Accepting Failure as part of the process. Stress is no joke and can seriously impact our performance and our physical and mental health. The first strategy I personally use and teach is being intentional on how you react and recover from a failure. You will inevitability make a mistake, accepting this fact and then having a clear intention on how you will react is critical to managing the stress from the beginning.
As a part of our series about “Optimal Performance Before High Pressure Moments”, I had the pleasure of interviewingLynda Attaway, CEO and Founder of Bevy.
Meet Lynda Attaway, dedicated business owner, entrepreneur, mom and wife, whose super power is breaking the “norms” of business. Lynda has spent the past 20 years pushing boundaries and building successful companies. Armed with a degree in computer engineering and later an MBA in finance she utilizes these skills to fuel her success in growing multiple start-ups and transforming them into established companies. Initially she rose in rank, ultimately helping transform start-ups as a skilled finance and operations executive. Then as a COO and now CEO starting companies of her own. Lynda has excelled at creating new standards within her industries and defining a new operating normal, but as a consequence her at-home responsibilities were neglected and the to-do lists piled up, producing a heavy mental load. Discovering this hole in the support framework for families, Lynda tapped into her entrepreneurial instincts, teamed up with Carissa and created Bevy — a lifestyle organization service for managing the tasks that monopolize your time utilizing a skilled concierge team. When Lynda is not running her company, she enjoys living her best life — spending her free time making life long memories with her three kids and husband in Houston, TX.
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?
Thank you! Well, I am a native Houstonian where I grew up with my parents and little sister. In the summer, my time was split between home and my grandparent’s house in Dallas. I was the only grandchild for eight years on my Dad’s side, so I may have been spoiled just a bit….. As the daughter of two engineers and the granddaughter of a math teacher and mechanic — you might be surprised to learn I have been a science and math geek my whole life. To further that natural tendency, I was the guinea pig for my grandmother’s math assignments and went to computer programming classes during my summers from a young age. Nature or nurture — for me it was both — there was no hope for me but to become an engineer myself, following in my parents’ footsteps. As a young girl, I had the amazing opportunity to travel around the country with my grandparents and that ignited in me a desire to explore and experience new places and situations all around me — not fearing change or newness. Throughout the journey, I collected skills and life lessons that have served me well.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career as an entrepreneur or business leader? We’d love to hear the story.
I think there is one story that demonstrates my attitude from a young age. When I was around five or six and I was playing “family,” as young kids do, I would always assign myself as the mom and I would tell “Dad” that I was off to work and he needed to take care of the house. So, off to work was always my plan. This was modeled behavior for me as my mom was an IT professional and the primary breadwinner, so this felt normal to me growing up.
As for taking the next step into entrepreneurship — I have always sought independence and self-sufficiency, and this is definitely the extreme form. At seven I was setting up ice cream sundae stands for my family — for profit of course — and absolutely charging them for every additional add-on. Sprinkled nuts — five cents extra, please! At sixteen, I was hired on as the first employee for a retail store with new owners opening their very first location. I had the opportunity to spend the first two months helping build out the interior of the store, performing the initial stocking, learning the POS system and later on teaching new employees the ropes. It was quite an experience for just a sixteen-year-old. Then starting again after college, I quickly began looking to supplement my income as a software developer by creating my own consulting company and building custom software applications for clients on the side. And the pattern continued from there of either launching new departments within bigger companies, or joining start-up companies as a launch team member until I made the leap to become a founder myself. Now that I am on my third company, I am not sure I know how to operate any other way or slow down.
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?
Personally for me, it has been less the influence of a single person, but more a series of small nudges or steps of encouragement along the way that have allowed me to succeed. If I were to look for a common thread among the events of my career, I have had so many different people allow me to take on projects that were not necessarily in my expertise, scope or department and they took a chance on me and my ability to perform. They gave me the room to spread my wings and demonstrate my capabilities. This is important because while we all look for that massive impact we can have on someone, it is so important to remember that each individual encouragement and each nudge can have a massive, cumulative impact on an individual. This is a philosophy I carry into my interactions today and strive to provide that nudge to everyone with whom I work.
