“Doubt keeps us humble and curious. If you didn’t experience this healthy and normal emotion of doubt, it means that you wouldn’t care about your audience. It means you wouldn’t care about doing good work.” – Kelli Thompson.
Joining Aoife on the podcast this week is special guest Kelli Thompson. Kelli is an inspirational women’s leadership coach, speaker and author who made the brave leap of leaving a secure job with Corporate America to start her own practice to help empower women across the globe. Kelli’s mission is to help women create a career they love and advance and make an impact in the rooms where decisions are made.
In this jam-packed episode, Kelli shares how to ignite your confidence and create a career you love. We learn about workplace issues faced by women, how imposter syndrome is self-sabotage and why we need to normalise feelings of doubt and trust our bodies. Kelli also asks how you would like to be described when you’re not in the room? Key points throughout the episode include:
– An introduction to Kelli Thompson.
– Overcoming the confidence gap.
– Systemic inequalities and likability bias in the workplace.
– Reframing flaws into gifts.
– The importance of setting boundaries.
– Workplace wellbeing and the unpaid workload of women.
– Trusting your body and listening to your gut.
– Imposter syndrome and the impact of expensive thoughts.
– Stretching your comfort zone and creating emotional resilience.
– How data can reveal reasons for change.
– What Happier at Work means to Kelli.
“As a woman leader, trusting your gut is going to be your competitive advantage at work if we really want to redefine workplaces and lead in a whole new way in a way that feels right for you.” – Kelli Thompson.
COMING SOON! Kelli’s book Closing the Confidence Gap lands on November 1, 2022.
For early access opportunities, join the waitlist at https://www.kelliraethompson.com/
THE LISTENERS SAY:
Do you have any feedback or thoughts on this discussion? If so, please connect with Aoife via the links below and let her know. Aoife would love to hear from you!
Listen back: Karin Tischler on Flexible Working for Gender Equality
Connect with Kelli Thompson:
Connect with Happier at Work host Aoife O’Brien:
Happier at Work – Kelli Thompson
Aoife O’Brien, Kelli Thompson
Aoife O’Brien 00:00
Are you looking to improve employee engagement and retention? Do you struggle with decisions on who to hire or who to promote? I have an amazing opportunity for forward thinking, purpose led, people first organisation to work with me on the first pilot Happier at Work program for corporates. The program is entirely science backed and you will have tangible outcomes in relation to employee engagement, retention, performance and productivity. The program is aimed at people leaders with responsibility for hiring and promotion decisions. If this sounds like you, please get in touch at Aoife@ happieratwork.ie. That’s A O I F E @ happieratwork.ie. You’re listening to the happier work podcast. I’m your host Aoife O’Brien This is the podcast for leaders who put people first, the podcast covers four broad themes, engagement and belonging, performance and productivity, leadership, equity, and the future of work. Everything to do with the happier at work podcast relates to employee retention, you can find out more at Happieratwork.ie.
Kelli Thompson 01:10
Knowing how to trust your gut, and really becoming intimate with how your gut says heck yes, or hell no. Because as a woman leader, trusting your gut is going to be your competitive advantage at work if we really want to redefine workplaces and lead in a whole new way, in a way that feels right for you.
Aoife O’Brien 01:28
Hello, and welcome to this week’s episode of the Happier at Work Podcast. I’m so delighted that you are tuned in today. My guest today is the lovely Kelli Thompson. She is a women’s leadership coach and speaker who helps women advance to the rooms where decisions are made. She has coached and trained hundreds of women to trust themselves, lead with more confidence and create a career they love. She is the founder of clarity and confidence Women’s Leadership Program, and a Stevie Award winner for women and Business Coach of the Year. She is the author of closing the confidence gap boost your peace, your potential and your paycheck, which is coming out in November of 2022. Kelli holds an MBA, she has served as an adjunct management professor and has more than 10 years of senior leadership experience in financial services and technology organisations. Her thought leadership has been featured in Forbes Market Watch, Parents Magazine, HuffPost, and Working Mother. She is from Omaha, Nebraska and her favorite roles are wife to Jason and mom to Hayley. I know that you are going to really enjoy our conversation today. We had so much to talk about, so much in alignment with how both Kelli and I work. We talk about the issues that women face when it comes to succeeding at work and step to overcome and to enable and empower women to progress to those more senior positions. We talk about it from the individual perspective as well as the organisational perspective. As always, I will do a summary at the end of picking out some of the key points and challenging you to really think about what action you’re going to take as a result of listening to this podcast episode. And again, I would invite you to get involved in the conversation on social media. I’m normally on LinkedIn, you can connect with me there. I’m also on Instagram at happieratwork.ie, which is also the website where you can find the podcast, you can find the show notes, you can find out more about the services I offer as well. I really hope you enjoy today’s episode. Welcome Kelli to the Happier at Work Podcast. I’m absolutely delighted to have you as my guest today. And I’m so excited for our conversation. Having done a little bit of research about you, your upcoming book, I think we’re going to have a lot to talk about today. Do you want to give people a little bit of a flavour for what you do and how you got to where you are now?
