“Performance”, With Louisa Lawless and Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

Focus- I struggle with this one. I think my ability to multi-task might come with a touch of ambition and a sprinkle of ADD. I am better navigating controlled chaos. So, you might say I can focus on many things at once, and get bored if I am not stimulated with a multitude of things […]

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Focus- I struggle with this one. I think my ability to multi-task might come with a touch of ambition and a sprinkle of ADD. I am better navigating controlled chaos. So, you might say I can focus on many things at once, and get bored if I am not stimulated with a multitude of things being thrown my way. I’m a fixer at heart. If you have a problem, yo I’ll solve it!

As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Louisa Lawless.

Louisa Lawless is the Chief Strategy Officer at the Stratus Group. She is part of a best-in-class team that is building brands such as KÖE Kombucha and Perfect Hydration. Louisa has a rich history in leadership roles, having served as a General Manager for Red Bull North America, and also contributing to the development and sale of CORE to Keurig Dr. Pepper, as their Chief Strategy Officer. She resides with her husband Ever, daughter Edie, and two stinky French Bulldogs in Long Beach, CA.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up in the South (Arkansas and Texas) and look back fondly on having been brought up in wide open spaces with a lot of room to develop a healthy curiosity and love of nature. I was rather aspirational and, as a musical theater major, I have never been afraid of a stage or of hard work. I eventually made my way out West for opportunities and career pursuits. The “industry” drew me to Southern California, but it turns out I wasn’t too bad at sales in the end.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

I admittedly have to call it a tie between two epic individuals. During my formative years, it was unquestionably my drama teacher, Jane Balgavy. She shaped and developed me not only academically, but also from a character standpoint. She taught me it is often more valuable to listen than speak, and that kindness and gratitude can never be underestimated. She continues to be a positive force in my life. In my professional career, I have had the privilege of working alongside Dan Ginsberg. He has been the CEO of several major CPG organizations including Red Bull, and is my current colleague and mentor. I continue to observe good leadership from him daily, and most importantly, how to lead by example and with humility.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

The life that I have created for myself draws from so many key contributors. It is hard to narrow down the scope of learnings I have had to just one person. In actuality, the tribe of people that surround me — friends, colleagues and family — have given me so much support and encouragement along the road. My instincts are fairly fool proof as it relates to good influences. Having a very unique upbringing pushed me to work incredibly hard to get what I wanted, and I loved to work. Having three jobs was normal in my mind, even at 16, and this has really shaped the way I encourage everyone around me trying to earn their stripes. Proving yourself and putting in your time is paramount to growth and development, and appreciating the spoils of your efforts in the short and long term.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

I was built for speed. I always have been. I move quickly and sometimes make mistakes firing off an email preemptively or not taking the time to thoroughly edit a document. As I have matured, aka gotten older, I take more time to be thoughtful about the way that I communicate. I’ve also learned to take a deep breath before I respond. Being 100% Irish delivers a bit of hot blood running through my veins. Taking a breath helps to avoid sending emails with the subject line “You’re an A-Hole.” Words matter and often cannot be walked back, but time and experience have definitely simmered me down a bit.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

Find someone who tells you the truth and whose personal and professional life you would like to emulate. Ask them at all costs to hold you accountable for your actions, and live up to their expectations. Network like networking is your job. Hold each relationship like currency and invest in that bank. Call people because you want to check on them and their families. Don’t always ask for help. Offer it. You may need a deposit in the bank one day and a withdrawal the next. Relationships require work, but are entirely worth the reward. Help less experienced contacts develop their careers and walk a mile with them. It is not only meaningful for them, but the reward you will receive is tenfold.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The Merriam-Webster Thesaurus. I love language and I certainly love using colorful language. 😊 We can now obviously Google just about anything, but take the time to expand your vocabulary and learn words with global origins. It opens your mind and helps broaden your thought process. There is no shame in my grammar game!

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

I love a good quote, but in 2020, the messages that cut through to me center around promise and the path forward. I have tremendous hope for our future, for our country, and for my young daughter. Watching the world through her eyes is remarkable, and I want to focus on positivity and what the promise of a brighter future looks like.

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” –Aristotle

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

At Stratus Group, we have put a tremendous amount of time and resources into sustainability and our brands’ positioning and purpose. For example, Perfect Hydration will be launching the first 9.5+pH alkaline water in an infinitely recyclable aluminum can in Q1 of 2021. We’ll also begin using 100% recycled (and fully recyclable!) plastic in all of our water bottles in 2021. Having a child has pushed me to do better, not just for our generation but for the next, and the one that follows. We aren’t perfect, but the changes we are making toward more responsible packaging and partnerships with credible philanthropies will set the tone for a healthier future. That is something I can certainly get behind.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?

