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Christine Galib on why leaders should create a “culture of curiosity”

My career has been a non-linear journey that has taken me from the boardroom, to the ideas-incubation room, to the classroom, and way beyond. As a woman entrepreneur, I’ve learned many important lessons on when to speak up, when to ask questions, how to be an empathetic listener, and a life-long learner. One of the […]


My career has been a non-linear journey that has taken me from the boardroom, to the ideas-incubation room, to the classroom, and way beyond. As a woman entrepreneur, I’ve learned many important lessons on when to speak up, when to ask questions, how to be an empathetic listener, and a life-long learner. One of the biggest pieces of advice I would give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive is to create a culture of curiosity: a collaborative team environment in which questions are encouraged as the norm. I ask a lot of questions, which has really helped me identify and understand my own assumptions and beliefs. I think curiosity is incredibly important. When you’re curious, you’re more open to understanding the richness of your experiences. These experiences also teach you lessons: sometimes you have a positive outcome, and sometimes the outcome is not what you expected. Either way, you’re learning, if you let yourself be open to what the experience teaches you. I always tell my students that failure is not final — it is feedback. As part of building this culture of curiosity in my classroom, I make an effort to practice authenticity and vulnerability and open up dialogue around my failures. I would encourage all female leaders to share these practices with their teams to succeed.


I had the pleasure to interview Christine Galib . Christine is the Founder of Plan My Plate; Co-Founder of Bridges to Wealth; Director of Entrepreneurship & Wellness Programs at The Village School, and often presents and writes on wellness, creativity, innovation, leadership, and entrepreneurship in academic and professional settings, including Rice University, international conferences, and research publications.


Thank you so much for joining us. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

After graduating from Princeton University, I co-founded an investment management group on Wall Street. We managed money for foundations and endowments. Integrity and transparency were the key drivers of our business model. We provided asset allocation, manager selection, and consolidated reporting, as well as access to world-class investment management services. We sought to do well by doing good. While on Wall Street, my passion for health and wellness flourished. It was 2008, which was a very stressful time, and many people turned to unhealthy behaviors and maladaptive coping mechanisms.

So, I founded Plan My Plate, became an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, and focused on supporting others as they created lasting behavioral changes and positive health outcomes. Then, I decided to bring my passion for health and wellness to the classroom. I became a Teach for America Corps Member. I also pursued my M.S.Ed. from the University of Pennsylvania and learned from professors with whom I would later co-found Bridges to Wealth.

Since then, my journey has enabled me to design and instruct graduate-level courses, work on a project for the US Department of Education, teach adult learners at Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies, design and direct Wellness programs and the Entrepreneurship Diploma at The Village School in Houston, and pursue my doctorate in Education Leadership & Management, with a concentration in Creativity & Innovation from Drexel University.

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

Every moment in my classroom is incredibly interesting and inspiring! At The Village School, I designed a mindfulness class for juniors and seniors which really helped my students identify and manage their stressors and gain self-care skills. I also collaborated with other Division Heads and teachers to bring Yoginos to Village. This program helps students in our Elementary and Middle School with social emotional skills and introduces them to yoga. One of my best memories is meditating with our preK and Fifth grade students — they were even featured on TV! Meditating truly gets young kids more engaged with their own self-awareness and ability to practice being calm. These are critical skills that help our youngest students engage in the new types of thinking we need to tackle the 21st century’s global and systems-based challenges. Can you imagine what our future will be like if our youngest students are already practicing self-care and know how to manage their stress in personalized and proactive ways?

I’m also so unbelievably proud of my first cohort of Village Entrepreneurship Diploma (ED) students. One of the most interesting things for me has been seeing how each student has taken his or her passions and ideas and executed them as businesses. One ED Candidate educates women with the self and situational awareness skills to advocate for and defend themselves. Another has started a medical imaging company to provide better patient care. One started a non-profit after her family member received an unexpected medical diagnosis. Two ED Candidates actually designed a solution for world hunger, which received a “Most Innovative” award from the UN and UNICEF, and now has the attention of the World Bank.
 
 If, to quote the adage, the “best way to predict the future is to create it,” then, with my students in charge, I cannot wait to see what our future looks like.

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?

Working in business, education, and as an entrepreneur, I’ve certainly made many mistakes. One of the funniest mistakes I made was starting my first year as a teacher with my perspectives of how I thought a classroom should be. It was comical, actually, because I genuinely thought I knew the best way from emulating teachers in movies (think Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society). What did I think would be a good lesson or process plan? How did I think students would want to be engaged? What was my plan for the day? This mindset was not student-centric and created a “them-versus-me” classroom culture for my first months of teaching. I wasn’t connecting with students. My lesson plans weren’t aligned and concise. My classroom management was ineffective. I wasn’t Robin Williams, and in trying to be, I wasn’t true to my own authentic self.
 
