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Author Lisa Wentz: “If the janitor doesn’t show up … grab a scrub brush; Never ask your team to do something you would not do yourself”

You absolutely need to delegate in order to empower your teams and free up time to meet with employees. Never ask your team to do something you would not do yourself. If the janitor doesn’t show up…grab a scrub brush. Implement a healthy mentorship program to encourage learning for both the mentor and the mentee. […]


You absolutely need to delegate in order to empower your teams and free up time to meet with employees. Never ask your team to do something you would not do yourself. If the janitor doesn’t show up…grab a scrub brush. Implement a healthy mentorship program to encourage learning for both the mentor and the mentee. If employees are allowed to make decisions that is supported by a creative and intellectual process it will decrease the pressure they feel or worry of making mistakes. This will help teams make better decisions, feel valued and use their creativity.


As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Wentz. Lisa is the founder of the San Francisco Voice Center, a public speaking expert, accent specialist and author of Grace Under Pressure: a Masterclass in Public Speaking. Considered one of the top coaches in the San Francisco Bay Area, Lisa has been featured as a Public Speaking expert in the TIME Magazine,The Wall Street Journal, L.A. Daily Journal among others. Lisa regularly coaches speeches, presentation skills and accent reduction with executives and managers from Fortune 500 companies such as Adobe, Genentech, Google, Oracle, Salesforce and VMware among others. Lisa is passionate about serving the non-profit sector and has coached keynote speakers from Change.org, the Humane Society and the Kenneth Rainin Foundation. Lisa has coached several C-level executives, TED speakers, and experts in the fields of business, technology, science and entertainment. Lisa holds a Master’s degree in Voice and Speech Pedagogy from the Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London. Lisa is also a certified teacher of Alexander Technique, a modality for postural re-education taught in conservatories worldwide. Because she is the only person in California with a Master’s Degree in voice and speech studies, and teaching certification in Alexander Technique she has been a highly sought after guest lecturer, teaching master classes in drama conservatories such as the American Conservatory Theatre, University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Marin Shakespeare, Alexander Technique Education Center, and several conservatories in London including East 15 Acting School, Rose Bruford College, and the Performers College. Lisa is an accomplished accent and dialect coach and serves as an associate editor for the International Dialects of English Archives.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Absolutely. I made the decision to coach business professionals when I was in graduate school. I had been teaching acting, Alexander Technique and speech in Drama schools for a few years. I had decided I would obtain a Master’s in Voice & Speech Pedagogy at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. My goal was to return to San Francisco and open an acting school. For my thesis I chose to make the argument that law schools need to incorporate voice and speech skills in their advocacy training. I began my research and started training recent law school graduates. There was one woman in particular that made me consider my trajectory. She had been turned down by every law firm she had interviewed at. She had the two most prestigious firms left and little time to prepare. What’s important to consider here is that in England if you do not acquire an internship within one year after graduation you will be stuck as a solicitor and never become a barrister. The pressure was on. We worked together for two sessions. After our sessions, she was offered positions at both firms. I saw that the I could help people outside of drama training in a much more significant way will the skills I had. I then decided to come back to San Francisco and open a center that focused on public speaking, accent reduction and transgender vocal adaptation.

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

This is an odd one but interesting. I allowed a colleague to move into my studio workspace / office to share the space. At first I noticed a few “pink flags” meaning I had to pause and consider some of her behaviors. Frankly she was coming across as a competitive bully. But I couldn’t decide if I should be concerned — my instincts were telling me something was really off — however, everyone else just adored her. So I began to think maybe she was just slightly flawed. After a year, the pink flags turned into red flags. This was before I knew how to recognize ASPD/Sociopaths. Long story short, the last time I saw her was on her last day, early in the morning before I arrived she had entered my office, stole all of my office belongings, threw paperwork all over floor and stormed out. I showed up right at the end to see her exiting the building. I called the police and she returned my things. The moral to the story is: trust your instincts.

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?

