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Holly Duckworth & Eric Szymanski of Leadership Solutions International: “We start with shared vision”

We start with shared vision. Eric and I are both divorced. Our learning marriages were great gifts shaping who we are now. In both cases the individuals grew in different directions. To thrive as a couple, you have to grow to a shared vision, as that vision changes. Even in the short time we have […]

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We start with shared vision. Eric and I are both divorced. Our learning marriages were great gifts shaping who we are now. In both cases the individuals grew in different directions. To thrive as a couple, you have to grow to a shared vision, as that vision changes. Even in the short time we have been in partnership our vision has evolved. To thrive we have to be in continuous co-creation with how life evolves.


As a part of our series about lessons from Thriving Power Couples, I had the pleasure of interviewing Holly Duckworth & Eric Szymanski of Leadership Solutions International.

As co-authors of Sell More Stress Less 52 Tips to Be A Mindful Sales Professional this power couple brings together more than 20 years working in one of the most stressful industries — hotels and meetings. Working in 24/7 industries these professionals demonstrate the power of listening and Love as the solution at home and at work.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you two to your respective career paths?

As meetings industry professionals you have to love the work you do, because meetings and events happen on evenings, weekends and holidays. There really is no time away from work. Holly’s career happened by always saying “yes” to new opportunities and challenges while living on the west coast. Eric’s career was a continuous stair step of adding to his experience and success each year while living on the east coast. We became friends thru the industry speaking at various events and conventions.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you two got married?

Doing this interview in 2021 with all the mental, physical and relationship shifts our world has taken, I smile. There is embedded in the question that being a “couple” means you must be “married”. Eric & I are a dedicated couple in domestic partnership with COVID life we are engaged with a wedding plans postponed till we can gather our family safely again. This said, our most interesting thing since we came together is truly the daily journey to live and lead in these pandemic times. Navigating the closeness of working from home, home-ing from home and doing that in a world when one of us would normally be traveling.

These pandemic times have taught us to value the together time and the time we may need to be alone all of it good and very good.

Since we “met in the middle, of the US” Setting goals and visions and working toward them together has been key to our success. Here is an example. We purchased our home December 15, 2019. Moved in on January 15, 2020 and the pandemic locked down Denver March 15, 2020. We never saw a pandemic pulling us of the traveling circuit to pivot our work online so quickly.

As meeting professionals were having a schedule and being on time is crucial it’s funny that we look back now and realize that we may have had a schedule but certainly this life plan is not on our time.

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?

Like many couples some of the funniest stories are not funny at the time. Every person in a relationship brings different strengths and weaknesses. Holly’s background is full of speaking to live audiences from 2 people to 2,000 while Eric also has presentation skills, they tend to be more sales related. As we learned to present together this became funny. Holly would consistently be holding Eric to a strict timeline to be “on stage” and Eric being a salesman could talk and talk and talk and talk.

As a result of consistently coming off stage frustrated, we had to learn that we both have case studies, research and experience that serves audiences. Holly let go of the stopwatch and Eric became more aware of being succinct to the benefit of audiences around the world.

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

Our company stands out due to our genuine passion for helping professionals live and lead more mindful lives in industries that are often deemed “most stressful.”

In 2019 we were both contracted to speak for the South Africa Convention and Visitors Bureaus the opportunity came as a result of an article that Eric wrote and distributed years earlier. The congress organizer had read the blog and made the commitment to hire Eric when he had the change. Years later he called and hired Leadership Solutions International to share expertise in creating memorable customer experiences.

An opportunity like this demonstrates the value we both bring. We often laugh if you start us both out at home and throw out a destination point Holly will pull out of the driveway and go left, Eric will walk going right and while we both get there different, we get there in a way that serves the world.

