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Alissa Carpenter: Why you should find a “break” accountability partner

Find a “break” accountability partner. As an entrepreneur who works from home, I will be the first to tell you that I spend most of my waking hours working. Whether it’s in my office or on the couch watching tv before bed, I am usually on my phone or computer doing something related to my […]


Find a “break” accountability partner. As an entrepreneur who works from home, I will be the first to tell you that I spend most of my waking hours working. Whether it’s in my office or on the couch watching tv before bed, I am usually on my phone or computer doing something related to my business. I don’t need someone to tell me to get work done, I need someone to tell me to stop, take a break, and enjoy the beautiful day. My kids and my husband have been incredible, and I have been making changes in my lifestyle from leaving my phone at home when we’re spending a day out as a family and going to bed at a reasonable time. There is always going to be emails to answer, contracts to send out or phone calls to return, it’s important to take a break!


As part of my series about “companies and organizations making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alissa Carpenter. Alissa is a multigenerational workplace expert and owner of Everything’s Not Ok and That’s OK, where she provides training, consulting, and speaking services to organizations all over the world. She has an MEd in Social and Comparative Analysis in Education from the University of Pittsburgh and is a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach. Her work helps to bridge communication gaps across generations, job functions, and geographies, and she has worked with organizations ranging from non-profits to multi-billion-dollar enterprises. She has delivered a TEDx talk on authentic workplace communication, and has been featured in media outlets including Forbes, ABC, FOX, and CBS. Her book, Inclusive Communication: How to Listen and How to Be Heard at Work (Career Press), is set to release next year.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Alissa! I greatly respect the work that you are doing. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was a Higher Education Administrator advising undergraduate students for about 13 years. During that time, I noticed a trend where students would come to my office and share what was really going in on their lives. They were very honest, vulnerable and transparent. Then when I would see them with their peers, their tune quickly switched to “everything is great.”

This trend is something that not only applies to students. We all face different issues and think that being vulnerable makes us “weak” or “unlikeable.” When, it actually helps us relate to our colleagues, peers, supervisors, and friends. People want to do business and work with people they know, like and trust and building relationships is a huge part of that. Through my work with clients and my social media accounts, I pull back the curtain and share vulnerable stories about anything from being a toxic coworker to being harassed at work.

In 2015, I decided to start my business, Everything’s Not OK and That’s OK, as a side hustle. I focused on career coaching young professionals who were looking to “find their place” in the professional world. And in 2017 I took my business full time, but with a pivot. I now work with companies and organizations and provide training and speaking on bridging communication barriers to create more inclusive workspaces. I do this through identifying employee’s strengths, collaborating with teams to craft their unique best practices, and creating spaces for open dialogue to resolve conflict.

These past few years have flown by and I was able to give a TEDx talk on humanizing workplaces and my book with Career Press, Inclusive Communication: How to Listen and How to Be Heard at Work is set to release in 2020. I feel very fortunate and honored to have been able to work with some incredible companies to create spaces for their employees to feel valued and heard.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

This week I received an email that both praised me for my work and also asked me to change who I was. The sender noted that they valued my message and would like to use my services but did not appreciate the positive tone I use. In short, they said I sounded like a “valley girl” and wanted to ensure that if they were to hire me that my tone of voice would change.

These kinds of messages come with the territory, but this one stuck out. I adjust the content to fit the needs of my audience, but I cannot change who I am. There are going to be people who love what you do, hate it, or are somewhere in between.

If you’re trying to help everyone or make everyone else happy; you’ll quickly lose sight of who you are in the process. So instead of getting mad, I’ve taken this as a complement. I pride myself on being positive, upbeat, and someone who loves to bring people together and I am glad they were able to see that.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I started my company, I assumed I would stick with the coaching route. I enjoyed speaking with people one-on-one and seeing the progress in their lives. I was pretty stuck in my ways and thought that this was the “only” way that I wanted to run my business.

After some heart to heart talks with my mentors, I realized this method was not only hard to scale but there were other opportunities knocking at my door. I was being approached by organizations to share my message with their employees. It finally occurred to me that by sharing my message to a larger audience at once, I would be able to impact more people’s lives and bridge more barriers. It wasn’t easy to make the pivot, especially when I was so passionate about coaching.

But, I am so thankful I moved passed that particular stubborn moment. I realized it wasn’t the coaching that I was passionate about but working with and interacting with people. And I found that while I enjoy coaching; speaking and training is truly my passion. I love what I am doing and cannot imagine doing anything else.

As an entrepreneur, you have to find the intersection between what you like to do, what the world needs, and what people will actually pay for. It’s great to have an idea and be passionate about it, but if people are not going to buy it, your business will quickly lose steam. Successful entrepreneurs are able to pivot and find a solution to others’ pain points.

Can you describe how your organization is making a significant social impact?

My primary line of work is providing training and speaking around workplace communication. I bridge communication barriers and help employees and managers feel valued and heard at work. We tend to put a lot of emphasis on our self-worth based on the type of job we have or the amount of money that we bring in. And this can be tough, especially when you have been laid off, are without work, or are struggling to find another position.

