147 Catalyzing Change: Entrepreneur and Executive Coach Sharon Bowes on Conscious Innovation
Entrepreneur and author Sharon Bowes is a change catalyst with some 30 years coaching business leaders how to innovate and manage change. In this episode we talk about the nature of change and innovation, at a time when we are all being called to adapt at breakneck speed – and how to leverage powerful catalysts for “slingshot success”.
Melinda Wittstock: Welcome to Wings, Sharon.
Sharon Bowes: Thank you.
Melinda Wittstock: I’m so excited to have you on. You’re doing something truly transformational and I’m curious about what led you or inspired you to transform the way we consume books.
Sharon Bowes: A very interesting question. And it’s been a long journey to get to this point. Basically, there’s a lot of books that I’ve come into contact with through my life and my career and many of them are still sitting in my shelves unread and yet the information in there is so important. I would instantly go to a seminar or a workshop delivered by the author and I’d get so much out of it because of the energy that they deliver with it that’s different than the energy that’s delivered in a book format. So I was inspired by, well, how would it be easier and faster for people to get not only the knowledge, but also be inspired by the energy of this person’s passion, the one who has taken the time and effort to write it down, to put together the information in a way that could be digested or absorbed.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s so interesting because I have a theory that the best content, however that content is formed, whether it’s in print or audio or video, is conversation and connection. It’s kind of like content conversation, connection, that there’s this kind of a sort of sacred triangle really, if you will, of those and that when all three are present, it becomes sticky. Like that’s where magic happens. That’s where learning happens and so to be able to step into a book or actually take the contents of it off a dusty shelf, but actually into your life in a way that you’re actually implementing it. All that learning making that more effective is a pretty awesome goal. And so, which I think it’s very intriguing. It’s intriguing to me, so I want to know how, like now I’m like, “Okay, that’s great. You got me.” So how, what’s your vision? How are you putting this together?
Sharon Bowes: Yeah. Well, and you are bang on. This absolutely correct. And one of the big challenges that I have with writing a book the traditional way is the time it takes to get to the conversation that I want to have. Whereas, when I do the online seminar books, what I’m, what I’m actually producing is online seminar books and not just mine, but those of other authors who have a passion and want to create or generate this kind of a learning material. So more than e-learning, it’s a book; it’s all the content of the book. It may include a workbook. I highly recommend that it does because that generates the conversation, which is the key I want to get to, is to get to the conversation faster. Because that’s where the meat and potatoes are. That’s where the magic happens as you were saying. So if you can get short video clips, and I’ve budgeted about 10 to 30 minutes per video segment followed by a workbook exercise or two for each of the chapters or segments of the chapters, that generates the energy that you need and the conversation that you need to keep the learning, the people learning, happening.
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So it’s like an interactive, it’s an interactive book, but it implies that there’s connection between people around that book as well. So almost like if it’s, and seminar of course implies learning. So, I’ve found that with millions of online courses that no one really learns anything unless they commit to do it and the chances of actually committing to do it increase exponentially if there are other people around or there’s some sort of sticky group and everybody is monitoring each other’s progress and holding each other accountable. So is that kind of part of this as well?
Sharon Bowes: Well, to an extent, the part that is sticky is, they’re definitely going to be learning groups, discussion forums, places where people can test things out, plus coaching and mentoring services available for people who want to work on it. And I have this stumbling block, I guess it is, when you’re trying to work with people who are unwilling to work on themselves, that’s my barrier, and unless you’re willing to take that step and actually make it work for you, I’d rather just give it to you and let you listen to it in whatever time you want. But I want to engage with the people who are willing to take that effort and energy to make those steps and make it work for them.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh Gosh. It requires a certain mindset and a willingness of course to be humbled on a regular basis, right? And get your ego out of the way. Because there’s an inherent kind of feeling and learning in that constant kind of iteration. So when coaching entrepreneurs, if they’re not open to that kind of personal growth-
Melinda Wittstock: If they’re not open to that kind of personal growth, part of the business growth, it’s really … It’s hard to teach them.
