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Do The Mash w/Connie Steele




Karen Mangia

Today on Success from Anywhere we'll do the mash to discover your career smash from the innovator who's an expert on why companies and careers thrive. She's striking a chord with her refreshing refrain that your dream job is no longer something you get, it’s something you create. Please join me in welcoming to the show the future of work and life expert, executive consultant, author, and host of the Strategic Momentum podcast, Connie Steele. Welcome to the show.


Connie Steele

I am so excited to be here. Thank you so much for having me.


Karen Mangia

My pleasure. And because we are talking about the world of work, I like to ask each guest, what was your first job? And how did that job inform or inspire your career trajectory?


Connie Steele

My first job was working at Mrs. Field’s Cookies. It was interesting. I wasn't just working at the cashier—I was prepping the food; I was serving the food; I was ensuring that the store was clean. There were multiple roles in that position. You're constantly moving and doing something. You weren't narrow in your scope.

So it was interesting when you ask that question as doing one job doesn't reflect me where I like to do a lot of different things, I don't want to be bored. In that job you had to learn various skills in order for the business to do well.


I also was a math grader. I was a TA in graduate school. Those things involved understanding how people were learning and how to ensure that they were grasping the information and how to provide that relevant, communication delivery to educate them effectively. Things I would have never thought of have all connected in some way.


Karen Mangia

You gathered ingredients and made your own recipe. I mean, when I think about that introduction—you learned about customers and being of service in that first job—taking care of the public, the math. Every entrepreneur I know needs some kind of math and financial or business acumen skills. You were gathering all these things along the way. We don't always know what we're going to create with all of these ingredients. So how have you navigated this fascinating career? Take us through some of these jobs and how you found your way from executive aspirations to entrepreneur.


Connie Steele

When I started my career, I, like probably most people, had no idea what I wanted to do. And being a child of immigrants, math was a prerequisite. So, all I knew was to go pursue something in math while trying to figure things out and testing and learning about myself, whether it was taking courses, having different educational experiences, different jobs, or just piecing things together. Over time, I realized that there were certain areas I'm passionate about. And it just so happens that when I started a career in marketing research, Tech was big.


I realized that consumer behavior was going to change, that technology was going to change the way that we buy, the way that we want to be marketed to. I needed to go there. I didn't know what that was going to turn into. Every role I had was always seen as a way to talent stack.


I wanted to go abroad. The traditional viewpoint was to go narrow and deep because you're all about climbing the ladder; you're building expertise, but I was always so curious about all the other things that were out there. I felt like I needed to build the breadth and go wide and add because things were changing so quickly. I felt that was going to give me the best foundation to be able to ultimately find my fit. I wasn't sure if I thought what I wanted was just to climb the ladder, but I realized that ultimately what I really wanted to do is find a fit, find the right profession that would enable me to bring together all my skills, passions, interests, education, hobbies—something that could be all of me. Eventually that's what led me to leaving my corporate job.


At the time, as an executive, I had two young children and the environment was one that wasn't the best cultural fit as it was quite toxic. I was like many women who are working and who've been part of the great resignation, women who were struggling to handle it all. That was me. With two young children at the time, a two hour commute every day, I realized that this wasn’t the right fit for me. So, I chose to make a pivot and chose that independent path and have continued to try to find fit along the way. Because all of us are evolving. You are your basis and founder and consumer insight. We're collecting data on ourselves to be better. I think that's really been this entrepreneurial journey.


Karen Mangia

You treated your career like a story problem in math. That's what struck me when you were talking. When we think back to the basics of math, we learned how you set up a problem informs how you solve the problem. There are always variables. When we're thinking about nine‒to‒five and challenging the new workforce, we are coming back to the basics. Let's start with how do you define what a worker is now?


Connie Steele

A worker is someone based on their goal. First, we start with what a worker wants. Their goal is no longer the traditional definitions of money, title, power. It's really about this level of fulfillment, contentment, happiness. Life success is just as important as work now. It fits into life versus the other way around. A worker is not a full time individual. Your work status could be full time; it could be part time; it could be a gig; you could be a creator; you could be a freelancer. You can be defined in all different facets, because today's worker—we're not one dimensional. We've never been one dimensional. We've all had various different roles. Today's worker is about reflecting really all of who we are.


