A conversation with Joan Lawrence-Ross about her experience in the program.
Alzay: Let us begin. Joan, well, please let's start with an introduction. What is your name and what is your company's name?
Joan: I am Joan Lawrence-Ross and my company's name is Uncommon Resilience. And we specialize in leadership excellence.
Alzay: Let's talk about ... just kind of getting your feedback on the program. Let's talk about what you enjoy most as a result of being in the program.
Joan: There are multiple things I enjoy, you know. To list one, it was hard to list one, because the program is so dynamic that there are different aspects of the experience.
Joan: But if you force me to select one, was I love the targeted questions. Because it got me to get out of my head space and just get focused. So but I also enjoy the group chats, and the roundtable that you did.
Joan: Just listening to other people's thought processes and their struggles and how they overcame some of the same things that have been going in my head.
Joan: So those would be the top two.
Alzay: Okay, okay. All right. So now tell me what you enjoyed least about being in the program.
Joan: Oh god, this one is easy. The pressure to think fast and not to be perfect. My perfectionist streak was getting the best of me because the program is so fast moving that I wanted to spend longer on the modules and answering the questions.
Joan: So let me tell you something, man, oh my gosh. I had a few choice words whenever I'm like agh. So just the pressure to just let things rip, and not be perfect. But that whatever idea I have, I can build on it.
Joan: So that was really killing me.
Alzay: Let's talk about that a bit. So pressure to think fast. Why did you have the pressure, let me ask that question. Why did you have the pressure in the first place?
Joan: Because once I ... well, so building on what I liked most, which was the targeted questions, I realized that these were questions that I hadn't answered in depth.
Joan: So you forced me to pause and look at my business as an owner now. Not just somebody who is working for the business, but somebody who's thinking long term.
Joan: And the truth is I thought I was doing that tall along. But once you got me to weed away the essential and the nonessential, that's when I realized that I was missing opportunities in my vision and my sight and my thinking.
Joan: And, you know, because I am a network thinker, I'm a domino thinker, as soon as one idea pops in I'm seeing 50 steps ahead. So when you are forcing me to not think of the other 49 steps but stick with step number one, I wanted to go two, three, four, five, six, seven, all the way down.
Joan: But you're like no. One. [crosstalk 00:03:18] But there are 49 others.
Joan: Okay? Yeah. So that, to me, I thought ... up until that point, I thought I was a disciplined person. Until I got to that point and I realized you know nothing about discipline. You're just a little bit about discipline.
Joan: So in ... I learned a lot about myself and my thinking and my approach, as I went through the modules in the program. So you know, but it was good. It was a great experience.
Alzay: You learned a lot about yourself and your thinking. You just said one thing about the domino thinking. What else? Is there anything else as I push a little bit? Is there anything else that you learned about yourself and your thinking inside the program?
Joan: So it's a revalidation of how I think, you know? My success to this point, or my success leading up to starting my business, let me realize and understand one of the reasons why I was often misunderstood in corporate is because I see the big picture quickly.
Joan: And what I realized is that I have to slow down for people who don't get my ideas as fast as I formulate them. So this program brought me back to that ah-ha moment to say you know what? Even when I was doing my strategy planning sessions in corporate, it reminded me of the struggle I had to get people to think on that level.
Joan: And how it delayed initiatives and sometimes we abandoned initiatives because others couldn't get on board, because they just couldn't see the vision. So this process reminded me of two things.
Joan: One, my strength in that area but also my weakness in that area. My strength is that I get quickly. My weakness is that I need to learn to be patient with others so they can get it.
Alzay: See, that's a lot. That's a lot. So what is-
Joan: And I thought I was a patient person, by the way, until I'm like maybe I'm not so patient after all. Or there's a limit to my patience.
Alzay: Right, right, right, right, right, right. What is ... without going too far down this path, what is important to appreciate is that your client is not thinking about what you're thinking about.
Alzay: So not only are you good at it, but you're fast at it. So you're good and fast. So you know what it is and you're ready to charge, and your client is just not ready to move that quickly. And you will always feel the friction, unless you slow down.
Alzay: Now, we can argue and debate about how good you are, how fast you are, we can argue and debate about that.
Joan: And it doesn't matter.
