We are strong. We can do hard things.
We are connected. We are in this together and we will get through this together.
We aren’t done yet. The best is yet to come — I believe that with all my heart! I couldn’t do the work I do if I didn’t believe that.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.
As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Leneker.
Amy Leneker is an optimistic, joy seeking, recovering perfectionist. She is also a leadership consultant, a Certified Dare to Lead™ Facilitator and a mom to two kiddos. Known for inspiring audiences through her relatability, humor and storytelling, Amy has shared her secrets to leading a life you love at conferences and events all over the world. Connect with her at www.AmyLeneker.com.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Thanks for having me — I’m so excited to be here!
My career path took an unexpected, sharp turn a few years ago. I had spent years working my way up to an executive leadership position. But here’s the thing — I was overwhelmed, exhausted and confused. If I finally had the job I’d worked so hard to get, why was I so flippin’ miserable?
It made me question what did I really want to do? And more importantly, who the heck did I want to be? Those were the questions I had been afraid to ask, because deep down I knew the answers. I had always known. It was a soul-searching, gut wrenching journey that resulted in me leaving my job after 22 years. I followed my heart, took a leap of faith, and started a leadership consulting firm, The Leneker Team, in 2018. I haven’t looked back!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
That’s a great question because there are so many interesting stories when you run a company! One that stands out is a reminder to be careful what you wish for. I had approached a large organization about doing some leadership consulting work for them and they said they would be in touch. The very next day at 5:00 in the morning I got a text message from the woman I had met with. They were having a retreat for several hundred leaders and managers and their keynote presenter had the flu. She asked if I could get to the conference center and be ready to go on stage by 8:00. I said, “Sure!” and then hung up and said a bunch of four-letter words as the questions flooded my brain, “What was I going to talk about? What was I going to wear? Where the heck was the conference center?”
As I walked onstage with my knees trembling, I said a silent prayer that I now say before every event, “Dear God, Thank you for this opportunity. Please help me be of service and say what needs to be said.” Long story short, that impromptu presentation led to me working with the entire organization on an 18-month change effort and to this day, I am still coaching some of their leaders.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes! I am over the moon excited about facilitating Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead™ program. I was trained and certified by Brené as a Certified Dare to Lead™ Facilitator and it is hands down my favorite leadership program to facilitate. The work that Brené and her team have done to create the evidence-based program is incredible and I’m so proud to be able to facilitate it.
I am working with leaders and teams from all over the country and am seeing firsthand how Dare to Lead™ is changing how they lead and how they live. They are having hard conversations and now more than ever, we need to choose courage over comfort (to quote Brene!) and be willing to have hard conversations.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Can I bend the rules and say more than one? Don’t answer that — I should have asked for forgiveness and not permission! My top two values are faith and family and that is how I would answer this question, too. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my faith and without my family, especially my parents, Orville and Peg Jutte, and my grandfather, Orville Jutte Sr.
Growing up my parents sacrificed so much to give me opportunities that they never had. They taught me to work hard, tell the truth and be kind. Although I left Ohio a long time ago, those Midwestern values are still very much a part of who I am and how I work. What’s that saying — you can take a girl out of Ohio but you can’t take Ohio out of the girl?
My grandfather was an entrepreneur at heart and he started several businesses when I was a little girl. When my family would go to my grandparent’s house, my sister and I would play for hours in my grandpa’s office. We would answer pretend calls, add numbers on the adding machine until the paper ran out and staple random pieces of paper together until we had used all the staples. It was a dream come true!
Many years later when my grandpa passed away my grandma asked each of us what we would like from the house. I knew right away. I walked to the office in the basement and carefully picked up my grandpa’s stapler. It was the same stapler I had used a thousand times as a little girl. If you look closely in the photos on my website, you’ll see it. It sits on my desk as a constant reminder of the generations that came before me, the courage it took to do what they did, and the love that threads us all together.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?
How much time do you have?! When the pandemic first started, it felt like the puzzle that had been my life was thrown in the air and pieces were scattered all over the place. It was disorienting and scary and chaotic. Trying to run a business full time from home while caring for my family during a pandemic wasn’t easy. I’m not sure why I’m using past tense because it is still happening! Some days I’m focused on being the very best version of me; other days I’m focused on surviving the day until everyone is in bed and I can finally watch Real Housewives of Beverly Hills in peace and quiet. The biggest challenge is the juggling act of working, parenting, homeschooling, caring for my parents and the list goes on.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Can I start by telling you what I’m not doing? I am not getting up at 4:00 in the morning to meditate while the sun comes up. I am not starting an herb garden because I always thought it would be fun. I am not learning a new language or how to play an instrument or taking moonlit strolls with my husband and posting a selfie of us on Instagram.
I’ve read of people doing all of those things and if that works for you, great! But that’s not what has worked for me. What’s worked for me is coming to terms with what really matters. I’ve been asking myself, “In ten years when I look back at this experience will this thing I’m worried about even matter? Will I be proud of how I showed up?”
