Podcast

Using Fear to Propel You Forward with Tiffany Sauder

Podcast

Using Fear to Propel You Forward with Tiffany Sauder

Podcast

Using Fear to Propel You Forward with Tiffany Sauder

Podcast

Using Fear to Propel You Forward with Tiffany Sauder

Podcast

Using Fear to Propel You Forward with Tiffany Sauder

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Podcast

Using Fear to Propel You Forward with Tiffany Sauder

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Podcast

Using Fear to Propel You Forward with Tiffany Sauder

36:14
MIN
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About the Episode
Fear can control you or motivate you. Tiffany Sauder has used fear to fuel her successful career as CEO of Element Three for more than 15 years. She’s also navigated the sometimes difficult path of being a working mother while raising four daughters. How has she powered through doubt, fear, and indecision? What’s kept her levelheaded and strong through struggles, high stress, and disasters? Her powerful story will inspire you to rethink the role fear plays in your life and how honesty, transparency, and courage can help you overcome challenging times.
Episode Highlights

Fear can motivate
Figure out how you can use fear to your advantage to propel you forward and overcome obstacles. 

Parenting brings insights
Don’t ignore your parental instincts in the workplace; they can help you become a better leader. 


Perfectionism is inefficient
When you’re limited on time and capacity, getting things done is enough to make due.

Meet our Guest

Tiffany Sauder’s accolades could blow anyone away. She’s an entrepreneur, CEO, award winner, and business owner who took over the marketing consultancy Element Three in 2006 and never looked back. As the leader of a company with multiple Inc. 5000 and American Advertising Awards honors, Tiffany knows a thing or two about building success. Yet the mother of four young daughters wants people to know that her journey has not been without struggles, strife, and fear. She now shares her story, insights, and passion about how fear can play a positive role in life on her podcast Scared Confident.

Episode Transcript

Chris Byers: Fear is something we don't often think about, let alone discuss its role in our work for Tiffany Sauder, CEO of Element Three, a marketing consultant. The fear is what has allowed her to push past boundaries, and she inspires others to do the same. I'm Chris Byers, of Formstack, and this is Ripple Effect, a show celebrating the impact decisions create. In the conversation with Tiffany will talk about her journey through business and motherhood and how she's learned hard lessons to encourage other leaders to take action in their own lives by pushing past fear. Tiffany, tell us what made you decide to start your own business 15 years ago, what convinced you to leave a corporate job and go out on your own? How did that journey begin?

Tiffany Sauder Hi, Chris. Thanks for having me on. You were an entrepreneur and founder. You know that the journey that you map is not always the one that you go on 15 years ago and we started at three or bought this little small mom and pop agency, we were really at a place where marketing was undergoing a massive amount of transformation. But you don't always know that you're in a transformation moment. But we really started to see and understand that marketing was going to have a real seat at the table as it related to just business acumen. And how did we not just make things look better, but really understand how marketing plugged in to set up the right text at the right measurement, the right scorecard, the very attribution? I am a kid of an entrepreneur, so I think some of it is environmental. My dad started his own business when I was in third grade. Risk was something that was ever present. But you don't know that. It's just very normal. And so when I got out of school and started in a big company, I started to recognize it's going to be a real long time before somebody lets me make a decision of any real size or consequence. And how do we come in and really not just make more marketing tactics, but really learn and understand what's it like to come around alongside companies and build brands? It's been a fun ride. You probably feel the same way I dreamed about being here, but I didn't dare wish for it or plan on it. So, yeah, it's been great. We've learned a lot.

Chris Byers: That's awesome. I definitely have had feelings I don't think I ever imagined. As I look back at the 10 or 11 years I've been at this, at how far we would have come, I think even early days, I probably would have been like, oh, what's max out at some size and just have fun. And somewhere along the way, that kind of changes. Can you share a pivotal moment in the journey where your company could have gone one way, but it ultimately went another?

Tiffany Sauder I think about this both at a personal level and a professional one. I think it's really connected us. And I love the title of your podcast of Ripple Effect, because there are these moments and decisions that have a massive ripple effect, not only on your own journey and the inflection point of your own life, but also I think, in what you have to give back to others who you then brush up against in life. And this concept of fear, I think I felt it the most acutely. I feel like I've been in business long enough to have felt two very turbulent times. And we were in the first few years of Element three when we hit the 08 09 financial crisis. And I was absolutely paralyzed that time around with fear. They talk about fight or flight or freeze. And I was I just froze. And this journey of being a professional and a person, this identity of also being a mom and also being an entrepreneur, they really started to braid themselves together tightly in that moment. And we had our first daughter in 2009 also just riding a freight train into a brick wall with element three at that time, because everything just came to a screeching halt and I had absolutely no idea what to do. And so I just froze. And in many ways I just ignored it and I just panicked. It's not an overstatement to say in one hundred days of indecision, I spent about a thousand days paying for that, like quite literally financially. And so I think that as I look at different authors and people who are platforms for messages, usually they're talking about the thing that they're terrible at. And I think that's why fear is so acute to me is because I felt it in such a way that I had a chance to completely derail and I would say really be an end point for element three. Or I could choose to buck up and trudge through this fear event that was absolutely paralyzing me. And I was just scared to death. I was scared about being a mom. I was scared that Element three was literally going to evaporate overnight. I was afraid that I didn't actually know marketing. I was afraid that I wasn't a leader. I was afraid to talk to my people because I didn't know what to say to them. I was afraid to talk to my family because I didn't want to be a failure. I was like I just was consumed by it. And I think that experience was so big for me. And I can feel it still so acutely that I knew if I did not figure out how to get a mastery of this monster of fear that I was going to be held back in so many ways from what I really feel is a calling on my life, it's not just like the things I want. It's like the things I feel like I'm called the impact. And the sort of the mountain of fear that I needed to chase down was really years of work to understand. What did that mean? How was it influencing me? And fear moves. It's not like a static thing. So it's not like I have a mastery of this, but it's certainly that I as something I've spent some time practicing.

Chris Byers: Yeah, you're right. Like the fear that I think especially as leaders experience is first of all, I think it can come and go and moments and then it can come and go and. For days or weeks or long periods of time, so I'm curious. Something obviously hit and allowed you to say, yep, this is terrible. I don't like living in fear. And you flip that around. What happened?

Tiffany Sauder I think this part of the story, sometimes I tell it, sometimes I don't. But I will. Today I was at a real crossroads. And when you have a baby and there's other life events, but having a baby is one I've done four times now. And it's just this time where you no matter how committed you are to the thing in front of you, you just take stock of what's going on around you. Does all this still work for my life? Do you want to go back? Do you want to go part time doing work for yourself, like all this kind of stuff? So I had a baby in January 2009 and that was right in the crux of everything falling apart. And I knew stepping back into Element three was like just an epic shitstorm. And so I remember being at home being like, I can make this very hard thing go away in a way that is going to be pretty socially acceptable in that I can say I want to be a stay at home mom now. That's what I'm going to do. I loved my five years at all. My three, we did something, didn't work out so great. I have maybe some debt to figure out how to get out from under, but I'm going to stay home now with this baby. That feels like a much better outcome to spend my time on than this mess that I have at Aliment three. And I don't tell that story in the sense to say like that being a stay at home mom is a bad thing. It's a lovely calling, but in my heart, in my gut, in my DNA, I knew at that moment in time at least, that's not what I was called to do, that in choosing to go home and be home full time and have that to be my full time job, that I was walking away from a challenge that I needed to go through. But I full on, didn't want to like I wanted to avoid that the tsunami with everything that I could. And I at least recognized in that decision making journey, I can, like, play both sides of the conversation. One is, wow, this looks lovely. Let's stay home. And the other side was like, you're just being a chicken, Tiffany. And I could at least see that while I didn't know what the behavior needed to be, if I was going to go through the fire, I at least knew it was going to happen one minute at a time. And so at least for me, when I'm going through a fear event, I have to make it really small so that I can start to get momentum of, OK, that wasn't as bad as I expected. OK, I returned the phone call. They didn't eat me. I'm still alive or I paid three percent of what I owed them. At least I don't owe them one hundred percent anymore. You know, like these tiny victories started to give me momentum and it wasn't so much about that. The outcome was amazingly better. It was that I started to get more courage in chasing down these little micro behaviors that were going to ultimately lead to us getting through this. And again, I think for me, what I found, whether it be when my marriage is in a crappy spot, when I have a friendship that's in a crappy spot or my businesses, it doesn't switch to good fast. It seems like it goes to bad fast, but usually things happen slowly, all of a sudden sort of on the downhill slope. And when you're slogging and trying to get things back to your plum line or to good, it takes longer than you want it to. And I think that stamina was something that I in my immaturity, in my youth, I just didn't have an appreciation for.

Chris Byers: If I can think of anything that feels like a long, slow journey, it's in teaching and shaping and encouraging your kids and years. And you're like, why is that characteristic? Still, they're never improving. And then overnight, something finally changes. So I totally understand that long process that we often go through to to make really positive change. You're obviously a strong advocate for mothers, especially working mothers. Tell us more about your family and why you started sharing your experiences as a working mother.

Tiffany Sauder My mom was a stay at home mom and I grew up in a small rural community. And so the idea of a professional woman like literally was things I saw on TV, but I didn't really I didn't grow up around it. I didn't see the women who worked in my community had jobs that they went to, but they weren't careers. It's something that I kind of knew about from afar but didn't have any real look or understanding of what's it like to experience that. But something about me, even as a little girl, just loved the energy of these women who seemed like they're going places. They have a sense of urgency, the sense of purpose. And I definitely am a sort of sense of urgency person. I just was really attracted to that sort of aura, even though I looked at that from afar. I think the picture that I had that was so close to me, I just imagined I would at some point get to a place where I was a stay at home mom. And I just it never really felt right to my heart into my DNA. And so I've had to figure a lot of this out on. My own and in my extreme brain, it was like, if I'm a professional woman, then that means that I need to turn off the, like, maternal desires that I have. And if I'm a mom, then that means I have to turn off these, like, really competitive. I want to win business side of me. And I thought about it in such a binary way for a long time. And I felt some, I think, guilt around that, that if I wasn't 100 percent rough and tough, then I wasn't really a business person playing the game well. And if I wasn't completely maternal then I wasn't doing the mom thing and about I don't know when it was, but I started to see, like maybe the uniqueness of these two things is actually the most important thing about me. And you've probably found this to Chris, like the things I've learned about leadership and about mentoring young talent and helping young people go into situations that they're not quite ready for, but you start to see how they behave and the decisions they make. And becoming a leader in that way and practicing that for 15, 16 years has made me such a better parent and vice versa. Watching my kids and teaching them values and understanding that the way I guide them in the big picture of their life creates so much more ownership over the decisions that they make that makes me a better leader. And so I started to see maybe I don't have to emulate one of those extreme personas that I have in my head. Maybe I can be both. And how do I figure out how those fit together for me in a way that works and is sustainable? I think over the last few years I've gone through different boards that I'm on and organizations with young people, even things like that, or fellowship. I started to see a lot of young women, a lot of young professionals, a lot of parents who are in their 60s, who have kids that are coming up and they're choosing a different family environment maybe than the one they grew up. And they're looking for resources, say, how do you do this? And while I don't have it figured out completely, I feel really passionate about sharing at least what we have tried, what we've learned, the struggles that we've been through as a family, and how that sort of refined us. And I just think that it needs a voice. I think more and more families are choosing to career homes, and there's a really specific stress that creates and I think we need to normalize it. I think that we need to start to have language to talk about it.

Chris Byers: Last year, it was really fascinating, not probably in a great way to just observe how it was working mothers who had the absolute toughest environment around them. The best way to say that if there was anybody who the kids were going to fall to just a little bit more, if not a lot more, it was the working mothers, especially at least hear it from Stack. And so I'm curious, how did you address last year both as you were helping working mothers and yourself? How did you tackle that?

Tiffany Sauder Last year was really hard. I think a lot of us exited twenty twenty, just really tired on top of it. I was pregnant and had a baby. And for me this is not a fix, but it does help me. Some of it is changing your expectations. Most of us who have chosen both careers and families are just massive achievers. And so sometimes it's first dealing with your own mindset that can change the environment around you. So, for example, for me, I can keep a lot of trains moving. I can set up systems and processes so that all the people who are in and out of my house, the people who help us keep our life together, that everybody knows when you know what the whistle's mean, so to speak. And in 2020, everything just came to a screeching halt, every system that I had built so that there was like some muscle memory in our family schedule and who was doing what and who's packing lunches and what happens on Tuesday. I was on Thursday. You can only make so many decisions and have so many conversations with people. If you don't have some systems and move that stuff forward, you get really buried. What I remember when I shifted from I have to try to get this chaos into order. That's what I was trying so hard to do. There were so many variables. I just couldn't when I shifted in my mind and said, this just going to be messy, Tiffany. It's just going to be messy. You just have to execute what you can. And so that would mean and I know these are like silly, but things like it might be loud in the room, but I need to do this meeting. It might be super messy when I go to bed, which is not a thing that I really love. And it's just going to have to be that way. We might need to have the exact same thing for lunch all week long. And I'm sorry about that. I don't have the capacity to have anything more creative than that. And it's just going to be messy. But I think we also have to give ourselves credit as professionals. And this is not about phoning it in, but sometimes getting something done at a seven. If you had two more hours, you can get it into a ten. You just need to ship it because that is what the environment will allow. I think we sometimes freeze up and get into this like perfectionist mindset when things are really chaotic instead of business, at least in ours, is not surgery, but in business like it's throughput. Get the landing page up, do the webinar, post the blog, do the sales call, make thirty cold calls, just do it. And yes, maybe in your best week if you made thirty cold calls you could have connected with. Twelve of them, and in your worst week, you could connect with four, but holy crap, do it. And I think we shut down from the behavior of just stick with the program because your energy starts to get really screwed up. At least mine does when I don't stick with the program and I'm trying to overcompensate and I'm trying to push all this perfectionism into these like tasks I have to do is just keep the flywheel spinning, just go. Because if I stop it, other people are going to catch me. But if I keep moving, I at least have a chance to be able to continue. Does that make any sense, Chris? What I'm saying?


Chris Byers: I think so. Actually, one of the things you said there that I loved was last year we really wanted an answer, but we were looking for how can we support people who do have kids at home or just to maybe give them four day workweeks to it. Like we went through all of the options. We did some surveys. And ultimately it was like, there's no answer. We need to just say we understand this is messy. I think that's a great way to say it. Talk to your manager. If you'll just keep them informed, we'll just roll with it. We don't have no idea how every day is going to work. And it worked. It wasn't enjoyable. It wasn't I'm sure it was super taxing on some people some days and less other days. But I think there's something powerful there to embrace both a lack of perfection at times, but also everything probably doesn't need an answer, even though we all want to get to an answer on every single question ever.

Tiffany Sauder This is, again, maybe an unpopular perspective, because I do think there's such an important role for us as leaders to have empathy for what people are going through. But this was the asterisk of all asterisks. This was unprecedented in every capacity. And what I told my team, every part of me wants to come in and try to make part of your life easier. Every part of me wants to try to make it so that you can sleep just 20 minutes longer. Every part of me wants to make it so I can get three fewer emails. Every part of me wants to make our clients a little happier for you somehow. But the reality of what we have to go through is that we are trying to make it into the playoffs as a team who knows how to compete. And we are beat up like we're scratched, we’re just a wreck, and we still have to take the field. And the good thing that happens when you start to see and start to, I think, gain ownership over the fact that, dang it, I can do really hard things. Then when people look at what it's like to be a CEO or an entrepreneur or having four kids a marriage in a company like sometimes it's just really hard, like really hard, like at the end of your rope part, and it doesn't stay like that forever. And so I think sometimes we also take away the gift from our people accidentally by wanting to be empathetic. We take away the feeling of this massive victory, this understanding of what they're really capable of, where we go past what we perceive our limits to be in a whole new place is opened up for us. I don't know either. I'd be open to your sort of feedback on that, Chris, because I feel like sometimes it's not popular to say it's hard and I'm sorry, but we have to do it anyway.

Chris Byers: I think one of the things I've seen, especially toward the end of twenty twenty, was a particular balance that I needed to shift away from, which is we've got high empathy, spent a lot of time with people, give them a ton of flexibility. And so, you know what? Yeah, we're going to have to flip this a little bit and say we do have a job to get done and we can't drag this out forever. That doesn't mean our flexibility is going to disappear. That doesn't mean it's all going to change. But I think the perspective I took was I did a lot of thinking, reading about World War II, and especially for people who lived in London at the time or England in general, and just how ultimately they had to get their lives going again, even in the midst of war happening all around them. And I think that is, to your point, a job of a leader. How do we help people stay focused? And a lot of ways it's encouraging to them. Some people give us feedback. Last year you'll stop talking about our feelings because I want to go to work and forget it. And so there seems to be moments for both.

Tiffany Sauder Yeah, I think we all needed to know, too, that we were bigger than it. This doesn't have to define every part of my existence. We are bigger than it. We are more than coronaviruses. We are more than this. And so but I don't mean we can defeat it like so to speak. But it's just I think people needed to know I am bigger. Like my life is bigger than this.

Chris Byers: Absolutely. You talked about fear earlier, I imagine experience some sort of fear last year. And it sounds like this year you're going to take that on. And a little bit of a new way in a podcast that you've got called Scared. Confident. Tell us about that. Tell us where the title came from and what you want to talk about.

Tiffany Sauder This has been a really fun project for me to work on. As I look back at my journey and the question behind the question that I see in people's eyes when they come and say, like, so what's it like? What's it take? Can I do this to like how does it look? We all I think, if we're honest, have these fears and we need to be real about them and give them language. And I think that we take back control from the fear when we have the courage to say this is a crap that's going on my head and heart right now. And I'm an. Talk about it, because then the fear doesn't have control over me, and what I found is that when I had the courage to be the most head on with fear, right behind that was where I had the most confidence. And so this kind of juxtaposition of scared, confident is, yeah, I'm scared and I'm so scared that I'm willing to talk about it so that I can get through it and really plants in confidence and clarity so that I can act and move forward with a clear mind. And, you know, I believe that I was created for a purpose. I believe that I have a role to play on this earth to make it a better place. And I think most of us, when we lay in bed at night, we're like, no, I am significant. I do need to be here. I do have people to impact and children to raise and families and communities and teams to impact. I'm here for a reason. And when we allow fear to control the narrative in our heads and hearts, then we don't get to step fully into who we were all individually designed to be. And so this is really kind of me going first, talking about the crap that has been in the way in my life, the things that I've learned from overcoming that, and also just to continue a transparent journey of what I'm learning and what life is teaching me. And then we'll also have some segments where we engage questions from the community, from people like me, me, 15 years ago, maybe me 15 years from now, asking questions of one another, of what does it mean and how do we confront this so that we can really empower people to step entirely into who they were made to be.


Chris Byers: Love that phrase you use about language. There was a moment last year where I was like, I don't know what this feeling is that's been on me, but it feels like a cloud that's just been laying over me for weeks or some long period of time. And somewhere in there I discovered it was grief and I was like, oh, OK, I can actually do something about it. Now that I know that I know there's a word that I actually know what that means, but I couldn't describe it better until somebody pointed that out. Tell us about the some of the language that you feel like you've learned to help take the fear and put it where it needs to be.

Tiffany Sauder I've just learned to export it to myself really early and then often to my team. And I think that all of us had fears in 2020 as leaders that we were just going to screw it up worse than it was already screwed up. And I was able to say, guys, I don't want to fail you like I'm afraid you, Chris, I think I've led a remote organization for a long time. I hadn't everybody was in our nest during the day, for the most part. I'm afraid I'm not going to know how to lead well in a remote environment. I'm afraid I'm going to not pick up on the signs that you need me in a way that I don't know how to show up for you. I had these fears and so for me it's just about I'm not a journalist, but it's a mental journaling of what am I afraid of? Where am I afraid that my blind spots are? And then my style is to export it and say, this is what I'm afraid of, but these are my intentions and this is what I'm working at. I need your feedback and we're working to be excellent for you. And these are the things that I want to be acutely aware of, that we may be failing and we need to be able to talk about that. And for me, again, it allows me to say, hey, I'm always on Zoom and I'm always like, what used to be a two directional conversation is now me jumping on as a voice of God, exporting information. Then everybody closes other. Zoom How do we not do that? Because that doesn't feel great to me and I'm not getting good feedback and so allows me to just ask more real questions and move past the assumptive.

Chris Byers: Much quicker the word that comes to mind when you're talking is the idea of transparency and really using that transparency of sharing more of just the thoughts that are often stuck in our heads. And often we don't think we're allowed to express out to other people. What advice would you give to people to like why do you think people aren't as transparent as they probably could be and how can they change that?

Tiffany Sauder I think we're not as transparent as we need to be because we are afraid. So I'll give like an extreme example from three, because it's harder to talk about the crappy things. So over the course of two years, Element three had three layoffs. Some of those were things inside of our control and some of those are things outside of our control. But that's a really shitty thing to have happened at a company. And so what I was really afraid of is that people were not going to believe my words anymore. And what I was really afraid of, if I was honest with myself, was like there was some secret coup or people are just going to walk out because they were so pissed off. And so we can continue to come into like town hall meetings and team meetings and pretend nobody knows that has happened. And then we get to work in this like contrived reality where everybody's pretend nice to each other. But I'm wondering and they're wondering, but we're not courageous enough to step into the real conversation or I like finally I was like, I'm just tired of this. I'm going to talk about it. And so I was like, OK, guys, let's go ahead and build this timeline about what happened and what I think is in all of your minds, in what I'm afraid of as a result of that. And my question to you is, so I built a timeline. Here's what happened. We all understand these are the questions I asked myself of this situation. How would you lead different? What different questions would you ask, how do you get ahead of this, how do you make sure it doesn't happen again? Biloela And then I was like and these are the things I'm afraid are going on in your head. And I exported those questions to them. And they're all like nodding their heads. Get those are totally our questions. I was like, OK, so can we talk about it now? And there was like this massive sigh of relief of let's talk about the crap in the middle of the room instead of keep walking around it. But there's a ton of fear. And if I talk about it, is it actually that they don't know and I'm going to bring it into their consciousness and then they're going to be like, oh, me, I didn't realize that. No, of course they know this very scary because you're super vulnerable, because what they might come back with is say, you're exactly right, Tiffany. There is a secret coup starting and everybody is going to walk out and then we're actually leaving in ten minutes, which is an area. But if that's what's happening, you would rather know. So does that make sense, Chris, like.

Chris Byers: Yeah, absolutely. At first I very much appreciate your just your transparency and vulnerability and sharing the story of layoffs, because if somebody doesn't know your story, they wouldn't necessarily know that. And I think as a leader, it's got to be one of the worst possible moments to think there's a chance it's coming to deal with it, to then rebuild trust afterward. But I love really that I think you're helping encourage people to just know that everybody has fears. It may not look like we have fears sometimes as leaders, but they're there. And in fact, as you express them, other people can come along and help you. And I think the more we can get people, we have a cultural value default to transparency. And what I tell people, we've got a lot of grace for you, if you will tell the truth and speak plainly about things rather than positioning and making sure it sounds good. And if your failures, like, just get it out there, I'll deal with that all day long. I don't want to deal with. Oh, it's going great. It's going great. But it's really not. But I think it's we can teach more people to do that. It creates some much better outcomes.

Tiffany Sauder And what I've learned, I think about this idea of fear and truth and transparency is that you can talk about it in the third person, meaning like we ought to be transparent. But when you actually are and let go first, it's trusting to people like for like, why would you record the fact that you lay people off three times a day? You're like, that's crappy. You don't want people to know that. But it starts, I think, to say, no, I'm honest, I'm serious. If I talk about the worst things I've been through as a matter of going first, then maybe we will begin to get this into practice such that we can have real conversations which we know, and building teams and building value and building companies is what creates a flywheel that spins faster than anybody else's. Because you're talking about the real things are really fast.

Chris Byers: I would love to hear what it is that drives the passion around getting this message out to more people. What's the experience they might be facing right now that you want to change?

Tiffany Sauder I think it's two things. I think on one hand, and you may be experiences, too, Chris, in that when you start to have like more visible success and people like, oh, to our mama for wife, CEO, entrepreneur, it's like those are all like pretty flowers. It was pretty sucky to get there. So let's also be sure that we're giving that part of the story its day in court because it feels disingenuous to just talk about the accomplishment side without being real about what's it look like to get there. Some of my most joyful parts of the story is overcoming things that I had no idea that I could survive. And I think that I want people to find courage in both sides of the story, both the one that's published and the part of it that was really hard so that it normalizes their own experience. I think that's part of it. And the other piece is just to create a more like I have these conversations with there's like three personas. One is twenty four to twenty nine year old young woman who's looking at you saying, like, I'm really jammin’ in my career right now. I think I've got some pretty cool opportunities. I'm starting to get a read on what I want to do. I also would like to have a baby and I'm real confused about how to put those two things together. And so I have these really amazing conversations in one of ways with that woman and to record it and be able to share it so that I can have that, quote unquote conversation with lots of people. I think there's a lot of value in just sharing those real questions. The other, like I share it, is like more like my dad, people who are sometimes clients of mine, colleagues, other CEOs who have young daughters or sons who are coming up. And they're starting to say, hey, it's a different world. How do I encourage her or him in this pursuit of a two career home? How do I encourage them? How do I give them skills to balance what it means to be a professional and a parent? How do I help them? And they're looking for resources in it. There's nothing to share. And then the third is those people exactly in my seat where they're like, OK, I'm sitting here. I am a mom, I am an entrepreneur. I do have a career. I have chosen children, those three people. I want to be able to say, here's my story, if it can help you. I'm real specific about saying this is not a podcast about what you should do. It's simply sharing the things that I've learned, the people I've met. The stories have helped me on my. Own journey so that we can get real clear and the decisions and permission that we give ourselves to step real confidently into the roles that we've chosen in life,

Chris Byers: as you talk about this, especially having children. Sounds like a pretty big topic that you're thinking about. How do I help people tackle that more often and the challenges of how is this going to impact my career, et cetera? What's your word for the men who are listening to this? What do you want them to hear? What do you want us to learn?

Tiffany Sauder I wish I only had one word. I think that one of the things I'm really passionate about is it needs to be about equal opportunity and it needs to be up to the woman to choose what she wants or doesn't want to walk into. And I think one of the things I'm really careful about is if you decide to say no to a promotion or you decide to say no to an assignment or to a big family move or something like that, because it's not right for your family, that doesn't make you less than or wimpy or that you should have that might totally be the right thing for your family. And so I think as male leaders, as business owners who are men or managers, making sure that you don't make that decision for that woman and saying, oh, she's got a lot of kids or her husband has a big job or whatever, the thing is that you think may make her more or less likely to be able to step into that opportunity if she's work for it, give her the opportunity. And what she chooses to do is totally inside of her own. That's inside her control and power. I think for me, women who have worked for it, making sure that they have equal opportunity and women, if you don't choose to step into it, that doesn't mean that you've failed. That just means that you've own that choice. And that's totally fine.

Chris Byers: I always feel like this is something that is maybe I don't know that this works for everybody, but I love what you're talking about, because for my wife and I, we, especially for every major decision, will often go through this period of time. Or one of us like, oh, yeah, this is the thing. This is the answer. And but the other person doesn't get there. I can't think of many times where we move forward, where we haven't ultimately kept that balance going back and forth until ultimately we're like, oh yeah, that's the decision. We're both on board and it feels like the right decision. And I think that I just can't tell you how powerful that is. I think for both of us to feel the confidence of each other supporting each other, and we've made moves across the country for each other at different times. And so I think we should be calling people to to work on that more often, to really say how can we make these decisions together? And it's not one person's over the others.

Tiffany Sauder I think that's I think there's a great point, Chris. I know my husband and I as we've built our careers over the last 20 years, there have been years where my quote unquote career was on the back seat in our family, which meant that he had license to leave early, get home late if he needed to work a Saturday. He was traveling a lot. I needed to say yes and no to things that allowed me to be more flexible in that season for him because I understood the opportunity in front of him and that was the right thing for our family and vice versa. There have been years where he knew that Season three was going to take every ounce of blood, sweat and tears that I had. And it very much has been a dance of both of us being able to achieve some really awesome things. But it has you know, we've staggered that knowing that our kids need something from us, we've got things that we need to take care of that isn't just us in our careers alone.

Chris Byers: Well, each conversation we have on the show ends up highlighting innovative ideas and fresh perspectives. Tiffani's encouraging people to lean into fear as a catalyst for pushing past limitations. Tiven, if you could give advice to our listeners, what would you say is the first step to embracing fear as a way to create impact for their business or personal life?

Tiffany Sauder Just try it. Don't try to overthink it. Think about it as an experiment, find a fear, decide you're going to name it, make sure you're clear on it, and then export it to the people or the audiences that are coming into contact with you in that way, because chances are they sense it. And when you give it language, it allows you to have a conversation at a totally different level. So that would be my advice. Try it, give it a shot. Let me know how it goes.

Chris Byers: Excellent. What do you hope people take away after hearing your story?

Tiffany Sauder I hope that they see that there's so much power and transparency. I hope that they also see that we're all a work in process. And anyone that you see that maybe looks like they have so many badges and stickers that there's always a story there. And so listen patiently for the lessons, because there's a lot people can share when you're vulnerable yourself and you really ask what's going on

Chris Byers: and what do you think people listening can do differently in their day to day to create a positive impact for others?

Tiffany Sauder I hope one of the things, as I reflect on fear I have also come to understand is that it's an incredibly selfish posture. Fear is like, well, what will people think of me? What will people say? What are people's expectations of me? And it's very much inward. It's very selfish posture. And when we are able to break through fear and step wholly into our lessons and what life has taught us and what we have to share, there's so many people around us who are waiting to be impacted. And when we live in a posture of fear, all arrows are pointed inward. And I think it gives us a chance to just impact the things around us. When we step outside of that, outside of ourselves,

Chris Byers: you get any future ideas, things you're thinking about how to. Can impact as you're going forward this year,

Tiffany Sauder I'm really excited about leaning into scared, confident and seeing where it goes. I just read the Matthew McConaughey greenlights book. I don't know if you've read that, Chris, but my big takeaway was focus on the craft of it and we'll let the outcome be what it is. But I'm really excited just to share vulnerably, to engage in conversation and understand what people's questions are and see where all goes.

Chris Byers: To learn more about how people are reimagining their world of work, head over to formstack.com/practically-genius. Thanks for joining us on this episode of Ripple Effect.

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Using Fear to Propel You Forward with Tiffany Sauder

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Using Fear to Propel You Forward with Tiffany Sauder

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Using Fear to Propel You Forward with Tiffany Sauder

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Chris Byers: Fear is something we don't often think about, let alone discuss its role in our work for Tiffany Sauder, CEO of Element Three, a marketing consultant. The fear is what has allowed her to push past boundaries, and she inspires others to do the same. I'm Chris Byers, of Formstack, and this is Ripple Effect, a show celebrating the impact decisions create. In the conversation with Tiffany will talk about her journey through business and motherhood and how she's learned hard lessons to encourage other leaders to take action in their own lives by pushing past fear. Tiffany, tell us what made you decide to start your own business 15 years ago, what convinced you to leave a corporate job and go out on your own? How did that journey begin?

Tiffany Sauder Hi, Chris. Thanks for having me on. You were an entrepreneur and founder. You know that the journey that you map is not always the one that you go on 15 years ago and we started at three or bought this little small mom and pop agency, we were really at a place where marketing was undergoing a massive amount of transformation. But you don't always know that you're in a transformation moment. But we really started to see and understand that marketing was going to have a real seat at the table as it related to just business acumen. And how did we not just make things look better, but really understand how marketing plugged in to set up the right text at the right measurement, the right scorecard, the very attribution? I am a kid of an entrepreneur, so I think some of it is environmental. My dad started his own business when I was in third grade. Risk was something that was ever present. But you don't know that. It's just very normal. And so when I got out of school and started in a big company, I started to recognize it's going to be a real long time before somebody lets me make a decision of any real size or consequence. And how do we come in and really not just make more marketing tactics, but really learn and understand what's it like to come around alongside companies and build brands? It's been a fun ride. You probably feel the same way I dreamed about being here, but I didn't dare wish for it or plan on it. So, yeah, it's been great. We've learned a lot.

Chris Byers: That's awesome. I definitely have had feelings I don't think I ever imagined. As I look back at the 10 or 11 years I've been at this, at how far we would have come, I think even early days, I probably would have been like, oh, what's max out at some size and just have fun. And somewhere along the way, that kind of changes. Can you share a pivotal moment in the journey where your company could have gone one way, but it ultimately went another?

