…Getting creative in all facets of your business. Starting in theater, my experience was always that the more awkward the theater space, the more interesting and creative the set designers were. Creativity fills the void when easy options are taken away from us. So I think this has been an opportunity to really unleash creativity and not hold yourself to any kind of boundaries, In terms of what’s possible for your business, what’s possible for your customers. Stay focused on your mission, stay focused on your vision, but then, you know, be open to re-evaluating and, and reimagining the product workflow or the customer experience, or anything that might help move your business forward in a time where that is almost a necessity.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.
As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Monique Maley, President and Founder. She is an experienced, sought-after Consultant, Coach and Speaker who works at the intersection of Leadership and Language and delights in helping professionals scale their companies and careers through Rapid Growth by scaling their leadership alongside their organization. Ms. Maley began her professional life as a classically trained actor, yet understands entrepreneurs and CEOs because she has experienced the challenges of successfully leading organizations first hand. The dynamics of organizational teams in today’s fast paced environment, require the ability to engage, persuade and be trusted. Ms. Maley provides current and future leaders with the insights, skills and strategies to connect with others, articulate their vision and value and embody a strong and authentic leadership style.
She worked for more than 15 years in the theater and film industry in both the U.S and in London. Ms. Maley has also founded and grown two successful companies before deciding to start Articulate Persuasion. Since founding the company in 2011 she has been fortunate to consult with Fortune 500 companies and high profile professionals from around the world. Ms. Maley is known for her dynamic programs: Command a Room and Rapid-Growth Leadership, as well as the Investor Pitch Formula course for startup founders. Some of Ms. Maley’s clients include Whole Foods, HP, Spredfast, Dress for Success, TechStars, Tufts University, Dunkin Brands and the Austin Chamber of Commerce. She has a particular passion for elevating female executives into the C-Suite and the Boardroom.
Bilingual and bicultural, Monique is a fluent Spanish speaker. She graduated from Tufts University in Boston and currently resides in Washington DC, although her business spans the globe.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Okay. So before we dig in, uh, love to know, get to know you a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Monique Maley: The truth is that there isn’t a specific career path. As with most entrepreneurs, it has been very nonspecific and to other people probably doesn’t look like a path but the through lines are clear to me. Having started professionally as an actor. The first thread, which is communication starts there, the love of collaboration and, and engaging with others. Communicating to an audience, working with a team to create a story and a narrative, crafting a character and, and all of those things. That communication thread has gone through everything I’ve ever done and certainly is at the foundation of Articulate Persuasion. The other thread is entrepreneurship. I mean, I started up my own theater company when I was 24. I’ve started and sold a couple of businesses and Articulate Persuasion is my latest entrepreneurial incarnation. So for me there, it may not seem to other people like a thread or a path, but it all makes sense to me. And those two elements are the two things that informed every business choice, career choice, job choice I’ve ever had, and certainly are foundational to the work that I do.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
Monique Maley: One time I was working with a Tech Executive. He was a serial entrepreneur, nothing but turnover. His retention was always a challenge and he was convinced that the problem was everybody that he’d hired. So he originally hired me to help him with job descriptions and interview questions to make sure he was hiring the right people. What became evident pretty early on was that he was the sticking point. The bottleneck started with him. The fact that this man did not want to look at his blind spots or see that he was his own challenge within his organization was really crystallizing for me in terms of my future work. I had to fire him because, at the end of the day, he was not coachable. He doing the thing which is he wanted things to be different, but he didn’t want to do things differently. And for me, of course, that’s the only way to go. And that story for me, at least it’s interesting for me because it was so foundational to the direction and future success of my business. It came early on. I think that was probably year two when people really still saw me as sort of general communication and presentation skills and sort of, you know, maybe messaging and things like that. But it totally shifted how I saw my own business, how I articulated that value proposition, who I identified as clients. And it’s been, you know, straight up since then. I tell this story to remind people that when you’re presented with situations, both successes, and challenges, it can help you make your business better. I never dismissed that. I mean I fired him because I didn’t want him going around town telling anybody he was working with me because it would be like a walking billboard for wow, she must really suck. So for me, having to fire a client, certainly nothing you ever want to do, but I didn’t for one second, think twice about it. And I may not have gotten the full dollar amount out of that engagement, but I certainly got my money’s worth. So always taking into account that those, you know, bumps in the road can sometimes be rare moments for a little reflection and thinking about how does that make me better? How does that make my business better? And that’s what that was for me.
