so I worked for two, three years with different populations experiencing trauma. And we all have trauma. We have it individually, collectively and intergenerationally. And it is impacting the workforce. So if you want to have more resources around this topic, please reach out I’d be happy to help and I have wonderful connections in this space I can introduce you to if you enjoyed this episode, please share it with friends, family or colleagues. You can also give a five star rating to the shine podcast make sure that people find us You and I have some incredible interviews left throughout the season continue to tune in and until we meet again Viva light and shine your light