Sharon Bowes: Exactly. There’s a closed book there, and you’re trying to open a mind with a closed book and it can’t be done. I would rather them stumble and fail and then come back and talk to me about it, then push myself past my own personal limits and boundaries. It takes a lot of effort and energy. It drains energy when you’re feeding it into an empty pit. You know? I choose not to feed it into an empty pit.
Melinda Wittstock: This is actually a really important message because a lot of women are afraid to ask for help and they neglect the fact that people are really eager to give to those who want to receive. There’s a joy in someone receiving it, right?
Sharon Bowes: This is gives me the utmost in satisfaction and pleasure in life, is to have people transform in a way that gives them their dreams, and gives them joy, and fulfillment, and happiness. That just gives me such a boost. To have that boost, that energy, or that … Or the lack of joy and fulfillment as a result, drains me and kills my spirit more than anything.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. It’s so interesting. But, it’s awesome that you’re very self aware about that. I think often we go through the day not really knowing necessarily, or consciously knowing when we’re just giving away our energy, and where we’re getting it from; how to really focus our energy. Talk to me a little bit about that, how you came to have the consciousness?
Sharon Bowes: Yeah, this was a long journey. It took quite a bit of time, but it also started when I was doing management consulting in the corporate space. One of my last jobs that I was doing, actually several of them, is I would fire my clients, number one, when they weren’t participating in a way that I needed in order to help them. Also, I wouldn’t take on another job, a contract, if I didn’t have the commitment, signed off commitment by the client, to work with me on the change that they were undertaking. I could only be successful if they were there with me. Otherwise, nobody would be successful. That was … It took a little bit longer for me to do it, personally, but having coaching conversations, if you’re not willing as a coach to tell your client, “Sorry, I can’t help you right now,” you’re not in the head space and you’re not ready to listen or hear what I have to teach you, then you’re not a good coach. You have to be willing to have those challenging, forthright, upfront discussions, and just say, “This is the way I see it.”
[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]If you’re not willing as a coach to tell your client, “Sorry, I can’t help you right now,” you’re not in the head space and you’re not ready to listen or hear what I have to teach you, then you’re not a good coach. #WINGSofInspiredBusiness #WomeninBusiness @going4value[/tweet_box]
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative). We talked because you were, of course, one of the amazing 55 women that were part of the Wings of Success Summit. Your talk was on slingshot success. I want you to describe slingshot success again here because it was just so powerful in the summit. By the way, listeners, if you have not bought that program, you should still go get it. It’s pretty awesome. Anyway, yeah, Sharon, please just explain the slingshot process or success.
Sharon Bowes: Yeah, so this was really interesting. Coming up with this concept took me probably six layoffs. What I learned after about the fifth or sixth layoff is that every time I got laid off and I went through that really bad period of grieving, and loss, and disappointment, and self doubt, and self esteem crushing, that I came out a winner because every next move I made was better than the last one was. So, I thought, “This is a really cool concept. How can we consciously generate that without having to go through a layoff?”
Melinda Wittstock: Right. Well, so often growth does get sparked by those kind of … Honestly, I’m trying to think of how many really massive game changing periods in my life came as a result of me succeeding. I would say none. The big growth periods when you’re uncomfortable and you’re outside your comfort zone. Often they come, I’ve found, when I’m not really listening. Right?
Sharon Bowes: Absolutely.
Melinda Wittstock: If I had been listening I wouldn’t have had that. I would have just been in flow, but I get the universe knocks me about the head, right?
Sharon Bowes: Yep. Absolutely, right? This is the thing that you’ve got to understand and that was what I discussed on the Wings of Success Summit is that like a bird in the nest, you have to learn to fly by falling first. You fall through the air and then your wings catch and you fly. This is where the slingshot effect comes into play. I’ve learned that when the corporate world doesn’t work for you and you start your own independent consulting business, you slingshot yourself way past the boundaries that existed in that previous corporate world. You get new boundaries, of course, but they’re completely different. It generates that really explosive energy, which I’ve been calling the slingshot effect. It allows you to slingshot yourself past barriers, past boundaries, outside of your comfort zone into those places that really get you into spectacular success and spectacular results.