So are you working on any exciting new projects now and how do you think that will help people?
Monique Maley: Yes. My upcoming book is a very exciting new project. It’s something that I’ve thought about doing for a very long time, but despite a lot of people in my industry telling me, you have to write a book-I never felt I had anything fresh to say, or I didn’t feel I was ready to say something fresh because at the end of the day I didn’t say new. I said fresh because ultimately there are very few new things in the world, but a fresh perspective, a fresh take, a fresh set of tools for people to pick up and try. That’s what I wanted to find. And I finally have come to the point after 10 years with Articulate Persuasion where I believe I have that. So I’m very excited that, my book titled Turbulence: How Leaders Disrupt Rapid Growth will be out at the end of the year. It is a combination of all my work with leaders, all sizes of companies, really helping them elevate their leadership abilities and credibility skills in order to keep pace with their rapidly grown organizations, Whether they’re leading a team or the entire company,there are areas of turbulence that are often created by the leader themselves. And those issues are often unseen and unidentified and the goal with this book is to help them identify and start giving tools and strategies to correct those. And for me, the idea for the book is really to be able to reach out and provide solutions for people that I will never have the luxury or the opportunity to work with. So for me, this book is really about reach and, and offering solutions to people that I might never get to know otherwise.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Monique Maley: I have to be honest, there isn’t a particular person. I, I don’t know why, but I’ve never had specific mentors. Maybe it’s because I started in theater as a first career, which is not always the land of mentorship. You learn a lot, but you’re always moving around, but I have to say, I think that two people really come to mind, one who I can name and the other one I won’t. The first was my junior year English teacher in High School. Mr. Thames from Houston. More than anyone else that I’ve worked with, he taught me more about the power of words, the power of a narrative, and how best to craft it than anyone else that I’ve ever met. It is so powerful for whatever kind of job you have, whatever level you are in an organization that ability to really take the time to make sure that you’re crafting the message in the right way, using the right words-it’s unbelievably powerful. And he was hard on us, but I can still remember myself sitting there and learning more from him every day. I still sort of hear him, uh, in my head when I’m crafting a message.
And the other example?
Monique Maley: I want to leave out the name of the second person but they were highly motivating to me. When I was still young, they actually told me that they thought I was that I probably wouldn’t get ahead because I was wishy-washy. That was incredibly powerful and motivating for me, It was the first time in my life that I remember somebody using a term to describe my presence. I thought, is that really how I was coming off? I still think that to some degree, that’s probably how I came across to him, but even one person using that term to describe me was not okay. And so from a young age, I started becoming very aware that crafting your presence and showing up in the way that you want to be viewed and ensuring that that is how you are perceived is so important and so powerful. It sounds fortunate that it had to be somebody saying something less positive. It is something that I am constantly reflecting on, it’s like go through phases of my own business and career. And it absolutely something that I work with my clients as well. Being intentional about our presence.
COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers, what are the biggest family related challenges you’re facing as a woman business leader during the pandemic?