Kelli Thompson 03:51
Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited. So I’m Kelli Thompson. I’m a women’s leadership coach, and I’m an author, but I wasn’t always out on my own. running my own business. I actually started in corporate America. So I’m a corporate veteran. My first job was flipping fries at McDonald’s when I was 15 years old. So I’ve been working for a long time. And I went to college or university, as some people call it I know, in Europe, and spent the majority of my years in banking, and in investments, where I was predominantly, you know, one of the only women in the room especially when it came to those higher level rooms and where decisions were made. It was not uncommon for me to, you know, be the only woman or one of the only women. And after spending about 14 years in banking, I decided I was ready for a change something a little bit less regulated something a little more innovative. And so I went to go work in technology and technology. We were a healthcare technology firm. And so again, I found myself many times as one of the few women in the room I could go into these these industries went to go work for a leadership development consulting firm and so I found my myself traveling all over the country, all over North America really. And I was doing leadership training, leadership consulting, and I started to get into a little bit of one to one coaching. And I loved it! I always loved coaching when I was in corporate America as well, I loved having one on ones with my team members I loved you know, really that career mentoring, developmental coaching that comes with being a leader. And I was really tired of traveling. So in my last two roles, I was on the road at some times 50% of the time, my daughter was getting a little older, she was in middle school at this point, I was divorced. And I had now met my my second husband, who I’m married to today. And I was like this being laid over in airports just is not glamorous, I want to be home with my people. And I was really loving a lot of the one to one coaching work. And that’s when I decided to take the brave leap out of corporate America, this was 2019 and start my own coaching practice. And so I’ve been doing that ever since, you know, I started in 2019, I kind of just did generic leadership coaching, and then COVID hit, everything shut down. I lost about 80% of my revenue in what felt like overnight, it was about a period of a month, you know, because companies were canceling contracts, because they’re tightening up budgets. Speaking of errors. And so that really caused me to ask myself, okay, if I literally can’t lose any more money, like, do I love my business? You know, what do I really want to focus on if things literally cannot get any worse, because now I have the opportunity to really go in and what I want to go in on. And one of the things I know you’re passionate about, and that I was passionate about from all of those years as being one of the only women was I love coaching women, I love addressing all the systemic challenges that women have in the workplace, I love addressing all of the things that we have to overcome, I love to talk about some of the unique approaches that women have to take and things that they have to consider. And that just lights me up. And so I just decided to go all in on coaching women, I now focus I’ve written a book about leadership for women, I coach women as my, my, my primary, my primary client unless I’m working with teams and corporate. And so here we are today, and it’s totally transformed my business. And you know, I’m looking forward to what’s next. So yes, yeah.
Aoife O’Brien 07:17
For the benefit of listeners who don’t know the name of your book, can you tell us the name of?
Kelli Thompson 07:23
Yes, absolutely. So I did write a book, I forgot about that small detail. I get so passionate about who it’s for, I forget to say what it is. My book is called closing the confidence gap, boost your peace, your potential and your paycheck. And it is written definitely for corporate women, I think entrepreneurs will find it helpful as well. But it’s really written for kind of the person that I used to be and who a lot of my clients are.
Aoife O’Brien 07:48
Yes, I love that. And like, I think that’s really Kelli, where I would love to start the conversation today is talking about maybe generically, what is the confidence gap. But you’ve mentioned some things there, like systemic challenges that women face in the workplace. And maybe we can touch on some of those from a couple of different perspectives. So it’s mostly women who listen to this podcast, but there are some men who listen as well. And the men who listen are very supportive of creating those environments where women are able to succeed as well. And knowing the benefits of having a diverse workforce, especially at those senior levels. So maybe we can talk first of all, what is the confidence gap, and then dive into some of the challenges that women face so that they don’t feel like they’re on their own like that they don’t feel like it’s only me who’s having an issue, which I think sometimes when we have problems, especially at work, we tend to feel like we’re the only person who’s experiencing that issue.
Kelli Thompson 08:46
Yeah, 100%. So the confidence gap is a real thing. It’s a real study that came out of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States. And basically, what the researchers were taking a look at is why does there seem to be this confidence, or this self advocacy gap in gender? And so what they did was they took a group of individuals, and they gave them kind of this the standardized tests that they were supposed to take, and then they didn’t tell them the results of this test. But basically, after they took the test, based on how they thought they did, they were supposed to go and advocate that to potential employers, and say, Hey, I just took this test. Here’s how I think I thought I did and then I can advocate their abilities to these employers. Well, as you can maybe imagine where the story is headed. Men had no problem taking this test going to these potential employers advocating their brilliance, as you would say, and, you know, advocating for themselves and so what would happen is as men would be more frequently hired, and when they were hired, they got higher starting salaries, because again, this self advocacy is they’re promoting their abilities regardless And somehow they actually did on the test. But I bet you also know where this is going. And who do you think actually did just a little bit better on the test?
Aoife O’Brien 10:09
I can guess.
Kelli Thompson 10:12
Better on the test, not by much, but just a little bit better. But they were much more hesitant in self advocacy and self promotion. And so what that resulted in was fewer job opportunities and lower starting salaries. And so as a result, they kind of called this the confidence gap. And the the researcher said, you know, their recommendation was, and I’m quoting this verbatim. Well, maybe if we just tell women that they do better, then their confidence will follow suit. And so in my book, I basically say, yeah, that’s not gonna cut it. Like, we can’t just like say, Oh, you’re smarter. So good luck. Yeah, I really advocate this book is written as a both and, and when I say both, and it means that what I’m recommending is yes, we need to address women’s confidence at the individual level. One of the main reasons why I see women holding back is because of doubt and impostor feelings, they’re feeling that they’re going to be found out as a fraud, that they all of their success has just been luck. And when they get to that next level, people are going to find out that they’re not as good as they thought they were. And yes, as a woman, there are things that we need to be accountable for and look internally and say, Okay, maybe there is, you know, some mindset work, I need to work on some limiting beliefs, I need to work on myself promotion and advocacy. Yes, I need to look at the evidence that I did better on the test. And here’s the and organisations also need to address the systemic inequities in the workplace today that perpetuate impostor syndrome. Let me give you some examples. These can be things like, you have an all white male leadership team.
Aoife O’Brien 11:52
Yeah. It’s the it’s the environment that people find themselves in.
Kelli Thompson 11:56
So it’s no wonder that women and people of color feel impostor feelings. And there’s research that’s been done on this, you know, people who have experienced racial discrimination or expects to be stereotyped based on their gender have a higher incidence of feeling those those impostor feelings. Why? Because they’ve never seen themselves in the rooms where decisions are made. So if you’ve got an all white male leadership team, it might be time to evaluate where maybe there could be some systemic issues at play, that perhaps some increased diversity, some psychological safety, making sure that there’s a diverse group of voices heard, will also benefit the confidence of not just women, but people of color people who are traditionally underrepresented in the workplace today. And so that’s kind of the confidence gap. That’s an introduction into some of the systemic issues that yeah, about. I also talk about the gender pay gap, which I know you’ve talked about on your podcast. And I talk about the unpaid workload of women and how women often get more non promotable tasks at work, or they get more kind of office kind. Oh, yeah. And we aren’t paid for it. And so you know, I talk about not only those systemic issues, and what needs to change in the workplace, but what, as women, what do we need to do to advocate? Right?
