LadyDrinks Presents: Inspire Remote Teams and Unleash Their Best Work with Todd Henry

In this presentation, Todd Henry talks through some helpful practices for leaders as well as tips for how to motivate a team, what success in leadership looks like and how to avoid burnout.

He begins by talking through five key practices for leaders to develop.  They can be summarized under the acronym FRESH and constitute a necessary infrastructure for effective leadership:

  1. FOCUS: First clearly define the problem you’re addressing, then how to resolve it.
  2. RELATIONSHIPS: Through getting to know others, we learn more fully about ourselves.
  3. ENERGY: Remember, it’s not a limitless resource, especially when you’re doing “emotional labor” (Lewis Hyde).
  4. STIMULI: How are you managing the stimuli you receive and what are you actively seeking to inspire, educate you and make you think?
  5. HOURS: Time should not just be spent; it should be invested.

He talks about processes that streamline your leadership, such as fending off the “ping” of distracting bits and pieces of work that demand your attention but may not be urgent priorities.

How Should a Leader offer Clear Direction?

Although this will depend on the personality of the individuals in your team, it will help to clarify three things:

  • Expectation – what the end product should be.
  • Process – how the work will be carried out.
  • Timeline – when it needs to be completed.

A handy tip is not to tell staff precisely what to do, but make sure they understand what you want the outcome to be.  This way you build trust.  “Trust is the currency of creative teams”, says Todd.

Although the team begins with wide autonomy and an opportunity to try things out, experiment and work on multiple iterations, as the project moves on you will funnel down to much clearer goals, with less creative freedom.

What Does Success in Leadership Look Like?

Different projects have different risk profiles.  Entrepreneurs can be thought of as risk mitigators, rather than risk-takers.

In the early stages of a creative project, you give people permission to fail and clarify with them what will happen if they do, bearing in mind that this means you take responsibility for your team’s failures.  Mostly, you make it clear that you have their backs.

You must define what is an acceptable level of failure and what the consequences of such a failure might be.  Todd talks about an Air Academy general who asked his team to do one thing per day that could get him fired – an extreme example of extending trust!

Success is not the same as being liked.  In fact, it is preferable to maintain some boundaries and a bit of professional distance.   Good leaders inspire by example – by doing, rather than saying.

Allocating Time for Creativity

Todd talks about the importance of providing your team with time for personal growth, ideation, and development, giving the example of a CFO who mandated three hours per week for this purpose.  However, if you promise such a thing, you have to see it through – don’t “declare undeclarables” and then fail to live up to them.  Trust is earned daily and can be quickly lost.

The Fishbowl and the Well

Todd gives this metaphor – leadership is like living in a fishbowl on a firing range.  Everyone can see you and may feel free to take pot shots.  One key takeaway is that you can earn respect by admitting the mistakes you make and course correcting.

There are several ways to make life easier in the fishbowl, including making time to focus on #1.  Many leaders have a problem with this, and often overcommit and make themselves too available.

He asks that leaders make time to “replenish the well”.  In other words, to recharge your batteries and make sure you are inspired and feeling energised and creative.   Key part of this is making sure you spend time off grid – which means no checking emails and business apps when taking time off.

The concept of “meshing” is vital to achieving a better level of creativity.

The Three Work Areas

These are encapsulated in the Three Ms:

  1. Mapping (planning)
  2. Making (executing the plan)
  3. Meshing (replenishment)

Often the third part of this work cycle is overlooked, but it’s what positions you to be maximally creative.  If neglected, you’re merely being a “driver” of work rather than a creative leader.

Dealing with Cultural Barriers

Differences in culture and age can make a difference to your effective leadership style.  On the former question, Todd talks about a Proctor & Gamble executive who took up a leadership position at Google.  He found he was immensely well-liked at P&G but his style was considered threatening at Google.  The Google staff did not understand his acerbic and teasing management style.

Millennial and Gen Z workers can sometimes prove excellent at hard work and focus but may not be as good at prioritizing, particularly in areas of work where they have no interest.  It may be necessary to take more time with such staff members to explain the priorities more firmly.  If expectations are still not met, then it may be necessary to talk about the consequences of continued failure to deliver.

As a leader you can’t chase being liked and being effective at the same time.  One will always compromise the other a little.  Somewhere in between, a balance can be struck.  Remember that a team is NOT a family.

Don’t try to become your team’s friend either.  Sometimes the best indicator of a healthy team is when they socialize outside of work and don’t invite you.

Interviewing Tips

In response to a question, Todd gave some pointers on good team building when interviewing hopeful recruits.  To find out if a would-be employees’ priorities and values match your own, Todd suggested asking open questions in the form “tell me about a time when…”, thereby allowing them to tell a story that illustrates what values they hold.

Meshing and Time Management

Todd gave some tips for more effectively replenishing your well of energy and creativity:

  • Empty your email in-box and don’t use it for storage.
  • Consider using time management apps such as Omnifocus and Calendly.
  • Move less time critical emails elsewhere.
  • Adjust your self-expectations if it turns out you’re trying to do too much.
  • Always build in off-grid time.

Meshing is about self-development – improving your skills and developing yourself, finding your voice.  It may even include spending time on a creative non-work hobby.

FURTHER READING (books by Todd Henry):

“Herding Tigers: Be the Leader that Creative People Need”.

“The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice”.

“The Motivation Code: Discover the Hidden Forces that Drive Your Best Work”.


LadyDrinks Presents: The Fastest, Easiest, and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients – with Michael Port

Photo Credit of Michael Port from Entrepreneur

I devoured Michael’s book Book Yourself Solid and I’m a little bit incredulous that Michael is here now two years later, speaking to all of you and to me.

One of the things that I wanted him to talk about was how you create a system for having a plethora of clients that you love to work with. Like I discussed in my previous blog post, some of us have had clients that we do not love to work with and we’ve had to fire them.