Tiffany Sauder I think about this both at a personal level and a professional one. I think it's really connected us. And I love the title of your podcast of Ripple Effect, because there are these moments and decisions that have a massive ripple effect, not only on your own journey and the inflection point of your own life, but also I think, in what you have to give back to others who you then brush up against in life. And this concept of fear, I think I felt it the most acutely. I feel like I've been in business long enough to have felt two very turbulent times. And we were in the first few years of Element three when we hit the 08 09 financial crisis. And I was absolutely paralyzed that time around with fear. They talk about fight or flight or freeze. And I was I just froze. And this journey of being a professional and a person, this identity of also being a mom and also being an entrepreneur, they really started to braid themselves together tightly in that moment. And we had our first daughter in 2009 also just riding a freight train into a brick wall with element three at that time, because everything just came to a screeching halt and I had absolutely no idea what to do. And so I just froze. And in many ways I just ignored it and I just panicked. It's not an overstatement to say in one hundred days of indecision, I spent about a thousand days paying for that, like quite literally financially. And so I think that as I look at different authors and people who are platforms for messages, usually they're talking about the thing that they're terrible at. And I think that's why fear is so acute to me is because I felt it in such a way that I had a chance to completely derail and I would say really be an end point for element three. Or I could choose to buck up and trudge through this fear event that was absolutely paralyzing me. And I was just scared to death. I was scared about being a mom. I was scared that Element three was literally going to evaporate overnight. I was afraid that I didn't actually know marketing. I was afraid that I wasn't a leader. I was afraid to talk to my people because I didn't know what to say to them. I was afraid to talk to my family because I didn't want to be a failure. I was like I just was consumed by it. And I think that experience was so big for me. And I can feel it still so acutely that I knew if I did not figure out how to get a mastery of this monster of fear that I was going to be held back in so many ways from what I really feel is a calling on my life, it's not just like the things I want. It's like the things I feel like I'm called the impact. And the sort of the mountain of fear that I needed to chase down was really years of work to understand. What did that mean? How was it influencing me? And fear moves. It's not like a static thing. So it's not like I have a mastery of this, but it's certainly that I as something I've spent some time practicing.

Chris Byers: Yeah, you're right. Like the fear that I think especially as leaders experience is first of all, I think it can come and go and moments and then it can come and go and. For days or weeks or long periods of time, so I'm curious. Something obviously hit and allowed you to say, yep, this is terrible. I don't like living in fear. And you flip that around. What happened?

Tiffany Sauder I think this part of the story, sometimes I tell it, sometimes I don't. But I will. Today I was at a real crossroads. And when you have a baby and there's other life events, but having a baby is one I've done four times now. And it's just this time where you no matter how committed you are to the thing in front of you, you just take stock of what's going on around you. Does all this still work for my life? Do you want to go back? Do you want to go part time doing work for yourself, like all this kind of stuff? So I had a baby in January 2009 and that was right in the crux of everything falling apart. And I knew stepping back into Element three was like just an epic shitstorm. And so I remember being at home being like, I can make this very hard thing go away in a way that is going to be pretty socially acceptable in that I can say I want to be a stay at home mom now. That's what I'm going to do. I loved my five years at all. My three, we did something, didn't work out so great. I have maybe some debt to figure out how to get out from under, but I'm going to stay home now with this baby. That feels like a much better outcome to spend my time on than this mess that I have at Aliment three. And I don't tell that story in the sense to say like that being a stay at home mom is a bad thing. It's a lovely calling, but in my heart, in my gut, in my DNA, I knew at that moment in time at least, that's not what I was called to do, that in choosing to go home and be home full time and have that to be my full time job, that I was walking away from a challenge that I needed to go through. But I full on, didn't want to like I wanted to avoid that the tsunami with everything that I could. And I at least recognized in that decision making journey, I can, like, play both sides of the conversation. One is, wow, this looks lovely. Let's stay home. And the other side was like, you're just being a chicken, Tiffany. And I could at least see that while I didn't know what the behavior needed to be, if I was going to go through the fire, I at least knew it was going to happen one minute at a time. And so at least for me, when I'm going through a fear event, I have to make it really small so that I can start to get momentum of, OK, that wasn't as bad as I expected. OK, I returned the phone call. They didn't eat me. I'm still alive or I paid three percent of what I owed them. At least I don't owe them one hundred percent anymore. You know, like these tiny victories started to give me momentum and it wasn't so much about that. The outcome was amazingly better. It was that I started to get more courage in chasing down these little micro behaviors that were going to ultimately lead to us getting through this. And again, I think for me, what I found, whether it be when my marriage is in a crappy spot, when I have a friendship that's in a crappy spot or my businesses, it doesn't switch to good fast. It seems like it goes to bad fast, but usually things happen slowly, all of a sudden sort of on the downhill slope. And when you're slogging and trying to get things back to your plum line or to good, it takes longer than you want it to. And I think that stamina was something that I in my immaturity, in my youth, I just didn't have an appreciation for.

Chris Byers: If I can think of anything that feels like a long, slow journey, it's in teaching and shaping and encouraging your kids and years. And you're like, why is that characteristic? Still, they're never improving. And then overnight, something finally changes. So I totally understand that long process that we often go through to to make really positive change. You're obviously a strong advocate for mothers, especially working mothers. Tell us more about your family and why you started sharing your experiences as a working mother.

Tiffany Sauder My mom was a stay at home mom and I grew up in a small rural community. And so the idea of a professional woman like literally was things I saw on TV, but I didn't really I didn't grow up around it. I didn't see the women who worked in my community had jobs that they went to, but they weren't careers. It's something that I kind of knew about from afar but didn't have any real look or understanding of what's it like to experience that. But something about me, even as a little girl, just loved the energy of these women who seemed like they're going places. They have a sense of urgency, the sense of purpose. And I definitely am a sort of sense of urgency person. I just was really attracted to that sort of aura, even though I looked at that from afar. I think the picture that I had that was so close to me, I just imagined I would at some point get to a place where I was a stay at home mom. And I just it never really felt right to my heart into my DNA. And so I've had to figure a lot of this out on. My own and in my extreme brain, it was like, if I'm a professional woman, then that means that I need to turn off the, like, maternal desires that I have. And if I'm a mom, then that means I have to turn off these, like, really competitive. I want to win business side of me. And I thought about it in such a binary way for a long time. And I felt some, I think, guilt around that, that if I wasn't 100 percent rough and tough, then I wasn't really a business person playing the game well. And if I wasn't completely maternal then I wasn't doing the mom thing and about I don't know when it was, but I started to see, like maybe the uniqueness of these two things is actually the most important thing about me. And you've probably found this to Chris, like the things I've learned about leadership and about mentoring young talent and helping young people go into situations that they're not quite ready for, but you start to see how they behave and the decisions they make. And becoming a leader in that way and practicing that for 15, 16 years has made me such a better parent and vice versa. Watching my kids and teaching them values and understanding that the way I guide them in the big picture of their life creates so much more ownership over the decisions that they make that makes me a better leader. And so I started to see maybe I don't have to emulate one of those extreme personas that I have in my head. Maybe I can be both. And how do I figure out how those fit together for me in a way that works and is sustainable? I think over the last few years I've gone through different boards that I'm on and organizations with young people, even things like that, or fellowship. I started to see a lot of young women, a lot of young professionals, a lot of parents who are in their 60s, who have kids that are coming up and they're choosing a different family environment maybe than the one they grew up. And they're looking for resources, say, how do you do this? And while I don't have it figured out completely, I feel really passionate about sharing at least what we have tried, what we've learned, the struggles that we've been through as a family, and how that sort of refined us. And I just think that it needs a voice. I think more and more families are choosing to career homes, and there's a really specific stress that creates and I think we need to normalize it. I think that we need to start to have language to talk about it.

Chris Byers: Last year, it was really fascinating, not probably in a great way to just observe how it was working mothers who had the absolute toughest environment around them. The best way to say that if there was anybody who the kids were going to fall to just a little bit more, if not a lot more, it was the working mothers, especially at least hear it from Stack. And so I'm curious, how did you address last year both as you were helping working mothers and yourself? How did you tackle that?

Tiffany Sauder Last year was really hard. I think a lot of us exited twenty twenty, just really tired on top of it. I was pregnant and had a baby. And for me this is not a fix, but it does help me. Some of it is changing your expectations. Most of us who have chosen both careers and families are just massive achievers. And so sometimes it's first dealing with your own mindset that can change the environment around you. So, for example, for me, I can keep a lot of trains moving. I can set up systems and processes so that all the people who are in and out of my house, the people who help us keep our life together, that everybody knows when you know what the whistle's mean, so to speak. And in 2020, everything just came to a screeching halt, every system that I had built so that there was like some muscle memory in our family schedule and who was doing what and who's packing lunches and what happens on Tuesday. I was on Thursday. You can only make so many decisions and have so many conversations with people. If you don't have some systems and move that stuff forward, you get really buried. What I remember when I shifted from I have to try to get this chaos into order. That's what I was trying so hard to do. There were so many variables. I just couldn't when I shifted in my mind and said, this just going to be messy, Tiffany. It's just going to be messy. You just have to execute what you can. And so that would mean and I know these are like silly, but things like it might be loud in the room, but I need to do this meeting. It might be super messy when I go to bed, which is not a thing that I really love. And it's just going to have to be that way. We might need to have the exact same thing for lunch all week long. And I'm sorry about that. I don't have the capacity to have anything more creative than that. And it's just going to be messy. But I think we also have to give ourselves credit as professionals. And this is not about phoning it in, but sometimes getting something done at a seven. If you had two more hours, you can get it into a ten. You just need to ship it because that is what the environment will allow. I think we sometimes freeze up and get into this like perfectionist mindset when things are really chaotic instead of business, at least in ours, is not surgery, but in business like it's throughput. Get the landing page up, do the webinar, post the blog, do the sales call, make thirty cold calls, just do it. And yes, maybe in your best week if you made thirty cold calls you could have connected with. Twelve of them, and in your worst week, you could connect with four, but holy crap, do it. And I think we shut down from the behavior of just stick with the program because your energy starts to get really screwed up. At least mine does when I don't stick with the program and I'm trying to overcompensate and I'm trying to push all this perfectionism into these like tasks I have to do is just keep the flywheel spinning, just go. Because if I stop it, other people are going to catch me. But if I keep moving, I at least have a chance to be able to continue. Does that make any sense, Chris? What I'm saying?


Chris Byers: I think so. Actually, one of the things you said there that I loved was last year we really wanted an answer, but we were looking for how can we support people who do have kids at home or just to maybe give them four day workweeks to it. Like we went through all of the options. We did some surveys. And ultimately it was like, there's no answer. We need to just say we understand this is messy. I think that's a great way to say it. Talk to your manager. If you'll just keep them informed, we'll just roll with it. We don't have no idea how every day is going to work. And it worked. It wasn't enjoyable. It wasn't I'm sure it was super taxing on some people some days and less other days. But I think there's something powerful there to embrace both a lack of perfection at times, but also everything probably doesn't need an answer, even though we all want to get to an answer on every single question ever.

Tiffany Sauder This is, again, maybe an unpopular perspective, because I do think there's such an important role for us as leaders to have empathy for what people are going through. But this was the asterisk of all asterisks. This was unprecedented in every capacity. And what I told my team, every part of me wants to come in and try to make part of your life easier. Every part of me wants to try to make it so that you can sleep just 20 minutes longer. Every part of me wants to make it so I can get three fewer emails. Every part of me wants to make our clients a little happier for you somehow. But the reality of what we have to go through is that we are trying to make it into the playoffs as a team who knows how to compete. And we are beat up like we're scratched, we’re just a wreck, and we still have to take the field. And the good thing that happens when you start to see and start to, I think, gain ownership over the fact that, dang it, I can do really hard things. Then when people look at what it's like to be a CEO or an entrepreneur or having four kids a marriage in a company like sometimes it's just really hard, like really hard, like at the end of your rope part, and it doesn't stay like that forever. And so I think sometimes we also take away the gift from our people accidentally by wanting to be empathetic. We take away the feeling of this massive victory, this understanding of what they're really capable of, where we go past what we perceive our limits to be in a whole new place is opened up for us. I don't know either. I'd be open to your sort of feedback on that, Chris, because I feel like sometimes it's not popular to say it's hard and I'm sorry, but we have to do it anyway.

Chris Byers: I think one of the things I've seen, especially toward the end of twenty twenty, was a particular balance that I needed to shift away from, which is we've got high empathy, spent a lot of time with people, give them a ton of flexibility. And so, you know what? Yeah, we're going to have to flip this a little bit and say we do have a job to get done and we can't drag this out forever. That doesn't mean our flexibility is going to disappear. That doesn't mean it's all going to change. But I think the perspective I took was I did a lot of thinking, reading about World War II, and especially for people who lived in London at the time or England in general, and just how ultimately they had to get their lives going again, even in the midst of war happening all around them. And I think that is, to your point, a job of a leader. How do we help people stay focused? And a lot of ways it's encouraging to them. Some people give us feedback. Last year you'll stop talking about our feelings because I want to go to work and forget it. And so there seems to be moments for both.

Tiffany Sauder Yeah, I think we all needed to know, too, that we were bigger than it. This doesn't have to define every part of my existence. We are bigger than it. We are more than coronaviruses. We are more than this. And so but I don't mean we can defeat it like so to speak. But it's just I think people needed to know I am bigger. Like my life is bigger than this.

Chris Byers: Absolutely. You talked about fear earlier, I imagine experience some sort of fear last year. And it sounds like this year you're going to take that on. And a little bit of a new way in a podcast that you've got called Scared. Confident. Tell us about that. Tell us where the title came from and what you want to talk about.

Tiffany Sauder This has been a really fun project for me to work on. As I look back at my journey and the question behind the question that I see in people's eyes when they come and say, like, so what's it like? What's it take? Can I do this to like how does it look? We all I think, if we're honest, have these fears and we need to be real about them and give them language. And I think that we take back control from the fear when we have the courage to say this is a crap that's going on my head and heart right now. And I'm an. Talk about it, because then the fear doesn't have control over me, and what I found is that when I had the courage to be the most head on with fear, right behind that was where I had the most confidence. And so this kind of juxtaposition of scared, confident is, yeah, I'm scared and I'm so scared that I'm willing to talk about it so that I can get through it and really plants in confidence and clarity so that I can act and move forward with a clear mind. And, you know, I believe that I was created for a purpose. I believe that I have a role to play on this earth to make it a better place. And I think most of us, when we lay in bed at night, we're like, no, I am significant. I do need to be here. I do have people to impact and children to raise and families and communities and teams to impact. I'm here for a reason. And when we allow fear to control the narrative in our heads and hearts, then we don't get to step fully into who we were all individually designed to be. And so this is really kind of me going first, talking about the crap that has been in the way in my life, the things that I've learned from overcoming that, and also just to continue a transparent journey of what I'm learning and what life is teaching me. And then we'll also have some segments where we engage questions from the community, from people like me, me, 15 years ago, maybe me 15 years from now, asking questions of one another, of what does it mean and how do we confront this so that we can really empower people to step entirely into who they were made to be.


Chris Byers: Love that phrase you use about language. There was a moment last year where I was like, I don't know what this feeling is that's been on me, but it feels like a cloud that's just been laying over me for weeks or some long period of time. And somewhere in there I discovered it was grief and I was like, oh, OK, I can actually do something about it. Now that I know that I know there's a word that I actually know what that means, but I couldn't describe it better until somebody pointed that out. Tell us about the some of the language that you feel like you've learned to help take the fear and put it where it needs to be.

Tiffany Sauder I've just learned to export it to myself really early and then often to my team. And I think that all of us had fears in 2020 as leaders that we were just going to screw it up worse than it was already screwed up. And I was able to say, guys, I don't want to fail you like I'm afraid you, Chris, I think I've led a remote organization for a long time. I hadn't everybody was in our nest during the day, for the most part. I'm afraid I'm not going to know how to lead well in a remote environment. I'm afraid I'm going to not pick up on the signs that you need me in a way that I don't know how to show up for you. I had these fears and so for me it's just about I'm not a journalist, but it's a mental journaling of what am I afraid of? Where am I afraid that my blind spots are? And then my style is to export it and say, this is what I'm afraid of, but these are my intentions and this is what I'm working at. I need your feedback and we're working to be excellent for you. And these are the things that I want to be acutely aware of, that we may be failing and we need to be able to talk about that. And for me, again, it allows me to say, hey, I'm always on Zoom and I'm always like, what used to be a two directional conversation is now me jumping on as a voice of God, exporting information. Then everybody closes other. Zoom How do we not do that? Because that doesn't feel great to me and I'm not getting good feedback and so allows me to just ask more real questions and move past the assumptive.

Chris Byers: Much quicker the word that comes to mind when you're talking is the idea of transparency and really using that transparency of sharing more of just the thoughts that are often stuck in our heads. And often we don't think we're allowed to express out to other people. What advice would you give to people to like why do you think people aren't as transparent as they probably could be and how can they change that?

Tiffany Sauder I think we're not as transparent as we need to be because we are afraid. So I'll give like an extreme example from three, because it's harder to talk about the crappy things. So over the course of two years, Element three had three layoffs. Some of those were things inside of our control and some of those are things outside of our control. But that's a really shitty thing to have happened at a company. And so what I was really afraid of is that people were not going to believe my words anymore. And what I was really afraid of, if I was honest with myself, was like there was some secret coup or people are just going to walk out because they were so pissed off. And so we can continue to come into like town hall meetings and team meetings and pretend nobody knows that has happened. And then we get to work in this like contrived reality where everybody's pretend nice to each other. But I'm wondering and they're wondering, but we're not courageous enough to step into the real conversation or I like finally I was like, I'm just tired of this. I'm going to talk about it. And so I was like, OK, guys, let's go ahead and build this timeline about what happened and what I think is in all of your minds, in what I'm afraid of as a result of that. And my question to you is, so I built a timeline. Here's what happened. We all understand these are the questions I asked myself of this situation. How would you lead different? What different questions would you ask, how do you get ahead of this, how do you make sure it doesn't happen again? Biloela And then I was like and these are the things I'm afraid are going on in your head. And I exported those questions to them. And they're all like nodding their heads. Get those are totally our questions. I was like, OK, so can we talk about it now? And there was like this massive sigh of relief of let's talk about the crap in the middle of the room instead of keep walking around it. But there's a ton of fear. And if I talk about it, is it actually that they don't know and I'm going to bring it into their consciousness and then they're going to be like, oh, me, I didn't realize that. No, of course they know this very scary because you're super vulnerable, because what they might come back with is say, you're exactly right, Tiffany. There is a secret coup starting and everybody is going to walk out and then we're actually leaving in ten minutes, which is an area. But if that's what's happening, you would rather know. So does that make sense, Chris, like.

Chris Byers: Yeah, absolutely. At first I very much appreciate your just your transparency and vulnerability and sharing the story of layoffs, because if somebody doesn't know your story, they wouldn't necessarily know that. And I think as a leader, it's got to be one of the worst possible moments to think there's a chance it's coming to deal with it, to then rebuild trust afterward. But I love really that I think you're helping encourage people to just know that everybody has fears. It may not look like we have fears sometimes as leaders, but they're there. And in fact, as you express them, other people can come along and help you. And I think the more we can get people, we have a cultural value default to transparency. And what I tell people, we've got a lot of grace for you, if you will tell the truth and speak plainly about things rather than positioning and making sure it sounds good. And if your failures, like, just get it out there, I'll deal with that all day long. I don't want to deal with. Oh, it's going great. It's going great. But it's really not. But I think it's we can teach more people to do that. It creates some much better outcomes.

Tiffany Sauder And what I've learned, I think about this idea of fear and truth and transparency is that you can talk about it in the third person, meaning like we ought to be transparent. But when you actually are and let go first, it's trusting to people like for like, why would you record the fact that you lay people off three times a day? You're like, that's crappy. You don't want people to know that. But it starts, I think, to say, no, I'm honest, I'm serious. If I talk about the worst things I've been through as a matter of going first, then maybe we will begin to get this into practice such that we can have real conversations which we know, and building teams and building value and building companies is what creates a flywheel that spins faster than anybody else's. Because you're talking about the real things are really fast.

Chris Byers: I would love to hear what it is that drives the passion around getting this message out to more people. What's the experience they might be facing right now that you want to change?

Tiffany Sauder I think it's two things. I think on one hand, and you may be experiences, too, Chris, in that when you start to have like more visible success and people like, oh, to our mama for wife, CEO, entrepreneur, it's like those are all like pretty flowers. It was pretty sucky to get there. So let's also be sure that we're giving that part of the story its day in court because it feels disingenuous to just talk about the accomplishment side without being real about what's it look like to get there. Some of my most joyful parts of the story is overcoming things that I had no idea that I could survive. And I think that I want people to find courage in both sides of the story, both the one that's published and the part of it that was really hard so that it normalizes their own experience. I think that's part of it. And the other piece is just to create a more like I have these conversations with there's like three personas. One is twenty four to twenty nine year old young woman who's looking at you saying, like, I'm really jammin’ in my career right now. I think I've got some pretty cool opportunities. I'm starting to get a read on what I want to do. I also would like to have a baby and I'm real confused about how to put those two things together. And so I have these really amazing conversations in one of ways with that woman and to record it and be able to share it so that I can have that, quote unquote conversation with lots of people. I think there's a lot of value in just sharing those real questions. The other, like I share it, is like more like my dad, people who are sometimes clients of mine, colleagues, other CEOs who have young daughters or sons who are coming up. And they're starting to say, hey, it's a different world. How do I encourage her or him in this pursuit of a two career home? How do I encourage them? How do I give them skills to balance what it means to be a professional and a parent? How do I help them? And they're looking for resources in it. There's nothing to share. And then the third is those people exactly in my seat where they're like, OK, I'm sitting here. I am a mom, I am an entrepreneur. I do have a career. I have chosen children, those three people. I want to be able to say, here's my story, if it can help you. I'm real specific about saying this is not a podcast about what you should do. It's simply sharing the things that I've learned, the people I've met. The stories have helped me on my. Own journey so that we can get real clear and the decisions and permission that we give ourselves to step real confidently into the roles that we've chosen in life,

Chris Byers: as you talk about this, especially having children. Sounds like a pretty big topic that you're thinking about. How do I help people tackle that more often and the challenges of how is this going to impact my career, et cetera? What's your word for the men who are listening to this? What do you want them to hear? What do you want us to learn?

Tiffany Sauder I wish I only had one word. I think that one of the things I'm really passionate about is it needs to be about equal opportunity and it needs to be up to the woman to choose what she wants or doesn't want to walk into. And I think one of the things I'm really careful about is if you decide to say no to a promotion or you decide to say no to an assignment or to a big family move or something like that, because it's not right for your family, that doesn't make you less than or wimpy or that you should have that might totally be the right thing for your family. And so I think as male leaders, as business owners who are men or managers, making sure that you don't make that decision for that woman and saying, oh, she's got a lot of kids or her husband has a big job or whatever, the thing is that you think may make her more or less likely to be able to step into that opportunity if she's work for it, give her the opportunity. And what she chooses to do is totally inside of her own. That's inside her control and power. I think for me, women who have worked for it, making sure that they have equal opportunity and women, if you don't choose to step into it, that doesn't mean that you've failed. That just means that you've own that choice. And that's totally fine.

Chris Byers: I always feel like this is something that is maybe I don't know that this works for everybody, but I love what you're talking about, because for my wife and I, we, especially for every major decision, will often go through this period of time. Or one of us like, oh, yeah, this is the thing. This is the answer. And but the other person doesn't get there. I can't think of many times where we move forward, where we haven't ultimately kept that balance going back and forth until ultimately we're like, oh yeah, that's the decision. We're both on board and it feels like the right decision. And I think that I just can't tell you how powerful that is. I think for both of us to feel the confidence of each other supporting each other, and we've made moves across the country for each other at different times. And so I think we should be calling people to to work on that more often, to really say how can we make these decisions together? And it's not one person's over the others.

Tiffany Sauder I think that's I think there's a great point, Chris. I know my husband and I as we've built our careers over the last 20 years, there have been years where my quote unquote career was on the back seat in our family, which meant that he had license to leave early, get home late if he needed to work a Saturday. He was traveling a lot. I needed to say yes and no to things that allowed me to be more flexible in that season for him because I understood the opportunity in front of him and that was the right thing for our family and vice versa. There have been years where he knew that Season three was going to take every ounce of blood, sweat and tears that I had. And it very much has been a dance of both of us being able to achieve some really awesome things. But it has you know, we've staggered that knowing that our kids need something from us, we've got things that we need to take care of that isn't just us in our careers alone.

Chris Byers: Well, each conversation we have on the show ends up highlighting innovative ideas and fresh perspectives. Tiffani's encouraging people to lean into fear as a catalyst for pushing past limitations. Tiven, if you could give advice to our listeners, what would you say is the first step to embracing fear as a way to create impact for their business or personal life?

Tiffany Sauder Just try it. Don't try to overthink it. Think about it as an experiment, find a fear, decide you're going to name it, make sure you're clear on it, and then export it to the people or the audiences that are coming into contact with you in that way, because chances are they sense it. And when you give it language, it allows you to have a conversation at a totally different level. So that would be my advice. Try it, give it a shot. Let me know how it goes.

Chris Byers: Excellent. What do you hope people take away after hearing your story?

Tiffany Sauder I hope that they see that there's so much power and transparency. I hope that they also see that we're all a work in process. And anyone that you see that maybe looks like they have so many badges and stickers that there's always a story there. And so listen patiently for the lessons, because there's a lot people can share when you're vulnerable yourself and you really ask what's going on

Chris Byers: and what do you think people listening can do differently in their day to day to create a positive impact for others?

Tiffany Sauder I hope one of the things, as I reflect on fear I have also come to understand is that it's an incredibly selfish posture. Fear is like, well, what will people think of me? What will people say? What are people's expectations of me? And it's very much inward. It's very selfish posture. And when we are able to break through fear and step wholly into our lessons and what life has taught us and what we have to share, there's so many people around us who are waiting to be impacted. And when we live in a posture of fear, all arrows are pointed inward. And I think it gives us a chance to just impact the things around us. When we step outside of that, outside of ourselves,

Chris Byers: you get any future ideas, things you're thinking about how to. Can impact as you're going forward this year,

Tiffany Sauder I'm really excited about leaning into scared, confident and seeing where it goes. I just read the Matthew McConaughey greenlights book. I don't know if you've read that, Chris, but my big takeaway was focus on the craft of it and we'll let the outcome be what it is. But I'm really excited just to share vulnerably, to engage in conversation and understand what people's questions are and see where all goes.

Chris Byers: To learn more about how people are reimagining their world of work, head over to formstack.com/practically-genius. Thanks for joining us on this episode of Ripple Effect.

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Using Fear to Propel You Forward with Tiffany Sauder

Tiffany Sauder’s story will make you rethink the role fear plays in your life and how honesty, transparency, & courage can help you overcome challenging times.
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Chris Byers: Fear is something we don't often think about, let alone discuss its role in our work for Tiffany Sauder, CEO of Element Three, a marketing consultant. The fear is what has allowed her to push past boundaries, and she inspires others to do the same. I'm Chris Byers, of Formstack, and this is Ripple Effect, a show celebrating the impact decisions create. In the conversation with Tiffany will talk about her journey through business and motherhood and how she's learned hard lessons to encourage other leaders to take action in their own lives by pushing past fear. Tiffany, tell us what made you decide to start your own business 15 years ago, what convinced you to leave a corporate job and go out on your own? How did that journey begin?

Tiffany Sauder Hi, Chris. Thanks for having me on. You were an entrepreneur and founder. You know that the journey that you map is not always the one that you go on 15 years ago and we started at three or bought this little small mom and pop agency, we were really at a place where marketing was undergoing a massive amount of transformation. But you don't always know that you're in a transformation moment. But we really started to see and understand that marketing was going to have a real seat at the table as it related to just business acumen. And how did we not just make things look better, but really understand how marketing plugged in to set up the right text at the right measurement, the right scorecard, the very attribution? I am a kid of an entrepreneur, so I think some of it is environmental. My dad started his own business when I was in third grade. Risk was something that was ever present. But you don't know that. It's just very normal. And so when I got out of school and started in a big company, I started to recognize it's going to be a real long time before somebody lets me make a decision of any real size or consequence. And how do we come in and really not just make more marketing tactics, but really learn and understand what's it like to come around alongside companies and build brands? It's been a fun ride. You probably feel the same way I dreamed about being here, but I didn't dare wish for it or plan on it. So, yeah, it's been great. We've learned a lot.

Chris Byers: That's awesome. I definitely have had feelings I don't think I ever imagined. As I look back at the 10 or 11 years I've been at this, at how far we would have come, I think even early days, I probably would have been like, oh, what's max out at some size and just have fun. And somewhere along the way, that kind of changes. Can you share a pivotal moment in the journey where your company could have gone one way, but it ultimately went another?

Tiffany Sauder I think about this both at a personal level and a professional one. I think it's really connected us. And I love the title of your podcast of Ripple Effect, because there are these moments and decisions that have a massive ripple effect, not only on your own journey and the inflection point of your own life, but also I think, in what you have to give back to others who you then brush up against in life. And this concept of fear, I think I felt it the most acutely. I feel like I've been in business long enough to have felt two very turbulent times. And we were in the first few years of Element three when we hit the 08 09 financial crisis. And I was absolutely paralyzed that time around with fear. They talk about fight or flight or freeze. And I was I just froze. And this journey of being a professional and a person, this identity of also being a mom and also being an entrepreneur, they really started to braid themselves together tightly in that moment. And we had our first daughter in 2009 also just riding a freight train into a brick wall with element three at that time, because everything just came to a screeching halt and I had absolutely no idea what to do. And so I just froze. And in many ways I just ignored it and I just panicked. It's not an overstatement to say in one hundred days of indecision, I spent about a thousand days paying for that, like quite literally financially. And so I think that as I look at different authors and people who are platforms for messages, usually they're talking about the thing that they're terrible at. And I think that's why fear is so acute to me is because I felt it in such a way that I had a chance to completely derail and I would say really be an end point for element three. Or I could choose to buck up and trudge through this fear event that was absolutely paralyzing me. And I was just scared to death. I was scared about being a mom. I was scared that Element three was literally going to evaporate overnight. I was afraid that I didn't actually know marketing. I was afraid that I wasn't a leader. I was afraid to talk to my people because I didn't know what to say to them. I was afraid to talk to my family because I didn't want to be a failure. I was like I just was consumed by it. And I think that experience was so big for me. And I can feel it still so acutely that I knew if I did not figure out how to get a mastery of this monster of fear that I was going to be held back in so many ways from what I really feel is a calling on my life, it's not just like the things I want. It's like the things I feel like I'm called the impact. And the sort of the mountain of fear that I needed to chase down was really years of work to understand. What did that mean? How was it influencing me? And fear moves. It's not like a static thing. So it's not like I have a mastery of this, but it's certainly that I as something I've spent some time practicing.

Chris Byers: Yeah, you're right. Like the fear that I think especially as leaders experience is first of all, I think it can come and go and moments and then it can come and go and. For days or weeks or long periods of time, so I'm curious. Something obviously hit and allowed you to say, yep, this is terrible. I don't like living in fear. And you flip that around. What happened?

