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“Choose how you spend your time and energy” With Nicole Trick Steinbach & Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

Beyond the basics, like planning, organizing, value-based decision-making, white boarding, etc: do and have less. Remove clutter from your home — or even downsize! — and experience how free you are to focus. Decline meetings without agendas and exit projects without budget, sponsorship, or KPIs. Reflect on your relationships and choose how you spend your […]

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Beyond the basics, like planning, organizing, value-based decision-making, white boarding, etc: do and have less. Remove clutter from your home — or even downsize! — and experience how free you are to focus. Decline meetings without agendas and exit projects without budget, sponsorship, or KPIs. Reflect on your relationships and choose how you spend your time and energy.

As a part of our series about “Optimal Performance Before High Pressure Moments”, I had the pleasure of interviewingNicole Trick Steinbach.

Nicole lives the skill of bravery and the joy of failure while inspiring others to find the courage to do the same. Before stepping into her genius as a global career coach and change management expert, she grew up in a struggling single-parent family and overcame a speech impediment. Today, she is financially secure and bilingual, with a track record of coaching and advising all levels of professionals in over 25 countries. She supports each person to build their own bravery so that they can turn dreams into reality: landing executive roles, pursuing international careers, doubling their income, and thriving in their chosen career.

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 for having me. I was born in Ohio, to a single mom. During my childhood, we moved around Ohio, and as a result, I attended a number of different schools, with different student bodies and mixes of students, in terms of race, economic background, and religious identification. Now I realize how important these factors have been in helping me stay grounded, grateful, and focused on helping others. From a very early age, I saw how aspects of who we are can try to define who we can become. And I rejected that notion at an early age too!

What or who inspired you to pursue your career as an entrepreneur or business leader? We’d love to hear the story.

At the start of my career, my biggest motivation was ambition rooted in fear. I swore to myself that I would always be financially, emotionally, and socially secure. I vowed that I would never rely financially on someone else. I would never let anything make me so small that life was small. I would never ever place my worth into any hands but my own. I would never be forced to go through couch cushions, looking for change to buy food. And that fear pushed me.

But fear only has so much energy, and as I made deep, lasting friendships, paid off student loans, and built a career that gave me positive inspiration, the fear began to lag. I struggled to find a sustained motivation that really lit me up.

Then I became a parent. Typical, right?

Now my largest motivation is my children. I want them to have at least two role models of adults living their best lives, warts and all. Even though I was successful — global senior director at a great company, community filled with love, savings and retirement, solid marriage — both of my kids could see, as only kids can, that I wasn’t happy. I knew I was missing too much for a weak trade-off, since not only was I not happy, I wasn’t even satisfied anymore.

When a mentor asked me if I would want the life I had to be the life my grown children would have, the answer was extremely clear: NO.

That was the moment I knew something had to shift. I interviewed for roles, even got some. But it was never right. Long, very, very long story short: I took a massive leap, left corporate security, and dove into designing my life from my joy and passion.

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?

There were so many. For the first thirty years of my life, my papa (grandpa) was my quiet role model to be a decent person. He was far from perfect because we all are. Yet, I never saw him be disrespectful to another person, particularly homeless people. And we knew he was annoyed when his answer to a question or request was “yes, dear.”

His last words to me were, “I have always appreciated you.” I knew it was true then; I know it is true now. Every single person should have the gift of a person who knows them and appreciates them, always.

Throughout school, three teachers gave me the gift of high standards, direct (age-appropriate) feedback, and praise to keep me going: my second grade teacher, Ms. Nolan; my high school senior English teacher, Mr. Thompson; and my university mentor, Bruce Dobler.

Then in my career, two managers who became friends, Chip Lambert and Pete Roberts, both saw how I could go deeper, reach higher, and earn more. Both sponsored me into rooms and projects that elevated my career. Even more importantly, both have shown me how men can choose to be allies and accomplices for women and others and grow into both roles.

What strikes me in my answer to this question is how much bigger a role men have played in my success than women. I wonder if that’s because I chose to go into male-dominated spaces or because I lean towards “male” conversation styles. Or perhaps I continued the trend of undervaluing the women in my life and overvaluing the men. Either way, my own story reflects the foundation for my passion to coach women in technology so that we together create a more inclusive industry, and, since technology is the spine for all industries, a more inclusive world.

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?

