Society puts us inside boxes and conditions us to be a certain way. Who we truly are gets muffled, and we struggle to speak out. It is time to break free from the bonds that keep us from being our authentic selves. In this episode, Vaneese Johnson, The Boldness Coach™, encourages us to be BOLD, to give ourselves permission to become who we are out loud daily. She breaks down what being bold means as well as the acronyms BIG and BAD as they relate to building our personal brand. Don’t hide your value. Step forward and become visible. Join Vaneese in this conversation as she shares more of her insights on how to embrace the bold to create unstoppable success.
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Embrace The Bold: Create Success With The Authentic You With Vaneese Johnson
Vaneese, welcome to the show.
I’m excited to be here.
It’s fun as we knew each other way back when which is a story we’ll tell. You’ve got this fabulous program about bold coaching. Before we get into that, I need to ask you about who would be your dream interview. If you were to interview someone who’s no longer with us, who would it be? What would you ask them and who should be reading?
My dream interview would be with Madam C.J. Walker. Madam C.J. Walker was the first recorded female millionaire in the United States. She’s in the Guinness World Book of Records for being the first female millionaire in the United States.
She was Black in post-Civil War America.
To see a Black woman in that time period of American history achieve something so grand as that given the fact that she is coming in as a millionaire right on the heels of slavery. Her parents were slaves and her parents’ parents were slaves. At that time in America for a Black and a woman to be able to achieve such a pit of success is totally admirable.
What did Madam C.J. Walker do and talk about the politics of that? There are a lot of people who don’t know.
Madam C.J. Walker made her $1 million off of hair care products for Black Americans during that timeframe, specifically, targeting Black women. The conversation of Black women and their hair is part of American history because I don’t think I would do it justice to say it’s 1 decade or 2 decades-long conversation. It’s been a conversation from slavery. What we can appreciate, especially the international readers, is that coming from different parts of the world, we all have unique traits about us.
African women have thick hair. Let’s look at where they are on the continent in the world, the beam of heat. You take people out of their environment and bring them to the States. There is some adaptability that has to happen over time as generations are born. Madam C.J. Walker created products that gave Black women the opportunity to style their hair in a way that was more acceptable per se.
Acceptable to the dominant culture, which was the White culture.
Also, it helped to create status levels in the Black community as well. If you were presenting yourself to be dominant to the majority culture, but you also were presenting yourself from a societal level within a culture, your hair is an entree that can give you invitations into the room.
It’s taking curly hair and making it look straight which is what fits the North European Caucasian model.
In that time period, there were some little side businesses of the women that were creating hair care products, but Madam C.J. Walker focused intently on creating a formula and trying it on her own hair and on the hair of the women closest to her. That lends itself to the entrepreneurial trait 100%. As entrepreneurs, especially women entrepreneurs, we tend to try our products and our services in the community that’s most closely connected to us.
You start with the people you know.
From that point, you fine-tune that product. She also was amazing at galvanizing financial support. A lot of her supporters were men investors.
Women were not allowed to control their own money at that point.
Also, women weren’t allowed to come into the room to speak to men, especially to present them with investment opportunities. She gave us an opportunity to look at network marketing in a sense because she was able to do that to get investment, but she was also able to do network marketing to get the product out there. She was the first way before Mary Kay to be able to help women to start to build their own wealth. By helping women to go door-to-door, teaching them how to sell to salons, and how to start their own hair salons. She also was credited with manufacturing, having to create assembly lines, and a set formula to be able to replicate, produce, and then sell.
She’s a very interesting person to read about. There was a very interesting miniseries about her starring Octavia Spencer, which I would recommend streaming if you haven’t done so. It was very good. Vaneese, you are talking about boldness and how important it is to be bold. You’ve got some cool acronyms. Can tell us about the acronyms?
I want to speak about boldness and how this all came about because sometimes when we hear the word boldness and we think of something that’s brash, in a sense. Boldness is becoming out loud daily.
BOLD is Becoming Out Loud Daily.
That has to do with you being your authentic self every day in every way. It’s an evolution to become who you are in life. Why that’s important because we grow and change in different phases of our lives. Whom we used to be in our 20s is who we’re not in our 30s, and certainly who we’re not in our 50s. BOLD is a platform that gives you an opportunity to give yourself permission to become who you are out loud daily. Out loud means living and expressing your authentic self.
Give us some examples because people are always talking about your authentic self, but what does that mean?
What does that mean? What does that look, sound, and feel like?
