Networking and a Growth Mindset

Carrie Schochet Purple Squirrel Advisors

It can be daunting to put yourself out there to network and meet new people, but it helps to bear in mind the opportunities for growth and support that come with being part of a community. This week on Branch Out we welcome back Carrie Schochet, Founder, and CEO of Purple Squirrel Advisors, a boutique executive search firm based in Troy, Michigan. In our conversation with Carrie, we discuss the lifelong journey of personal growth and how feedback networking and seeking out peer groups can support it. She shares how she has fostered a working culture that welcomes feedback in her business and the benefits of soliciting feedback internally. We also discuss the benefits of building and maintaining relationships with your peers and how to grow by surrounding yourself with other leaders.

Key Points From This Episode

  • Carrie’s definition of growth and why she believes it’s so important.
  • How Carrie creates the right environment for better feedback.
  • The benefits of soliciting feedback internally.
  • How to create a work culture where feedback is welcomed.
  • How soliciting feedback has helped Carrie grow.
  • How Carrie has benefited from surrounding herself with leaders and good people.
  • How being part of a community has helped Carrie in challenging situations.
  • The value of building and maintaining relationships with others in your industry.
  • Why most of Carrie’s networking is about exchanging ideas, rather than a sales pitch.
  • How to learn and evolve through your peers.
  • Why Carrie is a big proponent of peer groups.
  • How Carrie was inspired by her peers at a fire walking event.
  • How your energy and mindset affect those around you, especially as a leader.

[INTRO]

[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, we welcome Carrie Schochet, Founder and CEO of Purple Squirrel Advisors. Carrie shares how she experiences personal growth by seeking feedback, networking, and surrounding herself with other leaders. I hope you all enjoy.

[00:00:39] ANNOUNCER: Connect and grow your network. We are on LinkedIn. Search for connection builders.

[INTERVIEW]

[00:00:46] AD: Carrie, welcome to the Branch Out podcast. Excited to have you back here again.

[00:00:50] CS: Thank you so much, Alex. Glad to be here.

[00:00:52] AD: So talking to our listeners for a minute here, Carrie and I, we’ve known each other for a number of years now. Every time we talk, our conversations tend to, in one way or another, come back to growth, investing in yourself, lifelong learner, this mindset around wanting to better yourself. So I know, Carrie, you’re really passionate about this, and it’s something that means a lot to you. So for our conversation today, I just want to start with, Carrie, what does growth mean to you and why is it so important. Let’s peel in from there about how do you achieve it and what has it done for you.

[00:01:19] CS: Well, I think it goes back to being just a learner and being curious. What I’ve noticed is just continuing to go to events and learning events that are either applicable or not to what I do. That has really been powerful for my growth and learning. Then just being around other leaders also and hearing what are they doing. What books are they reading? What’s inspiring them? So just, I guess, putting myself in a place where I can learn but also be surrounded by other learners and other people who are curious like that has been one of the biggest ways that I’ve grown over the last several years. But also creating an environment within my team and within my company where I’m open to feedback and others are open to feedback really have tried to create a space where people can offer their ideas. I’ll say, “Hey, listen. This is what I’m thinking. But please, if anybody else disagrees, I’d love to hear it.” So just really kind of creating that environment where other ideas are accepted and showing that I’m open to feedback.

[00:02:20] AD: So let’s stop there for a quick minute. I think a lot of what you said I think actually builds up to this feedback idea, right? Because growth in learning, which I think the end of growth is really learning, constantly evolving in your thinking, right? That requires realizing something new, gaining new insight, which is part of that a lot of times comes from feedback from others, learning from others. So how do you work on getting better feedback? What do you do to create the right environment around that so that you can get feedback?

[00:02:45] CS: Well, it’s almost so ingrained in what we do within Purple Squirrel. Definitely, we’ve got a lot of different personality types and different viewpoints on the team. We’ve got people of different backgrounds, different age groups. But just as one example, I regularly write blog-style, little LinkedIn blogs. I’ve realized that it’s very beneficial. I’ll write something totally independently, and then I’ll send it to my team, and I’ll just say, “Hey, what do you all think of this? Like is there anything that you would change? Is there any downside of posting this?” Because sometimes, we may post something that’s, of course, you’re looking to generate a conversation, and I’m just looking to make sure there’s nothing in the way that I’ve written it that could really end up offending somebody or taking a topic too far.

