Consistently Invest in Growth

Maria Moss Phoenix Leadership Solutions

We are joined by a passionate people developer and self-described rebel with a cause, Maria Moss! Maria is a training and development consultant and the owner of Phoenix Leadership Solutions, a training consulting firm that utilizes classroom-based learning and development programs to help empower leaders to reach their full potential. By sharing the discoveries, challenges, and lessons she has encountered on her journey towards creating her destiny, Maria helps entrepreneurs and individuals find their ‘magic’: that special mix of passion and talent that will propel them towards the future of their dreams! In today’s episode, we unpack what it means to invest in personal and professional growth and how to set yourself up for success, which Maria believes comes down to consistency over time and focusing on the right systems to keep you on track. We hope you’ll join us! You’ll walk away with some fantastic insights into how to find your magic that might just change your perspective on training, personal development, leadership, and perseverance.

Key Points From This Episode

  • How Maria found her love for training and development.
  • Some of the little moments that keep her motivated, even on her worst days.
  • How she helps organizations sustain and ignite their most valuable asset: their people.
  • Maria’s view of individual success: the lessons you learn can never be taken from you.
  • An organizational perspective on training and development, pre-and post-COVID.
  • The value of consistency and implementing tools and systems to help you stay on track.
  • Learning to embrace the process and celebrate your wins along the way!
  • The key role that reflecting on your progress plays in keeping you motivated.
  • Maria’s morning ritual of expressing gratitude, forgiving herself for yesterday’s mistakes, and setting her intention for the day.
  • The power of a smile to change your mindset.
  • How you can benefit from viewing your low moments as opportunities for growth.

[INTRODUCTION]

[00:00:01] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Branch Out, a Connection Builders podcast. Helping middle market professionals connect, grow, and excel in their careers. Through a series of conversations with leading professionals, we share stories and insights to take your career to the next level. A successful career begins with meaningful connections.

[00:00:20] AD: Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Branch Out podcast. I’m your host, Alex Drost. Today I’m joined by Maria Moss, who is a passionate people developer and a rebel with a cause. Maria is a training and development consultant and Owner of Phoenix Leadership Solutions. Maria and I discuss what it means to invest in personal and professional growth and how to set yourself up for success, which comes down to consistency over time and focusing on the right systems to keep you on track. I hope you all enjoy.

[00:00:53] ANNOUNCER: Connect and grow your network. We are on LinkedIn. Search for Connection Builders.

[INTERVIEW]

[00:01:01] AD: Maria, welcome to the Branch Out podcast. Excited to have you here today.

[00:01:05] MM: Thank you, Alex. Excited to be here. Glad to be a part of this conversation.

[00:01:09] AD: I’m going to speak to our listeners for a minute here. I met Maria and I saw Maria speak in a keynote at a recent conference I was at. It was the AAM, Association for Accounting Marketers. Maria had shared a keynote around crucial conversations. I loved what it took away from it, and followed up. We’ve had a few conversations. We’ve actually just before we jumped on recording here, we’ve been talking for the last 15 minutes, just bouncing around ideas. I really just love your personality. I love what you do. I’m excited to just talk through and learn more about you today. Maybe it’d be helpful if you start the conversation off with just sharing a bit about yourself, your background, and kind of what you do today and then we’ll take the dialogue from there.

[00:01:49] MM: All right, awesome. Perfect, Alex. A little about me. I am presently working in the world of facilitation, training, development, but my background actually is, I initially went to school to study criminal justice. I worked for some time as a probation officer, and it was one of those times where you just kind of fall into your career. I was doing probation work and often asked to help train, and teach other probation officers, which I was like, “Okay. That’s cool. I like it.” Worked there for a time, got moved to another company, and was doing some other things around the tech world, and again, kind of came up, can you help create some SOP, some standard operating procedures, train new people, let them sit with you. I’m like, “Okay.”

It was just kind of realizing that I absolutely liked that part of the job the most, no matter what my career was, or what I was doing at the time. The helping and teaching other people I loved the most. It was like, “Okay. I think like this can be a job.” Moved to, in that organization, the actual training team, and that was really where my eyes were open to training as a profession, the scope of it, the learning professions, how to really get into organizations, get in with teams, get in with individuals and help people find their successes. Worked at that organization for a while, left, moved to another company that was more global. I really got into leadership development as a whole. So, coaching, and mentoring, and facilitating, and designing content.

I spent about five years there, loving everything. Until one day, of course, which sometimes happens, our organization had layoffs. It was kind of at the crossroads of, “Do I just take another job or do I try out this consulting style of training, and developing and go out on my own?” Conversation with my husband, he said, “The worst thing that can happen is you have to get a job, but you should try it out on your own and see what happens.” Six years later, I’m working for myself, I run a leadership consulting business called Phoenix Leadership Solutions, where we offer training and development and coaching and mentoring programs for organizations.