This may seem benign, but when I was first building my business my target audience was law firms/lawyers. I worked hard on marketing, using my connects to get into bar associations as a speaker and so forth. After months I wasn’t getting anywhere. I went to see a mentor at SCORE to get advice on a better strategy for my target market. She looked me straight in the eye and before I could even finish said: “Stop it. Just stop.” I was stunned. “If something is not working to attract clients, move on. You do not have time to waste in building a business” This concept was completely foreign to me. I had been trained myself to believe its always about working harder to get what you want. I never balanced that with “time is money” concept and you can choose to do things the hard way by pitching to disinterested groups or the easy way and pitch to those who understand they need your product/service.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We are authentic. I’m not a salesperson and I don’t hire them. To work with me a client has to believe they will benefit from the work. I accomplish this by being authentic and being able to analyze their needs in seconds for the sole purpose of helping them. They feel safe that they are in good hands. A story that highlights this? Perhaps taking time off to watch a client speak at an event he was nervous about. I showed up in the audience in his sight line so he would feel supported. It worked. He gave a great delivery and later wrote me a note that said: “in a world full of phonies, you are the real deal Lisa Wentz” Other than that, I stand out because I’m the most credentialed public speaking coach in California. I can handle a wide range of issues.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I’m currently promoting my new book. I’m doing a lot of speaking to promote the book which is exciting and new for me. Its been 12 years since I stepped of the stage as an actress and have since been the coach. Putting myself in front of audiences again and in a different context has been exciting, challenging and a little frightening. My hope is the book will reach more people the more I speak on it, therefore help more people.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Create a healthy work environment and stick to it. Never let a toxic person into the team. If you do, which is common as people don’t often show their true colors in interviews, make sure you do not allow any blurred boundaries to occur or for them to challenge to your leadership. Become a leader who knows how to allow your team to use their creatively to truly thrive while keeping great boundaries, respect and check ins to avoid burn out.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

You absolutely need to delegate in order to empower your teams and free up time to meet with employees. Never ask your team to do something you would not do yourself. If the janitor doesn’t show up…grab a scrub brush. Implement a healthy mentorship program to encourage learning for both the mentor and the mentee. If employees are allowed to make decisions that is supported by a creative and intellectual process it will decrease the pressure they feel or worry of making mistakes. This will help teams make better decisions, feel valued and use their creativity.

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?

Yes, Sid Chaudhary CEO of Intempt Technologies. After my experience at SCORE I asked him to mentor me. We met twice a month for lunch. I implemented simple advice (meaning nothing that cost me a lot of time or money) and my profits the next year nearly doubled. It was amazing. I still continue to check in with him from time to time. I’m very lucky to have him in my life.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