Here are 9 mindset shifts and actions that Michael Port revealed to help us set up our own systems for having a fountain of clients that we love.

This interview has been edited and abridged for time and readability.

1. It’s not the marketing that books you business

“It’s what you do once somebody becomes aware of you, that actually books you the business. And when I started analyzing companies, I discovered that they’ve got lots of marketing activities in the works. They’re creating awareness. But, they don’t have a systematic approach to turning that awareness into actual business.”

We can generate tons of content, throw it at the wall and hope it sticks. Or, we can create a meaningful cadence to our marketing that intrigues people, converting leads into buyers who love to choose us.

“Ultimately, most of us would probably like to have a business where we no longer do any marketing whatsoever. That the business itself becomes a self perpetuating and self generating referral engine.”

Personalized marketing is more effective now than ever before. People want to know there is a real person emailing and reaching out to them – not a machine. 96% of marketers know this helps improve relationships with customers. So even if we automate our processes, we should still add a human-friendly approach.

2 We don’t have to help everybody

“Let’s recognize that there are certain people we’re meant to work with and others probably not so much. And just because we can help somebody doesn’t mean we have to help them. But I think that this is something that each business owner comes to terms with at different points in their career – at the beginning of your career.”

When we first start out, we want to help the whole world. It’s in our nature as entrepreneurs to solve problems. But, we are human. We cannot solve everybody’s problems. Evolving in what’s right for you is the most effective way to create a lasting niche for yourself.

“If you feel like you’re just struggling to pay the bills, you might think it’s really difficult to say no to a particular opportunity. Or, to dump a dud client who is just draining your energy, makes you feel like your work isn’t worthwhile. And wonder why you got into this in the first place later on. [Knowing this] seemed to make me feel a little bit easier.”

It is unhealthy to attribute our self-worth to our business. You and your business are two separate entities. Even if we are not earning what we expected doesn’t mean our intrinsic value as human beings is any less.

Always put self-care first. We need full awareness to be able to make quality decisions for the long-term health of ourselves, our team, and our business strategies.

3 Embrace and enforce a red velvet rope policy

“Right from the beginning, we should be saying, ‘no’. Not necessarily as much as we say ‘yes’, but if you’re doing external marketing and people that are coming to you randomly – as opposed to through referrals from people you trust –  you might say no, as much as you say yes. Fifty percent of the time you might say, ‘I don’t think we’re right for each other’.”

Saying ‘no’ is important. Speaking our truth ensures we have enough space in our lives for the things that matter most to us. Having family time, going the extra mile for clients we adore – these are things we need to have the bandwidth to say ‘yes’ to.

“We have a red velvet rope policy. We’ve documented what makes a client ideal and what makes them a less than ideal. And we look for any flags that are on that less than ideal.

 We address them directly with confidence and without any concern for what they are going to think if I asked them.”

Actions speak louder than words. Create steps at the beginning of your sales process that weed out any clients who are not ideal for you. These ‘red velvet ropes’ create exclusivity for your dream clients. Boundaries keep you from being overworked, and make your clients feel appreciated and cared for.

4 Move Into Visionary Town

“One of the things that helps really establish your authority is to move out of ‘expertville’ and into ‘Visionary Town’, which means this:

 If you’re sitting squarely in ‘expertville’, you’re a commodity because experts these days are a dime a dozen.”

The Internet is a wealth of knowledge. Because of that, anyone can become an expert on a topic they choose. Being an expert is just understanding what best practices are in your industry.

What brings the right people to you is your visionary abilities. How can you create the future of your industry while serving your clients in the best possible way?

“People see you as a thought leader that is not just reporting on the present with here are the best practices, but creating the future by articulating a vision that is different than what the people who are in your market or your space are currently seeing. So that really establishes your authority as a visionary, not just as an expert.”

When we read books to improve, we are finding our own way of doing things. That’s what clients need. There is no cut-and-dry way to do life. Everyone has a unique voice.

Rehashing the same-old information can turn people away. But building credibility as a visionary, as Michael said, is what truly sets you apart.

5 Run A Referral-Based Organization

“Well, I don’t think people talk much about the fact that you can run an entirely referral-based organization if you want. And in fact, when your clients know that you are a referral only organization, they feel really good that they’re in, it becomes more exclusive. It feels almost like being a member.”

You don’t have to run a referral-based organization to find success. It is an option if you are just starting out as a consultant. Adding a referral incentive to your business can ensure that you work with aligned clients. Referrals for new clients would come from inside your network, meaning that people will be able to tell if they are a good fit for you or not.

“What do we do for people that extends beyond just the services we typically provide that brings them together? So there’s some sort of forming of community, which makes them more connected to you know, the, the mission at hand and their, their relation to it. And they’re more likely to refer in.”

6 Create Content That Repels Unwanted Clients

“So there’s two things that come to mind for me. Number one, I would put as much material on the front end of the process as possible to weed out people. And you’re probably already doing that. You know, I would put, we don’t work with pricks and we certainly don’t work with super pricks. So now you share a value and you bring it to the surface, right? At the beginning.”

 Earlier we talked about setting boundaries at the client-receiving end of your business. These boundaries are powerful ways to let in clients that already love you and your work. You don’t have to create a long questionnaire. An effective way to do this, that Michael described, is giving potential clients a piece of content that explains your values. Or allowing your values to show up loudly in the first instance of any touchpoint.

“The second thing I would do is something that we found really, really effective that we call the 80-20 video. The 80-20 video is something that we have any potential client watch before they get on the phone with us, if you want to get on the phone.

 So at the front end, we say, ‘look here, we’re really, really clear about who it’s for and who it’s not for. And if, and if you’re not in this category, here are some resources that would help you. Even though you’re not going to be coming to work with us. So you can listen to the podcast, you can read the book. Here’s other books, other people that are potential teachers for you.’ “

Sending away unaligned clients can be difficult when you don’t know if they will receive the guidance they need. Providing them with helpful resources that may help their journey is thoughtful. It also takes the awkwardness out of telling someone that they are not a right fit to become your client.

