Workplace MVP: Victoria Hepburn, Hepburn Coaching
Bestselling author, coach, and speaker Victoria Hepburn of Hepburn Coaching joined host Jamie Gassmann to discuss stress and burnout, particularly for leaders. After experiencing her own burnout, Victoria took proactive steps to get healthy and happy without leaving her corporate career. She and Jamie talk about that journey, Victoria’s book, Pressure Makes Diamonds: Simple Habits for Busy Professionals to Break the Burnout Cycle, how leaders can identify and approach their own stress, how a coach can help, and much more.
Victoria Hepburn, PCC, Author, Speaker, and Remote Work Strategist, Hepburn Coaching
Remote Work Strategist Victoria Hepburn, PCC, is an author, speaker, and certified business transitions coach specializing in remote work productivity and career development. Victoria teaches professionals how to create efficiencies in their life and business to stay visible and valued while working remotely, on virtual teams, or in hybrid offices. She has nearly twenty years of award-winning experience in Fortune 500 engineering and sales roles that were on remote, hybrid, and global virtual teams.
Her mission is to share the proven tools for building a rewarding career journey without sacrificing your home life and health. Her programs are designed to help talented, hard-working professionals navigate the world of remote and hybrid work, including building trusted relationships, preventing burnout, and finding new career opportunities. Her Amazon New Release #1 bestselling book, Pressure Makes Diamonds: Simple Habits for Busy Professionals to Break the Burnout Cycle gives clear and simple actions to boost productivity and resilience without quitting.
Prior to becoming a bestselling author, coach, and speaker, she enjoyed over a decade-long award-winning engineering and sales career at Merck, GE Healthcare, and BD. Victoria earned a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from New York University and a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology through a dual degree program. She is an IPEC-certified professional coach, a certified Heartmath Coach and was awarded a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) accreditation by the International Coaching Federation in 2021. Victoria’s a busy wife and mother who enjoys walks with the family’s large rescue dog, who refuses to play fetch.
Victoria’s most popular talk titles are “Building Remote Relationships: How to Use the Pressure You’re Under to Shine In Your Career” and “Build Your Career Board of Directors to Maximize Growth and Opportunity”. Her upcoming book series, “The Future is Now” will be available on Amazon on November 30, 2022.
About Workplace MVP
Every day, around the world, organizations of all sizes face disruptive events and situations. Within those workplaces are everyday heroes in human resources, risk management, security, business continuity, and the C-suite. They don’t call themselves heroes though. On the contrary, they simply show up every day, laboring for the well-being of employees in their care, readying the workplace for and planning responses to disruption. This show, Workplace MVP, confers on these heroes the designation they deserve, Workplace MVP (Most Valuable Professionals), and gives them the forum to tell their story. As you hear their experiences, you will learn first-hand, real-life approaches to readying the workplace, responses to crisis situations, and overcoming challenges of disruption. Visit our show archive here.
Workplace MVP Host Jamie Gassmann
In addition to serving as the host to the Workplace MVP podcast, Jamie Gassmann is the Director of Marketing at R3 Continuum (R3c). Collectively, she has more than fourteen years of marketing experience. Across her tenure, she has experience working in and with various industries including banking, real estate, retail, crisis management, insurance, business continuity, and more. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mass Communications with special interest in Advertising and Public Relations and a Master of Business Administration from Paseka School of Business, Minnesota State University.
R3 Continuum is a global leader in workplace behavioral health and security solutions. R3c helps ensure the psychological and physical safety of organizations and their people in today’s ever-changing and often unpredictable world. Through their continuum of tailored solutions, including evaluations, crisis response, executive optimization, protective services, and more, they help organizations maintain and cultivate a workplace of wellbeing so that their people can thrive. Learn more about R3c at www.r3c.com.
Intro: [00:00:02] Broadcasting from the studios of Business RadioX, it’s time for Workplace MVP. Brought to you by R3 Continuum, a global leader in helping workplaces thrive during disruptive times. Now, here’s your host, Jamie Gasmann.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:00:20] Hi, everyone. Your host, Jamie Gassmann here, and welcome to this episode of Workplace MVP. Stress, burnout, resignations are common terms we’re hearing all across various industries, particularly of concern at the executive and senior leadership levels. The navigating of continuous disruption within work environments, the shifting economic situation, and other professional and personal challenges that present themselves is taking a toll on key leadership.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:00:49] While they spend a good amount of time focusing on ensuring their people’s wellbeing is taken care of, they are forgetting that their own wellbeing is just as important in ensuring organizational success. But how do you strike that balance between work success, home life, and your own wellbeing?
