Mastery: Ego Coaching Transitions
“In order to be okay in the world and to belong I need to be certain things. The ego tends to protect ourselves. We want to prove we are extraordinary, and we have to hide our weaknesses. Exploring ego touches on our sole identities and being able to speak about our identities.” Carole Levy’s personal mastery journey helped her to reclaim my voice, her agency, her creativity, and her sense of confidence. Her cartoons and creative writing help her to share her thoughts. “I love helping people.
I feel good about myself when I have the impression that I’ve been useful for somebody else. I’m not necessarily the one acting in the world. I don’t have a team. I have my little enterprise. I feel that I can help by helping the people who are helping other people to change things in the world. I just love being in a relationship with people and understanding what they are doing and support them to unlock some of their limitations and unlock the potential. That’s really what I love doing.” says Carole.
Building trust and having effective team, requires creating safety and shaping a deep sense of belonging. Who I am as a person is fully accepted? With a sense of trust and safety and belonging, you can be vulnerable, take risks, do things that are difficult, give feedback to each other and make progress together. Service and having a sense of purpose thrive on a foundation of trust. An important aspect of identity relates to self-worth. With diverse teams, building trust involves being able to have sensitive conversations and to speak about things that may be challenging.
My personal testimony is that with Carole’s coaching. I was able to shift from the fear that other people are going to judge me to other people are giving me a gift through feedback.
Carole is passionate about fostering a learning environment where everyone is eager to reach the next level of development and achieve their best work, as well as foster a culture of trust.
When she’s not exploring new tools and resources to support leadership development and culture shaping, Carole enjoys writing and drawing.
Carole Levy’s book is The Bumpy Road to Collaboration. Her website is www.thetrustfactory.co
00:00:00 Paula: Welcome to “TesseTalks” with your host Tesse Akpeki and co-host Paula Okonneh, where we share with you top leadership and management strategies. We have discovered that this is indeed a journey of discovery. And we have learned that leadership is personal and professional. So we hope you, our listening audience would walk with us in this adventure. The theme for today’s show is “Mastery, Ego Coaching Transitions and Reimaginations. And the guests that we have is the amazing Carole Levy. I’ll tell you something about Carole, she has a passion for supporting leaders and teams from mission driven organizations to foster a learning environment where everyone is eager to reach the next level of development and achieve their best work, as well as foster a culture of trust. She specializes in non-profit and academic institutions, but some of her current clients, including “Blue Meridian Partners”, “Heron Foundation”, Overdeck Foundation, “William Penn Foundation”, and lots more. So her clients span across industries, which also include governmental agencies and private sector companies, such as “Invitae capital One”, “Metron Ocra”, “M&T Bank”, “TransUnion”. Wow. “Cloud Med” and “Harton”. And when she’s not exploring new tools and resources to support leadership development and culture shaping, Carole enjoys writing and drawing. With that, I want to say welcome to “TesseTalks” Carole.
00:01:58 Tesse: Hi, welcome Carole. For so many years, I’ve been wanting to get you on the show, and now here you are. So I don’t know who’s more excited me or you, but I’m definitely excited. Paula, are you excited to have Carole on ?
00:02:13 Paula: More than excited. I’ve heard so much about Carole. One thing that our listeners probably don’t know, but I know is that Carole was Tesse’s coach. And Tesse spoke so much about her, positively of course. But I actually thought that we had interviewed Carole. I had to go back and look at our previous podcast recordings, and I came back to Tesse and said, you know, haven’t we recorded her? She said, no. So now we have an opportunity to have her here with us on the podcast. I’m thrilled.
00:02:43 Tesse: Yeah, thank you. And Carole, you have a passion for supporting leaders. What excites you about that? What gets you out of the bed in the morning and saying, yeah, I love what I do?