Alzay: That is hard to articulate to folks outside the program. That what you do is valuable, and it belongs somewhere. But there's a way you have to introduce it so that other folks can come with you.
Joan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Alzay: If you want other folks to come with you. There's your rub, right?
Joan: And I'll tell you something too, Alzay. When I compare my corporate work years to the entrepreneurial work years, in essence the corporate work years force you to slow down. I was better at it in there.
Joan: Since being on my own and calling the shots and not having any 20 sign off and 40 levels of approval, some of that patience and tolerance have been eroded. And I realize now that even as an entrepreneur there are some things I can't lose. I can't afford to lose.
Joan: And I'm in my fifth year of business, and I realize okay, I got to pay attention to that because the more independent I am and the more autonomy I have, the less tolerance and patience I'm honing for people. Especially my clients.
Alzay: Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative). Let's add one more little piece to that. That same patience has to extend to your employees. So when you start hiring people to do a variety of things, on behalf of your business, they're not going to pick it up as fast as you do. It's just not their world, it's not their everyday.
Alzay: So you've got to create space for those folks to pick it up, own it, so they can run as fast as they can run. But a rub we all get in to is we want to show somebody a template and say take off. And they just can't.
Alzay: The clients can't do it that fast, your employees can't do it that fast, and you end up frustrated. So if you'll change your approach, you get better value from your employees. You get better value from your clients.
Alzay: That's the end goal we all want, right? Is that value. But there's ... you've got to change your approach.
Joan: You have to.
Alzay: That's the part.
Joan: You have to. You know, like I said, it brought me back to my true leadership days versus my solopreneurship days. And I need to make sure that the best of those corporate days, I don't lose, because that's what ... those are some of the things that made me a great leader.
Alzay: You know what? There is one more part to that. I'll see if you'll say it. I'm going to make a note, play without a net here, and I'll see if you end up saying it.
Alzay: So let's move on. And you may have already said it. If you have, just tell me. So what's the number one thing you've taken away from your experience? All the things, done a lot of work, had a lot of reflection. Is there a number one thing, lesson, point of view, you take away?
Joan: So the number one thing is not to lose my focus. Because I came into the program ... the thing I struggled with before coming into the program, because of the type of service and products that I offer, I'm in the leadership space.
Joan: So I was thinking about leadership from the topics, because I do leadership coaching and leadership development and leadership improvement. And that in turn has ripple effect in terms of how companies are designed.
Joan: So I came in to the program thinking about how to productize each of the leadership topic. I left the program of how to productize my leadership service. You see?
Joan: So rather ... because the topics are going to vary on there. So the process forced me to see that I'm not selling just ... even example I used with managing all the performance the Uncommon Resilience way. That's a topic area.
Joan: So after I left the program I went back and I said but that's one of the thousands of topics I have. So what am I really selling? So I went back and I redid the exercise and I said okay, how do I productize my leadership coaching?
Joan: Because that's the service I offer. And then that's when I start to do that. But the amazing thing happened now is that it forced me now to split. The product that I offer serves two path. B to B, B to C, and my approach for each need to be different.
Joan: So I'm still ... am I done with the program yet? No, because I'm going back into it and reestablishing the foundation. I'm continuing to improve on the ideas and the business and the model and the framework. Because my long term vision is to have a company with assets that are attractive for sale.
Joan: I don't want to be selling my intellect, I want to be selling the intellects that I've converted to tangible stuff that somebody else will find attractive.
Joan: The intellect I'll take with me.
Alzay: That's right, that's right, that's right.
Joan: So that's the vision. And it's the ... you said it too. It's not that you are teaching us things that are brand new, but you've organized them in such a way that it directed our thinking specifically to look at the business.
Joan: Remember that growth flowchart I created? I came in and I was ready to acquire talent. But as I started to think about the talent acquisition process, I realized on the front end, remember that line I drew?
Alzay: Acquire talent or acquire clients?
Joan: Acquire clients, the client acquisition. On the front end, I realized that I still had more work to do on what was I selling the client, so it could make sense. I was ready to sell.
Joan: But my products weren't that clear to me either, so that's why it was so hard for me to sell. So I had to back up, and that's why module three was the most impactful for me. Because I had to stop who am I selling to and go back, what am I selling and why.