Jamie Gassmann: [00:01:05] Well, joining us today, we have a special guest, bestselling author, keynote speaker, and Workplace MVP Victoria Hepburn, who’s going to share her perspective on how leaders can tackle and benefit from the challenges of stress and burnout. So, let’s get this conversation going. Welcome to the show, Victoria.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:01:23] Thank you so much, Jamie. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:01:26] I’m really excited to have you on the show after talking with you at the GSC-SHRM Conference. I think we had such a great dialogue around how leaders, you know, can combat this. They can get after that stress and burnout that they’re facing. So, before we dive into the content of the conversation, let’s start with hearing about how you came to be an author and a speaker on stress and burnout. And what does your career journey look like? Because I recall from our conversation, you had your own kind of personal experiences that kind of drove you to where you’re at today. So, why don’t I have you share that story with us?
Victoria Hepburn: [00:02:02] Oh, well, thank you. What really brought me to it is I needed to solve my own burnout journey, as I’ve grown to call it. But at the time when I was in the weeds – just to step back, I have spent more than 18 years in corporate America in engineering and sales roles, Fortune 500. And I was working at the point where I said I have to do something about my burnout.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:02:27] I was working internationally and I would have to be, like, on calls at 3:00 a.m. with my European counterparts and then stay up and connected enough to meet with Japanese project teams. So, that was being stretched in a million directions. And it’s a uniquely American problem, I learned, because my colleagues in Asia and in Europe had assistance to do all the logistical stuff I didn’t have. I had to, like, schedule my travel, send out quotes. So, I was just pulled in so many directions. And I also had to drive forward project teams at the same time.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:03:05] So, I couldn’t quit because I loved my work. We were doing amazing things, but I needed to stop feeling the sense of cynicism, the exhaustion, and just generally not loving my life and saying no to all the people that I loved and who loved me all the time. It was miserable. So, that’s really when I had my epiphany where I have to do something. I have to find time, space, and attention for me because my health was also failing. I was starting to gain weight. I thought I had a heart condition, but it was really like an anxiety and panic attack kind of situation. And I just had that moment where, no, I have to do something.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:03:45] So, my first step was to get back into exercise and meditation, because those are things that I knew worked for me. And then, in my quest to find a meditation that worked, it was insight meditation. Then, I found HeartMath, which is a stress relieving technique that you can do with your eyes open. So, in meetings I could calm myself down and focus because, really, it was about focusing on what mattered the most to me and creating a new goal.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:04:14] All my goals were professional at that point in my life, and that was the first time where I created a triple bottom line, where it was my professional goals but also my social goals, who did I want to be around. And my health, I had to start making my health a priority. And this is in my 30s. This isn’t like it took a long time. This is my early 30s that I was making these decisions.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:04:35] And what changed for me was so profound that other people I worked with took notice. Because I didn’t quit to fix myself and to fix my issues, but it required me to do three things differently than how we’re taught to be as professionals. The first thing was actually holding time for me and that exercise, you know, that’s an appointment as if it was a customer meeting or a senior leadership meeting. Making time every single morning, even if I was running late or whatever, for my insight meditation to practice bringing my focus back to what matters.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:05:13] And then, finally, making time for people in my life, which was crazy making. I’m not going to lie and say I eased into it effortlessly. I put it in my book, Pressure Makes Diamonds, because it is not easy to shift your mindset to say you actually have that time. But I started by just taking one night off a week. One night off a week, where I would do something for me with another human, and that’s it. That was the level that I had to get through. It’s really challenging to create that time.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:05:48] And then, fast forward, I was able to keep winning awards. I take pride in having a whole wall of glass over here from all my different corporate sales roles and engineering roles. And keep making a difference for our customers, but I also had quality of life. And this is coming from someone who cancelled vacations and missed family holidays and things like that. So, I believe that it’s a necessary thing in order to preserve your life force. At this point, in this moment, a lot more people are thrust into that life that I had with remote work and interdisciplinary work. Teams are much leaner than they ever have been. And we have to start acknowledging our humanity.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:06:30] And you really become a better performer at the end of it, it sounds like. You know, you kind of personally experienced that, that creating that balance in your life to be able to take care of yourself from a health and wellbeing perspective allows you to perform even better because you probably had more of a clear mind. You know, what were some of the feeling that you felt when you had that differentiation, when you started really taking care of yourself and making that time to take care of yourself?