Monique Maley: The hardest thing is being the piggy in the middle where I’m the single parent to a teenager and I’m the only child to an 87-year-old, so I’m a caregiver on both ends. I’m also a caregiver for my clients to a large degree so that pull in different directions with different skillsets being required to care for two very, very different individuals while still trying to hold on and take care of myself because if I’m not okay, and if I am depleted, then I can’t bring anything to them. I think that the heavier lift or the bigger struggle for me has been my mom. Not because of her age, almost because truthfully at her age, she’s still incredibly vital, very active, very intelligent, but she moved to a new city and moved into her new place two weeks before the COVID shut down. So a city that she had been walking around and getting to know now suddenly she’s shut in her place with no friends around, no other contact, no way to do the things that she loves and a greater depth for someone who’s been very, very independent. Despite her age, it’s completely turned around. So now I’m the chauffeur, I’m the tech support, I’m the business manager, I’m Instacart and somewhere in there, I get to be her daughter. That has been a huge, huge struggle. I’m so blessed because my mother is she’s fully self-sufficient. Before she moved, she was still driving. She was going to the gym three to four days a week. She was taking classes at The University. That’s who she is. So for her to be shut in is just completely not like her. So she’s going crazy. But then to boot, I am now a full-time caregiver, which I have never been with her. I mean, I’ve helped her and I do a few things, but now it’s everything, every day. That’s been the hardest part for me. Plus still being the organized and running the business. I also think it’s important to mention that I’ve always hated working from home. It’s never been my thing. I like to go to an office, but working from home, it’s very important to me. I have an office with a door. I have office hours. I like to be very firm with those boundaries because that is how I am most productive. It also allows clients to know when I’m available to them and that I am available to them in those times. So being distracted by family things, both sides of this equation know that these are my boundaries. It doesn’t sometimes stop them from treading into them but the point is that I think that it’s important for me and my clients and my business to have these boundaries.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Monique Maley: Yes, I turned my guest room into my office after too long at the dining room table thinking it was a short term thing. I gave up my lease on my office. I reinforce my office hours and my boundaries. I don’t let myself get distracted by things at home. I’m gratefully no longer sitting three feet away from my refrigerator. I think women will understand that that’s a good thing.
Can you share the biggest work-related challenges you’re facing as a woman in business during the pandemic?
Monique Maley: For me, my biggest challenge has been keeping my focus on abundance versus scarcity. I kicked off 2020 and the first two months were the best two months I’d ever had in 10 years of business. My roadmap for the year was really well-planned. I did a deep strategic plan at the end of last year. I made new hires in January. Then suddenly March came and everything changed. And for a professional services business like mine, which is where business development is largely referral word of mouth, meeting people in person, and speaking engagements where people get to know me, get to hear me, get to understand the value that I bring, COVID has brought all kinds of challenges. But the biggest challenge, however, is my own mindset and ensuring that I’m fully focused on opportunities even if they may look different. And just knowing that they’re out there and not letting worries or fears around scarcity dominate my thinking or my planning. As I go to create a new strategic plan, not letting myself get overwhelmed by thoughts of “what if” or “can’t find enough” or “what happens at the end of the year?” I just have to say to myself there is an opportunity out there. I just have to find it in new and creative ways. And so what have I done to address those challenges? Honestly, it’s in leveraging conversations with colleagues, with friends, and ultimately, the most important conversation that anybody can have, which is the conversation with themselves. I am having much more structured, clear, and intentional conversations with myself about the vision that I want moving forward, seeing this as an opportunity to maybe craft a business in a new way for the next 10 years, or at least five years. So those very intentional conversations and not trying to solve every challenge at once, but taking small challenges, one at a time and addressing those. And once that’s resolved, then I can move on to the next, giving myself micro wins, which again helps keeps me keep me focused on abundance and not scarcity.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
Monique Maley: I love having my office outside of my home. I’ve never liked seeing work while I was at home and enjoying a relaxing weekend. And I’ve never liked to think about home while I was really fully focused at work. Obviously, the pandemic has changed that. But having an office for me with a door minimizes distractions, whether it be questioning teenagers or barking dogs, and having hours that I commit to sitting at my desk. I also shut everything down at a certain time, unless there’s a real emergency. And the third thing is that I have really found that I got into this black hole that everybody else did at the beginning of the shutdown, which is I was living in yoga pants and Uggs. Now I dress for work. I find that really helped me, just the fact that I’m wearing something different Monday through Friday, then I wear on Saturday and Sunday is just uplifting for me, helps me be much more productive. Obviously, for me, it’s, it’s important for my presence and presentation. So people are still seeing me. People are still making judgments of me when they see me. So my hair is done. Finally got a haircut, my makeup’s always done. I’m dressed for work, even if they don’t see the bottom half, the bottom half is also dressed for work. I don’t just have on a silk blouse and yoga pants. I find that that putting on my work uniform, even though it’s a very, very comfortable uniform, I’ve never believed in buying stylish work clothes that weren’t comfortable, but having that, shifts my mindset into work mode. And then when work is over, I walk across the hall to my bedroom and I change it into my after-work casual, comfy clothes. And that really does set the tone, like crossing over the boundary from one to the other.
