“It is my unwavering belief that every one of us has a mighty woman inside.” This is what Lesley Michaels powerfully declares in this amazing episode. She believes in the voice we each hold inside that, too often, women are afraid to unleash. So Lesley calls us to be bold and audacious! She joins Elizabeth Bachman to stress this message as she shares with us her book, On the Shoulders of Mighty Women. Lesley offers a modern feminist’s guide to conquering this ever-changing and dynamic world, where people fight for equitable treatment for everyone and where women recognize their power and brilliance. This is a very timeless and necessary conversation in this day and age. Allow Lesley’s insights to inspire you to step into the mighty woman you already are!
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On The Shoulders Of Mighty Women With Lesley Michaels
My guest in this episode is Lesley Michaels, the author of the wonderful book, On The Shoulders of Mighty Women. Before I get into the whole conversation I had with her, let me talk to you about showing up. Lesley is showing up, and her book is all about showing up. If you are curious about how your presentation skills help you show up at your organization and in the world, you can take our free four-minute quiz at www.SpeakForResultsQuiz.com. That’s where you can see where you are showing up as strong, authentic, and powerful as a leader, and where perhaps a little bit of support could help you get the results you need and the recognition you deserve.
I’m honored to have Lesley Michaels back in the program. We’ve had her here a couple of times. Lesley Michaels is a keynote speaker and transformational coach who applies simple brain science to reset habitual behavior patterns and establish the mindset of unwavering self-trust. She also leads women to build strategic alliance networks to elevate their effectiveness and strengthen their voices as leaders in the business arena.
More than ever before, life in the time of COVID-19 has taught us that we need consistent and never-ending innovation, agility to pivot with ease and evergreen resilience to create sustainable success. Lesley helps the individual organization and leadership to not just navigate but employ change as a strategy for creating new opportunities to achieve maximum performance in business and life.
Coaching and advocating for those with unacknowledged or undervalued voices is central to Lesley’s life and work. She’s often referred to as the Coach’s Coach. Lesley is admired for her inspiring impact on creative thinkers, social innovators, transformational coaches, and heart-centered leaders worldwide. The book is called On The Shoulders of Mighty Women. Here’s this wonderful interview with the very interesting Lesley Michaels.
Lesley Michaels, thank you so much for coming back to the show. Welcome.
Thank you, Elizabeth. It is my delight always to come and have a conversation with you.
It’s fun to have you with us as well because you gave us such an interesting interview earlier in 2022 about creating strategic alliances among women. You have written the book. It’s been out for a bit, but we are broadcasting this pre-Christmas 2022 so that everybody is going to be able to go out and get this awesome book. Before I get into the book called On The Shoulders of Mighty Women, I’d like to ask you, who would be your dream interview? Normally I will say someone historic, but for this episode, I’m not going to give that restriction. To whom would it be? What would you ask them? Who should be listening?
I would interview Stacey Abrams. You have an international audience. She is a dynamic woman who ran for Governor in Georgia once and was defeated. She’s running again, and we are pushing with everything we have to support her to get there. I would ask her what those of us who are fully engaged but might not be thinking, what she could do to help push the envelope to bring about more democracy and equity for women. I would also want to ask her what it feels like to be an icon and how does she plan to use that most effectively?
For international readers, if you’ve never seen a picture of Stacey Abrams, she’s Black. She ran for governor and got very close. It is possible that on the behalf of the White men who were running the elections, she only lost because of dirty tricks. She was instrumental in getting Raphael Warnock as the Black senator, which changed the balance of power in the Senate. In 2022 and we’ve had several years of great polarization. She is awesome. Years from now, we’re going to say, “I want to interview Stacey Abrams. She’s quite something.” How would it be to be an icon? How does this relate to your wonderful book, On The Shoulders of Mighty Women?
It is my unwavering belief that every one of us has a mighty woman inside of us. Too many of us are not giving her voice. We are afraid to challenge the status quo and shift the paradigm. If ever there was a moment, this is it for women to begin to speak up and be loud, bold and audacious. That is what a mighty woman is. We all have it inside of us.Every one of us has a mighty woman inside of us. Click To Tweet
The cover of the book is very beautiful. It’s a good book. It’s very well written. I enjoyed reading it. We’ve been talking a lot about women and the mighty women in the book. Why does each one belong in the chapter or the theme where you mentioned her?