00:02:56 Carole: Well, first of all, I’m excited to be here too. And I was excited to wake up this morning and to think that I would be on your show finally. This is a big question, and a simple question and the simple answer is I love helping people. I feel good about myself when I have the impression that I’ve been useful for somebody else. I’m not necessarily the one acting in the world. I don’t have a team. I mean, I have my little enterprise, but I’m not the one changing things in the world. But I feel that I can help by helping the people who are helping other people to change things in the world. It’s my contribution. I just love being in a relationship with people and understanding what they are doing, and just helping them to unlock some of their limitations and unlock the potential. And that’s really what I love doing.
00:04:08 Tesse: I love that phraseology of love the people, and help the people who are helping the people. I just love that. Paula you have a question for Carole.
00:04:22 Paula: Yeah. So one of the things we talked about, I read up in her bio is that she encourages a culture of trust and I would like to find out more about that. Tesse has told me so much, I saw her grow under your coaching. But tell the listening audience what that means to encourage a culture of trust means what?
00:04:47 Carole: There is a book that I love because it’s a very simple book that presents key concept about what are the culture that are really effective? And who are the effective team? The book is called the “Culture Code, Daniel Cole, It’s very famous. And I’ve been reading this book again and again, and the research that is constantly evolving, always come back to this concept. Which is that to build trust and to have effective team, you need first and foremost to build safety, which means a deep sense of belonging. Who I am as a person is fully accepted. Then there is because you have this sense of trust and safety and belonging, you can take risk in your job. You can be vulnerable. You can do things that are difficult, like giving feedback to each other and you’re making progress. And these two skills are at the service of the purpose, why are we existing and being focused on this purpose? So for me, so back to your question, building trust it’s the foundation. Is building this sense of I belong in this team, who I am is accepted, and we can do good work together because we all feel safe together. And it’s not a given to reach this level of trust. Because for example, right now it’s the question of race, identity, gender, super present, super difficult to speak about that; complicated and if we don’t address that, it’s really difficult to create trust. I mean, most team are diverse now more or less. But building trust in diverse team is being able to speak about these things. I don’t know, I am all over the place right now.
00:06:51 Tesse: Oh, you’re not all of the place at all.
00:06:54 Paula: It’s very relevant what you’re saying. Because I have this conversation with a client of mine today, where we said, you know, they’re very tough and hard topics that people don’t want to talk about, but they need to be spoken about. So, yeah, I like what you said about safety, that if you don’t feel safe then you can’t even develop trust, trust flies out through the window.
00:07:18 Carole: One of my approach, and I was trained for 20 years with the same methodology, and today it’s really in my core. But I’m also, I’m curious and I have different ways to approach the work on the self and to help leaders to grow. But one key concept is the concept of the ego. The ego, and the way I’m defining it, is this one aspect of my identity that is constantly worried about my self worth. There is a big confusion with the ego. The ego believes that in order to be worth it, I need to meet certain criteria. I need to be this, this, this, and I cannot be that, that, that. So if I don’t meet this criteria, I feel shame, basically I am a failure. So that’s the work of “Brenda Brown”. She’s good also to speak about the ego. Because this is the sense of, in order to be okay in the world and to belong I need to be certain things. And because of this ego, we tend to protect ourselves, we want to prove we are extraordinary and we have to hide our weaknesses and all our flaws and all of that. I mean, I give you the short version. But all of that is impeding the sense of safety, the sense of, I can be who I am. I can have flaws. I can show my weaknesses so that I can learn. I mean, the goal is not to stay in my weaknesses, the goal is to learn, improve, do the work. So exploring this ego is part of the work, it’s part of exploring our sole identities and being able to speak about our identities.
00:09:20 Tesse: Yeah, this is such a rich conversation in terms of the ego. One of the things I learned from you Carole, was the importance of feedback. When you first started coaching me, I dreaded feedback like crazy. I was so scared. And a few years ago, I actually said to somebody I’d like some feedback from you. And what actually came into my mind is make feedback your friend, which you used to say. Then another thing that you used to say, you used to say things like “stay with your intention”. And it was that bit about, even if you have a goal and there’s a lot of distortion or distraction going on, stay with the intention. These were kind of building blocks really, to be vulnerable, to actually be in environments that are safe and to stay in those environments, but also to embrace things like feedback and like focus as a way, a stepping stones to strengthening leadership and strengthening in the way we are in the world. Could you think of any other kinds of things that you would say are tools or resources that can be helpful? Because one of the things I enjoy about it is that you’re very practical. Like things that can work.