Sharon Bowes: It’s only in getting ourselves into failure and to try it and to explode past our limiting belief system, past our self sabotage behaviors, past our previous putting yourself in cages mentality, and assuming that you don’t have permission to approach somebody, or talk to somebody, or have a conversation, or say something out loud. All of those things are barriers in your way and giving yourself permission to leap past those brings you that slingshot success.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely. But, you have to be willing to take that initial leap and there are so many people out there, even people who are already in their … Even people who are already in their … Sorry, I’m going to say this again. Even people who already have their own businesses fail to take that step. It’s kind of like a procrastination. It’s kind of like, “Oh, I’ll do that when. Oh, I’ll do that when,” and they’re expecting some sort of perfect condition, but that perfect condition never arrives. I mean, you just have to go. You have to get massive action.
Sharon Bowes: Yeah. The thing is learning to listen to what is driving that current behavior. It’s actually not because of procrastination. It’s because there’s something underneath that procrastination that’s causing the problem. It’s usually something like fear.
Melinda Wittstock: Right.
Sharon Bowes: Right, which is causing you to freeze. You know, the fight or flight or freeze mechanism we have as human beings. Procrastination is often a result of the freeze in survival mentality, in survival brain, taking over your brain and your mental model. Then, you end up being stuck.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, so fear is at the root of so much that’s wrong. For women, whether it’s fear of failure, and often just as likely, fear of success. I think women really fear standing out from the crowd, like standing out from other women. I think we’re really socialized that, “Oh my goodness. Women won’t like us. Oh my goodness. We’ll intimidate men. We won’t find a man.” All of those kind of weird … They’re at the root of so many of these things where I see so many women just holding back, not really going all in.
Sharon Bowes: Yeah, and that speaks to where I came from as well. I’m 100% with you because my biggest fear was the expectations that others would have of me when I had the success that I knew I could have.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, I see. So, if you were really rich, okay? You had a huge amount of money, like all the relatives, everybody was going to come out of the woodwork and like message you?
Sharon Bowes: That kind of thing, or of course, “We’ll just hand it over to you because you get things done.” Then, I have way more on my plate then I could be able to handle.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, because that’s a real boundary issue that I think a lot of us … I know for years I’ve worked on boundaries. I was always over delivering, over giving, like even if I wasn’t underpricing my services, I would over deliver and by therefore under price. I was like doing that for a long time. It’s still a struggle sometimes, right? I’m generous. I want to give, but you can be taken advantage of as well in that way.
Sharon Bowes: Yeah, and then at the same time, and totally speaking to what you were talking on about relationships, is that through my upbringing, a lot of my training was, “Be quiet. Be less than you are. Don’t expect too much. Lower your expectations. Don’t be so bold. Don’t be so loud. Be quieter. Move softer when you dance. Be quieter. Don’t laugh out loud all the time like you do because it’s too abrupt.”
Melinda Wittstock: I used to get criticized for laughing when I was a kid because I had a really loud laugh.
Sharon Bowes: I do too.
Melinda Wittstock: All the other kids were laughing, but mine stood out so the teacher always … I was always the one that got in trouble. That happened to you as well?
Sharon Bowes: Absolutely, right? All of that passion and energy that I have in my business and as an entrepreneur today was dulled down.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s just so tragic. I get so upset when I hear these kind of stories.
Sharon Bowes: I know.
Melinda Wittstock: Everybody has them and you think, “Oh no.”
Sharon Bowes: I never want to see [inaudible 00:31:44] for anybody.
Melinda Wittstock: Right, but just things that when we’re little kids, right? Things parents say, or teachers, or siblings, or friends, they could all mean the very best and still screw up with us.