Here ends our consideration of the LadyDrinks’ podcast with Michael Port. There is so much to unpack here when adjusting your consulting business to Book Yourself Solid.

But, Michael gave us so many enriching tips, that I wanted to include 3 more points that were really valuable.

7 Gain And Leverage Trust

“Sales offers should be proportionate to the amount of trust that you’ve earned. So if you make sales offers that are too big too quickly, then you’re going to need these long, long conversations where they’re asking a million details.

 But if the sales offer is perfectly proportioned to the amount of trust that you earn, they often don’t have a lot of details because they say, ‘I’m not even concerned about the details.’ ”

8 Grow Your Network Of 90

“So there’s something that I call the network of 90. So you’re going to identify, say 90 people, tops that you feel like if I had deep relationships or, or at least connected relationships where I could contact them and they would respond to me quickly with 90 people, that should be more than enough people to get booked solid.

 You take just a few minutes each day. Introduce people inside your network who do not yet know each other, but would be probably pleased to meet each other.”

9 Start With 25

“So there’s 25 people. Now, if you do that for four weeks of the month, 25 times four is what hygiene. Yes. That’s a hundred people every month that you’re staying in touch with in a way that’s meaningful and supportive to them.

 It’s more than your network of 90. I just called it 90 because a hundred and rhymes with network. So I figured a network of 90 people. So if you miss a day, you’ll still get your 90. If you miss two days, you’ll still get your 90. But think about that.

 You’re staying in touch every month. In some way, that’s meaningful to all those 90 people. That’s an, a phenomenally effective way to stay top of mind for them. So when anybody asks them, Oh, I need some help with this. They go, I know somebody.”

If you enjoyed this interview, I welcome you to subscribe to the LadyDrinks Eventbrite. Every week, I host virtual fireside chats with CEOs and thought leaders in business.

I believe in learning-based networking. I would be overjoyed to have you join the LadyDrinks community, where we can all learn together.

Thank you for reading.




LadyDrinks Presents A Virtual Workshop: Calling All Managers! How to Lead from Anywhere. with David Burkus

As working from home continues throughout the world, and companies begin to re-evaluate their short- and long-term plans for office space leases, and return to work plans, a lot of managers are also thinking about their leadership styles, and how they can potentially continue to effectively lead teams virtually going forward.

David Burkus, keynote speaker, and organizational psychologist, and author of Leading from Anywhere shares his six tips for not only being a more effective leader of a virtual team, but how to be a key contributor to the overall company culture – even when that culture is reduced to Zoom meetings and DM chats.

Tip #1 – Encouraging Teams to ‘Work Out Loud’

When team are remote, it’s quite easy to lose sight of what employees are actually working on, and managers often feel like they’re managing individual relationships vs a team. When this happens, it’s easy to lose sight of what everyone has on their plates, and how it impacts all other team members. While these exchanges would typically happen organically in an office, it’s a lot more difficult when everyone is in their own home.

By borrowing a page from the ‘agile’ or ‘scrum’ model of working, and scheduling a daily stand-up. While daily may be too much, using the model of asking the following questions, can help your team overcome roadblocks, focus on urgent projects, and identify opportunities to work as a team to meet deadlines.

Tip #2 – Developing a Shared Identity

In teams that spent their working hours in an office, there’s already a shared camaraderie and identity. People knew, and followed, a company’s core values, and teams functioned as a unit. When people are working from home, particularly when new people are onboarded, that sense of shared identity may not be as easily replicated, but it’s still possible. Perhaps it’s hopping on a Zoom meeting a few minutes earlier than scheduled in order to socialize, or maybe it’s even a matter of encouraging employees to opt into a deliberate program where people are randomly assigned to a 30-minute virtual coffee chat once a week (a practice that the Swedish refer to a ‘fika’ – a break taken to enjoy a coffee and a break).

Tip #3 – Develop a Culture of Psychological Safety

When teams are remote, it’s easy for everyone, including managers, to get caught up doing the day-to-day work, but not thinking beyond those assignments. When the focus is on making sure that the slides in a meeting are running precisely, or that everyone’s on mute during a big presentation, we miss opportunities for teams to ask questions, to come up with new or innovative solutions, or to express an contrarian position to a task or idea. One idea for managers is to have someone watch them, and watch the team, to see if there are any disconnects between how you’re managing the meeting, and how employees are interpreting the message. If your team is simply carrying out the work, and not feeling safe to speak up, shifting your focus to encouraging civil discourse is important.

Tip #4 – Allowing for Flexibility

As a manager, you know you need to ensure your team is giving 100% to their jobs. However, when teams are remote, it’s critical to also recognize that the lines between work life and home life are blurred. As a boss, accepting and understanding that 9 to 5 is no longer the way it works is critical to successfully managing a team – people are working around children’s schedules, taking shorter breaks, and tend to work longer hours because their office is now in their home. As long as the work is getting done, allowing employees to work a little earlier, or end their day a little earlier shouldn’t be an issue. In fact, managers should encourage flexibility to help their teams avoid burnout.

Tip #5 – Encourage Setting Boundaries, and Set the Example

Conversely, employees also may need help setting boundaries to ensure their work gets done. If team members were in the office, their family members wouldn’t come walking into meetings, or interrupting their workday with questions. When team members are encouraged to set spaces between work and home, it helps them better focus on their work during their workday, and on their home life on their own time.

Some of this may include encouraging a ‘faux commute’ – using the time that you’d usually spend community to prepare for the workday or decompress form their focused work time.

Another idea may be to purchase a small ‘do not disturb’ sign when work focus needs to be the priority, and teaching family members to respect it.