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?
This was not a mistake at work, but a life event that has impacted how I operate at work every day. In my twenties, when I was still newly married and was learning to live with my husband. It was a defining moment I will call “cutting the onion.”
I must preface this story with the fact that I’m extremely sensitive to onion juice and tear up almost immediately. So as with most things, I pride myself on my cooking abilities and was making dinner with my husband. He was cutting the onion. I have a very specific way to cut an onion to minimize the juice and onion tears. This was not the method he was using…. Let’s just say that he did not appreciate my telling him exactly how to perform a task that he was already completing very successfully. I learned that day that sometimes your way is the best for you, but there is no need to impose that exact method on everyone else. Focus on the results and have flexibility on the method (as long as everyone keeps their fingers intact). To this day, you will hear in my house, “Don’t tell me how to cut the onion.” This one lesson, learned early in our marriage, has helped us avoid many arguments. I have applied this rule repeatedly at work and throughout my career. Give your team the room to complete the projects at hand and focus on minimizing risks and maximizing results, not each small task along the way.
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?
My greatest piece of advice is to speak up and offer to take on more responsibilities and opportunities — always — every chance you get. Find holes in the organization and not only identify the issues for the team, but offer the solution and (this is key) volunteer to lead the implementation. If what you are volunteering to take on is not a little scary, then you are not growing and pushing yourself, and that is how we level up with our knowledge or skills. This has been key to my success and I can identify situations at each position I have held where this helped me gain one more skill and open one more door.
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?
It has to be Leadership and Self-Deception by the Arbinger Institute. The entire series is mind opening but this is the first book that radically changed the way I approached people and communication. This book gave me words to describe and acknowledge how we as individuals interact and bring our own assumptions and perspective into a conversation or relationship. I have not always gotten along with all of my co-workers, which frustrated me beyond belief, as I am not a person who enjoys confrontation. I prefer to talk differences out and come to a resolution. This book gave me the tools to make the changes that were in my control and understand what was not in my control. This obviously does not fix all relationship issues, but it did provide me with the confidence that I was doing everything in my power to support success. It also allowed me to separate myself from the conversations and not take everything so personally. When you can start seeing the motivation behind other people’s actions and realize that the intent was never about you — and instead about them and their situations, you then have the clarity to react differently. Gaining this perception was very impactful and fundamentally changed how I manage all of my relationships. I re-read this book once every year or so.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
Oh my gosh — there are so many. Quotes help me put words to how I feel and what I want to achieve — so I am a quote junkie, I guess you could say. But when building your career or your business this one is a favorite: “You can’t do epic shit with basic people.” It reminds us that we have to surround ourselves with people that believe in the dream and work just as hard as we do to achieve it. Hire people smarter than yourself and surround yourself with those you aspire to be. These truths are all detailing that one person alone cannot carry all of the weight, nor are we our best self unless we are challenged and inspired by those with whom we keep company. It’s a fundamental foundation for Bevy, too. Busy professionals don’t have enough hours in the day to lead successful careers and keep it together at home and life. They need our help to take some of their tasks off their plate so they can reclaim the joy — after all, that’s what life’s about!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I am doing my life’s work now, everything else was just my learning path to get to the present. As a woman with a growing family and climbing the corporate ladder and now the entrepreneur ladder, I have experienced first-hand the struggle many women face in the workplace trying to balance work, a family and life’s to-do list. I read headlines every day that women are choosing to, or not to, have a family… perhaps delaying motherhood or even cutting short a career to stay home in the pursuit of “How to have it all?” This struggle has been a top discussion point for years. What has not been addressed yet is the home workload is continuing to increase for families, but we have not changed how we manage the home. As a parent I have three jobs, being mom and providing emotional and physical care for my kiddos, my job (which I love) and managing the logistics it takes to run a home. That is literally almost three full time jobs! With two working parents now, or a single parent managing the house, it just becomes too much — and we get burned out trying to do it all. Our society and expectations need to change to adapt to the reality of the modern family — all amazing and wonderful versions.