Alzay: Which is so intuitive to the expert, right? It's your expertise. So to you it's all just give me a person, just show me a person, I'll help them. Well, the problem is that person has to raise their hand and say I want that.
Alzay: When they say that, I want that, what is that? What is the thing that they're opting in to and becomes your job as the expert to clarify that, to make that plain.
Alzay: And just thank you for your honest, Joan, because there's some work that you have to do as the leader of the business to sharpen that. To ... yeah. People don't just raise their hand and jump onboard because you're personable.
Alzay: There's more going on than that, right?
Joan: You know, remember when I said there are two sides to the equation? There's working for the business and working on the business.
Joan: Working for the business is actually selling the products and services that the business have to offer. Working on the business is deciding what products and service to be offered and why.
Alzay: That's right.
Joan: And how will that position the company for growth. And they're two different things.
Joan: If you come in to say that you are working for the business, you're not going to spend much time. Because typically when we work with somebody they already told us what we're selling and what we're supporting. When you're a business owner, you have to decide that that's going to be.
Joan: And then I realized that yes, I had the idea based on my years of experience, but I still needed to sharpen it. And as a business owner with a vision for selling the business, make the business be attractive for sale, I have to constantly evolve.
Joan: Even the products and services I'm offering now. I don't anticipate it to be what will be offered five years from now, because I have to figure out what the changes and the challenges are and improve on existing products or even disband current products and introduce new products.
Joan: So and that's the entrepreneurial mindset. So from your program, one of the things that ... and I know you will get to that question, the idea that we can say to students who are coming in, is that number one leave all your assumptions at the door. I don't care how smart you are, how successful you are, if you're not all open to disrupting your own thinking you're going to struggle.
Joan: And it doesn't mean that you're not good at what you're doing and you're not an expert. Coming into the program you are giving ... the potential student is giving you permission to challenge preconceived notions.
Joan: And to validate to make sure that the notions that you have are the right ones. And if they're validated, say yes I got it. But also don't be so locked into an idea that you discover that is wrong. Or inappropriate, you know. That's why you have to be like ...
Joan: So you may come in to the program validating what you're taking, but also be open that you might leave the program with everything that you brought in is no longer valid. For the kind of business that you're running, or trying to build.
Alzay: Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative).
Joan: And each business and industry and focus is unique. So stop looking at what other people are doing and really start to focus the purpose that you are running for your business. Because your business and my business are different.
Joan: I can learn some aspect from you, but I can't look at your success and think it's automatically going to be mine.
Alzay: I know you're right, I know you're right. I am appreciating the person who is watching and listening. And so I'll say this.
Alzay: Even twins are different. So even twins, right?
Joan: Identical twins. Identical twins are different.
Alzay: Right. Who look ... at first blush, look the exact same. So I run an agency, she runs an agency. I'm a coach, she's a coach. I do X service, they do X service. Aren't we the same? Maybe.
Alzay: Those two identical twins-
Joan: But if you look closer.
Alzay: If you look closer, if you look closer.
Joan: If you look closer you start to see the difference.
Alzay: There are two people, right?
Joan: Like those optical illusion graphics. At first glance you see one pattern, but as you look closer, other pattern starts to emerge.
Alzay: For the person watching, my hope is that your takeaway is to own the difference. So even if you think you are just like the company next to you, just like all the other competitors, there is something about your point of view, your company, your approach, that is, in fact, different.
Alzay: And if you identify that, first identify it, and really own it, and dare I say productize it, put it in a service, then it becomes an asset, your words, you can build on.
Joan: Mm-hmm (affirmative), that you can build on. You have to own. You identify, you own, you appreciate, and you respect the difference.
Alzay: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Joan: Just because they own it don't mean they respect it. And that's what I noticed with some of the conversations I have with others. Because they're so focused on the big win and the big money, they're not respecting the level of change and effort that is going to be required to get to that space.
Alzay: Give us more, Jo. Give us more. You can own your expertise but not respect it, what do you mean? Say it again please.
Joan: You recognize that you need to make a change. You recognize that your business stands out. But you don't respect the effort that is required to get to that journey.
Joan: You underestimate what it will take, or you don't invest enough in it to make it work. So whether you underestimate it or lack of investment, you're not going to be able to position it properly. And it's going to not make you be committed to it.