Tip #6 – Take Nature Breaks

As a manager, taking breaks for yourself is also critical. But, as Burkus points out, it shouldn’t be just any break. Studies have shown that spending time in nature has huge benefits including increased focus, increased energy, and decreased stress levels. Even just a brief walk around the block can have a positive impact. By not only taking breaks yourself, and turning towards the sunshine, it will help you be a better manager to your team, and lead from a place of increased focus and calm.

While returning to the office may not be something we’ll do in the near-term, learning to lead in a virtual environment is a skill that will serve not only you as a manager, but will benefit your teams as they work to establish their own work from home routines.

Women Who Know What They Want: Bourbon Tasting with Linda Ruffenach, Founder, Whiskey Chicks

LadyDrinks Knows How to be a Bourbon Badass

LadyDrinks and our badass community of South Asian women execs and business leaders sat down for a bourbon tasting with Linda Ruffenach, founder of Whiskey Chicks. Attendees to this virtual chat received a few delectable goodies by mail prior to Linda’s masterclass: “How to be a Bourbon Badass.”

With a 100-proof bottle of bourbon in hand, Linda taught us the evolution of good whiskey, how to experiment with your bourbon, and one of the sexiest things a woman can be: Herself

Linda’s Lessons: Whiskey 101

  1. Good whiskey takes time. “The reality is you can’t get really good whiskey fast… It has to sit in a barrel.” Like tea, it must steep in the barrel for that aromatic, full-bodied goodness. “The longer you leave it in there, steeping,” says Linda, the stronger it will be and the different flavors you’ll get. “That’s how bourbon works.”
  2. Whiskey & bourbon have come a long way. Back in the 1800s, when it was sold in jugs and barrels, in order to flavor the whiskey some distillers got “so creative,” says Linda, that they put in things like Sargassum, iodine, tobacco spit, and other surprises. “As you can imagine, that did not make the best tasting whiskey.”
  3. Look for a Bottled-in-Bond label. The Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 created a label for American-made Distilled Spirits that guarantees what’s in it and confirms “every bottle in bond will be at least 100 proof.” It also assures it comes from a single distillery, in one season, and that it’s been aged at least four years.
  4. The grain difference between Whiskey and Bourbon. For a whiskey to qualify as a bourbon, it must contain a mixture of grains, of which at least 51% of the grains are corn. Often made in Kentucky, U.S.A.

Befriending Your Bourbon

  1. Beware the bourbon. Bourbon is far stronger than wine. So don’t sniff, swirl. “Swirl it around a little bit and kind of let it up to your nose,” says Linda. “Don’t stick your nose all the way in or you’ll burn out your senses.”
  2. Coat generously. With those first sips, “You want it to coat your whole tongue,” says Linda. “Pay attention to where and how you feel it,” she informs. “Just like your tongue has different segments that will pick up different flavors, every bourbon has a different finish, and a different way of hitting your palette.”
  3. Observe each flavor. In Linda’s book, How to Be a Bourbon Badass, on pg. 55 is a wheel of flavors and aromas that contribute to crafting bourbons. Just remember: When doing tastings, work your way up in proof!
  4. A hug for that burn. While most of us already knew bourbon and whiskey aren’t for the faint of drink, we didn’t know the term for the burning chest. “That little bit of burn, if you’re feeling it,” explains Linda between sips, “We call it the Kentucky hug. When you get that little warm feeling inside, it’s the Kentucky hug.”

Playing with Your Bourbon

  1. Take one finger and a single drop of water. “You’re going to take literally a drop of water and drop it in your bourbon,” Linda showed. “No more than just a drop, and you’re going to swirl it around.” This will reduce any burning ‘hugs,’ and allow your smooth, neat bourbon to “open up” with even more distinct flavors.
  2. From neat to Old Fashioned. “An Old Fashioned cocktail,” explains Linda, “has something sweet and it has something bitter… Spirits back in the 1800s were not very good. They weren’t that tasty,” explains Linda. “It took a while to perfect the process.” To improve the flavors a bit, the Old Fashioned cocktail was born.
  3. Adding a dollop of sweet. Dilute a bit of raw sugar, use simple syrup, maple or honey. Each will open up its own set flavors. Or refer to Linda’s recipes in her book to make your own syrups, like Blackberry syrup.
  4. Get creative. While the classic method adds sugar and bitter together, Linda recommends trying flavors one at a time. “It’s just like making any kind of dish,” says Linda. “Every component is going to add a different flavor to it.” With the Bitters, notice the herbs and spices—cinnamon, cloves, nuts, even fruit peels.
  5. Pro-tip: Be open to new flavors. Linda says if you squeeze a bit of oil from the peel of an orange onto your glass rim, it will blow your palette’s mind. Or visit Whisky Chicks for virtual events, held once per month.

How to Be a Badass

“My whole philosophy is there’s no right or wrong way to drink bourbon. The only way to drink bourbon is your way,” Linda states. If you want to dilute it with water or add Dr. Pepper, do it. “It’s my bourbon. Don’t tell me how to drink it,” she says. Much more important: Know what you like and make it your own.

“I’ve realized over the years that this concept transfers into everything we do as women and individuals,” she says. As female executives, entrepreneurs and leaders, we all know that fear and insecurity can kill dreams.

Linda’s best advice: Woman, know thyself. “That was probably one of the biggest lessons of going through this journey,” says Linda. “Know what you want, how you want it, where you want it, when you want it… knowledge and experience will empower you. That’s what being a Bourbon Badass is all about.”



We spoke to John Livesay about his experiences as a sales coach, and he opened up about how he got started.

Along with his strong work ethic, Livesay opened up about taking risks, talking to people that excite him, and doing things no one else is willing to do in order to get ahead.

There’s definitely a lot to glean from his stories and adventures. Here are some of the lessons we learned after our talk:

Always ask “what if”

John Livesay was working as an ad salesperson for a high-fashion Condé Nast publication when Speedo came up with a new line. He proposed running their ads in his publication, which they declined because they wanted to run their ads in fitness magazines instead. But Livesay persisted and asked them what if. Along with this, he suggested a few ways to really make their ad pop and bring both the fitness and fashion worlds together, including having Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps as their spokesperson.

