Have regular Video Call meetings where you can see each other while having a conversation. 93% of communication is non-verbal. I prefer weekly staff meetings so there is no built up of unresolved issues, and feedback can be provided on regular basis. We have a few Virtual Assistants at the moment in Philippines, we make sure we catch up with them weekly.
As a part of our series about “How To Give Honest Feedback without Being Hurtful”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ela Staniak Leaupepe.
Ela is a founder & CEO of Feminine Leaders. Ela partners with CEOs, Executives & Business Owners to inject the business world with Professional Self-Leadership through delivering corporate training and professional development programs so employees can learn how to access their genius zone in expanding and thriving work environments and leaders can produce high caliber results aligned their true passion, vision and values.
Creator of the Feminine Leadership Method, Self-Leadership Scale and organizer of Self-Leadership Mastermind Programs for ambitious career-focused women.
Organizer of global monthly networking nights called Feminine Leaders & Unstoppable Women’s Network for women from diverse backgrounds searching for building meaningful connections through collaboration, emphasizing diversity and inclusion, sales psychology as well as resilience and performance.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Myhumble beginning began in Poland, where I was born. Growing up in a Polish industrial suburb had its challenges. Losing my father to alcohol addiction and my mother to heart problems before turning 15 set out to be a quick lesson in life for me. I learned that long term disempowerment and lack of joy and fulfilment have tremendous effect on our health, career and relationships, and unfortunately some of us pay the highest price.
I moved to Australia at the age of 22. I studied Fitness, Sports Coaching, Wellness Coaching, Neurolinguistics Programming, Hypnotherapy, Intuitive coaching and more. I explored various areas of motivation and behavioural psychology. I have worked with high-end business mentors and accomplished countless professional development programs. I worked first in hospitality, then fitness & wellness industry, I ran a few coaching businesses before diving into leadership coaching.
I have faced many challenges in various workplaces in three different countries I worked in, Poland, Ireland and Australia. I have seen how much damage lack of empathetic leadership, lack of inclusion and lack of equality can do in businesses. After my last employment ended I decided to create my own business, now called Feminine Leaders.
I have always been passionate about empowering women to step in their brilliance. What changes along the years with studies and work experience is the vehicle I use. Things I have done were launching multiple fitness & wellness programs, creating my own network for professional women, self-love & confidence online coaching, then launching empowering women’s events, business coaching online and offline and finally launching Self-leadership Mastermind Mentoring Programs. For me it’s always been about helping women realise their uniqueness. It’s a progressive journey to self-discovery and being of service to others.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What makes Feminine Leaders stand out is our approach to personal and professional development.
We challenge status quo in business with regards to belief systems, perception of reality and behavioral patterns.
Our Feminine Leadership Method focuses on providing active experiences of education and implementing accelerated methods for personal growth which allow people to find empowerment, to knock down limitations and to have internal resources to achieve fantastic outcomes. We help people connect to themselves first so they can connect with others.
We like to say that running a business is an ultimate journey to personal development. Your BBB: Body, Brain and Business/ Role must operate at high efficiency, for they are intertwined.
Some of our clients made their first few sales in business within the first 7 days of working with us, others were able to double their monthly income within 4 weeks. We have seen peoples’ performance go from 0–100% after one workshop. We helped a huge number of clients achieve their weight loss goals and completely transform their lifestyle. We helped clients dissolve addictive relationships with cigarettes, alcohol, sex, food and more.
When a person awakens the leader within and understands where their behaviors and emotions come from, they are in a complete state of taking significant action to produce their desired outcomes. When you know and respect yourself your readiness to perform is high.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Oh there were many stories! I remember some years ago when I was managing a small privately owned exercise facility in Sydney, one of our best group exercise instructors was accused of harassment by a woman who attended one of her classes. One day we received a lengthy email describing the whole incident. After speaking with this particular instructor who was shocked and devastated by the written complaint I had a full trust in her and her version of events. It was important to us to stand by our team members considering years of an outstanding work conduct especially that there was no other evidence of the incident.
We tried contacting the person who wrote the complaint but she was nowhere to be found. Months later a man visited our facility apologizing about this incident. This man was a husband of a woman who wrote a complaint, and he just found the email she sent to us months earlier. He apologized and explained that his wife suffers schizophrenia. The whole incident didn’t occur.
We were glad we showed integrity and trust in this situation. It was a great learning curve and a reminder that we all go through difficulty sooner or later. It’s not always as much about what happens, but how we handle it.
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 was 19 years old I was quite confident in my abilities to speak English, since I chose English as an additional language at my HSC (Higher Secondary Certificate) and I passed very well. Little did I know that my confidence was just about to be crushed to pieces.
When I moved to Ireland I didn’t want to waste any time from the first week of arrival. I print out tons of resumes and decided to go door knocking to all business in town to find a job as soon as possible.
I had all the enthusiasm in the world, but I could not understand a word of what people were saying. Simple “Hi, how are you” presented challenges. This was my very first experience with Irish accent, and it sounded like nothing I have ever heard before. It took me a few weeks to be able to have a basic phone conversation and find a job.