Sharon Bowes: Yeah. It was totally done with the right intentions. I mean, it was all done with loving and caring and the desire for me to achieve the success that they saw in their minds was the ultimate success of being married, and having kids, and so on. That wasn’t my path to success, but I made assumptions that I had to be that way. I put myself in a cage and I dulled myself down.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, to fit in. Yeah-
Sharon Bowes: And yet, kept exploding out. I can’t … My spirit and energy is so irrepressible that it would only last for a short period of time.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. Well, this is what I love, actually, probably most about entrepreneurship because it gives you the right to just be whoever the hell you are. I mean, honestly, at the end of the day, if you’re thinking of a motivation to do it, I mean, there’s lots of different motivations, right? Innovation, creating [inaudible 00:33:06], all of these things, doing what you love to do, I mean, so many different motivations for being an entrepreneur. But, one of them is just being able to just be true to yourself.
Sharon Bowes: See, this is where I see a lot of people stumbling is because they make their motivation money.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, that’s the worst, actually. It’s so funny. There are so many other … Okay, everybody, listen carefully. There are so many better ways to make serious money than being an entrepreneur. Honestly, really. I mean, depending on what type of entrepreneur, you may create a business and take it to IPO and hopefully you are super, super smart about how you worked out that cap table so you didn’t lose your company on the way.
Sharon Bowes: Right.
Melinda Wittstock: Honestly, there are a lot of ways to … I live in the Washington D.C. area and I look at all the lobbyists…that’s the way to make money.
Sharon Bowes: But is that truly who those people are?
Melinda Wittstock: I don’t know.
Sharon Bowes: If it is, great, but really, if you’re not 10,000% passionate about what you’re trying to do and it’s not 10,000% you being you, then you’re not going to succeed.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, you see, what’s interesting, I think my real point though, is the money does come to entrepreneurs, but it comes only perversely if it’s not your motivation, right?
Sharon Bowes: Right.
Melinda Wittstock: I mean, this is the funny thing, right? This is where God is somewhere laughing really hard.
Sharon Bowes: It’s the paradox.
Melinda Wittstock: Because if you go for the money and you’re just focused on that, there’s no mission, there’s nothing for … There’s no one on your team that’s going to get excited because there’s no mission. There’s no customer that’s going to get excited because there’s no mission, there’s no higher purpose, there’s no problem that you’re … Natalie Ledwell on this podcast from Mind Movies called the time that she was doing this in her life with lots and lots of businesses, she called it her beige years. There’s no joy, there’s no passion, there’s nothing, there’s no way that you can really turn big money when you’re not in alignment with joy and with yourself and your true purpose.
: Yeah, don’t do it for the money. Do it because you want to do something like cure cancer. You want to do something like you want to change something, right? Make a big dent in the universe like Steve Jobs used to always say.
Sharon Bowes: Well, and this is why the intention of what I’m trying to do is all about creating joyful and fulfilling work spaces that can feed us, and inspire us, and generate the capacity in us to get those dreams met.
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative), That’s just so beautiful and such a lovely motivation. it’s really, really interesting when you are talking to people who … I don’t know, they’re kind of doing it for the wrong reason and … But they don’t really know. They’re not yet in touch with their why. They have a business idea and it’s all wrapped up with whatever they think they should do and here’s when I can tell this is happening: Yyou hear people saying things like, “Well, I should do this, and I should do this, and then I must do that, and then, yeah, I should do that, and so and so says I should do that, and I should, should, should.”
You start hearing “should’s” with like a deafening kind of repeatability and you think, “Wait a minute? Why should you? Do you actually want to? Is it something that actually brings you joy?” Sometimes you can hear in their voices they’re not happy. Is it really the right business for them? It’s not necessarily that they shouldn’t be entrepreneur, it’s just that they’re not necessarily aligned right with their kind of purpose and their business.
Sharon Bowes: They probably should be an entrepreneur, but I agree with you. It’s when you hear that word “should” that it does indicate it.
My other way that I see it is when people ask me, “What are the five steps I need to do? What’s the how?” When they start focusing on the how, that’s when I get that they’re not connected to what they’re truly trying to achieve.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s interesting. A lot of people do get obsessed by the how, with the mechanics, and that’s the kind of smaller, I think, ego part of the left brain.
Sharon Bowes: Well.