Alzay: There's a phrase that I heard. I hear it often in athletic circles, but the point still holds. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard. That's what you're saying, right?
Alzay: So you can have talent, expertise, background. You can be really good at something. But there's effort required to refine it so that it's fully appreciated.
Joan: And it's not one and done.
Alzay: If only.
Joan: Just because you won the Super Bowl last year doesn't mean you're going to win it this year.
Alzay: Right. Right.
Joan: Ask any of the football teams, right?
Alzay: Every year we start over. Right, right.
Joan: As a student, just because you got a 4.0 last semester, it's not an automatic transfer to a 4.0 for this semester. Same thing.
Alzay: Right, right. So help that make sense for folks who ... because the program is finite, right? It's finite. The program ends. So what you're describing is kind of this long term philosophy. Hey, you gotta get better as you go, you always gotta keep getting better, you always going to keep refining.
Alzay: Help that make sense in this finite program, because the program has to end so you can take the next step, whatever that might be. So does that question make sense? Does that challenge make sense to you?
Joan: Yeah. I think I understand what you're saying. This program is like a recurring meeting on your Outlook calendar. Every meeting, you have the meeting every week, but every week it's a different topic.
Joan: In your business, you're going to take the first six weeks and do this program. But after the program you start a process over to make sure that your idea and your products and your program are still valid.
Joan: So that's why I told you even outside the program, I go back and I'm reliving the exercises as I'm looking at how to shape the ideas I have for the leadership services, and how to differentiate the path for B to C and B to B.
Joan: So I go back to the module and if I'm looking at a B to B example, I go back through the modules and then I start to apply your questioning and the thinking. If I'm looking at a B to C model, then I go back again.
Joan: So it's my recurring meeting. It's a recurring process. It's not one and done. If you have a static product or service that never needs improving, that never needs any update, then sure, one and done. But which business is like that?
Alzay: So Joan-
Joan: Does that make sense?
Alzay: No, yes it does. Yes it does. So let me ask you directly. While you're talking about this effort of continuous improvement, Joan, can I still make sales? Am I still closing clients?
Joan: Yeah. It doesn't mean that you're ... it's like having an iPhone. While they're working on iPhone 11 now, they're still selling 7, 8, X, 10, and every other version. Then 11 comes out and then everybody gets excited while they're still working on 12.
Joan: So it's the same thing. If your product is valid now and you're not going to decommission it or phase it out and keep selling it as long as you have sales, but it's the transition of how to prep the people of what's coming. Especially if the same people who are using the current product will fare better in the newer version.
Alzay: And there's your retainer income.
Alzay: So we all want retainer income, we all want ... we want longer checks. We all want longer checks. Where do the longer checks come from? Thank you for explaining, thank you for explaining.
Joan: Yeah. And that's why you go back and you look at all the greats that have gone before us. It's a blessing of what we have, because we can learn from their successes and we can learn from their mistakes. And guess what? We can modify their approach.
Alzay: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). Okay, all right, all right. I'm asking you, in your business now, what's the number one thing you still have to do?
Alzay: So you just said a lot about what this program can do, does do, your experience, etc. What do you-
Joan: So right now my number one thing is to create my B to B and B to C productize path. Because here's the thing. In the B to B, for the type of service that I offer which is intangible, for the most part, it's intellectual, it's behavioral, and those are the things that people fear the most. It's all so mental, you know? I play in a mental space a lot, changing mindsets.
Joan: With the B to B, those products and those projects are time bound. Okay? So you get a contract and it's six weeks or whatever the time frame. And pretty much I am chasing the client to get business. I have to seek the client out to bring the business in.
Joan: But the B to B, B to C, I'm going to the individual. But I want to make sure that they can come. So since many of the topic areas are applicable to every industry, every country, every company, have to figure out now how to do the client acquisition so that I am not pushing so much but am pulling.
Joan: So now I have to work on what my pull strategy is going to be, to bring clients to me. And to host the information in a way where I'm not working 24/7 to pull that off.
Alzay: Okay. Okay. Now, I'm going to ask two specific followup questions. But Joan, you said you've got to productive the services. I thought you did that in the program, Joan.
Joan: Yes, you do. But you also have to update your program because the process for my topics are the same, but my topics are different.
Joan: You see?