Tiffany Sauder I think this part of the story, sometimes I tell it, sometimes I don't. But I will. Today I was at a real crossroads. And when you have a baby and there's other life events, but having a baby is one I've done four times now. And it's just this time where you no matter how committed you are to the thing in front of you, you just take stock of what's going on around you. Does all this still work for my life? Do you want to go back? Do you want to go part time doing work for yourself, like all this kind of stuff? So I had a baby in January 2009 and that was right in the crux of everything falling apart. And I knew stepping back into Element three was like just an epic shitstorm. And so I remember being at home being like, I can make this very hard thing go away in a way that is going to be pretty socially acceptable in that I can say I want to be a stay at home mom now. That's what I'm going to do. I loved my five years at all. My three, we did something, didn't work out so great. I have maybe some debt to figure out how to get out from under, but I'm going to stay home now with this baby. That feels like a much better outcome to spend my time on than this mess that I have at Aliment three. And I don't tell that story in the sense to say like that being a stay at home mom is a bad thing. It's a lovely calling, but in my heart, in my gut, in my DNA, I knew at that moment in time at least, that's not what I was called to do, that in choosing to go home and be home full time and have that to be my full time job, that I was walking away from a challenge that I needed to go through. But I full on, didn't want to like I wanted to avoid that the tsunami with everything that I could. And I at least recognized in that decision making journey, I can, like, play both sides of the conversation. One is, wow, this looks lovely. Let's stay home. And the other side was like, you're just being a chicken, Tiffany. And I could at least see that while I didn't know what the behavior needed to be, if I was going to go through the fire, I at least knew it was going to happen one minute at a time. And so at least for me, when I'm going through a fear event, I have to make it really small so that I can start to get momentum of, OK, that wasn't as bad as I expected. OK, I returned the phone call. They didn't eat me. I'm still alive or I paid three percent of what I owed them. At least I don't owe them one hundred percent anymore. You know, like these tiny victories started to give me momentum and it wasn't so much about that. The outcome was amazingly better. It was that I started to get more courage in chasing down these little micro behaviors that were going to ultimately lead to us getting through this. And again, I think for me, what I found, whether it be when my marriage is in a crappy spot, when I have a friendship that's in a crappy spot or my businesses, it doesn't switch to good fast. It seems like it goes to bad fast, but usually things happen slowly, all of a sudden sort of on the downhill slope. And when you're slogging and trying to get things back to your plum line or to good, it takes longer than you want it to. And I think that stamina was something that I in my immaturity, in my youth, I just didn't have an appreciation for.

Chris Byers: If I can think of anything that feels like a long, slow journey, it's in teaching and shaping and encouraging your kids and years. And you're like, why is that characteristic? Still, they're never improving. And then overnight, something finally changes. So I totally understand that long process that we often go through to to make really positive change. You're obviously a strong advocate for mothers, especially working mothers. Tell us more about your family and why you started sharing your experiences as a working mother.

Tiffany Sauder My mom was a stay at home mom and I grew up in a small rural community. And so the idea of a professional woman like literally was things I saw on TV, but I didn't really I didn't grow up around it. I didn't see the women who worked in my community had jobs that they went to, but they weren't careers. It's something that I kind of knew about from afar but didn't have any real look or understanding of what's it like to experience that. But something about me, even as a little girl, just loved the energy of these women who seemed like they're going places. They have a sense of urgency, the sense of purpose. And I definitely am a sort of sense of urgency person. I just was really attracted to that sort of aura, even though I looked at that from afar. I think the picture that I had that was so close to me, I just imagined I would at some point get to a place where I was a stay at home mom. And I just it never really felt right to my heart into my DNA. And so I've had to figure a lot of this out on. My own and in my extreme brain, it was like, if I'm a professional woman, then that means that I need to turn off the, like, maternal desires that I have. And if I'm a mom, then that means I have to turn off these, like, really competitive. I want to win business side of me. And I thought about it in such a binary way for a long time. And I felt some, I think, guilt around that, that if I wasn't 100 percent rough and tough, then I wasn't really a business person playing the game well. And if I wasn't completely maternal then I wasn't doing the mom thing and about I don't know when it was, but I started to see, like maybe the uniqueness of these two things is actually the most important thing about me. And you've probably found this to Chris, like the things I've learned about leadership and about mentoring young talent and helping young people go into situations that they're not quite ready for, but you start to see how they behave and the decisions they make. And becoming a leader in that way and practicing that for 15, 16 years has made me such a better parent and vice versa. Watching my kids and teaching them values and understanding that the way I guide them in the big picture of their life creates so much more ownership over the decisions that they make that makes me a better leader. And so I started to see maybe I don't have to emulate one of those extreme personas that I have in my head. Maybe I can be both. And how do I figure out how those fit together for me in a way that works and is sustainable? I think over the last few years I've gone through different boards that I'm on and organizations with young people, even things like that, or fellowship. I started to see a lot of young women, a lot of young professionals, a lot of parents who are in their 60s, who have kids that are coming up and they're choosing a different family environment maybe than the one they grew up. And they're looking for resources, say, how do you do this? And while I don't have it figured out completely, I feel really passionate about sharing at least what we have tried, what we've learned, the struggles that we've been through as a family, and how that sort of refined us. And I just think that it needs a voice. I think more and more families are choosing to career homes, and there's a really specific stress that creates and I think we need to normalize it. I think that we need to start to have language to talk about it.

Chris Byers: Last year, it was really fascinating, not probably in a great way to just observe how it was working mothers who had the absolute toughest environment around them. The best way to say that if there was anybody who the kids were going to fall to just a little bit more, if not a lot more, it was the working mothers, especially at least hear it from Stack. And so I'm curious, how did you address last year both as you were helping working mothers and yourself? How did you tackle that?

Tiffany Sauder Last year was really hard. I think a lot of us exited twenty twenty, just really tired on top of it. I was pregnant and had a baby. And for me this is not a fix, but it does help me. Some of it is changing your expectations. Most of us who have chosen both careers and families are just massive achievers. And so sometimes it's first dealing with your own mindset that can change the environment around you. So, for example, for me, I can keep a lot of trains moving. I can set up systems and processes so that all the people who are in and out of my house, the people who help us keep our life together, that everybody knows when you know what the whistle's mean, so to speak. And in 2020, everything just came to a screeching halt, every system that I had built so that there was like some muscle memory in our family schedule and who was doing what and who's packing lunches and what happens on Tuesday. I was on Thursday. You can only make so many decisions and have so many conversations with people. If you don't have some systems and move that stuff forward, you get really buried. What I remember when I shifted from I have to try to get this chaos into order. That's what I was trying so hard to do. There were so many variables. I just couldn't when I shifted in my mind and said, this just going to be messy, Tiffany. It's just going to be messy. You just have to execute what you can. And so that would mean and I know these are like silly, but things like it might be loud in the room, but I need to do this meeting. It might be super messy when I go to bed, which is not a thing that I really love. And it's just going to have to be that way. We might need to have the exact same thing for lunch all week long. And I'm sorry about that. I don't have the capacity to have anything more creative than that. And it's just going to be messy. But I think we also have to give ourselves credit as professionals. And this is not about phoning it in, but sometimes getting something done at a seven. If you had two more hours, you can get it into a ten. You just need to ship it because that is what the environment will allow. I think we sometimes freeze up and get into this like perfectionist mindset when things are really chaotic instead of business, at least in ours, is not surgery, but in business like it's throughput. Get the landing page up, do the webinar, post the blog, do the sales call, make thirty cold calls, just do it. And yes, maybe in your best week if you made thirty cold calls you could have connected with. Twelve of them, and in your worst week, you could connect with four, but holy crap, do it. And I think we shut down from the behavior of just stick with the program because your energy starts to get really screwed up. At least mine does when I don't stick with the program and I'm trying to overcompensate and I'm trying to push all this perfectionism into these like tasks I have to do is just keep the flywheel spinning, just go. Because if I stop it, other people are going to catch me. But if I keep moving, I at least have a chance to be able to continue. Does that make any sense, Chris? What I'm saying?


Chris Byers: I think so. Actually, one of the things you said there that I loved was last year we really wanted an answer, but we were looking for how can we support people who do have kids at home or just to maybe give them four day workweeks to it. Like we went through all of the options. We did some surveys. And ultimately it was like, there's no answer. We need to just say we understand this is messy. I think that's a great way to say it. Talk to your manager. If you'll just keep them informed, we'll just roll with it. We don't have no idea how every day is going to work. And it worked. It wasn't enjoyable. It wasn't I'm sure it was super taxing on some people some days and less other days. But I think there's something powerful there to embrace both a lack of perfection at times, but also everything probably doesn't need an answer, even though we all want to get to an answer on every single question ever.

Tiffany Sauder This is, again, maybe an unpopular perspective, because I do think there's such an important role for us as leaders to have empathy for what people are going through. But this was the asterisk of all asterisks. This was unprecedented in every capacity. And what I told my team, every part of me wants to come in and try to make part of your life easier. Every part of me wants to try to make it so that you can sleep just 20 minutes longer. Every part of me wants to make it so I can get three fewer emails. Every part of me wants to make our clients a little happier for you somehow. But the reality of what we have to go through is that we are trying to make it into the playoffs as a team who knows how to compete. And we are beat up like we're scratched, we’re just a wreck, and we still have to take the field. And the good thing that happens when you start to see and start to, I think, gain ownership over the fact that, dang it, I can do really hard things. Then when people look at what it's like to be a CEO or an entrepreneur or having four kids a marriage in a company like sometimes it's just really hard, like really hard, like at the end of your rope part, and it doesn't stay like that forever. And so I think sometimes we also take away the gift from our people accidentally by wanting to be empathetic. We take away the feeling of this massive victory, this understanding of what they're really capable of, where we go past what we perceive our limits to be in a whole new place is opened up for us. I don't know either. I'd be open to your sort of feedback on that, Chris, because I feel like sometimes it's not popular to say it's hard and I'm sorry, but we have to do it anyway.

Chris Byers: I think one of the things I've seen, especially toward the end of twenty twenty, was a particular balance that I needed to shift away from, which is we've got high empathy, spent a lot of time with people, give them a ton of flexibility. And so, you know what? Yeah, we're going to have to flip this a little bit and say we do have a job to get done and we can't drag this out forever. That doesn't mean our flexibility is going to disappear. That doesn't mean it's all going to change. But I think the perspective I took was I did a lot of thinking, reading about World War II, and especially for people who lived in London at the time or England in general, and just how ultimately they had to get their lives going again, even in the midst of war happening all around them. And I think that is, to your point, a job of a leader. How do we help people stay focused? And a lot of ways it's encouraging to them. Some people give us feedback. Last year you'll stop talking about our feelings because I want to go to work and forget it. And so there seems to be moments for both.

Tiffany Sauder Yeah, I think we all needed to know, too, that we were bigger than it. This doesn't have to define every part of my existence. We are bigger than it. We are more than coronaviruses. We are more than this. And so but I don't mean we can defeat it like so to speak. But it's just I think people needed to know I am bigger. Like my life is bigger than this.

Chris Byers: Absolutely. You talked about fear earlier, I imagine experience some sort of fear last year. And it sounds like this year you're going to take that on. And a little bit of a new way in a podcast that you've got called Scared. Confident. Tell us about that. Tell us where the title came from and what you want to talk about.

Tiffany Sauder This has been a really fun project for me to work on. As I look back at my journey and the question behind the question that I see in people's eyes when they come and say, like, so what's it like? What's it take? Can I do this to like how does it look? We all I think, if we're honest, have these fears and we need to be real about them and give them language. And I think that we take back control from the fear when we have the courage to say this is a crap that's going on my head and heart right now. And I'm an. Talk about it, because then the fear doesn't have control over me, and what I found is that when I had the courage to be the most head on with fear, right behind that was where I had the most confidence. And so this kind of juxtaposition of scared, confident is, yeah, I'm scared and I'm so scared that I'm willing to talk about it so that I can get through it and really plants in confidence and clarity so that I can act and move forward with a clear mind. And, you know, I believe that I was created for a purpose. I believe that I have a role to play on this earth to make it a better place. And I think most of us, when we lay in bed at night, we're like, no, I am significant. I do need to be here. I do have people to impact and children to raise and families and communities and teams to impact. I'm here for a reason. And when we allow fear to control the narrative in our heads and hearts, then we don't get to step fully into who we were all individually designed to be. And so this is really kind of me going first, talking about the crap that has been in the way in my life, the things that I've learned from overcoming that, and also just to continue a transparent journey of what I'm learning and what life is teaching me. And then we'll also have some segments where we engage questions from the community, from people like me, me, 15 years ago, maybe me 15 years from now, asking questions of one another, of what does it mean and how do we confront this so that we can really empower people to step entirely into who they were made to be.


Chris Byers: Love that phrase you use about language. There was a moment last year where I was like, I don't know what this feeling is that's been on me, but it feels like a cloud that's just been laying over me for weeks or some long period of time. And somewhere in there I discovered it was grief and I was like, oh, OK, I can actually do something about it. Now that I know that I know there's a word that I actually know what that means, but I couldn't describe it better until somebody pointed that out. Tell us about the some of the language that you feel like you've learned to help take the fear and put it where it needs to be.

Tiffany Sauder I've just learned to export it to myself really early and then often to my team. And I think that all of us had fears in 2020 as leaders that we were just going to screw it up worse than it was already screwed up. And I was able to say, guys, I don't want to fail you like I'm afraid you, Chris, I think I've led a remote organization for a long time. I hadn't everybody was in our nest during the day, for the most part. I'm afraid I'm not going to know how to lead well in a remote environment. I'm afraid I'm going to not pick up on the signs that you need me in a way that I don't know how to show up for you. I had these fears and so for me it's just about I'm not a journalist, but it's a mental journaling of what am I afraid of? Where am I afraid that my blind spots are? And then my style is to export it and say, this is what I'm afraid of, but these are my intentions and this is what I'm working at. I need your feedback and we're working to be excellent for you. And these are the things that I want to be acutely aware of, that we may be failing and we need to be able to talk about that. And for me, again, it allows me to say, hey, I'm always on Zoom and I'm always like, what used to be a two directional conversation is now me jumping on as a voice of God, exporting information. Then everybody closes other. Zoom How do we not do that? Because that doesn't feel great to me and I'm not getting good feedback and so allows me to just ask more real questions and move past the assumptive.

Chris Byers: Much quicker the word that comes to mind when you're talking is the idea of transparency and really using that transparency of sharing more of just the thoughts that are often stuck in our heads. And often we don't think we're allowed to express out to other people. What advice would you give to people to like why do you think people aren't as transparent as they probably could be and how can they change that?

Tiffany Sauder I think we're not as transparent as we need to be because we are afraid. So I'll give like an extreme example from three, because it's harder to talk about the crappy things. So over the course of two years, Element three had three layoffs. Some of those were things inside of our control and some of those are things outside of our control. But that's a really shitty thing to have happened at a company. And so what I was really afraid of is that people were not going to believe my words anymore. And what I was really afraid of, if I was honest with myself, was like there was some secret coup or people are just going to walk out because they were so pissed off. And so we can continue to come into like town hall meetings and team meetings and pretend nobody knows that has happened. And then we get to work in this like contrived reality where everybody's pretend nice to each other. But I'm wondering and they're wondering, but we're not courageous enough to step into the real conversation or I like finally I was like, I'm just tired of this. I'm going to talk about it. And so I was like, OK, guys, let's go ahead and build this timeline about what happened and what I think is in all of your minds, in what I'm afraid of as a result of that. And my question to you is, so I built a timeline. Here's what happened. We all understand these are the questions I asked myself of this situation. How would you lead different? What different questions would you ask, how do you get ahead of this, how do you make sure it doesn't happen again? Biloela And then I was like and these are the things I'm afraid are going on in your head. And I exported those questions to them. And they're all like nodding their heads. Get those are totally our questions. I was like, OK, so can we talk about it now? And there was like this massive sigh of relief of let's talk about the crap in the middle of the room instead of keep walking around it. But there's a ton of fear. And if I talk about it, is it actually that they don't know and I'm going to bring it into their consciousness and then they're going to be like, oh, me, I didn't realize that. No, of course they know this very scary because you're super vulnerable, because what they might come back with is say, you're exactly right, Tiffany. There is a secret coup starting and everybody is going to walk out and then we're actually leaving in ten minutes, which is an area. But if that's what's happening, you would rather know. So does that make sense, Chris, like.

Chris Byers: Yeah, absolutely. At first I very much appreciate your just your transparency and vulnerability and sharing the story of layoffs, because if somebody doesn't know your story, they wouldn't necessarily know that. And I think as a leader, it's got to be one of the worst possible moments to think there's a chance it's coming to deal with it, to then rebuild trust afterward. But I love really that I think you're helping encourage people to just know that everybody has fears. It may not look like we have fears sometimes as leaders, but they're there. And in fact, as you express them, other people can come along and help you. And I think the more we can get people, we have a cultural value default to transparency. And what I tell people, we've got a lot of grace for you, if you will tell the truth and speak plainly about things rather than positioning and making sure it sounds good. And if your failures, like, just get it out there, I'll deal with that all day long. I don't want to deal with. Oh, it's going great. It's going great. But it's really not. But I think it's we can teach more people to do that. It creates some much better outcomes.

Tiffany Sauder And what I've learned, I think about this idea of fear and truth and transparency is that you can talk about it in the third person, meaning like we ought to be transparent. But when you actually are and let go first, it's trusting to people like for like, why would you record the fact that you lay people off three times a day? You're like, that's crappy. You don't want people to know that. But it starts, I think, to say, no, I'm honest, I'm serious. If I talk about the worst things I've been through as a matter of going first, then maybe we will begin to get this into practice such that we can have real conversations which we know, and building teams and building value and building companies is what creates a flywheel that spins faster than anybody else's. Because you're talking about the real things are really fast.

Chris Byers: I would love to hear what it is that drives the passion around getting this message out to more people. What's the experience they might be facing right now that you want to change?

Tiffany Sauder I think it's two things. I think on one hand, and you may be experiences, too, Chris, in that when you start to have like more visible success and people like, oh, to our mama for wife, CEO, entrepreneur, it's like those are all like pretty flowers. It was pretty sucky to get there. So let's also be sure that we're giving that part of the story its day in court because it feels disingenuous to just talk about the accomplishment side without being real about what's it look like to get there. Some of my most joyful parts of the story is overcoming things that I had no idea that I could survive. And I think that I want people to find courage in both sides of the story, both the one that's published and the part of it that was really hard so that it normalizes their own experience. I think that's part of it. And the other piece is just to create a more like I have these conversations with there's like three personas. One is twenty four to twenty nine year old young woman who's looking at you saying, like, I'm really jammin’ in my career right now. I think I've got some pretty cool opportunities. I'm starting to get a read on what I want to do. I also would like to have a baby and I'm real confused about how to put those two things together. And so I have these really amazing conversations in one of ways with that woman and to record it and be able to share it so that I can have that, quote unquote conversation with lots of people. I think there's a lot of value in just sharing those real questions. The other, like I share it, is like more like my dad, people who are sometimes clients of mine, colleagues, other CEOs who have young daughters or sons who are coming up. And they're starting to say, hey, it's a different world. How do I encourage her or him in this pursuit of a two career home? How do I encourage them? How do I give them skills to balance what it means to be a professional and a parent? How do I help them? And they're looking for resources in it. There's nothing to share. And then the third is those people exactly in my seat where they're like, OK, I'm sitting here. I am a mom, I am an entrepreneur. I do have a career. I have chosen children, those three people. I want to be able to say, here's my story, if it can help you. I'm real specific about saying this is not a podcast about what you should do. It's simply sharing the things that I've learned, the people I've met. The stories have helped me on my. Own journey so that we can get real clear and the decisions and permission that we give ourselves to step real confidently into the roles that we've chosen in life,

Chris Byers: as you talk about this, especially having children. Sounds like a pretty big topic that you're thinking about. How do I help people tackle that more often and the challenges of how is this going to impact my career, et cetera? What's your word for the men who are listening to this? What do you want them to hear? What do you want us to learn?

Tiffany Sauder I wish I only had one word. I think that one of the things I'm really passionate about is it needs to be about equal opportunity and it needs to be up to the woman to choose what she wants or doesn't want to walk into. And I think one of the things I'm really careful about is if you decide to say no to a promotion or you decide to say no to an assignment or to a big family move or something like that, because it's not right for your family, that doesn't make you less than or wimpy or that you should have that might totally be the right thing for your family. And so I think as male leaders, as business owners who are men or managers, making sure that you don't make that decision for that woman and saying, oh, she's got a lot of kids or her husband has a big job or whatever, the thing is that you think may make her more or less likely to be able to step into that opportunity if she's work for it, give her the opportunity. And what she chooses to do is totally inside of her own. That's inside her control and power. I think for me, women who have worked for it, making sure that they have equal opportunity and women, if you don't choose to step into it, that doesn't mean that you've failed. That just means that you've own that choice. And that's totally fine.

Chris Byers: I always feel like this is something that is maybe I don't know that this works for everybody, but I love what you're talking about, because for my wife and I, we, especially for every major decision, will often go through this period of time. Or one of us like, oh, yeah, this is the thing. This is the answer. And but the other person doesn't get there. I can't think of many times where we move forward, where we haven't ultimately kept that balance going back and forth until ultimately we're like, oh yeah, that's the decision. We're both on board and it feels like the right decision. And I think that I just can't tell you how powerful that is. I think for both of us to feel the confidence of each other supporting each other, and we've made moves across the country for each other at different times. And so I think we should be calling people to to work on that more often, to really say how can we make these decisions together? And it's not one person's over the others.

Tiffany Sauder I think that's I think there's a great point, Chris. I know my husband and I as we've built our careers over the last 20 years, there have been years where my quote unquote career was on the back seat in our family, which meant that he had license to leave early, get home late if he needed to work a Saturday. He was traveling a lot. I needed to say yes and no to things that allowed me to be more flexible in that season for him because I understood the opportunity in front of him and that was the right thing for our family and vice versa. There have been years where he knew that Season three was going to take every ounce of blood, sweat and tears that I had. And it very much has been a dance of both of us being able to achieve some really awesome things. But it has you know, we've staggered that knowing that our kids need something from us, we've got things that we need to take care of that isn't just us in our careers alone.

Chris Byers: Well, each conversation we have on the show ends up highlighting innovative ideas and fresh perspectives. Tiffani's encouraging people to lean into fear as a catalyst for pushing past limitations. Tiven, if you could give advice to our listeners, what would you say is the first step to embracing fear as a way to create impact for their business or personal life?

Tiffany Sauder Just try it. Don't try to overthink it. Think about it as an experiment, find a fear, decide you're going to name it, make sure you're clear on it, and then export it to the people or the audiences that are coming into contact with you in that way, because chances are they sense it. And when you give it language, it allows you to have a conversation at a totally different level. So that would be my advice. Try it, give it a shot. Let me know how it goes.

Chris Byers: Excellent. What do you hope people take away after hearing your story?

Tiffany Sauder I hope that they see that there's so much power and transparency. I hope that they also see that we're all a work in process. And anyone that you see that maybe looks like they have so many badges and stickers that there's always a story there. And so listen patiently for the lessons, because there's a lot people can share when you're vulnerable yourself and you really ask what's going on

Chris Byers: and what do you think people listening can do differently in their day to day to create a positive impact for others?

Tiffany Sauder I hope one of the things, as I reflect on fear I have also come to understand is that it's an incredibly selfish posture. Fear is like, well, what will people think of me? What will people say? What are people's expectations of me? And it's very much inward. It's very selfish posture. And when we are able to break through fear and step wholly into our lessons and what life has taught us and what we have to share, there's so many people around us who are waiting to be impacted. And when we live in a posture of fear, all arrows are pointed inward. And I think it gives us a chance to just impact the things around us. When we step outside of that, outside of ourselves,

Chris Byers: you get any future ideas, things you're thinking about how to. Can impact as you're going forward this year,

Tiffany Sauder I'm really excited about leaning into scared, confident and seeing where it goes. I just read the Matthew McConaughey greenlights book. I don't know if you've read that, Chris, but my big takeaway was focus on the craft of it and we'll let the outcome be what it is. But I'm really excited just to share vulnerably, to engage in conversation and understand what people's questions are and see where all goes.

Chris Byers: To learn more about how people are reimagining their world of work, head over to formstack.com/practically-genius. Thanks for joining us on this episode of Ripple Effect.

Chris Byers: Fear is something we don't often think about, let alone discuss its role in our work for Tiffany Sauder, CEO of Element Three, a marketing consultant. The fear is what has allowed her to push past boundaries, and she inspires others to do the same. I'm Chris Byers, of Formstack, and this is Ripple Effect, a show celebrating the impact decisions create. In the conversation with Tiffany will talk about her journey through business and motherhood and how she's learned hard lessons to encourage other leaders to take action in their own lives by pushing past fear. Tiffany, tell us what made you decide to start your own business 15 years ago, what convinced you to leave a corporate job and go out on your own? How did that journey begin?

Tiffany Sauder Hi, Chris. Thanks for having me on. You were an entrepreneur and founder. You know that the journey that you map is not always the one that you go on 15 years ago and we started at three or bought this little small mom and pop agency, we were really at a place where marketing was undergoing a massive amount of transformation. But you don't always know that you're in a transformation moment. But we really started to see and understand that marketing was going to have a real seat at the table as it related to just business acumen. And how did we not just make things look better, but really understand how marketing plugged in to set up the right text at the right measurement, the right scorecard, the very attribution? I am a kid of an entrepreneur, so I think some of it is environmental. My dad started his own business when I was in third grade. Risk was something that was ever present. But you don't know that. It's just very normal. And so when I got out of school and started in a big company, I started to recognize it's going to be a real long time before somebody lets me make a decision of any real size or consequence. And how do we come in and really not just make more marketing tactics, but really learn and understand what's it like to come around alongside companies and build brands? It's been a fun ride. You probably feel the same way I dreamed about being here, but I didn't dare wish for it or plan on it. So, yeah, it's been great. We've learned a lot.

Chris Byers: That's awesome. I definitely have had feelings I don't think I ever imagined. As I look back at the 10 or 11 years I've been at this, at how far we would have come, I think even early days, I probably would have been like, oh, what's max out at some size and just have fun. And somewhere along the way, that kind of changes. Can you share a pivotal moment in the journey where your company could have gone one way, but it ultimately went another?

Tiffany Sauder I think about this both at a personal level and a professional one. I think it's really connected us. And I love the title of your podcast of Ripple Effect, because there are these moments and decisions that have a massive ripple effect, not only on your own journey and the inflection point of your own life, but also I think, in what you have to give back to others who you then brush up against in life. And this concept of fear, I think I felt it the most acutely. I feel like I've been in business long enough to have felt two very turbulent times. And we were in the first few years of Element three when we hit the 08 09 financial crisis. And I was absolutely paralyzed that time around with fear. They talk about fight or flight or freeze. And I was I just froze. And this journey of being a professional and a person, this identity of also being a mom and also being an entrepreneur, they really started to braid themselves together tightly in that moment. And we had our first daughter in 2009 also just riding a freight train into a brick wall with element three at that time, because everything just came to a screeching halt and I had absolutely no idea what to do. And so I just froze. And in many ways I just ignored it and I just panicked. It's not an overstatement to say in one hundred days of indecision, I spent about a thousand days paying for that, like quite literally financially. And so I think that as I look at different authors and people who are platforms for messages, usually they're talking about the thing that they're terrible at. And I think that's why fear is so acute to me is because I felt it in such a way that I had a chance to completely derail and I would say really be an end point for element three. Or I could choose to buck up and trudge through this fear event that was absolutely paralyzing me. And I was just scared to death. I was scared about being a mom. I was scared that Element three was literally going to evaporate overnight. I was afraid that I didn't actually know marketing. I was afraid that I wasn't a leader. I was afraid to talk to my people because I didn't know what to say to them. I was afraid to talk to my family because I didn't want to be a failure. I was like I just was consumed by it. And I think that experience was so big for me. And I can feel it still so acutely that I knew if I did not figure out how to get a mastery of this monster of fear that I was going to be held back in so many ways from what I really feel is a calling on my life, it's not just like the things I want. It's like the things I feel like I'm called the impact. And the sort of the mountain of fear that I needed to chase down was really years of work to understand. What did that mean? How was it influencing me? And fear moves. It's not like a static thing. So it's not like I have a mastery of this, but it's certainly that I as something I've spent some time practicing.

Chris Byers: Yeah, you're right. Like the fear that I think especially as leaders experience is first of all, I think it can come and go and moments and then it can come and go and. For days or weeks or long periods of time, so I'm curious. Something obviously hit and allowed you to say, yep, this is terrible. I don't like living in fear. And you flip that around. What happened?

Tiffany Sauder I think this part of the story, sometimes I tell it, sometimes I don't. But I will. Today I was at a real crossroads. And when you have a baby and there's other life events, but having a baby is one I've done four times now. And it's just this time where you no matter how committed you are to the thing in front of you, you just take stock of what's going on around you. Does all this still work for my life? Do you want to go back? Do you want to go part time doing work for yourself, like all this kind of stuff? So I had a baby in January 2009 and that was right in the crux of everything falling apart. And I knew stepping back into Element three was like just an epic shitstorm. And so I remember being at home being like, I can make this very hard thing go away in a way that is going to be pretty socially acceptable in that I can say I want to be a stay at home mom now. That's what I'm going to do. I loved my five years at all. My three, we did something, didn't work out so great. I have maybe some debt to figure out how to get out from under, but I'm going to stay home now with this baby. That feels like a much better outcome to spend my time on than this mess that I have at Aliment three. And I don't tell that story in the sense to say like that being a stay at home mom is a bad thing. It's a lovely calling, but in my heart, in my gut, in my DNA, I knew at that moment in time at least, that's not what I was called to do, that in choosing to go home and be home full time and have that to be my full time job, that I was walking away from a challenge that I needed to go through. But I full on, didn't want to like I wanted to avoid that the tsunami with everything that I could. And I at least recognized in that decision making journey, I can, like, play both sides of the conversation. One is, wow, this looks lovely. Let's stay home. And the other side was like, you're just being a chicken, Tiffany. And I could at least see that while I didn't know what the behavior needed to be, if I was going to go through the fire, I at least knew it was going to happen one minute at a time. And so at least for me, when I'm going through a fear event, I have to make it really small so that I can start to get momentum of, OK, that wasn't as bad as I expected. OK, I returned the phone call. They didn't eat me. I'm still alive or I paid three percent of what I owed them. At least I don't owe them one hundred percent anymore. You know, like these tiny victories started to give me momentum and it wasn't so much about that. The outcome was amazingly better. It was that I started to get more courage in chasing down these little micro behaviors that were going to ultimately lead to us getting through this. And again, I think for me, what I found, whether it be when my marriage is in a crappy spot, when I have a friendship that's in a crappy spot or my businesses, it doesn't switch to good fast. It seems like it goes to bad fast, but usually things happen slowly, all of a sudden sort of on the downhill slope. And when you're slogging and trying to get things back to your plum line or to good, it takes longer than you want it to. And I think that stamina was something that I in my immaturity, in my youth, I just didn't have an appreciation for.

Chris Byers: If I can think of anything that feels like a long, slow journey, it's in teaching and shaping and encouraging your kids and years. And you're like, why is that characteristic? Still, they're never improving. And then overnight, something finally changes. So I totally understand that long process that we often go through to to make really positive change. You're obviously a strong advocate for mothers, especially working mothers. Tell us more about your family and why you started sharing your experiences as a working mother.

Tiffany Sauder My mom was a stay at home mom and I grew up in a small rural community. And so the idea of a professional woman like literally was things I saw on TV, but I didn't really I didn't grow up around it. I didn't see the women who worked in my community had jobs that they went to, but they weren't careers. It's something that I kind of knew about from afar but didn't have any real look or understanding of what's it like to experience that. But something about me, even as a little girl, just loved the energy of these women who seemed like they're going places. They have a sense of urgency, the sense of purpose. And I definitely am a sort of sense of urgency person. I just was really attracted to that sort of aura, even though I looked at that from afar. I think the picture that I had that was so close to me, I just imagined I would at some point get to a place where I was a stay at home mom. And I just it never really felt right to my heart into my DNA. And so I've had to figure a lot of this out on. My own and in my extreme brain, it was like, if I'm a professional woman, then that means that I need to turn off the, like, maternal desires that I have. And if I'm a mom, then that means I have to turn off these, like, really competitive. I want to win business side of me. And I thought about it in such a binary way for a long time. And I felt some, I think, guilt around that, that if I wasn't 100 percent rough and tough, then I wasn't really a business person playing the game well. And if I wasn't completely maternal then I wasn't doing the mom thing and about I don't know when it was, but I started to see, like maybe the uniqueness of these two things is actually the most important thing about me. And you've probably found this to Chris, like the things I've learned about leadership and about mentoring young talent and helping young people go into situations that they're not quite ready for, but you start to see how they behave and the decisions they make. And becoming a leader in that way and practicing that for 15, 16 years has made me such a better parent and vice versa. Watching my kids and teaching them values and understanding that the way I guide them in the big picture of their life creates so much more ownership over the decisions that they make that makes me a better leader. And so I started to see maybe I don't have to emulate one of those extreme personas that I have in my head. Maybe I can be both. And how do I figure out how those fit together for me in a way that works and is sustainable? I think over the last few years I've gone through different boards that I'm on and organizations with young people, even things like that, or fellowship. I started to see a lot of young women, a lot of young professionals, a lot of parents who are in their 60s, who have kids that are coming up and they're choosing a different family environment maybe than the one they grew up. And they're looking for resources, say, how do you do this? And while I don't have it figured out completely, I feel really passionate about sharing at least what we have tried, what we've learned, the struggles that we've been through as a family, and how that sort of refined us. And I just think that it needs a voice. I think more and more families are choosing to career homes, and there's a really specific stress that creates and I think we need to normalize it. I think that we need to start to have language to talk about it.