Aoife O’Brien 13:18
I’m sold already. Kelli, I want to read this book. So we’re talking about later when it’s coming out how to get it and all the rest. I do have a question. My research nerdy brain has a question about this. Going back to the start, and maybe you don’t know the answer to this. But I wonder, is there a way to find out? But I’m curious, is there a correlation between say, if you isolated women and women who performed particularly well in the test, is there a difference between how they perceive themselves versus the women who didn’t do as well as them? And similarly for the men? I just wonder, maybe you don’t know the answer straightaway. I do wonder if there’s a way to find that out because I’m curious to know that if someone is more inclined to to perform better in that situation, are they more or less inclined to say how well they did?
Kelli Thompson 14:09
Hmm, that brings up a really good point. And I don’t know that answer from the research and if that research went into it, but you bring up something really, really important, and then that I think that let’s just take my daughter for an example. Okay. Yeah, she’s almost 17 years old. She’s not a great test taker. You know, she has lots of skills. She’s really you know, I think sometimes there’s a little bit of performance anxiety that comes with that. And so if you put her in a situation where she’s going to be taking a standardized test, and then she has to advocate based on how well she did on that test, she might not have the self confidence because she’s got a history of telling herself well, I’m not a good standardized test taker. Yeah. But if put her in a situation where she has to go advocate for her abilities on how empathetic she is and how she’s great at in her job. She’s a barista, okay, and we joke that there’s there’s a few things that people are emotional about. And one of them is food, and especially how they take their coffee. When like, you know, somebody messes up your coffee or your tea order, or whatever that looks like, she feels a lot of customer resolute. You know, you’re making customers happy. Go ask her to advocate on that. And it might be a different story. So I think you bring up a really good point where we’re asking, like, what’s the basis for which, you know, we’re asking them to self promote, you know, and what’s their history of performance been with that? And does it does that tell the whole story? It may not?
Aoife O’Brien 15:31
Yeah, I, from a personal perspective, I am good at taking those kinds of tests. And I know that I’m going to take in those kinds of tests. But what does that say about me? In other aspects? So I think yeah, I mean, that’s, that’s a much broader discussion, but maybe I’ll have a dig around our research afterwards and see if I can find and have the kind of slice in that particular way. That’s just my research nerdy brain going.
Kelli Thompson 15:54
Yeah, fine, I’m all into that.
Aoife O’Brien 15:57
So how about we start then with the with the individual side of things, and then we can go on to talk about organisations? And what organisations can do to address these issues. So what, what are the issues that women are facing at work? So we talked about the imposter feelings and like not feeling good enough? What are some of the issues maybe that are cropping up? Or what are some of the ways that we can address those?
Kelli Thompson 16:20
Absolutely. So I addressed a few core issues in my book from the individual level. Yeah. So the first one that I would say that I addressed head on is, is kind of the likability bias. You know, women have often been told that being direct, assertive means you’re bossy means you’re a bitch, means you’re unapproachable. And then at the same turn of the coin, men are being rewarded for and being told, hey, you need to be more direct, you need to be more assertive. And so one of the things that I address head on in the book in the first couple of check chapters is how important it is to do two things. One, embrace all of those flaws. And you I can I’m doing flaws and quotation marks, as gifts, because my the way I see it is that you know, because you are direct does not mean that it’s a flaw, because you’re assertive, because you’re too sensitive, because you’re too chatty, whatever you’ve been called, I’m sure women can resonate, that they’ve been called something. You’re too much of something, too much of something. Yeah, you’re too quiet. You’re too loud. You’re too assertive. You’re too passive. You’re too, yeah, it’s always absolutely something. Instead of saying like that, that’s your flaw. Like, what if that’s your greatest gift? So I encourage women to say, well, because I am direct, I am able to blank insert whatever I want you to really think about? Well, because I’m assertive, because I’ve been overly sensitive, what has that enabled you to do? How is that actually your superpower. And the second thing that I encourage them to do is really to define a set of leadership values. So what do you stand for as a leader, because if you don’t know what you stand for, it can be really tempting to fall for just about anything. And as a woman leader, you’re going to be called to make a lot of decisions during the day, you’re going to be inundated with a lot of well, meaning advice on how you should do things, you are often going to be told that you’re too much of something. And so when you can really go back and think about well, what are my leadership values, a way you can define that is to ask yourself, well, what are three words that I want people to say about me when I’m not in the room? Yeah, that can be a really good way to find your leadership values. And so if I want people to call me, you know, creative, respectful and empathetic, well, how can I be direct, which was always my flaw, I’m to direct. Now how can I be direct and respectful? How can I be direct and creative about my approach to this? How can I be direct and empathetic? So it’s really kind of blending in, you know, some of that gender likability really falling back on your leadership values. Some of the other issues, issues that I see that you know, women need to address in the workplace, personally, is, we talked about doubt, we talked about impostor feelings. So that’s in there, but really setting boundaries. Yeah, really being clear on what you will do and what you won’t do. recognizing how much unpaid workload you’re being tasked with everyday little things like, Are you always the meeting note taker? Are you always the person that’s planning the corporate party? Are you the person that’s constantly providing emotional support during times of change, and when everything’s going awry, and they’ve asked you to now lead employee resource groups or other committees, you know, to help people along but you’re not being compensated for any of those duties. And so a big chunk of the book is, you know, how to really make sure that we set boundaries. And we’re not taking on all of this unpaid work because it’s perpetuating the gender pay gap, which I also talked about and how women need to speak up and ask for what they want at work. And I would say the final thing I think that’s really important about this book beyond you know, making asks for sex calories picking up at work, and providing a framework for that. But really trusting yourself. Knowing how to trust your gut, and really becoming intimate with how your gut says, heck yes. Or hell no, yeah, because as a woman leader, trusting your gut is going to be your competitive advantage at work if we really want to redefine workplaces and lead in a whole new way in a way that feels right for you. So So those are just a few things that that I talked about.
Aoife O’Brien 20:26
Kelli, so much to unpack in what was just said.
Kelli Thompson 20:28
I know, there is a lot to unpack.