Melinda Wittstock: What I mean by that is that we, unconsciously or even consciously, limit ourselves that we’ll presuppose. Even in intention-setting, even all of us who do vision boards and intentions and all of that. For years, I was doing intentions where I was really intending for the things that my ego had dreamt up for me, or my left brain, and getting caught up really in the how it was going to happen and, in so doing, really constraining the intention, constraining, right?
The universe had better plans. Now, my meditation is something like, “You know that I know that I don’t know. So just give me inspiration, help me act on the inspiration when I see it.” I just think that we unconsciously limit ourselves.
Sharon Bowes: No, I agree with you. A question just came up to me while you were saying that, is to ask people who does the how serves?
Melinda Wittstock: Yes. Nice.
Sharon Bowes: Who does the why serve? So you can see that the answers to those questions leads you to ego versus eco.
This whole concept of me versus we, the ego versus the universe, or the larger groups, the larger populations, is really where “serve” comes into place. Who is your business serving? What is your business purpose? Why are you doing this? It’s a much bigger motivator and a much bigger driver of success for your business, than “Here’s the five steps. Follow these five steps. Every entrepreneur I’ve ever coached has followed these five steps and every single of them is successful.” Well, yes.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, what works for everybody. Yeah, the same steps don’t work. You have to be yourself and it’s important to, moreover, not to compare yourself to other people.
Sharon Bowes: And really, really understand the why.
Melinda Wittstock: Actually, there’s a good book and I’m sure you know it, but Simon Sinek, Start with Why. It’s a beautiful TED Talk. It takes a few minutes to go watch it, anybody who is interested in this whole concept of why, if you sell from the why, all of it, if you hire from the why, it’s always going to be a better result. Steve Jobs, when describing the iPhone, wasn’t saying how it works, was saying why? His vision. Martin Luther King, this is quoting Simon Sinek, which I think is pretty funny. He said, “Martin Luther King never said, ‘I have a plan.'”
Sharon Bowes: No. That is not about the how, right?
Melinda Wittstock: Yes, exactly, because other people can buy in and you allow them space to be part of your vision. That’s a critical way to create a great team or to attract the customers that you love, as much as they love you. That kind of relationship where it’s just a really true and value exchange.
Sharon Bowes: Well, and you can get all tied up in knots following the how, and then, you lose sight of who it’s serving. It’s like the forest and the trees. When you’re in the midst of the forest and you’re walking through the trees, you can’t see the forest. You see the leaves on the ground, you see the pine cones, you see the skittering of the chipmunk or whatever critters are in the area, but you don’t see the bigger vision, the bigger view. So what are you delivering to? Are you delivering to the pine cones in the ground? Are you delivering to the forest and the sky, reaching up the branches of the trees?
Melinda Wittstock: Yes. That’s beautiful. I have to ask you, you have a book called You’re Not A Nail. I want you to explain why it’s called You’re Not A Nail and what your book is about. Because you’ve got a whole series of programs and things around this You’re Not A Nail, so tell me a little bit about that.
Sharon Bowes: Actually You’re Not A Nail started as a proof of concept for the idea of having online seminar books. It delivered knowledge delivered in a different way with more flexibility. It happened to be the example that I used because I’m very passionate about it, and I care about it.
I also believe that it’s a foundational level that a lot of people have to get through first, is basically to get through themselves first, and take back their power that’s being taken by the bosses that are hitting the nails on the head with the hammer.
The whole concept was the hammer and nail. We’re the results out of the ballpark. We’re hitting the nail on the head. All of these analogies are being used in the business world and they’re great when it comes to results.
But what’s been happening is that bosses and the business practices of today are using the hammer to hit nails on the head and the nails are the inspirational ideas. It’s the innovative thoughts or the creativity from a team or the individual spirit energy of the team members that’s actually being hit by the hammer.
The concept of You’re Not A Nail is that you can choose to be a nail and get hit on the head and your spirit energy get killed, or you can choose to take back your power and not be the nail.
I’ve got this book that helps to step people through the survival mechanism that we have as human animals, as beings with a survival brain mentality that makes us into nails, and how you can shift your point of view, shift in very [inaudible 00:46:16] ways in some cases, a perspective, a point of view that suddenly allows you to take back that energy to not be the nail that gets hit on the head. To take that creativity and innovative energy and slingshot your success in new ways that you never would have considered before making that mental shift.