That’s a big question. In small ways yes. I donate time to at risk youth programs to help with esteem building. Public speaking workshops and communication skills for youth can really help empower young people who often — rightfully so — feel powerless. Being someone who left home at 13 yrs old and was fully financially independent by 15 yrs old I have a unique credibility to speak to this specific age group.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Trust Your Instincts. As stated earlier I had a sociopath con her way into my office and wreak havoc, all of which could have been avoided had I just listen to my instincts to begin with. However, trusting your instincts isn’t just about hiring team members. It also applies to what clients or customers you take on. I have a few examples over the last ten years where I felt hesitant to take a client. And sure enough my instincts were always correct. After the initial interview the client would become extremely difficult to work with. The last one was six months ago. He was an absolute bully and since I’m not someone who can be bullied this frustrated him to the point where he felt compelled to send me a threatening letter. Which I quickly handed to my lawyer. Everything in the end worked out — so grateful for my savvy lawyer — but I could have saved time, money and energy had I just trusted my instincts.
  2. Avoid Burnout. It is easy to overwork when you are building and maintaining a business. You are no good to anyone if your brain is operating like a wet sponge. I once had a founder not long ago who was so in the weeds he was sleeping about two hours a day, not showering and eating pretty poorly. He had told me he was in this condition because had had too many emergencies to deal with all at once. This included the company approaching series B while restructuring which makes investor pitches extremely difficult, they were likely going to run out of money, other founders weren’t getting along, and he felt pressured to fix the situation so he wouldn’t lose his team. Thankfully I convinced him that the real emergency was that he wasn’t taking care of himself. No one can make a company run well if they are sleep deprived, hungry and as overwhelmed as he was. I made him promise me he would take a walk on the beach and think about nothing for at least 30 minutes before I saw him again. Next session he walked in looking refreshed with a huge smile on his face and said “You were right! I went to the beach you suggested, took a walk, thought about nothing and saw dolphins. It was beautiful out.I needed that. I can think now.” Ideally you will become in tune with yourself enough to see signs of burn out long before it reaches an unhealthy level. I know for myself, the first sign is avoiding eye contact. As soon as I notice I’m avoiding eye contact with a client, I’m approaching mild burn out. I recharge immediately. Sometimes it’s just a 5-minute silence or a quick walk outside to look at the sky. Little breaks can do wonders.
  3. Understand The Needs of Your Team. 
    I recently watched a documentary on the development of TV’s Charlie’s Angels.According to this documentary, the characters were all based on the personalities of the actresses. Kate was a natural leader and ideas person. Farrah had a quick whit and was always coming up with great one-liners. Jacklyn was afraid to lead or make quick decisions for fear of stepping on someone’s toes. Under pressure these personality traits would become more intense. Kate would become more assertive often coming across as pushy and demanding. Farrah’s quick wit would come across as sardonic. Jacklyn would become quiet and withdrawn. Do I have a point here or do I just like talking about Charlie’s Angels? 
    Both really, but I do have a point.
    As a leader you need to be able to look beneath the surface of your colleagues or team members personality traits and communication styles. When a situation creates stress we tend to express our needs in ways that may not be obvious. For instance, Kate fighting for the show to have high standards and for the actresses to be treated with respect could (and was) be misinterpreted as out for herself and bossy. Someone who makes jokes during tense moments could be misinterpreted as not serious or committed to the work. Whereas in Farrah’s case she just needed a less stressed environment to work in and that was her way of easing stress. Someone who is quiet or withdrawn as in the case of Jacklyn, is typically a great team player and great listener, but is often regarded wrongfully so as disinterested. Get to know your team, what their needs are, and how they communicate in order to get their needs met. You will be less likely to be caught off guard by comments or tension that surfaces from not understanding each others communication styles.
  4. Listen.
    “Knowledge speaks, wisdom listens” — Jimi Hendrix
    For many years, unless there was another person in the room that processes auditory information quickly and is assertive, I typically dominated work-related conversations. I have, over the years forced myself to become a better leader by making sure everyone in the room has a chance to contribute. I now listen in a different way as well. I used to pretend to listen to get the meeting over with as soon as possible. I now listen not just to the idea that’s being shared but how and why. I get to know people by how they communicate. I stop and consider all aspects of what’s being shared. You can learn quite a lot if you learn how to listen.
  5. Know When To Be Transparent. 
    As leaders we are not going to be fully transparent all the time. It’s not always necessary. What’s key is knowing when it is necessary. For instance, the moment you are hiding something from someone who should be “in the know” there’s a problem developing. It’s time to step back and ask yourself why. I recently wrote an article on Elizabeth Holmes and after reading it a Silicon Valley CEO said to me “Lisa, everyone in the Valley lies. We all do it. The only reason it was an issue with her was because it was in the medical device industry, which is a no, no.” Lying to investors, the C-Suite or your lawyer about anything is a no in my opinion. I’m not talking, “Yes, you look great in that suit!” kind of lie. I’m talking about lying to cover problems, potential problems or flaws. Being a leader does not include compromising your integrity. Not to mention the person you are lying to is likely the person who could help fix the problem in the first place.

You are a person of great 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. 🙂

I’d start a Children’s Movement. A movement demanding congress and local governments hold town halls to hear the grievances on key issues that directly affect children, from the children themselves. Children should be taken into consideration when drafting legislation and enacting laws. Minimally, these town halls should be happening each summer.

A few reasons I feel passionate about this:
Many states do not perform background checks on Elementary school teachers and day care centers. Currently 1 in 4 girls are sexually assaulted by age 18. Boys 1 in every 6. There are still statutes of limitations on child sexual assault.

A real discussion on whether the available food in school cafeterias is healthy and how it affects learning needs to take place (Jamie Oliver did a lot of research across the USA on this subject.)

We are expecting our children grow into adults who inherit problems we’ve created yet as a country we don’t provide them adequate protection, healthy food or a voice to help them mature into the adults that can handle these problems. Until something extremely tragic happens like the Sandy Hook and Stoneman Douglass School shootings, children and teenagers are not part of legislative discussions. It shouldn’t take these kinds of tragedies to listen to children or teenagers.

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

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” 
~ Mark Twain
I figured out why I was born in my 30s. I spend quite a lot of my client facing time helping people overcome blocks. The rest of my client facing time is spent helping people craft the delivery of their speeches in a way that makes a significant difference in their success. It’s extremely gratifying to know I helped non-profit speakers raise money and educate the public on important matters, or a lawyer win a case for an underdog and so forth. I was born to help people who help others. On a personal note, I had to learn through trial and error who was deserving of my help. If you are a highly empathetic and loyal person you attract predators. You’ll need to learn how to identify these people and stay away from them.

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 with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Stephen Colbert. I don’t even have to ponder it. Two glasses of whiskey, good conversation, some laughs and the “Colbert bump” for my book. (Colbert bump is when he mentions a book that deserves more attention than it’s getting)

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