Aoife O’Brien 20:31
No, I love it. I love it. There’s loads of things, I just want to kind of highlight, I want to illustrate to people like this idea of leadership values. Now, I talk a lot on the podcast about this concept of values. But I never thought about it from a perspective of setting your own leadership values. What are the non negotiables for you as a leader? How would you like to be described when you’re not in the room, and being really clear on those so exactly, like you say, you don’t get derailed by well meaning advice, saying, Sorry, Kelli, you’re actually too direct. So you’re gonna have to manage things in a different way. But but being really true to yourself to know what you stand for. I really love how you’ve approached that. The likability idea and how, yes, women are perceived as aggressive when they’re being assertive. Whereas if a man is assertive, he’s perceived as having great masculine qualities and got set up later. He’s great. And I have seen and read a lot about a shift in how we’re leading and how these more feminine qualities are coming through in leadership and being recognized as a really important part of leadership as opposed to the default being you need to be assertive, you need to be this you need to be that you know, all of the things that we associate typically with, with a male leader, you know, so absolutely love that we kind of brushed over doubt and impostor feelings, we can come back to that maybe the idea around boundaries, I love that as well. And gender pay gap. We can touch on that a little bit later, this idea of trusting yourself, I think it’s important maybe to dive into that in a little bit more detail. Because I think we have become so disconnected from ourselves physically, that we don’t know what our gut is saying, and how to trust our gut. So if you want to talk a little bit more about like how to bring ourselves back to being able to trust what it is that we’re feeling in our body, when we get a sense of like, I’m not sure if this is right, or like, who should I listen to? Or logically, that doesn’t make sense. But actually, my gut is telling me something. Do you want to talk a little bit more around that?
Kelli Thompson 22:41
Oh, I love this. I love to geek out over this. So let me just ask you. And then when I’m asking you, I want the listeners to ask themselves this question. Yeah. Have you ever felt something in your gut? And you felt it? But like, literally, you just couldn’t put words to it? You were like, I you know it. They just won’t come out. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Such a good illustration, I think of everybody who’s felt that they’re like, Yes, I felt that and I like I just have this, I just don’t know how to communicate it. And really, what’s happening is what cognitive behavioral researchers say that your body is wiser than your mind, because your body has all of these senses that are taking in information intuitively, but your verbal brain can only process this information at about 40 bits per second, where your nonverbal brain can process it, they say at 11 million bits per second. So that’s where you guys are from. Yeah, yeah. Like, you know, you might get a feeling to be like, you know, I need to I need to get a second opinion. You know, if you’re a mom, maybe you get a feeling where you’re like, you know, I just, I need to go check on the Baby One More Time, right? You just get these feelings about things. And I think in corporate America, I used to run leadership development programs, I used to teach management at the local university. And I will tell you, the biggest difference on what I talk about what I teach versus what they teach in corporate programs, is that corporate programs, university programs are all neck up leadership development, how to read a profit and loss sheet, how to put a PowerPoint deck together, how to devise a strategy, you know how to look at the pros and the cons, right? A lot of that is all neck up head intelligence. You know, it’s really using your CEO and your CFO right in your head. But what I think that we have not done a good job of and this is what I say to a lot of my clients is we have not done a good job of what I call neck down leadership development. Yes. Only in the pandemic have we realised how great leaders are when they are neck down leadership developers and what this looks like when it comes to your intuition is it’s really going into what I call your, your Chief Human Resources Officer, your heart, asking yourself what do I value in the situation? When I make these decisions, how do I want people to feel, what’s really important here when we think about outcomes, and then I often call your gut your CEO. It’s being able to start with your CFO and your CEO, you know, that brain in your head that can look at the data, looks at the facts, looks at the scenario, right? Like take a look at all of that and starting there going in, and you know, looking at the values, but then really checking in with your gut and asking yourself, what is mine to do here? And what is the right thing to do? And like I always tell my clients, the right decision will always feel of peace, and it will never feel of dread. And that’s your CEO. That’s your intuition, because my hunch is and I’m just kind of throwing it out there for everyone who’s listening. My hunch is that when you’ve been faced with a decision, just notice how your body reacts. Typically the right decisions for you feel open, and airy and kind of light and freeing. Even if they’re a little scary, like leaving corporate America to start my own business was terrifying. I literally could not help myself. It was like a magnet. It was exciting. It was energetic. It was like pulling me to it. Anytime I’ve been in a decision that’s wrong. For me. I’ve always had body ailments, sickness, like I felt a sense of heaviness and constriction and dread, kind of like this little nudging, that’s kind of like, Hey, I don’t know, hey, I don’t know, you might want to check this again. So I would really encourage you as a leader to go in and check in with your body. And if you’ve never done this, I just want you to know how normal that is. Because, you know, we we live in a world that validates two things for women, one over exercise and over diet and ignore being hungry, because thin is good, then is beautiful. So a lot of people don’t check in with their gut, I know I was one of them, because I was too busy over exercising and starving myself. But anything from the neck down like just don’t pay attention. Don’t don’t pay attention to the man behind the window down there, right. And I see another a lot of people who also numb themselves through overworking, hustling, they’re too busy to slow down and check in. But the problem is, is that when you you can’t like selectively numb things. So when you’re numbing all of those body instincts to slow down or eat, when you’re hungry, or all those sorts of things, you’re also numbing your intuition. So it’s going to be really important for you as a woman to just honor that your body is trustworthy. And to slow down, and to listen, listen to what feels like peace, excitement and happiness. And just notice where your body is just slowing down and saying, you know, this feels a little tight, feels a little constricting, it feels a little bit like like dread. So I could go on for that for hours. It’s so important to listen.
Aoife O’Brien 27:32
And before we go on to talk about companies, organisations, the systemic nature of the issues that women face, do you want to talk a little bit about doubt and impostor feelings? It’s something that I am hugely passionate about. It’s something I talk about all the time. And I suppose I want to make more people aware that it is a thing, and that most people get it at some point. I’ve recently carried out some research into it and who had impacts and it came out that of the survey results of the survey respondents 90% of people had experienced in the past or are currently experiencing it. And I just thought that I mean, I’ve seen stats that say 70% of people experience it at some point in their career. I’m not sure the origin of that, but I see it quoted absolutely everywhere. So just to kind of reassure people that if that’s how you’re feeling, it’s perfectly normal.