You’ve read the book. I have two different groups of mighty women in the book. I have first the ones who were my great influences and put me on the path to looking for something more and being willing to speak to something more from my audacious suffragette grandmother through my first four mentors, all women who were my senior, powerful and accomplished who volunteered to be my first mentors.
We have a different group, the second group of mighty women. Five of them contributed greatly to five different chapters each in their area of expertise. I will use Dr. Shelly Greene as an example. Shelly, my dear friend, had finished her PhD. She was looking for some way to equip her kids so that they would have viability in the marketplace, in an area that drove their passion.
She ran across a robotics program. She started teaching it to her kids. Fifteen years later, she has been inducted into the Robotics Hall of Fame. She has been named The Fourth Top Robotics Coach on The Planet. She has this amazing team. What is most interesting to me about this is that Shelly is from New Mexico, one of the poorest states in the country.
If you’re in Pennsylvania, Ohio, California or New York, the kids in those schools can letter in robotics the same way they would in basketball. There’s not a single robotics course anywhere in New Mexico. She built this entire program and a massive team that’s winning international awards on $10 per grandma, bake sales and everywhere that she could get support. I have amazing respect for her.
New Mexico does have the Los Alamos Labs, so it does have the town of Los Alamos, which is full of scientists. I imagine that’s a bubble.
It’s a bubble, and it’s a different approach to science because Los Alamos is all about nuclear energy versus robotics.
Science is a large category. Good for her. That’s a great example. You are a modern-day feminist. What is feminism and what isn’t?
I love this question. Thank you for asking me. Let’s start with what it isn’t. It is not a movement to overthrow men. It is not a movement that hates men or wants to oppress men and flip the power balance so that only women are on top. All of these are urban myths that have been perpetuated so strongly that too many people believe them. A feminist is someone who believes in the equal and equitable treatment of all people, regardless of gender, culture, race and religious experience. Feminism is the perpetuation of that belief, becoming involved politically, socially, and grassroots organizations to bring awareness and change into our society, political arena and business arena.A feminist is someone who believes in the equal and equitable treatment of all people. Click To Tweet
You talk about the primary message of the book being the importance of strategic alliances. Why is it necessary to write a book? There are plenty of books out there about women’s empowerment. Why is this one different and important? Readers, this is a book that’s different, important and worth reading. I can guarantee that having read it. Lesley, what’s your explanation for why it matters?
I can only offer the perspective from which I wrote the book, which was I did not want to address just one area of women’s lives or another. There are so many books and I do not disparage them. They fill my bookshelves. There are so many books that speak to just one area of women’s lives or another. Whether it is in society, school, our literature or our nonfiction, women have been compartmentalized to the point that they have forgotten to a great degree who they are. They have ceased to acknowledge everything they accomplish.
In doing so, they have not been able to recognize the power and brilliance that they are. I went into this book to approach women from several perspectives in terms of their lives. It’s impossible to put all of a woman’s life into one book. I wanted to bring in different perspectives, activities and engagements that the average woman is involved in on a daily and weekly basis and then to very clearly illustrate through data and story how women in each one of these areas are placed in a position of being 2nd class or 3rd class citizens and how we can make changes so that we no longer remain in those positions.
A very large part of the work that I do is helping women recognize the things that we do. As children, we are socialized, not necessarily actively trained, to be nice and defer. If you want to talk about history and so forth, one can see why it’s useful for a certain part of society to keep their power by not allowing power to women and certainly women of color. That’s something that is changing slowly. As we are talking about it, one of the things I love about the book is that you don’t just complain. You talk about, “What can we do about it?” You have your three tables with the to-do list for the short-term, long-term and the to-do list for yourself, which I hadn’t seen before. I loved that. Talk a little bit about that one.
Thank you. That was something I created for myself. I was brutal on myself. Everything I speak about in this book, I know firsthand. With all of the falling downs and bad habits, the women can rest assured that I’ve been there. I would start something and then stop. We’ve all been there. I was trying to determine a way to keep myself accountable so I created a list. These are the things I’d like to do. It naturally broke down into, “I can do these things weekly. I can only do a couple of these things a year. I can only do this once every few years.” Therein began the charts.
For years, I have invited women to create these charts to do for you. These are the things you’re going to do every week. These are the more significant things that you are going to be sure and incorporate in your life at least twice a year, whether it’s a weekend trip, a vacation, or whatever it is. This is that great dream that you have left on the shelf to the point that it has 2 inches of dust on it.