We are all creatures of habit. Repetition helps to build healthy and sometimes unhealthy patterns. Aka… my relationship to cupcakes while stress eating. But creating a routine for yourself can pay dividends. For me its as simple as creating a calendar hold to go for a walk or taking time to reach out to anyone in my life going through a hardship. It sounds silly, but when you are multi-tasking and juggling career and personal life, you sometimes forget to think about yourself, and what those you love might be experiencing. Book time for empathy and self-care. It’s effective, I assure you!

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

I’m Type A+. I always have been. My incredibly patient and loving husband deals with my lists and follow ups daily. There is something almost heavenly about checking things off a list. It’s a sickness, but one that has helped me to multi-task exceptionally well. Keeping organized and procedural also helps your teams to feel confident in your path forward. A plan helps create confidence in the road ahead. If all else fails and you are swimming in chaos, fake the funk. This is assuredly where the keep calm and carry on mantra rings true.

Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

Since a habit can be created in a matter of weeks, it is critical to be self-aware of your behaviors, and how they positively or negatively impact others. Being habitually late, as I have been guilty of more than once, tells others you do not respect their time. I will often trick myself by scheduling things 30 minutes early to avoid being late. So now I am habitually early.

Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness.

Wellness — Thankfully I work for an organization that offers two better-for-you beverage brands. Sometimes you just get lucky. But I have drank a LOT more alkaline water selling Perfect Hydration, and I do believe I was dehydrated for half of my life. Secondarily, having a 10 week- old has proven to me the value of sleep. If I didn’t have a good schedule before, I certainly do now. Having a baby has taught me to work smarter, and schedule tighter. Otherwise I fall short in every aspect of my life, and going back to that type A+ personality… that simply isn’t an option for me.

Performance- I perform at my best when I am inspired and supported. I thrive when I work for and with people that are smarter than me. I have those in droves in our current organization. I never underestimate the knowledge that others can impart on me, and how their experiences can help shape my own. I have always been a seeker of information, and I hope to never stop my learning process and how it positively shapes my life. Remember that thesaurus comment from before??

Focus- I struggle with this one. I think my ability to multi-task might come with a touch of ambition and a sprinkle of ADD. I am better navigating controlled chaos. So, you might say I can focus on many things at once, and get bored if I am not stimulated with a multitude of things being thrown my way. I’m a fixer at heart. If you have a problem, yo I’ll solve it!

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Plan your day in a way that allows for breaks and a change of scenery. Working from home intermittently with pandemic circumstances can be distracting and mundane. Mix up the routine to ensure you can commit to healthy habits and routines. Take a 10 minute walk while on a conference call. It can instantly change your mood and your approach.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport?

Sleep like you have never slept before……that is the new mom in me. I feel like I took sleeping for granted. I want you back, SLEEP!!!

Tell everyone, and I mean everyone, that you appreciate them when they deserve it. People that are appreciated work harder, and pass that same ethos onto others.

Practice active listening and critically think about your response. How can I add value to the conversation? Why does this person have this particular POV? Do they know more about this subject matter than I do? Letting people WIN and acknowledging their contributions helps motivate an entire positive culture. If you speak less often, your words are always more impactful.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Create a schedule and stick to it. Even when you want to watch that episode of SVU. Do your best to resist temptation.

Practice gratitude. It is a habit too and needs active reinforcement.

Live in a world where everyone around you is a professor. Learn from those around you and give everyone credit for their work and insightful ideas.

Always have snacks on hand, especially ones that make you feel good. I was never a kombucha person before, but now I drink KÖE all the time. It really does taste great, especially with a snack or lunch. I’m also not into coffee, so I love a good pick-me-up to help me tackle whatever is next in my days.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus?

I have optimal focus with more noise. Being alone with my thoughts is not optimal. Music or white noise actually helps me to focus.

Create white space in your calendar to provide flexibility. Being able to call a former colleague or help someone rebuild their resume can be a game changer for someone. If you are over committed, you miss out on the ability to add impact.

Ask for help. If you are overwhelmed, focus is the furthest thing from your mind. When you are under water, ask for a life jacket. I have no shame in admitting when I need the support of my colleagues or my loved ones. If you want to produce a good product, lean into those that care about you often and without apology.

As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

My state of Flow is achieved when my loved ones flourish. It’s the “a rising tide lifts all boats” adage. I have found that I am consistently more at peace when my colleagues and friends/family are content. So, I must reiterate the importance of having mentors, being a mentee in a constant state of learning, going the extra mile to show gratitude, and walking a mile with someone in their most vulnerable state of being. Also, looking into the eyes of my tiny daughter with so much hope and potential, and knowing she will flourish in this world. That is my State of Flow on steroids.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

All of us have great influence in a democracy. We should all feel part of a flood of change as a result of the recent election. Whether your candidates won or lost, you helped to shape history and you will continue to do so with your actions every day. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention how thrilled I am to have female representation in the white house. I think everyone can be proud that little girls everywhere have a such a powerful figure to look up to.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Kamala — do you like your eggs scrambled or over easy?? Let’s do this!!! I have some thoughts on what the next 4 years might look like.

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

Thank you humbly for this tremendous opportunity. I am most grateful.

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