Victoria Hepburn: [00:07:00] Initially terror, because I felt like I was going against the grain. I’m doing things. They’re going to fire me because I’m saying no. Like, I had all the feelings around it. If you’re listening to this, you can’t see me, I’m a woman and I’m a person of color. I’m Black. So, I stand out. If I say no to a meeting, people are like, “Where’s Victoria?” Like, specifically looking for me because I stand out. And it’s happened, that’s the only reason why I say that. So, I felt that I would be forfeiting opportunity. I felt that I was putting a lot at risk, like all that I had worked for would be at risk. But I figured if not now, when? Because if I fall apart, it’s all at risk too. So, it was that level of terror.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:07:45] But then, after you get some positive reinforcement, setting small goals towards today it’s just about getting my workout in at the end of the day. That’s the goal. Keep it small and attainable. And keep reflecting each week. Reflect what was I able to do, what got in my way. And I developed a practice over time of just looking, what do I need to do, what do I want to do, and what am I ready to let go of.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:08:15] Because it’s a process. You can’t just say, “Oh, I’m starting a whole new life,” like New Year’s resolution style. It doesn’t work like that. People are used to you showing up a certain way. Like, if you’re always available at 9:00 at night, people feel some kind of way when all of a sudden you’re not available at 9:00 at night. Like, “What’s this?” Especially if your colleagues are in another time zone and they rely on that.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:08:37] So, you have to train people. Having conversations and telling people I’m going to start disconnecting. Putting it on your Slack that I won’t be available from these hours. And sometimes for me it was like an auto message that went out to people saying, “I’ll get back to you in a few hours” or something, I tried to use that sparingly. It was really about communicating directly to my team members and saying, “Listen, I’m going to be disconnecting every Wednesday at 6:00 because I have a commitment.” You don’t have to go crazy on what that commitment was, but just being practical and saying, you know, I respect and appreciate what we’re working on, but I need this time. And most people were gracious.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:09:18] You create boundaries for yourself, right? You’re kind of structuring out for people, like, this is what I’m available to do and not do. That’s great. And I think that’s – go ahead.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:09:26] The blessing of working with Europeans is they totally said, “Okay, fine.” You would see their –
Jamie Gassmann: [00:09:33] They’re probably like, “I’m glad to hear about that.” No. I mean, from your perspective, these are such great tips. And looking at the challenging and complex environment that we currently have, both professionally and personally, coming off of three years of fast and rapid and dramatic change that people are experiencing, in the work that you do with coaching leaders, what are you seeing as a common theme within leadership today?
Victoria Hepburn: [00:10:04] The speed of everything is coming at everyone so fast, particularly leaders. Because right now, if you’re running any kind of organization, you’re standing in charge of a major transformation that no one asked for. We have the great reshuffle, plus the pandemic after effects or ongoing pandemic, depending on who you talk to, plus a changing workforce dynamic with the different generations at work, and the needs of people have changed. So, the speed of transformation is going like never before.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:10:42] And then, now you’ve got the economic shift, too, that’s on the mind of a lot of leaders as well that they’re trying to navigate. And sometimes making some really tough decisions, as we’ve seen kind of with some of the tech industry recently. So, definitely a challenging time and complex time for leaders. So, this is a very timely conversation.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:11:03] Yes. And there’s so much they can do that aren’t commonly taught. Like, I didn’t learn any of this in my business or academic education. You know, my degrees are in chemistry and chemical engineering and I took a lot of business classes as an engineer. But nothing they talked about with regards to team dynamics prepares you for this. And then, I talk to my friends who have great MBAs and they’re like, “Yeah. There’s no class that tells you how to make these tough choices or to work at the pace of disruption that we’re seeing.”
Jamie Gassmann: [00:11:34] Yeah. No, there’s not. And the other thing, too, is, I think when you get to a certain point in leadership when you’re in what they consider that senior leadership and above, there’s almost this expectation that you know how to manage yourself and you know how to navigate those challenges and complexities that are coming at you. Though I think there is some truth to that, because you’ve gotten where you’re at for a reason, there’s also sometimes, to your point that you made, there’s things that you feel are expectations upon you.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:12:08] So, you’re almost carrying the weight of the world. You don’t want to make anything different that goes against that because you’re in your position for a reason. So, there’s some kind of barriers almost that you have to kind of overcome, I think, sometimes within your own mindset of what you should be doing during that time frame.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:12:28] Yes.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:12:28] So, in looking at your book, Pressure Makes Diamonds, you talk about how you felt that burnout was something that you had to put up with. So, kind of getting after what I was just kind of talking about, and particularly some of that is, you know, you seeing others dealing with it and having those high stress days and kind of witnessing that rundown. And, you know, I know myself as a leader, I would say, “Yep. Onward and upward, I’m still breathing. We got this.”
Jamie Gassmann: [00:12:55] But I imagine a lot of leaders across various different industries are looking at that and going, “Yeah, I see that, too.” How can they look at that differently? How can they look at what we see as what we think of status quo is it’s normal to be high stressed and burned out all the time. How can they be looking at that from a different lens to take better care of themselves?
Victoria Hepburn: [00:13:19] I always say, just because it’s normal doesn’t make it right for me. And just permission, give yourself permission to say what I need matters. And it’s not disruptive to save yourself, that’s the thing. It’s disruptive if you try to force it on other people. But when you are trying to save yourself, that’s not disruptive.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:13:44] Also, there’s a lot of data in the business process about unlearning old mindsets, old habits. And right now we’re in the process of unlearning this industrial revolution style work ethic, which says we have to keep working endlessly and be the expert and give all the directions. That’s just false in the knowledge economy.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:14:07] We have more information at our fingertips than we ever have in human history, so the answers don’t have to come from a leader. They need to come from the team more so because now you have a team of experts. Even as stressed out as our teams are, we can get more done together. And there’s a lot of opportunity for delegation, but it requires a leader to unlearn that old top down approach and to say openly to your team, “What is it that we are not doing that we should be doing?”