Then, in the last, probably about a year and a half, actually been working a lot more also in stepping out as keynote, and life coaching type stuff that I’ve accidentally fallen into as my life tends to keep doing, but actually fallen into coaching individuals, doing some more live coaching, and keynotes around just things that matter to me. Kind of marrying that with my training world that I get to do every day. That is kind of where I am right now.

[00:04:03] AD: I love your story. It’s one of unknown paths, that one thing leads to another, and it sounds like through any challenges, career, professional challenges you’ve had along the way, you’ve taken that and turned that into a positive, and spun that into an opportunity to continue to try new things and evolve into who you are today in the work you do today. Now, I heard from you loud and clear, you are passionate about training, passionate about learning and development and, it sounds like, passionate about leadership and kind of personal self-growth. Is that kind of a fair way of looking at it?

[00:04:37] MM: Absolutely. It just is – just seeing other people and finding what’s special about them or finding those skills or overcoming those obstacles. That’s what keeps me going. Even on days where, pre-COVID, I would have three, four cities in a week and different clients that I’m working with, and kind of hitting that point of exhaustion. There would always be that moment where someone would come and be like, “This was amazing,” or “I just gained so much,” or “You really spoke to me, and I really want to work on this thing.” Even those little moments are like the ‘keep going’ for me. So definitely a passion and something that I just find motivating, even on my worst days.

[00:05:14] AD: I love it. I love that. I resonate with that. I think we all, I think get a sense of fulfillment and when we help others. I think that’s a big win. When you step back and recognize that you feel more successful, and you feel happier when you help other people. That tends to make life easier in many ways, and what we do easier in many ways. It tends to make finding success and happiness easier.

Now, a question for you, though, and I ask this oftentimes. Training and development, learning and development, investing in ourselves, leadership development, that kind of stuff gets put on the back burner, it doesn’t get as much priority, it’s very elusive at times. What does it really mean? Help me understand a little more. Dig into what that all means at a high level.

[00:05:52] MM: I love it. I think, you know, one of the things that I always keep in mind, because you’re absolutely right. Back to my being laid off, one of the things I always knew going into corporate was that training is usually the first group affected. When there are layoffs, when there are reduction in staff, it’s training. That’s always been in the back of my mind, and it definitely is, because people sometimes don’t see the value. To me, it is about helping, on the organizational side, organizations ignite and sustain the one thing they have that helps them to continue to contribute, be successful, stand out in the market and that is the people.

If your people aren’t skilled, A, in how to work together, how to connect, how to have those strong interpersonal interactions that lead to the team’s success, you’re just going to be replacing people. You’re going to constantly be in that state of replacing people and never hit those successes. I feel like on one side, especially the organization side, it’s helping to grow the one thing that they have that makes them successful, and honestly, is the people that work there in different ways. So, whether it’s around technical skills, project skills, people skills. All that comes together to lead to successful organizations.

Then when I think about individual success too; anything that you learn is something that can never be taken from you. For individuals, it’s realizing, “I need to develop and grow myself, A, because, yeah, it might help me get this promotion, or it might help me get this new job. But B, I always feel most importantly, it’s helping me be a better me.” I definitely feel like leadership development, coaching, all that isn’t necessarily to change you in a ‘you’re wrong or broken or need to be fixed’ type mindset. It’s more to grow you and it’s a skillset that you will never, ever lose.

I just often think back on trainings that I went through, or courses that I attended years ago, and how so much of that still sticks with me and just helped me to show up and be better in all aspects of my life, whether it’s running my business, whether it’s working with my clients, or whether it’s working with my family, talking to my kids and having conversations with my parents. A lot of that is skills that I actually attended at work that I’ve translated to just all areas of my life. I think that’s kind of what I think is leadership learning development type stuff.

[00:07:59] AD: No, I agree completely/ I want to actually want to come back to the individual component. I want to dig in around that a second, but I want to want to jump back from it and I’m going to share maybe some of my own thoughts around this, specifically to companies and organizations that are thinking about investing in their people. The two challenges that get in the way are time and money, resources, scarcity. It’s either “we’re too busy, we have too much going on. There are too many other priorities, we don’t have time to invest in our people,” or “Things are slow, we’re worried of our business, we have to make cuts.” I’m speaking today, we’re recording this in June of 2022. It looks like a recession might be on the horizon. It’s been a wild couple of years.

For anyone who’s sitting in a position of leadership and a position of being responsible for the growth and development of people. Whether that’d be – you’re actually in an L&D role or growth capacity, or you were just simply a leader within an organization that, again, has responsibility for a team, recognize that there’s always an excuse of why whether it be we’re too busy, or there’s not the resources.

At the end of the day, it’s about prioritizing and making that investment, because when you do invest in your people, it will, long term, and this is the ROI. It’s very hard to measure. It does take time. There is no easy solution, but you should be making some initiative to make an investment in your people, and it should be a continuous thing and it shouldn’t be dependent upon – I get it, I get the realities of business. There are limitations of time. There are limitations or resources. But I highly encourage people in a leadership role to really reassess what that looks like and what level of priority that is, and what level of resource investment. Again, both time and money that you are putting into that development of your people, and yourself as an individual because, at the end of the day, that is what helps organizations drive, and grow and become a stronger organization in the law.