Karen Mangia

Living beyond our labels is always an opportunity. What I find is that when we use labels, we install limits. The limits are often self‒imposed constructs that keep us back when we think about imagining this new world of work and a new workforce and start to challenge where work happens, when work happens. To your point—who is a worker now? What are some of the more limiting beliefs?


Connie Steele

I can't. I won't. I don't know how. That’s what you find when you get to what really holds us back. In general, those things—I'm not ready, I'm not ready for change—are what's really driving that at an individual level. People make up a company. What the source of that reluctance to change is really insecurity and the fear that we have, which granted is a fear of failure. If we try something different— what if we fail? There is a fear of potentially being shamed that fosters this anxiety around change.


There's a reason why we have changed management practices. As humans, not everybody is comfortable with change because there isn't this understanding of what that outcome could be. We want predictability. In this world that we live in where change is constant, uncertainty is the new certainty. We have uncertainty on so many different levels that we never had before in the macro world, in our home world. Personally, it's hard. So if we can get comfortable with how to adapt to change and to understand that change isn't bad—it's about testing and learning and iterating. It's experimentation. And that's how we will learn to get better


Karen Mangia

I'm not ready. Those three words you used are really informative. I think about what would happen inside of teams or organizations as we imagine the future of how we engage our customers or how we need to change our go–to‒market model or our workplace policies or aspirations. If we normalize the use of that phrase, I'm not ready. That would spark a dialogue about why that is and what it would take to get ready.


I just got back from a hike and I'm not the most experienced hiker. I find going down to be alarming because you can gain momentum, gravity will kick in. I just pictured myself tumbling down the side of a mountain or falling off. I've said that out loud before on a hike with people. I’ve told them they're moving too quickly downhill for me, and gaining momentum and speed. And I've said, I'm not ready, and instead of taking big steps, and going quickly, I take smaller steps. I mean, how do you guide organizations? What advice would you offer to take smaller steps to bring people along who aren't ready?


Connie Steele

So I'm going to say there's one thing in particular, and this is almost the next step of advice, based off of your very first guest, who I remember her saying, it's about listening. After you listen, ask yourself why. Ask why. Somebody is sharing this perspective, or feeling or sentiment or directive, and you have to ask why. Why do you believe that is the case? Because that will help you then understand the implication to you. So what's the why to me? What's the why to my peers? What's the why and the impact to the team? This helps you understand the linkage, and really the thread of the root cause. We don't pause enough to ask ourselves, what's really driving it. And when you give yourself the time to do that self‒introspection because you're asking yourself the why and everything is so interconnected, it will help you better understand the what. We just jump into trying to solve something without getting clarity on what we're solving for. So for me, it continues to be a data collection process. We don't always know. So ask why.


Karen Mangia

And along the way, we encounter resistance, right? And what you're highlighting is that resistance is an opportunity to get more curious. Besides asking why, what are some other productive questions employers and employees could be asking of each other when they are feeling stuck or when that resistance or fear really starts to show up in force?


Connie Steele

That's one of the most important questions to ask. I think this is in any situation. We have this in meetings all the time. What is our objective? What do we really want to accomplish in addition to the why? Here's what I find for individuals, as well as leaders in organizations, there is a gap of understanding. There's a lack of alignment on what you're trying to do and the purpose and objective, ultimately the goal. Different people have different perspectives and we haven't gotten that all out on the table. So what is the real objective that we are working towards? How's that going to support everyone? Asking that line of simple questioning is important because we all know that until we get fully aligned on the goal and objective against a project initiative it becomes very difficult to to create that momentum and clear roadmap to move forward because each group, each cross functional team will have their approach. But we all have to work very collaboratively now in order to ensure the project goes as smoothly as possible. So I believe so much of it is getting to that place.


But another piece is that if you have that clarity and use all these various tactics that you've got, maybe people are really scared. Pick the one where folks feel there is the least risk to get them started. Sometimes we don't know the pros or cons. We're just like wait—everything feels so overwhelming. Well, what if we picked one? The one that we know is important to do? It's listed, and we know that it might likely have the least amount of resistance. Just try that because then people will get comfortable. Most of us are risk averse. If folks are aligned and say this specific activity that we need to do is important, it's less risky. Great, let's do it! Let's see what the outcome is. Let's talk about it. And then that gives you confidence because everything is about building a level of confidence about doing the activity that you set forth to do.