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

We have several new initiatives launching in 2021 the one we are most excited about is the Chaos to Calm Challenges. So many of our clients believe they don’t have time to be mindful or take care of themselves. This pandemic has thrown so many onto a totally new life/work career path that it’s a time to reset that belief. The Chaos to Calm Challenge is based on Holly’s book Everyday Mindfulness from Chaos to Calm in a Crazy world.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

CEO’s and leaders at all levels need to listen more. In our loud 24/7 world we are not valuing the power of listening as a strategic skill. Leaders need to listen first more to their own inner voice and then listen to their teams more.

How do you define “Leadership”?

Leadership is the ability to move people in a common direction for the good of a family, company or industry. Everyone is a leader in their own unique way.

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?

As we look back on the path that has brought us to this place there have been many angles along the way that have helped us. It’s hard to name just one. On the personal side we need to acknowledge the quite support of our spiritual friends. These men and women helped shine the light as Eric was completing his career at Disney and moving to Florida.

Now with sometime during a pandemic to grow Leadership Solutions International we have to thank on the business side our clients.

What are the “5 Things You Need To Thrive As A Couple”? Please share a story or example for each.

To thrive as a couple, you need:

Shared Vision

Flexibility

Curiosity & Discovery

Fun & Laughter

Gratitude

To thrive as a couple the first thing you have to do is let go of the programming we are taught as children that being a couple looks kind of like Cinderella. A man, a woman and 2.3 children. (I joke.) To thrive as a couple, you must choose to chart your own course, love one another and forgive.

We start with shared vision. Eric and I are both divorced. Our learning marriages were great gifts shaping who we are now. In both cases the individuals grew in different directions. To thrive as a couple, you have to grow to a shared vision, as that vision changes. Even in the short time we have been in partnership our vision has evolved. To thrive we have to be in continuous co-creation with how life evolves.

Flexibility not a day goes by we don’t have to roll with what shows up. This is key to having a successful life and business.

As teachers of mindfulness, we highlight a little considered leadership tool as one of our keys to success — curiosity and discovery. Knowing that every moment of everyday things are changing we do our best to stay in the childlike wonder. Remember when you were kids’ things just seemed to magically work out. How would your adult life be different if you kept that same sense of awe and wonder? In our home and office, you will often hear the words…” not yet” to mean that the solution may be challenging but still good is coming. Or “Does it have to be that way?” which is code for “This sounds like you are being negative could you find another way to look at this situation.” Childlike wonder has saved us in large and small ways. Plus, it’s fun to see where it will take you.

Being a couple must be fun!! Eric and I make an effort to remember to laugh a lot. Yes, we live in difficult times sometimes the only thing that gets us thru is the ability to laugh. In these time of possibility, we prefer not to call them pandemic our ability to remember this may not matter tomorrow keeps us young, fun and focused on what truly matters.

You are people 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. 🙂

The vision and mission for Leadership Solutions International is to educate, connect and inspire future global leaders with applied mindfulness practices. Doing this work, creating the community is the movement we want to create. Common+Unity that the brochure of life was wrong and we can change it.

We both witnessed our families doing work they did not love. It is our vision that our work inspires more leaders to do work they love while supporting and showing families it is possible to shift the paradigm.

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

“In a world full of chaos and uncertainty choose love.” Unknown

When Eric and I connected his theme for the year was Love. Love no matter the circumstances. Love at home. Love at work. Find a way to solve every challenge from the perspective of love. Little did we know then that a pandemic was drawing near. As we watched Love prevail over and over this quote reminds us in big and small ways that when we lean into love good will be the outcome.

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 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 🙂

As leader we have all heard the adage you are the aggregate of the five people you most closely associate with. Eric & I are looking to grow our connections with mindful, authentic and unapologetically successful business couples. Knowing how important that is to learn we would love to meet a few of the trailblazing couples in the mindful movement people like — Tara Brach and her husband Jonathan Foust (Insight Meditation Community), Deepak & Rita Chopra (Chopra Center), Marc & Lynne Benioff (SalesForce), Andy Lee (Potential Project)

How can our readers follow your work online?

www.LeadershipSolutionsIntl.com

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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