Break it down for us.
I’ll use myself as an example. I am an outgoing person. I’m an extrovert. One of the things that I used to do very early in my career was I tried to tone myself down and fit into whatever the popular culture was in the corporate space. I’m probably speaking for a lot of women. That was something that was conditioned in us that we have to walk a certain walk, talk a certain way, and wear a certain style.
In doing that, I always felt that there was a part of me that was muffled. Throughout my workday, I was struggling because I wasn’t afforded a space to be able to speak up, share opinions and thoughts, or be able to allow my energy to vibrate the way that it does. As I moved forward into my career and started my own company, I then had an opportunity to stop and say, “Who am I? How do I want to make sure that if I’m bringing value to the world that the world can trust me? They can trust that I am a true representation of myself.”
As I stepped into owning being an extrovert and being able to learn what that feels and looks like when I’m in meetings and when I show up and dress, now I wear vibrant colors. My personality is vibrant. What’s important to me is when I walk into certain rooms that there’s a place for vibrancy. I often seek out places for vibrancy because my authentic self will be welcomed. It’s funny that a lot of people that I meet for the first time, that’s how they recognize me because they see me as vibrant. They say, “I knew it was you. I saw your red hair. I saw a colorful jacket.” They see me and they say, “I wish I could.” I tell them, “You can. You just have to find your level of bold.”
Authentic means being your true self. It’s important to be in an environment that opens up space for you to be your true self. Some people might say, “Vaneese, what happens if you can’t do that at work?” If you’re in a position where you’re always having to shadow down who you are, it affects your contributions to the company, the end user, and the relationships around you because you can’t be your authentic self. You have to question at this point what is next for you and if this is it. We all need that space to breathe.It's important to be in an environment that opens up space for you to be your true self. Click To Tweet
What do you say to introverts then or do the introverts never come to talk to you because they’re hiding?
One thing that I love about being the boldness coach is that I tell people to find their level of boldness. If you are a person that is an introvert, you still have boldness within you. Your boldness may be a quiet boldness. Your boldness could be in the way that you write. It could be that you’re part of a team and not necessarily the leader of the team. The boldness could be in your style of dress. Maybe your style of dress is more pastel and more conservative, and that’s okay. At the end of the day, what’s important about boldness is to own that which is true about you. It doesn’t matter if you’re an extrovert or an introvert.
How can we then find our personal level of bold and think about how it affects the people that we work with? If your personal level of bold is showing up in a bikini because you’re great at the gym, and got all these muscles, but you work in a bank? How do we take into account owning our authentic selves and who’s paying attention?
That brings us around to the conversation about branding. If you are the type of person that feels that level of working out or taking care of your physique is something that’s important to you and being able to share that and demonstrate that importance to the world, it’s going to be important for you to find the right outlet to do that. The challenge comes when people try to force other people around them to accept them as who they are, when in fact they perhaps might need to go and find outlets that welcome that level of boldness.
Part of why I ask is because a great deal of my work is how to shift the way you are perceived by shifting the way you communicate. It’s addressing your listeners. The listeners you want to have to listen, in a fashion that they can take it in. Rather than forcing them to listen to you the way you talk, you’ve got to do it in a way that will fit what they can hear.
You have to take into consideration your audience in every walk that you are pursuing.
Rule number one is to know your audience.
You have to know your audience. Being the boldness coach, I have the opportunity and I’m very thankful and grateful that I get to talk and interact with people from around the world. Oftentimes, I am in cultures where it is not appropriate, acceptable, or part of that culture for women to be necessarily as vibrant. I discuss with them, “Tell me what’s important to you about who you are that you want to bring to the world.” I meet people where they are. Meeting them where they are is giving them an opportunity to allow themselves to see the possibility of how they still can be authentic, even within cultures where it’s important that they follow certain guidelines. That’s still knowing your audience.
There are other audience members that I go in with who sometimes are excited about the vibrancy. They have been waiting and looking for an opportunity where they can have their energy to be expansive in that way. I give them space for that as well. When you know your audience and the room, it’s important to be able to dance. You want to make sure that it’s an inclusive environment so that there are times when your energy resonates with those that are looking for vibrancy, but you also connect with those that are looking for, “How do I be myself if I’m not that vibrant?” Language and energy have to vacillate when you’re in the room so that everyone’s included.
I like the word dance. If you think about dancing, everybody does get included. As you are talking about being bold, talk about the importance of using speaking to build your personal brand.