Victoria Hepburn: [00:14:41] And it’s the cardinal rule of business, I was taught, was, never ask questions you don’t know the answer to. And now we’re in a moment where if you don’t ask questions you don’t know the answer to, you won’t know where the problems are, where the low hanging fruit is. And that will relieve a lot of the stress and the worry from the uncertainty is having certainty with your team.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:15:05] Yeah, I love that. I love that unlearn the bad habits in a way of what we’ve been taught or how we’ve been kind of groomed to be as leaders.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:15:14] So, what are some of the personal contributors to a leader’s own stress and burnout? So, you know, I know there’s always some things that kind of in the work environment just come by the nature of the work. But what are some of the kind of personal things that could be kind of exasperating some of the things from work.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:15:33] I know in your book you talk a little bit about perfectionism. You know, that not wanting to fail. You kind of mentioned I don’t want it to seem obvious I’m not there. You know, working in the need to always be on, if you will, culture or that perceived culture. What are ways that they can kind of get around those? Or how are those impacting that overall stress and burnout?
Victoria Hepburn: [00:16:00] Well, always on culture was definitely a contributor to my burnout. So, I definitely can speak to that. It really comes down to getting at the heart of what is urgent and what is important. And we don’t have those conversations enough. Collaboration was the key source for me, for my burnout. And I think the biggest thing is the longer you’re in your role, the more your scope and your expertise grows. The more people ask you for those shoulder tap kind of conversations, virtually or in real life. And that’s what consumed me and created the most fatigue.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:16:39] And because I’m a bit of a nerd, I researched it. And I, as a coach, learned from an expert 40 years of studying high level leadership, Dr. Rob Cross. And he basically wrote a book outlining collaboration fatigue as one of the largest contributors. And what happens is, as your scope of work grows, you never drop things off your list. You never delegate them. So, you have to do more and more and more just to be okay. And that is something that most of us are unaware of that we’re doing it until we hit burnout, until we can’t physically do all the things.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:17:21] So, one of the things that is most helpful, and this something I point out in my book, is creating time to reflect. Putting in on the calendar each day what your actual goals are, and also time for you to work on those things. Just blocking it out and having that precious time for you, it’s not selfish. It’s survival.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:17:44] Yeah. And I think just speaking from my own personal experience, when I have a day where there’s no meetings, it’s like, “Wow. Where do I begin with what I can work on?” And holy cow, the ideas that can come out when you’re not moving meeting to meeting to meeting, and you have that time to really clear head and think through a project or a task. You kind of learn from it. In my mind, it’s like I learned from that. It’s like, so it’s okay to block out time and say I’m going to be working today, but I’m not available for meetings or conversations. I’m just in my world.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:18:19] So, carving out time for yourself, especially if your perfectionism can get in the way of that, too. Like, I want it to be perfect. I want it to look great. But you’ve got to have that time to be able to do that. And sometimes you need that time alone to create that. And, again, I think it’s getting after those boundaries and creating that sense of, like, carve out that time, take that time to go for the run.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:18:44] I was actually just talking to my own boss about how I take lunchbreak runs. I go for a, you know, three mile run on my lunchbreak. And at first I felt really guilty about it. You know, as an executive myself, I was like, “Oh.” I felt kind of bad because I’m trained the 8:00 to 5:00 grind. You’re at your computer, you’re fully accessible, anybody can contact you if they need to. And so, that was a shift for me.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:19:13] But what I found is I’m still actually technically working when I’m running because I’m thinking about things. And I’m strategizing as I’m on that run, things are running through my mind. And because it’s a different environment, I sometimes get some really good ideas or really good thoughts that get kind of pulled out of that. Have you experienced some of that, too, when you allowed yourself some of that free time?
Victoria Hepburn: [00:19:35] One hundred percent. Part of what I talk about in the book, one of the parts of my method, the T in BOOST is take time for yourself. And I tell the story about how I adopted my rescue dog and he fundamentally drove me out into the world and got me off my laptop – similar to what you said – all these ideas, this energy. So, the sound of my laptop closing was like his excitement moment because we’re going out.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:20:06] And it was so beneficial for me because I got, not just the walk, but my community. Like running, you’re in the zone. But I didn’t realize, I got to know my neighbors. I had this expansion of my circle and my support network. So, now I have a neighbor if an emergency happens and I need to leave my dog with someone, I just go around the corner. That’s a gift. That’s like a mental load lifted. And professionally, it gave me a fresh set of eyes just taking that 15 minute walk. Yeah, I have to come back for my evening calls with the West Coast in Asia, but it clears the slate.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:20:44] Now, I’m not telling anyone to adopt a rescue dog as a strategy for fitness. That’s a huge undertaking. But I do think that we don’t see how taking time for ourselves helps other people. But it’s that old very much used cliche of put your oxygen mask on first before you can help other people.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:21:03] Oh, absolutely. And I love that. I have a rescue dog as well, and it never fails. As soon as she sees that it’s the end of my workday, it’s like, “All right. it’s time to go for a walk. Let’s go.”