Chris Byers: Last year, it was really fascinating, not probably in a great way to just observe how it was working mothers who had the absolute toughest environment around them. The best way to say that if there was anybody who the kids were going to fall to just a little bit more, if not a lot more, it was the working mothers, especially at least hear it from Stack. And so I'm curious, how did you address last year both as you were helping working mothers and yourself? How did you tackle that?

Tiffany Sauder Last year was really hard. I think a lot of us exited twenty twenty, just really tired on top of it. I was pregnant and had a baby. And for me this is not a fix, but it does help me. Some of it is changing your expectations. Most of us who have chosen both careers and families are just massive achievers. And so sometimes it's first dealing with your own mindset that can change the environment around you. So, for example, for me, I can keep a lot of trains moving. I can set up systems and processes so that all the people who are in and out of my house, the people who help us keep our life together, that everybody knows when you know what the whistle's mean, so to speak. And in 2020, everything just came to a screeching halt, every system that I had built so that there was like some muscle memory in our family schedule and who was doing what and who's packing lunches and what happens on Tuesday. I was on Thursday. You can only make so many decisions and have so many conversations with people. If you don't have some systems and move that stuff forward, you get really buried. What I remember when I shifted from I have to try to get this chaos into order. That's what I was trying so hard to do. There were so many variables. I just couldn't when I shifted in my mind and said, this just going to be messy, Tiffany. It's just going to be messy. You just have to execute what you can. And so that would mean and I know these are like silly, but things like it might be loud in the room, but I need to do this meeting. It might be super messy when I go to bed, which is not a thing that I really love. And it's just going to have to be that way. We might need to have the exact same thing for lunch all week long. And I'm sorry about that. I don't have the capacity to have anything more creative than that. And it's just going to be messy. But I think we also have to give ourselves credit as professionals. And this is not about phoning it in, but sometimes getting something done at a seven. If you had two more hours, you can get it into a ten. You just need to ship it because that is what the environment will allow. I think we sometimes freeze up and get into this like perfectionist mindset when things are really chaotic instead of business, at least in ours, is not surgery, but in business like it's throughput. Get the landing page up, do the webinar, post the blog, do the sales call, make thirty cold calls, just do it. And yes, maybe in your best week if you made thirty cold calls you could have connected with. Twelve of them, and in your worst week, you could connect with four, but holy crap, do it. And I think we shut down from the behavior of just stick with the program because your energy starts to get really screwed up. At least mine does when I don't stick with the program and I'm trying to overcompensate and I'm trying to push all this perfectionism into these like tasks I have to do is just keep the flywheel spinning, just go. Because if I stop it, other people are going to catch me. But if I keep moving, I at least have a chance to be able to continue. Does that make any sense, Chris? What I'm saying?


Chris Byers: I think so. Actually, one of the things you said there that I loved was last year we really wanted an answer, but we were looking for how can we support people who do have kids at home or just to maybe give them four day workweeks to it. Like we went through all of the options. We did some surveys. And ultimately it was like, there's no answer. We need to just say we understand this is messy. I think that's a great way to say it. Talk to your manager. If you'll just keep them informed, we'll just roll with it. We don't have no idea how every day is going to work. And it worked. It wasn't enjoyable. It wasn't I'm sure it was super taxing on some people some days and less other days. But I think there's something powerful there to embrace both a lack of perfection at times, but also everything probably doesn't need an answer, even though we all want to get to an answer on every single question ever.

Tiffany Sauder This is, again, maybe an unpopular perspective, because I do think there's such an important role for us as leaders to have empathy for what people are going through. But this was the asterisk of all asterisks. This was unprecedented in every capacity. And what I told my team, every part of me wants to come in and try to make part of your life easier. Every part of me wants to try to make it so that you can sleep just 20 minutes longer. Every part of me wants to make it so I can get three fewer emails. Every part of me wants to make our clients a little happier for you somehow. But the reality of what we have to go through is that we are trying to make it into the playoffs as a team who knows how to compete. And we are beat up like we're scratched, we’re just a wreck, and we still have to take the field. And the good thing that happens when you start to see and start to, I think, gain ownership over the fact that, dang it, I can do really hard things. Then when people look at what it's like to be a CEO or an entrepreneur or having four kids a marriage in a company like sometimes it's just really hard, like really hard, like at the end of your rope part, and it doesn't stay like that forever. And so I think sometimes we also take away the gift from our people accidentally by wanting to be empathetic. We take away the feeling of this massive victory, this understanding of what they're really capable of, where we go past what we perceive our limits to be in a whole new place is opened up for us. I don't know either. I'd be open to your sort of feedback on that, Chris, because I feel like sometimes it's not popular to say it's hard and I'm sorry, but we have to do it anyway.

Chris Byers: I think one of the things I've seen, especially toward the end of twenty twenty, was a particular balance that I needed to shift away from, which is we've got high empathy, spent a lot of time with people, give them a ton of flexibility. And so, you know what? Yeah, we're going to have to flip this a little bit and say we do have a job to get done and we can't drag this out forever. That doesn't mean our flexibility is going to disappear. That doesn't mean it's all going to change. But I think the perspective I took was I did a lot of thinking, reading about World War II, and especially for people who lived in London at the time or England in general, and just how ultimately they had to get their lives going again, even in the midst of war happening all around them. And I think that is, to your point, a job of a leader. How do we help people stay focused? And a lot of ways it's encouraging to them. Some people give us feedback. Last year you'll stop talking about our feelings because I want to go to work and forget it. And so there seems to be moments for both.

Tiffany Sauder Yeah, I think we all needed to know, too, that we were bigger than it. This doesn't have to define every part of my existence. We are bigger than it. We are more than coronaviruses. We are more than this. And so but I don't mean we can defeat it like so to speak. But it's just I think people needed to know I am bigger. Like my life is bigger than this.

Chris Byers: Absolutely. You talked about fear earlier, I imagine experience some sort of fear last year. And it sounds like this year you're going to take that on. And a little bit of a new way in a podcast that you've got called Scared. Confident. Tell us about that. Tell us where the title came from and what you want to talk about.

Tiffany Sauder This has been a really fun project for me to work on. As I look back at my journey and the question behind the question that I see in people's eyes when they come and say, like, so what's it like? What's it take? Can I do this to like how does it look? We all I think, if we're honest, have these fears and we need to be real about them and give them language. And I think that we take back control from the fear when we have the courage to say this is a crap that's going on my head and heart right now. And I'm an. Talk about it, because then the fear doesn't have control over me, and what I found is that when I had the courage to be the most head on with fear, right behind that was where I had the most confidence. And so this kind of juxtaposition of scared, confident is, yeah, I'm scared and I'm so scared that I'm willing to talk about it so that I can get through it and really plants in confidence and clarity so that I can act and move forward with a clear mind. And, you know, I believe that I was created for a purpose. I believe that I have a role to play on this earth to make it a better place. And I think most of us, when we lay in bed at night, we're like, no, I am significant. I do need to be here. I do have people to impact and children to raise and families and communities and teams to impact. I'm here for a reason. And when we allow fear to control the narrative in our heads and hearts, then we don't get to step fully into who we were all individually designed to be. And so this is really kind of me going first, talking about the crap that has been in the way in my life, the things that I've learned from overcoming that, and also just to continue a transparent journey of what I'm learning and what life is teaching me. And then we'll also have some segments where we engage questions from the community, from people like me, me, 15 years ago, maybe me 15 years from now, asking questions of one another, of what does it mean and how do we confront this so that we can really empower people to step entirely into who they were made to be.


Chris Byers: Love that phrase you use about language. There was a moment last year where I was like, I don't know what this feeling is that's been on me, but it feels like a cloud that's just been laying over me for weeks or some long period of time. And somewhere in there I discovered it was grief and I was like, oh, OK, I can actually do something about it. Now that I know that I know there's a word that I actually know what that means, but I couldn't describe it better until somebody pointed that out. Tell us about the some of the language that you feel like you've learned to help take the fear and put it where it needs to be.

Tiffany Sauder I've just learned to export it to myself really early and then often to my team. And I think that all of us had fears in 2020 as leaders that we were just going to screw it up worse than it was already screwed up. And I was able to say, guys, I don't want to fail you like I'm afraid you, Chris, I think I've led a remote organization for a long time. I hadn't everybody was in our nest during the day, for the most part. I'm afraid I'm not going to know how to lead well in a remote environment. I'm afraid I'm going to not pick up on the signs that you need me in a way that I don't know how to show up for you. I had these fears and so for me it's just about I'm not a journalist, but it's a mental journaling of what am I afraid of? Where am I afraid that my blind spots are? And then my style is to export it and say, this is what I'm afraid of, but these are my intentions and this is what I'm working at. I need your feedback and we're working to be excellent for you. And these are the things that I want to be acutely aware of, that we may be failing and we need to be able to talk about that. And for me, again, it allows me to say, hey, I'm always on Zoom and I'm always like, what used to be a two directional conversation is now me jumping on as a voice of God, exporting information. Then everybody closes other. Zoom How do we not do that? Because that doesn't feel great to me and I'm not getting good feedback and so allows me to just ask more real questions and move past the assumptive.

Chris Byers: Much quicker the word that comes to mind when you're talking is the idea of transparency and really using that transparency of sharing more of just the thoughts that are often stuck in our heads. And often we don't think we're allowed to express out to other people. What advice would you give to people to like why do you think people aren't as transparent as they probably could be and how can they change that?

Tiffany Sauder I think we're not as transparent as we need to be because we are afraid. So I'll give like an extreme example from three, because it's harder to talk about the crappy things. So over the course of two years, Element three had three layoffs. Some of those were things inside of our control and some of those are things outside of our control. But that's a really shitty thing to have happened at a company. And so what I was really afraid of is that people were not going to believe my words anymore. And what I was really afraid of, if I was honest with myself, was like there was some secret coup or people are just going to walk out because they were so pissed off. And so we can continue to come into like town hall meetings and team meetings and pretend nobody knows that has happened. And then we get to work in this like contrived reality where everybody's pretend nice to each other. But I'm wondering and they're wondering, but we're not courageous enough to step into the real conversation or I like finally I was like, I'm just tired of this. I'm going to talk about it. And so I was like, OK, guys, let's go ahead and build this timeline about what happened and what I think is in all of your minds, in what I'm afraid of as a result of that. And my question to you is, so I built a timeline. Here's what happened. We all understand these are the questions I asked myself of this situation. How would you lead different? What different questions would you ask, how do you get ahead of this, how do you make sure it doesn't happen again? Biloela And then I was like and these are the things I'm afraid are going on in your head. And I exported those questions to them. And they're all like nodding their heads. Get those are totally our questions. I was like, OK, so can we talk about it now? And there was like this massive sigh of relief of let's talk about the crap in the middle of the room instead of keep walking around it. But there's a ton of fear. And if I talk about it, is it actually that they don't know and I'm going to bring it into their consciousness and then they're going to be like, oh, me, I didn't realize that. No, of course they know this very scary because you're super vulnerable, because what they might come back with is say, you're exactly right, Tiffany. There is a secret coup starting and everybody is going to walk out and then we're actually leaving in ten minutes, which is an area. But if that's what's happening, you would rather know. So does that make sense, Chris, like.

Chris Byers: Yeah, absolutely. At first I very much appreciate your just your transparency and vulnerability and sharing the story of layoffs, because if somebody doesn't know your story, they wouldn't necessarily know that. And I think as a leader, it's got to be one of the worst possible moments to think there's a chance it's coming to deal with it, to then rebuild trust afterward. But I love really that I think you're helping encourage people to just know that everybody has fears. It may not look like we have fears sometimes as leaders, but they're there. And in fact, as you express them, other people can come along and help you. And I think the more we can get people, we have a cultural value default to transparency. And what I tell people, we've got a lot of grace for you, if you will tell the truth and speak plainly about things rather than positioning and making sure it sounds good. And if your failures, like, just get it out there, I'll deal with that all day long. I don't want to deal with. Oh, it's going great. It's going great. But it's really not. But I think it's we can teach more people to do that. It creates some much better outcomes.

Tiffany Sauder And what I've learned, I think about this idea of fear and truth and transparency is that you can talk about it in the third person, meaning like we ought to be transparent. But when you actually are and let go first, it's trusting to people like for like, why would you record the fact that you lay people off three times a day? You're like, that's crappy. You don't want people to know that. But it starts, I think, to say, no, I'm honest, I'm serious. If I talk about the worst things I've been through as a matter of going first, then maybe we will begin to get this into practice such that we can have real conversations which we know, and building teams and building value and building companies is what creates a flywheel that spins faster than anybody else's. Because you're talking about the real things are really fast.

Chris Byers: I would love to hear what it is that drives the passion around getting this message out to more people. What's the experience they might be facing right now that you want to change?

Tiffany Sauder I think it's two things. I think on one hand, and you may be experiences, too, Chris, in that when you start to have like more visible success and people like, oh, to our mama for wife, CEO, entrepreneur, it's like those are all like pretty flowers. It was pretty sucky to get there. So let's also be sure that we're giving that part of the story its day in court because it feels disingenuous to just talk about the accomplishment side without being real about what's it look like to get there. Some of my most joyful parts of the story is overcoming things that I had no idea that I could survive. And I think that I want people to find courage in both sides of the story, both the one that's published and the part of it that was really hard so that it normalizes their own experience. I think that's part of it. And the other piece is just to create a more like I have these conversations with there's like three personas. One is twenty four to twenty nine year old young woman who's looking at you saying, like, I'm really jammin’ in my career right now. I think I've got some pretty cool opportunities. I'm starting to get a read on what I want to do. I also would like to have a baby and I'm real confused about how to put those two things together. And so I have these really amazing conversations in one of ways with that woman and to record it and be able to share it so that I can have that, quote unquote conversation with lots of people. I think there's a lot of value in just sharing those real questions. The other, like I share it, is like more like my dad, people who are sometimes clients of mine, colleagues, other CEOs who have young daughters or sons who are coming up. And they're starting to say, hey, it's a different world. How do I encourage her or him in this pursuit of a two career home? How do I encourage them? How do I give them skills to balance what it means to be a professional and a parent? How do I help them? And they're looking for resources in it. There's nothing to share. And then the third is those people exactly in my seat where they're like, OK, I'm sitting here. I am a mom, I am an entrepreneur. I do have a career. I have chosen children, those three people. I want to be able to say, here's my story, if it can help you. I'm real specific about saying this is not a podcast about what you should do. It's simply sharing the things that I've learned, the people I've met. The stories have helped me on my. Own journey so that we can get real clear and the decisions and permission that we give ourselves to step real confidently into the roles that we've chosen in life,

Chris Byers: as you talk about this, especially having children. Sounds like a pretty big topic that you're thinking about. How do I help people tackle that more often and the challenges of how is this going to impact my career, et cetera? What's your word for the men who are listening to this? What do you want them to hear? What do you want us to learn?

Tiffany Sauder I wish I only had one word. I think that one of the things I'm really passionate about is it needs to be about equal opportunity and it needs to be up to the woman to choose what she wants or doesn't want to walk into. And I think one of the things I'm really careful about is if you decide to say no to a promotion or you decide to say no to an assignment or to a big family move or something like that, because it's not right for your family, that doesn't make you less than or wimpy or that you should have that might totally be the right thing for your family. And so I think as male leaders, as business owners who are men or managers, making sure that you don't make that decision for that woman and saying, oh, she's got a lot of kids or her husband has a big job or whatever, the thing is that you think may make her more or less likely to be able to step into that opportunity if she's work for it, give her the opportunity. And what she chooses to do is totally inside of her own. That's inside her control and power. I think for me, women who have worked for it, making sure that they have equal opportunity and women, if you don't choose to step into it, that doesn't mean that you've failed. That just means that you've own that choice. And that's totally fine.

Chris Byers: I always feel like this is something that is maybe I don't know that this works for everybody, but I love what you're talking about, because for my wife and I, we, especially for every major decision, will often go through this period of time. Or one of us like, oh, yeah, this is the thing. This is the answer. And but the other person doesn't get there. I can't think of many times where we move forward, where we haven't ultimately kept that balance going back and forth until ultimately we're like, oh yeah, that's the decision. We're both on board and it feels like the right decision. And I think that I just can't tell you how powerful that is. I think for both of us to feel the confidence of each other supporting each other, and we've made moves across the country for each other at different times. And so I think we should be calling people to to work on that more often, to really say how can we make these decisions together? And it's not one person's over the others.

Tiffany Sauder I think that's I think there's a great point, Chris. I know my husband and I as we've built our careers over the last 20 years, there have been years where my quote unquote career was on the back seat in our family, which meant that he had license to leave early, get home late if he needed to work a Saturday. He was traveling a lot. I needed to say yes and no to things that allowed me to be more flexible in that season for him because I understood the opportunity in front of him and that was the right thing for our family and vice versa. There have been years where he knew that Season three was going to take every ounce of blood, sweat and tears that I had. And it very much has been a dance of both of us being able to achieve some really awesome things. But it has you know, we've staggered that knowing that our kids need something from us, we've got things that we need to take care of that isn't just us in our careers alone.

Chris Byers: Well, each conversation we have on the show ends up highlighting innovative ideas and fresh perspectives. Tiffani's encouraging people to lean into fear as a catalyst for pushing past limitations. Tiven, if you could give advice to our listeners, what would you say is the first step to embracing fear as a way to create impact for their business or personal life?

Tiffany Sauder Just try it. Don't try to overthink it. Think about it as an experiment, find a fear, decide you're going to name it, make sure you're clear on it, and then export it to the people or the audiences that are coming into contact with you in that way, because chances are they sense it. And when you give it language, it allows you to have a conversation at a totally different level. So that would be my advice. Try it, give it a shot. Let me know how it goes.

Chris Byers: Excellent. What do you hope people take away after hearing your story?

Tiffany Sauder I hope that they see that there's so much power and transparency. I hope that they also see that we're all a work in process. And anyone that you see that maybe looks like they have so many badges and stickers that there's always a story there. And so listen patiently for the lessons, because there's a lot people can share when you're vulnerable yourself and you really ask what's going on

Chris Byers: and what do you think people listening can do differently in their day to day to create a positive impact for others?

Tiffany Sauder I hope one of the things, as I reflect on fear I have also come to understand is that it's an incredibly selfish posture. Fear is like, well, what will people think of me? What will people say? What are people's expectations of me? And it's very much inward. It's very selfish posture. And when we are able to break through fear and step wholly into our lessons and what life has taught us and what we have to share, there's so many people around us who are waiting to be impacted. And when we live in a posture of fear, all arrows are pointed inward. And I think it gives us a chance to just impact the things around us. When we step outside of that, outside of ourselves,

Chris Byers: you get any future ideas, things you're thinking about how to. Can impact as you're going forward this year,

Tiffany Sauder I'm really excited about leaning into scared, confident and seeing where it goes. I just read the Matthew McConaughey greenlights book. I don't know if you've read that, Chris, but my big takeaway was focus on the craft of it and we'll let the outcome be what it is. But I'm really excited just to share vulnerably, to engage in conversation and understand what people's questions are and see where all goes.

Chris Byers: To learn more about how people are reimagining their world of work, head over to formstack.com/practically-genius. Thanks for joining us on this episode of Ripple Effect.

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Chris Byers: Fear is something we don't often think about, let alone discuss its role in our work for Tiffany Sauder, CEO of Element Three, a marketing consultant. The fear is what has allowed her to push past boundaries, and she inspires others to do the same. I'm Chris Byers, of Formstack, and this is Ripple Effect, a show celebrating the impact decisions create. In the conversation with Tiffany will talk about her journey through business and motherhood and how she's learned hard lessons to encourage other leaders to take action in their own lives by pushing past fear. Tiffany, tell us what made you decide to start your own business 15 years ago, what convinced you to leave a corporate job and go out on your own? How did that journey begin?

Tiffany Sauder Hi, Chris. Thanks for having me on. You were an entrepreneur and founder. You know that the journey that you map is not always the one that you go on 15 years ago and we started at three or bought this little small mom and pop agency, we were really at a place where marketing was undergoing a massive amount of transformation. But you don't always know that you're in a transformation moment. But we really started to see and understand that marketing was going to have a real seat at the table as it related to just business acumen. And how did we not just make things look better, but really understand how marketing plugged in to set up the right text at the right measurement, the right scorecard, the very attribution? I am a kid of an entrepreneur, so I think some of it is environmental. My dad started his own business when I was in third grade. Risk was something that was ever present. But you don't know that. It's just very normal. And so when I got out of school and started in a big company, I started to recognize it's going to be a real long time before somebody lets me make a decision of any real size or consequence. And how do we come in and really not just make more marketing tactics, but really learn and understand what's it like to come around alongside companies and build brands? It's been a fun ride. You probably feel the same way I dreamed about being here, but I didn't dare wish for it or plan on it. So, yeah, it's been great. We've learned a lot.

Chris Byers: That's awesome. I definitely have had feelings I don't think I ever imagined. As I look back at the 10 or 11 years I've been at this, at how far we would have come, I think even early days, I probably would have been like, oh, what's max out at some size and just have fun. And somewhere along the way, that kind of changes. Can you share a pivotal moment in the journey where your company could have gone one way, but it ultimately went another?

Tiffany Sauder I think about this both at a personal level and a professional one. I think it's really connected us. And I love the title of your podcast of Ripple Effect, because there are these moments and decisions that have a massive ripple effect, not only on your own journey and the inflection point of your own life, but also I think, in what you have to give back to others who you then brush up against in life. And this concept of fear, I think I felt it the most acutely. I feel like I've been in business long enough to have felt two very turbulent times. And we were in the first few years of Element three when we hit the 08 09 financial crisis. And I was absolutely paralyzed that time around with fear. They talk about fight or flight or freeze. And I was I just froze. And this journey of being a professional and a person, this identity of also being a mom and also being an entrepreneur, they really started to braid themselves together tightly in that moment. And we had our first daughter in 2009 also just riding a freight train into a brick wall with element three at that time, because everything just came to a screeching halt and I had absolutely no idea what to do. And so I just froze. And in many ways I just ignored it and I just panicked. It's not an overstatement to say in one hundred days of indecision, I spent about a thousand days paying for that, like quite literally financially. And so I think that as I look at different authors and people who are platforms for messages, usually they're talking about the thing that they're terrible at. And I think that's why fear is so acute to me is because I felt it in such a way that I had a chance to completely derail and I would say really be an end point for element three. Or I could choose to buck up and trudge through this fear event that was absolutely paralyzing me. And I was just scared to death. I was scared about being a mom. I was scared that Element three was literally going to evaporate overnight. I was afraid that I didn't actually know marketing. I was afraid that I wasn't a leader. I was afraid to talk to my people because I didn't know what to say to them. I was afraid to talk to my family because I didn't want to be a failure. I was like I just was consumed by it. And I think that experience was so big for me. And I can feel it still so acutely that I knew if I did not figure out how to get a mastery of this monster of fear that I was going to be held back in so many ways from what I really feel is a calling on my life, it's not just like the things I want. It's like the things I feel like I'm called the impact. And the sort of the mountain of fear that I needed to chase down was really years of work to understand. What did that mean? How was it influencing me? And fear moves. It's not like a static thing. So it's not like I have a mastery of this, but it's certainly that I as something I've spent some time practicing.

Chris Byers: Yeah, you're right. Like the fear that I think especially as leaders experience is first of all, I think it can come and go and moments and then it can come and go and. For days or weeks or long periods of time, so I'm curious. Something obviously hit and allowed you to say, yep, this is terrible. I don't like living in fear. And you flip that around. What happened?

Tiffany Sauder I think this part of the story, sometimes I tell it, sometimes I don't. But I will. Today I was at a real crossroads. And when you have a baby and there's other life events, but having a baby is one I've done four times now. And it's just this time where you no matter how committed you are to the thing in front of you, you just take stock of what's going on around you. Does all this still work for my life? Do you want to go back? Do you want to go part time doing work for yourself, like all this kind of stuff? So I had a baby in January 2009 and that was right in the crux of everything falling apart. And I knew stepping back into Element three was like just an epic shitstorm. And so I remember being at home being like, I can make this very hard thing go away in a way that is going to be pretty socially acceptable in that I can say I want to be a stay at home mom now. That's what I'm going to do. I loved my five years at all. My three, we did something, didn't work out so great. I have maybe some debt to figure out how to get out from under, but I'm going to stay home now with this baby. That feels like a much better outcome to spend my time on than this mess that I have at Aliment three. And I don't tell that story in the sense to say like that being a stay at home mom is a bad thing. It's a lovely calling, but in my heart, in my gut, in my DNA, I knew at that moment in time at least, that's not what I was called to do, that in choosing to go home and be home full time and have that to be my full time job, that I was walking away from a challenge that I needed to go through. But I full on, didn't want to like I wanted to avoid that the tsunami with everything that I could. And I at least recognized in that decision making journey, I can, like, play both sides of the conversation. One is, wow, this looks lovely. Let's stay home. And the other side was like, you're just being a chicken, Tiffany. And I could at least see that while I didn't know what the behavior needed to be, if I was going to go through the fire, I at least knew it was going to happen one minute at a time. And so at least for me, when I'm going through a fear event, I have to make it really small so that I can start to get momentum of, OK, that wasn't as bad as I expected. OK, I returned the phone call. They didn't eat me. I'm still alive or I paid three percent of what I owed them. At least I don't owe them one hundred percent anymore. You know, like these tiny victories started to give me momentum and it wasn't so much about that. The outcome was amazingly better. It was that I started to get more courage in chasing down these little micro behaviors that were going to ultimately lead to us getting through this. And again, I think for me, what I found, whether it be when my marriage is in a crappy spot, when I have a friendship that's in a crappy spot or my businesses, it doesn't switch to good fast. It seems like it goes to bad fast, but usually things happen slowly, all of a sudden sort of on the downhill slope. And when you're slogging and trying to get things back to your plum line or to good, it takes longer than you want it to. And I think that stamina was something that I in my immaturity, in my youth, I just didn't have an appreciation for.

Chris Byers: If I can think of anything that feels like a long, slow journey, it's in teaching and shaping and encouraging your kids and years. And you're like, why is that characteristic? Still, they're never improving. And then overnight, something finally changes. So I totally understand that long process that we often go through to to make really positive change. You're obviously a strong advocate for mothers, especially working mothers. Tell us more about your family and why you started sharing your experiences as a working mother.

Tiffany Sauder My mom was a stay at home mom and I grew up in a small rural community. And so the idea of a professional woman like literally was things I saw on TV, but I didn't really I didn't grow up around it. I didn't see the women who worked in my community had jobs that they went to, but they weren't careers. It's something that I kind of knew about from afar but didn't have any real look or understanding of what's it like to experience that. But something about me, even as a little girl, just loved the energy of these women who seemed like they're going places. They have a sense of urgency, the sense of purpose. And I definitely am a sort of sense of urgency person. I just was really attracted to that sort of aura, even though I looked at that from afar. I think the picture that I had that was so close to me, I just imagined I would at some point get to a place where I was a stay at home mom. And I just it never really felt right to my heart into my DNA. And so I've had to figure a lot of this out on. My own and in my extreme brain, it was like, if I'm a professional woman, then that means that I need to turn off the, like, maternal desires that I have. And if I'm a mom, then that means I have to turn off these, like, really competitive. I want to win business side of me. And I thought about it in such a binary way for a long time. And I felt some, I think, guilt around that, that if I wasn't 100 percent rough and tough, then I wasn't really a business person playing the game well. And if I wasn't completely maternal then I wasn't doing the mom thing and about I don't know when it was, but I started to see, like maybe the uniqueness of these two things is actually the most important thing about me. And you've probably found this to Chris, like the things I've learned about leadership and about mentoring young talent and helping young people go into situations that they're not quite ready for, but you start to see how they behave and the decisions they make. And becoming a leader in that way and practicing that for 15, 16 years has made me such a better parent and vice versa. Watching my kids and teaching them values and understanding that the way I guide them in the big picture of their life creates so much more ownership over the decisions that they make that makes me a better leader. And so I started to see maybe I don't have to emulate one of those extreme personas that I have in my head. Maybe I can be both. And how do I figure out how those fit together for me in a way that works and is sustainable? I think over the last few years I've gone through different boards that I'm on and organizations with young people, even things like that, or fellowship. I started to see a lot of young women, a lot of young professionals, a lot of parents who are in their 60s, who have kids that are coming up and they're choosing a different family environment maybe than the one they grew up. And they're looking for resources, say, how do you do this? And while I don't have it figured out completely, I feel really passionate about sharing at least what we have tried, what we've learned, the struggles that we've been through as a family, and how that sort of refined us. And I just think that it needs a voice. I think more and more families are choosing to career homes, and there's a really specific stress that creates and I think we need to normalize it. I think that we need to start to have language to talk about it.

Chris Byers: Last year, it was really fascinating, not probably in a great way to just observe how it was working mothers who had the absolute toughest environment around them. The best way to say that if there was anybody who the kids were going to fall to just a little bit more, if not a lot more, it was the working mothers, especially at least hear it from Stack. And so I'm curious, how did you address last year both as you were helping working mothers and yourself? How did you tackle that?

Tiffany Sauder Last year was really hard. I think a lot of us exited twenty twenty, just really tired on top of it. I was pregnant and had a baby. And for me this is not a fix, but it does help me. Some of it is changing your expectations. Most of us who have chosen both careers and families are just massive achievers. And so sometimes it's first dealing with your own mindset that can change the environment around you. So, for example, for me, I can keep a lot of trains moving. I can set up systems and processes so that all the people who are in and out of my house, the people who help us keep our life together, that everybody knows when you know what the whistle's mean, so to speak. And in 2020, everything just came to a screeching halt, every system that I had built so that there was like some muscle memory in our family schedule and who was doing what and who's packing lunches and what happens on Tuesday. I was on Thursday. You can only make so many decisions and have so many conversations with people. If you don't have some systems and move that stuff forward, you get really buried. What I remember when I shifted from I have to try to get this chaos into order. That's what I was trying so hard to do. There were so many variables. I just couldn't when I shifted in my mind and said, this just going to be messy, Tiffany. It's just going to be messy. You just have to execute what you can. And so that would mean and I know these are like silly, but things like it might be loud in the room, but I need to do this meeting. It might be super messy when I go to bed, which is not a thing that I really love. And it's just going to have to be that way. We might need to have the exact same thing for lunch all week long. And I'm sorry about that. I don't have the capacity to have anything more creative than that. And it's just going to be messy. But I think we also have to give ourselves credit as professionals. And this is not about phoning it in, but sometimes getting something done at a seven. If you had two more hours, you can get it into a ten. You just need to ship it because that is what the environment will allow. I think we sometimes freeze up and get into this like perfectionist mindset when things are really chaotic instead of business, at least in ours, is not surgery, but in business like it's throughput. Get the landing page up, do the webinar, post the blog, do the sales call, make thirty cold calls, just do it. And yes, maybe in your best week if you made thirty cold calls you could have connected with. Twelve of them, and in your worst week, you could connect with four, but holy crap, do it. And I think we shut down from the behavior of just stick with the program because your energy starts to get really screwed up. At least mine does when I don't stick with the program and I'm trying to overcompensate and I'm trying to push all this perfectionism into these like tasks I have to do is just keep the flywheel spinning, just go. Because if I stop it, other people are going to catch me. But if I keep moving, I at least have a chance to be able to continue. Does that make any sense, Chris? What I'm saying?


Chris Byers: I think so. Actually, one of the things you said there that I loved was last year we really wanted an answer, but we were looking for how can we support people who do have kids at home or just to maybe give them four day workweeks to it. Like we went through all of the options. We did some surveys. And ultimately it was like, there's no answer. We need to just say we understand this is messy. I think that's a great way to say it. Talk to your manager. If you'll just keep them informed, we'll just roll with it. We don't have no idea how every day is going to work. And it worked. It wasn't enjoyable. It wasn't I'm sure it was super taxing on some people some days and less other days. But I think there's something powerful there to embrace both a lack of perfection at times, but also everything probably doesn't need an answer, even though we all want to get to an answer on every single question ever.