While all parents feel some sort of this burden, the mental load on working moms is statistically significantly higher, which I have personally felt. I have been the only female on the executive team and in the boardroom. I have had male colleagues whose home dynamics were very different from mine and they were not burdened with the same mental load of running a family as well as excelling in the workplace. I have lived this life of trying to perform all three jobs, and came to understand we don’t just need to share the workload within the family, we need to change everything about how we view the work related to running the home and how we value and perform these responsibilities and tasks.
As documented in the 2017 Modern Family Index, “most working mothers in the study — 86% — say they handle the majority of the family and household responsibilities; not just making appointments, but also driving to them and mentally calendaring who needs to be where, and when..” And these statistics are not changing. Current common suggestions are the option of stepping back from work, share the load with your husband, get up an hour earlier, or find a great “system”… but other than words, what physical support can we offer to these families? What about actual human help that we can provide to get it all organized, managed and done?
This leads me to Bevy, my newest endeavor, where the goal is to give time back to families and allow them the space to thrive at home and at work — without compromise. Bevy is about redefining home services. We are a lifestyle organization service for families and homes. We partner with each and every one of our members to orchestrate the background tasks that it takes to run a home. From the garage organization project that you can never find time for to the holiday cards that need sending, Bevy moves these tasks from our member’s to-do list to ours. This provides families with the needed relief from the constant time crunch and everyday responsibilities dragging us all down.
Bevy’s mission is to help our members get it all done and leave time for them to flourish again. If we can change this aspect of family life and offer a new solution, just think how much of an impact we can have on advancing the progress of achieving equality for all workers.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As a business leader, you likely often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to cope with the burden of stress?
Accepting Failure as part of the process. Stress is no joke and can seriously impact our performance and our physical and mental health. The first strategy I personally use and teach is being intentional on how you react and recover from a failure. You will inevitability make a mistake, accepting this fact and then having a clear intention on how you will react is critical to managing the stress from the beginning. I just went over this with my five-year-old daughter when she lost her beloved cupcake figurine. She curled up in a ball on the floor and started crying. We had a talk about how you can respond in two ways, first as she did, head buried in her hands, or second to stand up and start fixing the problem. We examined which one was going to lead to her finding “Cupcake” — was she going to find it there curled up in a ball on the kitchen floor or was she going to need to retrace her steps and look all around to find that doll? Which action was going to correct the problem? It seems simple and I think we all know the choice that will lead to success in this case, but do we follow that advice when it comes to bigger situations with higher stakes? Dealing with stress is about knowing that we will fail and having a plan or strategy to recover and move forward when that does happen. When you know you can recover, the stress becomes manageable.
Conservative Estimates. Starting a new company can be extremely stressful. Add on top of that that I am the primary breadwinner for my household, we are bootstrapping this launch, and I have employees depending on me for a paycheck — whew, I am ready to go hide in a closet right now! I manage this situation by being very, very, conservative on any of my budgeting and timeline estimates. This affords me the room to have delays (like a world pandemic and actual hurricanes coming ashore) to disrupt our plans — because the one thing I am certain of is that there will be disruptions. This strategy can be extrapolated into any work situation; you must dream big and reach high, but give yourself room to achieve and do not box yourself into situations where any change or deviation from plan will cause problems that are hard to overcome. Plan conservatively along the path but dramatically for the impact.
Breathe. A final stress management tool I personally use is that I have to force myself and my mind to sit still. This does not come naturally for me — my mind races a mile a minute, but I force it on myself so that I can recover and then continue on at warp speed. Personally I don’t do anything formal for this like meditate or journal, although those practices work for others. My slow down often comes in the form of morning snuggles with my two-year-old before the house wakes up and an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or Little Einstein’s. We each have our own version, but by putting my phone down and just breathing in that yummy morning breath of my kids for 20 minutes or so lets us both recharge and start the day with love in our hearts and a reminder for me as to why we all work so hard.
Aside from being able to deal with the burden of stress, can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?