This takes us back to the acronyms BOLD, BIG, and BAD. We talked about BOLD, Becoming Out Loud Daily, and finding those avenues that allow you to be your authentic self. For me, speaking is one of those avenues to being my authentic self. Having that stage allows me to be able to have that vibrant energy come out of me because that’s authentically who I am.
BIG stands for Building In your Genius. This is an opportunity for all professionals to be able to take their genius and make it expansive. Here’s what I mean by that. We all have at least one talent that is innate to us that we can be able to take and make that talent expansive. I’m going to use myself again as an example. I’m a talker. Can you believe I used to get in trouble in the 3rd grade or 4th grade for talking in class? I used to have to write lines.
You were that kid.
I would have to write lines in addition to my homework, “I will not talk in class.” I cultivated my talking into a speaking career. I’m a speaker and a coach, and I do workforce development training.
Do you speak internationally?
I speak internationally as well. I’ve been blessed to be able to do that. That one innate gift of speaking led me to the opportunity of being an international speaker, a coach, and a workforce development trainer. Now, under each one of those headings are opportunities to drill down that gift even more. As a speaker in international markets, I speak to small business groups and women’s groups. I’m always in a room speaking. I’ve been a facilitator, moderator, and panelist guest before. You see how that gift keeps on giving.
As a trainer or workshop facilitator, training has also given me opportunities to do a lot of corporate work and training groups and teams. Workforce development, coupled with my HR background and speaking, helps me to work with those companies that are developing their teams and leadership. That one gift of speaking has opened up many extensions of possibilities for my career. I want everyone reading this to think about what your one innate gift is that you feel like, “I am so good at that,” and the evidence comes from people around you that say, “You’re great at that. You should do that again.”
Talk about how we reconnected and how you reminded me of an occasion.
The first time we met was at a speaking event and it was sponsored by Senator Jackie Speier, one of the senators of California. It was some type of young girl event where all of the young girls from around the county of San Francisco from all the various schools were bought to this huge auditorium to spend the day with women that could be good role models and mentors for them.
I was one of the featured speakers. It was my first time speaking on stage. There were 1,400 young girls in the audience. I got out, delivered my speech, and rocked it. They gave me rousing applause. When I got off the stage before I could leave that area, you tapped me on my forearm and said, “I don’t know what else you have planned for your career, but this is what you need to be doing for the rest of your career.” I was so blown away by that.
From that point forward, I invested in learning how to become a great speaker. I used that in my business from that point forward. That was several years ago when we met. When I saw you again, I was like, “Can I tell you how you impacted my career?” You allowed me to give myself permission to be big in my career. Thank you so much for that.
It’s this thing where you never know when one encouraging word will make a difference. I had forgotten that you were one of the many speakers and I go to a lot of speakers’ events. One of the things that I think about and ask your thoughts on is when we step forward, become visible, and show our value, visible and valued is one of the brands that I use to help people show up as leaders. It’s important for those who are still trying to decide if they dare or if they can. We are sometimes active mentors, but sometimes we’re an example to somebody.
The best thing that we can do for people is to be a demonstration of what’s possible. It’s always been that way. For me, Madam C.J. Walker is a demonstration of what’s possible in a time period where it shouldn’t have been possible but indeed, it was possible. Every time, she kept overcoming the impossible. Every time she ran into a brick wall, she had to step back and figure out, “How do I get past this brick wall?” She also didn’t do it alone. That’s important for us as a community of speakers, to know that you can achieve the highest of heights in your speaking career. Whatever level of speaking you want to do, you don’t need to do it alone.The best thing that we can do for people is to be a demonstration of what's possible. Click To Tweet
It’s the same in business and management. I’ve been hearing a lot lately about people getting promoted to new positions. Things are going to be different when you are a senior director instead of a manager. Certainly, if you’re an individual contributor promoted to manager, ask for help because you don’t have to do it alone. Another question for you is when you are working with people who are trying to find their bold, can you talk a little bit about the internal blocks that we have to be aware of? Those voices in our head that we’re so used to that we don’t notice how much they’re sabotaging us.
One of the strategies that I do with coaching clients and also when I’m speaking to groups, especially groups of women, is to first talk about self-awareness. It’s very important to intentionally be aware of yourself. Be aware of your thoughts, how those thoughts turn into actions, and what impact those actions have. That’s a great way to start. When we pay attention to what our mindset is when we are in action or about to get in action with something, that’s the perfect opportunity for us to stop and say, “What am I thinking about? Why am I thinking about this? Let me weigh my pros and cons on this. If I’m thinking it this way, I’m thinking of it that way.” That’s important.