What I learned from this experience is that what we know is irrelevant, because what we know is just our perspective which is determined heavily on our environment. To give you an example, you could be the fastest runner amongst 10 people who run 10 km in 60min, but if you suddenly competed against a group which averages 10km in 40min, more than likely you could be one of the slowest runners.
What we know is irrelevant, how we utilize and apply what we know to our life is important.
What advice would you give to other CEOs and business leaders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?
First of all, CEOs and business leaders need to show others what they do, rather than tell others what to do, meaning walk the talk. In my experience a CEO who isn’t interested in their own wellbeing won’t be able to inspire wellbeing in their organization because it’s not a part of their consciousness.
Secondly, I would look at the culture in the business and the language that is used to encourage high performance. Is it all about the hardcore “always do more” attitude, ‘Winners and losers’ talk, and possibly even spreading fear?
Putting people under consistent pressure without giving them breathing space is a recipe for disaster.
Ideally, we want to see business leaders actively connecting and communicating with employees by surveying, checking in with their staff members, having sit down conversations in a casual and formal settings, asking for feedback and measuring data.
We want to see regular wellness checks, fun group activities, wellness workshops and long term personal development programs being implemented. Research shows that a sense of appreciation and feeling valued increases the loyalty amongst the employees much more than any monetary reward.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I define Leadership as a combination of taking responsibility, a sense of knowing and awareness to create a path where all involved are moving towards a desired outcome in a productive way.
What I mean by that is that there should be no separation in between the respect and the value amongst all employees and leadership teams.
There needs to be a shared vision and passion for the organization to ensure everyone’s growth and success. Whether we are talking about employment or any other business relationship, it is a mutual relationship, which shall never be treated only as a monetary transaction. It’s an opportunity for success for all!
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
As a child I was diagnosed with psychosomatic disorder. I used to suffer a mild anxiety. I had two panic attacks within a period of 12 months in my mid-twenties. I used to breakdown in eczema when experiencing prolonged stress. Now it all seems like a distant memory.
It’s not stress which is a problem in our life, it’s our lack of ability to process our perceptions and meanings which we add to events in our life.
Stress management is a consistent long term journey to personal growth. Just as much as you can relieve stress temporarily by quick fixes, where some of them have a positive impact and some have a negative impact on our wellbeing, you can also design and commit to long term plans which do not focus on stress management but focus on increasing internal resources like resilience, grit, patience, self-compassion and self-respect. Highlight SELF-RESPECT please. In other words focus on growth rather than fixing the problem.
I think it’s safe to say that as a society we learned how to quickly relieve the symptom rather than take time to treat the root cause of the issue. We drink, smoke, eat, binge watch Netflix, scroll through social media mindlessly to distract ourselves from our real feelings and emotions.
I believe in daily simplicity in terms of nourishing our body, mind and soul in support of our personal development. Daily healthy nutrition, regular body movement, time for a meditative state of mind, alone time, social time, time for studying and learning and performing acts of kindness. We often overthink the strategies for staying well in body and in mind.
We all have psychosomatic symptoms, it’s just that not all of us are in tune enough with ourselves to listen to the signals which our body sends.
Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Can you briefly tell our readers about your experience with managing a team and giving feedback?
My first experience with managing team was when I worked in fitness industry. It was a difficult work environment for many reasons. It often felt like myself and two other managers carried the business on our shoulders without the backup from the owners, and so challenges became lessons. I learned a lot about what not to do at that time which now I really appreciate because I teach those lessons to other business owners.
We had some fantastic and some horrendous staff meetings. I had been in a position a few times where feedback was given to me in the most unproductive ways, which at that time made me question my value. I often was a person who would deliver feedback to our contractors and my intention for providing feedback has always been one of connection, compassion and seeking an inspiring outcome.
Feedback is about helping one evolve and self-improve by helping them see what they do not acknowledge so all parties can move forward in achieving mutual outcomes.
I love receiving feedback because having an insight of what I can do to self-develop excites me!
This might seem intuitive but it will be constructive to spell it out. Can you share with us a few reasons why giving honest and direct feedback is essential to being an effective leader?
Giving honest and direct feedback is the only way to creating thriving, expanding and exciting work environment. It’s the only way to creating a long term success in the organization.
Leaders need to remember that effective leadership is about inspiring others to be the best version of themselves and helping people develop areas which need improvement. That’s what the feedback is for. It’s not only about paying somebody to do the job, even though everyone expects to get paid for the work they do.
Paying somebody to work for your organization without them continuously learning, progressing and feeling like they are being appreciated is a really bad return on investment for so many reasons. Those employees won’t have any loyalty towards the business when feeling like ‘everyone is replaceable’.
By investing time, energy, attention and resources into an employee you show them that you want to see them being a part of your business long term.
By providing honest and direct feedback you also use a process of natural selection to see who is truly a suitable addition long term to your business and who isn’t.
One of the trickiest parts of managing a team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. Can you please share with us five suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee? Kindly share a story or example for each.
I believe that there is no difference in giving feedback to a remote employee or an employee who comes to an office everyday. Why? Because it’s not the distance which is an obstacle here but the systems and resourcefulness to do so.