Tiffany Sauder This is, again, maybe an unpopular perspective, because I do think there's such an important role for us as leaders to have empathy for what people are going through. But this was the asterisk of all asterisks. This was unprecedented in every capacity. And what I told my team, every part of me wants to come in and try to make part of your life easier. Every part of me wants to try to make it so that you can sleep just 20 minutes longer. Every part of me wants to make it so I can get three fewer emails. Every part of me wants to make our clients a little happier for you somehow. But the reality of what we have to go through is that we are trying to make it into the playoffs as a team who knows how to compete. And we are beat up like we're scratched, we’re just a wreck, and we still have to take the field. And the good thing that happens when you start to see and start to, I think, gain ownership over the fact that, dang it, I can do really hard things. Then when people look at what it's like to be a CEO or an entrepreneur or having four kids a marriage in a company like sometimes it's just really hard, like really hard, like at the end of your rope part, and it doesn't stay like that forever. And so I think sometimes we also take away the gift from our people accidentally by wanting to be empathetic. We take away the feeling of this massive victory, this understanding of what they're really capable of, where we go past what we perceive our limits to be in a whole new place is opened up for us. I don't know either. I'd be open to your sort of feedback on that, Chris, because I feel like sometimes it's not popular to say it's hard and I'm sorry, but we have to do it anyway.

Chris Byers: I think one of the things I've seen, especially toward the end of twenty twenty, was a particular balance that I needed to shift away from, which is we've got high empathy, spent a lot of time with people, give them a ton of flexibility. And so, you know what? Yeah, we're going to have to flip this a little bit and say we do have a job to get done and we can't drag this out forever. That doesn't mean our flexibility is going to disappear. That doesn't mean it's all going to change. But I think the perspective I took was I did a lot of thinking, reading about World War II, and especially for people who lived in London at the time or England in general, and just how ultimately they had to get their lives going again, even in the midst of war happening all around them. And I think that is, to your point, a job of a leader. How do we help people stay focused? And a lot of ways it's encouraging to them. Some people give us feedback. Last year you'll stop talking about our feelings because I want to go to work and forget it. And so there seems to be moments for both.

Tiffany Sauder Yeah, I think we all needed to know, too, that we were bigger than it. This doesn't have to define every part of my existence. We are bigger than it. We are more than coronaviruses. We are more than this. And so but I don't mean we can defeat it like so to speak. But it's just I think people needed to know I am bigger. Like my life is bigger than this.

Chris Byers: Absolutely. You talked about fear earlier, I imagine experience some sort of fear last year. And it sounds like this year you're going to take that on. And a little bit of a new way in a podcast that you've got called Scared. Confident. Tell us about that. Tell us where the title came from and what you want to talk about.

Tiffany Sauder This has been a really fun project for me to work on. As I look back at my journey and the question behind the question that I see in people's eyes when they come and say, like, so what's it like? What's it take? Can I do this to like how does it look? We all I think, if we're honest, have these fears and we need to be real about them and give them language. And I think that we take back control from the fear when we have the courage to say this is a crap that's going on my head and heart right now. And I'm an. Talk about it, because then the fear doesn't have control over me, and what I found is that when I had the courage to be the most head on with fear, right behind that was where I had the most confidence. And so this kind of juxtaposition of scared, confident is, yeah, I'm scared and I'm so scared that I'm willing to talk about it so that I can get through it and really plants in confidence and clarity so that I can act and move forward with a clear mind. And, you know, I believe that I was created for a purpose. I believe that I have a role to play on this earth to make it a better place. And I think most of us, when we lay in bed at night, we're like, no, I am significant. I do need to be here. I do have people to impact and children to raise and families and communities and teams to impact. I'm here for a reason. And when we allow fear to control the narrative in our heads and hearts, then we don't get to step fully into who we were all individually designed to be. And so this is really kind of me going first, talking about the crap that has been in the way in my life, the things that I've learned from overcoming that, and also just to continue a transparent journey of what I'm learning and what life is teaching me. And then we'll also have some segments where we engage questions from the community, from people like me, me, 15 years ago, maybe me 15 years from now, asking questions of one another, of what does it mean and how do we confront this so that we can really empower people to step entirely into who they were made to be.


Chris Byers: Love that phrase you use about language. There was a moment last year where I was like, I don't know what this feeling is that's been on me, but it feels like a cloud that's just been laying over me for weeks or some long period of time. And somewhere in there I discovered it was grief and I was like, oh, OK, I can actually do something about it. Now that I know that I know there's a word that I actually know what that means, but I couldn't describe it better until somebody pointed that out. Tell us about the some of the language that you feel like you've learned to help take the fear and put it where it needs to be.

Tiffany Sauder I've just learned to export it to myself really early and then often to my team. And I think that all of us had fears in 2020 as leaders that we were just going to screw it up worse than it was already screwed up. And I was able to say, guys, I don't want to fail you like I'm afraid you, Chris, I think I've led a remote organization for a long time. I hadn't everybody was in our nest during the day, for the most part. I'm afraid I'm not going to know how to lead well in a remote environment. I'm afraid I'm going to not pick up on the signs that you need me in a way that I don't know how to show up for you. I had these fears and so for me it's just about I'm not a journalist, but it's a mental journaling of what am I afraid of? Where am I afraid that my blind spots are? And then my style is to export it and say, this is what I'm afraid of, but these are my intentions and this is what I'm working at. I need your feedback and we're working to be excellent for you. And these are the things that I want to be acutely aware of, that we may be failing and we need to be able to talk about that. And for me, again, it allows me to say, hey, I'm always on Zoom and I'm always like, what used to be a two directional conversation is now me jumping on as a voice of God, exporting information. Then everybody closes other. Zoom How do we not do that? Because that doesn't feel great to me and I'm not getting good feedback and so allows me to just ask more real questions and move past the assumptive.

Chris Byers: Much quicker the word that comes to mind when you're talking is the idea of transparency and really using that transparency of sharing more of just the thoughts that are often stuck in our heads. And often we don't think we're allowed to express out to other people. What advice would you give to people to like why do you think people aren't as transparent as they probably could be and how can they change that?

Tiffany Sauder I think we're not as transparent as we need to be because we are afraid. So I'll give like an extreme example from three, because it's harder to talk about the crappy things. So over the course of two years, Element three had three layoffs. Some of those were things inside of our control and some of those are things outside of our control. But that's a really shitty thing to have happened at a company. And so what I was really afraid of is that people were not going to believe my words anymore. And what I was really afraid of, if I was honest with myself, was like there was some secret coup or people are just going to walk out because they were so pissed off. And so we can continue to come into like town hall meetings and team meetings and pretend nobody knows that has happened. And then we get to work in this like contrived reality where everybody's pretend nice to each other. But I'm wondering and they're wondering, but we're not courageous enough to step into the real conversation or I like finally I was like, I'm just tired of this. I'm going to talk about it. And so I was like, OK, guys, let's go ahead and build this timeline about what happened and what I think is in all of your minds, in what I'm afraid of as a result of that. And my question to you is, so I built a timeline. Here's what happened. We all understand these are the questions I asked myself of this situation. How would you lead different? What different questions would you ask, how do you get ahead of this, how do you make sure it doesn't happen again? Biloela And then I was like and these are the things I'm afraid are going on in your head. And I exported those questions to them. And they're all like nodding their heads. Get those are totally our questions. I was like, OK, so can we talk about it now? And there was like this massive sigh of relief of let's talk about the crap in the middle of the room instead of keep walking around it. But there's a ton of fear. And if I talk about it, is it actually that they don't know and I'm going to bring it into their consciousness and then they're going to be like, oh, me, I didn't realize that. No, of course they know this very scary because you're super vulnerable, because what they might come back with is say, you're exactly right, Tiffany. There is a secret coup starting and everybody is going to walk out and then we're actually leaving in ten minutes, which is an area. But if that's what's happening, you would rather know. So does that make sense, Chris, like.

Chris Byers: Yeah, absolutely. At first I very much appreciate your just your transparency and vulnerability and sharing the story of layoffs, because if somebody doesn't know your story, they wouldn't necessarily know that. And I think as a leader, it's got to be one of the worst possible moments to think there's a chance it's coming to deal with it, to then rebuild trust afterward. But I love really that I think you're helping encourage people to just know that everybody has fears. It may not look like we have fears sometimes as leaders, but they're there. And in fact, as you express them, other people can come along and help you. And I think the more we can get people, we have a cultural value default to transparency. And what I tell people, we've got a lot of grace for you, if you will tell the truth and speak plainly about things rather than positioning and making sure it sounds good. And if your failures, like, just get it out there, I'll deal with that all day long. I don't want to deal with. Oh, it's going great. It's going great. But it's really not. But I think it's we can teach more people to do that. It creates some much better outcomes.

Tiffany Sauder And what I've learned, I think about this idea of fear and truth and transparency is that you can talk about it in the third person, meaning like we ought to be transparent. But when you actually are and let go first, it's trusting to people like for like, why would you record the fact that you lay people off three times a day? You're like, that's crappy. You don't want people to know that. But it starts, I think, to say, no, I'm honest, I'm serious. If I talk about the worst things I've been through as a matter of going first, then maybe we will begin to get this into practice such that we can have real conversations which we know, and building teams and building value and building companies is what creates a flywheel that spins faster than anybody else's. Because you're talking about the real things are really fast.

Chris Byers: I would love to hear what it is that drives the passion around getting this message out to more people. What's the experience they might be facing right now that you want to change?

Tiffany Sauder I think it's two things. I think on one hand, and you may be experiences, too, Chris, in that when you start to have like more visible success and people like, oh, to our mama for wife, CEO, entrepreneur, it's like those are all like pretty flowers. It was pretty sucky to get there. So let's also be sure that we're giving that part of the story its day in court because it feels disingenuous to just talk about the accomplishment side without being real about what's it look like to get there. Some of my most joyful parts of the story is overcoming things that I had no idea that I could survive. And I think that I want people to find courage in both sides of the story, both the one that's published and the part of it that was really hard so that it normalizes their own experience. I think that's part of it. And the other piece is just to create a more like I have these conversations with there's like three personas. One is twenty four to twenty nine year old young woman who's looking at you saying, like, I'm really jammin’ in my career right now. I think I've got some pretty cool opportunities. I'm starting to get a read on what I want to do. I also would like to have a baby and I'm real confused about how to put those two things together. And so I have these really amazing conversations in one of ways with that woman and to record it and be able to share it so that I can have that, quote unquote conversation with lots of people. I think there's a lot of value in just sharing those real questions. The other, like I share it, is like more like my dad, people who are sometimes clients of mine, colleagues, other CEOs who have young daughters or sons who are coming up. And they're starting to say, hey, it's a different world. How do I encourage her or him in this pursuit of a two career home? How do I encourage them? How do I give them skills to balance what it means to be a professional and a parent? How do I help them? And they're looking for resources in it. There's nothing to share. And then the third is those people exactly in my seat where they're like, OK, I'm sitting here. I am a mom, I am an entrepreneur. I do have a career. I have chosen children, those three people. I want to be able to say, here's my story, if it can help you. I'm real specific about saying this is not a podcast about what you should do. It's simply sharing the things that I've learned, the people I've met. The stories have helped me on my. Own journey so that we can get real clear and the decisions and permission that we give ourselves to step real confidently into the roles that we've chosen in life,

Chris Byers: as you talk about this, especially having children. Sounds like a pretty big topic that you're thinking about. How do I help people tackle that more often and the challenges of how is this going to impact my career, et cetera? What's your word for the men who are listening to this? What do you want them to hear? What do you want us to learn?

Tiffany Sauder I wish I only had one word. I think that one of the things I'm really passionate about is it needs to be about equal opportunity and it needs to be up to the woman to choose what she wants or doesn't want to walk into. And I think one of the things I'm really careful about is if you decide to say no to a promotion or you decide to say no to an assignment or to a big family move or something like that, because it's not right for your family, that doesn't make you less than or wimpy or that you should have that might totally be the right thing for your family. And so I think as male leaders, as business owners who are men or managers, making sure that you don't make that decision for that woman and saying, oh, she's got a lot of kids or her husband has a big job or whatever, the thing is that you think may make her more or less likely to be able to step into that opportunity if she's work for it, give her the opportunity. And what she chooses to do is totally inside of her own. That's inside her control and power. I think for me, women who have worked for it, making sure that they have equal opportunity and women, if you don't choose to step into it, that doesn't mean that you've failed. That just means that you've own that choice. And that's totally fine.

Chris Byers: I always feel like this is something that is maybe I don't know that this works for everybody, but I love what you're talking about, because for my wife and I, we, especially for every major decision, will often go through this period of time. Or one of us like, oh, yeah, this is the thing. This is the answer. And but the other person doesn't get there. I can't think of many times where we move forward, where we haven't ultimately kept that balance going back and forth until ultimately we're like, oh yeah, that's the decision. We're both on board and it feels like the right decision. And I think that I just can't tell you how powerful that is. I think for both of us to feel the confidence of each other supporting each other, and we've made moves across the country for each other at different times. And so I think we should be calling people to to work on that more often, to really say how can we make these decisions together? And it's not one person's over the others.

Tiffany Sauder I think that's I think there's a great point, Chris. I know my husband and I as we've built our careers over the last 20 years, there have been years where my quote unquote career was on the back seat in our family, which meant that he had license to leave early, get home late if he needed to work a Saturday. He was traveling a lot. I needed to say yes and no to things that allowed me to be more flexible in that season for him because I understood the opportunity in front of him and that was the right thing for our family and vice versa. There have been years where he knew that Season three was going to take every ounce of blood, sweat and tears that I had. And it very much has been a dance of both of us being able to achieve some really awesome things. But it has you know, we've staggered that knowing that our kids need something from us, we've got things that we need to take care of that isn't just us in our careers alone.

Chris Byers: Well, each conversation we have on the show ends up highlighting innovative ideas and fresh perspectives. Tiffani's encouraging people to lean into fear as a catalyst for pushing past limitations. Tiven, if you could give advice to our listeners, what would you say is the first step to embracing fear as a way to create impact for their business or personal life?

Tiffany Sauder Just try it. Don't try to overthink it. Think about it as an experiment, find a fear, decide you're going to name it, make sure you're clear on it, and then export it to the people or the audiences that are coming into contact with you in that way, because chances are they sense it. And when you give it language, it allows you to have a conversation at a totally different level. So that would be my advice. Try it, give it a shot. Let me know how it goes.

Chris Byers: Excellent. What do you hope people take away after hearing your story?

Tiffany Sauder I hope that they see that there's so much power and transparency. I hope that they also see that we're all a work in process. And anyone that you see that maybe looks like they have so many badges and stickers that there's always a story there. And so listen patiently for the lessons, because there's a lot people can share when you're vulnerable yourself and you really ask what's going on

Chris Byers: and what do you think people listening can do differently in their day to day to create a positive impact for others?

Tiffany Sauder I hope one of the things, as I reflect on fear I have also come to understand is that it's an incredibly selfish posture. Fear is like, well, what will people think of me? What will people say? What are people's expectations of me? And it's very much inward. It's very selfish posture. And when we are able to break through fear and step wholly into our lessons and what life has taught us and what we have to share, there's so many people around us who are waiting to be impacted. And when we live in a posture of fear, all arrows are pointed inward. And I think it gives us a chance to just impact the things around us. When we step outside of that, outside of ourselves,

Chris Byers: you get any future ideas, things you're thinking about how to. Can impact as you're going forward this year,

Tiffany Sauder I'm really excited about leaning into scared, confident and seeing where it goes. I just read the Matthew McConaughey greenlights book. I don't know if you've read that, Chris, but my big takeaway was focus on the craft of it and we'll let the outcome be what it is. But I'm really excited just to share vulnerably, to engage in conversation and understand what people's questions are and see where all goes.

Chris Byers: To learn more about how people are reimagining their world of work, head over to formstack.com/practically-genius. Thanks for joining us on this episode of Ripple Effect.

Chris Byers: Fear is something we don't often think about, let alone discuss its role in our work for Tiffany Sauder, CEO of Element Three, a marketing consultant. The fear is what has allowed her to push past boundaries, and she inspires others to do the same. I'm Chris Byers, of Formstack, and this is Ripple Effect, a show celebrating the impact decisions create. In the conversation with Tiffany will talk about her journey through business and motherhood and how she's learned hard lessons to encourage other leaders to take action in their own lives by pushing past fear. Tiffany, tell us what made you decide to start your own business 15 years ago, what convinced you to leave a corporate job and go out on your own? How did that journey begin?

Tiffany Sauder Hi, Chris. Thanks for having me on. You were an entrepreneur and founder. You know that the journey that you map is not always the one that you go on 15 years ago and we started at three or bought this little small mom and pop agency, we were really at a place where marketing was undergoing a massive amount of transformation. But you don't always know that you're in a transformation moment. But we really started to see and understand that marketing was going to have a real seat at the table as it related to just business acumen. And how did we not just make things look better, but really understand how marketing plugged in to set up the right text at the right measurement, the right scorecard, the very attribution? I am a kid of an entrepreneur, so I think some of it is environmental. My dad started his own business when I was in third grade. Risk was something that was ever present. But you don't know that. It's just very normal. And so when I got out of school and started in a big company, I started to recognize it's going to be a real long time before somebody lets me make a decision of any real size or consequence. And how do we come in and really not just make more marketing tactics, but really learn and understand what's it like to come around alongside companies and build brands? It's been a fun ride. You probably feel the same way I dreamed about being here, but I didn't dare wish for it or plan on it. So, yeah, it's been great. We've learned a lot.

Chris Byers: That's awesome. I definitely have had feelings I don't think I ever imagined. As I look back at the 10 or 11 years I've been at this, at how far we would have come, I think even early days, I probably would have been like, oh, what's max out at some size and just have fun. And somewhere along the way, that kind of changes. Can you share a pivotal moment in the journey where your company could have gone one way, but it ultimately went another?

Tiffany Sauder I think about this both at a personal level and a professional one. I think it's really connected us. And I love the title of your podcast of Ripple Effect, because there are these moments and decisions that have a massive ripple effect, not only on your own journey and the inflection point of your own life, but also I think, in what you have to give back to others who you then brush up against in life. And this concept of fear, I think I felt it the most acutely. I feel like I've been in business long enough to have felt two very turbulent times. And we were in the first few years of Element three when we hit the 08 09 financial crisis. And I was absolutely paralyzed that time around with fear. They talk about fight or flight or freeze. And I was I just froze. And this journey of being a professional and a person, this identity of also being a mom and also being an entrepreneur, they really started to braid themselves together tightly in that moment. And we had our first daughter in 2009 also just riding a freight train into a brick wall with element three at that time, because everything just came to a screeching halt and I had absolutely no idea what to do. And so I just froze. And in many ways I just ignored it and I just panicked. It's not an overstatement to say in one hundred days of indecision, I spent about a thousand days paying for that, like quite literally financially. And so I think that as I look at different authors and people who are platforms for messages, usually they're talking about the thing that they're terrible at. And I think that's why fear is so acute to me is because I felt it in such a way that I had a chance to completely derail and I would say really be an end point for element three. Or I could choose to buck up and trudge through this fear event that was absolutely paralyzing me. And I was just scared to death. I was scared about being a mom. I was scared that Element three was literally going to evaporate overnight. I was afraid that I didn't actually know marketing. I was afraid that I wasn't a leader. I was afraid to talk to my people because I didn't know what to say to them. I was afraid to talk to my family because I didn't want to be a failure. I was like I just was consumed by it. And I think that experience was so big for me. And I can feel it still so acutely that I knew if I did not figure out how to get a mastery of this monster of fear that I was going to be held back in so many ways from what I really feel is a calling on my life, it's not just like the things I want. It's like the things I feel like I'm called the impact. And the sort of the mountain of fear that I needed to chase down was really years of work to understand. What did that mean? How was it influencing me? And fear moves. It's not like a static thing. So it's not like I have a mastery of this, but it's certainly that I as something I've spent some time practicing.

Chris Byers: Yeah, you're right. Like the fear that I think especially as leaders experience is first of all, I think it can come and go and moments and then it can come and go and. For days or weeks or long periods of time, so I'm curious. Something obviously hit and allowed you to say, yep, this is terrible. I don't like living in fear. And you flip that around. What happened?

Tiffany Sauder I think this part of the story, sometimes I tell it, sometimes I don't. But I will. Today I was at a real crossroads. And when you have a baby and there's other life events, but having a baby is one I've done four times now. And it's just this time where you no matter how committed you are to the thing in front of you, you just take stock of what's going on around you. Does all this still work for my life? Do you want to go back? Do you want to go part time doing work for yourself, like all this kind of stuff? So I had a baby in January 2009 and that was right in the crux of everything falling apart. And I knew stepping back into Element three was like just an epic shitstorm. And so I remember being at home being like, I can make this very hard thing go away in a way that is going to be pretty socially acceptable in that I can say I want to be a stay at home mom now. That's what I'm going to do. I loved my five years at all. My three, we did something, didn't work out so great. I have maybe some debt to figure out how to get out from under, but I'm going to stay home now with this baby. That feels like a much better outcome to spend my time on than this mess that I have at Aliment three. And I don't tell that story in the sense to say like that being a stay at home mom is a bad thing. It's a lovely calling, but in my heart, in my gut, in my DNA, I knew at that moment in time at least, that's not what I was called to do, that in choosing to go home and be home full time and have that to be my full time job, that I was walking away from a challenge that I needed to go through. But I full on, didn't want to like I wanted to avoid that the tsunami with everything that I could. And I at least recognized in that decision making journey, I can, like, play both sides of the conversation. One is, wow, this looks lovely. Let's stay home. And the other side was like, you're just being a chicken, Tiffany. And I could at least see that while I didn't know what the behavior needed to be, if I was going to go through the fire, I at least knew it was going to happen one minute at a time. And so at least for me, when I'm going through a fear event, I have to make it really small so that I can start to get momentum of, OK, that wasn't as bad as I expected. OK, I returned the phone call. They didn't eat me. I'm still alive or I paid three percent of what I owed them. At least I don't owe them one hundred percent anymore. You know, like these tiny victories started to give me momentum and it wasn't so much about that. The outcome was amazingly better. It was that I started to get more courage in chasing down these little micro behaviors that were going to ultimately lead to us getting through this. And again, I think for me, what I found, whether it be when my marriage is in a crappy spot, when I have a friendship that's in a crappy spot or my businesses, it doesn't switch to good fast. It seems like it goes to bad fast, but usually things happen slowly, all of a sudden sort of on the downhill slope. And when you're slogging and trying to get things back to your plum line or to good, it takes longer than you want it to. And I think that stamina was something that I in my immaturity, in my youth, I just didn't have an appreciation for.

Chris Byers: If I can think of anything that feels like a long, slow journey, it's in teaching and shaping and encouraging your kids and years. And you're like, why is that characteristic? Still, they're never improving. And then overnight, something finally changes. So I totally understand that long process that we often go through to to make really positive change. You're obviously a strong advocate for mothers, especially working mothers. Tell us more about your family and why you started sharing your experiences as a working mother.

Tiffany Sauder My mom was a stay at home mom and I grew up in a small rural community. And so the idea of a professional woman like literally was things I saw on TV, but I didn't really I didn't grow up around it. I didn't see the women who worked in my community had jobs that they went to, but they weren't careers. It's something that I kind of knew about from afar but didn't have any real look or understanding of what's it like to experience that. But something about me, even as a little girl, just loved the energy of these women who seemed like they're going places. They have a sense of urgency, the sense of purpose. And I definitely am a sort of sense of urgency person. I just was really attracted to that sort of aura, even though I looked at that from afar. I think the picture that I had that was so close to me, I just imagined I would at some point get to a place where I was a stay at home mom. And I just it never really felt right to my heart into my DNA. And so I've had to figure a lot of this out on. My own and in my extreme brain, it was like, if I'm a professional woman, then that means that I need to turn off the, like, maternal desires that I have. And if I'm a mom, then that means I have to turn off these, like, really competitive. I want to win business side of me. And I thought about it in such a binary way for a long time. And I felt some, I think, guilt around that, that if I wasn't 100 percent rough and tough, then I wasn't really a business person playing the game well. And if I wasn't completely maternal then I wasn't doing the mom thing and about I don't know when it was, but I started to see, like maybe the uniqueness of these two things is actually the most important thing about me. And you've probably found this to Chris, like the things I've learned about leadership and about mentoring young talent and helping young people go into situations that they're not quite ready for, but you start to see how they behave and the decisions they make. And becoming a leader in that way and practicing that for 15, 16 years has made me such a better parent and vice versa. Watching my kids and teaching them values and understanding that the way I guide them in the big picture of their life creates so much more ownership over the decisions that they make that makes me a better leader. And so I started to see maybe I don't have to emulate one of those extreme personas that I have in my head. Maybe I can be both. And how do I figure out how those fit together for me in a way that works and is sustainable? I think over the last few years I've gone through different boards that I'm on and organizations with young people, even things like that, or fellowship. I started to see a lot of young women, a lot of young professionals, a lot of parents who are in their 60s, who have kids that are coming up and they're choosing a different family environment maybe than the one they grew up. And they're looking for resources, say, how do you do this? And while I don't have it figured out completely, I feel really passionate about sharing at least what we have tried, what we've learned, the struggles that we've been through as a family, and how that sort of refined us. And I just think that it needs a voice. I think more and more families are choosing to career homes, and there's a really specific stress that creates and I think we need to normalize it. I think that we need to start to have language to talk about it.

Chris Byers: Last year, it was really fascinating, not probably in a great way to just observe how it was working mothers who had the absolute toughest environment around them. The best way to say that if there was anybody who the kids were going to fall to just a little bit more, if not a lot more, it was the working mothers, especially at least hear it from Stack. And so I'm curious, how did you address last year both as you were helping working mothers and yourself? How did you tackle that?

Tiffany Sauder Last year was really hard. I think a lot of us exited twenty twenty, just really tired on top of it. I was pregnant and had a baby. And for me this is not a fix, but it does help me. Some of it is changing your expectations. Most of us who have chosen both careers and families are just massive achievers. And so sometimes it's first dealing with your own mindset that can change the environment around you. So, for example, for me, I can keep a lot of trains moving. I can set up systems and processes so that all the people who are in and out of my house, the people who help us keep our life together, that everybody knows when you know what the whistle's mean, so to speak. And in 2020, everything just came to a screeching halt, every system that I had built so that there was like some muscle memory in our family schedule and who was doing what and who's packing lunches and what happens on Tuesday. I was on Thursday. You can only make so many decisions and have so many conversations with people. If you don't have some systems and move that stuff forward, you get really buried. What I remember when I shifted from I have to try to get this chaos into order. That's what I was trying so hard to do. There were so many variables. I just couldn't when I shifted in my mind and said, this just going to be messy, Tiffany. It's just going to be messy. You just have to execute what you can. And so that would mean and I know these are like silly, but things like it might be loud in the room, but I need to do this meeting. It might be super messy when I go to bed, which is not a thing that I really love. And it's just going to have to be that way. We might need to have the exact same thing for lunch all week long. And I'm sorry about that. I don't have the capacity to have anything more creative than that. And it's just going to be messy. But I think we also have to give ourselves credit as professionals. And this is not about phoning it in, but sometimes getting something done at a seven. If you had two more hours, you can get it into a ten. You just need to ship it because that is what the environment will allow. I think we sometimes freeze up and get into this like perfectionist mindset when things are really chaotic instead of business, at least in ours, is not surgery, but in business like it's throughput. Get the landing page up, do the webinar, post the blog, do the sales call, make thirty cold calls, just do it. And yes, maybe in your best week if you made thirty cold calls you could have connected with. Twelve of them, and in your worst week, you could connect with four, but holy crap, do it. And I think we shut down from the behavior of just stick with the program because your energy starts to get really screwed up. At least mine does when I don't stick with the program and I'm trying to overcompensate and I'm trying to push all this perfectionism into these like tasks I have to do is just keep the flywheel spinning, just go. Because if I stop it, other people are going to catch me. But if I keep moving, I at least have a chance to be able to continue. Does that make any sense, Chris? What I'm saying?


Chris Byers: I think so. Actually, one of the things you said there that I loved was last year we really wanted an answer, but we were looking for how can we support people who do have kids at home or just to maybe give them four day workweeks to it. Like we went through all of the options. We did some surveys. And ultimately it was like, there's no answer. We need to just say we understand this is messy. I think that's a great way to say it. Talk to your manager. If you'll just keep them informed, we'll just roll with it. We don't have no idea how every day is going to work. And it worked. It wasn't enjoyable. It wasn't I'm sure it was super taxing on some people some days and less other days. But I think there's something powerful there to embrace both a lack of perfection at times, but also everything probably doesn't need an answer, even though we all want to get to an answer on every single question ever.

Tiffany Sauder This is, again, maybe an unpopular perspective, because I do think there's such an important role for us as leaders to have empathy for what people are going through. But this was the asterisk of all asterisks. This was unprecedented in every capacity. And what I told my team, every part of me wants to come in and try to make part of your life easier. Every part of me wants to try to make it so that you can sleep just 20 minutes longer. Every part of me wants to make it so I can get three fewer emails. Every part of me wants to make our clients a little happier for you somehow. But the reality of what we have to go through is that we are trying to make it into the playoffs as a team who knows how to compete. And we are beat up like we're scratched, we’re just a wreck, and we still have to take the field. And the good thing that happens when you start to see and start to, I think, gain ownership over the fact that, dang it, I can do really hard things. Then when people look at what it's like to be a CEO or an entrepreneur or having four kids a marriage in a company like sometimes it's just really hard, like really hard, like at the end of your rope part, and it doesn't stay like that forever. And so I think sometimes we also take away the gift from our people accidentally by wanting to be empathetic. We take away the feeling of this massive victory, this understanding of what they're really capable of, where we go past what we perceive our limits to be in a whole new place is opened up for us. I don't know either. I'd be open to your sort of feedback on that, Chris, because I feel like sometimes it's not popular to say it's hard and I'm sorry, but we have to do it anyway.

Chris Byers: I think one of the things I've seen, especially toward the end of twenty twenty, was a particular balance that I needed to shift away from, which is we've got high empathy, spent a lot of time with people, give them a ton of flexibility. And so, you know what? Yeah, we're going to have to flip this a little bit and say we do have a job to get done and we can't drag this out forever. That doesn't mean our flexibility is going to disappear. That doesn't mean it's all going to change. But I think the perspective I took was I did a lot of thinking, reading about World War II, and especially for people who lived in London at the time or England in general, and just how ultimately they had to get their lives going again, even in the midst of war happening all around them. And I think that is, to your point, a job of a leader. How do we help people stay focused? And a lot of ways it's encouraging to them. Some people give us feedback. Last year you'll stop talking about our feelings because I want to go to work and forget it. And so there seems to be moments for both.

Tiffany Sauder Yeah, I think we all needed to know, too, that we were bigger than it. This doesn't have to define every part of my existence. We are bigger than it. We are more than coronaviruses. We are more than this. And so but I don't mean we can defeat it like so to speak. But it's just I think people needed to know I am bigger. Like my life is bigger than this.

Chris Byers: Absolutely. You talked about fear earlier, I imagine experience some sort of fear last year. And it sounds like this year you're going to take that on. And a little bit of a new way in a podcast that you've got called Scared. Confident. Tell us about that. Tell us where the title came from and what you want to talk about.

Tiffany Sauder This has been a really fun project for me to work on. As I look back at my journey and the question behind the question that I see in people's eyes when they come and say, like, so what's it like? What's it take? Can I do this to like how does it look? We all I think, if we're honest, have these fears and we need to be real about them and give them language. And I think that we take back control from the fear when we have the courage to say this is a crap that's going on my head and heart right now. And I'm an. Talk about it, because then the fear doesn't have control over me, and what I found is that when I had the courage to be the most head on with fear, right behind that was where I had the most confidence. And so this kind of juxtaposition of scared, confident is, yeah, I'm scared and I'm so scared that I'm willing to talk about it so that I can get through it and really plants in confidence and clarity so that I can act and move forward with a clear mind. And, you know, I believe that I was created for a purpose. I believe that I have a role to play on this earth to make it a better place. And I think most of us, when we lay in bed at night, we're like, no, I am significant. I do need to be here. I do have people to impact and children to raise and families and communities and teams to impact. I'm here for a reason. And when we allow fear to control the narrative in our heads and hearts, then we don't get to step fully into who we were all individually designed to be. And so this is really kind of me going first, talking about the crap that has been in the way in my life, the things that I've learned from overcoming that, and also just to continue a transparent journey of what I'm learning and what life is teaching me. And then we'll also have some segments where we engage questions from the community, from people like me, me, 15 years ago, maybe me 15 years from now, asking questions of one another, of what does it mean and how do we confront this so that we can really empower people to step entirely into who they were made to be.