We have a huge command center in our kitchen that from far away looks like we must be preparing for a shuttle launch or planning a royal wedding. In reality it is how we plan for the average week. The logistics of two busy kids in activities on either side of town, travel for work, medical appointments, family obligations, the list goes on and on. Once Covid-19 started, the command center was suddenly empty. It was joyfully, gloriously, deliciously EMPTY. As a family it has allowed us to take a collective deep breath instead of rushing from one thing to the next.
As a working mom I would often soothe my guilt by focusing on “quality over quantity” time with the kiddos. Covid-19 has helped me realize that any time can be quality time. I remember as a kid how I used to love watching TV while my mom cooked dinner. I just liked knowing she was close by. I’m finding that now in my own house too — even when we aren’t all in the same room, I like knowing they are close by.
Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?
If I’m not careful I fall into the trap of doing everything myself. As women, it can feel easier to just do it ourselves than to take the time to explain it all to someone else. Especially if that means we will end up redoing it anyway. Is it any wonder that we can end up feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and even resentful?
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
The pandemic has forced me to take all the advice that I share with coaching clients!
I am asking for and accepting help.
I am getting clear about the boundaries that are important to me and I’m articulating those to clients.
I’m having hard conversations with leaders even when it feels like I might throw up.
Is it hard? Absolutely. Do I get it right every time? Absolutely not but I am doing the best I can and that matters to me.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
I need to apologize in advance to my kids’ teachers who may not agree with what I’m about to say! What has worked for me is knowing when I need to focus and when I need to forget.
Emotional wellbeing of the kiddos? Focus.
Trying to convince my teenage son to do homework even though it wasn’t being graded? Forget.
Making time for my husband? Focus.
Making time for people who drain my energy? Forget.
I had to let a lot of sh*t go and you know what? The world kept turning and we were all happier for it.
Another thing that has helped is including the kiddos where I can. My daughter, Clara, is ten and she loves to join me at the end of each training. We put a poll up in Zoom and the participants vote for a song to dance to. Clara turns the music up as loud as it will go and we dance our hearts out. Last week there were grandparents, spouses, kids and even pets that joined the dancing. It was awesome!
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?
This is a tricky one to answer — in the spirit of full transparency, I’m having this battle in my head of what I really do and what I think I should do!
What do I think I should do?
Establish and stick to a routine for the entire family because stability is important in uncertain times.
Serve family dinners of well-balanced meals full of locally grown fruits and vegetables because how we eat will impact how we feel.
Get at least 8 hours of sleep each night because that is when our bodies and minds recharge.
What did I really do in the last 48 hours?
My daughter and I partied until 2:00 in the morning watching the entire series of Babysitter’s Club.
I served the majority of our meals courtesy of UberEats and DoorDash. Pizza sauce counts a vegetable right??
I watched way more 90-day Fiancé than I’m comfortable admitting and my sleep suffered as a result.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
We can be hopeful during the Corona Crisis because…
- We are strong. We can do hard things.
- We are creative. We will find new ways to solve new problems.
- We are compassionate. We will love each other through this.
- We are connected. We are in this together and we will get through this together.
- We aren’t done yet. The best is yet to come — I believe that with all my heart! I couldn’t do the work I do if I didn’t believe that.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
As someone who has been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety
Disorder, can I just say that I love how you asked that question? You asked how we can support people who are feeling anxious, not who are anxious. That’s the key! Anxiety is a feeling and it will pass. It doesn’t define who we are. Saying “I feel anxious” is very different than saying “I am anxious.” It may sound like semantics but it’s not. The more we push on anxiety, the more it will push back (trust me!).
Last week I was talking to my therapist. I told her that my husband and I were going to spend the whole afternoon out on the water with our kiddos. Saltwater is so good for my soul! My therapist told me about “uitwaaien.” It’s a term from the Dutch that translates to “outblowing” or a kind of wind therapy. In the Netherlands they have been doing it for more than a hundred years. It is a mindful practice of letting the wind take away what isn’t serving you. How flippin’ lovely is that?
The best advice I can offer to anyone who is feeling anxious is to remember that you are not alone. Anxiety will lie and it is a very convincing liar! It will tell you that you are alone, and that something is wrong with you, and that this is how you will feel every minute of every day for the rest of your life. It’s simply not true.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My dad gets all the credit for this one! For as long as I can remember my dad has always said, “Work hard and don’t be an a**hole.” That advice has served me well at work and in life.
Want to be the first person in the family to graduate from college? Work hard and don’t be an a**hole.
Want to make a good first impression at a new job? Work hard and don’t be an a**hole.
Want to apologize for making a huge mistake at work? Work hard and don’t be an a**hole.
Want to get through a rocky phase of your marriage? Work hard and don’t be an a**hole.
See? It works!
How can our readers follow you online?
I would love to connect!
You can find me at all the usual places — LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter. Am I forgetting any? I feel like I am.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
Thank you for having me. I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity to connect with you!