[00:09:45] MM: Absolutely, Alex. I love that you shared that because, to me, it makes me think of two things. One, Dr. Stephen Covey, I have his bobblehead sitting on my desk. People don’t have that bobblehead. That’s exclusive.

[00:09:54] AD: Love it. That’s cool.

[00:09:57] MM: Dr. Stephen Covey always said, “Have you ever been too busy driving to stop and get gas?” When you think about how we are working, we’re moving forward, priorities, and we have all these things we’re trying to do as organizations. If you stop, if you don’t stop to get gas, you’re going to run out, you’re going to run out. I love that you said like the time, sometimes like, “I don’t have time. I don’t have time. I don’t have time,” until you have to make time and you don’t want it to be where you have to make time. You want to work on these things before, before it becomes that necessity, or that quadrant-one crisis type thing.

I definitely agree. As much as we may say we don’t have time or we don’t have money, when we have to do it on the backend as a result of something that has happened, it usually is more costly in both of those areas versus being mindful about investing in those things up front. I also think one of the beauties of the pandemic, if I can say there were any, is that a lot of organizations realized how to be flexible with both of those areas.

I know prior to the pandemic, a lot of organizations were having to bring people together from different locations, try to hold training sessions and carve out full days to do things and that was always a challenge. Then once we were, honestly kind of forced to be creative, a lot of organizations were realizing, “Hey! There is some value in this online training. We can do some virtual instructor-led sessions. We can do spaced-out learning two hours over a couple of days, versus pulling people together all at once.” There’s cost savings there, and we don’t have to bring everybody together and shut everything down. Even time saving. I think, I will definitely say, prior to the pandemic, most of my work was in person and those were some of the challenges I would always hear. “We don’t have time. We don’t have enough money. We can’t stop work.”

Then, coming out of the pandemic, a lot of organizations are saying, “Not only is this important and necessary because our people need it to be developed and held up and sustained throughout this crisis that we all just went through as a planet,” but a lot of organizations are saying, “and we were able to see how we could do this differently, still give people training, still invest in our people, and still have things not be as costly or as time costly as they once were.” My hope is that, coming out of this pandemic, organizations, yes, see the value, recognize that people need to be built up, developed, and sustained, but also start to realize, and we can be creative about how we do it. That is really, really exciting for me.

[00:12:12] AD: I like that you brought that up as someone who – you know, our business is primarily a kind of e-learning, remote type training program and learning program and our interaction with clients. It’s wildly different than what any training looked like pre-COVID. It’s frankly something that never would have existed pre-COVID. It’s something that, even how we ran everything we did pre-COVID looked wildly different because of that. The lesson I’ve seen in all of this is, think outside of the box, recognize that there’s more than one way to approach things, and that the underlying key, the single underlying key is consistency over time, period.

Just be consistent. You’ll learn, it’ll change, you’ll evolve, things won’t work the way you planned on. You might have to start something over; you might waste time doing one thing or another. There’s so many like things that happen. It’s life. It’s just how things unfold. Try something, move forward, be consistent, constantly look at it, and recognize that it’s an over time thing.

I think that that really ties into where I want to segue us into is talking about this on an individual level because, at the end of the day, we talked about from a firm investment standpoint. What are they doing? They’re investing in their people, which are individuals, right? Those individuals collectively affect the outcomes of the organization, but it’s really about that individual, that single person, the skillsets they’re learning. In this whole thesis of consistency over time, I want to speak from my own experience in life and investing in my self-growth. Whether you want to look at physical fitness, your own skillsets, your technical skillsets, your mental health, your emotional intelligence. There are leadership skills across the spectrum. All of those things are things that require consistency over time. There are no shortcuts. Even if you’re really good at it one day, you can be really bad at it two years later, if you don’t invest in it.

It’s all about having that consistency. My question – I kind of want to turn to you and just get your thoughts on it – what do you say to someone to really get them focused in on the why, the driving force? What makes them want to really maintain consistency over time, right? Because that’s the hard part, why do I keep doing? Doing it once, go into one session, going to one seminar, one workshop, one conference, that’s easy. But how do I do it again and again? How do I keep myself focused on it?

[00:14:30] MM: I love that question because I think it’s so important. The keyword there is consistency. One of my top values, I have three, but consistency is heavy in there. I think for the individual, it’s part of like – to me, it’s helping them see that it’s going to be one step at a time. You’re not going to attend one session, or one training, or one course or one whatever, and the magic wand of everything be completely changed. I always give kind of this analogy, and I said at once working with Animal Rights Group, and then I was like, “Oh! I don’t know if I should have said that.” But it’s a saying and it’s an old saying like, “How do you get an elephant in the refrigerator?” Piece by piece. This is really saying, you have this issue, you have this thing that you want to accomplish, or it may be a challenge that you’re dealing with. It’s been around for a while, which is probably why you are working on it or coming to this program. Or even like you said, with our fitness, you want to deal with it. It’s been around for a while, and it’s not going to go in the refrigerator at one time.