Karen Mangia

Everything is relative. What feels risky to one person feels less risky to someone else. You recently released a new research that revealed 52% of US workers agree that their professional ambition isn't tied to being part of a company. Now for some companies or leaders listening, that's a terrifying thought. Why this shift? And what should employers do to address this shift?


Connie Steele

What you're hearing is that there's a greater work life integration. We've been hearing about this for a while. You and I intuitively know this, but what's really important is for leaders to understand is that you have a fundamentally changing workforce, which is based on demographics. If you look at the generational cohorts in particular, you have millennials, and you have Gen Z's. Millennials are the largest generational cohort, out of the four, some will say five generations that are out there. The oldest is 41. So, if you think about it, it's not like they're 20 anymore. They are in leadership positions right now and in 10 years they are going to be in most major leadership positions.


They've grown up differently. They have different approaches, beliefs, attitudes, and motivations, as to what they want out of work and their life. They saw their parents work hard, really be loyal and dedicated to the company, only to not necessarily reap the benefits. They want to take control over their path. They also grew up with technology. So for those people who are in tech, and who know about agile development, that sort of mindset, that manifesto has permeated into their lives. They live an agile way of life. They are adding, stacking different applications and tools to hack their way into being more effective, efficient, productive, fulfilled. They have always had work and life integrated in their life because the information they have isn't separate. Their work life is also their personal life because it's on their phone. So when you really understand your people, your audience, you realize that your audience is very different now. It gives you a different perspective, how you need to connect with them, how you need to communicate with them, how you need to motivate and engage them. And they don't want a narrow and deep career where it's all about the ladder. That's not what they want. They want one that is about fulfillment, breadth, and depth integration—one where they could show all of their skills and talents.


Karen Mangia

Along with agility comes agency. That's a theme you're starting to highlight.


You and I first met through an Authority Magazine interview and I still remember what you said “ I can see the cultural shift from conformity to individual agency.” Not everyone is going to do it. Some people still want the traditional nine‒to‒five, which is what we're talking about this season. You understand that there are going to be so many options for people to create a career that truly reflects their whole self and fulfills them. And that's when you started explaining a career mashup. What is that? What's a career mash up? What's the role of an agency? Tell us more.


Connie Steele

So a career mashup is one where you are combining your talents, your skills, your interest, experience, your hobbies, all into a profession that ultimately fits you so it could take the form of a portfolio career. We're hearing a lot about that. We've heard about that for some time where maybe you have multiple professions that you are pursuing. So for some people, one thing you might be a marketer doing freelance, but as another one, maybe you're doing a baking business, maybe you're doing a photography business and you're able to combine all of that. That makes you, you.


Another is what I call a super job. So there are lots of people now who've taken a nonlinear journey, and they've dabbled in various areas. But we now know with the rate of change and opportunity, with new roles, that there's a very unique hybridization of skills that are important to be as effective as you can in your job. It is bringing all of your breadth of experience and roles that you've had, combining them and bringing them to these new kinds of positions.


I'll give you an example. There was somebody that I met about two years ago, a really interesting, young woman who works as a product manager at a company that's all about helping the next generation of leaders. She had mentioned that she's always looking at different opportunities out there and she saw role at Spotify. It was related to dealing with algorithmic bias. And she didn't even knowone like that existed. But she said, “Wow, you know what, that pulls all of my skills and interests and passions. because I do product manager right now. I work in machine learning. I have knowledge of AI. I love statistics—it was one of my favorite subjects. I have a passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion. And because of all of that, I could fit that role.” But she has never pursued something that was very narrow and deep. She didn't necessarily start off in product management either. So it's because of these varied experiences that she has had that she sees the thread, the interconnectivity and the relationship between them in a way that I think many of us who haven't had this kind of mindset wouldn't see. She could see the logical progression and the relationship to then give her opportunities that we wouldn't even thought of,


Karen Mangia

Let's bring what you just said down to a practical, actionable level because someone listening right now is thinking I want to bake and be a career manager and a travel coach and a podcaster and a YouTube star or whatever. I want to use all these different threads. Let's say people get as far as applying for a role or a couple of roles that they think could fit. How do you coach people through the process of articulating the way these divergent skills, experiences, interests, passions, and hobbies come together into something that's worthwhile and a value for that interviewer or future employer?