Speedo ended up loving the idea and running their line’s advertisements at his publication. Livesay used his experiences as a former lifeguard to guide his idea—he not only did something that was considered out of his wheelhouse, but he also added value to Speedo, and got to meet one of his athletic heroes.

Create new experiences and redefine expectations

This sounds like a huge undertaking, but Livesay thought of a simple way to attract customers to a major client of his, Banana Republic. At the time, the brand wanted to find ways to make shoppers feel luxurious without having to overcharge them. Livesay suggested adding new experiences that make people feel luxurious instead of expecting them to fork over thousands for any one item.

Two Banana Republic locations designated a staff member to watch people’s phones and charge them to improve their shopping experiences. Sales went up because people tended to buy more as they waited for their phones to fully charge. A few tweaks and simple gestures can truly up your game!

Be proactive

Livesay also emphasized the importance of being proactive. An old sales adage he discussed was “make your plan and work your plan.” Planning is key to making sure you’re being intentional in what you want to do. According to John, it’s the people who tell the best story who can make a sale. If you want to connect with others, you have to have a plan so you can execute it properly. While it’s true that many things won’t fall into place, you’ll have a structure and can make changes accordingly.

Direct your own life

There are times when we feel disempowered or unmotivated, but Livesay encourages everyone to act as if they’re the director in a film about their lives. It’s easy to dwell on negative thoughts about what may happen with our lives and businesses, especially during tough times. John instead challenged us to think of ourselves as a film or TV director. We can decide to cut the scene if a negative thought becomes burdensome. We can cast people, places, and trust our gut!

Show some empathy

Business strategies and information can help you, but customers are real people who deserve for you to earn their trust. It’s important to let people know who you are and what your company or service are about, but at the end of the day, empathy is key to building long-lasting, sustainable relationships. Being likeable will help you thrive in sales, and it doesn’t have to come naturally. Livesay suggested reading Tim Sanders’ The Likeability Factor so you can brush up on skills that will help you make and leave great impressions.

Describe problems well

Piggybacking off of how to become more likeable, it helps you learn to skillfully describe a person’s problem. This creates rapport and helps people see you as someone who can offer solutions. Livesay recommends thinking about yourself as a jukebox so the right song can come on, depending on who you’re talking to. Everyone has different experiences and problems and tailoring your solutions will only help you.

Practice makes perfect

Livesay mentioned Olympic athletes and even Lady Gaga as references throughout our talk. Why? Because they practice their craft. Dedicated salespeople should do the same. Practice your story, have a plan, and execute it when the time is right. You won’t become a talented salesperson overnight, but you’ll slowly get better and see the results to prove your practice was worth it. Don’t wing it!




Have you found your superpower? Do you listen to your clients and the zeitgeist? Sarah M. LaFleur, founder and CEO of MM.LaFleur clothing company, believes every successful entrepreneur must address these questions.

Founded in 2013, MM.LaFleur clothing rose to prominence among executive women just in time for the 2016 election. Despite the curveball of a COVID pandemic that made work-from-home casual the new norm, Sarah’s gift for perseverance and out-of-the-box thinking led the way to marketing campaigns that went viral.

MM.LaFleur’s mission, and Sarah’s founding vision, was to help working women take the work out of dressing for work. She succeeded. In the process, making office attire so elegant yet comfortable—you won’t want to take it off.

LadyDrinks sat down with Sarah for a fireside chat to glean her leadership style and marketing savvy.

No. 1: First, let your dreams guide you. Next, be persistent.

In 2011 Sarah LaFleur, a Harvard graduate and New York Japanese-American, had landed what she thought was her dream job. Within four months, it started feeling more like a nightmare. She began having panic attacks, dreading going to work. The only other woman there, a doctor, told her point blank, “’This is a terrible place for women.’ And she was right… those four months felt like an eternity.”

After quitting, unsure and fearful, in the back of her mind Sarah’s dream was gnawing on her: Why can’t women’s office clothing be affordable, durable and stylish?  She knew women, like herself, were willing to pay $100 or $200 for nice clothes—just not $1,200. “Why doesn’t this kind of clothing exist for people like me?” she thought.  Her mother had worked in high-end fashion, so Sarah knew what better fabrics and tailored cuts could mean. Using a headhunter, she found high-end designer Miyako Nakamura and began making history—and affordable, work-appropriate designer apparel.

No. 2: Having a great product isn’t enough. Make your marketing fluid and intuitive.

Despite successful trunk-shows featuring her well-made clothing line, her online advertising was getting zero traction. “It was impossible. It was crickets,” Sarah says. But she understood her customers—women and mothers, exhausted after work, with little time for online shopping.

Drowning in inventory, Sarah thought: “What if we sent a box of these products to our existing customers, to see if they’ll keep anything.” Tapping women on her mailing list, she asked if they wanted a stylist to mail them clothing to try on. Their response? “Sure! Send them to me.” MM.LaFleur took off.  “We launched that model in October of 2014 and our revenue tripled overnight,” she recalls.

No. 3: Recipe for a successful PR campaign? Strive to connect, giving back as much as you get.

When Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton, the “pant-suit email” MM.LaFleur had planned to send  clients got scrapped. Instead, they opened up a conversation with women asking what they, as a brand, could do. MM.LaFleur began drowning in responses. “I think there were a lot of raw emotions,” Sarah recalls. “But the number one thing we heard is, ‘We need more women in politics, Republican or Democrat. So how are you going to help with that?’”

How? They launched a PR campaign promising to lend clothing to any female running for public office. “We will dress you for your campaign trail.” It went viral. “AOC tweeted about it, Hillary tweeted about it,” Sarah recalls, just as more women began running for public office. Sarah even got to meet the notorious RBG. Continuing to connect and give back, MM.LaFleur offers a 20% discount to “veterans, medical professionals, first responders, government and public service workers, and teachers.”