Chris Byers: Love that phrase you use about language. There was a moment last year where I was like, I don't know what this feeling is that's been on me, but it feels like a cloud that's just been laying over me for weeks or some long period of time. And somewhere in there I discovered it was grief and I was like, oh, OK, I can actually do something about it. Now that I know that I know there's a word that I actually know what that means, but I couldn't describe it better until somebody pointed that out. Tell us about the some of the language that you feel like you've learned to help take the fear and put it where it needs to be.

Tiffany Sauder I've just learned to export it to myself really early and then often to my team. And I think that all of us had fears in 2020 as leaders that we were just going to screw it up worse than it was already screwed up. And I was able to say, guys, I don't want to fail you like I'm afraid you, Chris, I think I've led a remote organization for a long time. I hadn't everybody was in our nest during the day, for the most part. I'm afraid I'm not going to know how to lead well in a remote environment. I'm afraid I'm going to not pick up on the signs that you need me in a way that I don't know how to show up for you. I had these fears and so for me it's just about I'm not a journalist, but it's a mental journaling of what am I afraid of? Where am I afraid that my blind spots are? And then my style is to export it and say, this is what I'm afraid of, but these are my intentions and this is what I'm working at. I need your feedback and we're working to be excellent for you. And these are the things that I want to be acutely aware of, that we may be failing and we need to be able to talk about that. And for me, again, it allows me to say, hey, I'm always on Zoom and I'm always like, what used to be a two directional conversation is now me jumping on as a voice of God, exporting information. Then everybody closes other. Zoom How do we not do that? Because that doesn't feel great to me and I'm not getting good feedback and so allows me to just ask more real questions and move past the assumptive.

Chris Byers: Much quicker the word that comes to mind when you're talking is the idea of transparency and really using that transparency of sharing more of just the thoughts that are often stuck in our heads. And often we don't think we're allowed to express out to other people. What advice would you give to people to like why do you think people aren't as transparent as they probably could be and how can they change that?

Tiffany Sauder I think we're not as transparent as we need to be because we are afraid. So I'll give like an extreme example from three, because it's harder to talk about the crappy things. So over the course of two years, Element three had three layoffs. Some of those were things inside of our control and some of those are things outside of our control. But that's a really shitty thing to have happened at a company. And so what I was really afraid of is that people were not going to believe my words anymore. And what I was really afraid of, if I was honest with myself, was like there was some secret coup or people are just going to walk out because they were so pissed off. And so we can continue to come into like town hall meetings and team meetings and pretend nobody knows that has happened. And then we get to work in this like contrived reality where everybody's pretend nice to each other. But I'm wondering and they're wondering, but we're not courageous enough to step into the real conversation or I like finally I was like, I'm just tired of this. I'm going to talk about it. And so I was like, OK, guys, let's go ahead and build this timeline about what happened and what I think is in all of your minds, in what I'm afraid of as a result of that. And my question to you is, so I built a timeline. Here's what happened. We all understand these are the questions I asked myself of this situation. How would you lead different? What different questions would you ask, how do you get ahead of this, how do you make sure it doesn't happen again? Biloela And then I was like and these are the things I'm afraid are going on in your head. And I exported those questions to them. And they're all like nodding their heads. Get those are totally our questions. I was like, OK, so can we talk about it now? And there was like this massive sigh of relief of let's talk about the crap in the middle of the room instead of keep walking around it. But there's a ton of fear. And if I talk about it, is it actually that they don't know and I'm going to bring it into their consciousness and then they're going to be like, oh, me, I didn't realize that. No, of course they know this very scary because you're super vulnerable, because what they might come back with is say, you're exactly right, Tiffany. There is a secret coup starting and everybody is going to walk out and then we're actually leaving in ten minutes, which is an area. But if that's what's happening, you would rather know. So does that make sense, Chris, like.

Chris Byers: Yeah, absolutely. At first I very much appreciate your just your transparency and vulnerability and sharing the story of layoffs, because if somebody doesn't know your story, they wouldn't necessarily know that. And I think as a leader, it's got to be one of the worst possible moments to think there's a chance it's coming to deal with it, to then rebuild trust afterward. But I love really that I think you're helping encourage people to just know that everybody has fears. It may not look like we have fears sometimes as leaders, but they're there. And in fact, as you express them, other people can come along and help you. And I think the more we can get people, we have a cultural value default to transparency. And what I tell people, we've got a lot of grace for you, if you will tell the truth and speak plainly about things rather than positioning and making sure it sounds good. And if your failures, like, just get it out there, I'll deal with that all day long. I don't want to deal with. Oh, it's going great. It's going great. But it's really not. But I think it's we can teach more people to do that. It creates some much better outcomes.

Tiffany Sauder And what I've learned, I think about this idea of fear and truth and transparency is that you can talk about it in the third person, meaning like we ought to be transparent. But when you actually are and let go first, it's trusting to people like for like, why would you record the fact that you lay people off three times a day? You're like, that's crappy. You don't want people to know that. But it starts, I think, to say, no, I'm honest, I'm serious. If I talk about the worst things I've been through as a matter of going first, then maybe we will begin to get this into practice such that we can have real conversations which we know, and building teams and building value and building companies is what creates a flywheel that spins faster than anybody else's. Because you're talking about the real things are really fast.

Chris Byers: I would love to hear what it is that drives the passion around getting this message out to more people. What's the experience they might be facing right now that you want to change?

Tiffany Sauder I think it's two things. I think on one hand, and you may be experiences, too, Chris, in that when you start to have like more visible success and people like, oh, to our mama for wife, CEO, entrepreneur, it's like those are all like pretty flowers. It was pretty sucky to get there. So let's also be sure that we're giving that part of the story its day in court because it feels disingenuous to just talk about the accomplishment side without being real about what's it look like to get there. Some of my most joyful parts of the story is overcoming things that I had no idea that I could survive. And I think that I want people to find courage in both sides of the story, both the one that's published and the part of it that was really hard so that it normalizes their own experience. I think that's part of it. And the other piece is just to create a more like I have these conversations with there's like three personas. One is twenty four to twenty nine year old young woman who's looking at you saying, like, I'm really jammin’ in my career right now. I think I've got some pretty cool opportunities. I'm starting to get a read on what I want to do. I also would like to have a baby and I'm real confused about how to put those two things together. And so I have these really amazing conversations in one of ways with that woman and to record it and be able to share it so that I can have that, quote unquote conversation with lots of people. I think there's a lot of value in just sharing those real questions. The other, like I share it, is like more like my dad, people who are sometimes clients of mine, colleagues, other CEOs who have young daughters or sons who are coming up. And they're starting to say, hey, it's a different world. How do I encourage her or him in this pursuit of a two career home? How do I encourage them? How do I give them skills to balance what it means to be a professional and a parent? How do I help them? And they're looking for resources in it. There's nothing to share. And then the third is those people exactly in my seat where they're like, OK, I'm sitting here. I am a mom, I am an entrepreneur. I do have a career. I have chosen children, those three people. I want to be able to say, here's my story, if it can help you. I'm real specific about saying this is not a podcast about what you should do. It's simply sharing the things that I've learned, the people I've met. The stories have helped me on my. Own journey so that we can get real clear and the decisions and permission that we give ourselves to step real confidently into the roles that we've chosen in life,

Chris Byers: as you talk about this, especially having children. Sounds like a pretty big topic that you're thinking about. How do I help people tackle that more often and the challenges of how is this going to impact my career, et cetera? What's your word for the men who are listening to this? What do you want them to hear? What do you want us to learn?

Tiffany Sauder I wish I only had one word. I think that one of the things I'm really passionate about is it needs to be about equal opportunity and it needs to be up to the woman to choose what she wants or doesn't want to walk into. And I think one of the things I'm really careful about is if you decide to say no to a promotion or you decide to say no to an assignment or to a big family move or something like that, because it's not right for your family, that doesn't make you less than or wimpy or that you should have that might totally be the right thing for your family. And so I think as male leaders, as business owners who are men or managers, making sure that you don't make that decision for that woman and saying, oh, she's got a lot of kids or her husband has a big job or whatever, the thing is that you think may make her more or less likely to be able to step into that opportunity if she's work for it, give her the opportunity. And what she chooses to do is totally inside of her own. That's inside her control and power. I think for me, women who have worked for it, making sure that they have equal opportunity and women, if you don't choose to step into it, that doesn't mean that you've failed. That just means that you've own that choice. And that's totally fine.

Chris Byers: I always feel like this is something that is maybe I don't know that this works for everybody, but I love what you're talking about, because for my wife and I, we, especially for every major decision, will often go through this period of time. Or one of us like, oh, yeah, this is the thing. This is the answer. And but the other person doesn't get there. I can't think of many times where we move forward, where we haven't ultimately kept that balance going back and forth until ultimately we're like, oh yeah, that's the decision. We're both on board and it feels like the right decision. And I think that I just can't tell you how powerful that is. I think for both of us to feel the confidence of each other supporting each other, and we've made moves across the country for each other at different times. And so I think we should be calling people to to work on that more often, to really say how can we make these decisions together? And it's not one person's over the others.

Tiffany Sauder I think that's I think there's a great point, Chris. I know my husband and I as we've built our careers over the last 20 years, there have been years where my quote unquote career was on the back seat in our family, which meant that he had license to leave early, get home late if he needed to work a Saturday. He was traveling a lot. I needed to say yes and no to things that allowed me to be more flexible in that season for him because I understood the opportunity in front of him and that was the right thing for our family and vice versa. There have been years where he knew that Season three was going to take every ounce of blood, sweat and tears that I had. And it very much has been a dance of both of us being able to achieve some really awesome things. But it has you know, we've staggered that knowing that our kids need something from us, we've got things that we need to take care of that isn't just us in our careers alone.

Chris Byers: Well, each conversation we have on the show ends up highlighting innovative ideas and fresh perspectives. Tiffani's encouraging people to lean into fear as a catalyst for pushing past limitations. Tiven, if you could give advice to our listeners, what would you say is the first step to embracing fear as a way to create impact for their business or personal life?

Tiffany Sauder Just try it. Don't try to overthink it. Think about it as an experiment, find a fear, decide you're going to name it, make sure you're clear on it, and then export it to the people or the audiences that are coming into contact with you in that way, because chances are they sense it. And when you give it language, it allows you to have a conversation at a totally different level. So that would be my advice. Try it, give it a shot. Let me know how it goes.

Chris Byers: Excellent. What do you hope people take away after hearing your story?

Tiffany Sauder I hope that they see that there's so much power and transparency. I hope that they also see that we're all a work in process. And anyone that you see that maybe looks like they have so many badges and stickers that there's always a story there. And so listen patiently for the lessons, because there's a lot people can share when you're vulnerable yourself and you really ask what's going on

Chris Byers: and what do you think people listening can do differently in their day to day to create a positive impact for others?

Tiffany Sauder I hope one of the things, as I reflect on fear I have also come to understand is that it's an incredibly selfish posture. Fear is like, well, what will people think of me? What will people say? What are people's expectations of me? And it's very much inward. It's very selfish posture. And when we are able to break through fear and step wholly into our lessons and what life has taught us and what we have to share, there's so many people around us who are waiting to be impacted. And when we live in a posture of fear, all arrows are pointed inward. And I think it gives us a chance to just impact the things around us. When we step outside of that, outside of ourselves,

Chris Byers: you get any future ideas, things you're thinking about how to. Can impact as you're going forward this year,

Tiffany Sauder I'm really excited about leaning into scared, confident and seeing where it goes. I just read the Matthew McConaughey greenlights book. I don't know if you've read that, Chris, but my big takeaway was focus on the craft of it and we'll let the outcome be what it is. But I'm really excited just to share vulnerably, to engage in conversation and understand what people's questions are and see where all goes.

Chris Byers: To learn more about how people are reimagining their world of work, head over to formstack.com/practically-genius. Thanks for joining us on this episode of Ripple Effect.

Chris Byers: Fear is something we don't often think about, let alone discuss its role in our work for Tiffany Sauder, CEO of Element Three, a marketing consultant. The fear is what has allowed her to push past boundaries, and she inspires others to do the same. I'm Chris Byers, of Formstack, and this is Ripple Effect, a show celebrating the impact decisions create. In the conversation with Tiffany will talk about her journey through business and motherhood and how she's learned hard lessons to encourage other leaders to take action in their own lives by pushing past fear. Tiffany, tell us what made you decide to start your own business 15 years ago, what convinced you to leave a corporate job and go out on your own? How did that journey begin?

Tiffany Sauder Hi, Chris. Thanks for having me on. You were an entrepreneur and founder. You know that the journey that you map is not always the one that you go on 15 years ago and we started at three or bought this little small mom and pop agency, we were really at a place where marketing was undergoing a massive amount of transformation. But you don't always know that you're in a transformation moment. But we really started to see and understand that marketing was going to have a real seat at the table as it related to just business acumen. And how did we not just make things look better, but really understand how marketing plugged in to set up the right text at the right measurement, the right scorecard, the very attribution? I am a kid of an entrepreneur, so I think some of it is environmental. My dad started his own business when I was in third grade. Risk was something that was ever present. But you don't know that. It's just very normal. And so when I got out of school and started in a big company, I started to recognize it's going to be a real long time before somebody lets me make a decision of any real size or consequence. And how do we come in and really not just make more marketing tactics, but really learn and understand what's it like to come around alongside companies and build brands? It's been a fun ride. You probably feel the same way I dreamed about being here, but I didn't dare wish for it or plan on it. So, yeah, it's been great. We've learned a lot.

Chris Byers: That's awesome. I definitely have had feelings I don't think I ever imagined. As I look back at the 10 or 11 years I've been at this, at how far we would have come, I think even early days, I probably would have been like, oh, what's max out at some size and just have fun. And somewhere along the way, that kind of changes. Can you share a pivotal moment in the journey where your company could have gone one way, but it ultimately went another?

Tiffany Sauder I think about this both at a personal level and a professional one. I think it's really connected us. And I love the title of your podcast of Ripple Effect, because there are these moments and decisions that have a massive ripple effect, not only on your own journey and the inflection point of your own life, but also I think, in what you have to give back to others who you then brush up against in life. And this concept of fear, I think I felt it the most acutely. I feel like I've been in business long enough to have felt two very turbulent times. And we were in the first few years of Element three when we hit the 08 09 financial crisis. And I was absolutely paralyzed that time around with fear. They talk about fight or flight or freeze. And I was I just froze. And this journey of being a professional and a person, this identity of also being a mom and also being an entrepreneur, they really started to braid themselves together tightly in that moment. And we had our first daughter in 2009 also just riding a freight train into a brick wall with element three at that time, because everything just came to a screeching halt and I had absolutely no idea what to do. And so I just froze. And in many ways I just ignored it and I just panicked. It's not an overstatement to say in one hundred days of indecision, I spent about a thousand days paying for that, like quite literally financially. And so I think that as I look at different authors and people who are platforms for messages, usually they're talking about the thing that they're terrible at. And I think that's why fear is so acute to me is because I felt it in such a way that I had a chance to completely derail and I would say really be an end point for element three. Or I could choose to buck up and trudge through this fear event that was absolutely paralyzing me. And I was just scared to death. I was scared about being a mom. I was scared that Element three was literally going to evaporate overnight. I was afraid that I didn't actually know marketing. I was afraid that I wasn't a leader. I was afraid to talk to my people because I didn't know what to say to them. I was afraid to talk to my family because I didn't want to be a failure. I was like I just was consumed by it. And I think that experience was so big for me. And I can feel it still so acutely that I knew if I did not figure out how to get a mastery of this monster of fear that I was going to be held back in so many ways from what I really feel is a calling on my life, it's not just like the things I want. It's like the things I feel like I'm called the impact. And the sort of the mountain of fear that I needed to chase down was really years of work to understand. What did that mean? How was it influencing me? And fear moves. It's not like a static thing. So it's not like I have a mastery of this, but it's certainly that I as something I've spent some time practicing.

Chris Byers: Yeah, you're right. Like the fear that I think especially as leaders experience is first of all, I think it can come and go and moments and then it can come and go and. For days or weeks or long periods of time, so I'm curious. Something obviously hit and allowed you to say, yep, this is terrible. I don't like living in fear. And you flip that around. What happened?

Tiffany Sauder I think this part of the story, sometimes I tell it, sometimes I don't. But I will. Today I was at a real crossroads. And when you have a baby and there's other life events, but having a baby is one I've done four times now. And it's just this time where you no matter how committed you are to the thing in front of you, you just take stock of what's going on around you. Does all this still work for my life? Do you want to go back? Do you want to go part time doing work for yourself, like all this kind of stuff? So I had a baby in January 2009 and that was right in the crux of everything falling apart. And I knew stepping back into Element three was like just an epic shitstorm. And so I remember being at home being like, I can make this very hard thing go away in a way that is going to be pretty socially acceptable in that I can say I want to be a stay at home mom now. That's what I'm going to do. I loved my five years at all. My three, we did something, didn't work out so great. I have maybe some debt to figure out how to get out from under, but I'm going to stay home now with this baby. That feels like a much better outcome to spend my time on than this mess that I have at Aliment three. And I don't tell that story in the sense to say like that being a stay at home mom is a bad thing. It's a lovely calling, but in my heart, in my gut, in my DNA, I knew at that moment in time at least, that's not what I was called to do, that in choosing to go home and be home full time and have that to be my full time job, that I was walking away from a challenge that I needed to go through. But I full on, didn't want to like I wanted to avoid that the tsunami with everything that I could. And I at least recognized in that decision making journey, I can, like, play both sides of the conversation. One is, wow, this looks lovely. Let's stay home. And the other side was like, you're just being a chicken, Tiffany. And I could at least see that while I didn't know what the behavior needed to be, if I was going to go through the fire, I at least knew it was going to happen one minute at a time. And so at least for me, when I'm going through a fear event, I have to make it really small so that I can start to get momentum of, OK, that wasn't as bad as I expected. OK, I returned the phone call. They didn't eat me. I'm still alive or I paid three percent of what I owed them. At least I don't owe them one hundred percent anymore. You know, like these tiny victories started to give me momentum and it wasn't so much about that. The outcome was amazingly better. It was that I started to get more courage in chasing down these little micro behaviors that were going to ultimately lead to us getting through this. And again, I think for me, what I found, whether it be when my marriage is in a crappy spot, when I have a friendship that's in a crappy spot or my businesses, it doesn't switch to good fast. It seems like it goes to bad fast, but usually things happen slowly, all of a sudden sort of on the downhill slope. And when you're slogging and trying to get things back to your plum line or to good, it takes longer than you want it to. And I think that stamina was something that I in my immaturity, in my youth, I just didn't have an appreciation for.

Chris Byers: If I can think of anything that feels like a long, slow journey, it's in teaching and shaping and encouraging your kids and years. And you're like, why is that characteristic? Still, they're never improving. And then overnight, something finally changes. So I totally understand that long process that we often go through to to make really positive change. You're obviously a strong advocate for mothers, especially working mothers. Tell us more about your family and why you started sharing your experiences as a working mother.

Tiffany Sauder My mom was a stay at home mom and I grew up in a small rural community. And so the idea of a professional woman like literally was things I saw on TV, but I didn't really I didn't grow up around it. I didn't see the women who worked in my community had jobs that they went to, but they weren't careers. It's something that I kind of knew about from afar but didn't have any real look or understanding of what's it like to experience that. But something about me, even as a little girl, just loved the energy of these women who seemed like they're going places. They have a sense of urgency, the sense of purpose. And I definitely am a sort of sense of urgency person. I just was really attracted to that sort of aura, even though I looked at that from afar. I think the picture that I had that was so close to me, I just imagined I would at some point get to a place where I was a stay at home mom. And I just it never really felt right to my heart into my DNA. And so I've had to figure a lot of this out on. My own and in my extreme brain, it was like, if I'm a professional woman, then that means that I need to turn off the, like, maternal desires that I have. And if I'm a mom, then that means I have to turn off these, like, really competitive. I want to win business side of me. And I thought about it in such a binary way for a long time. And I felt some, I think, guilt around that, that if I wasn't 100 percent rough and tough, then I wasn't really a business person playing the game well. And if I wasn't completely maternal then I wasn't doing the mom thing and about I don't know when it was, but I started to see, like maybe the uniqueness of these two things is actually the most important thing about me. And you've probably found this to Chris, like the things I've learned about leadership and about mentoring young talent and helping young people go into situations that they're not quite ready for, but you start to see how they behave and the decisions they make. And becoming a leader in that way and practicing that for 15, 16 years has made me such a better parent and vice versa. Watching my kids and teaching them values and understanding that the way I guide them in the big picture of their life creates so much more ownership over the decisions that they make that makes me a better leader. And so I started to see maybe I don't have to emulate one of those extreme personas that I have in my head. Maybe I can be both. And how do I figure out how those fit together for me in a way that works and is sustainable? I think over the last few years I've gone through different boards that I'm on and organizations with young people, even things like that, or fellowship. I started to see a lot of young women, a lot of young professionals, a lot of parents who are in their 60s, who have kids that are coming up and they're choosing a different family environment maybe than the one they grew up. And they're looking for resources, say, how do you do this? And while I don't have it figured out completely, I feel really passionate about sharing at least what we have tried, what we've learned, the struggles that we've been through as a family, and how that sort of refined us. And I just think that it needs a voice. I think more and more families are choosing to career homes, and there's a really specific stress that creates and I think we need to normalize it. I think that we need to start to have language to talk about it.

Chris Byers: Last year, it was really fascinating, not probably in a great way to just observe how it was working mothers who had the absolute toughest environment around them. The best way to say that if there was anybody who the kids were going to fall to just a little bit more, if not a lot more, it was the working mothers, especially at least hear it from Stack. And so I'm curious, how did you address last year both as you were helping working mothers and yourself? How did you tackle that?

Tiffany Sauder Last year was really hard. I think a lot of us exited twenty twenty, just really tired on top of it. I was pregnant and had a baby. And for me this is not a fix, but it does help me. Some of it is changing your expectations. Most of us who have chosen both careers and families are just massive achievers. And so sometimes it's first dealing with your own mindset that can change the environment around you. So, for example, for me, I can keep a lot of trains moving. I can set up systems and processes so that all the people who are in and out of my house, the people who help us keep our life together, that everybody knows when you know what the whistle's mean, so to speak. And in 2020, everything just came to a screeching halt, every system that I had built so that there was like some muscle memory in our family schedule and who was doing what and who's packing lunches and what happens on Tuesday. I was on Thursday. You can only make so many decisions and have so many conversations with people. If you don't have some systems and move that stuff forward, you get really buried. What I remember when I shifted from I have to try to get this chaos into order. That's what I was trying so hard to do. There were so many variables. I just couldn't when I shifted in my mind and said, this just going to be messy, Tiffany. It's just going to be messy. You just have to execute what you can. And so that would mean and I know these are like silly, but things like it might be loud in the room, but I need to do this meeting. It might be super messy when I go to bed, which is not a thing that I really love. And it's just going to have to be that way. We might need to have the exact same thing for lunch all week long. And I'm sorry about that. I don't have the capacity to have anything more creative than that. And it's just going to be messy. But I think we also have to give ourselves credit as professionals. And this is not about phoning it in, but sometimes getting something done at a seven. If you had two more hours, you can get it into a ten. You just need to ship it because that is what the environment will allow. I think we sometimes freeze up and get into this like perfectionist mindset when things are really chaotic instead of business, at least in ours, is not surgery, but in business like it's throughput. Get the landing page up, do the webinar, post the blog, do the sales call, make thirty cold calls, just do it. And yes, maybe in your best week if you made thirty cold calls you could have connected with. Twelve of them, and in your worst week, you could connect with four, but holy crap, do it. And I think we shut down from the behavior of just stick with the program because your energy starts to get really screwed up. At least mine does when I don't stick with the program and I'm trying to overcompensate and I'm trying to push all this perfectionism into these like tasks I have to do is just keep the flywheel spinning, just go. Because if I stop it, other people are going to catch me. But if I keep moving, I at least have a chance to be able to continue. Does that make any sense, Chris? What I'm saying?


Chris Byers: I think so. Actually, one of the things you said there that I loved was last year we really wanted an answer, but we were looking for how can we support people who do have kids at home or just to maybe give them four day workweeks to it. Like we went through all of the options. We did some surveys. And ultimately it was like, there's no answer. We need to just say we understand this is messy. I think that's a great way to say it. Talk to your manager. If you'll just keep them informed, we'll just roll with it. We don't have no idea how every day is going to work. And it worked. It wasn't enjoyable. It wasn't I'm sure it was super taxing on some people some days and less other days. But I think there's something powerful there to embrace both a lack of perfection at times, but also everything probably doesn't need an answer, even though we all want to get to an answer on every single question ever.

Tiffany Sauder This is, again, maybe an unpopular perspective, because I do think there's such an important role for us as leaders to have empathy for what people are going through. But this was the asterisk of all asterisks. This was unprecedented in every capacity. And what I told my team, every part of me wants to come in and try to make part of your life easier. Every part of me wants to try to make it so that you can sleep just 20 minutes longer. Every part of me wants to make it so I can get three fewer emails. Every part of me wants to make our clients a little happier for you somehow. But the reality of what we have to go through is that we are trying to make it into the playoffs as a team who knows how to compete. And we are beat up like we're scratched, we’re just a wreck, and we still have to take the field. And the good thing that happens when you start to see and start to, I think, gain ownership over the fact that, dang it, I can do really hard things. Then when people look at what it's like to be a CEO or an entrepreneur or having four kids a marriage in a company like sometimes it's just really hard, like really hard, like at the end of your rope part, and it doesn't stay like that forever. And so I think sometimes we also take away the gift from our people accidentally by wanting to be empathetic. We take away the feeling of this massive victory, this understanding of what they're really capable of, where we go past what we perceive our limits to be in a whole new place is opened up for us. I don't know either. I'd be open to your sort of feedback on that, Chris, because I feel like sometimes it's not popular to say it's hard and I'm sorry, but we have to do it anyway.

Chris Byers: I think one of the things I've seen, especially toward the end of twenty twenty, was a particular balance that I needed to shift away from, which is we've got high empathy, spent a lot of time with people, give them a ton of flexibility. And so, you know what? Yeah, we're going to have to flip this a little bit and say we do have a job to get done and we can't drag this out forever. That doesn't mean our flexibility is going to disappear. That doesn't mean it's all going to change. But I think the perspective I took was I did a lot of thinking, reading about World War II, and especially for people who lived in London at the time or England in general, and just how ultimately they had to get their lives going again, even in the midst of war happening all around them. And I think that is, to your point, a job of a leader. How do we help people stay focused? And a lot of ways it's encouraging to them. Some people give us feedback. Last year you'll stop talking about our feelings because I want to go to work and forget it. And so there seems to be moments for both.

Tiffany Sauder Yeah, I think we all needed to know, too, that we were bigger than it. This doesn't have to define every part of my existence. We are bigger than it. We are more than coronaviruses. We are more than this. And so but I don't mean we can defeat it like so to speak. But it's just I think people needed to know I am bigger. Like my life is bigger than this.

Chris Byers: Absolutely. You talked about fear earlier, I imagine experience some sort of fear last year. And it sounds like this year you're going to take that on. And a little bit of a new way in a podcast that you've got called Scared. Confident. Tell us about that. Tell us where the title came from and what you want to talk about.

Tiffany Sauder This has been a really fun project for me to work on. As I look back at my journey and the question behind the question that I see in people's eyes when they come and say, like, so what's it like? What's it take? Can I do this to like how does it look? We all I think, if we're honest, have these fears and we need to be real about them and give them language. And I think that we take back control from the fear when we have the courage to say this is a crap that's going on my head and heart right now. And I'm an. Talk about it, because then the fear doesn't have control over me, and what I found is that when I had the courage to be the most head on with fear, right behind that was where I had the most confidence. And so this kind of juxtaposition of scared, confident is, yeah, I'm scared and I'm so scared that I'm willing to talk about it so that I can get through it and really plants in confidence and clarity so that I can act and move forward with a clear mind. And, you know, I believe that I was created for a purpose. I believe that I have a role to play on this earth to make it a better place. And I think most of us, when we lay in bed at night, we're like, no, I am significant. I do need to be here. I do have people to impact and children to raise and families and communities and teams to impact. I'm here for a reason. And when we allow fear to control the narrative in our heads and hearts, then we don't get to step fully into who we were all individually designed to be. And so this is really kind of me going first, talking about the crap that has been in the way in my life, the things that I've learned from overcoming that, and also just to continue a transparent journey of what I'm learning and what life is teaching me. And then we'll also have some segments where we engage questions from the community, from people like me, me, 15 years ago, maybe me 15 years from now, asking questions of one another, of what does it mean and how do we confront this so that we can really empower people to step entirely into who they were made to be.


Chris Byers: Love that phrase you use about language. There was a moment last year where I was like, I don't know what this feeling is that's been on me, but it feels like a cloud that's just been laying over me for weeks or some long period of time. And somewhere in there I discovered it was grief and I was like, oh, OK, I can actually do something about it. Now that I know that I know there's a word that I actually know what that means, but I couldn't describe it better until somebody pointed that out. Tell us about the some of the language that you feel like you've learned to help take the fear and put it where it needs to be.

Tiffany Sauder I've just learned to export it to myself really early and then often to my team. And I think that all of us had fears in 2020 as leaders that we were just going to screw it up worse than it was already screwed up. And I was able to say, guys, I don't want to fail you like I'm afraid you, Chris, I think I've led a remote organization for a long time. I hadn't everybody was in our nest during the day, for the most part. I'm afraid I'm not going to know how to lead well in a remote environment. I'm afraid I'm going to not pick up on the signs that you need me in a way that I don't know how to show up for you. I had these fears and so for me it's just about I'm not a journalist, but it's a mental journaling of what am I afraid of? Where am I afraid that my blind spots are? And then my style is to export it and say, this is what I'm afraid of, but these are my intentions and this is what I'm working at. I need your feedback and we're working to be excellent for you. And these are the things that I want to be acutely aware of, that we may be failing and we need to be able to talk about that. And for me, again, it allows me to say, hey, I'm always on Zoom and I'm always like, what used to be a two directional conversation is now me jumping on as a voice of God, exporting information. Then everybody closes other. Zoom How do we not do that? Because that doesn't feel great to me and I'm not getting good feedback and so allows me to just ask more real questions and move past the assumptive.

Chris Byers: Much quicker the word that comes to mind when you're talking is the idea of transparency and really using that transparency of sharing more of just the thoughts that are often stuck in our heads. And often we don't think we're allowed to express out to other people. What advice would you give to people to like why do you think people aren't as transparent as they probably could be and how can they change that?

Tiffany Sauder I think we're not as transparent as we need to be because we are afraid. So I'll give like an extreme example from three, because it's harder to talk about the crappy things. So over the course of two years, Element three had three layoffs. Some of those were things inside of our control and some of those are things outside of our control. But that's a really shitty thing to have happened at a company. And so what I was really afraid of is that people were not going to believe my words anymore. And what I was really afraid of, if I was honest with myself, was like there was some secret coup or people are just going to walk out because they were so pissed off. And so we can continue to come into like town hall meetings and team meetings and pretend nobody knows that has happened. And then we get to work in this like contrived reality where everybody's pretend nice to each other. But I'm wondering and they're wondering, but we're not courageous enough to step into the real conversation or I like finally I was like, I'm just tired of this. I'm going to talk about it. And so I was like, OK, guys, let's go ahead and build this timeline about what happened and what I think is in all of your minds, in what I'm afraid of as a result of that. And my question to you is, so I built a timeline. Here's what happened. We all understand these are the questions I asked myself of this situation. How would you lead different? What different questions would you ask, how do you get ahead of this, how do you make sure it doesn't happen again? Biloela And then I was like and these are the things I'm afraid are going on in your head. And I exported those questions to them. And they're all like nodding their heads. Get those are totally our questions. I was like, OK, so can we talk about it now? And there was like this massive sigh of relief of let's talk about the crap in the middle of the room instead of keep walking around it. But there's a ton of fear. And if I talk about it, is it actually that they don't know and I'm going to bring it into their consciousness and then they're going to be like, oh, me, I didn't realize that. No, of course they know this very scary because you're super vulnerable, because what they might come back with is say, you're exactly right, Tiffany. There is a secret coup starting and everybody is going to walk out and then we're actually leaving in ten minutes, which is an area. But if that's what's happening, you would rather know. So does that make sense, Chris, like.