Practice, practice and more practice. If it is a presentation, an interview, or I am having to discuss someone’s performance with them, I practice the conversation, the dialog, and map out how it could unfold. Preparation is the key to positive performance. After you have practiced, follow it with a great night’s sleep (or a little down time, if that’s all you can muster), where you can calm your nerves and steady yourself. Once the adrenaline kicks in, exhaustion follows, so resting beforehand will help with stamina. Then you will have confidence. Confidence that you are prepared, confidence that you have a calm mind and confidence that you can perform in any situation that is presented to you.
Intention. Distraction is at an all-time high level which can create stress as it will consume our time and energy if we allow it. Having intention with every activity or interaction that is aligned with your personal objectives will allow the outside world’s noise go from a loud roar to a quiet buzz that can be managed. Without intention, or if you unsure as to your role or purpose in a situation, then that is an opportunity for others or other events to start consuming your energy. By having a clear objective and motivation, the stress can melt away as you are focused on your purpose and goals.
Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques, meditations or visualizations to help optimize yourself? If you do, we’d love to hear about it.
I personally love to sing really loudly in the car to myself. The music and the lyrics allow me to self-affirm my goals and the music energizes me. But I cannot sing at all — so the fact that I am alone and no one can hear me is super critical. I am lucky to live in Houston — where we usually drive wherever we need to go and I have plenty of opportunities to jam out.
Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?
This is personally a very challenging attribute for me. I love details and I have super mom hearing — so I hear conversations from a mile away and it is so hard not to interject sometimes. So I would love to learn more techniques here — but I definitely have to get out of my house — my house is a huge distraction for me and putting on head phones definitely helps. Otherwise I struggle right here along with so many others.
We all know the importance of good habits. How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
My instinct is very much to be a quick start, which is a blessing and a curse. I can pivot and adapt super quickly, but that can also hinder my ability to complete a task before I want to jump to the next one. So over the years I have definitely had to build a habit of slowing down and being intentional about how I spend my day and how I prioritize my tasks. My best habit is to review my calendar for day the night before and to plan how I am going to approach the immediate needs and make progress on my longer term objectives. I also HAVE to get myself and the kids prepped and ready for school/work at night as well. Anytime I forget that one — my morning starts off all out of whack and it can take me hours to recover. Then, finally, I use the amazing Mel Robbins five-second rule to propel me forward when I just need that extra push.
What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?
Putting in the work. If we desire more we have to be willing to put in the time. So how do you develop great habits? You put in the work. You read the books, you do the self-reflection, you screw up and you try again. And then you try again.
Stopping bad habits is just as hard. What I find helpful is an accountability partner. Bad habits are sometimes hard to see yourself in the moment, so having a trusted friend or partner that can provide you with that outside perspective is extremely valuable. They can identify often before you can that you are headed down a path that is not where you want to be — that gentle nudge can get you back on track.
As a business 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?
For me achieving Flow is about prioritizing that activity. Flow is extremely productive and personally satisfying but also very time-consuming. What do we often sacrifice first as a business leader and as a parent? Our own time and priorities — even the ones with high value. So recognizing the value of the activity and creating space in your schedule will help you add that back into your day. That may mean you delegate some other lower priority tasks to other team or family members, or maybe even Bevy.
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.
I feel like we have all lost our sense of patience and grace in this society. Instead of immediately attacking errors or differing opinions on social media with hate and vitriol, we should just rally around each other and our commonalities. We all want the same thing for ourselves and our families — health and happiness. We need to have patience and grace as we work through the messy side of living in a community with others — hashtag #patienceandgrace anyone?
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 🙂
Yes make this happen, I would love to meet the unapologetic, outspoken and talented Alecia Moore. I stated earlier that singing in the car provides me with amazing amounts of energy and joy and P!nk has provided that inspiration for me time and time again. Not only is she incredibly talented musically, but her commitment to equality and providing a voice for those that are less visible is something I greatly admire. Doing so can come at a risk and she is willing to take that risk to speak up for what is just and right. We need more people like her in this world. Maybe I can absorb a little of that genius from her?
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Bevy has launched in Houston, Texas with plans to grow over the next several years to cities all over the U.S. We can be found at www.bevymylife.com and on Instagram @chaoscures. We are just getting started, so I am excited to share our increasing impact we are able to make on our members’ lives.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.