Melinda Wittstock: Isn’t that interesting how we do that? Because I think I’ve done that in my life before. You know, like you’re a lobster initially in a nice cold water pot, and it’s getting hotter and hotter and hotter.
But you have to realize that there’s a part of you in all of these situations, as you just suggested, Sharon, where we have to take responsibility because there was something in us that needed that. And I’ve got to be careful here because I don’t mean blame the victim.
Sharon Bowes: No.
Melinda Wittstock: But why be a victim? Why not get out of victimhood? We get out of victimhood and realize more power when we accept responsibility and use those moments as a chance to heal.
. With each step along that way, not only do you grow as a person who have so much more joy in your life, but it becomes much easier to create profitable growing businesses. It’s just when you can get out of your own way, suddenly it’s much easier to create a business and to grow a business.
Sharon Bowes: I think it’s beyond that, too. Entrepreneurship definitely was a path that worked really well for you. Does it necessarily work for everybody? Entrepreneurial thinking can occur within a structured corporate workspace also. It’s the achievement of really unique results for your division or your department that has that entrepreneurial energy in existence and allows you to go outside of your boxes and create and generate something completely new.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes.
Sharon Bowes: What I’m speaking to with the You’re Not A Nail book, it speaks as much to individuals in an organization that are already there. They like the comfort of being employed by an employer. They don’t have to pay other people. They don’t have to be at risk all the time, and in that space and uncertainty like entrepreneurs are. But I also speak to entrepreneurs, so it’s just whatever is the energy that you need to sustain you, how can you be not a nail and how that spirit energy that’s really intrinsic to you kill on a regular basis?
How do you prevent that? You prevent it by understanding that you’re not a victim, that you’re not Checked Out. My two characters in Chapter 1 are I’m a Victim and Checked Out. The Checked Out is from apathy, because you’ve done it and been there too often too long, but you know what? Checked Out has a choice, and I’m a Victim has a choice to stay in that box or break through from it, and to be the nail or to not be the nail. It’s like you have the choice in your relationship to be the nail and continue with those boundaries, or not to be a nail.
Melinda Wittstock: I love how you say that.
Melinda Wittstock: Sharon, how can people find you and work with you? Whether it’s helping really to bring this whole immersive book experience to its full glory or really get coached by you, what’s the best way to get in touch with you, and how can people help?
Sharon Bowes: Right now, I have my first website up and running and it’s called yourenotanail.com. It’s Y-O-U-R-E-N-O-T-A-N-A-I-L.com, so yourenotanail.com. It’s got all of the connections there for me, if you can go there and get the connections and also see a little bit about what I’m about and some of my thinking by watching the video on there, seeing some of my characters and the fun that I’m having with them in terms of naming them.
I’m also looking for coaches because the one thing that I realized is when this business becomes a success and I start building tribes and I start connecting people, I can’t do it all. I don’t have enough time, energy or space to serve everybody. So I’m also very interested in talking to you if you’re already skilled at being a coach. If you’re skilled management consulting practitioner who has been working in the change management or transformational space for a lot of years, or you’re working as an entrepreneur who’s in this space or arena of helping people unleash their energy through coaching and mentoring and helping to support them, I’m happy to talk to you because I’m looking for people to help deliver their business and their messages and expand the circle that know this stuff and are acting in this You’re Not A Nail way globally.
So start at yourenotanail.com. I will be creating my new website goingforvalue.com at some point within the next year. That’s going to be where we’re going to have lots of different authors, lots of different seminar books, lots of different coaches and mentors, and online conferences and online seminars workshops, some in-person ones as well, that can be delivered by numerous individuals around the globe who know this stuff and know how to help people get past themselves.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s beautiful. Well, thank you so much, Sharon, for putting on your wings and flying with us. It’s a delight to talk to you as always.
Sharon Bowes: Same here, Melinda. I love it. Delighted every time we talk.