So I’ve definitely solicited that feedback internally. It’s just one example. So I think by creating that process, where there’s constant feedback evolving, even just in our day-to-day jobs, then when we’re in a team huddle, and I bring up something else unrelated, let’s say, to it. It’s related to a search or something, and I’ll say, “Here’s how I’m thinking about approaching it. What are your thoughts? If you were on the receiving end of this, how would you feel?” So just asking those questions and then really listening. I think that’s the key and not getting defensive, not taking a defensive stance on whatever position that I’ve put out there. I think then that creates that feedback loop.

[00:04:08] AD: So what you’re saying is that you start with creating this kind of culture feedback, where you write these little blogs, and you reach out to your team and no pride of authorship. You just say, “Hey, what can I do? What’s your thoughts,” and looking for that feedback. That creates this environment or culture where your team members know that you are open to feedback. But what you said that was really I think important is you’re not defensive. You’re not trying to take pride of authorship as much as just trying to ask, “Hey, what do you think?” Is that right?

[00:04:36] CS: Yeah. I think that there’s so often, especially with like written word, and this applies to emails and blogs, anything, the person who writes the email or the blog or whatever, you have a certain tone. You’re thinking that it’s going to be received in the same tone that you wrote it, and I think this could apply to conversation as well. But the person on the other end might come into reading that or hearing something totally different than you intended. So that’s one of the biggest things I’m trying to catch is, “is my tone going to be received the same?”, like the way that I intend it to be received. Getting some feedback I think is one of the best ways to catch those potential tone issues that you can have. I don’t know if you agree with that.

[00:05:21] AD: No, I totally do. So let’s talk about how does that tie into your growth then. By embracing kind of that general thought process, what is that doing to help you as Carrie continue to grow?

[00:05:30] CS: Well, so over time, I’ve realized I’m very direct, very transparent. But sometimes, it can come off as I’ve had to soften, I guess, some of my communications. I guess it’s the bottom line. I’ve learned to do that over time through these repetitive feedback processes. Just little subtle changes can make such a big difference with communication. So I’ve been learning through getting that feedback from other people because you’ve gone through your whole life just communicating a certain way. It takes repetitive feedback in order to make those subtle changes. So I’ve definitely grown through that process of soliciting the feedback and being open to it, tweaking and kind of seeing “how does that change what happens in the future?”.

[00:06:14] AD: Well, that’s cool. Like you said, it’s not being defensive. It’s being open to it. We all – I think every positive quality also has a negative side to it, right? I mean, there’s two edges to every sword. So the traits that make us really good at what we do are also the traits that can make us really annoying to be around at times, right? So what I’m hearing you saying, I think it’s so important. You look for that feedback. From that, you start to – You see it more. You become more aware of it. You can become more conscious of it. You can change how you approach it in the future, just making you as a person better, right? It’s growth. It’s everything we’re talking about here.

I want to go back to one of the things you said I thought that was really interesting was surrounding yourself by good people, surrounding yourself by people, by leaders, by other – Help me understand what you think about that and what it’s done for you.

[00:06:58] CS: I feel like there’s a community of people that I tend to run into, where they’re at the events. There’s been a number of economic events recently. There was a supply chain event not too long ago, and you kind of tend to see like a certain – I see certain people and I just know, “Oh, I’m going to run into so-and-so at this event.” Then following up and having some additional dialogue on the topic. That’s been one way. Obviously, the Detroit business community, there’s a pretty tight-knit community here. But I think also being open to trying to create ways to be open for others to come in to those circles as well.

Being on boards, I think that’s been another huge thing for me. Joining the ACG Detroit board, I’m on the EO board. That’s another great place to be surrounded by leaders, people who want to make an impact on their communities. By being part of those meetings in those circles, just continuing to learn that way as well.

