Ep.84: How We Run a High Vibe Company: A Chat With My Best Friend Kristin Matthews
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I’ve never been more excited than I am for this episode. If you are a woman in mid-life, thinking about jumping back into a career or if you’re already in the workplace, and you’re curious about how some of the best leaders lead, this is the show for you. I’m also excited about this interview because I get to speak with my best friend, Kristin Matthews.
We will be discussing how we co-manage a growing company. She is my number one go-to in life, and not just for her tolerance and patience with me. I feel like, more than anybody else in the whole world, I can always trust her to have my back. She is the person that helps realize my vision into existence.
Robyn: Hey, everyone. It’s Robyn Openshaw, and welcome back to Vibe. I know I start out every episode telling you how excited I am about this interview, but I’m going to tell the honest truth. I’ve never been more excited than I am for this one. It’s a really fun one today. Stick around for it if you are a woman in midlife, thinking about jumping back into some kind of career. We talk a lot about that, or if you’re already in the workplace, and you’re curious about how some of the best leaders lead, want to have a workplace that is positive and fun and productive — high vibration — a place to contribute and collaborate, this is the show for you.
How can you tell if a workplace is like that? How can you tell it’s a place you can contribute, and you can feel excited to come to work every day? The reason I’m excited about this interview is that I’m going to interview my best friend. We’re not necessarily so much talking about her and me, as much as about how she and I co-manage a growing company.
We are going to talk about the books that have influenced us the most. She and I rarely go a whole day without talking about something that one of us is learning in our shared Audible account. We rarely go a day without talking about a parenting issue either one or both of us is having, and kicking around ideas from our own experience. She is my number one go-to in life, and not just for her tolerance and patience with me. I feel like, more than anybody else in the whole world, I can always trust her to have my back, but also to know my heart in anything that I’m doing.
Really, the thing that I want you to meet Kristin Matthews for is for her incredible wisdom. When I talk to her about something, she doesn’t just give me platitudes. She sits there with me, and she tries to help me solve it. Welcome to Vibe, Kristin Matthews.
Kristin: Hey, Robyn, thanks for having me.
Robyn: Kristin and I always talk about how we are on parallel tracks, and so much of our lives, in an unplanned way, sort of paralleled each other. I was at Southern Utah University a few weeks ago. At SUU, I had my second child graduating, and I have two more children starting there together in the fall. I spoke at the Business School a couple weeks ago.
A student raised his hand at the end, when it was time for questions, and he asked me, “How do you turn around bad attitudes among your employees? How do you keep the corporate culture from being catty, with employees talking about other employees or the boss behind their backs; being negative about projects the company’s working on; all that kind of stuff? How do you make sure that people are actually getting things done in this first-ever generation where people work from home?”
I don’t know how many employees; we have 20-something. How do we keep them from dragging their feet on stuff, since we’re all working at home and can’t see? We can’t see inside somebody’s home office to see what they’re doing, so let’s talk about high vibration in the workplace. How does that happen? I feel like we work together really, really well as a team, even though we have an insane number of projects we’re working on, at any given time, with an insane level of complexity.
Kristin, you’re really Chief of Staff, though in addition to, right now, you are Chief Marketing Officer, the only other person with a C-level, chief-something-or-other title besides me. Why do we have such a great working environment at Green Smoothie Girl — or am I making that up, and we really don’t?
Kristin: No, I think we absolutely do, and it really comes from the fact that we just have awesome people that work for us and with us. I think our team members are ferociously loyal to one another. Their number one go-to is that they lift and support each other without fail. It accidentally happened, as we were hiring people and working with people, but I recently read a book called Extreme Ownership. I loved it so much, because it really identified a lot of the reasons why our team does work well together. It reinforced some of the behaviors we were having, and gave me more juice for doing more of those same things.
The basic premise of the book is that everything is your fault: meaning you, at the end of the day, are responsible for everything that happens. That means, for me, I’m responsible, which the way it’s couched is really … It’s empowering. What it does is it means that we don’t play the blame game at Green Smoothie Girl. When somebody messes something up, and we all have, it creates this expectation among the team that there are no tragedies. When something goes wrong, we don’t get mad. What we do is we get in, and we all start bailing water and start rowing.