No. 4: See a wave? Don’t drown. Ride it.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, businesses globally were shattered. How was a dress and suit maker to survive when women were now wearing pajama bottoms to Zoom meetings? MM.LaFleur shot its spring campaign in Hawaii. “We called it, ‘Mentally, I’m here,’” says Sarah. She understood that working mothers now faced little escape, yet still needed to feel grounded and inspired.

Next came a paradigm-shift in clothing: creating ultra-comfortable office clothes. “We already saw the casualization of the workplace happening even back in 2017, 2018. So we ‘d already started developing into that.” Their revenue from suits dropped, as sales of gorgeous T-shirts and tops soared to 60% of their business. “Our brand has always been about practicality and comfort,” says Sarah. So, they invented the Jardigan: “It looks like a jacket but feels like a cardigan. It’s stretchy and it never wrinkles.” Then the Ginas: pants made of soft terrycloth and sweat-pant material, but with a tailored, zip-up fit. “So, they look like pants, but they definitely feel like sweatpants.” What’s next, comfortable stilettos?

No. 5: Know your superpower.

When asked about ‘impostor syndrome’ and feelings of inadequacy, Sarah shared how she’s turned this to her advantage. “I’m constantly fighting it,” she says. “But I think that maybe my superpower is that I have a pretty high BS meter.” She makes it a point to be honest about what she knows or doesn’t know. This gives others the chance to do the same. “I hope that is my superpower,” Sarah says, thus “breaking down that aura of people who gave us impostor syndrome.” That’s leadership.




Elizabeth Rowe is the Principal Flutist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  In 2018 she made the difficult decision to sue her own orchestra for paying her significantly less (up to $70,000 less) than her male counterparts.  Unexpectedly, a reporter picked up on the story and Elizabeth ended up speaking to the Washington Post, who used her as the centerpiece of a larger article about gender inequalities amongst orchestral musicians.

Here she talks to Joya about becoming a groundbreaking champion of pay equality as well as becoming a life coach and an advocate for other women facing similar dilemmas.

Having played the flute since she was seven years old, Elizabeth joined the orchestra in 2004 at the age of 29.  She was both “thrilled and a little intimidated” to be joining an elite leadership group within the orchestra.  As the only woman amongst the principal players, she was also one of the youngest performers in the orchestra.

In 2018, Elizabeth discovered the pay discrepancy between herself and her equivalent male performers.  The State of Massachusetts had passed legislation making it illegal to use someone’s prior salary from a different employer to set pay within the new role.  When Elizabeth put this to her employer, having consulted a legal team, the Orchestra’s management rejected her claim and added that “gender was not a basis for compensation”.

She drew upon non-work friends and her mother for support, and did her own research about executive salary negotiation, then found a small specialist law firm.  Elizabeth’s initial tentative enquiries steamrolled into a full-blown lawsuit.

Then a reporter unearthed the case and published a news article on 4th July 2018, blindsiding both Elizabeth and her lawyers.  Elizabeth was “terrified” and “not looking to become a symbol or a statement” but was eventually “so grateful to be thrust into the spotlight.”

Enlisting some of her male colleagues as allies was a key move, leveraging relationships built up over a decade.  Elizabeth won the court case with a generous settlement from BSO.   She remains the first and only classical musician to have taken her employer to task in this way.

Elizabeth reveals that she’s proud of her achievement, especially having set precedent, and staked her reputation in the struggle for equal pay.  She performs with the orchestra to this day and although there are colleagues she does not get on with, most are supportive and respectful.  She also credits a “small army of extraordinary women” who supported her throughout.

Elizabeth’s choices were limited at first.  She had little choice but to try to remain in post, since there are very few symphony orchestras of Boston’s standing and very few posts open for principal flutists.  Since she had tenure within the orchestra, it would prove difficult for the BSO to release her.  Elizabeth reveals that, outside of the legal battle, she has not been treated badly by her employer.

Throughout her doubts, Elizabeth remained “grounded in [her] own personal integrity”.  She realized that she had to align her behavior with her core beliefs and identity.  Elizabeth says she was naïve when she began the process, but now understands the limitations of the judicial process and how challenging it can be to set precedent.

One of her lowest moments was once she learned the lawsuit would be made public.  Elizabeth says she went “non-verbal” for a day due to the shock.  Eventually she chose a trusted reporter at the Washington Post to speak to.  She also decided to talk directly to her close colleagues to pre-empt the publicity’s impact.

Her second nadir took followed a particularly vicious move made by the defendant’s team; Elizabeth had a “fight or flight response”.  It made her contemplate the possibility of moving on and extending her portfolio to include public speaking and life coaching.  None of those career extensions would have occurred until had she not faced adversity.

She drew strength when she performed a lead part during one BSO performance and received huge applause from the audience.  “That was a very powerful moment for me”, she reveals.

One of the key lessons Elizabeth learned was the value of sharing information with colleagues about salaries, despite it being a taboo topic.  This can be the only way to reveal such discrepancies.  As a result of her legal action, within the BSO, Elizabeth reveals, there is a new culture of talking about remuneration.

Elizabeth has the following tips for initiating a conversation about compensation:

  • Start by gently broaching the subject and offering to share your salary first.
  • Acknowledge that it is not a zero-sum game – it should not impact your salary to reveal it to another.
  • Don’t assume that salary discrepancies reveal anything about the inherent value of an employee.

Elizabeth talks about tapping into an interior strength, describing this as “putting on [my] superhero outfit” prior to going into a difficult meaning.

She says that in any difficult negotiation there’s always “a place where everyone can win”.  Listening to both sides of the argument and trying to see things from your opponent’s point of view can bring the two sides a little closer towards a compromise.   Elizabeth believes that honesty, respect, and clarity are essential aspects of staking your claim.