I always kind of tell people, it’s piece by piece, and part of making sure that we go back and reengage with the skills, or go back and touch on those tools is to make sure that we’re getting all the pieces in there. Not just leaving one thing out. As much as we can make it, automate it, I’m a big fan of automating it. If you set a calendar reminder for yourself, “Once a week, I want to go back and look at these notes.” Or for a lot of the resources and tools that are out now, you can go out and sign up for newsletters, or you can go out and sign up for coaching tools that come to you. But really being aware that it’s not happening overnight, problems didn’t start overnight, so you’re not going to fix them overnight. It’s really about that piece by piece. Even the other saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” To become that person you want to be or make those changes you want to make in your life, it definitely is the awareness of you have to be consistent. Use tools to help make you consistent, remind you, because for most of us, life is still happening and we’ve still got stuff going on. It’s easy to get off track.

Creating systems or tools to help you be reminded to use the skills, engage with the skills, and go back and touch on things over time is what really helps to make that change. Even just kind of sharing my own stories of, sometimes some of the content I facilitate, I am actually asked to facilitate it right at the time I need a reminder. I’m very honest with people in my training about that. I was teaching something earlier this week, and I was like, and I told the participant, “This isn’t for you. I think this is for me.” Because I’ve kind of gotten out of practice with these things that I need to be doing. It’s just kind of being vulnerable, and letting people know, too, that we all are still a work in progress. Until we decide to be stagnant and stop, we’re going to keep flowing and changing and that’s the goal. I think that’s a big part of it, too. But tools are my favorite.

[00:17:04] AD: Three reactions I want to give. Number one, you talked about systems and automation, having a process, and I cannot remember who exactly to attribute this to. It might have been James Clear, Atomic Habits, it might be – I can’t – I frankly, I wish I could often look it up and I’ll drop it in the show notes here. But there’s a saying that we tend not to reach our goals. We tend to fall to our systems, right? Setting goals in fitness is – I always use fitness when I’m talking to people, because it’s just such an easy one, right? I want to run a 5k. I want to run a marathon. Whatever it might be, I want to lose X weight. I want to gain whatever strength, whatever it might be, right? Think to yourself as you’re listening to this right now, think to yourself about some fitness goals. I think we’ve all had one some point in our life, and hopefully we have one now.

The reality is, just saying, I have a goal. Doesn’t do anything. It’s cool. It motivates you. It like makes you want to get going, but it doesn’t actually accomplish it. What accomplishes it is the accountability and the consistency of working on that goal, practicing your running, going to the gym, eating right, whatever it might be to help you reach that. Oftentimes, if anyone’s ever spent time tracking what they do and writing down and having an accountability, whether it be a trainer, or coach, or group, a workout partner, someone that helps create that system, that accountability. That’s what drives the success. In my own life, what I can tell you is that, when I travel a lot, or there’s big changes in life, whether it be – COVID was a great example. I think we all dealt with at some point.

Changes tend to throw off the systems and that’s when we tend to stumble and fall the most. That’s why, the real important element, in my perspective and experience, is focused on the systems, focus on what the habits are, focused on what process do you have built into your life to help you stay on track, focused on the goal, and the consistent growth that you’re trying to achieve? Is that fair?

[00:18:58] MM: Absolutely. When you said that about running, I remember one day being like, “I want to run.” I don’t run, like I can sprint, but it’s usually because I’m running from something. I was like, “I want to run,” because I always thought runners are so cool. To your point exactly, Alex and then it was like, “Okay. But what do I do?” It was just a thought, or a wish. What is the saying? “Don’t switch your backbone for wishbone.” It’s just that wish out there until I was like, “How can I run?” I found an app, Couch to 5k and I was like, “Oh, okay.” Again, it’s that accountability piece, because it’s three days a week. It’s tracking. You get to see progress; it’s teaching and it just made it so easy to get to being a runner. I definitely agree, systems to me are huge, just to help keep us reminded, keep us on track. I just feel like making it a little bit easier for us. One of the books that I love, Getting Things Done, talks about your external brain, create an external brain. Your brain is for having ideas not holding them. When you create this system, it is the thing that makes stuff happen. I definitely agree. I definitely agree.

[00:19:57] AD: GTD is one of my all-time favorite books. I embrace a lot of that, and that system and how do you track what you’re doing? But without going down that rabbit hole, there are many rabbit holes we could go down here. One that I want to dig into, and this is really more, I think around personal growth. I think it affects every element of our life, but personal, professional growth and when we talk about training development, leadership development, soft skill development in particular, where it can be very difficult to see the change, see the value, see what you’re doing. What I would encourage people to do, a mindset that I have to always remind myself of is, “What I’d say is embrace the journey, embrace the process.”