The next step is to say, “If I were to do this thing, what would be the positive impact that this could have if I take this direction? How could it impact others and me?” You ask the reverse, “What could be the negative impact for them or for myself?” It’s important to step back and look at that. If you’re in your head too much and you’re like, “Vaneese, I can’t decide,” because sometimes that happens, it’s mindset conditioning.
People might say, “Change your mindset,” but in all honesty, we don’t wake up with the mindset one day. It’s conditioning. It’s important that when you start to recognize, “I’m getting in my own way. I’m challenging to get out of that way,” that’s where people like me as a coach, can come in and help you to lay the pieces of the puzzle on the table and talk about what it is that we see.
A lot of clients want to go to the next level and sometimes, they have created this story that has become a reality for them when, in fact, the story may not be true or parts of the story may not be true at all. That leads to another point which is self-sabotage. People typically put themselves in spaces of self-sabotage. You can inadvertently end up there, even if you’re the most, “I’m self-assured and confident. I know myself.”
However, if you are feeling any sense of unworthiness and not belonging, or any of those senses, it will put you into that self-sabotage space because you’ll find yourself trying to meet the external needs versus your internal needs. You’re responding to external expectations versus your internal expectations.
I keep thinking about a phrase I heard years ago that I go back to a lot which is, “Self-doubt will come up anytime you are stretching.” It’s anytime you’re doing something a little unfamiliar because those voices from childhood are there to keep you safe like your parents that’ll say, “Don’t touch that hot stove. Don’t run into the street.” Pieces of it stay with us as adults.
You may agree with this also. Whenever I’m in a period of stretching and I see myself stretching, and then that voice comes up, I have some trusted friends and colleagues that I call. I’m like, “Mind, I cannot be alone with you.”
Be aware of the voices.
I call someone that I trust in my circle. I try and identify if there’s someone else in my circle first who lives in the space of a stretch because they’re going to know exactly when roadblocks come up. I reach out and talk to that person. I’m vulnerable and I’m like, “I’m struggling. This is what’s going on. This is where I want to go. I want to talk this out so that I can be able to get to the next level.”
What helps out so much is having a community or network of people that you trust around different areas of your growth. Some of them are great for leadership. Some of them are great to help you to refine your communication skills. Some of them are great to help you with your visual brand. You have to make sure that you get the support that you need so that you’re not left alone trying to figure this out.
The worst thing is when you’re stuck in your own head because there are these voices that you listen to.
For anyone reading, I don’t know if you’ve read this before, Oprah mentioned one time she had twenty coaches. Here’s the beautiful thing about that. Oprah is a billionaire. She has coaches. She still has help. She had her knees replaced. She was out hiking again. She had a team of people with her hiking.
It’s to make her do it and keep her going. Vaneese Johnson, it’s so much fun to talk with you. If somebody is reading this and thinking, “She’s talking about me,” what is one thing you could do to start reaching towards your own boldness?
The one thing that you can do is to tell yourself the truth. Have that uncomfortable conversation with yourself and look at different aspects of your life. Tell yourself the truth about how you have been showing up in that particular area of your life. Have you been playing to win? Have you been playing not to lose? Have you just been playing? Have you been not playing at all? It’s important to tell yourself the truth because that, within itself, is going to propel you to say, “Do I want to continue to operate in this space knowing how I’m showing up?”Tell yourself the truth. Are you: Playing to win? Playing not to lose? Just Playing? Or not Playing at all? Click To Tweet
It’s playing to win, playing to lose, just playing, or not playing at all.
Just playing is, “I’m going along to get along.” Playing to win means you’re stretching. “I got my resources. I’m doing what I need to do.” Playing not to lose is, “I’m doing enough to get by so I don’t get called out.” Playing not at all means I’m not doing that, so you are on the sidelines. When other people are succeeding or moving forward, you’re in victimhood. “Everybody’s leaving me. I’m left behind. Nothing’s working for me.”
It’s all very well for you, but I do remember very early on in my career as an entrepreneur being taught about the three main objections you have if you are in a sales conversation. What we are talking about here is marketing yourself. You are the product to the people who can help you get past the glass ceiling. The three main objections are time, money, and success. Time and money are obvious, but the success objection is the one of, “That sounds fine for you, but it would never work for me.”