Victoria Hepburn: [00:21:12] It doesn’t matter the weather either.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:21:14] Oh, no. Especially in Minnesota, it does not. So, you also discussed how leaders get into a cycle of feeling overwhelmed and get stuck feeling professional exhaustion or burnout. Can you tell us a little bit about how one might identify that they’re in that cycle?
Victoria Hepburn: [00:21:32] I think the simplest way is you don’t feel like you anymore. And for everybody that’s different. So, for me, it was about getting headaches halfway through my workday. And it wasn’t just eyestrain. You know, you check your eyes, you check everything else, there’s nothing there. And then, also my attitude towards my work shifted. Whereas, I was still showing up. I was still working hard. But I was much more cynical.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:21:56] I’m normally a pretty upbeat person. And I didn’t notice it as much as the people in your life notice it. And they may or may not tell you, so it might be a friend, a spouse, a trusted ally at work. That’s who’s going to tell you. Your team will never tell you. Your team will just think you’re on one today or every day. They’re never going to tell you because they like to live. So, those are the best thing.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:22:20] Sometimes that Mel Robbins approach of sending the text to someone who cares about you saying what could I do to be a better person or better friend to you or a better loved one to you. And what you get back will help you understand it. Because when you’re in it, you just feel like you’re in it and you’re trapped and you’re stuck in it. And that stuck feeling is very limiting. We can’t see possibilities. We can’t see much of anything.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:22:48] And that’s why the tagline of my book is helping busy professionals to break the burnout cycle, because, for me, I would get out of it, I would get back into it. I would get out of it, I’d be like, “Oh, I’m fixed. I don’t have to do those healthy things anymore,” and then I fall back into it. You know, kind of like yo-yo dieting but with stress.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:23:07] Yeah. Oh, my gosh. I had a friend one time that said I always started my diets on a Monday. She’s like, “Oh, you have your Monday diet again.” I’m like, “Oh, I didn’t realize I did that, but I do.”
Jamie Gassmann: [00:23:20] I was just reading something and I don’t know if it was in your book or if it was in an article somewhere I was reading that you feel like you’re underwater trying to run. And I was like, “That is such a great analogy to that feeling.” And when you’re talking about that stuck feeling and how you feel like you’re trying to keep going, it’s like you’re almost like you’re not getting anywhere, but things are moving around you, it made me think of that verse in something that I was reading. Kind of that feeling, and I’m like you can totally feel that when you’re like I’m just trying to get moving forward and I just can’t get there.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:23:57] So, when a leader is stuck in this cycle and they’re showing up to work stressed, they’re showing up burned out, probably even exhausted, obviously it’s got an impact on them physically and probably mentally. But what is the impact on their people and their projects and their performance? What starts to happen to them in that professional world when they’re starting to feel that stuck feeling?
Victoria Hepburn: [00:24:20] Well, most of us, and myself included, try to hide it. The problem is we try to say everything’s okay. We default to toxic positivity because everyone’s counting on us. And the challenge with that is none of us are the Academy Award winning actor we think we are. You know, I’m not channeling my inner Helen Mirren or Dame Judi Dench or Denzel Washington. We’re not as good at covering as we think and so our teams feel tension. Then, as humans, their brain starts spinning because we’re not telling them why we’re tense.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:24:57] It could be about an acute issue, like an upcoming challenge point for the business, but most likely it’s not. It’s just because we’re stressed out, we’re juggling the most, and we don’t have the resources we need to help ourselves or others in that moment. But how are teams interpreted a lot of times is very disruptive because people just get the vibe that you’re not as jolly as you used to be. You’re not sharing information like you used to be. You’re working all the time and you’re not doing the things we know you love to do. What’s wrong with the business that you have to do that?