[00:07:51] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, a Connection Builders podcast.

[00:07:59] AD: So it’s a little bit of networking, right? You’re building relationships in places. You’re attending events. You’re volunteering and participating in stuff. What you’re saying is that by doing that, you are meeting new people, hearing new ideas, exchanging thoughts that helps you learn and grow, right? It’s that constant learning cycle.

[00:08:18] CS: Exactly, yes. You know what’s amazing too about those communities though is that I’ve leaned on those people. When something has come up that’s outside of my area of expertise, I know who to call to say, “Hey, what do you think about this? Is this something we’re trying to do? What have you seen? How have you done it? Any suggestions or ideas.” Just really leaning on those experts in those other areas so that we can grow as a business, I can grow as a person, and I don’t need to reinvent the wheel. If somebody else has already tried something with whatever it is that I’m focused on, lean on their expertise. I feel that people really like to be asked for help. People like to help generally is what I found when you call and give them an opportunity.

[00:08:55] AD: I would agree with that completely. So let’s talk for a minute about networking and personal growth. I actually think it’s an interesting intersection, and it’s something I’ve experienced in my life, and it sounds like you will have as well. That the more time you spend just simply building relationships with people and talking to people, the more opportunities for learning and the more you seem to grow, right? I mean, do you have a similar experience?

[00:09:16] CS: Oh, yeah, for sure. Just going into those meetings not with any sort of agenda or ulterior motive, just generally trying to be helpful. Or there’s several people that I get together with at least quarterly for breakfast, lunch, or virtual coffee, whatever the case may be, and it’s just for the purpose of, “Hey, what’s happening in your business,” and sharing ideas with that person. So a friend of mine started a business not too long ago and just kind of trading those war stories, so to speak of, “Hey, what are you struggling with as an entrepreneur, and how are you finding work-life balance,” as one example because that’s something that I know a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with. What are things that you’ve done to work on in that area? So just things like that.

Again, we’re not doing business together. No money changing hands. It’s literally just an opportunity to learn from each other. As part of that, Alex, too, I think one other way that I’m doing this is I’m in a forum through EO with some other business owners. We’re all business owners. We meet once a month, and that has been incredible too, just really sharing what are we personally experiencing and trying to help each other from our experiences as well.

[00:10:23] AD: I want to come back to the EO in a second. I want to just share some personal experience I’ve had around networking because I think it’s very relevant to this. So the idea that when you go out with kind of, “I just want to go and catch up with someone,” right? You said you get people on a quarterly basis, monthly basis, whatever it might be. Every relationship looks a little bit different. But the intent is not, “Hey, I’m trying to move them through a process to figure out if we can work together.” Frankly, it might even be people that you know you’re just not going to do business with. They’re just people that you go to catch up with. Part of that is it’s an exchange of knowledge and ideas, right? You’re sitting together over a meal, over coffee, whatever it might be, and you’re sharing, “Hey, this is what’s going on. This is what’s going on.”

I want to just share personal benefits I’ve seen from that. Obviously, it’s the learning and it’s building a relationship with someone, hearing what they have to say. You said people are usually willing to talk and share. For me, personally, when I’m in that situation, I get that benefit. Someone’s asking me questions, talking through things, talking through some of this stuff that inside of my work, I don’t necessarily get to talk through. But in that external situation, I get to talk through some of it. A lot of things can become clearer, just in that process. You’re giving someone that form to do that, while playing sounding board and bouncing ideas around. It’s value created for everyone in that situation, right?

[00:11:36] CS: Oh, definitely. Just getting that other perspective. That’s what I think you’re saying is another perspective, and somebody asking you a question a certain way can prompt you to all of a sudden look at your own situation through a different lens, right?

[00:11:48] AD: Exactly, exactly. So what comes out of it is growth for everyone, right? So you grow because you’re learning. You’re hearing someone tell you some stuff. You may learn some new industry trends. You may learn something else going on out there. You may get some ideas. But also, when you’re sharing knowledge, you may hear a different perspective that shifts the way you think, right? So you are growing by the act of going out networking, as we tend to call it, but really just sitting down and exchanging thoughts and ideas with people on a regular basis with absolutely nothing to do with revenue generation whatsoever. Really more about growth for you and the other person.