00:10:34 Carole: Yeah. That was many, many tools, many, many practical things. Actually, I’m curious to ask you Tesse, what were you afraid about with feedback and how you made feedback, your friend?
00:10:51 Tesse: Yeah. So with the feedback, what I was afraid about is what you were saying earlier about the shame of not being good enough.
00:11:00 Carole: Right.
00:11:00 Tesse: So for me, the adversity to receive any feedback was that, I would not be good enough. I would hear something that I couldn’t do anything about. It just was not something that sat comfortably with me. And the other thing that growing up, and Paula would recognize this with the Nigerian parents. They kind of, the way they gave feedback, it’s not exactly the most loving way, you know. It’s kind of like when I heard somebody calling me Teresa, rather than Tesse I knew I was in trouble. That was feedback enough. It had a lot of very negative connotations. When I came to Learning as Leadership, what changed for me was to begin to recognize, love. To begin to recognize the separation between unconditional love and judgment. And that took a long time. I was with you in LAL and you as my coach for two years. The journey continued. And I had to kind of now start experimenting with, what is it like if I take a risk? What is it like? But if it was only two years ago, remember it’s been a long time since we have been in that relationship. If it was only two years I came to the place where I was inviting feedback, you can see that that journey was a long one. I caught myself by surprise. Because what I found change was when I’m in a safe environment and when I’m asking for feedback, that feedback improves me. That feedback makes me better. That feedback actually helps me to have that loop of feet forward. So it’s feedback that helps to plan ahead, and it took many years to get there. But what was the bedrock was love. Love did it. It was not anything but love.
00:12:54 Carole: But that was a paradigm shift for you. You shifted from other people are going to judge me to other people are giving me a gift, something like that.
00:13:07 Tesse: Absolutely perfect. And I can see how you turn the tables on me now. Because I noticed, I noticed. Paula, what are you thinking? Do you see what I’m telling you? Paula what has Carole just done ?
00:13:19 Carole: That wasn’t very sudden.
00:13:24 Paula: But I liked it, it was able to show like a before and after. So the Tesse before would not have enjoyed the tables turning on her. But I saw a confident Tesse give feedback, you know, give feedback on her feedback. Why she liked it, what it did for her and what it showed her. And you’re right. I mean, the environment that we are brought up in does color the way that we look at the world. And so when in many ways some of the cultural norms is to shame you into doing better. And primarily because people don’t know better. You don’t know what you don’t know. For some people that makes them excel, but to a lot of people it makes them withdraw. And so I’m so much happier, I’m happy that we are in a world now where constructive feedback, and transparency, and ability to everyone has a voice and everyone should have a voice, I should say. That’s becoming a bit more common to let people know that yeah, under the marginalized people don’t need to continue to be that way. The unspoken people do have a voice, you know. So I love it.
00:14:37 Carole: I turned the table on you Tesse, because your question was, oh, do you have some concrete things to say to help leaders? There are many tools. But for me, you’re the living proof of how change can happen. And I don’t think it’s thanks to your two years with LaL and mean only, because I know you’ve always been on this path of searching for improving yourself. You’re one of this lifelong learners and on the spiritual journey, really trying to claim who you are. And in this sense, that’s interesting too, to also ask you what have you concretely applied in your own journey? And what we have in common, I think also is that I’ve been on the same path in a way toWhen I started this work at the end of my studies, when I was reclaim my voice, my agency. 25, I was a wreck. I was powerless. I thought I could influence nothing. And I had zero confidence in myself. It was the results of my patterns. But at 25 I had really zero sense of urgency. And so my own journey has been around reclaiming my agency, my creativity, my sense of confidence, my voice, all of that. And I see that also in you Tesse, now you do podcasts.