It’s not always fun. It’s not always – it can be challenging. But in my own experiences, when I recognize the most growth and where I’ve really seen myself evolve and change as a person and achieve something that I never could have achieved previously, it’s not a light switch moment. It’s more of, I go through a rough patch, I go through a hard season, I go through a period of life where I’m like, “Ugh! This is so hard.” We all deal with challenges in our life, or we go through doing – again, fitness. We work out really hard, and it just seems really hard.

But when you get to the end, you look back, you’re like, “I made a lot of progress. That looks different.” Remembering that it’s about enjoying that. Celebrate your wins, celebrate the victories that you accomplish. But that victory is a single moment of time, it’s a period you get to and you move past. It’s rather learning to really embrace that process of constantly investing, evolving, and developing yourself to be the best version of you.

[00:21:31] MM: Yeah, I definitely say it’s not easy. For me, one of the things that on the individual, personal type development level, a lot of the information or insights I got early in the journey, they hurt. They kind of suck. The first time I took an emotional intelligence assessment. I was like, “There’s no way I can be this person.” The first time I took some other assessments out, same thing. It was just kind of that immediate knee-jerk reaction of like, “Oh! This is not good. I don’t like this.” I think part of it is recognizing that, as you’re starting to build awareness of yourself, and you, and the things that you do and the things that you go through. It’s not good or bad. It’s information. It took me a while to get there. Because it’s like, I look at this assessment. I’m like, “Oh my gosh! I ranked low here. Oh my gosh! This has this”

I took it as bad, and it took me some time to realize it’s not good or bad. It’s information. I say that to say, “That’s your starting point.” It’s not bad. It’s giving you a baseline to say, “Okay, when I first took this assessment, apparently, I am awful at emotional intelligence.” I have a really good sense of myself awareness, but that social awareness, how to interact or connect with other people, that could do with some growth. It’s about taking it as just information. When I give those assessments now, that is what I tell people, “It’s just information. It’s not good or bad.” It’s saying, this is your starting point because, to your point, now your journey begins.

Now, your journey begins and come back in three months, or come back in six months, and take it again and see what’s different, or come back in a year. Reflect on some of those relationships that were on your minds when you first went through this and see where you are right now with those different relationships. Or come back to how you would have handled this person cutting you in line in the grocery store a year ago, but now that you’ve kind of gotten some awareness of, you know, how other people’s behavior and our stories all mix up in our head and causes us to act bad.

Now we’re seeing, a year later, when that car cuts me off in traffic, it doesn’t bother me like it did last year. I’m not screaming out the window like I did last year. Or when I get passed over for that promotion, I don’t look at it as a personal failure. I look at it as an opportunity to either grow and learn some more skills for the next opportunity, or maybe it was my chance to say, here’s a chance for me to go somewhere else where I can contribute differently or whatever. I feel like, yes, that process, although it starts off not necessarily feeling the best, it’s really about the process. I feel like those small check ins, those small benchmarks, for me, sometimes it’s like, I would have read an email and read all into it. Now I’m reading the same email, and it’s just information on a page. That’s growth.

Just giving yourself a pat on the back for those successes and growth over time is a way to keep with it and keep going. Because I always think to back to, like you said, working out. If you get on the scale every week, after a while, you’re going to get disappointed and not want to get on scale, because it’s not going as fast. But if you give yourself a couple months, and maybe look at, “Wow! I walked up the stairs and I didn’t run out of breath” or “I jogged from this mailbox to this mailbox without stopping.” Look at different wins and different things to be your successes, and just know that it’s going to come with time, it’s going to come with work. I also feel exactly to the accountability partner piece.

Have someone that you trust that you can kind of say, “How have I been doing with this? How have I been doing with things? How have I been handling things?” Because I think our perspective, we judge ourselves based on our good intentions, others get a chance to see our actions and that can help give us a little bit better of a picture of how we’re changing and showing up. Again, Rome wasn’t built in the day, so give yourself grace and time and just look back and reflect on those things that are different after some time has passed in order to see what you’ve been able to achieve. But my big thing, as you’re starting the journey, where you’re starting from is a baseline. It’s not bad. It’s just information.

[00:25:13] AD: I love that. I like that framework. I like that way of thinking, that perspective. I think it’s very helpful. I would say, and you hit on both of these. This kind of goes back to our systems or the habits for success, what drives us. To me, I found two really important elements to ultimately ignite my growth and help me continue to move forward. Number one is reflection. Reflection means a lot of things to a lot of people, but what it really means, at least to me is clearing out space in my life to just think about something, to look back at something. For me, what I found is the most helpful is I journal. I’m a big journaler. Five years ago, I would have never thought I would be a journaler. I’m now pretty much a daily journaler. I write a ton of stuff down I use it as a way to get my thoughts out, get organized.