I think that’s a really important thing that we do. That book, Extreme Ownership, does a really good job of laying that out. It was just a really natural fit for how our team runs organically, but it really comes because we just have great people that I love working with, and they are just naturally that way.
Robyn: I love that we have great people, too. I also read Extreme Ownership. The book is actually written by two Navy SEALs. Anybody who’s listening to this, we’re going to probably — if I know Kristin and me — we’re going to probably reference a bunch of our favorite books that help us turn corners, that help us up our game. We are two single moms, who don’t have any business degrees, and zero people on our team have a business degree. The hilarious thing is I now have a child with a business management degree.
I had an experience early in my career that I have, I think, shared with Kristin before, that I was new at WordPerfect. It was my second postgraduate corporate job, and I was a project manager and an editor at WordPerfect, if you remember that company. It was before the Word and Microsoft dynasty ran them out of town. I worked with a hundred designers, editors, writers, lots of us with liberal arts backgrounds, some of us really shiny, right out of school.
I got hired from the outside, and I was brand new. The project that I was assigned had the biggest print run in the history of WordPerfect. We printed 1.1 million manuals. When they came out, I was one of the first ones to hear that we had a typo on the cover. We had an actual typo, a misspelled word, on the cover of 1.1 million printed manuals. I heard the news, and my head just started spinning. My boss was the one who walked into my cubicle and said this happened. I said, “I am sorry. I will find out what happened. I will do anything that I can. Please forgive me. I’m going into motion.”
Well, later, what happened actually came through, and all the information trickled down. It turns out there was nothing I could’ve done. I never saw it. It happened outside of my purview. I’ll tell you, my boss never said to me, “Hey, you took responsibility for that, and you said, ‘This is my fault, and I’ll fix it,’” but I could feel that he knew that that is the kind of person that I am. Instead of being defensive and pointing fingers and blaming other people, I said, “I am so sorry. Let me fix it.”
That was a learning experience because I was then brand new. That was what was so terrifying about it is I had just been hired within probably 10 days. I was the fastest promoted editor in the history of WordPerfect at the time that I left there to go to grad school. I learned something important, and that is that it is highly valued in the workplace, being a person who takes accountability. I love that you mentioned Extreme Ownership, and I love that you make mistakes, Kristin, because it means you’re trying.
Kristin: Yeah, it’s such a great principle. What I love about the culture it creates is it really builds trust between members, because you know that you can go to your superior and say, “I messed up,” and then we’ll work together to remedy, as best we can. If you have staff that’s hiding information or can’t come to you, that can be far more damaging. I like the type of culture that it creates.
Robyn: Kristin is a fantastic technician, who is also an outstanding manager. She really sits in two places. Did you struggle to be such a good technician?
Then I said, “Hey, I need you up here. I need your people skills, because you’re amazing at just managing people. You’re super compassionate, super patient. I’m not a super patient person.” What was that like for you, crossing that bridge? What’s it like for you to manage both technicians and managers?
Kristin: It was and still is really tough for me. It does not come naturally for me. I am super comfortable in the weeds of a project, in the details, developing them and executing them. If it’s a tech piece, all the better, but that’s where I’m really happy, where I can get into my flow.
I am absolutely a reluctant manager. We’ve talked about this before. Robyn has done a good job of pushing me where she needed to and challenging me and encouraging me and mentoring me in these things, because I’ve really needed it.
As I’ve moved up from being a technician to being a manager, one of the hardest things is to give up those details, because you’re like, “I’ve built that thing. I don’t want anybody else building it or messing with it. I know that I did it right.” It’s really hard for me to give up those details, so I’ve had to work very hard and make myself do it, but in that process, I’ve learned that it’s not a terrible thing. There are other people who are competent, who can do it.
The thing I love about how I’ve worked at Green Smoothie Girl is when Robyn hired me, I was literally hauling boxes for her. We would go to events. I would load up the car. We would go. We just had to be scrappy, and we literally just made it all up as we went.