Regarding gender equality, Elizabeth acknowledges that there are stubborn issues around hiring and opportunities within orchestras.  Although auditions are held anonymously, by the time musicians reach the level of entering a symphony orchestra, inequalities are already baked in.  Much work remains to be done.

Lastly, Elizabeth talks about the importance of quietude and focus within her work.  She likes to remain connected to the moment and avoid mental distraction.  This “flow” state requires practice, but it is a skill that can be acquired through repetition.

Elizabeth can be contacted via

Mindful Selling With Sales Coach Anis Qizilbash

Anis Quizilbash is a seasoned sales professional who enlightens, inspires, and empowers teams and individuals to grow their business through her Mindful Selling coaching programs. She reveals the key tenets of her sales philosophy and how they can help entrepreneurs, small businesses and women in leadership overcome sales challenges and improve their marketing

What is mindful selling?

Mindful selling is about being super conscious of the customer and working as hard as possible to provide a personalized experience each time. It requires knowing a ton about every customer, how they feel, what they need, and how to provide it.

How to apply mindful selling

#1: Let go of ego

Ego is that selfish desire that drives someone to pitch and close the sale without much thought about the customer. It is actually the one thing that people don’t like much about salespeople! Mindfulness is a great tool to let go of what ego wants to do and focus entirely on the customer. Anis says:

Mindfulness is about letting go of your ego completely, let go, and be there to truly serve customers, not sell, serve them.

By letting go of ego, sales become less about the numbers and more about serving and transforming the customers’ lives.

#2: Don’t make assumptions

People make assumptions all the time. It’s easy to interpret negative-looking signals as ominous signs, which leads to a lot of unnecessary stress and pressure. People could make the wrong decisions based on what they think rather than what is really happening! And as Anis says,

It’s the thoughts in our head that stops us from doing what we could be doing. It stops us from reaching out, from showing up, and from speaking up.

To overcome this, tell yourself to ask for clarification whenever you feel like you’re making an assumption. Asking questions clears the air, and you’re going to be more confident moving ahead because you know exactly where your client stands.

#3: Listen, listen, listen

Clients need to feel like they are understood and that their needs are going to be put first. Taking the time to listen and understand the customer, instead of just hearing them talk, is the key to making people feel valued and important.

And then just listen, listen. And a small thing that can help is summarizing back what they said. So you said this, and this is that, right? What else? The simple attitude, you would never, you will never believe this, but the simple act of doing that, listening and repeating back what they said, will unlock even more. They will think, wow, this person gets me. And then, so what else? And it leaves it open for them to talk more.

As you listen, you might pick up opportunities to ask some questions. When you do, make sure to ask specific questions in the interview, the answers to which will be valuable in later sales campaigns.

#4: Communicate in simple terms

It is often difficult to speak plainly without jargon when you’re passionate about something. Buyers, on the other hand, buy benefits. Rather than talk in the buyer’s language, most salespeople, especially on the web, make the mistake of speaking what the clients cannot understand!

The real challenge is how to communicate your solution without the technical lingo. Mindfulness helps the business keep their eyes on their audience and avoid being consumed by how they come across.

A good idea to get a grip on what your buyers want is to determine the outcomes of using the product or service. Plenty of benefits, positive results and testimonials communicated clearly work well to spark your clientele’s curiosity about your product or service.

#5: Create mindful moments throughout the day

Having to think about and make sales daily is stressful and exhausting. Mindfulness can help make sales a fun job to do.

Take a pause from work and get in touch with your senses every so often. Sometimes simply sitting down and taking a breath after a challenging sales encounter is what makes the difference.

This creates a small gap in your mind for a moment, but it dramatically changes how you feel. Joy and laughter reduce stress as well.




A Virtual Fireside Chat with Seth Godin


Seth Godin has written 17 books on advertising, marketing, business, and leadership. I had the pleasure of hosting a virtual “Fireside Chat” with Seth, and we dug deep into attendee questions after he and I laid the groundwork for our hangout.

Seth is such a great person to talk with, and he’s usually super busy, so it’s an honor to have been able to spend an hour going over his thoughts on entrepreneurial ventures, trust-building and relationship marketing, and being remarkable.

Persistence, Growth, and Change

“I learned a lot about solving, interesting problems being creative, failing, and failing and failing on the way to figuring out what would work.”

Sometimes you land on an idea or get involved with something that’s unique and profitable for you for a time, even if you’ve got to do things that make you uncomfortable to secure the work. But when you find something you can do that would be too expensive for a company or person to build themselves, they’d rather save money and pay you to do it, then that’s certainly something worth pursuing.

However, sometimes those wells run dry. Either too many people are doing the same thing, or they’re doing it cheaper than you are, or the market just gets so saturated they can’t see you anymore.

On Standing Out and Good Timing

Seth’s 1991 internet-based direct marketing firm was pioneering, to say the least. They were a no-spam solution that spoke to people who wanted to hear from them. He called it “permission marketing”. It was new and different at the time.

When it came time to sell the company (which he did, to Yahoo!), the timing was important to the success of the sale. Just because you have a good idea doesn’t mean that the company you want to sell to wouldn’t just decide they could find someone cheaper than you to just do it for them. You have to be ready to sell the solution as being more viable, buildable, and actually turn a profit for them in the end.

Trust Building and Relationship Marketing

Nowadays, ideas spread beyond the traditional way of advertising. Back when advertising was a screaming bargain for about 75 years, smart business owners kept throwing money at it because it paid for itself. However, about 20 years ago, all of that shifted. For some people, it got to be about hustle and hype and scam and gaming SEO. It was about getting to the front of the line by any means possible.

So now, and for the last several years, there are two ways we hear about things – the first, and more desirable method is when someone you trust tells you about something because they discovered it and think it’s cool. Their status and following go up because they knew about something before you did.

The other way, which is not trustworthy, is what we call influencer or affiliate marketing. The idea of getting paid to talk about something and only talking about it because you got paid to. It works, sure. But only short term until everyone knows about it, and then you’ve got to find something else to push and get paid to push.