Connie Steele

One—you do start very specifically into how does the role that you're interviewing for align in terms of your skills and deliver that value? But you also have to understand where will that role evolve based on the trends that you see in the industry, in competition because we know that change is always inevitable. It's probably pulling from different trends that are happening because again we're seeing hybridization of various things. So when you will look at what they may need right now but also what might they need in the future, in light of shifts in consumer needs, in technology needs, and in really sort of macro needs. You then start to realize that this market or job isn't just marketing. It's that you really need somebody who has strength in some way. Maybe you have a real strength in coding in some way because a lot of these specific functions are now working together. The more you actually know about a cross functional teams role, you think differently; you become a greater partner to them. You can actually help augment their skills and build stronger strategies and products together that then open up opportunities for you to move in different areas.


But the other piece, I would say, too, is to say that you're in a position now. You've been doing great work as a leader. There's such value in understanding your employee, your whole employee, so they may not just be doing the role that they have. So say they are a very talented developer, but they have this side interest that you never knew about. But they told you about that. And there are skills and experience in what they're doing outside of work that have a direct relationship to projects that you have right now or in the future. And you see, again, spotting those trends, seeing the value of bringing that side of them into the job that they have; they're already doing it, they just happen to be doing it, not within the context of the job in your company. But they certainly have this incredible talent. Why wouldn't you leverage that? This gives that individual the opportunity to bring those two things together that they wouldn't have ever thought of. So say this developer just might have an interest in writing science fiction. They have a writing capability, there's creativity, there's a storytelling aspect to them. How do you take that passion? How do you take that innate skill and say, “Wait a second, we need help in some of the areas that we have a gap in.” Inevitably, most people go to the specialization overall, like—we need a content creator. Maybe you have a member of your team that can actually create content. They just haven't told you that.


Karen Mangia

Your example reminds me of a conversation I had recently with the CEO of a company. She shared with me that from her point of view, getting to know what your employees do outside of work for fun is something that has been reinforced through the years as an empathetic trust and rapport building leadership tool. And what she discovered is that the more you know about what your employees gravitate toward in their free time, the more you can bring the aspects of what they choose to do in their free time into their jobs and do them better.


A woman I know happens to have a big financial services company. They have, to your point, a lot of developers and programmers and when she has people that say I love to do gaming, or I love to bake, she will look for ways to bring aspects of that into their role because then work starts to feel like play. She has studied a lot of brain science, and she shared this lights up your prefrontal cortex. It says to your brain, I love it here. I feel so seen, heard, motivated, and utilized. I think about what might change if we ask more questions to understand what people enjoy for the purpose of helping them enjoy their work more and, therefore, more likely to perform at a higher level


Connie Steele

100% use that word, you know, feeling utilized. We all want to feel utilized to our greatest capacity. And we don't want to do the same thing all the time. We all seek some variety. But what I see is that you're really leveraging the diversity of talents in one person versus seeing one person as one form of talent. So you need to look at four people. That's your grouping of talent versus one person who may have five different facets. They're very different. And then you bring all that together and multiply that pattern in credible, competitive advantage for you as a leader, you as a company, because none of us have just one interest. It's how do you pull that to the forefront.


Karen Mangia

It’s how you pull that to surfacing potential and coaching people to realize it. It makes me think of your book, Building the Business of You: A System to Align Passion and Growth Potential through Your Own Career Mashup. And you did this right as a guide to help professionals and entrepreneurs navigate this new world of work and marry up this intersection of your personal passion and your calling or your career. Tell us more about this system. How do we align our passion and our profession in a systematic way?


Connie Steele

Through all these podcasts, interviews that I had done over the years, I started to see a pattern. And what was so interesting is that they were just doing strategic planning for themselves, just like businesses need to do every year. They were identifying those important trends, those whitespace opportunities because they were looking at the market, looking at the competition, and then looking at themselves. Really what it comes down to is to create that necessary alignment, and you're also constantly iterating over time; it is creating that important research analysis, planning, and execution.