Victoria Hepburn: [00:25:31] And then, your best people are going to be dusting off their resumes. They’re not going to say anything to you. And that’s the insidious cost of this, because your best people have options. And in this economy, more than ever, that is a terrifying thought as a leader.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:25:48] So, the best thing you can do is to get the support. For some people, it’s about actually healing trauma that they’ve experienced and seeking those mental health services. I know when I had a difficult experience at work, I went to therapy. I needed to talk it through. I needed to make sure I had systems in place to help me move forward. And I also knew I needed to have structure. So, I joined a mindfulness-based stress reduction course, which they fully admit in the first two weeks it’s really mindfulness-based stress creation, trying to fit all those exercises into your life and trying to do all those things.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:26:27] But whatever you do, you have to fix it. You have to. Because those people who are counting on you need you healthy and they need your attention shifted back. But more importantly, you need it. The people who love you want you to be healthy. And the people who care about you and know what you’re capable of when you’re healthy, they need you too. So, I think that’s what it comes down to.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:26:54] And being corporate, you have the blessing of resources, the resources both to get the support you need. It’s really about taking the time. For some people, it’s just about having accountability partnership. I mean, as a coach, that’s what I do a lot of times is remind people of their goal, and help them take the the steps through the messy middle from when you declared everything is going to change to where you’ve achieved the change. That middle part is uncertain. And we humans crave certainty, so it’s hard. And having that accountability partner along the way is super helpful.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:27:29] Yeah. No, absolutely. Even in all wellbeing kind of avenues too. I always tell people I’ll be your accountability workout partner, just let me know. So, that’s great. We’re going to just take a moment to hear from our show sponsor.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:27:44] So, Workplace MVP is sponsored by R3 Continuum. R3 Continuum is a leading expert in providing behavioral health support to people and organizations facing workplace disruption, workplace violence, critical incidents, and extreme stress. They help leaders navigate the complexity and challenges disruption can have on a work environment, guiding them and their organization on the journey to recovery. To learn how they can help your workplace make tomorrow better than today by helping your people thrive, visit r3c.com today.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:28:16] So, diving in, you built a program and I know you talk about it in your book, Pressure Makes Diamonds. You built a program called BOOST. Can you talk us through that program?
Victoria Hepburn: [00:28:28] Yes. So, the BOOST Method I created because I realized I needed to hold myself accountable for what was working for both me and my clients. So, people come to me at that level of, “I can’t take it anymore. I never thought I’d downshift my career, but I have to because this is just too much.”
Victoria Hepburn: [00:28:49] And the BOOST Method is an acronym. So, first is Be specific. You know, consciously understand your why, why you need to change, why this matters, both what you’re working on at work, at home, creating that triple bottom line. That’s the first step is to get clear on what you want. And it has to be appealing enough that you want to commit to working towards it.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:29:15] The next thing is the first O is organize your priorities. Listen to others, ask specific questions to make sure what you’re spending your time on serves your specific goals and the team’s goals.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:29:28] Three is operate like a leader. Because fast movers and organizations, they are adept at disagreeing with people without being disagreeable. So, think about ways where you can show your leadership in a new way that supports your goal and supports the company’s goal. So, a lot of times what that can mean is just not being a supervisor, not caring about what people are working on, but what outcomes are they achieving. Just that shift alone frees up a lot more time and attention.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:30:03] Four is sharing responsibility of others. So, really taking that forward, not just what can you delegate, but encouraging people to actively bring solutions to you in a lot more avenues than you already are doing. And people are super busy, but sometimes these solutions can come from what they’re already working on.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:30:22] And then, finally, as I mentioned before, is, take time for yourself. The guilt and the shame we all have around taking time for our fitness, our families, and our health, and wellbeing has got to stop. As humans we’re not born alone. We’re social creatures. If we don’t nurture that side of ourselves, we are not going to appreciate the business wins. We’re not going to be our best and most creative. The curiosity and the drive that made us successful to this point, if that’s not there, we can’t get to the next level. So, just really taking time to understand what concessions need to be made in order for you to have that time. So, that’s basically the BOOST Method. It is a lot because you need a holistic solution.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:31:12] Yeah, absolutely. And that take time for yourself is just one of my favorites, because I’ve learned myself as a leader how much value is there. So, I love that that’s a key part of your overall program.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:31:26] And looking at the work that you are doing with leaders, and I know you work with a number of them, when they’re kind of going through their day-to-day, and, yes, they might be feeling stressed out, maybe they’re feeling exhausted, there are some that maybe aren’t as in-tune to know that that’s their red flags or the signs that they need to do something.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:31:49] Or how do they give themselves permission to get that support and help from a program like BOOST? What are some of the things that they can watch for where they might need to give themselves that permission to engage in a program? You know, is there a way to kind of help them to kind of be more alert or self-aware of some of the things that could be going on that are impacting their overall wellbeing?