Kelli Thompson 28:26
Yes. Oh, my gosh, yes, absolutely. So well said. I like to talk about the difference between doubt, and impostor syndrome. Yes. So one of the reasons and let’s just kind of like walk ourselves into this. So I often say that what precedes doubt, and impostor syndrome is often what we’re thinking about. It’s kind of like Dr. Daniel Amen. He’s a fount. He’s a neuroscientist, he’s the founder of the Amen clinic clinics. And he says that as humans, we have automatic negative thoughts, ants, like on average workers think between like 12 to 60,000 thoughts per day, and like 75% of those are negative or repetitive. So I want you to just like kind of think about what you’re thinking about, because what I often say and what kind of propelled the subtitle of my book is that so many of our thoughts are expensive. I’m not qualified. If I do this, I’m going to fail. If I speak up, people will think this is stupid. Why do I always look so terrible? My clothes I don’t look good. I don’t sound when I go. When I speak up. I hate the sound of my voice. I mean, there’s just all of these just junky spots and thoughts and I call them expensive thoughts. Yes, because expensive thoughts are costly to your peace. They’re costly to your potential at work. And they are ultimately costly to your paycheck. And when they’re costly to your peace, your potential and your paycheck. Guess who also pays the price. Your company, your company, you know has a you know also like because you’re not showing up in your full potential and giving your ideas your company is not as profitable and all these things so I always say let’s think about what are thinking about and question if they’re really true, because they can cause two things. The first one is doubt. Doubt is a normal and healthy human emotion. Like I could shout from the rooftops, it would be this. Everybody experiences doubt unless you are a sociopath. And if you are a sociopath, you are not listening to this this podcast, you’re too far evolved. And you know what, here’s the thing like most, like really successful leaders have experienced really strong bouts of doubt before they go on to do great things. Because yeah, doubt keeps us humble and curious. Yeah, absolutely. You didn’t experience this healthy and normal emotion of doubt. It means that you wouldn’t care about your audience. It means that you wouldn’t care about doing good work. So doubt is so normal, normal, normalise, normalise, normalise, normalise, where impostor feelings I think, really become a problem. And I had someone at a women’s leadership conference that I was leading say this so well, she goes, you know, imposter syndrome is self sabotage. Yeah, it is allowing doubt, to become so restricting at a level where we start to play small, we don’t apply for jobs that we’re fully qualified for, we don’t make the asks that we need to make. Yeah, we don’t put ourselves in the rooms and advocate and speak up in ways and that’s, you know, really sacrificing your potential and your paycheck. It’s like that consistent self sabotage. So again, I want to normalize again, because I also quote this, you know, 70% of people have felt impostor syndrome. And so, if you’re feeling this way, I kind of have a framework I talked about in the book. And the first one is just to just to notice it. Like, you’re not going to criticize your way into more confidence. Yeah, trust me. I’ve tried. Yeah. If you could criticize.
Aoife O’Brien 31:47
You’re real bad, but can you do better, because you’re bad.
Kelli Thompson 31:50
So I just want you to notice it with a ton of self compassion, no judgment, I noticed I’m feeling some doubt I just, I just noticed that I noticed there’s some things happening in my body right now or in my thought track. And then I just want you to name it. Like being able to name those emotions, doesn’t give them power. It creates emotional resiliency. And it kind of takes their power away. Like it’s for me, it’s putting it’s going neck down. It’s putting my hand over my heart, trusting my body and saying, You know what this feels like doubt feels a little bit like impostor syndrome, which also means I’m probably feeling a little insecure. Maybe a little worrisome, little nervous, little exposed, maybe a twinge of excitement. So noticing it, naming it and then just normalising it. Like this is normal, like normal, normal, everyone experiences doubt, unless they’re mentally unhealthy. 70% of people experience impostor syndrome, and then reframing it. Yeah, this is what growth feels like. This is what stretching my comfort zone feels like. Everything feels uncomfortable for the moment while I’m taking that brave next step. I had a colleague who’s who brilliantly said he goes, You know, my kind of reframe it phrase is, this is only going to hurt for a minute. And he’s so right. Because sometimes when you’re pressing send on that really important as it does, it just hurts for a minute, you know, and then you do it and you’re like, yes, this feels good because I’m acting and aligned with my values. And I’m taking brave next steps like you can do confident things while also feeling nervous, but also yeah, notice it, name it, normalise it, reframe it, love to do it every day, several times a day. Love it.
Aoife O’Brien 33:26
Lots again to kind of pick pick up there but one thing I wanted to illustrate was around this idea of self sabotage and maybe this comes into the noticing it because sometimes we do that subconsciously. And I’ve noticed myself and and when things happen or when I forget to reply to someone, it’s really important that I reply to that person or I miss a deadline or miss something. I have to look at myself and think what’s going on there that’s on the subconscious level, I’m sabotaging myself because it’s not conscious, I might have realised too late and I’m like, okay, I need to address that now. So I just wanted to illustrate that that sometimes it’s we might not even notice that we are self sabotaging that it’s very conscious level.
Kelli Thompson 34:13
Yeah, and it happened to me too. It like so I’ll just out myself because I have no problem like telling you like where I fall short. So I’m writing this book, right and as part of writing a book, you’re supposed to get blurbs for the back cover, right? Oh, of course. So one of my, you just illustrated it, but one of the ways I know I’m self sabotaging is when I start stalling and procrastinating and so I was I really wanted Adam Grant to write a blurb for my book. He was he was like my my moonshot. Yeah, my big goal.
Aoife O’Brien 34:45
My idol, basically.