But really, what I love to do is be able to look back at that and say, “Oh, wow! I’ve come a long way,” and it helps you see stuff more clearly. Another component of that can be tracking metrics, again, the fitness idea. What am I tracking? What am I measuring, that helps me slow down and be able to see, “Oh! I was doing this, and now, I’m doing that.” You have to have some way to reflect, to understand the progress that’s been made. Then, really important, and this is where I always fall short. I think a lot of Type A, high performers fall short is, in that reflection process, you have to celebrate wins, you have to celebrate victories. They may not be the victory you want; they may not be as big of a win as you thought you would have, but you have to celebrate wins. Even the small tiny wins are worth celebrating, because you will burn yourself out so darn quick if you don’t celebrate what’s going well for you in life. That’s a huge component of reflection, and it’s the motivation. It’s part of the system that’s required to keep you motivated, keep you going to do that consistency over time to constantly progress forward to the better version of yourself.

[00:27:06] MM: Absolutely. I keep an email folder that’s called my smile folder. That for me is one of the places where, if someone emails me and says, “I really appreciate the way you handled the situation. This client was really upset. You didn’t get reactive. You helped close the deal and make them feel satisfied.” I’m putting that in my smile folder, or someone that says, “You brighten my day.” Put it in my smile folder. Because that’s my little mini celebration when I’m getting, you know that feedback on what I’ve been doing to develop and to grow is actually working. I want to keep that somewhere. If it’s been a while since I felt like I’ve done something well, or we get in those little ruts. I will go and open that smile folder, and just read over things to just remind me of like, that’s why this is important. That’s why me going out and getting my MBA. I don’t know why I did that.

It was so many times during that process that I was going back into my smile folder to figure out why I was even doing this to myself. As I was additionally getting some certification programs that I wanted, that it wasn’t anything I needed. I definitely just wanted them. I was curious about some different skills, and I signed up for certification programs. Again, things get rough, yet, you know, going back and kind of looking at, “Wow! I’m really glad that you certified in this because you were really able to help coach me through this really challenging thing or talk to me about this really challenging point.” Those are some of those small wins celebrations. I love the journaling.

I was a diary person ever since I was really small. I don’t even – when I go back and look at my diaries in elementary school, I was like, “What was I writing about?” Most times my outfit and who made me mad that day. That’s something I’ve also kind of kept up over the years. I’m not as consistent as I was, because what I was, an everyday kind of journaling, diary, writing person. But now, I feel like I tried to at least once a week, do like a really nice reflection, and recap of that week or that window of time and just kind of look at like, “What were the highs? What were the lows? And what am I wanting to see or do differently coming up?” But I do have this little process I even do daily that is, I wake up in the morning, kind of give thanks. I forgive myself for yesterday’s mistakes, set my intentions for today. Take five deep breaths in and out, and then I smile. This is all before I get out of bed.

To me, even just that little cadence in the morning of, yesterday, these things didn’t go so well or I didn’t accomplish this thing I said I wanted to do or I had this conversation I got really frustrated and I didn’t handle it well. Forgive myself for that, set me some intentions for today. Today, when I’m faced with this stressful conversation, I’m going to make sure I’m mindful of that other person’s wins as well as my own. Or today, when I want to eat the entire box of cookies, I’m going to just get five and then go hide in the closet. Kind of setting those intentions too does a lot, and then that smiling because you’re just setting your energy before you even wake up of like, “It’s going to be a good day.” That’s something I try to do daily to help kind of just get me going and make sure I’m reflecting what I did well yesterday. forgiving myself for what I feel like I didn’t do well, and keep pushing.

Even my little smile folder, I guess I like smiles. There’s a theme there. But even my little smile folder is something that’s helpful as you’re going through. I will say, like for a lot of us, trying to develop yourself personally in different ways, whether it’s going back to school or whether it’s getting some additional tools or certifications, or whether it’s, “I just want to work on me. I’m wanting to work on some things for myself, reading books to help me be better or get better.” It’s not always easy, and we don’t always have time for it, and it’s not always something that, while we might set out with good intentions, that feels great the entire time.

Anything you can do to just try to keep yourself aware of the why you’re doing this, the why this is important is definitely helpful, even in the times where it’s most stressful. I think that’s why those two little practices for me are helpful, because at some point, I’m just reflecting on, this is why I set out to do this. This is how this is going to improve me 10 years or create something different for people that are coming behind me. That’s always something good to help us keep on, and it feels like keeping on isn’t going to keep on.

[00:31:00] AD: The intentionality is so important, knowing what you’re doing, what’s really driving you. In your morning routine, I like that. It’s the gratitude, it’s the setting the right mindset for the day, reflecting and letting go of yesterday, and then setting yourself up for success for that day. Being very intentional and the smiling element, I – this is something I’ve personally had to make sure I constantly remind myself of. Smiling and anyone listening right now just smile for no reason. Just smile. It releases endorphins, you feel better, it releases tension in your body, there’s so many positive effects from it. We all can get stuck in these modes of I’ll say RBF. We all like – we all get rest and it’s like, “Mmm,” and no one can see us or listening out. But there’s this kind of like clenched face of focus. “I’ve got this, this and this going” and we forget to slow down and smile.