Oh gosh, this is really embarrassing, but I also learned a LOT from the experience. Picture this: I’m not quite thirty years old, on a stage in front of the entire senior leadership group for the company where I am working, so a group of around 500 people, comprised of mostly men. It’s day two of a three-day conference, and I’m welcoming the CEO back on stage.

And I call him the wrong name.

Yup, the wrong name.

I had already made eye contact with him to bring him onto the stage, so I saw the shock and annoyance cross his face for just a millisecond. Then he covered it with a smile, laughed, and took the stage. While I was stumbling through an apology, turning red, and laughing at myself, he put his hand on my shoulder, clapped it, and then used it as an empowering and appreciative example of stepping forward, making mistakes, learning from them, and leaning into the corporate values. It was an incredibly gracious act on his part, and he remained professionally kind to me through the next nearly ten years of working at the same company.

I still make a ton of mistakes, and so do others. Now I consciously aim to show that same level of grace to others when they fail.

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?

1.Know your values.

Get rid of debt as quickly as you can.
Anything that limits your options can become an obstacle. Being financially stable is the gift of options.

2.Do stuff on your own.

Travel alone. Eat in restaurants alone. Visit places that fill you alone. That way, when you choose to share with your life with others, you’ll know it’s because you chose them. There is nothing worse than being alone with others, especially your partner. Love yourself first.

3. Say yes before you are ready.

Loooooooooooong before you are ready, and even at the “wrong” time. I was not ready to move to Germany. I was not ready to teach a seminar to executives at DHL. I was not ready to report to a board member and prepare his speeches. I was not ready to negotiate a conflict between a tech employer and a vendor. I was not ready to manage. I was not ready to travel the world alone. I was not ready to lead a massive, global change program. Thank goodness I said yes!

4. Fail often.

Fail with joy. Fail and stand up. Fail and learn. You will discover what works and what doesn’t, who supports you and who doesn’t, what you love and what you don’t. You will move forward faster and you will move toward what matters most to you with much more ease.

5.Reach back and lift up others.

In my first year of full-time professional work, I saw an intern struggling. I quietly offered her help, and together we navigated some core professional situations. She is now an executive at a company I love, and she has offered and provided me support in many situations. And this is just one example from my own life.

Even if the person you help is never in the situation to help you, that person will help someone else. I’ve learned over time that as a white woman, I can use my privilege to empower and sponsor people who don’t have my same privilege to make the professional world more representative of who we are as a global community. That is how we change the world.

The more me I am the more success I have. So be the most of you that you can be.

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?

Reading is my most constant escape and hobby, so there are so so many! From my childhood, the two I continue to go back to are When Hilter Stole Pink Rabbit and Mary Jane. Both are, in the end, about social justice from the perspective of the child. Both helped me build compassion, empathy, and a passion for being on the right side of history.

As an adult, I return to The Bitch in the House, The Alchemist, The Last Lecture, and … new but an instant keeper, Untamed. Each of these books is different, and each helps me reconnect to my inner drive to live the unique life of who I am today and who I am becoming. Sometimes I need the voice of women in their heartbreaking, here-I-am essays (The Bitch in the House and Untamed). At other times, I need a reminder that life is too short and that walls are for the other people (The Last Lecture) and at still other times, my life calls for a winding story of life in phases, places, relationships, and surprising turns (The Alchemist).

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

“It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission,” by Admiral Grace Hopper.

No one truly drives change or lives the life of their unique purpose by waiting for someone else to empower them. We must empower ourselves and encourage others into their own empowerment.

Stop waiting. Fail. Apologize when appropriate. Learn always. Be the most you. Repeat.

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

Right now, I am thrilled about how my clients are stepping into their power and dreams, in the midst of a global pandemic, multiple climate-change-driven disasters, and the rise of the far right in many different countries. Right when one would expect folks to look only within, retreat, pull back, and slow down, my clients are expanding, stepping out, reaching out, and speeding up. What can be more exciting than being a guide and supporter as women change their world and each shift amplifies exponentially, like ripples growing, meeting, and enhancing each other!

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?