Kelli Thompson 34:48
Yeah, and so I was like, okay, I was perfecting the book. Like it honestly, it was at a good enough spot that I had gotten other blurbs. It still had a few edits to go through, you know, but the book was 95% of the way there which some, you know, basic editing, but I was waiting, I was like, nope, I’m gonna wait till it’s perfect. I’m gonna wait until like, everything is locked down and then I’m going to send it to him. So I finally freaking got up the courage to email him, you know, I find his email address, send him the pitch. And he responds back, you know, it only hurt for a minute, and I hit send. And then he actually responded back fairly quickly. And I’m like, oh, and he said that he, you know, he thought this was a good angle, and he wanted to see my full manuscript, and I’m like, oh god, this is it. This is it. And then I sent him back the full manuscript, and he’s like, okay, what are the due dates, and so I kind of give him like a good, better best in terms of, hey, this is ideal, this would be good. And he goes, Oh, he goes, Well, has your book on to print yet because I only blurb books when my blurb can be on the cover of the first print run. And so I go to my publisher, and like, when does this actually go to print, we can hold it. It was going to print like that night or the next day. So I had to respond back from and we like, well, actually, it’s going to print tomorrow. And I realise you can’t read my book in a day. And he’s like, I’m so sorry, I wish you the best of luck. It’s just not going to work. But when you talk about self sabotage, that was such a learning moment for me this week that I’m like, because I procrastinated, waiting for perfection, because I was scared that he would read my manuscript and think it was stupid, or he was going to debunk all my ideas like all this mind trash, all these expensive thoughts were causing me to procrastinate, and I lost out on what could been a really valuable opportunity. And like, though, so I’m so glad you brought that up. Because it’s in those little moments sometimes that we see ourselves. procrastinating, not replying, right, not conveniently forgetting things that we have to go in and be like, what’s really happening here.
Aoife O’Brien 36:39
Exactly, yeah. What an amazing example. And like, I’d be exactly the same. I’ll be like, Adam Grant doesn’t want to read my book. Yes. Like, no way. He says, You’re amazing organisational psychologist, he’s got to completely be like, blow all of my research out of the water. We’re like, What are you talking about this rubbish, you know? So brilliant. I absolutely love that example. And it’s so interesting. Kelli, when you talk about your framework around notice name is normalised, and then reframe it. Because when I talk about impostor syndrome, the first aspect of it is really the identification. So it’s acknowledging, acknowledging that it’s imposter syndrome, acknowledging that it’s kind of somewhat separate to yourself and giving it a name. So naming it as imposter syndrome. But giving it a name. As you know, it can be Mrs. Hannigan from the movies. It can be Sandra, which is my imposter. You know, is that Aoife speaking or is that Sandra speaking, is that Sandra trying to self sabotage? So absolutely, absolutely love that. And this is only going to hurt for a minute.
Kelli Thompson 37:47
I have to give credit to my colleague Darius, he said that once. Yeah, we got to give that to Darius and like, oh, well, that’s timeless wisdom.
Aoife O’Brien 37:56
Yes, I think Darius has got to be quoted on over by social media, when this podcast comes out, absolutely brilliant, I love it. And I think now, you know, just in the interest of time, we’re having such a wonderful conversation, I would love to talk about the organisational side of this and the systemic issues and issues that exist in organisations, and what we can do as leaders to address them, what we can do as women, how we can support ourselves, how we can support other women, how we can support organisations, how we can get other people involved men, non binary, how do we get everyone involved in, in addressing these issues?
Kelli Thompson 38:35
So my mission as a business, and what I say in the book is I’m on a mission to help women advance to the rooms where decisions are made. And so my call to action in this book is diverse leadership teams, the only way we’re going to change things systemically, is when we have diversity and quality in the senior most decision making rims, and this is not just in corporate. For anybody who’s listening in the United States. This is really important in our government policies today. It’s no matter where you live, it’s important in government policy to have diversity in the people who are making the rules. Because traditionally, we have grown up in a patriarchal environment. This is not men being bad. It’s just that for the last several 100 years, men were in charge, women stayed home. So men made the rules, the workplaces, the government systems were made by men, you know, for the benefit for men. It’s just the way it was. There’s no blame. This is not a blame statement. Those are just facts. And so if we want to change workplaces, we need to have more diversity in the rooms where decisions are made. And one of the things I advocate for is we can change workplaces by changing one woman at a time. And that’s my focus. Because if I can help one woman at a time, maybe she’ll have the courage to speak up. Maybe she’ll have the courage to run for office, maybe she’ll have the courage to go for the promotion. And when we start to see more women in leadership and we start to see more women advocating. I’m sure you and everyone listening can think of a woman that you saw, show up, speak up, take a risk and because she did all of those things, it probably inspired you to do the same. You’re like, oh my gosh, her speaking up and saying what she really thought and how she really felt was so freeing, right? It’s like, it’s freeing for us to watch that. And that’s what creates the ripple effect. So I think to change the systems of work, we need to see more diversity in leadership. The research shows that companies are more profitable, when there are women in the senior most positions when they have more diverse leadership teams. I mean, study after study after study. So I advocate that this is not just a social justice issue. This is an economic issue that can’t be ignored. Yeah. And so it’s going to take Yes, women showing up. But it’s also going to take some brave men who, and there are ones out there who are less concerned about preserving the status quo and more concerned about advocacy, and equality. And recognizing that it’s actually good for them to because when they make more money, they can build bigger tables. So I really, really think that that’s where it needs to be focused, because then the systems will change, the policies will change. And I think everything kind of trickles down from there.
Aoife O’Brien 41:15
I love that make more money to build bigger tables? Yeah.
Kelli Thompson 41:21
That’s what they all want what we all want, right? More impact impacts our communities everything.
Aoife O’Brien 41:28
Impact on the health of society really, isn’t it? Yeah, absolutely. So in, in addressing this issue at a systemic level, it’s really done by one woman at a time. Is there anything else that we could do to support that to facilitate that to make sure that that happens at an organisational level? Rather than thinking about it one woman at a time? Is there anything to think that on a bigger scale that we could do?