[00:12:20] CS: Right. I think that’s important that a lot of – Very few of my networking meetings or networking events or conversations is there are any like real sales pitch of any kind. Again, it’s more about the relationship building. I personally believe that business will just naturally come as people get to know what we do. You don’t need to sell. You can just share experiences, and the right opportunities will come along I feel like when people really understand who you are and what you do.

[00:12:50] AD: I completely agree. Again, my experience around this is you just go network. You just go sit and build the relationships, learn, grow, gain all that value there. You tend to talk about some of what you do and ways you add value but not in a position of trying to sell. But you talk about it. People know what you do, and those dialogues come up. Then when someone actually says, “Hey, Carrie. I need someone to help me find some talent,” they come to you. At that point, now you can go into that air quote, sales position, where you’re, “Okay, here’s what we do. Here’s how we do it. Let me walk you through why we’re good at what we do, right?” The sales-y revenue stuff, that will happen, because someone will indicate their interest. Then it’s totally acceptable because there’s a reason for it. But the actual networking has nothing to do with that whatsoever. That’s not the purpose, the intent. You’re just going for the conversation.

[00:13:32] CS: Definitely. I think there’s a storytelling element too that is kind of woven in here. I think that’s something that probably, like I sell through storytelling. Like, for example, even just last night, I shared with you that I was at the Andrea Bocelli concert and was at kind of a pre-party event. I ran into a CEO that I’ve known for a long time but I haven’t seen him in years. He said, “Gosh, it must be a really good time to be in your business.” My answer isn’t just yes. It’s just my natural way to be like, “Well, it is but it isn’t.” It’s like, “Well, there’s a ton of need out there. It’s never been more difficult.” Then he’s like, “What do you mean? What do you mean more difficult?” Then I just share a little bit of kind of what are some of the challenges we’re experiencing. One example would be I said, “We’ve got more exit points out of like that’s going to reduce the talent pool out of the gates than we used to.” That just goes into a conversation.

But I would think that if he comes across a friend who’s saying, “I’m really struggling with the hiring process,” he’s going to say, “Oh. Well, my friend was just telling me about some of these same challenges.” It’s just a different way for him to really understand how we can add value. I wasn’t doing it on purpose. It’s just the way – It’s just my personality to not give a cut and dry, yes, it is or, no, it isn’t. I like to kind of just share a little bit more depth of like what are some of those things that we’re seeing personally, and that’s a story.

[00:14:52] AD: I could not agree with you more and I like that framing. You sell by storytelling but you’re not selling. You’re not going in there trying to sell. You’re just telling stories about what you do and giving context and color. This all comes back to this growth. You’re sharing ideas. You’re exchanging knowledge. People are learning from each other. When you’re out doing and telling that story, you’re talking through it. You get better at telling the story. You see what people understand, what they don’t. All that does is help give more color to where you add value, and things will come out of it. Things just naturally come out of that by you approaching it that way.

[00:15:22] CS: Yeah. Yeah, totally. On the same kind of thread, it also brings to mind just some of the ways we’ve had to grow. I’m sure you’ve experienced the same thing. Like you kind of have to shift or kind of redirect, depending on kind of what are those hurdles that you’re facing day to day. This year for us, we’ve had to grow as a team and adapt and figure out what is the right message. How do we overcome XYZ? What can we do to stand out? Because I think in our industry, there’s a lot of noise. The tools and things that we used to do are not working the same way they did two years ago.

So just recently, as one example, a friend of mine, who is also a recruiter, she said, “Hey, we’re putting 62nd video clips. We’re attaching those when we send a message to a candidate via LinkedIn.” The video clip is just a way to kind of bring that job opportunity to life in a video. So that’s another example of learning. I’m learning from a peer and I don’t view my peers as competition necessarily. I think there’s enough room for all of us within our respective areas. So I’m like, “Okay. Well, let’s try that.” So we recorded a video on Friday, and we’re going to start attaching that to messages that we send out and see if it has a different response. But that’s just one example of another form of learning: learning through competitors, learning through peers, and just trying different things as the market continues to evolve.