 One day, one of my mentors sat me down after she observed me. She straight up said, “Well, that was comical. A disaster, at best. Let’s talk about how to fix it.” And so, we did. She called me out, talked with me, gave me resources and coaching, and helped me implement the changes. By the end of the school year, my students were running class. They were coming in, sitting down, motivating each other to complete work, doing their own research, working on their own strengths/growth areas, and delivering their own PowerPoints. They were giving each other feedback and implementing that feedback. I’ve never forgotten that experience, which is at the heart of design thinking. Putting students first, as co-creators of their learning, or clients first, starts with a design-thought approach from the users’ perspective. What are their perspectives of how their experience should be? What do they think would be a good lesson or process plan? How do they think they want to be engaged? What was their plan for the day?
 
 Participating in collaborative dialogue, from the get-go, is a great strategy for getting to “our”: What are our perspectives of how our experience should be? What do we think would be a good lesson or process plan? How do we think we want to be engaged? In this way, we can move forward to execute a shared, sustainable vision. Those were some of the biggest lessons I learned, as well as embracing my authentic self in the classroom.

What do you think makes your company/work stand out? Can you share a story?

Bridges to Wealth closes the wealth gap by empowering youth and adults with vital business literacy, entrepreneurship, investment management, and life skills. Our model is a simple, low-cost, and community-focused strategy that leverages schools and community centers and empowers peer-to-peer networks in a “train-the-trainer” way. This really makes our work stand out: we seek to empower community members and provide them with the tools they need to build their own communities of wealth. With curricula designed by faculty at Wharton and the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, Bridges to Wealth creates sustainable communities of wealth, increases investment returns, and develops critical thinking and professional skills for participants, many in underserved, high-need areas.
 
 Here’s a few of our impact stats based on our adult participants: 89% have increased the dollars invested in the stock market; 90% are saving more money than 12 months ago; and 98% have changed how they make investment decisions. Bridges to Wealth also currently partners with The Village School, where I teach, to offer a pioneering and rigorous Entrepreneurship Diploma to high school students. Several non-profits and organizations in Houston are actively interested in bringing Bridges to Wealth to their communities, for which I’m really excited.

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

Well, I’m constantly focused on making the Entrepreneurship Diploma (ED) an even more robust program. I’m also working on my doctorate in Educational Leadership & Management with a concentration in Creativity and Innovation from Drexel University. I’m focusing on entrepreneurship education, and leadership that promotes cultures of creativity and innovation. I absolutely love my program. I’ve been asked to present my research at several international conferences and write book chapters on creativity, well-being, and entrepreneurship, too.
 
 My research is already helping my students! For example, in the Leadership Development class of the ED, students read The Ten Faces of Innovation, which was a book we read in one of my Drexel courses. For Leadership Development, each student analyzes how she or he relates to each of the ten faces, presenting their analysis in a creative way. I’ve had infographics, videos, PowerPoints, and presentations. Then, my students create an eleventh face — one that they feel best represents who they are. This assignment in particular, as well as a leadership journal that students complete, helps students develop a deep and broad self-awareness. This self-awareness helps students self-actualize and reach their entrepreneurial and leadership potential while still in high school.
 
 In addition to the ED and my doctorate, I want to keep bringing mindfulness and meditation to business and education settings, keep bringing Bridges to Wealth to more underserved, high-need areas, and be more involved with mentoring Houston’s female future business leaders. I’ve been incredibly blessed to have women mentors in my own life, so I want to give back in that way, too.

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

My career has been a non-linear journey that has taken me from the boardroom, to the ideas-incubation room, to the classroom, and way beyond. As a woman entrepreneur, I’ve learned many important lessons on when to speak up, when to ask questions, how to be an empathetic listener, and a life-long learner. One of the biggest pieces of advice I would give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive is to create a culture of curiosity: a collaborative team environment in which questions are encouraged as the norm. I ask a lot of questions, which has really helped me identify and understand my own assumptions and beliefs. I think curiosity is incredibly important. When you’re curious, you’re more open to understanding the richness of your experiences. These experiences also teach you lessons: sometimes you have a positive outcome, and sometimes the outcome is not what you expected. Either way, you’re learning, if you let yourself be open to what the experience teaches you. I always tell my students that failure is not final — it is feedback. As part of building this culture of curiosity in my classroom, I make an effort to practice authenticity and vulnerability and open up dialogue around my failures. I would encourage all female leaders to share these practices with their teams to succeed.

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?

Far too many to name! My parents are the first ones who come to mind. They instilled in me the value of creative play, compassionate curiosity, and an integrity-driven work ethic. If I had to pick just one person, I’d have to say my boss when I was at Morgan Stanley. This was my first full-time job out of college, so it was an incredibly transformational time for me. My boss was one of the first women to start at Morgan Stanley, and she has been there for over 40 years. Nothing was below her: often times, she’d stay just as late in the office as I would. While we were working, we’d mostly talk about healthy food, swap funny stories from our day, or make sure our office snack supply was set for the next day. She is an incredible force for good, in an industry that typically is not viewed as compassionate and kind. She took me under her wing, at a time (2008), when most people were only thinking of how to help themselves survive. She concerned herself with how I was doing. She made sure to introduce me to people from all areas of the Firm, since she knew them all. She always told me that “it’s all about the people,” and she is absolutely right. Her advice to prioritize people has always stuck with me. She is still one of my closest mentors today.