Robyn: Yeah, we should stop and say that you were hired part-time as a $17-an-hour executive assistant. You were my first real employee, besides somebody working in Dubai or something. Now, you’re a six-figure executive, and you were stepping in from a career as a homemaker. You started out hauling boxes. Sorry, back to you.
Kristin: Yeah, I literally did. Once we got more and more staff, and Robyn was like, “Well, I need you to just start running the team,” and it was good for Robyn, because she needed to step into some of those bigger idea roles, even deeper into those, but it was very hard for me. I’m also not naturally comfortable being in charge. I’m always the follower, usually, and so for me to get comfortable with being in charge, making decisions, was very much a developmental process for me. The really cool thing is there was so much crossover.
One of the things Robyn said, as we were preparing for this is, “There’s no difference between the developmental tasks we do in our work life and our personal life.” The things that I’ve learned, that have been critical for me to develop as a manager — learning to take initiative, to make decisions, execute on things — have all translated really nicely into my personal life, into things that I’ve needed to do, because when I started working for Robyn, I was also going through a divorce. In my marriage, I was very much the backseat, so having to step into the role of taking charge of my own personal life, they happened in parallel tracks. Those lessons have translated so nicely for me into my personal life.
I see myself differently, because of that process. It’s given me a lot of confidence and purpose, and it’s made me less afraid of just life in general, of trying new things and having to be challenged in ways that I’m immediately uncomfortable with. This job has gotten me really comfortable with being uncomfortable, and that’s good for me, because it’s something I’ve run from my whole life. It’s been a challenge in a lot of ways, but great. I’ve loved the challenge of it for sure.
Robyn: Yeah, so a little more backstory: Kristin’s first C-level job was she was Chief Operating Officer. Then she grew into pretty much Chief of Staff. I’m not great with meetings. I don’t hold them regularly, and now she does, because she’s far more methodical and linear and moves a project forward a step at a time; whereas I’m flying in the clouds and managing high-level relationships with lots of people and hiring and thinking what our move is six months from now and a year from now.
She was COO after a few years of working her way up in this tiny little company, but she’s also been my best friend for about, I don’t know exactly, I think somewhere around 17 years. We were charter school moms. Kristin was a homeschooling mom. She had six children pretty quickly. When I met her, our kindergarten and second grade daughters were best friends for a while. I actually remember it a lot better than she does, because she’s actually living in a blur.
I remember meeting her at her front door, when I dropped my girls off, because you know you want to meet whoever is at the door when you’re dropping your girls off. I went to the door, and I remember looking over her shoulder and seeing these twin toddlers in their high chairs, and I think they were throwing food at the wall and stuff. She just looked like she got hit by a truck. She looked so tired and wasn’t super interested to chit-chat with me, because she just had this chaos going on behind her, and she wasn’t done. She was yet to have another little one, but, Kristin, we live in a super conservative community, and we were both taught, since we were very young, that we would be wives and mothers, and we both stepped into that role, and we manhandled that role. We were quality wives and mothers.
You’re a charter school founder, and some, or all, of our kids went to the two charter schools where we met at, and then you’re a founder at Maeser Prep, where all your children went, I believe, and one of mine graduated there; but I wonder, in your experience, and now you have been a little bit pulled into being a leader, do women have a hard time with leadership? I know that it was very hard for me in the early days, when I was in my 20s, and I had men who answered to me. I had a hard time telling them what to do. What’s this been like to you, as a woman in a very conservative community?
Kristin: Well, because I have a more passive personality, and I don’t love being in a leadership position, it was actually a good fit for me, because I was not the one challenging a lot of the male leadership in our community. That was a good fit for the culture where I grew up in. It’s unfortunate that my nature was that way, and then my extended family, family and church relationships, and other relationships just reinforced that over and over again.
I was the good girl, who followed the rules and did all the stuff right, and was praised very much for that, but it did not prepare me very well for being a single mom — especially with a frankly very difficult ex-husband, who I’ve had to learn how to have boundaries and stuff with. That was a hard process for me, but one of the paths that took me deeper into that learning was starting that charter school. It was accidental for me, I think.
After homeschooling my kids, I started and ran this charter school when I was 33. That was a five-year volunteer job. It was a full-time volunteer job, and it changed me in a lot of fundamental ways. It taught me how to work with people, manage people, pay attention to details and the finances of a business, because a charter school is run like a business.