[00:16:49] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, bringing you candid conversations with leading middle market professionals.

[00:16:57] AD: It’s wild how much you can learn by just bouncing ideas around with people. When you start hearing stuff, you’re like, “Oh, that’s great. I never would have thought of that.” Or like it starts to make so much more sense when you bounce ideas around.

[00:17:08] CS: Right. Even with people that might be kind of a “competitor.” I think it’s wonderful to share ideas with people who are doing something related to what you are and not being concerned about that competitive potential issue that – I mean, I love talking to my peers within the recruiting industry.

[00:17:26] AD: I think there’s value to network in every place that there’s an opportunity for growth on it. So I want to go back for just a moment, you mentioned EO and that you have a group that you’re involved in. I believe a group of entrepreneurs together. Just share a little bit about what that’s done for you by being part of what we could probably in a generalized way all a mastermind type group, kind of a small group of individuals that have something in common, and you’re there to share ideas and collaborate with you. Help me understand what that’s done for you and the value you’ve gained.

[00:17:52] CS: Sure. So I’ve been in different forms of peer groups for the last several years, and I also facilitate and run a couple peer groups. I’m a really big believer just generally in peer groups or mastermind groups. But I specifically joined EO like right before the pandemic hit. So I think I went through the process of interviewing and paying dues and all that in January, February of 2020. Then, of course, the pandemic hit, and all EO events kind of stopped like everything else did. I ended up getting into a forum in the summer of 2020. There’s a process for what we did there. You kind of have to place into a forum. There’s certain criteria with forum composition and whatnot.

But I’ve been in that forum for about a year and a half now, and it’s really been a great place for learning and growth because what I’ve kind of personally experienced, meeting with a group of other entrepreneurs, we’re all kind of in similar positions. We all go through the same stuff. We all have the same challenges. It just shows up a little differently. We’ve gotten to a point where we can be very vulnerable within our forum and talking about things that you probably wouldn’t talk to with a lot of other people, whether socially or within your company. Just having that safe space to be vulnerable and talk about the best and the worst, that’s really kind of what we’re focused on that we call it the 5%. So you want to bring to the forum the 5% that you’re not talking about with other groups and then really, again, being open to feedback.

So there’s rules around how we share feedback, and it has to come from personal experience. So we try to avoid words like would, should, those things of advice giving. It’s not a place for advice giving. It’s a place where, hey, I’ve experienced something similar, and here’s what I did or how I approached it, and here’s what happened. So if you can’t speak from that personal experience, then you don’t offer on the particular topic that’s being discussed at that time. For me, it’s been really amazing personally, professionally. As an entrepreneur, it affects all areas of life, your relationships with your kids, your husband, just other members of the community, friends. We really try to talk about the whole person within that setting, and so there’s been a lot of learning and growth for me there.

[00:20:10] AD: Well, your point is that, I think for all of us, who you’re at work is who you’re at home, right? You’re the same human. You cannot have a wall up between them and be one person in one place, a different person somewhere else, right? So when you look at and you think about you’ve been involved in for a period of time now, what are some of the aha or some of the things you look back and you’re like, “Wow, this really helped me.” Is there anything like that, that you can think of that comes to mind?

[00:20:32] CS: Well, I mean, there’s been a lot. One of my best moments I would say with this was not too long. It’s all about just really seeing examples of mindset and the power of mindset. It’s not related specifically to the forum, but many of my forum members went to this event. It was a fire walking event, and we started the event with breaking boards. So we were kind of building up to this fire walking activity. But you start with breaking boards. Then we move to another activity where you had to kind of overcome fear. Then we ended the event with fire walking.

That was really interesting, first of all, to see the buildup of you don’t just start with walking on fire. You have to start with overcoming some other fear, achieving something else that maybe you didn’t think you could do, and then get into that point of the fire walking. So that’s just one example of something I’ve done with this group of people, and it’s been very powerful to see other people overcome fears. So doing something together and then seeing other people overcome those fears has been really cool.