Kelli Thompson 41:58
So one of the things I’ve seen organisations do really well, is to focus on the data. So I’m thinking of two organisations in particular, that as an example, they went in and looked at the data for a few things. One, they did an assessment to discern if there was any gender pay disparities. Step one, let’s look at the data. Let’s compare equal titles, because we need to rectify some pay issues, because inequality and pay can lead to disengagement, dissatisfaction, and ultimately, turnover and turnover is really costly. Okay, so that was step one. Step two, they looked at the data to say, what is the rate of women turning over, versus men turning over? Like, let me give you an example. So they looked at who was being promoted up the scales and leadership, and then thus, who was leaving. And what this organis ation found was that when there were candidates being eligible for promotions, men were being chosen for those promotions more times than women, even though there could have been, you know, equal candidates. And then what would happen is because women weren’t getting promoted, they were looking at exit surveys, and they noticed that more women were leaving and citing a lack of development or promotional opportunities. And so one of the ways that they really started to impact and make change was by looking at hard data, like, because sometimes it’s really hard to argue with the data. And so use the data as a reason for change. And we said, hey, not only do we need to pay folks equally, but we need to make sure that we are promoting folks at you know, an equal rate, if there aren’t enough female, or, you know, people who identify as women candidates or non binary candidates, you know, available for promotion, what are we doing, then the second thing was to look at, okay, well, is there a disparity there, then in leadership, mentoring, and development are men, you know, getting more development opportunities. And so therefore, their names are mentioned, they’re in the rooms, they have more skills? And so do we have equal development opportunities. And one of the things that I really encourage employees to take a look at, and I know these clients did, too, is to recognize that since men are primarily in the decision making rooms, they receive a lot of informal mentoring, because they’re in the rooms, they watch the dynamics, they see how things play out, right? They’re in the room where it’s happening, you know, and that in and of itself, is development, because you’re, you’re in the rooms. And so how do we give equal and development opportunities for women. And so when I talk to organisations about this, I really encourage them to look at the data first. Because it’s hard for folks who’ve always benefited from the ways of doing things to look at unconscious biases, because people we all have biases, but we all like to think we also have no biases. Like let’s just be honest, right? And so that’s a really hard punch to go in with when from a diversity lens. So I think it’s really important to look at the data and let the data tell the story and then look at the results that you want to create and then start to ask yourselves well, if these are the results, data wise that we want to create in terms of equity, inclusion, results, innovation, revenue, etc. Well, then what different choices and what actions do we need to take, you know, to, to get that result and really coming from a data driven place, because then then folks may typically softened a little bit towards looking at unconscious biases, and those sorts of things.
Aoife O’Brien 45:25
Yeah, you’re, you’re speaking my language now with my market research data analytics background. So I love talking about this kind of stuff, using that data that that organisations already have access to this is not additional, they should have all of this information already. And really, look at that. And I love what you had to say about well, you know, men are already in the room, and they’re, therefore their names are being mentioned, they’re getting this, like you say, informal mentoring. But the idea then that we never think that we have by we always think that we’re totally unprejudiced and unbiased in in lots of different ways, when in fact, the biases normally our own conscious that we’re not actually aware of them. I know there’s a big talk around unconscious bias. And, you know, the jury’s out on whether that really works or not, you know, some people say that it works well. I’ve seen people doing training in it. But on the other hand, it’s like, if it’s unconscious, it’s can you really bring it to that level of, of consciousness that you’re actually aware of that, and you’re so absolutely, the people who have always made the decisions are the ones who need to be challenged the most, because they’re doing you know, this is the way things have always been done. This is the way we’ve always done things. And therefore, it has, it’s never been a problem before. And it’s like, as more women rise through the ranks, as more women get to those more senior positions, it becomes an issue for them, you know, they kind of solid examples, I’m thinking is having meetings at times when children need to be collected, where women are typically, you know, I’m not painting broad brushstrokes here, you know, it’s typically women are the ones who are collecting kids at a specific time, and meetings are held at that time, it was never an issue before. But now that a woman is in the meeting room, and she has kids, she has to go and go and collect them. So
Kelli Thompson 47:16
It’s 100%. I hear from my clients all the time.
Aoife O’Brien 47:19
Yes, yeah. Yeah, it’s just a real kind of solid example of things that actually happen. And Kelli, we’ve been talking for a long time, but lots and lots of gems in there lots of nuggets of information. The question I ask everyone who comes on the podcast, what is being happier at work mean to you?
Kelli Thompson 47:39
You know, being happier at work really means things, twofold things. For me, being happier at work typically means that me personally, I’m using my best talents every day. And I’m using my best talents every day, there’s like, and you all know, if you’re listening right now, like there’s an energy that comes through you. There’s an excitement, there’s a geekiness, right, like, I just can’t wait to go do this. And when you are that way, not only do you contribute better to your organisation, but you come home from work with more to give, because you’re not zapped from that energetic toll of like pushing a rock uphill all day long. And then when I think about being happier at work, it really also twofold than impacts the organisation when you have when you take the time and energy to really get to know people and know what makes them tick and what their talents are. And aligning is what I say aligning their purpose and their paycheck. It benefits the organisation too, because you have people who have more energy at work, they get things done quicker, they’re better to their colleagues and ultimately more profitable to the organisation. So it’s all just about energy. You know, and you know what that energy can do not only to somebody personally but professionally as well.
Aoife O’Brien 48:49
Absolutely love that. If people want to reach out if they want to connect with you, what’s the best way to do that? And also, please tell us about your book. When is it coming out? How do we preorder it? Yeah, all that good stuff.
Kelli Thompson 49:00
All the good stuff. Okay. So my hardcover, the audio book, everything that comes out to the bookstores, Amazon, all the good stuff comes out November 1st. However, if you are somebody who doesn’t like to wait for things, I have a perspective. Now, I have a partnership through an ebook company. It’s kind of like a Kindle only. It’s interactive with like book club discussions. I have a partnership with them. It’s called fable, you can just download the fable app. And there will be opportunities to access it early. I think at the time you’re listening to this. We’re currently in a book club cycle, but there will be another one popping up I think in the September 1st-ish timeframe if you want a little early, otherwise, you can wait for all the traditional formats November 1, so it’s closing the confidence gap boost your piece, your potential and your paycheck. The best place to go is just to go to closingtheconfidencegap.com/book, and then I’m on social media. I love me some Instagram I met Kelli Rae Thompson. Then I’m on LinkedIn too. So you can also find me at Kelli Thompson on LinkedIn. I think it’s in/KelliRaeThompson as well. And then yeah, send me a message. I’d love to hear what you learned and talk to you.
Aoife O’Brien 50:13
Yes. Absolutely loved the conversation today. Loved your energy, Kelli. So thank you so much. Thanks for your sharing your insights, your wisdom, has to love the conversation today. Thank you.
Kelli Thompson 50:24
Oh, likewise, thank you so much for having me.