Alzay: Okay. Now here's what I also know. I'm sorry, go ahead.
Joan: So I have maybe the gift and the curse or the blessing and the curse, where because I am selling intellect, my topics are limitless.
Alzay: Right, conceptually, yes. Right.
Joan: So when you sign up to be one of my clients, you're not just limited to one topic area. You're getting the full kit and caboodle as you need it for your own personal growth.
Joan: If I was just selling pens, and nothing more, then you will only come back as long as you need pens. But if you don't need pens, I won't see you. Right?
Joan: And I'm going to have a tough time convincing you that you need a new pen. But because my topics are so diverse, I need a strategy that is going to remind you that there are other topics for you to look at. You see? And how it fits into your growth.
Joan: So my productize service is following the pattern of how to sell leadership excellence and leadership growth. That's what it is. So in essence I'm taking my one-on-one leadership coaching and I'm productizing it so it can apply to anyone on the B to C level.
Alzay: So you can continue the relationship with that client. Right? I'm putting the [crosstalk 00:26:47].
Joan: I can ... they can do two things. Continue the relationship, that means their repeat business. And client referral, because now they can see other people.
Alzay: There we go, there we go, there we go. Now, what I also know because I know some details about your situation, you have business today that you closed while you were in the program. And that ... now that you're working on those projects currently, there is some additional productizing. There's some refining of those services that you're currently looking to do, because you're in motion.
Alzay: So when you say I am productizing B to B and B to C, I know what you're saying. You're at version two, three, or four of that. You're not at version .5, .75, maybe at one. You are talking about even further down the path.
Joan: I am my own competition. My competition is not outside. My competition is with what I have to offer. How can I always make it better and more relevant?
Alzay: That is a leadership thing to say. That is a leadership coach's thing to say. I totally get it.
Alzay: Okay. What else? So my last formal question here is what you would tell someone else before they would enter the group. Say it again. Give that idea one more time to kind of wrap this up.
Joan: Coming to the group, leave your assumptions at the door. Be open to disrupt your thinking and don't fear the process. Embrace the process.
Joan: Actually I'll even add don't fight the process. It's more of a fight than a fear.
Alzay: How might one fight the process, Joan? What are fighting behaviors?
Joan: Fighting behaviors is probably saying you don't know what you're talking about. It's nobody else is doing that way, I did it before and it worked one way, rejecting everything that you've said. Invalidating what you're saying, being angry with you for no reason.
Alzay: Been some of those cursing fits?
Joan: Yes, yes, yeah. Yeah. You know. Blaming the program for my lack of patience. Yeah.
Joan: All of those negative behaviors. And literally having two year old tantrums.
Alzay: What happens when you let go of those frustrations? What happens when you let the program does what it does? Tell me, tell us, what happens.
Joan: Your mind is open to limitless thinking. This is where possibility thinking comes into play here. You always hear about possibility thinking and possibility psychology.
Joan: You actually start to really ... you take the borders off your thinking. You're not rejecting any ideas and you're able to assess what will work. Okay, it's like going to the fruit shop. What's going in the basket and what's staying?
Joan: And that's how I felt. I like okay, I have these ideas, I need to select three. Which of the three? And then I start to rank, order, and do pros and cons. I'm like okay. And you force me to take three where previously I would want to take all 10.
Joan: You know? And so coming in you have to be willing to just embrace the process and let the program do its thing.
Alzay: Thank you, Joan. There are a couple of things I want to ask you about offline. But we'll end this formal part now. So thanks so much. Thank you so much.
Joan: You're welcome. It was ... like I told you, if I come across someone who is doing their business and stuff like that, I will definitely recommend this program and send them your way. Because I think it's a good ... especially for someone ... I wish ...
Joan: My only regret, Alzay, is ... and they say nothing happens before the time. My only regret is that I did not stumble on your program just when I started a business. This would've been great back in 2014 when I walked away from corporate.
Joan: This should've been the first thing I got before even forming the company and doing all of that other stuff. Yeah. So the best gift I can give to someone is if I hear them saying that they want to go to entrepreneur work, I say okay, hold that thought, take this course. And then decide if you want to do it afterwards.
Alzay: Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative). Thank you.
Joan: That would be what I want to say.
Alzay: Thank you.
Joan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).