  1. Do less and do what is in line with your values. When stress starts to build, what is yanking at your energy and what is adding to your energy?
  2. Identify whether that feeling is really stress or is it something else? Could it be excitement or thrill or is it panic? Get very specific with your language because that can help identify the connection to your values and impetus for your next best step.
  3. Practice silence, true silence. No white noise, no music, no guided meditation. It can range from one deep, silent breath or even two minutes of utter silence that can totally shift the energy from stress to excitement.
  4. Play your power music. Dance. Move. Laugh at yourself. Right now, my two favorite songs are “I Love Me” from Meaghan Trainor and Beyoncé’s “My Power.”
  5. Repeat your power words or power phase. Right now, mine are: audacious, healthy, brave, figureoutable, and inspiring. Then change and shift. Sometimes it’s as simple as “I can do it!” out loud and on repeat.

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?

In the middle of high pressure, high stress situations the number one strategy I have is this: Do it for others.

When I stand up for myself, when I negotiate a win-win situation, when I hold space for others, when I slow down toxic situations, I am helping not just myself, but also the other people in the situation. I am also building experiences for folks around me — sometimes the first they have ever had — so that they can become better leaders, role models, and mentors for others.

Like, for example, my own children. And, even more importantly, the less privileged children all over the world.

My children are white, educated, bilingual global citizens. The obstacles they face will be significantly less than many of their generational counterparts: the brown and black and indigenous children. The transgender children. The poor children. The refugee children.

It is up to me — and all of us — to shift how I enter, manage, and exit difficult situations. In doing so, I can help open the door to more folks that just me.

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.

Nope, I practice mindfulness and find silence the most powerful technique.

Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?

Beyond the basics, like planning, organizing, value-based decision-making, white boarding, etc: do and have less. Remove clutter from your home — or even downsize! — and experience how free you are to focus. Decline meetings without agendas and exit projects without budget, sponsorship, or KPIs. Reflect on your relationships and choose how you spend your time and energy.

Do less and have less. Except gratitude — there is always opportunity for more gratitude.

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?

Sleep.

Ask questions. If I don’t know, other people don’t know either. And if I am really the only person who doesn’t know, I am in the right room.

Allow for and invite failure. I fail a lot and quickly … so that I know what works for me and what doesn’t.

Choose people carefully. I choose very carefully who is in my life and why. I consciously decide who is close, how close they are, and when it is time for them to be closer or not as close. I am extremely protective about my heart space.

What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?

First — know your values and ensure that the habit you are yearning for suits your values. For example, independence is one of my core professional values. So trying to build a habit of being in a group isn’t going to be a habit that fills me or is easy to sustain.

Second — build in accountability through an accountability partner, therapist, coach, or even a tracking app. Sometime the secret sauce is being accountable to someone else, rather than just ourselves.

Third — be gracious with yourself while building your habit. Improvement is improvement and will keep you going.

Fourth — State your habit in the positive. For instance, rather than “sit less,” aim to “practice more yoga.”

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?

The number one way to be in flow more often is to “know thyself.”

I sound like a broken record! Know your values and live them. When you are living your life and building your career towards your values, flow is much easier to reach.

Then build the experience of flow by establishing little rituals to trigger your brain and your heart to identify that now it is flow time. One client uses apple tea. Another one puts on her favorite music. Find yours and build it.

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.

Wow, this is such a huge question! At this moment, in the crazy year that is 2020, I would inspire a movement of redefining brave. Moving from war and guns and big muscles and fighting into a definition of brave that is about stepping into being fully who you are, loving more wildly and strongly, building your own version of success, never ever letting yourself down, and embracing and celebrating others as they do the same in their own ways.

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 🙂

Hands down, Angela Merkel. I lived in Germany during the majority of her time in leadership. Experiencing her leadership showed me a lot about living into the values I publicly proclaim, taking the blowback and criticism for doing what I know to be right, and working with people from many different aspects of my world.

For example, and this is a small one, she wears what she feels great in, she repeats outfits often, and calmly and clearly points out how clothing double standards drive inequity for many women and not-rich people.

A more important example was her response to the refugee “crisis.” She made the decision — as a former citizen of East Germany and as a self-declared Christian leading the Christian Democratic Union party — to open the borders and welcome the fleeing people of Syria, Eritrea, and other horrific religious, environmental, and governmental situations. She got and gets a lot of criticism for her decision. She listens, acknowledges some changes could have led to even better outcomes, and then repeats her values so that she can hold firm to her compassionate, long-term choice.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Come on over to LinkedIn, that’s where the daily updates and insights can be found. And sign up for my monthly-ish emails with ways to work together, events to check out, and other fun musings.

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

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