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

When I first started working on Wall Street, I wanted to do well by doing good, not just in co-founding our group, but also in a volunteer capacity. I became a volunteer tutor for Grace Outreach, a GRE and life skills literacy preparatory program for women in the Bronx. When I transitioned into education full time through Teach for America, I wanted to continue volunteering. I taught donation-based community yoga classes that benefitted my school’s Extended Family Network.
 
 When I moved to Houston, I helped pilot a volunteer program at CHI Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center. I led training sessions for incoming classes of volunteers and served as an Auxiliary Board Member. The program matches college students, recent graduates, and business professionals with opportunities to provide palliative care to patients. At The Village School, I’ve worked with Citizens for Animal Protection (CAP) to sponsor “Dogs for De-stress” Days at Village during exams. 
 
 For me, when my students succeed in actualizing their leadership and entrepreneurial potential, I succeed. Listening to my students’ success stories as they take their business from an idea to an actual product, or hone their public speaking skills in Entrepreneurship class, or reflect on how much their confidence has soared after they pitch at our Shark Tank events — something that they went into with nervousness and anxiety — is incredibly inspirational for me. I think it is very important for our young adults to embrace what makes them unique and harness their leadership and entrepreneurial potential, not only by linking their passions to their purpose, but also by executing their purpose, each and every day.

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

1. Listen, listen, listen. You have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Don’t just hear, listen. Listen to what people say with their words, but more importantly, with their actions.
 
 2. “What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.” C.S. Lewis got this one right. As a leader, your ability to unite people for creative and sustainable change depends on how you promote the cultural conditions that enable people to harness their collective creative capacity. To do this, you have to know what they see and where they stand — and you have to create an organizational culture that enables everyone to articulate and share what they see from where they stand. 
 
 3. Nosce te ipsum. Know yourself. The oracle in The Matrix was certainly onto something when she advised Neo to know himself. As leaders, we have to know ourselves, our values, and our “why.” Knowing our values helps us vision-set, collaborate, and empower others in aligned and purposeful ways. More so, when the going gets tough, knowing our values keeps the tough going. Grounded in the reason for our work, we can navigate effectively through stormy seas.
 
 4. Ask questions. Do not assume you have all the answers — you don’t. And, you won’t. Knowing the right questions to ask is more important than having the “right” answers.
 
 5. Be kind. Everyone is fighting a battle about which you know nothing. Trust that people are working their best. Give people grace and the benefit of the doubt, without asking for anything in return.

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. 
 
 One of my axioms is “be well, do good.” The movement I would inspire would be for everyone in the world to challenge themselves to take one minute of their day to be well and do good. Maybe looks like a minute of reflection in silence. Maybe looks like doing 30 jumping jacks or holding Crow pose for a minute. Maybe looks like pausing for a minute before you start your car or saying “thank you” to the random person who held the door for you at the grocery store. Maybe this minute looks like one extra minute away from your smart phone, chatting on the phone with your mom for one minute more, or answering a student’s question after class. In one minute, what will you do to “be well and do good?” You never know what a ripple of goodness can do to create a wave of greatness.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life? 
 
 “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!” — Audrey Hepburn.
 
 I love this quotation because it is relevant to everything I have done and every change or transition I’ve faced in my life. While working on Wall Street, I never gave up — I didn’t even consider that an option, no matter how “impossible” the situation seemed. To me, everything is possible — you just have to find a way to see the problem differently. Seeing things differently is the key to creativity and innovation, leadership and entrepreneurship. It ties directly in to having a growth mindset, creating sustainable change, being a force for good in this world, and inspiring others to be the same. When I was teaching science through Teach for America, I saw every challenge as an opportunity to learn and apply my learnings. Now, in working with my Entrepreneurship Diploma students, I come back to this quotation because it reminds me to take a different approach when something seems to be impossible. By changing my own lens, and seeing the problem differently, I am able to start to thinking differently…and that’s when I can ignite real innovation!
 
 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.
 
 Elon Musk. Hands down! I deeply admire his grit, his story (his biography by Ashlee Vance should be required reading for all entrepreneurs). Elon is a cross-pollinator, who truly not only generates many amazing ideas, but also implements them in many different sectors. I admire him because he is perseverant and writes his own rules. Talk about someone who is creating our future!

One of my favorite creativity theorists is E. Paul Torrance. In his Manifesto for Children, Torrance advised children to “Learn to free yourself from the expectations of others and walk away from the games they impose on you. Free yourself to play your own game.”

This is exactly what Elon does — he is confident to play his own game, by his own rules. He’s learned everyone else’s rules first, so he knows which ones he must follow, which ones he can break, and which ones he can rewrite. In doing so, he’s not only changed the rules of the game, he’s invented a whole new game. I would learn an incredible amount from listening to Elon, and of course I’d share his wisdom directly with my students. (Funny story: as I was writing this, some students stopped by and asked what I was doing. I read them the question, and immediately, they said, “Oh, Elon Musk. Easy answer.” My students know me very well.)

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