That leads me to one of the areas that I talk about with women, success intolerance.
It’s not tolerating success.
Not able to handle success. There’s a book by Gay Hendricks called The Big Leap. He has a chapter in there talking about the upper ceiling. It is very common for people, especially women to put a ceiling on their success. “I want to get here and once I get here everything will be great,” but there may be another step right up above there. “I want to be a manager. I don’t want to be a director.” If they’re doing the activities of a director, now they’re frustrated because, “I should get the title and the pay because I’m doing the work but I want to stay where I am.”
Success intolerance means not having the resources to support you or the systems in place to support yourself as you move through it. Success is a form of stretch. We all stretch on some levels in our lives for some things, but when we look at our careers, that’s more of an intentional strategic stretch that we do. It’s important that before you start to move in that direction to have that moment of self-truth with yourself because, again, you’re going to be enlightened by your answers. You then can choose at that point depending on where you want to go, and what type of success, resources, and support might you need along the way.
It is an evolution of bold. It is not, “I wake up and become the CEO of a company moving from a middle management position.” It’s evolving at that level. As you evolve, you are able to address those barriers along the way and keep going. If Madam C.J. Walker had gotten to a point where she made a product and the only thing that she did was to create it out of her kitchen or out of the back room, we would never know her.
She wouldn’t have been a millionaire.
The lesson we can take from that is every time she reached an obstacle that could have gotten in her way or did get in her way, she rallied people around her to say, “I’m stuck and this is what I need. I need you to help me.” If the people with her were like, “I can’t help you with that. That’s not appropriate for you to do that. ” She was like, “Move out the way. I’m going to find somebody else.”
That’s a great story to end on. Vaneese Johnson, thank you so very much for being on the show. I’m happy that we reconnected after all these years.
If you enjoyed this episode, tell your friends, subscribe to us on YouTube, follow us, follow Vaneese, and especially, leave us a good review on Apple Podcasts. That’s the important one. That’s the one that gets us visibility so that we can have more great conversations. I’ll see you in the next episode.
- Vaneese Johnson
- The Big Leap
- YouTube – Elizabeth Bachman, Strategic Speaking for Results
- Apple Podcasts – Speakers Who Get Results
- https://www.theboldnesscoach.com/4beliefs – A self-care guide
About Vaneese Johnson
Vaneese Johnson, The Boldness Coach™, is a certified Executive Coach, Brand Strategist, Business Coach, Author, and an award-winning International Speaker with more than 25 years of experience. Known as a truth-teller and transformation instigator, Vaneese is an expert at helping business and professional leaders claim their boldness to create unstoppable success. She combines her extensive coaching, professional development, and entrepreneurial experience with her proprietary success fundamentals of Branding their Innovative Genius (BIG) and Being Authentically Daring (BAD) to give her audience the courage to dream bigger and set larger goals for their careers, businesses, and personal lives. As an empowerment evangelist for BOLD professional and personal development, Vaneese draws upon her experience and innovative strategies to help high-performing/high-potential professionals and business leaders connect to their talents, skills, and values. She up-levels them for unparalleled business and professional growth.
Prior to joining the career coaching profession, Vaneese was the President/CEO of On the Move Staffing Services for 17 years, where she oversaw the management of 500+ employees and guided the company to a more than seven-figure revenue. She is also the Founder of the global movement, No Permission Needed™, where women leaders are encouraged to embody self-trust, self-acceptance, and self-direction to have the career and personal success they desire.
Vaneese is a sought-after international keynote speaker, panelist, trainer, and expert on leadership, business development, personal branding, career advancement, personal empowerment, communication strategies, emotional intelligence, and women’s leadership. Vaneese’s clients have included Hewlett-Packard, Wells Fargo, Nestlé, Cisco, Avaya, National Football League, Bay Area Rapid Transit, Lee Hecht Harrison, Kaiser Permanente, Life Technologies, Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Bayer, Novartis, Macy’s, Target, BlackRock, Chevron, University of San Francisco, University of California Berkeley Global, Dell Technologies and National Minority Supplier Diversity Council. International engagement locations include Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom, India, Egypt, Dubai, and the Bahamas. Currently, Vaneese is a Lead Instructor for UC Berkeley Global in Career Services Division delivering a robust curriculum to international students on career development and management. Vaneese has spoken to thousands of professionals worldwide, covering various industries and age groups. Her informative and inspiring presentations are infused with valuable and actionable techniques to help audiences own their boldness and make a purposeful difference in the world