Victoria Hepburn: [00:32:13] I think the biggest thing is asking the question, Who in my life can I talk about this stuff with? Because talking about it is a lot of what heals us. And if the answer is no one, you need to have someone.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:32:29] Now, as a coach, I hold the same kind of confidentiality I did in my corporate career. I was working on super secret drug development programs. So, I have had really good experience toeing the line and holding space for people, and that’s what my clients appreciate. Some coaches are like splash everything. No, no, no. I want to help the person. So, I don’t care how big you are. That’s a problem, the higher you go in anything, fewer and fewer people, one, understand your struggles, and, two, you can’t share your honest perspective because it will shift your relationships sometimes.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:33:06] So, having a disinterested third party, any kind of executive coach or even if it’s past trauma and you know it’s rooted, like you haven’t been able to get over something bad, getting a quality therapist on your team, the answer is always “I don’t have someone to talk to,” then you need to hire, period. That’s the number one thing that I’ve seen is the most effective thing. Because, otherwise, you can join a Facebook Group or a LinkedIn Group and find someone you get along with. People in your industry who you can trade stories with or who will help you along and give you that support, that mentorship, or alliance.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:33:46] But if you don’t have that or you can’t seek that out, the shortcut is hiring a coach, like me, who is skilled in the transition. Change is the hardest thing for us humans. I’m a transition coach because I’ve struggled with it so much. I feel like I’ve learned so much and I’ve done so much research. I could write many, many, many books on that alone.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:34:09] I also stay current on what’s working now in business. Because that’s the other thing, you’re busy doing your thing. You don’t have time to read all the literature. You don’t have an organizational management and development. You don’t read half the HBR articles you probably flagged. That’s most of us. But coaches, therapists, if that’s your job, that’s what we do.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:34:31] And coaching and therapy are different. I always like to point that out. You seek out a therapist to heal your past. You seek out a coach to solve today and look forward because coaches are not clinical professionals. So, I just want to throw that in there as well.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:34:48] Just makes a little bit of a difference in the type of conversations that you might be having. And you hit on something that was really interesting in that response around having somebody that you can talk to that understands what you’re going through. There’s a common theme where it’s lonely at the top. Even though you have other executives that you’re working with, depending on the organization and the culture and that structure, sometimes you don’t want to talk to somebody else or have them know that you might be struggling with something. You don’t want your team to know you might be struggling with something. You don’t want that perception that you’re weak or you’re vulnerable.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:35:24] Sometimes even though everything you read today about how a leader should be showing up in the workforce of today, that’s different than the workforce of yesterday as they want to see that vulnerability. But giving yourself that permission and having that confidence to be able to show that is really tough, because as a leader you’re kind of taught not to. So, there is definitely some personal things that we have to change and some adaptation to the modern workforce and modern world. So, lots going on there. But I think I like the point that you made where it’s okay to seek that help and give yourself that permission to go and find it, if you know you can’t talk to somebody who understands. That’s great.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:36:08] Yeah. Because I grew up with a grandmother who was a therapist, a mental health professional. And that’s one thing that she would always say, is that, a lot of her clients come to her just because there’s no one else who they can talk to. And she had a private practice for 30 years. No advertising or anything. Just because of the whisper network. So, there’s been a need for centuries for this level of support, to your point, we’re just at the point where we can talk about it publicly and not get laughed at.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:36:37] And I totally understand people because I always used to joke with a friend whenever people said, “Oh, I want authenticity on our team and I want people to be how they would be at a backyard barbecue.” And I’m like, “That flies in the face of everything I’ve ever been taught about business.” It took me a long time to realize, no, they just want stories from my life. I don’t need to look perfect all the time. You’re like, “Oh, man. Did I do that? I’m so sorry. I messed up.” Like, it’s little moments of humanity.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:37:07] I hate the word authenticity. I feel like it’s moments of humanity. If you phrase it like that, it sounds more doable for people like me who are like, “No, no, no, no. I want to be professional.”
Jamie Gassmann: [00:37:15] Yeah, I like the term true self. Like, can you bring your true self to work? I’ve heard that in some of our other shows that we’ve done, and I kind of ponder on that sometimes like, “Do I bring my true self to work?” I mean, I’m told I wear all my emotions on my face in meetings. But does my team really get to see the true me? And so, as a leader, I do try to let them see by sharing stories and other personal things that you typically don’t, like you wouldn’t have in years past.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:37:47] But what I have found as a leader is how much more you learn about your people that way. It becomes more of that work family, because you really do know each other at a different level. And when people feel that way, I don’t think they leave as often because they feel comfortable. They know they can come to work and they can be honest about their feelings and people are listening and hearing them.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:38:10] So, looking at it like that and creating a culture, you know, that culture of vulnerability, that ability to come to work as your true self, even at that senior leadership level, what can a workplace do to help support their leaders while being more? How can a workplace create opportunities for leaders to be able to seek that help, whether they want to do it very confidentially or be able to do that where they’re showing a little bit more vulnerability. What, in your opinion, can a workplace do more of?