Aoife O’Brien 50:31
That was Kelli Thompson. And I really hope you enjoy today’s episode as much as Kelli and I enjoyed having the conversation. I think you will agree there was absolutely loads to talk about. And we would love if you would get involved in the conversation on social media. I will be going live with Kelli to talk about the key highlights from today’s episode. So if you want to tune in on LinkedIn live, please go ahead and do that. Also, feel free to get involved in the conversation over on LinkedIn connect with me Aoife O’Brien that’s A O I F E O’Brien on Instagram @happieratwork.ie. I want to to summarize some of the key points that Kelli and I covered. And we started by talking about what the confidence gap actually is. And it was based on some research done in Wharton and I absolutely, well, I won’t say I love the research. But I love the insights that are coming from the research and the steps that we can take to address the issues that have been identified. So basically, that men get higher starting salaries, women get lower starting salaries, despite the fact that they did slightly better. And this is all about self advocacy, and how we as women are promoting or not promoting ourselves at work. We talked about the individual perspective. So the first kind of area, if you like, is this likability bias. So women want to proceed be perceived as being liked. If we show what are typically masculine traits, things like assertiveness, we are perceived as being not so nice. And when men show those types of characteristics, they are perceived as being a little bit more manly. So that is the first. So the steps that Kelli talked about in terms of addressing that is seeing what are typically perceived as being flaws as something as a superpower. So kind of flipping the script on how we perceive ourselves. So in her specific example, she is always perceived as being a bit too assertive, so we’re always too much of something. So why do people perceive you as being too much of and how do you turn that into a superpower, I loved this idea of identifying your leadership values. So thinking about what you actually stand for what you’re willing to put up with, so that someone else doesn’t come in and tell you how you should be leading in a different way. I loved the reframe as well about this, you know, about the flaw. So reframing it as and again, in Kelli’s example of being direct, but also being empathetic, so what can you it’s a both and situation, we touched on doubt and impostor feelings as well. I’ll come back to that in a minute. Because I know we we kind of brushed over it at the start. And then we started to talk about it in a bit more detail at a later stage. So I will come back to that point. The third element then was boundaries and the unpaid workload of women. So doing the planning, doing the notes, doing the emotional support, supporting with each employee resource groups, ERGs. And this is perpetuating the gender pay gap. And I know we didn’t go into a huge amount of detail, but there is a previous podcast episode, Kelli referenced it, where I talk about the gender pay gap and pay transparency and things like that. And the fourth element, Stan is to trust yourself. And we talked about really getting back in touch with your body, what is your gut telling you? How do you want your people to actually feel? And what is the right thing to do, really about trusting your intuition. So we went in a bit of detail around that. Kelli refers to our thoughts or our limiting beliefs as expensive thoughts because it’s costly to your peace, your potential and your paycheck. And this relates directly back to her book, which is all about closing that confidence gap in order to improve your peace, your potential and your paycheck. We talked about the difference between then doubt and impostor feelings and I absolutely love to this example that Kelli shared of self sabotage and sometimes we don’t even know that we’re doing it to ourselves, and that’s why I wanted to call it out that sometimes this is a subconscious thing that’s happening. So we procrastinate. And you heard in her example with Adam Grant, exactly what happened there, she was procrastinating. She taught everything how to be perfect to share something with Adam Grant and as it turns out, he wasn’t able to do that, because she had stalled for so long. I just thought, what a powerful example, in action of how we can sabotage ourselves. I absolutely loved Kelli’s framework and it’s very much related to my ABC framework. So she talked about noticing and having self compassion, because, you know, it’s, it’s not about judging yourself for having these feelings, it’s about showing a little bit of self compassion, then the second is to name it. So what emotions are coming up for you, and being able to recognise resilience in yourself as well as these emotions come up. It’s about normalising it, then that’s the third step. So recognising that this is a normal part of being human. Most people experience impostor syndrome at some point, and then reframing it, I absolutely loved that she called it stretching your comfort zone, that is something I talk about all the time, I don’t say stepping out of your comfort zone, because for me, I feel if you step out, you can kind of step back into your comfort zone, if you feel uncomfortable being out of your comfort zone. But for stretching your comfort zone, it seems to be something that you can, you can take small steps towards stretching your comfort zone. And when you stretch it, that becomes within your comfort zone, then as well, I loved and I’m going to reference back to Darius, her colleague, this is only going to hurt for a minute. So when you do something that’s a little bit scary, oftentimes, it’s only going to take a minute, and it’s only going to be scary for a minute. And then it’s over and you’ve done, whatever it is you set out to do. You’ve taken the action. From an organisational perspective, then we talked about creating diverse leadership teams influencing government policies. And traditionally we’ve had this patriarchal society essentially. And really, it’s about changing one woman at a time. So on an individual basis, who can we support to get to those decision making rooms where decisions are made. And if we can influence one woman at a time, give her the courage to run for office to go for a promotion, it will have a ripple effect on other people. So I’m sure you’re you can think right now of someone who has inspired you in some way. And that’s how we make the change. I really, really loved that. Also worth noting in relation to that as well, if you didn’t know this already, that having diversity at that level of leadership also makes companies more profitable. So it has been shown in the data that companies are more profitable when they have a diverse leadership, aside from the fact that it’s the right thing to do, and that your customers should be represented at that C suite level as well. The final thing then, that we talked about was using data to make these types of decisions or to understand what’s happening in your own organisation. If you would like support with us, that is one of the services that I offer, so do feel free to reach out to me. If you need support, if you need some guidance on where to get started. This is something that my background is in market research and data analytics. It’s something I’m hugely passionate about. So if you just want to know where to get started, do feel free to reach out to me and one final thought then is after listening to this episode, is there one action that you can take? What are you going to do differently? You can let me know on LinkedIn, you can connect with me there, let me know through Instagram, or reach out to me directly Aoife at email@example.com and I look forward to hearing from you. That was another episode of the Happier at Work podcast. I’m so glad you tuned in today. If you enjoyed today’s podcast, I would love to get your thoughts, head on over to social media to get involved in the conversation. If you enjoy the podcast, I would love if you could rate, review it or share it with a friend. If you want to know more about what I do or how I could help your business head on over to happieratwork.ie