Chris Byers: Yeah, absolutely. At first I very much appreciate your just your transparency and vulnerability and sharing the story of layoffs, because if somebody doesn't know your story, they wouldn't necessarily know that. And I think as a leader, it's got to be one of the worst possible moments to think there's a chance it's coming to deal with it, to then rebuild trust afterward. But I love really that I think you're helping encourage people to just know that everybody has fears. It may not look like we have fears sometimes as leaders, but they're there. And in fact, as you express them, other people can come along and help you. And I think the more we can get people, we have a cultural value default to transparency. And what I tell people, we've got a lot of grace for you, if you will tell the truth and speak plainly about things rather than positioning and making sure it sounds good. And if your failures, like, just get it out there, I'll deal with that all day long. I don't want to deal with. Oh, it's going great. It's going great. But it's really not. But I think it's we can teach more people to do that. It creates some much better outcomes.

Tiffany Sauder And what I've learned, I think about this idea of fear and truth and transparency is that you can talk about it in the third person, meaning like we ought to be transparent. But when you actually are and let go first, it's trusting to people like for like, why would you record the fact that you lay people off three times a day? You're like, that's crappy. You don't want people to know that. But it starts, I think, to say, no, I'm honest, I'm serious. If I talk about the worst things I've been through as a matter of going first, then maybe we will begin to get this into practice such that we can have real conversations which we know, and building teams and building value and building companies is what creates a flywheel that spins faster than anybody else's. Because you're talking about the real things are really fast.

Chris Byers: I would love to hear what it is that drives the passion around getting this message out to more people. What's the experience they might be facing right now that you want to change?

Tiffany Sauder I think it's two things. I think on one hand, and you may be experiences, too, Chris, in that when you start to have like more visible success and people like, oh, to our mama for wife, CEO, entrepreneur, it's like those are all like pretty flowers. It was pretty sucky to get there. So let's also be sure that we're giving that part of the story its day in court because it feels disingenuous to just talk about the accomplishment side without being real about what's it look like to get there. Some of my most joyful parts of the story is overcoming things that I had no idea that I could survive. And I think that I want people to find courage in both sides of the story, both the one that's published and the part of it that was really hard so that it normalizes their own experience. I think that's part of it. And the other piece is just to create a more like I have these conversations with there's like three personas. One is twenty four to twenty nine year old young woman who's looking at you saying, like, I'm really jammin’ in my career right now. I think I've got some pretty cool opportunities. I'm starting to get a read on what I want to do. I also would like to have a baby and I'm real confused about how to put those two things together. And so I have these really amazing conversations in one of ways with that woman and to record it and be able to share it so that I can have that, quote unquote conversation with lots of people. I think there's a lot of value in just sharing those real questions. The other, like I share it, is like more like my dad, people who are sometimes clients of mine, colleagues, other CEOs who have young daughters or sons who are coming up. And they're starting to say, hey, it's a different world. How do I encourage her or him in this pursuit of a two career home? How do I encourage them? How do I give them skills to balance what it means to be a professional and a parent? How do I help them? And they're looking for resources in it. There's nothing to share. And then the third is those people exactly in my seat where they're like, OK, I'm sitting here. I am a mom, I am an entrepreneur. I do have a career. I have chosen children, those three people. I want to be able to say, here's my story, if it can help you. I'm real specific about saying this is not a podcast about what you should do. It's simply sharing the things that I've learned, the people I've met. The stories have helped me on my. Own journey so that we can get real clear and the decisions and permission that we give ourselves to step real confidently into the roles that we've chosen in life,

Chris Byers: as you talk about this, especially having children. Sounds like a pretty big topic that you're thinking about. How do I help people tackle that more often and the challenges of how is this going to impact my career, et cetera? What's your word for the men who are listening to this? What do you want them to hear? What do you want us to learn?

Tiffany Sauder I wish I only had one word. I think that one of the things I'm really passionate about is it needs to be about equal opportunity and it needs to be up to the woman to choose what she wants or doesn't want to walk into. And I think one of the things I'm really careful about is if you decide to say no to a promotion or you decide to say no to an assignment or to a big family move or something like that, because it's not right for your family, that doesn't make you less than or wimpy or that you should have that might totally be the right thing for your family. And so I think as male leaders, as business owners who are men or managers, making sure that you don't make that decision for that woman and saying, oh, she's got a lot of kids or her husband has a big job or whatever, the thing is that you think may make her more or less likely to be able to step into that opportunity if she's work for it, give her the opportunity. And what she chooses to do is totally inside of her own. That's inside her control and power. I think for me, women who have worked for it, making sure that they have equal opportunity and women, if you don't choose to step into it, that doesn't mean that you've failed. That just means that you've own that choice. And that's totally fine.

Chris Byers: I always feel like this is something that is maybe I don't know that this works for everybody, but I love what you're talking about, because for my wife and I, we, especially for every major decision, will often go through this period of time. Or one of us like, oh, yeah, this is the thing. This is the answer. And but the other person doesn't get there. I can't think of many times where we move forward, where we haven't ultimately kept that balance going back and forth until ultimately we're like, oh yeah, that's the decision. We're both on board and it feels like the right decision. And I think that I just can't tell you how powerful that is. I think for both of us to feel the confidence of each other supporting each other, and we've made moves across the country for each other at different times. And so I think we should be calling people to to work on that more often, to really say how can we make these decisions together? And it's not one person's over the others.

Tiffany Sauder I think that's I think there's a great point, Chris. I know my husband and I as we've built our careers over the last 20 years, there have been years where my quote unquote career was on the back seat in our family, which meant that he had license to leave early, get home late if he needed to work a Saturday. He was traveling a lot. I needed to say yes and no to things that allowed me to be more flexible in that season for him because I understood the opportunity in front of him and that was the right thing for our family and vice versa. There have been years where he knew that Season three was going to take every ounce of blood, sweat and tears that I had. And it very much has been a dance of both of us being able to achieve some really awesome things. But it has you know, we've staggered that knowing that our kids need something from us, we've got things that we need to take care of that isn't just us in our careers alone.

Chris Byers: Well, each conversation we have on the show ends up highlighting innovative ideas and fresh perspectives. Tiffani's encouraging people to lean into fear as a catalyst for pushing past limitations. Tiven, if you could give advice to our listeners, what would you say is the first step to embracing fear as a way to create impact for their business or personal life?

Tiffany Sauder Just try it. Don't try to overthink it. Think about it as an experiment, find a fear, decide you're going to name it, make sure you're clear on it, and then export it to the people or the audiences that are coming into contact with you in that way, because chances are they sense it. And when you give it language, it allows you to have a conversation at a totally different level. So that would be my advice. Try it, give it a shot. Let me know how it goes.

Chris Byers: Excellent. What do you hope people take away after hearing your story?

Tiffany Sauder I hope that they see that there's so much power and transparency. I hope that they also see that we're all a work in process. And anyone that you see that maybe looks like they have so many badges and stickers that there's always a story there. And so listen patiently for the lessons, because there's a lot people can share when you're vulnerable yourself and you really ask what's going on

Chris Byers: and what do you think people listening can do differently in their day to day to create a positive impact for others?

Tiffany Sauder I hope one of the things, as I reflect on fear I have also come to understand is that it's an incredibly selfish posture. Fear is like, well, what will people think of me? What will people say? What are people's expectations of me? And it's very much inward. It's very selfish posture. And when we are able to break through fear and step wholly into our lessons and what life has taught us and what we have to share, there's so many people around us who are waiting to be impacted. And when we live in a posture of fear, all arrows are pointed inward. And I think it gives us a chance to just impact the things around us. When we step outside of that, outside of ourselves,

Chris Byers: you get any future ideas, things you're thinking about how to. Can impact as you're going forward this year,

Tiffany Sauder I'm really excited about leaning into scared, confident and seeing where it goes. I just read the Matthew McConaughey greenlights book. I don't know if you've read that, Chris, but my big takeaway was focus on the craft of it and we'll let the outcome be what it is. But I'm really excited just to share vulnerably, to engage in conversation and understand what people's questions are and see where all goes.

Chris Byers: To learn more about how people are reimagining their world of work, head over to formstack.com/practically-genius. Thanks for joining us on this episode of Ripple Effect.

Chris Byers: Fear is something we don't often think about, let alone discuss its role in our work for Tiffany Sauder, CEO of Element Three, a marketing consultant. The fear is what has allowed her to push past boundaries, and she inspires others to do the same. I'm Chris Byers, of Formstack, and this is Ripple Effect, a show celebrating the impact decisions create. In the conversation with Tiffany will talk about her journey through business and motherhood and how she's learned hard lessons to encourage other leaders to take action in their own lives by pushing past fear. Tiffany, tell us what made you decide to start your own business 15 years ago, what convinced you to leave a corporate job and go out on your own? How did that journey begin?

Tiffany Sauder Hi, Chris. Thanks for having me on. You were an entrepreneur and founder. You know that the journey that you map is not always the one that you go on 15 years ago and we started at three or bought this little small mom and pop agency, we were really at a place where marketing was undergoing a massive amount of transformation. But you don't always know that you're in a transformation moment. But we really started to see and understand that marketing was going to have a real seat at the table as it related to just business acumen. And how did we not just make things look better, but really understand how marketing plugged in to set up the right text at the right measurement, the right scorecard, the very attribution? I am a kid of an entrepreneur, so I think some of it is environmental. My dad started his own business when I was in third grade. Risk was something that was ever present. But you don't know that. It's just very normal. And so when I got out of school and started in a big company, I started to recognize it's going to be a real long time before somebody lets me make a decision of any real size or consequence. And how do we come in and really not just make more marketing tactics, but really learn and understand what's it like to come around alongside companies and build brands? It's been a fun ride. You probably feel the same way I dreamed about being here, but I didn't dare wish for it or plan on it. So, yeah, it's been great. We've learned a lot.

Chris Byers: That's awesome. I definitely have had feelings I don't think I ever imagined. As I look back at the 10 or 11 years I've been at this, at how far we would have come, I think even early days, I probably would have been like, oh, what's max out at some size and just have fun. And somewhere along the way, that kind of changes. Can you share a pivotal moment in the journey where your company could have gone one way, but it ultimately went another?

Tiffany Sauder I think about this both at a personal level and a professional one. I think it's really connected us. And I love the title of your podcast of Ripple Effect, because there are these moments and decisions that have a massive ripple effect, not only on your own journey and the inflection point of your own life, but also I think, in what you have to give back to others who you then brush up against in life. And this concept of fear, I think I felt it the most acutely. I feel like I've been in business long enough to have felt two very turbulent times. And we were in the first few years of Element three when we hit the 08 09 financial crisis. And I was absolutely paralyzed that time around with fear. They talk about fight or flight or freeze. And I was I just froze. And this journey of being a professional and a person, this identity of also being a mom and also being an entrepreneur, they really started to braid themselves together tightly in that moment. And we had our first daughter in 2009 also just riding a freight train into a brick wall with element three at that time, because everything just came to a screeching halt and I had absolutely no idea what to do. And so I just froze. And in many ways I just ignored it and I just panicked. It's not an overstatement to say in one hundred days of indecision, I spent about a thousand days paying for that, like quite literally financially. And so I think that as I look at different authors and people who are platforms for messages, usually they're talking about the thing that they're terrible at. And I think that's why fear is so acute to me is because I felt it in such a way that I had a chance to completely derail and I would say really be an end point for element three. Or I could choose to buck up and trudge through this fear event that was absolutely paralyzing me. And I was just scared to death. I was scared about being a mom. I was scared that Element three was literally going to evaporate overnight. I was afraid that I didn't actually know marketing. I was afraid that I wasn't a leader. I was afraid to talk to my people because I didn't know what to say to them. I was afraid to talk to my family because I didn't want to be a failure. I was like I just was consumed by it. And I think that experience was so big for me. And I can feel it still so acutely that I knew if I did not figure out how to get a mastery of this monster of fear that I was going to be held back in so many ways from what I really feel is a calling on my life, it's not just like the things I want. It's like the things I feel like I'm called the impact. And the sort of the mountain of fear that I needed to chase down was really years of work to understand. What did that mean? How was it influencing me? And fear moves. It's not like a static thing. So it's not like I have a mastery of this, but it's certainly that I as something I've spent some time practicing.

Chris Byers: Yeah, you're right. Like the fear that I think especially as leaders experience is first of all, I think it can come and go and moments and then it can come and go and. For days or weeks or long periods of time, so I'm curious. Something obviously hit and allowed you to say, yep, this is terrible. I don't like living in fear. And you flip that around. What happened?

Tiffany Sauder I think this part of the story, sometimes I tell it, sometimes I don't. But I will. Today I was at a real crossroads. And when you have a baby and there's other life events, but having a baby is one I've done four times now. And it's just this time where you no matter how committed you are to the thing in front of you, you just take stock of what's going on around you. Does all this still work for my life? Do you want to go back? Do you want to go part time doing work for yourself, like all this kind of stuff? So I had a baby in January 2009 and that was right in the crux of everything falling apart. And I knew stepping back into Element three was like just an epic shitstorm. And so I remember being at home being like, I can make this very hard thing go away in a way that is going to be pretty socially acceptable in that I can say I want to be a stay at home mom now. That's what I'm going to do. I loved my five years at all. My three, we did something, didn't work out so great. I have maybe some debt to figure out how to get out from under, but I'm going to stay home now with this baby. That feels like a much better outcome to spend my time on than this mess that I have at Aliment three. And I don't tell that story in the sense to say like that being a stay at home mom is a bad thing. It's a lovely calling, but in my heart, in my gut, in my DNA, I knew at that moment in time at least, that's not what I was called to do, that in choosing to go home and be home full time and have that to be my full time job, that I was walking away from a challenge that I needed to go through. But I full on, didn't want to like I wanted to avoid that the tsunami with everything that I could. And I at least recognized in that decision making journey, I can, like, play both sides of the conversation. One is, wow, this looks lovely. Let's stay home. And the other side was like, you're just being a chicken, Tiffany. And I could at least see that while I didn't know what the behavior needed to be, if I was going to go through the fire, I at least knew it was going to happen one minute at a time. And so at least for me, when I'm going through a fear event, I have to make it really small so that I can start to get momentum of, OK, that wasn't as bad as I expected. OK, I returned the phone call. They didn't eat me. I'm still alive or I paid three percent of what I owed them. At least I don't owe them one hundred percent anymore. You know, like these tiny victories started to give me momentum and it wasn't so much about that. The outcome was amazingly better. It was that I started to get more courage in chasing down these little micro behaviors that were going to ultimately lead to us getting through this. And again, I think for me, what I found, whether it be when my marriage is in a crappy spot, when I have a friendship that's in a crappy spot or my businesses, it doesn't switch to good fast. It seems like it goes to bad fast, but usually things happen slowly, all of a sudden sort of on the downhill slope. And when you're slogging and trying to get things back to your plum line or to good, it takes longer than you want it to. And I think that stamina was something that I in my immaturity, in my youth, I just didn't have an appreciation for.

Chris Byers: If I can think of anything that feels like a long, slow journey, it's in teaching and shaping and encouraging your kids and years. And you're like, why is that characteristic? Still, they're never improving. And then overnight, something finally changes. So I totally understand that long process that we often go through to to make really positive change. You're obviously a strong advocate for mothers, especially working mothers. Tell us more about your family and why you started sharing your experiences as a working mother.

Tiffany Sauder My mom was a stay at home mom and I grew up in a small rural community. And so the idea of a professional woman like literally was things I saw on TV, but I didn't really I didn't grow up around it. I didn't see the women who worked in my community had jobs that they went to, but they weren't careers. It's something that I kind of knew about from afar but didn't have any real look or understanding of what's it like to experience that. But something about me, even as a little girl, just loved the energy of these women who seemed like they're going places. They have a sense of urgency, the sense of purpose. And I definitely am a sort of sense of urgency person. I just was really attracted to that sort of aura, even though I looked at that from afar. I think the picture that I had that was so close to me, I just imagined I would at some point get to a place where I was a stay at home mom. And I just it never really felt right to my heart into my DNA. And so I've had to figure a lot of this out on. My own and in my extreme brain, it was like, if I'm a professional woman, then that means that I need to turn off the, like, maternal desires that I have. And if I'm a mom, then that means I have to turn off these, like, really competitive. I want to win business side of me. And I thought about it in such a binary way for a long time. And I felt some, I think, guilt around that, that if I wasn't 100 percent rough and tough, then I wasn't really a business person playing the game well. And if I wasn't completely maternal then I wasn't doing the mom thing and about I don't know when it was, but I started to see, like maybe the uniqueness of these two things is actually the most important thing about me. And you've probably found this to Chris, like the things I've learned about leadership and about mentoring young talent and helping young people go into situations that they're not quite ready for, but you start to see how they behave and the decisions they make. And becoming a leader in that way and practicing that for 15, 16 years has made me such a better parent and vice versa. Watching my kids and teaching them values and understanding that the way I guide them in the big picture of their life creates so much more ownership over the decisions that they make that makes me a better leader. And so I started to see maybe I don't have to emulate one of those extreme personas that I have in my head. Maybe I can be both. And how do I figure out how those fit together for me in a way that works and is sustainable? I think over the last few years I've gone through different boards that I'm on and organizations with young people, even things like that, or fellowship. I started to see a lot of young women, a lot of young professionals, a lot of parents who are in their 60s, who have kids that are coming up and they're choosing a different family environment maybe than the one they grew up. And they're looking for resources, say, how do you do this? And while I don't have it figured out completely, I feel really passionate about sharing at least what we have tried, what we've learned, the struggles that we've been through as a family, and how that sort of refined us. And I just think that it needs a voice. I think more and more families are choosing to career homes, and there's a really specific stress that creates and I think we need to normalize it. I think that we need to start to have language to talk about it.

Chris Byers: Last year, it was really fascinating, not probably in a great way to just observe how it was working mothers who had the absolute toughest environment around them. The best way to say that if there was anybody who the kids were going to fall to just a little bit more, if not a lot more, it was the working mothers, especially at least hear it from Stack. And so I'm curious, how did you address last year both as you were helping working mothers and yourself? How did you tackle that?

Tiffany Sauder Last year was really hard. I think a lot of us exited twenty twenty, just really tired on top of it. I was pregnant and had a baby. And for me this is not a fix, but it does help me. Some of it is changing your expectations. Most of us who have chosen both careers and families are just massive achievers. And so sometimes it's first dealing with your own mindset that can change the environment around you. So, for example, for me, I can keep a lot of trains moving. I can set up systems and processes so that all the people who are in and out of my house, the people who help us keep our life together, that everybody knows when you know what the whistle's mean, so to speak. And in 2020, everything just came to a screeching halt, every system that I had built so that there was like some muscle memory in our family schedule and who was doing what and who's packing lunches and what happens on Tuesday. I was on Thursday. You can only make so many decisions and have so many conversations with people. If you don't have some systems and move that stuff forward, you get really buried. What I remember when I shifted from I have to try to get this chaos into order. That's what I was trying so hard to do. There were so many variables. I just couldn't when I shifted in my mind and said, this just going to be messy, Tiffany. It's just going to be messy. You just have to execute what you can. And so that would mean and I know these are like silly, but things like it might be loud in the room, but I need to do this meeting. It might be super messy when I go to bed, which is not a thing that I really love. And it's just going to have to be that way. We might need to have the exact same thing for lunch all week long. And I'm sorry about that. I don't have the capacity to have anything more creative than that. And it's just going to be messy. But I think we also have to give ourselves credit as professionals. And this is not about phoning it in, but sometimes getting something done at a seven. If you had two more hours, you can get it into a ten. You just need to ship it because that is what the environment will allow. I think we sometimes freeze up and get into this like perfectionist mindset when things are really chaotic instead of business, at least in ours, is not surgery, but in business like it's throughput. Get the landing page up, do the webinar, post the blog, do the sales call, make thirty cold calls, just do it. And yes, maybe in your best week if you made thirty cold calls you could have connected with. Twelve of them, and in your worst week, you could connect with four, but holy crap, do it. And I think we shut down from the behavior of just stick with the program because your energy starts to get really screwed up. At least mine does when I don't stick with the program and I'm trying to overcompensate and I'm trying to push all this perfectionism into these like tasks I have to do is just keep the flywheel spinning, just go. Because if I stop it, other people are going to catch me. But if I keep moving, I at least have a chance to be able to continue. Does that make any sense, Chris? What I'm saying?


Chris Byers: I think so. Actually, one of the things you said there that I loved was last year we really wanted an answer, but we were looking for how can we support people who do have kids at home or just to maybe give them four day workweeks to it. Like we went through all of the options. We did some surveys. And ultimately it was like, there's no answer. We need to just say we understand this is messy. I think that's a great way to say it. Talk to your manager. If you'll just keep them informed, we'll just roll with it. We don't have no idea how every day is going to work. And it worked. It wasn't enjoyable. It wasn't I'm sure it was super taxing on some people some days and less other days. But I think there's something powerful there to embrace both a lack of perfection at times, but also everything probably doesn't need an answer, even though we all want to get to an answer on every single question ever.

Tiffany Sauder This is, again, maybe an unpopular perspective, because I do think there's such an important role for us as leaders to have empathy for what people are going through. But this was the asterisk of all asterisks. This was unprecedented in every capacity. And what I told my team, every part of me wants to come in and try to make part of your life easier. Every part of me wants to try to make it so that you can sleep just 20 minutes longer. Every part of me wants to make it so I can get three fewer emails. Every part of me wants to make our clients a little happier for you somehow. But the reality of what we have to go through is that we are trying to make it into the playoffs as a team who knows how to compete. And we are beat up like we're scratched, we’re just a wreck, and we still have to take the field. And the good thing that happens when you start to see and start to, I think, gain ownership over the fact that, dang it, I can do really hard things. Then when people look at what it's like to be a CEO or an entrepreneur or having four kids a marriage in a company like sometimes it's just really hard, like really hard, like at the end of your rope part, and it doesn't stay like that forever. And so I think sometimes we also take away the gift from our people accidentally by wanting to be empathetic. We take away the feeling of this massive victory, this understanding of what they're really capable of, where we go past what we perceive our limits to be in a whole new place is opened up for us. I don't know either. I'd be open to your sort of feedback on that, Chris, because I feel like sometimes it's not popular to say it's hard and I'm sorry, but we have to do it anyway.

Chris Byers: I think one of the things I've seen, especially toward the end of twenty twenty, was a particular balance that I needed to shift away from, which is we've got high empathy, spent a lot of time with people, give them a ton of flexibility. And so, you know what? Yeah, we're going to have to flip this a little bit and say we do have a job to get done and we can't drag this out forever. That doesn't mean our flexibility is going to disappear. That doesn't mean it's all going to change. But I think the perspective I took was I did a lot of thinking, reading about World War II, and especially for people who lived in London at the time or England in general, and just how ultimately they had to get their lives going again, even in the midst of war happening all around them. And I think that is, to your point, a job of a leader. How do we help people stay focused? And a lot of ways it's encouraging to them. Some people give us feedback. Last year you'll stop talking about our feelings because I want to go to work and forget it. And so there seems to be moments for both.

Tiffany Sauder Yeah, I think we all needed to know, too, that we were bigger than it. This doesn't have to define every part of my existence. We are bigger than it. We are more than coronaviruses. We are more than this. And so but I don't mean we can defeat it like so to speak. But it's just I think people needed to know I am bigger. Like my life is bigger than this.

Chris Byers: Absolutely. You talked about fear earlier, I imagine experience some sort of fear last year. And it sounds like this year you're going to take that on. And a little bit of a new way in a podcast that you've got called Scared. Confident. Tell us about that. Tell us where the title came from and what you want to talk about.

Tiffany Sauder This has been a really fun project for me to work on. As I look back at my journey and the question behind the question that I see in people's eyes when they come and say, like, so what's it like? What's it take? Can I do this to like how does it look? We all I think, if we're honest, have these fears and we need to be real about them and give them language. And I think that we take back control from the fear when we have the courage to say this is a crap that's going on my head and heart right now. And I'm an. Talk about it, because then the fear doesn't have control over me, and what I found is that when I had the courage to be the most head on with fear, right behind that was where I had the most confidence. And so this kind of juxtaposition of scared, confident is, yeah, I'm scared and I'm so scared that I'm willing to talk about it so that I can get through it and really plants in confidence and clarity so that I can act and move forward with a clear mind. And, you know, I believe that I was created for a purpose. I believe that I have a role to play on this earth to make it a better place. And I think most of us, when we lay in bed at night, we're like, no, I am significant. I do need to be here. I do have people to impact and children to raise and families and communities and teams to impact. I'm here for a reason. And when we allow fear to control the narrative in our heads and hearts, then we don't get to step fully into who we were all individually designed to be. And so this is really kind of me going first, talking about the crap that has been in the way in my life, the things that I've learned from overcoming that, and also just to continue a transparent journey of what I'm learning and what life is teaching me. And then we'll also have some segments where we engage questions from the community, from people like me, me, 15 years ago, maybe me 15 years from now, asking questions of one another, of what does it mean and how do we confront this so that we can really empower people to step entirely into who they were made to be.


Chris Byers: Love that phrase you use about language. There was a moment last year where I was like, I don't know what this feeling is that's been on me, but it feels like a cloud that's just been laying over me for weeks or some long period of time. And somewhere in there I discovered it was grief and I was like, oh, OK, I can actually do something about it. Now that I know that I know there's a word that I actually know what that means, but I couldn't describe it better until somebody pointed that out. Tell us about the some of the language that you feel like you've learned to help take the fear and put it where it needs to be.

Tiffany Sauder I've just learned to export it to myself really early and then often to my team. And I think that all of us had fears in 2020 as leaders that we were just going to screw it up worse than it was already screwed up. And I was able to say, guys, I don't want to fail you like I'm afraid you, Chris, I think I've led a remote organization for a long time. I hadn't everybody was in our nest during the day, for the most part. I'm afraid I'm not going to know how to lead well in a remote environment. I'm afraid I'm going to not pick up on the signs that you need me in a way that I don't know how to show up for you. I had these fears and so for me it's just about I'm not a journalist, but it's a mental journaling of what am I afraid of? Where am I afraid that my blind spots are? And then my style is to export it and say, this is what I'm afraid of, but these are my intentions and this is what I'm working at. I need your feedback and we're working to be excellent for you. And these are the things that I want to be acutely aware of, that we may be failing and we need to be able to talk about that. And for me, again, it allows me to say, hey, I'm always on Zoom and I'm always like, what used to be a two directional conversation is now me jumping on as a voice of God, exporting information. Then everybody closes other. Zoom How do we not do that? Because that doesn't feel great to me and I'm not getting good feedback and so allows me to just ask more real questions and move past the assumptive.

Chris Byers: Much quicker the word that comes to mind when you're talking is the idea of transparency and really using that transparency of sharing more of just the thoughts that are often stuck in our heads. And often we don't think we're allowed to express out to other people. What advice would you give to people to like why do you think people aren't as transparent as they probably could be and how can they change that?

Tiffany Sauder I think we're not as transparent as we need to be because we are afraid. So I'll give like an extreme example from three, because it's harder to talk about the crappy things. So over the course of two years, Element three had three layoffs. Some of those were things inside of our control and some of those are things outside of our control. But that's a really shitty thing to have happened at a company. And so what I was really afraid of is that people were not going to believe my words anymore. And what I was really afraid of, if I was honest with myself, was like there was some secret coup or people are just going to walk out because they were so pissed off. And so we can continue to come into like town hall meetings and team meetings and pretend nobody knows that has happened. And then we get to work in this like contrived reality where everybody's pretend nice to each other. But I'm wondering and they're wondering, but we're not courageous enough to step into the real conversation or I like finally I was like, I'm just tired of this. I'm going to talk about it. And so I was like, OK, guys, let's go ahead and build this timeline about what happened and what I think is in all of your minds, in what I'm afraid of as a result of that. And my question to you is, so I built a timeline. Here's what happened. We all understand these are the questions I asked myself of this situation. How would you lead different? What different questions would you ask, how do you get ahead of this, how do you make sure it doesn't happen again? Biloela And then I was like and these are the things I'm afraid are going on in your head. And I exported those questions to them. And they're all like nodding their heads. Get those are totally our questions. I was like, OK, so can we talk about it now? And there was like this massive sigh of relief of let's talk about the crap in the middle of the room instead of keep walking around it. But there's a ton of fear. And if I talk about it, is it actually that they don't know and I'm going to bring it into their consciousness and then they're going to be like, oh, me, I didn't realize that. No, of course they know this very scary because you're super vulnerable, because what they might come back with is say, you're exactly right, Tiffany. There is a secret coup starting and everybody is going to walk out and then we're actually leaving in ten minutes, which is an area. But if that's what's happening, you would rather know. So does that make sense, Chris, like.

Chris Byers: Yeah, absolutely. At first I very much appreciate your just your transparency and vulnerability and sharing the story of layoffs, because if somebody doesn't know your story, they wouldn't necessarily know that. And I think as a leader, it's got to be one of the worst possible moments to think there's a chance it's coming to deal with it, to then rebuild trust afterward. But I love really that I think you're helping encourage people to just know that everybody has fears. It may not look like we have fears sometimes as leaders, but they're there. And in fact, as you express them, other people can come along and help you. And I think the more we can get people, we have a cultural value default to transparency. And what I tell people, we've got a lot of grace for you, if you will tell the truth and speak plainly about things rather than positioning and making sure it sounds good. And if your failures, like, just get it out there, I'll deal with that all day long. I don't want to deal with. Oh, it's going great. It's going great. But it's really not. But I think it's we can teach more people to do that. It creates some much better outcomes.

Tiffany Sauder And what I've learned, I think about this idea of fear and truth and transparency is that you can talk about it in the third person, meaning like we ought to be transparent. But when you actually are and let go first, it's trusting to people like for like, why would you record the fact that you lay people off three times a day? You're like, that's crappy. You don't want people to know that. But it starts, I think, to say, no, I'm honest, I'm serious. If I talk about the worst things I've been through as a matter of going first, then maybe we will begin to get this into practice such that we can have real conversations which we know, and building teams and building value and building companies is what creates a flywheel that spins faster than anybody else's. Because you're talking about the real things are really fast.

Chris Byers: I would love to hear what it is that drives the passion around getting this message out to more people. What's the experience they might be facing right now that you want to change?

Tiffany Sauder I think it's two things. I think on one hand, and you may be experiences, too, Chris, in that when you start to have like more visible success and people like, oh, to our mama for wife, CEO, entrepreneur, it's like those are all like pretty flowers. It was pretty sucky to get there. So let's also be sure that we're giving that part of the story its day in court because it feels disingenuous to just talk about the accomplishment side without being real about what's it look like to get there. Some of my most joyful parts of the story is overcoming things that I had no idea that I could survive. And I think that I want people to find courage in both sides of the story, both the one that's published and the part of it that was really hard so that it normalizes their own experience. I think that's part of it. And the other piece is just to create a more like I have these conversations with there's like three personas. One is twenty four to twenty nine year old young woman who's looking at you saying, like, I'm really jammin’ in my career right now. I think I've got some pretty cool opportunities. I'm starting to get a read on what I want to do. I also would like to have a baby and I'm real confused about how to put those two things together. And so I have these really amazing conversations in one of ways with that woman and to record it and be able to share it so that I can have that, quote unquote conversation with lots of people. I think there's a lot of value in just sharing those real questions. The other, like I share it, is like more like my dad, people who are sometimes clients of mine, colleagues, other CEOs who have young daughters or sons who are coming up. And they're starting to say, hey, it's a different world. How do I encourage her or him in this pursuit of a two career home? How do I encourage them? How do I give them skills to balance what it means to be a professional and a parent? How do I help them? And they're looking for resources in it. There's nothing to share. And then the third is those people exactly in my seat where they're like, OK, I'm sitting here. I am a mom, I am an entrepreneur. I do have a career. I have chosen children, those three people. I want to be able to say, here's my story, if it can help you. I'm real specific about saying this is not a podcast about what you should do. It's simply sharing the things that I've learned, the people I've met. The stories have helped me on my. Own journey so that we can get real clear and the decisions and permission that we give ourselves to step real confidently into the roles that we've chosen in life,

Chris Byers: as you talk about this, especially having children. Sounds like a pretty big topic that you're thinking about. How do I help people tackle that more often and the challenges of how is this going to impact my career, et cetera? What's your word for the men who are listening to this? What do you want them to hear? What do you want us to learn?

Tiffany Sauder I wish I only had one word. I think that one of the things I'm really passionate about is it needs to be about equal opportunity and it needs to be up to the woman to choose what she wants or doesn't want to walk into. And I think one of the things I'm really careful about is if you decide to say no to a promotion or you decide to say no to an assignment or to a big family move or something like that, because it's not right for your family, that doesn't make you less than or wimpy or that you should have that might totally be the right thing for your family. And so I think as male leaders, as business owners who are men or managers, making sure that you don't make that decision for that woman and saying, oh, she's got a lot of kids or her husband has a big job or whatever, the thing is that you think may make her more or less likely to be able to step into that opportunity if she's work for it, give her the opportunity. And what she chooses to do is totally inside of her own. That's inside her control and power. I think for me, women who have worked for it, making sure that they have equal opportunity and women, if you don't choose to step into it, that doesn't mean that you've failed. That just means that you've own that choice. And that's totally fine.