Let’s pull it out, knock off the dust, put it on your chart and put a timeline on it. Your timeline may be next year or six years from now. It doesn’t matter what it is. Put it on there and then read that every day. You will find yourself spontaneously here and there doing little things to prepare for that trip because it’s getting closer.
Another thing that you talked about is the importance of mentors. That’s something that I talk about a lot, especially different kinds of mentors. You have a wonderful quote by Mary Stutts.
Mary Stutts is the author of The Missing Mentor. The entire book is about women’s resistance to mentoring and coaching. Ms. Stutts says, “Women are way behind in developing and utilizing mentors. Women need to create a development plan to gain experience and be deliberate about each step along the way. Even in executive positions, very few women have any development plan and this is scary. I’ve found that many women are developing comfort by finding a group of peers who meet monthly in intentional alliance groups. It is helping them to get past this fear of support and this false idea that women have that they must do everything on their own or it isn’t valid.”
I’ve been thinking about that and I believe that some of that, for me at least, comes from being taught to be careful. We’ve heard the phrase, “Boys are taught to be courageous and girls are taught to be careful.” There’s also in there an implied message that if a boy makes a mistake, they get up and brush himself off. If a girl makes a mistake, it’s forever. You have to be perfect.
As a recovering perfectionist myself, I did a lot of damage to myself in my younger years trying to be perfect and live up to impossible standards, most of which were in my head. If I had ever asked about those impossible standards, people said, “No, we don’t hold you to those standards,” but I thought and that’s one of the ways that girls are socialized.
Mary Stutts, besides being a wonderful human being, she’s a great example of how to rise and get mentors. One of the things that I find is that women tend to network sideways with peers because it’s comfortable. Instead of finding mentors who are a few steps ahead of you down the road or maybe quite a bit ahead of you down the road but who have the power to help you talk a little bit about why it doesn’t feel safe to ask and that’s going to lead us into the comfort zone versus the stretch zone, which is another great phrase of yours.
Early on when I was in corporate oil, I had a wonderful mentor.
You were in the oil and gas industry, right?
Back when I was the only woman in the room but I did have a wonderful mentor. He always mentored me by asking me questions that he knew I probably couldn’t answer and then he’d give me the answer. One of the most important questions he ever asked me is, “Who would be your ideal mentor?” I named a few people and he said, “You are making the mistake that every woman I encounter makes. You are better than that. Reach up.”
Women are afraid to reach up because they are afraid to expose what they don’t know. Only by exposing what you don’t know can you put yourself in a position to be effectively mentored. That has still stayed with me, the fact that we are afraid to reach up. The reason is we are afraid to expose what we don’t know.Women are afraid to reach up because they are afraid to expose what they don't know. But only by exposing what you don't know can you put yourself in the position to be effectively mentored. Click To Tweet
It’s because we’re supposed to be perfect. If you make a mistake, it reflects on every woman, which is not so much the case anymore, but it was in my childhood. It was the implicit message, which kept me small.
If men make a mistake, it’s a mistake. If women make a mistake, it’s a character flaw. They are the first to judge as such and they are their worst critics and their harshest abusers. This is a tradition that we must stop.
One of the things about admitting a mistake is you survive. You don’t die. It’s not the end of the world. You say, “That was a mistake.” Practice saying, “I got that wrong. Let me make it better.” That was a hard one for me to learn and accept. You have a section in the book called The Comfort Zone Versus The Stretch Zone. Let’s talk about that.
The Comfort Zone could be accurately renamed The Habit Zone. That is where we have grown so comfortable that we have roots in the center of the Earth and that is keeping us from moving and expanding. What I encourage women to do is to find any area that repeats itself in their life, whether it is that they have to do this type of presentation on a regular, biweekly basis or whatever the situation is that they find incredibly uncomfortable and begin speaking confidence to themselves around doing this very specifically. When they do not hit the mark that they had set for themselves, I have a sentence that I invite them to start playing with, “No one died today.” Put it in the context that no one died today so there is another day.
That’s going to be a tweetable tweet. How can we move forward and move up? You do a lot of work helping women form strategic alliance groups. Please talk to us about this. How can we learn more?
I write about how to form a strategic alliance group in the book. Also, I work directly with women to help them to create a very stable alliance group and then I step out. They can take it from there. I work with people in individual instruction and group instruction through the book. The reason for a strategic alliance is multiple.