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside for long periods of time with your family?
Monique Maley: My short answer is you don’t stay sane. Accepting it, accepting that I’m not going to feel sane. And I think the most important thing for me is, you know, accepting it. I think believing that I should feel sane or that it should feel okay or that it should feel normal really only creates more stress. I think women do this to themselves all the time. You know, they want to be this picture-perfect sports illustrated model or you know, some perfect image of a senior leader on Forbes or anything like that, whatever that is. It’s just some sort of photo-shopped perfection. And I just, this absolute horsefeathers right? The key for me is to realize it is okay for this to suck. It’s okay to get stuff wrong. It’s okay to have bad days. It’s okay that this is doesn’t feel normal and that I don’t necessarily feel sane. It doesn’t mean that I can’t be productive. It doesn’t mean that I can’t be great for my clients. It doesn’t mean that I can’t be there for my son or my mom. I think it is more damaging to try and convince yourself to be sane in a situation that doesn’t feel like something a sane person would be doing by choice. So I think as women, we’re very hard on ourselves, we think it’s not okay to have bad days. We think it’s not okay to not be the perfect mom or the perfect daughter, the perfect wife, or we’re expected to be some sort of Photoshopped image of a woman. And honestly, in my experience, professional men have no problem with that. They just keep moving forward and they don’t worry about being perfect. I think that that is something that we can take from them. So for me, I just think about the movie Frozen and how Elsa keeps singing “let it go” and I just let it go. Let it go. It’s okay that it doesn’t feel normal. It’s okay. It’s okay if it’s messy. It’s okay if it’s not perfect. It’s okay.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
Monique Maley: My first point is that I grew up with a mother who had to run away from two Wars. The family left everything that they had. When she was running away from the second world war, she was on a ship that was trailed by a German U-boat. I mean, these are the kinds of things she experienced living in a place where bombs were falling on people’s homes, where food was scarce. But for most people in this country, we are blessed enough to still have homes, to still have jobs, to, to have all that opportunity. And so much of this is, is really at the end of the day, is just a deeper inconvenience for the many people who are essential workers or people who’ve been laid off. It’s a very, very different conversation. So this for me, this is my mindset. I’m very clear that that is a mindset of someone who’s deeply privileged. I could not, and would never want to try and give a perspective to someone who is living such a different life than I am. I think it would be ridiculous for me to try and put myself in their shoes. Number two is acknowledging that Zoom is a thing and video conferencing is a tool and a way to stay connected. We have ways to keep working. We have ways to engage. Here we a week after the Democratic Convention, which I think is a perfect example of how you can get really creative on how to engage with people, how to connect with people, and get creative with it. All in-person work is now being done remotely, our job now is that not only do we become familiar with it but also ask how can we get creative with it? How do we start leveraging these tools that are at our fingertips and, and find ways to make them useful for as we work as professionals. How does it fit into our company culture or the needs that our clients have? Zoom is a thing. Now we get to get creative with it. I think it’s an exciting opportunity for us. Number three is getting creative in all facets of your business. Starting in theater, my experience was always that the more awkward the theater space, the more interesting and creative the set designers were. Creativity fills the void when easy options are taken away from us. So I think this has been an opportunity to really unleash creativity and not hold yourself to any kind of boundaries, In terms of what’s possible for your business, what’s possible for your customers. Stay focused on your mission, stay focused on your vision, but then, you know, be open to re-evaluating and, and reimagining the product workflow or the customer experience, or anything that might help move your business forward in a time where that is almost a necessity.