Chris Byers: I always feel like this is something that is maybe I don't know that this works for everybody, but I love what you're talking about, because for my wife and I, we, especially for every major decision, will often go through this period of time. Or one of us like, oh, yeah, this is the thing. This is the answer. And but the other person doesn't get there. I can't think of many times where we move forward, where we haven't ultimately kept that balance going back and forth until ultimately we're like, oh yeah, that's the decision. We're both on board and it feels like the right decision. And I think that I just can't tell you how powerful that is. I think for both of us to feel the confidence of each other supporting each other, and we've made moves across the country for each other at different times. And so I think we should be calling people to to work on that more often, to really say how can we make these decisions together? And it's not one person's over the others.

Tiffany Sauder I think that's I think there's a great point, Chris. I know my husband and I as we've built our careers over the last 20 years, there have been years where my quote unquote career was on the back seat in our family, which meant that he had license to leave early, get home late if he needed to work a Saturday. He was traveling a lot. I needed to say yes and no to things that allowed me to be more flexible in that season for him because I understood the opportunity in front of him and that was the right thing for our family and vice versa. There have been years where he knew that Season three was going to take every ounce of blood, sweat and tears that I had. And it very much has been a dance of both of us being able to achieve some really awesome things. But it has you know, we've staggered that knowing that our kids need something from us, we've got things that we need to take care of that isn't just us in our careers alone.

Chris Byers: Well, each conversation we have on the show ends up highlighting innovative ideas and fresh perspectives. Tiffani's encouraging people to lean into fear as a catalyst for pushing past limitations. Tiven, if you could give advice to our listeners, what would you say is the first step to embracing fear as a way to create impact for their business or personal life?

Tiffany Sauder Just try it. Don't try to overthink it. Think about it as an experiment, find a fear, decide you're going to name it, make sure you're clear on it, and then export it to the people or the audiences that are coming into contact with you in that way, because chances are they sense it. And when you give it language, it allows you to have a conversation at a totally different level. So that would be my advice. Try it, give it a shot. Let me know how it goes.

Chris Byers: Excellent. What do you hope people take away after hearing your story?

Tiffany Sauder I hope that they see that there's so much power and transparency. I hope that they also see that we're all a work in process. And anyone that you see that maybe looks like they have so many badges and stickers that there's always a story there. And so listen patiently for the lessons, because there's a lot people can share when you're vulnerable yourself and you really ask what's going on

Chris Byers: and what do you think people listening can do differently in their day to day to create a positive impact for others?

Tiffany Sauder I hope one of the things, as I reflect on fear I have also come to understand is that it's an incredibly selfish posture. Fear is like, well, what will people think of me? What will people say? What are people's expectations of me? And it's very much inward. It's very selfish posture. And when we are able to break through fear and step wholly into our lessons and what life has taught us and what we have to share, there's so many people around us who are waiting to be impacted. And when we live in a posture of fear, all arrows are pointed inward. And I think it gives us a chance to just impact the things around us. When we step outside of that, outside of ourselves,

Chris Byers: you get any future ideas, things you're thinking about how to. Can impact as you're going forward this year,

Tiffany Sauder I'm really excited about leaning into scared, confident and seeing where it goes. I just read the Matthew McConaughey greenlights book. I don't know if you've read that, Chris, but my big takeaway was focus on the craft of it and we'll let the outcome be what it is. But I'm really excited just to share vulnerably, to engage in conversation and understand what people's questions are and see where all goes.

Chris Byers: To learn more about how people are reimagining their world of work, head over to formstack.com/practically-genius. Thanks for joining us on this episode of Ripple Effect.

Chris Byers: Fear is something we don't often think about, let alone discuss its role in our work for Tiffany Sauder, CEO of Element Three, a marketing consultant. The fear is what has allowed her to push past boundaries, and she inspires others to do the same. I'm Chris Byers, of Formstack, and this is Ripple Effect, a show celebrating the impact decisions create. In the conversation with Tiffany will talk about her journey through business and motherhood and how she's learned hard lessons to encourage other leaders to take action in their own lives by pushing past fear. Tiffany, tell us what made you decide to start your own business 15 years ago, what convinced you to leave a corporate job and go out on your own? How did that journey begin?

Tiffany Sauder Hi, Chris. Thanks for having me on. You were an entrepreneur and founder. You know that the journey that you map is not always the one that you go on 15 years ago and we started at three or bought this little small mom and pop agency, we were really at a place where marketing was undergoing a massive amount of transformation. But you don't always know that you're in a transformation moment. But we really started to see and understand that marketing was going to have a real seat at the table as it related to just business acumen. And how did we not just make things look better, but really understand how marketing plugged in to set up the right text at the right measurement, the right scorecard, the very attribution? I am a kid of an entrepreneur, so I think some of it is environmental. My dad started his own business when I was in third grade. Risk was something that was ever present. But you don't know that. It's just very normal. And so when I got out of school and started in a big company, I started to recognize it's going to be a real long time before somebody lets me make a decision of any real size or consequence. And how do we come in and really not just make more marketing tactics, but really learn and understand what's it like to come around alongside companies and build brands? It's been a fun ride. You probably feel the same way I dreamed about being here, but I didn't dare wish for it or plan on it. So, yeah, it's been great. We've learned a lot.

Chris Byers: That's awesome. I definitely have had feelings I don't think I ever imagined. As I look back at the 10 or 11 years I've been at this, at how far we would have come, I think even early days, I probably would have been like, oh, what's max out at some size and just have fun. And somewhere along the way, that kind of changes. Can you share a pivotal moment in the journey where your company could have gone one way, but it ultimately went another?

Tiffany Sauder I think about this both at a personal level and a professional one. I think it's really connected us. And I love the title of your podcast of Ripple Effect, because there are these moments and decisions that have a massive ripple effect, not only on your own journey and the inflection point of your own life, but also I think, in what you have to give back to others who you then brush up against in life. And this concept of fear, I think I felt it the most acutely. I feel like I've been in business long enough to have felt two very turbulent times. And we were in the first few years of Element three when we hit the 08 09 financial crisis. And I was absolutely paralyzed that time around with fear. They talk about fight or flight or freeze. And I was I just froze. And this journey of being a professional and a person, this identity of also being a mom and also being an entrepreneur, they really started to braid themselves together tightly in that moment. And we had our first daughter in 2009 also just riding a freight train into a brick wall with element three at that time, because everything just came to a screeching halt and I had absolutely no idea what to do. And so I just froze. And in many ways I just ignored it and I just panicked. It's not an overstatement to say in one hundred days of indecision, I spent about a thousand days paying for that, like quite literally financially. And so I think that as I look at different authors and people who are platforms for messages, usually they're talking about the thing that they're terrible at. And I think that's why fear is so acute to me is because I felt it in such a way that I had a chance to completely derail and I would say really be an end point for element three. Or I could choose to buck up and trudge through this fear event that was absolutely paralyzing me. And I was just scared to death. I was scared about being a mom. I was scared that Element three was literally going to evaporate overnight. I was afraid that I didn't actually know marketing. I was afraid that I wasn't a leader. I was afraid to talk to my people because I didn't know what to say to them. I was afraid to talk to my family because I didn't want to be a failure. I was like I just was consumed by it. And I think that experience was so big for me. And I can feel it still so acutely that I knew if I did not figure out how to get a mastery of this monster of fear that I was going to be held back in so many ways from what I really feel is a calling on my life, it's not just like the things I want. It's like the things I feel like I'm called the impact. And the sort of the mountain of fear that I needed to chase down was really years of work to understand. What did that mean? How was it influencing me? And fear moves. It's not like a static thing. So it's not like I have a mastery of this, but it's certainly that I as something I've spent some time practicing.

Chris Byers: Yeah, you're right. Like the fear that I think especially as leaders experience is first of all, I think it can come and go and moments and then it can come and go and. For days or weeks or long periods of time, so I'm curious. Something obviously hit and allowed you to say, yep, this is terrible. I don't like living in fear. And you flip that around. What happened?

Tiffany Sauder I think this part of the story, sometimes I tell it, sometimes I don't. But I will. Today I was at a real crossroads. And when you have a baby and there's other life events, but having a baby is one I've done four times now. And it's just this time where you no matter how committed you are to the thing in front of you, you just take stock of what's going on around you. Does all this still work for my life? Do you want to go back? Do you want to go part time doing work for yourself, like all this kind of stuff? So I had a baby in January 2009 and that was right in the crux of everything falling apart. And I knew stepping back into Element three was like just an epic shitstorm. And so I remember being at home being like, I can make this very hard thing go away in a way that is going to be pretty socially acceptable in that I can say I want to be a stay at home mom now. That's what I'm going to do. I loved my five years at all. My three, we did something, didn't work out so great. I have maybe some debt to figure out how to get out from under, but I'm going to stay home now with this baby. That feels like a much better outcome to spend my time on than this mess that I have at Aliment three. And I don't tell that story in the sense to say like that being a stay at home mom is a bad thing. It's a lovely calling, but in my heart, in my gut, in my DNA, I knew at that moment in time at least, that's not what I was called to do, that in choosing to go home and be home full time and have that to be my full time job, that I was walking away from a challenge that I needed to go through. But I full on, didn't want to like I wanted to avoid that the tsunami with everything that I could. And I at least recognized in that decision making journey, I can, like, play both sides of the conversation. One is, wow, this looks lovely. Let's stay home. And the other side was like, you're just being a chicken, Tiffany. And I could at least see that while I didn't know what the behavior needed to be, if I was going to go through the fire, I at least knew it was going to happen one minute at a time. And so at least for me, when I'm going through a fear event, I have to make it really small so that I can start to get momentum of, OK, that wasn't as bad as I expected. OK, I returned the phone call. They didn't eat me. I'm still alive or I paid three percent of what I owed them. At least I don't owe them one hundred percent anymore. You know, like these tiny victories started to give me momentum and it wasn't so much about that. The outcome was amazingly better. It was that I started to get more courage in chasing down these little micro behaviors that were going to ultimately lead to us getting through this. And again, I think for me, what I found, whether it be when my marriage is in a crappy spot, when I have a friendship that's in a crappy spot or my businesses, it doesn't switch to good fast. It seems like it goes to bad fast, but usually things happen slowly, all of a sudden sort of on the downhill slope. And when you're slogging and trying to get things back to your plum line or to good, it takes longer than you want it to. And I think that stamina was something that I in my immaturity, in my youth, I just didn't have an appreciation for.

Chris Byers: If I can think of anything that feels like a long, slow journey, it's in teaching and shaping and encouraging your kids and years. And you're like, why is that characteristic? Still, they're never improving. And then overnight, something finally changes. So I totally understand that long process that we often go through to to make really positive change. You're obviously a strong advocate for mothers, especially working mothers. Tell us more about your family and why you started sharing your experiences as a working mother.

Tiffany Sauder My mom was a stay at home mom and I grew up in a small rural community. And so the idea of a professional woman like literally was things I saw on TV, but I didn't really I didn't grow up around it. I didn't see the women who worked in my community had jobs that they went to, but they weren't careers. It's something that I kind of knew about from afar but didn't have any real look or understanding of what's it like to experience that. But something about me, even as a little girl, just loved the energy of these women who seemed like they're going places. They have a sense of urgency, the sense of purpose. And I definitely am a sort of sense of urgency person. I just was really attracted to that sort of aura, even though I looked at that from afar. I think the picture that I had that was so close to me, I just imagined I would at some point get to a place where I was a stay at home mom. And I just it never really felt right to my heart into my DNA. And so I've had to figure a lot of this out on. My own and in my extreme brain, it was like, if I'm a professional woman, then that means that I need to turn off the, like, maternal desires that I have. And if I'm a mom, then that means I have to turn off these, like, really competitive. I want to win business side of me. And I thought about it in such a binary way for a long time. And I felt some, I think, guilt around that, that if I wasn't 100 percent rough and tough, then I wasn't really a business person playing the game well. And if I wasn't completely maternal then I wasn't doing the mom thing and about I don't know when it was, but I started to see, like maybe the uniqueness of these two things is actually the most important thing about me. And you've probably found this to Chris, like the things I've learned about leadership and about mentoring young talent and helping young people go into situations that they're not quite ready for, but you start to see how they behave and the decisions they make. And becoming a leader in that way and practicing that for 15, 16 years has made me such a better parent and vice versa. Watching my kids and teaching them values and understanding that the way I guide them in the big picture of their life creates so much more ownership over the decisions that they make that makes me a better leader. And so I started to see maybe I don't have to emulate one of those extreme personas that I have in my head. Maybe I can be both. And how do I figure out how those fit together for me in a way that works and is sustainable? I think over the last few years I've gone through different boards that I'm on and organizations with young people, even things like that, or fellowship. I started to see a lot of young women, a lot of young professionals, a lot of parents who are in their 60s, who have kids that are coming up and they're choosing a different family environment maybe than the one they grew up. And they're looking for resources, say, how do you do this? And while I don't have it figured out completely, I feel really passionate about sharing at least what we have tried, what we've learned, the struggles that we've been through as a family, and how that sort of refined us. And I just think that it needs a voice. I think more and more families are choosing to career homes, and there's a really specific stress that creates and I think we need to normalize it. I think that we need to start to have language to talk about it.

Chris Byers: Last year, it was really fascinating, not probably in a great way to just observe how it was working mothers who had the absolute toughest environment around them. The best way to say that if there was anybody who the kids were going to fall to just a little bit more, if not a lot more, it was the working mothers, especially at least hear it from Stack. And so I'm curious, how did you address last year both as you were helping working mothers and yourself? How did you tackle that?

Tiffany Sauder Last year was really hard. I think a lot of us exited twenty twenty, just really tired on top of it. I was pregnant and had a baby. And for me this is not a fix, but it does help me. Some of it is changing your expectations. Most of us who have chosen both careers and families are just massive achievers. And so sometimes it's first dealing with your own mindset that can change the environment around you. So, for example, for me, I can keep a lot of trains moving. I can set up systems and processes so that all the people who are in and out of my house, the people who help us keep our life together, that everybody knows when you know what the whistle's mean, so to speak. And in 2020, everything just came to a screeching halt, every system that I had built so that there was like some muscle memory in our family schedule and who was doing what and who's packing lunches and what happens on Tuesday. I was on Thursday. You can only make so many decisions and have so many conversations with people. If you don't have some systems and move that stuff forward, you get really buried. What I remember when I shifted from I have to try to get this chaos into order. That's what I was trying so hard to do. There were so many variables. I just couldn't when I shifted in my mind and said, this just going to be messy, Tiffany. It's just going to be messy. You just have to execute what you can. And so that would mean and I know these are like silly, but things like it might be loud in the room, but I need to do this meeting. It might be super messy when I go to bed, which is not a thing that I really love. And it's just going to have to be that way. We might need to have the exact same thing for lunch all week long. And I'm sorry about that. I don't have the capacity to have anything more creative than that. And it's just going to be messy. But I think we also have to give ourselves credit as professionals. And this is not about phoning it in, but sometimes getting something done at a seven. If you had two more hours, you can get it into a ten. You just need to ship it because that is what the environment will allow. I think we sometimes freeze up and get into this like perfectionist mindset when things are really chaotic instead of business, at least in ours, is not surgery, but in business like it's throughput. Get the landing page up, do the webinar, post the blog, do the sales call, make thirty cold calls, just do it. And yes, maybe in your best week if you made thirty cold calls you could have connected with. Twelve of them, and in your worst week, you could connect with four, but holy crap, do it. And I think we shut down from the behavior of just stick with the program because your energy starts to get really screwed up. At least mine does when I don't stick with the program and I'm trying to overcompensate and I'm trying to push all this perfectionism into these like tasks I have to do is just keep the flywheel spinning, just go. Because if I stop it, other people are going to catch me. But if I keep moving, I at least have a chance to be able to continue. Does that make any sense, Chris? What I'm saying?


Chris Byers: I think so. Actually, one of the things you said there that I loved was last year we really wanted an answer, but we were looking for how can we support people who do have kids at home or just to maybe give them four day workweeks to it. Like we went through all of the options. We did some surveys. And ultimately it was like, there's no answer. We need to just say we understand this is messy. I think that's a great way to say it. Talk to your manager. If you'll just keep them informed, we'll just roll with it. We don't have no idea how every day is going to work. And it worked. It wasn't enjoyable. It wasn't I'm sure it was super taxing on some people some days and less other days. But I think there's something powerful there to embrace both a lack of perfection at times, but also everything probably doesn't need an answer, even though we all want to get to an answer on every single question ever.

Tiffany Sauder This is, again, maybe an unpopular perspective, because I do think there's such an important role for us as leaders to have empathy for what people are going through. But this was the asterisk of all asterisks. This was unprecedented in every capacity. And what I told my team, every part of me wants to come in and try to make part of your life easier. Every part of me wants to try to make it so that you can sleep just 20 minutes longer. Every part of me wants to make it so I can get three fewer emails. Every part of me wants to make our clients a little happier for you somehow. But the reality of what we have to go through is that we are trying to make it into the playoffs as a team who knows how to compete. And we are beat up like we're scratched, we’re just a wreck, and we still have to take the field. And the good thing that happens when you start to see and start to, I think, gain ownership over the fact that, dang it, I can do really hard things. Then when people look at what it's like to be a CEO or an entrepreneur or having four kids a marriage in a company like sometimes it's just really hard, like really hard, like at the end of your rope part, and it doesn't stay like that forever. And so I think sometimes we also take away the gift from our people accidentally by wanting to be empathetic. We take away the feeling of this massive victory, this understanding of what they're really capable of, where we go past what we perceive our limits to be in a whole new place is opened up for us. I don't know either. I'd be open to your sort of feedback on that, Chris, because I feel like sometimes it's not popular to say it's hard and I'm sorry, but we have to do it anyway.

Chris Byers: I think one of the things I've seen, especially toward the end of twenty twenty, was a particular balance that I needed to shift away from, which is we've got high empathy, spent a lot of time with people, give them a ton of flexibility. And so, you know what? Yeah, we're going to have to flip this a little bit and say we do have a job to get done and we can't drag this out forever. That doesn't mean our flexibility is going to disappear. That doesn't mean it's all going to change. But I think the perspective I took was I did a lot of thinking, reading about World War II, and especially for people who lived in London at the time or England in general, and just how ultimately they had to get their lives going again, even in the midst of war happening all around them. And I think that is, to your point, a job of a leader. How do we help people stay focused? And a lot of ways it's encouraging to them. Some people give us feedback. Last year you'll stop talking about our feelings because I want to go to work and forget it. And so there seems to be moments for both.

Tiffany Sauder Yeah, I think we all needed to know, too, that we were bigger than it. This doesn't have to define every part of my existence. We are bigger than it. We are more than coronaviruses. We are more than this. And so but I don't mean we can defeat it like so to speak. But it's just I think people needed to know I am bigger. Like my life is bigger than this.

Chris Byers: Absolutely. You talked about fear earlier, I imagine experience some sort of fear last year. And it sounds like this year you're going to take that on. And a little bit of a new way in a podcast that you've got called Scared. Confident. Tell us about that. Tell us where the title came from and what you want to talk about.

Tiffany Sauder This has been a really fun project for me to work on. As I look back at my journey and the question behind the question that I see in people's eyes when they come and say, like, so what's it like? What's it take? Can I do this to like how does it look? We all I think, if we're honest, have these fears and we need to be real about them and give them language. And I think that we take back control from the fear when we have the courage to say this is a crap that's going on my head and heart right now. And I'm an. Talk about it, because then the fear doesn't have control over me, and what I found is that when I had the courage to be the most head on with fear, right behind that was where I had the most confidence. And so this kind of juxtaposition of scared, confident is, yeah, I'm scared and I'm so scared that I'm willing to talk about it so that I can get through it and really plants in confidence and clarity so that I can act and move forward with a clear mind. And, you know, I believe that I was created for a purpose. I believe that I have a role to play on this earth to make it a better place. And I think most of us, when we lay in bed at night, we're like, no, I am significant. I do need to be here. I do have people to impact and children to raise and families and communities and teams to impact. I'm here for a reason. And when we allow fear to control the narrative in our heads and hearts, then we don't get to step fully into who we were all individually designed to be. And so this is really kind of me going first, talking about the crap that has been in the way in my life, the things that I've learned from overcoming that, and also just to continue a transparent journey of what I'm learning and what life is teaching me. And then we'll also have some segments where we engage questions from the community, from people like me, me, 15 years ago, maybe me 15 years from now, asking questions of one another, of what does it mean and how do we confront this so that we can really empower people to step entirely into who they were made to be.


Chris Byers: Love that phrase you use about language. There was a moment last year where I was like, I don't know what this feeling is that's been on me, but it feels like a cloud that's just been laying over me for weeks or some long period of time. And somewhere in there I discovered it was grief and I was like, oh, OK, I can actually do something about it. Now that I know that I know there's a word that I actually know what that means, but I couldn't describe it better until somebody pointed that out. Tell us about the some of the language that you feel like you've learned to help take the fear and put it where it needs to be.

Tiffany Sauder I've just learned to export it to myself really early and then often to my team. And I think that all of us had fears in 2020 as leaders that we were just going to screw it up worse than it was already screwed up. And I was able to say, guys, I don't want to fail you like I'm afraid you, Chris, I think I've led a remote organization for a long time. I hadn't everybody was in our nest during the day, for the most part. I'm afraid I'm not going to know how to lead well in a remote environment. I'm afraid I'm going to not pick up on the signs that you need me in a way that I don't know how to show up for you. I had these fears and so for me it's just about I'm not a journalist, but it's a mental journaling of what am I afraid of? Where am I afraid that my blind spots are? And then my style is to export it and say, this is what I'm afraid of, but these are my intentions and this is what I'm working at. I need your feedback and we're working to be excellent for you. And these are the things that I want to be acutely aware of, that we may be failing and we need to be able to talk about that. And for me, again, it allows me to say, hey, I'm always on Zoom and I'm always like, what used to be a two directional conversation is now me jumping on as a voice of God, exporting information. Then everybody closes other. Zoom How do we not do that? Because that doesn't feel great to me and I'm not getting good feedback and so allows me to just ask more real questions and move past the assumptive.

Chris Byers: Much quicker the word that comes to mind when you're talking is the idea of transparency and really using that transparency of sharing more of just the thoughts that are often stuck in our heads. And often we don't think we're allowed to express out to other people. What advice would you give to people to like why do you think people aren't as transparent as they probably could be and how can they change that?

Tiffany Sauder I think we're not as transparent as we need to be because we are afraid. So I'll give like an extreme example from three, because it's harder to talk about the crappy things. So over the course of two years, Element three had three layoffs. Some of those were things inside of our control and some of those are things outside of our control. But that's a really shitty thing to have happened at a company. And so what I was really afraid of is that people were not going to believe my words anymore. And what I was really afraid of, if I was honest with myself, was like there was some secret coup or people are just going to walk out because they were so pissed off. And so we can continue to come into like town hall meetings and team meetings and pretend nobody knows that has happened. And then we get to work in this like contrived reality where everybody's pretend nice to each other. But I'm wondering and they're wondering, but we're not courageous enough to step into the real conversation or I like finally I was like, I'm just tired of this. I'm going to talk about it. And so I was like, OK, guys, let's go ahead and build this timeline about what happened and what I think is in all of your minds, in what I'm afraid of as a result of that. And my question to you is, so I built a timeline. Here's what happened. We all understand these are the questions I asked myself of this situation. How would you lead different? What different questions would you ask, how do you get ahead of this, how do you make sure it doesn't happen again? Biloela And then I was like and these are the things I'm afraid are going on in your head. And I exported those questions to them. And they're all like nodding their heads. Get those are totally our questions. I was like, OK, so can we talk about it now? And there was like this massive sigh of relief of let's talk about the crap in the middle of the room instead of keep walking around it. But there's a ton of fear. And if I talk about it, is it actually that they don't know and I'm going to bring it into their consciousness and then they're going to be like, oh, me, I didn't realize that. No, of course they know this very scary because you're super vulnerable, because what they might come back with is say, you're exactly right, Tiffany. There is a secret coup starting and everybody is going to walk out and then we're actually leaving in ten minutes, which is an area. But if that's what's happening, you would rather know. So does that make sense, Chris, like.

Chris Byers: Yeah, absolutely. At first I very much appreciate your just your transparency and vulnerability and sharing the story of layoffs, because if somebody doesn't know your story, they wouldn't necessarily know that. And I think as a leader, it's got to be one of the worst possible moments to think there's a chance it's coming to deal with it, to then rebuild trust afterward. But I love really that I think you're helping encourage people to just know that everybody has fears. It may not look like we have fears sometimes as leaders, but they're there. And in fact, as you express them, other people can come along and help you. And I think the more we can get people, we have a cultural value default to transparency. And what I tell people, we've got a lot of grace for you, if you will tell the truth and speak plainly about things rather than positioning and making sure it sounds good. And if your failures, like, just get it out there, I'll deal with that all day long. I don't want to deal with. Oh, it's going great. It's going great. But it's really not. But I think it's we can teach more people to do that. It creates some much better outcomes.

Tiffany Sauder And what I've learned, I think about this idea of fear and truth and transparency is that you can talk about it in the third person, meaning like we ought to be transparent. But when you actually are and let go first, it's trusting to people like for like, why would you record the fact that you lay people off three times a day? You're like, that's crappy. You don't want people to know that. But it starts, I think, to say, no, I'm honest, I'm serious. If I talk about the worst things I've been through as a matter of going first, then maybe we will begin to get this into practice such that we can have real conversations which we know, and building teams and building value and building companies is what creates a flywheel that spins faster than anybody else's. Because you're talking about the real things are really fast.

Chris Byers: I would love to hear what it is that drives the passion around getting this message out to more people. What's the experience they might be facing right now that you want to change?

Tiffany Sauder I think it's two things. I think on one hand, and you may be experiences, too, Chris, in that when you start to have like more visible success and people like, oh, to our mama for wife, CEO, entrepreneur, it's like those are all like pretty flowers. It was pretty sucky to get there. So let's also be sure that we're giving that part of the story its day in court because it feels disingenuous to just talk about the accomplishment side without being real about what's it look like to get there. Some of my most joyful parts of the story is overcoming things that I had no idea that I could survive. And I think that I want people to find courage in both sides of the story, both the one that's published and the part of it that was really hard so that it normalizes their own experience. I think that's part of it. And the other piece is just to create a more like I have these conversations with there's like three personas. One is twenty four to twenty nine year old young woman who's looking at you saying, like, I'm really jammin’ in my career right now. I think I've got some pretty cool opportunities. I'm starting to get a read on what I want to do. I also would like to have a baby and I'm real confused about how to put those two things together. And so I have these really amazing conversations in one of ways with that woman and to record it and be able to share it so that I can have that, quote unquote conversation with lots of people. I think there's a lot of value in just sharing those real questions. The other, like I share it, is like more like my dad, people who are sometimes clients of mine, colleagues, other CEOs who have young daughters or sons who are coming up. And they're starting to say, hey, it's a different world. How do I encourage her or him in this pursuit of a two career home? How do I encourage them? How do I give them skills to balance what it means to be a professional and a parent? How do I help them? And they're looking for resources in it. There's nothing to share. And then the third is those people exactly in my seat where they're like, OK, I'm sitting here. I am a mom, I am an entrepreneur. I do have a career. I have chosen children, those three people. I want to be able to say, here's my story, if it can help you. I'm real specific about saying this is not a podcast about what you should do. It's simply sharing the things that I've learned, the people I've met. The stories have helped me on my. Own journey so that we can get real clear and the decisions and permission that we give ourselves to step real confidently into the roles that we've chosen in life,

Chris Byers: as you talk about this, especially having children. Sounds like a pretty big topic that you're thinking about. How do I help people tackle that more often and the challenges of how is this going to impact my career, et cetera? What's your word for the men who are listening to this? What do you want them to hear? What do you want us to learn?

Tiffany Sauder I wish I only had one word. I think that one of the things I'm really passionate about is it needs to be about equal opportunity and it needs to be up to the woman to choose what she wants or doesn't want to walk into. And I think one of the things I'm really careful about is if you decide to say no to a promotion or you decide to say no to an assignment or to a big family move or something like that, because it's not right for your family, that doesn't make you less than or wimpy or that you should have that might totally be the right thing for your family. And so I think as male leaders, as business owners who are men or managers, making sure that you don't make that decision for that woman and saying, oh, she's got a lot of kids or her husband has a big job or whatever, the thing is that you think may make her more or less likely to be able to step into that opportunity if she's work for it, give her the opportunity. And what she chooses to do is totally inside of her own. That's inside her control and power. I think for me, women who have worked for it, making sure that they have equal opportunity and women, if you don't choose to step into it, that doesn't mean that you've failed. That just means that you've own that choice. And that's totally fine.

Chris Byers: I always feel like this is something that is maybe I don't know that this works for everybody, but I love what you're talking about, because for my wife and I, we, especially for every major decision, will often go through this period of time. Or one of us like, oh, yeah, this is the thing. This is the answer. And but the other person doesn't get there. I can't think of many times where we move forward, where we haven't ultimately kept that balance going back and forth until ultimately we're like, oh yeah, that's the decision. We're both on board and it feels like the right decision. And I think that I just can't tell you how powerful that is. I think for both of us to feel the confidence of each other supporting each other, and we've made moves across the country for each other at different times. And so I think we should be calling people to to work on that more often, to really say how can we make these decisions together? And it's not one person's over the others.

Tiffany Sauder I think that's I think there's a great point, Chris. I know my husband and I as we've built our careers over the last 20 years, there have been years where my quote unquote career was on the back seat in our family, which meant that he had license to leave early, get home late if he needed to work a Saturday. He was traveling a lot. I needed to say yes and no to things that allowed me to be more flexible in that season for him because I understood the opportunity in front of him and that was the right thing for our family and vice versa. There have been years where he knew that Season three was going to take every ounce of blood, sweat and tears that I had. And it very much has been a dance of both of us being able to achieve some really awesome things. But it has you know, we've staggered that knowing that our kids need something from us, we've got things that we need to take care of that isn't just us in our careers alone.

Chris Byers: Well, each conversation we have on the show ends up highlighting innovative ideas and fresh perspectives. Tiffani's encouraging people to lean into fear as a catalyst for pushing past limitations. Tiven, if you could give advice to our listeners, what would you say is the first step to embracing fear as a way to create impact for their business or personal life?

Tiffany Sauder Just try it. Don't try to overthink it. Think about it as an experiment, find a fear, decide you're going to name it, make sure you're clear on it, and then export it to the people or the audiences that are coming into contact with you in that way, because chances are they sense it. And when you give it language, it allows you to have a conversation at a totally different level. So that would be my advice. Try it, give it a shot. Let me know how it goes.

Chris Byers: Excellent. What do you hope people take away after hearing your story?

Tiffany Sauder I hope that they see that there's so much power and transparency. I hope that they also see that we're all a work in process. And anyone that you see that maybe looks like they have so many badges and stickers that there's always a story there. And so listen patiently for the lessons, because there's a lot people can share when you're vulnerable yourself and you really ask what's going on

Chris Byers: and what do you think people listening can do differently in their day to day to create a positive impact for others?

Tiffany Sauder I hope one of the things, as I reflect on fear I have also come to understand is that it's an incredibly selfish posture. Fear is like, well, what will people think of me? What will people say? What are people's expectations of me? And it's very much inward. It's very selfish posture. And when we are able to break through fear and step wholly into our lessons and what life has taught us and what we have to share, there's so many people around us who are waiting to be impacted. And when we live in a posture of fear, all arrows are pointed inward. And I think it gives us a chance to just impact the things around us. When we step outside of that, outside of ourselves,

Chris Byers: you get any future ideas, things you're thinking about how to. Can impact as you're going forward this year,

Tiffany Sauder I'm really excited about leaning into scared, confident and seeing where it goes. I just read the Matthew McConaughey greenlights book. I don't know if you've read that, Chris, but my big takeaway was focus on the craft of it and we'll let the outcome be what it is. But I'm really excited just to share vulnerably, to engage in conversation and understand what people's questions are and see where all goes.

Chris Byers: To learn more about how people are reimagining their world of work, head over to formstack.com/practically-genius. Thanks for joining us on this episode of Ripple Effect.

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