So the strategic plan has five components beginning with seeing the trends. It's all about getting that data to understand who you are, what your value is, where that opportunity is to shine.


The second component is called creating your compass. It's where you develop a plan. So many of us, unless we have been in a role or doing strategy, we're never taught how to build a strategic plan. I certainly wasn't; it was through the jobs I had that eventually did it. So I wanted to help give a framework so that people could organize their thoughts and be clear about what it is they are striving for and what those goals, objectives, strategies and tactics were.


The third component is preparing for change. When you'd mentioned what gets people stuck? Well, many times you have a great plan, you have great ideas, and then all of a sudden you don't execute on it. Why? Well, it's because we're afraid of change; we have fear. So this chapter is really about changing management for yourself. How do you push past that fear? Get into asking yourself why, so you can move forward.


The fourth is about networking. We all know that we need to build a village, but it can be hard. So how do you think about strategically creating that village to support you? And how does that ultimately fit into your plan?


The last is skills. Many of us focus on networking and skills. But in this case, the skill that I focus on is EQ, it’s the soft skill. We've seen in various reports that one of the top skills that your employers are looking for are soft skills—communication, leadership, and influence. Why? Because we are dealing with people. At the end of the day, we are really needing to connect with people. We want to. We need to. It's focusing on that and how people learn is conveyed and illustrated initially, in a linear sequential fashion. It's very much an iterative system, but it takes time to figure out what that encompasses; what that plan is. Once you have an initial understanding of that plan, think about how all those pieces feed into optimizing your plan. They interrelate to each other. You're always going to go through change and fear, but remember, each gate, each milestone will help you feel more confident and will help give so much more clarity into what you ultimately want to do.


Karen Mangia

Well, often clarity and figuring out your next comes from conversation. That's why I like to have a segment in the show where we replicate the water cooler office experience that people say they like so much. So imagine you and I meeting up for the first time at a water cooler and an office—I hope somewhere fabulous. Are you ready for five quick questions, so we can all get to know you a little bit better?


Connie Steele

I am. Fire away.


Karen Mangia

First question, what time of day do you do your best work?


Connie Steele

Morning.


Karen Mangia

What is the part of your daily routine that you most look forward to each day?


Connie Steele

You know, probably going for a walk at the end of the day. We are so focused and being outside taking a walk, feeling refreshed. Puts me in a different sort of state of mind.


Karen Mangia

If there were no standardized work attire, what would you be wearing?


Connie Steele

Probably athleisure wear


Karen Mangia 3

I think this is part of people resisting returning to the office, they might have to give up the athleisure wear. The struggle is real. Or I guess the stretchy pants are real. Maybe that's what I should say in this case.


Connie Steele

If you could feel comfortable, right? You just feel better.


Karen Mangia

If you could do any job in the world, what would you do?


Connie Steele

You know what? What I'm doing right now.


Karen Mangia

That's great to hear. Now imagine there are 25 hours in every day instead of 24. How are you going to invest that extra hour?


Connie Steele

I'm continuing to spend more time with my kids. I get passionate about what I do. And I know time is ticking as I get older. So where I can I give that dedicated time and attention and support them in their pursuits. I'm not going to always have them. It would be with my kids.


Karen Mangia

Time for what matters most. How can our listeners connect with you?


Connie Steele

Well, you can connect with me on LinkedIn by searching on Connie Wang Steele, or you can go to my website: www.conniewsteele.com. I'm also on Instagram at Connie Wang Steele.


Karen Mangia

And one last question as we conclude, what is one small step, every listener could take as soon as this podcast ends, to create his or her or their dream job.


Connie Steele

I'm going to say feel the fear and do it anyway. Because no matter what we're always going to have fear in everything that we do. We have fear every day. But to help you create momentum, you just have to try.


Karen Mangia

Feel the fear, track trends. I took that away as a big thing, track trends. Align your skills to the trends that you see, speak in terms of outcome, think in terms of value, and every skill you have is useful in some way to some organization.


Thanks to Connie Steele, future of work and life expert for introducing us to our career mashups, and for harmonizing the intersection of individual and collective success today on Success from Anywhere because success is not a destination, success is not a location. Success is available to anyone, anywhere at any time. Thanks for joining us.

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