It’s wild, with that little bit of a smile can do to bump your mood, bump your personality, bump your energy, help you feel better, which is what allows you to continue pushing on, to continue moving forward, which is really, oftentimes, when people talk about hard work and success, hard work is all in the head. In my opinion. There’s a physical component at times, but I think for the vast majority, especially anyone that works in a knowledge worker type of environment, it is all about what’s in your head. It’s all about the mindset, it’s all about how you feel. So much of that is the positivity, and smiling, and setting the right intentions, doing the morning routine that you had talked about, those types of rituals can do a lot for boosting that and keeping you focused and on track.

[00:32:33] MM: Absolutely. When people say, “I don’t have time” – if you say you don’t have time, you won’t have time. If you say you can’t, you won’t. To me, that whole little process is probably the first five minutes when I wake up. It’s five minutes, and I’ve kind of set my tone and energy for the day. The smiling like definitely goes back to talking about training. Way back in the day in college, undergrad, I was like 19, 20 years old. I was working in a call center, know what that’s like. Either on the receiving end or the calling end, it gets rough. I remember one of our call center trainers, she put little bitty mirrors and everybody’s cube, which wasn’t even a full cube. I remember her teaching us, she was like, “You are going to answer the phone, and there’s going to be somebody that’s at the phone, that may be happy, may not. Most of the time when they’re calling, people aren’t happy.”

She said, “Here’s what I want you to do. When you pick up the phone,” or she said, “Before you pick up the phone, I want you to look in that little mirror. I want you to think about whatever it is that makes you happy.” She said, “I don’t care if you are thinking about what time you get off today. I don’t care if you are thinking about plans for the weekend.” She said, “I don’t care if you think about you’re about to quit this stupid job and we don’t even know.” She’s like, “I don’t care what it is, but I want you to think about something that makes you happy. Look in that mirror, smile, and then answer the call.” It was funny because that has stuck with me all these years, is just like, exactly what you said, how that smiling can change our mindset. Here, we’re being taught this at work as a skill to just kind of help basically reduce customer escalation. Because how we answer the phone, and how our voices change and things change when you smile. But it definitely is something that I have kept with me as a skill my whole life. Just taking the time to just smile, reset tough moments, find a mirror, look at myself, think about something that makes me happy, smile, and how that changes our energy, changes those endorphins, even changes the way your voice sounds.

You’ve probably all called somebody and you knew when you call and they picked up the phone that it was not going to be a good phone call just from the hello, versus when you’re calling and you kind of get that smile in someone’s voice. I think that is super important. Make the time, find something that works for you. My little system. I’ve been doing this for probably about seven, eight years, and I do it pretty much every day. There may be days where I wake up and I’m just like, I’m just not getting up, I’m putting the covers back over my head because I’m still sleepy. But seven or eight years, just kind of taking that five minutes to mentally run through that short, quick checklist of things to do and how it just really sets the tone for days that, even though they may be rough, it’s days that just really I keep persevering and pushing through.

[00:35:05] AD: It goes back to your systems for success. Your system is to do that, and it will – we can do an entire podcast on how your mindset affects the way you interact with others and the way you interact with others affects the effectiveness that you have, which just affects everything around you, right? Mindset really does drive everything, and it sounds so cliche, and it’s so easy to think one thing and act a different way. At the end of the day, it really is about being very intentional about embracing that. I love that.

I want to dive into one last question here, and it rounds this entire conversation out for us. When you look, you are clearly someone who passionately invest in yourself to invest in other people. It’s something that clearly drives you and keeps you excited. But when you look back at your journey, and all of this, what would you say is the number one thing that you would recommend someone focus on. What have you learned is being kind of the place that you should really make sure you are intentional about investing yourself in?

[00:36:05] MM: I love that question. I would definitely say that number one place where you really should take the time to really slow down and invest or consider investing in yourself, to me, is always going to be at those like toughest moments where there are big changes and challenges. Probably the last thing you want to do is invest in yourself, because it’s so easy to wallow in the pity, or the doubt, or the shame, or the hurt of whatever. I feel like those are the moments where it is like, let me take some time for me. Let me do something for me. By investing yourself, we’re not saying neglect everything that’s your responsibility or that matters.

I feel like, for me, as I think about my life, some of my most pivotal moments, where life really changed, honestly, for the better came on the tail end of some really tough things and my commitment or willingness to invest in myself. I remember getting fired. Hey, I’ve been one of those people that’s been fired from a job, because me and my boss didn’t get along. It was easy to blame the boss and say what she just didn’t like me and whatever. Then it was like, “And what did I contribute? What did I contribute in that moment?” Because it’s sucks to get fired, and then I got a baby on the way, so somebody has to feed her. My husband’s is like, “What are you doing?” I had the good job with the good insurance. In that moment, it was like I had to stop and say, I need to learn how to better show up in situations where I have a challenging relationship with the boss, so that doesn’t end up like this. What’s something that can help me with this? Let me go find a book. Let me go find something to do, something to watch to do that.