Another light at the end of the tunnel for me is this I think this has made us realize how as professionals, how important interpersonal relationships and engaging in casual conversations with our coworkers helps drive business and the challenges that can exist when we are in the silos of everybody’s sitting in their own home. I actually think it’s a good thing, mostly because of the awareness it creates. We do have to work harder to engage and stay connected but I think the awareness on how important those casual conversations, those water cooler conversations, those walking past the office and overhearing something in the cubicle next to you, how incredibly crucial that is to your work, to your team’s work and ultimately to the furthering of the mission of the organization. I may not be able to leverage that fully till we can all be in person more, but hopefully, that awareness will stick with us because I think it’s important to, to think about how can I do more of that now, and then how can we be more intentional with it when there is an office to go back to. Yeah. That sense of connection. So being aware of that interpersonal connection, you know, because before this, everybody was writing articles about how, you know, the physical workplace is going to go away. Everybody’s going to work remotely eventually. Okay, well now we’re in it. Okay. We’ve tried this right now. Let’s go back and, and take advantage of the things that being in an office. What makes us, what makes us better? What makes our organization better? What makes our outcomes better for our company? What makes the engagement better for our clients? For our think that that’s, that’s a really great thing. And then finally, I’ve been thinking a lot about the book The Confidence Code and what it says about women actually having a part of our brain that is dedicated to worry. I found this incredibly enlightening. All the research shows that women by nature tend to be worriers. And this environment certainly is a perfect place to worry whether you’re worried about your business or your job, or your kids in school or parent’s health. I mean, there’s a million things to worry about. The thing that I just keep coming back to is just reminding myself from a practical data point, that actually worrying about it has never made any situation better, never. I wish it had because every problem in my life would have been solved beautifully by now. So I just keep reminding myself of this when my brain starts to go in the way of worry. If that was a solution, I would be happy to go down that road, but since that’s not gonna solve in it, anything, I need to find something that’s solution-oriented. Again, this is why I focus on micro wins, because that’s really key for me to stay out of the w that little worry word part of the brain that seems to want to take over from time to time.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious?
Monique : By example, Having had moments in my life where I was anxious, I can say that people telling me not to be anxious, um, is very stress-provoking. So, I don’t think that I’m in a position to help anyone else identify or manage their anxiety in any way, other than trying to lead by example. I’ve had to find ways that work for me. And I just, for example, with my son who lives in the house with me, I articulate the tools that I’m using to manage anything. I’m not telling him to use those tools and that telling him that he is anxious or that he should manage his anxiety, or that I’m worried about him because of any anxiety he may have. I just verbalize what I am doing rather than addressing things behind closed doors so that he doesn’t know or doesn’t see, I am walking him through it, my own journey. And that’s how I lead by example. And I think that that allows him to see that it’s okay to have moments of anxiety it’s okay to not be okay, right. To not feel sane. And there are tools out there and the tools that work for me may not, and probably will not work for him. I mean, I’m a 54-year-old woman. He’s a 16-year-old boy, let’s be honest about, you know, what works for us. But knowing that there are tools that you can find and use and try to make things better and knowing that it’s okay to acknowledge that anxiety in yourself. I think that’s all we can do for each other.
Can you give us your favorite life lesson?
Monique Maley: The first time that I was ever asked for a life lesson quote, I was actually 18 years old and it was for my senior yearbook. And to this day, it shocked me that I knew myself this well. I said, “God grant me patience, but I want it right now.” I knew this about myself at 18 and the truth is that years later, I am much better at it, but still not great. It’s still something that I work on. Um, I, I am more aware and intentional when impatience but can still get in my way or create some sort of turbulence for me. I’ve also come to realize that like most weaknesses there’s also an upside. So whatever that thing is that makes me impatient is exactly the same thing that makes me driven. And so now my work is to figure out when does that quality create problems for me, which shows up as impatience and when can I leverage it to move myself or my business forward because that’s drive.
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