First of all, you form a bond and have a relationship with these women so you become comfortable putting out your challenges and the areas where you feel like you are blundering. I always encourage a strategic alliance group that they rotate. Each month, someone else leads with their new content so you get to practice with a friendly audience and get generous feedback. Also, the strategic alliance groups I’ve been involved with and am still involved with, that has been a rich source of important connections.
Your support group there can also push you when you’re playing small. It’s so much easier to do that for somebody else or someone else who can see when you’re playing small and say, “You could do farther and more.”
When you set up very clear house rules, I call them, a person is comfortable receiving that because they are asked, “May I tell you something? Can I point something out? May I offer an observation?” It’s a very neutral space and then the person receiving it takes that in and determines how, if anything, and when they want to make a change in that area. That’s one of the house rules.
One of the things I love about the things that I do with the visible and valued masterminds is you have a group that is your safe space, your base. Women do that in some ways because of being taught to be small, not push and don’t be aggressive or obnoxious. If you speak up for yourself, no one’s going to die. Even if you get pushback and you will get pushback, it’s not the end of the world. It’s akin to growing up with siblings or not. If you grow up as an only child, you don’t learn how to fight early on, whereas with siblings, you learn how to fight and then survive. I certainly remember times in my life looking at older women and saying, “Those sisters like each other. How could that be? I’m never going to like my sisters.” Sisters are your best support. How could somebody start a strategic alliance group?
First of all, determine the area in life that you want to focus on. It’s deeply important that you focus a group on an area. You will cover many topics within that area but whether it’s professional advancement or social justice, pick your group area. Consider everyone you know. Who might be interested in this? Who might be a good partner in coming into a group like this with you?
Have a conversation and remember that they know people you don’t know. You create a group. I recommend twelve as a number for a group. You meet once a month and not everyone is going to make it to every meeting. Twelve gives you enough that when you have a meeting, there are going to be enough people showing up to make it worth your time. Time is a great expense in our lives.
Take time for yourself. Your long-term development is always hard when there are always fires to be put out that always demand on your time.
Twelve is not too large of a group when everyone shows up. It’s a very nice balance point. You start with your topic. You start speaking with individuals who might want to be involved. You create a name for your group. This gives it a level of gravitas. You are not coming here to chat or with your lunch. This is a meeting like any other meeting. You create house rules that everyone verbally agrees upon. Start moving forward with your conversations, practices or whatever is applicable to the area you’re focused on.
Lesley Michaels, that’s a great line to end on. Thank you so much for being a guest on the show. For you, dear readers, let me remind you that if you are curious about your presentation skills, how you are showing up and how you are perceived, you can take our free four-minute assessment at www.SpeakForResultsQuiz.com. That’s where you can see where you are showing up as strong, powerful, and authentic, and where perhaps a little bit of support could get you the results you need and the recognition that you deserve. Thank you again, Lesley Michaels. I will see you all at the next one.
Thank you, Elizabeth.
- On The Shoulders of Mighty Women
- Lesley Michaels
- Interview – Past Episode
- Stacey Abrams
- The Missing Mentor
About Lesley Michaels
Lesley Michaels ran up the ranks of corporate oil before women were common in that industry. Later pivoting into coaching she became a highly sought-after public speaker on the topic of habitual human behavior. Lesley has trained and led programs around the globe in the areas of mindset-reset for effective communication, resilience, leadership, transformation, and relationships. Her powerful and practical talks offer a unique bridge between self-development and professional excellence. Each presentation is crafted to inspire, empower, and guide people to achieve greater impact through heightened awareness, authenticity, transparency and audacious action.
Lesley shares skills, tools, strategies and practices, based in brain-science that extend value beyond the event-setting to achieve sustainable results. Reinvention, resilient leadership, and lasting personal, professional and business growth are the cornerstones of what Lesley brings to every speaking and coaching engagement.
Most recently, Lesley has employed all her passions and well-tuned skills toward development of a new company, Never Too Late Media. This umbrella brand houses her ‘Women We Should Know’ podcast, her book ‘A Circle of Women’ being released early 2021 and her event organization International Strategic Alliance of Women. Coaching and advocating for those with unacknowledged or under-valued voices is central to Lesley’s life and work. Often referred to as ‘the coach’s coach’ Lesley Michaels is admired for her inspiring impact on creative thinkers, social innovators, transformational coaches and heart-centered leaders worldwide.