00:16:17 Tesse: You know, you actually brought me into another thing that I wanted to actually dig in a bit deeper. Cause you’re one of the most creative people I’ve seen. I’ve seen you drawing. I actually bought your book, you know, on the ego and traps. And I bought, and I love your newsletter with all the different cartoons and things. And in the days of LaL I used to love you and the skits and all that. So why is this creativity? What’s it do for you? What’s the story behind that?
00:16:49 Carole: So, It always has been there, and in the sense that when I was a child, I was creative. And I was also living in an environment where my mother was creative my siblings, my brother and sister were also so creative. We were creative. We are playing together. We are doing stuff together, creating games. Drawing was the thing for me, I liked drawing. But what’s interesting is that I don’t know, around eight, ten, I had reached this conclusion that I would never be good enough as a drawer to earn my living as an artist. And at this age I had already started to limit myself with certain conclusions. And this not being good enough was already very, very present. And I started to drop being creative. It was there, I had a longing for it. But as I grew, I became more and more anxious. I had this thing about, in order to be worthwhile in this world, I have to be special and unique, and I have to avoid competition. Because if you put me and somebody else in competition, I’m going to lose, I’m less than. So I had the thing that I needed to be somebody special and unique, but that’s a lot of pressure, especially when you want to be creative. Because I was with the pressure to only do something extraordinary. So I was doing nothing. And that was a little bit the pattern that led me at 20, and I was very afraid of failure. So the pattern was, especially when I was 15, to choose activities that were immediately gratifying and avoid any activity that would be boring or just fastidious, or, you know repetitive and no immediate gratification. And I think I went really into this pattern of fixed mindset and lost my growth mindset. And so long story short 25, I had nothing left in my time. No creativity and I was very paralyzed. But I had this longing that I needed to express myself creatively, but I could start something and I would stop immediately. I was really in this pattern around, if I have to do it, it has to be perfect right away of course it’s not. So my path really was, and it took me 10 years to gain back what I had lost in 10 years basically. 10 years to get back to, oh yeah, I can write, I can draw, I can be an actress, I can have a creative voice. And it’s not a given. Once in a month I think I’m not an artist anymore, I lost it, and then it comes back.
00:20:06 Tesse: It’s really interesting, because last week you didn’t need the spirit of learning. I actually attended a webinar on a book called “Leveraging The Power Of Visual Thinking Leadership”, and it was all about drawing and all about communicating with images and things. And I remembered you. And I thought, my coach, she taught me this thing, it’s really good. And it was actually saying that those kind of visualization, visual communication are actually more powerful than words. So it’s interesting that you’re now giving this background story, which I hadn’t heard before, that actually this is where it came from and where you excel in it when you’re not putting pressure on yourself. Paula, your thoughts on this?
00:20:50 Paula: I’m blown away by everything because I listened to Carole’s story, and what came to me is, you can’t give what you don’t have. And I say that because I realized that you wrote a book, “The Bumpy Road To Collaboration”. And I feel that I haven’t read the book per se, but just looking at your website and everything. I’ve realised that the reason that you’re so successful and being able to lead facilitation and leadership with teams and groups is because of your experience those days when you thought you had to excel, you couldn’t fail, you have to be unique and special. I have instant gratification has given you the ability now to see in people are striving and thriving and trying to put on those characteristics that you had when you were younger. So that leads me to my next question. What does success look to you now? Now that you’ve come down the road from being 15 and scared and 25 and feeling you had nothing to where you are today. Did you say, I mean, we have a successful story. I mean, one of your clients is here leading a podcast. That’s success in itself.