- Have regular Video Call meetings where you can see each other while having a conversation. 93% of communication is non-verbal. I prefer weekly staff meetings so there is no built up of unresolved issues, and feedback can be provided on regular basis. We have a few Virtual Assistants at the moment in Philippines, we make sure we catch up with them weekly.
- If we are talking about giving feedback about day to day tasks so the projects get accomplished quicker Voice Messages are productive too. I send VM to our VAs so they can listen to them in their own time. That resolves the issue of the time difference and doesn’t interrupt their productivity flow.
- An interesting way of giving feedback is to invite remote employees to attend a special seminar or invite them to a special course which will uplift their skills. It is an opportunity to give feedback combined with providing a solution.
- A creative way of giving feedback is through organizing a team building activity, this could be an online experience or an annual face to face event. It’s an indirect way of providing feedback which can generate great outcome
- Being open minded and mastering a craft of using words to create powerful uplifting messages. Ask your employees what types of communication work best for them. Get to know your team members and create solutions which lead your whole organization towards great outcomes.
Can you address how to give constructive feedback over email? If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote.
How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?
Why would you want to provide constructive feedback via email when we live in the most technologically advanced time in human history?
By providing feedback via email you are really taking a risk of miscommunicating because as I mentioned earlier 93% of communication is non-verbal. An employee will read the feedback written via the email and they will interpret the feedback according to their perceptions of what it says, rather than perceiving what may be the real essence of the messages.
I would recommend delivering feedback via video call, or voice message and only write an email as a summary of what’s been discussed. Even if you have a great relationship established with your employee, you know the ‘language’ they speak, and you are great at writing beautifully, remember that the greatest email will never replace an experience of seeing one’s body language and hearing someone’s voice.
Plus it takes a lot of time to type up an email, so making a video call is much more time efficient.
In your experience, is there a best time to give feedback or critique? Should it be immediately after an incident? Should it be at a different time? Should it be at set intervals? Can you explain what you mean?
It really depends on the nature of feedback. I believe it’s important to have structure for providing feedback like regular weekly staff meeting, or 15 minutes priming every morning and quarterly and annual performance reviews because then everyone expects to give and receive feedback. This creates space for open conversation.
There are incidents when the feedback is best provided straight away, for instance when training someone new in the workplace, or when team of people are working towards a deadline and the project must get finished asap. It’s important to bring your ‘A game’ skills in giving feedback in those high pressure situations. Leaders who have great skills in emotional regulation create high efficiency by providing ongoing feedback.
Feedback, Feed-Back to accelerate the results, do not criticize.
How would you define what it is to “be a great boss”? Can you share a story?
A great boss is a person of high awareness capable of switching gears in between masculine and feminine energy. What I mean by that is that a great boss prompts and drives employees to achieve extraordinary outcomes, while providing nurturing and flourishing culture of togetherness in the workplace. A great boss influences people and runs a tight ship. A great boss stretches peoples’ capabilities and shows compassion and care.
In the past when I was an employee and then a contractor I experienced a lot of poor leadership.. that’s why I am loving so much running my own business now, and that’s why I teach behavioral psychology and modern leadership to CEOs, Executives and business owners.
At times I experienced discrimination, chauvinism, fear culture and tons of unproductive discomfort.
I also have worked with some good hearted and carrying managers who had a gentle nature and but also had low expectations, or could enforce consequences. Sometimes that wasn’t what the workplace needed. See, overload of easy going attitude can lower the performance. It’s a funny part of how our mind works. A sense of responsibility and consequences induce taking action.
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 already know because I am doing it! Through Self- Love to Self-Leadership!
I am creating a world full of empowered women who unapologetically follow their dreams and desires in their career and person life.
I believe that by helping one I am helping many. If I can help one woman to step in her complete state of self-leadership, and it just happens that she has a great idea to resolve one of the biggest global problems like hunger, poverty, domestic violence, child abuse, climate change, homelessness and more, then I know it is my duty to facilitate her journey to self-empowerment.
Imagine if we all had this exact same mindset and supported each other in becoming absolutely unstoppable.. Imagine a world where every single person loves, appreciates and respects themselves and by that treats others with love, appreciation and respect.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The question isn’t who is going to let me, but who is going to stop me?” by Ayn Rand
Throughout my life, I have faced countless challenges in my career and personal life. From difficulties in my childhood, health troubles, having my heart broken in relationships, financial problems, failing in business to huge personal and professional growth.
There were times when I felt powerless, defeated and lost. It wasn’t until I understood that by taking a complete responsibility for everything in my life, I am able to overcome anything. I can achieve anything! I completely transformed my business, my health and my relationships.
It wasn’t until I realized that it’s thanks to those challenges and people who challenged my character I was able to find my true potential, I was able to find myself. Today I am grateful for all the experiences. Every experience allowed me to learn something new about myself. What I now have is relentless resilience and limitless self-love. I have self-leadership.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can find me on
Linked in www.linkedin.com/in/ElaFeminineLeaders
Thank you for these great insights! We really appreciate the time you spent with this.