[00:21:32] AD: It’s surrounding yourself by others that are going through similar challenges, so you can share good ideas with each other and help each other see different ways of getting through those same challenges, right?

[00:21:42] CS: Well, and it’s very, very inspiring to see other people do it. So I actually took my husband to this fire walking event. On the way – My husband and I are polar opposites. Literally, every personality test put us in like those complete opposite patterns. He was like, “I’m not walking on fire. I’m not doing that.” He actually did it first and he did it twice. I mean, it was contagious. So I think that’s another thing is that positive thinking, positive energy is contagious, just like negative thinking, negative energy. There have been a number of events that I’ve gone to for EO where that’s kind of been a central theme.

I recently, like in my forum meeting, I told my forum mates that I had gone through like a day or two, not long, where I was feeling a little bit like down. Then I realized, if I’m down, my whole team is going to be down. So really realizing, okay, I have to shift. I have to shift my thinking because I have the ability to either positively or negatively impact the people around me, and I would rather choose the positive route. So it is a choice. It’s a total choice.

[00:22:50] AD: I couldn’t agree with you more. I think this is a great place. I’m going to give a summary of what we talked about here today. I want to take what you just said and tie it back into where we started. We started around this idea of feedback and looking for feedback, creating a culture of feedback, being open to feedback. What you’re saying right there is that you recognize you want to be open to feedback. You want to hear feedback from people, so you can see and learn and become more thoughtful, more intentional with how you act and behave. Because you know that you, especially as the leader of an organization, and anytime you’re a leader of any team of people, you will affect those around you, right? Energy and positive mindset very much, it’s contagious between the groups of people you’re at.

In addition to that, we talked about this idea of being able to obtain professional and personal growth through networking, right? This idea I go out and I network, and I’m networking not to sell anything but just to have a relationship, to share ideas, to exchange thoughts and know that through that, not only am I going to learn by listening to other people but I’m going to also learn by talking with other people and hearing different perspectives. You build a great relationship along the way. The whole idea of I don’t go out with the mindset of trying to sell, you can, as you said, you storyteller. Tell things, share ideas, and you’ll find, if there’s an opportunity, it’ll present itself. Then you can approach it as an opportunity.

But in general, you go out there with that mindset of you just want to learn. I just want to be able to gain knowledge from that. This all comes back to its mindset. It is the way you think about it. It is I want to – If growth is important, if learning is important, then I have to want feedback. I can’t be defensive. I have to go invest my time, and be around other people, and surround myself with other people that have similar experiences and different experiences. So I can hear different thoughts and ideas, all to help me as an individual. I will learn and grow and change and evolve in that process. That’s what drives the growth outcome that we’ve been talking about the entire way, right?

[00:24:36] CS: Right. Yeah. Yeah. Thank you for that. Yeah.

[00:24:39] AD: So I want to give a call to action for our listeners this week. So my challenge to you is sometime in the next week, sit down and just write down the mindset that you want to carry about growth. Like what does growth mean to you? Not as much why you should dig into why as well, but why will take a little bit more of a thought process to be reflective on. But when you say growth, what’s the mindset? What’s the way you want to think about growth? Just write that down, put it somewhere where you can see it, focus on it, and make sure that you embrace that on a day-to-day basis.

Carrie, for our listeners, how can they get in touch with you?

[00:25:10] CS: Sure. Thank you so much. Yeah, please look me up on LinkedIn. I think I’m the only Carrie Schochet out there. My last name is S-C-H-O-C-H-E-T. So you can find me on LinkedIn, Carrie Schochet at Purple Squirrel Advisors. My email address is also [email protected].

[00:25:27] AD: Awesome. We’ll make sure those are linked in the show notes. So, Carrie, I appreciate you coming on here. This has been an excellent conversation. I thought we went down some interesting places around growth and, again, appreciate you coming on here.

[00:25:36] CS: Thank you so much for having me. Great to talk to you as always.

[END OF INTERVIEW]

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