00:22:06 Carole: Tesse you’re my success story. I love it. So what I’ve been working on because I became a consultant, I think in 2013 or 14, 13, maybe. And that was a big, big shift. I always have been, I always have felt protected. I was an employee in the stable organization and I had the stable role. So when I transitioned, because I was also feeling stuck a little bit in the comfort of my position. And it’s been really challenging to be with this constant uncertainty. I overcame in a Saturday meeting the challenge to not knowing what’s going to happen, will I have some clients and year after year it’s been happening. And so for me, success, it’s less about, oh I have clients, it’s more, oh I have the freedom of trusting things can happen. That’s one. And building on the one hand, there is the success is to have this confidence in myself that I know who I am and what I want to do, which I haven’t reached necessarily 100%. Things are changing so fast right now in organizations. Especially in the last two years with COVID and the social unrest and the race, equity, a gender question, all of that. I’m still searching, but I think having the confidence in who I am and what I want to do in the world, and just being grounded in that, that would be success. Then having also the clients and the stability, that’s also success.
00:24:02 Tesse: That’s an amazing answer, it really is. Paula I see you nodding your head and stuff cause yeah. What are your thoughts on that?
00:24:11 Paula: I think as well said. I mean, she summarized it all. She hasn’t gotten it all. The world has changed, but at the same time. She knows now what she wants to do and who she wants to be and who she is and because of that, that I think translates into how you show up in the world and how you coach people and how you approach your clients. Because you’ve gone through that road, that journey, and now you know who you are. I think that’s happening even with Tesse, even with myself. I know who I want to speak to now, and I know how I want to speak about what I want to speak about. But that has come with years and that’s come with ups and downs and trials and sadness. But that has built me, and I say that to my children. So you’re not shallow, you’re not hollow. When you stand up, when you reach out to your client, and your clients am assuming are people now that you want to speak with, they’re drawn to you because there’s something in you, and you’re drawn to them and it’s vice versa. There’s something in you that makes them want to be your client and vice versa. You have something to give. So I love what you said about the success. You’re not quite there, but you are there, you are on the journey.
00:25:28 Carole: Yeah.
00:25:28 Tesse: Well, I have a really interesting story about Carole, and I think I’ve told Carole this in the past. But there’s a guy who I met in Washington DC and different parts of the States when I’d go for a conference and he’s called William (Bill) Ryan. He actually teaches at Harvard and I tried so many years to get William to come to the UK. And I spent about seven or eight years trying to convince him one day. He said yes. And he came to the UK. And he did a number of sessions here on governance. And I walked up to him and I said, William, he said, “yeah”, I said, “I want to be like you”. He looked at me like, are you, you know, “I’m a white male”, you know, you want to be like me? I said, “I’m serious, I want to be like you”. So he said, okay, Tesse he humored me. He said, Tesse, leave it with me, I’ll get back to you. And for weeks I didn’t hear about from Bill and then Bill sent me an email, and he said phone this person, she will help you to be like me. He was the one who made the connection with Carole.
00:26:36 Carole: I had forgotten that Bill Ryan was our connection. Oh, that’s great.
00:26:47 Tesse: You want to be like me? I’ll introduce you, Carole. So yeah, we share the same coach, you know? So Carole, you have many successes there.
00:27:04 Paula: So now we need to start wrapping up because all good things come to an end. Carole I talked about reading up about you on your website. I’m sure that’s not the only place that people can find out about you. Are you on LinkedIn? Are you on other social media platforms?
00:27:21 Carole: Well, I need you as my coach on social media, because I am really not very much present on social media. But people can find me on LinkedIn. They can also see my website, “the trust factory”. And I have a blog. They can sign up for my blog. As Tesse said, I write, I mean, it’s once a month, I’m trying to write and use my cartoons also to share my thoughts. That’s it.
00:27:52 Paula: You say that’s it, but that’s a lot, that’s a lot. Your blog, your website, I love it. And to our amazing audience, thank you so much for tuning in. We ask that you head over to Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere else you listen to podcasts and follow us and also click subscribe. And if you like what you just heard from the amazing Carole Levy, please write us a raving review. If you have questions or topics you’d like for us to cover related to leadership or governance, please send us a note. Remember your note can be personal or professional. And if you would like to be a guest on “TesseTalks”, please head over to “Tesseakpeki.com/tessetalks” to apply. Thank you again, Carole. This has been so good.
00:28:48 Carole: Thank you, Paula. Thank you Tesse.
00:28:50 Tesse: You’re amazing Carole. Love you to bits.