Then the second time that I think for me too was a big pivot was getting laid off, and it was kind of like, “Okay. What am I going to do here? Am I going to take a job just to have a job?” For me that just didn’t feel good. Am I going to really step out here, make these investments, do these things to start my own business and see how that goes? It was easy again, in that moment to say, throw up the hands. It just happened to me, let me pity party out, and sit here and eat this delicious ice cream for all days. I actually honestly gave myself – and I remember specifically in that time – I gave myself four weeks. I said, “You got four weeks to pout, to cry, to blame everybody else on earth, to throw a temper tantrum, to not take off your pajamas. You got four weeks. On day one of week five, it’s go time.”

Whether it’s go out here, and I actually ended up signing up for some courses at our local Entrepreneur Center, which is free in our city. Sign up for some classes there to figure out how to like write a business plan, how to start my business. I started getting online, taking some classes that I would just see like free around on different social media sites. LinkedIn, I think it was Lindel at the time or something got on there, taking some stuff, reaching back out to my old undergrad. I was still in my MBA program at this time, but reaching out to my old undergrad and finding out what kind of little workshops do they have around business skills and that kind of stuff.

It was like in those moments where it was so easy to just throw in the towel, and to not do anything, being intentional about ‘what can I learn from this?’, ‘how can I learn from this?’, and what can I grow from this?’ are the things that, when I look back, like we talked about, it may take a while. But when I look back, I’m literally like, “I am so glad I got fired, because otherwise, I would still be at that company doing that job that really wasn’t for me,” or “I’m really glad I got laid off.” It sucked when it happened, yet, look at what I’ve been able to do. I’ve been able to touch and interact with way more people and do way more cool stuff. Had I not gotten laid off. I probably wouldn’t be doing this. In that moment of pain, being intentional about ‘how can I grow from this?’ is the thing that five, six, 10 years later is going to have you looking back on those moments thankful versus regretful or remorseful.

[00:39:46] AD: That’s what I thought. Excellent, excellent advice. In some ways, it goes back to a little bit of where I kind of shared earlier, embrace the process in from my own experience. I look back at the most pivotal changes in my life, the times that I’ve made the most progress, and grown and learn the most were from the experiences that, in the heat of the moment, we’re awful and that you don’t want to redo. We all go through it. Your advice of recognizing that when you feel overwhelmed, when you feel burnt out, when you feel angry, when you feel frustrated, when you feel like things aren’t going your way, that is the time to double down and to lean into investing in yourself. Pick up a book and read something. Go invest in yourself in a course, hire a coach, attend a workshop, listen to a podcast. There are so many ways that you can invest in yourself out there. But it is at those moments that you need to do it the most. I could not agree with you more on that.

[00:40:41] MM: I love it. Yes. I love the options you gave because it doesn’t have to be expensive. I think sometimes people hear invest in myself, and you’re like, “I don’t have $10,000 to attend this workshop.” It is like, “Get a book.” You can buy a book. Listen to podcasts. Hello! This is one of the coolest things that’s ever been made.

[00:40:57] AD: YouTube. You can find anything on YouTube. You can find – I mean, it’s out there. You just have to be resourceful. You have to put in the time and effort. I’m a believer and as you and I are both in the business of helping people throughout, I’m an absolute believer in paying professionals, working with coach, working with the right kind of workshop. It does drive a lot of value. But if you aren’t in a place where you don’t have that, don’t ever let that be the barrier for you, find a solution. There are ways to find learning out there, and ways to invest in yourself and get that momentum. That is the absolute, key vital of it.

[00:41:29] MM: I love it. Perfect.

[00:41:31] AD: Maria, this has been awesome. I loved the conversation. I really appreciate you coming on here sharing your thoughts. I hope our listeners took away some good insights in how to think about learning, and training and development, leadership, personal growth, and how to persevere and kind of push through all of that. For our listeners, how can they get in touch with you? What’s the best place to connect with you?

[00:41:50] MM: Absolutely. I’m definitely on LinkedIn. Of course, it’s Maria Moss. I’m on LinkedIn. You’ll find me – I think my title under my name is rebel with cause and passionate people developer, because that is truly, truly what I am in life. LinkedIn is super easy. Then of course, my website for training side type solutions, www.phoenixleadershipsolutions.com. Then my website for more of the keynote, coaching, mentoring type stuff is www.maria-moss.com. Any of those are easy to find me. Definitely on LinkedIn. If you connect, we will connect, and I’ll chitchat with you there, but I’d love to hear from all of you.

[00:42:27] AD: Awesome. We’ll make sure that’s linked on the show notes below for our listeners.

[00:42:29] MM: Perfect. Thanks, Alex.

[00:42:31] AD: Maria, again, appreciate you coming on here. Love this conversation, and enjoyed it and appreciate your contribution.

[00:42:35] MM: Thank you for having me. This was fun. I love talking about leadership development, especially like that personal development piece. Super awesome and honored to have been a part of this. This is going in my smile folder too.

[00:42:47] AD: Awesome. Thank you so much.

[END OF INTERVIEW]

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