Ideally, what we want to do is be the one to build something that’s worth talking about in the first place, and then rely on the customer relationships and trust to grow that loyal customer base that keeps promoting you because what you have is really cool.

Be Remarkable

Especially in a marketplace where there’s so much noise, if you aren’t remarkable, you stand to be invisible. If you’ve already got an established business, your brand is already out there. So how do you become remarkable?

Being remarkable means you’re someone with something worth talking about. Seth related this to how Alcoholics Anonymous is literally full of nameless people. Yet everyone’s heard about it because everyone talks about this life-changing “product” that makes your life better.


Another example is the Atkins Diet. It exploded the diet industry because it was interesting to hear people talk about how you can eat nothing but bacon all day and lose weight. We see it happening now again, with the Keto Diet, which is just a modified version of Atkins that doesn’t sound like it could kill you – which is quite remarkable!


The point is not to seek out a gimmick to get attention. It’s about doing or talking about something that your audience wants to talk about.


On Authenticity and How To Be Authentic


Authenticity is something that many have talked about as being this Golden Ticket to being worthy of listening to.


The truth is, no one really cares about authenticity and no one is truly authentic. What business owners need to do is be consistently who they are. Don’t pick something you don’t care about that you can’t do consistently. If you pick something that is alien to who you are, then you’ll be really unhappy for a really long time.


In regards to how to be authentic, one of the ways mentioned often is through “storytelling”. While you should absolutely tell your stories because they show a part of who you are, they’re absolutely not going to actually influence a broad range of people to pay you for something.


So what this means is that your reason for doing something is not going to be the same as anyone else’s reason for doing something. Your story and my story are not the same. We need to realize that other people don’t know, want, or believe what we do. And that’s okay, but you have to meet your customer or client where they are – not expect them to meet you where you are.


Find their problems. What’s their world view? How do you build a consistent structure around that and then help them have a forward motion? Because that’s what they want. Be generous, consistent, and an empathetic person who is out there solving other people’s problems, and you’ll get what you need.

Michael Parrish DuDell: Build a Brand That Attracts Sponsors for Your Podcast or Web Series

Michael Parrish DuDell is an entrepreneur, keynote speaker, and bestselling author of Shark Tank Jump Start Your Business and Shark Tank Secrets to Success. He is listed as one of the most popular business authors on Amazon and listed as one of the top Millennial voices by IBM.

He shares advice on how he acquired sponsors like Forbes and Citrix for his web series The Next Crop and how you can build a brand that attracts sponsors for your podcast or web series.

1. Niche, Niche, Niche

One of the most important ways to stand out in the ever-growing list of podcasts is to know your audience. Who are they? What do they like? Where do they hang out online, and who do they follow? By knowing your audience, you can niche down more and more to find your targeted audience and build your brand.

Ways you can niche:

  • Demographics – age, sex, political stance, spending habits, etc.
  • Interests – Instagram influencers, television shows, brands, etc.
  • Topics – thought leadership, business, entrepreneurship, etc.

These are broad niches listed above. In order to niche down to a very specific audience, you have to make choices. When someone asks, who is your podcast or web series for, you should be able to provide a specific answer.

My podcast/web series is for Millennials between the ages of 22-24 who are interested in building a personal brand around fashion who follow Sara Blakely.

You can see how this is very niched. It’s targeting a specific age group with a particular interest and follow a specific influencer. By doing this, you can narrow down topics and series you want to put out and even look for interests Blakey’s followers keep asking about to fill a need. Which brings me to the next point.

2. Do Your Research

There are two levels of research you need to conduct if you want sponsors for your podcast or web series. The first is research on your audience. The second is research about sponsors. Let’s dive in.

Research Your Audience

As a podcast or a web series, you have to add value. If you’re not adding value, you’re not going to gain an audience. Take the time to do your research.

Ask yourself questions:

  • What’s trending with my target audience right now?
  • Is there a burning question I could answer for them?

By anticipating the needs of your niche audience, you are leveraging your potential to add value. People share valuable content, and that’s how you gain an organic following.

Research Your Sponsors

Just like you need to add value to your audience, you need to provide value for your sponsors. Think about what brands are influenced by the SPANX brand:

  • What need are you filling in that space?
  • How do you plan to market to this audience?
  • How will the sponsor benefit from being a part of your brand?

Before reaching out to sponsors you need to know how you can add value to another brand. Research is a huge part of learning about your target sponsors, their competitors, and what value your audience can bring them.

3. Be Prepared: Put Your Research to Good Use

Produce content that fits your research. You need to build out your content like an architect. Here are some important questions to consider as you flesh out your content:

  • What is the purpose behind your content?
  • Who is it for, and how can it help them?
  • For sponsors, how is this content valuable to extending their brand?

The more laser-focused your content is, the easier it will be to provide value to your audience and sponsors. Timing can’t be controlled, but preparation is entirely within your control. By being prepared, you have valuable assets to deliver when the time comes.

4. Pitch, Pitch, Pitch

Once you know your value and you have valuable assets, it’s time to pitch to sponsors. It’s essential to think about how to sell your idea. You should be able to explain your vision and why you’re the best person to present it.

Again, sponsors are looking for value to them as investors, so it’s crucial that your messaging demonstrates research, describes their pain points in reaching your target audience, and how your content can bring your target audience to their brand.

If you have spent a good deal of time focused on steps one through three, your pitch should be solid due to the fact that you:

  • Know your audience
  • Can describe precisely how to reach them
  • How the sponsor fits in with your audience
  • How your audience can add value to their brand

After that, it’s selling your pitch which depending on your sales skills, may take time. To make an irresistible offer, you need to sell them on the idea and what the sponsor would lose if someone else got the same deal.

Prepare for Launch: Build Your Brand With These Tips

Using these tips, you can build a brand and get sponsorships for your podcast or web series. Follow the steps, work the plan, and when the time is right, you’ll be prepared.