Victoria Hepburn: [00:38:42] I think a lot of workplaces are now looking for solutions. That’s how I met you at the SHRM Conference. When I was speaking, I noticed how open people are to new providers and solutions more than they ever have been in the past to deal with the soft skills part of leadership. Because everybody has always called them soft skills. I think now they’re called power skills because that’s the difference maker. How you connect with people is a skill that can be learned. And as you said, it opens your team up and it makes it so much more possible. It makes better retention possible.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:39:20] But I think bringing in those resources and also holding space for people to be human, whatever that is, for your industry. It’s about not just saying in the policy it’s okay to take time off, but to actually allow that time off. That seems so basic, but I’ve never worked at an organization where that axiom was 100 percent. Like, “Yeah. Time off.” And some organizations have unlimited time off. And I personally know for a fact people who’ve never taken time off from those organizations.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:39:54] So, just making sure that people feel okay to use the resources that you already have, making sure that a leader has the space to share what is going on, making sure that leaders have their one-on ones. I think that’s the biggest issue since 2020 is I’ve never known so many managers and higher level leaders not be able to speak with their next level on a regular basis. And that is, to me, cutting off all positive resources and engagement.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:40:37] Because your front line and higher, the more empowered they are, the more uplifted they are. And I know Gallup’s research says that, that the secret to employee engagement is those first line managers. And just holding the space to have those rhythm meetings with them. If you’re in the C-suite, you need to be meeting with your people and de-risking their struggles to the greatest extent possible by having just the conversation. You don’t actually have to do things sometimes. They just need to make you aware or get your buy-in on something.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:41:09] But how are they otherwise going to have the time? There’s just so many conversations that you don’t feel right doing a shoulder tap because you feel like I don’t want to burnout all my goodwill and opportunities. And they just need that 20, 30 minutes every other week, but they’re not getting it. So, I think those are the two biggest things that I would say, allow people to use the resources that we have on paper. And the second part is normalize checking in with each other, especially if you work remotely, because then your managers, your leaders feel like they’re out in the ether. They feel relegated to being managers and not leaders when they’re out on an island on their own.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:41:52] Yeah, that’s great. So, if you had one piece of advice, and I’m sure you do like a key piece of advice, you want to leave our listeners with who are in a leadership role and navigating stress and burnout, maybe they might after listening this go, “Gosh, I think I’m in that cycle she’s talking about,” what would that advice be as it relates to ensuring they’re keeping themselves out of the cycle or get themselves out of the cycle for now and then even into the future. They don’t kind of repeat some of those bad habits. What would be a piece of advice you would want to leave them with?
Victoria Hepburn: [00:42:26] I think the one piece of advice I would say is, what’s the one thing you’re ready to let go of? Because as perfectionists, as high achievers, we’re always adding. But it’s the letting go that gives us more power in burnout and these scenarios.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:42:43] So, I’m not talking about quitting, because as a high achiever, that doesn’t feel good. But it’s really about an expectation for me. It’s expecting that I do everything on my list. Like, once I let go of that expectation, I’m about 15 years into letting go of that expectation. And what changed for me was I’m able to see the big picture more often. And I do tasks that align with my smart goals more often. So, just what are you willing to let go of? And I know that’s what I put in the book, it’s like what do you want to let go of right now? Like, for most of us, it’s like top of mind. We can just blurt.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:43:24] Yeah. Yeah. That’s a great piece of advice. Because, really, what you let go of is what creates you to have that opportunity in time to do other things that help to take care of yourself. So, it’s a great piece of advice.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:43:38] So, this has been an awesome conversation. And I know our listeners, if they want to get a hold of you or if they want to get your book, you know, how can they get more information from you or kind of purchase that book? If they had questions on that, how would they do that?
Victoria Hepburn: [00:43:54] Okay. Well, they can go to my website, victoriahepburn.com. And if you go to victoriahepburn.com/giveaway, I’m giving away an unpublished copy of my next book only to my email subscribers for this month. Again, that’s victoriahepburn.com/giveaway. And I will provide a link and everything for your show notes as well.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:44:16] Wonderful. Awesome. Thank you so much, Victoria, for being on the show. It’s been so great to have the opportunity to talk with you again on what I think is actually a really important topic, and I’m really glad we were able to cover it here. So, thank you so much. It’s been truly a pleasure to have you on the show.
Victoria Hepburn: [00:44:32] Same here. Thank you so much, Jamie. It’s great to continue our conversation from the conference.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:44:37] Yes. So, also, we want to thank our show sponsor, R3 Continuum, for supporting the Workplace MVP podcast. And to our listeners, thank you for tuning in. And if you’ve not already done so, make sure to subscribe so you get our most recent episodes and other resources. You can also follow our show on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter at Workplace MVP. If you are a Workplace MVP or you know someone who is, we want to hear from you, so email us at email@example.com. Thank you all for joining us and have a great rest of your day.
Outro: [00:45:17] Thank you for joining us on Workplace MVP. R3 Continuum is a proud sponsor of this show and is delighted to celebrate most valuable professionals who work diligently to secure safe workplaces where employees can thrive.