I work with local non-profits and provide free training and seminars to those out of work. I want to be able to give back and let people know that they matter, they’re valued and there is a need for their strengths. Getting back on your feet after losing a job is not easy, and I want to be part of their support system on this journey.

Wow! Can you tell me a story about a particular individual who was impacted this cause?

I can’t stop smiling when I get the calls, social media messages and emails from people that have attended one of these sessions. When they share how they have used this information to land their next opportunity, it feels incredible.

After one of my sessions, I spoke with a young woman who had just lost her job and was having a hard time getting back on her feet. I immediately connected her to a former colleague who I thought might have an opening in their company. A few days later she had an interview and landed the role. It only takes a few minutes of your time to make an impact in someone’s life. The fact that I played even the smallest role in helping someone who felt lost, confused and helpless feel empowered is awesome.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

I think as a society we can start to peel back the layers and be more human. We talk a lot about seeing the highlight reels on social media and while we all know it’s true, it doesn’t make it any easier to not compare yourself to someone else and their success.

I have noticed a shift of people being a little more vulnerable, sharing their story, and asking for help. But there is so much more we can do. We can all share a little bit more about ourselves. Whether we are looking for a job, had a recent failure, or if there is something that we’re trying to work through.

We are all struggling with something and while it may not make sense to share all of it, sharing bits and pieces can make a big difference. It humanizes people and even organizations when we put a face, name and story to our messages. It also gives others the opportunity to chip in as a community to help those that are asking for it. This can be through making a connection, sharing similar experiences, or just letting them know that you hear them and understand.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Successful leaders, ask for and listen to feedback, support and empower their employees, understand that they need others to accomplish their jobs, are transparent, and take the time to get to know the people that work with and for them.

When a leader takes the time to ask employees how their weekend was, what support they need from them, how they like to seek praise, or to share their ideas and suggestions; we can all thrive in the process. It takes humility for someone to admit that they don’t know everything and courage to ask the questions. Successful leaders can do both.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Change and impact take time. It takes time to make a name for yourself, your organization and your cause. Even though certain things can happen quickly, it’s important to know that if you really want to make an impact it’s about the long game not the short one. Some of the clients I am working with this year, I have built relationships with over the past 5 years. They didn’t have a need for my services early on, but we kept in touch and I was the first one they thought of when they needed something that aligned with my work.

Stay true to yourself. There is so much noise out there and it can get easy to compare yourself to others and be left unsure of the message you want to leave or how you want to leave it. But it’s important to stay true to yourself and not fall into the comparison trap. I get emails and calls from people asking me how they can be as “successful” after they’ve seen me speak, watched my TEDx or saw that I signed a book deal. I always try to be as transparent as possible and share that I’ve been passed up for roles, been turned down for opportunities and had my fair share of miscommunications. I am not perfect and don’t pretend to be, but I do try to stay true to myself and find the positive in every situation (even if it takes me some time to find it).

It’s OK to ask for help. As someone who is in the business of helping other people, I struggled with asking for help. I didn’t want to “bother” people and “interrupt” their flow. Once I started to align myself with mentors and build up the courage to ask people for help, my business grew. People were very willing to take a few minutes of their time to share best practices, give advice, and connect me with someone who could use my services. It’s impossible to know everything and no one expects you too. And the “fake it till you make it” game will not work!

Find a “break” accountability partner. As an entrepreneur who works from home, I will be the first to tell you that I spend most of my waking hours working. Whether it’s in my office or on the couch watching tv before bed, I am usually on my phone or computer doing something related to my business. I don’t need someone to tell me to get work done, I need someone to tell me to stop, take a break, and enjoy the beautiful day. My kids and my husband have been incredible, and I have been making changes in my lifestyle from leaving my phone at home when we’re spending a day out as a family and going to bed at a reasonable time. There is always going to be emails to answer, contracts to send out or phone calls to return, it’s important to take a break!

Know when to outsource. I’m all about being scrappy when it comes to building a business and figuring out ways to do things myself or at low cost. But there comes a time when you’re scaling your business that you need to outsource. It doesn’t have to be everything at once but finding things that take more than 15 minutes to complete that someone else can easily do. Whether it’s creating social media graphics, putting together proposals or editing slide decks; there is usually something that is keeping you from scaling your business. I’ve since hired people to help with these tasks and my business has significantly grown as a result (over 200% revenue increase from last year).

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Take the time to get to know people who think, act, and experience life differently from you. Attend events, conferences, seminars, or community activities where you can learn something new from people you would not have otherwise met. When we put ourselves out there and become more inclusive with our communication, real change can happen both inside and outside of work.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think”- A.A Milne

Everyday I am so thankful for the opportunities I have been given, but that does not mean I don’t get nervous about what’s to come. I keep this quote in my office to remind me of how hard I’ve worked and to encourage me to not only continue to believe in myself but to truly push myself to see what I am truly capable of.

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 tag them. 🙂

Mindy Kaling! She has broken so many barriers in the industry and is not afraid to push the envelope. I respect her work and am inspired by the example she is setting for young women everywhere.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I am really active on Twitter and Linkedin, host a podcast Humanize Your Workplace, and send out a monthly newsletter with current articles and resources on workplace communication.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

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