While not all moms can start a charter school, I think there are a lot of ways you can prepare if you are a mom and would like to, at some point, get into the workforce. The truth is, the stats tell us only 10% of married women have the luxury of staying home and not working at all. I was very lucky. I was in that 10%, but I don’t anticipate that any of my children will have that opportunity. I’m trying to raise them in such a way that they’re preparing for that, because I was not prepared for that.
Being able to volunteer in places where you can have leadership opportunities is great, so network in your community to make a name for yourself as someone who’s dependable and hardworking. Be one of the 20 percenters that does 80% of the work. It’s crappy, but what it does is it prepares you for real life. You will meet and network with other quality people that can set you up for success, because you’ll know people who know what to look for in a quality employee, and you’ll have opportunities to be around there, around people like that.
My opportunity with Green Smoothie Girl was so much luck as well, though, because another book that I’ve read recently, that I love, is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. He talks about the people who’ve had wild success, like Steve Jobs. Yes, they’re smart and talented and good at what they’re good at, but they also were lucky in time and space to have certain opportunities. It’s actually a fascinating read that really changed my perspective on that, because you say, “Well, you’ll just have to work hard, and things will go well for you.” That’s not always true, but I just happened to be best friends with an Internet rockstar in the embryonic years of your career, and you just happened to need someone right as I was needing a job. From there, it’s just history.
There’s a lot of luck involved there, and you can’t deny that, but for sure I had lots of cool opportunities that I manufactured, just because I think I was a high-octane person anyway. I liked challenges. I liked stimulating things. I loved being a mom, but it also was hard for me to feel totally satisfied with just living in the four walls of my house all the time.
Robyn: Yeah, you were probably pretty fulfilled as a stay-home homemaker. I was right here in the exact same community, and I wasn’t such a good fit. I was born a pusher, a driver, big ideas, a natural-born leader, oldest of eight children. I suffered a lot of pain in the really conservative environment that we were both in, whereas you were just took to it, like a duck to water.
I hyphenated my name when I got married at the age of 20. I mean, what 20-year-old in Utah County does that? My in-laws didn’t like it. My community didn’t like it. My own dang parents didn’t like it. They were just like, “What are you trying to prove? Are you not really ready to be married?”
I was just like, “I don’t know. I was this name for 20 years. Why can’t I keep it?” I’m just a rule breaker, right?
Kristin: You have a unique ability to make yourself a lightning rod. I’m like, I could never do what you do, because that’s just the opposite of me. In fact, I think the first time I ever heard of who you were, or your name, was because we had a friend that ended up creating this big controversy because you were PTO president. Remember that whole thing?
Robyn: Yeah, yeah.
Kristin: That’s, I think, when I first heard about you. You were standing out in the parking lot handing out flyers or something. Then, there was just this big brouhaha over something, because you’re willing to put yourself out there to fight for things you believe in, and people don’t always like it. Yeah, I don’t know how your stomach acid handles it.
Robyn: Well, it’s so interesting how opposite we are and that whole thing of opposites attract. I think I recognize things in you that are stabilizing that are helpful to me, and I think you’ve expressed to me many times over the years that you needed somebody in your life, who’s a bit of a firebrand, for the transitions you had to go through. I mean, we both got divorced. We did not influence each other in our divorces. If anything, even though I don’t think highly of the guy you were married to, I said, “If you can stay married, do it,” right? I said that for years, but just because it is a lot of suffering involved in a divorce.
I went through my divorce, and a year or two later, you went through yours. I wonder what you would — if you were Queen of the World –what you would tell other women, because 2018 is a completely different time to go into adulthood and you’ve got all these daughters. I’ve got two daughters. What would you, in a perfect world, when you’re Queen of the World, what would you tell women who are wanting to get back into the workforce like you did? I don’t think it was luck. I wouldn’t have hired you, no matter how much I liked you. I had lots of friends. I hired you, because I saw the unique abilities in you. What would you tell women, and women raising daughters, too … what words of wisdom?
Kristin: Well, the things that I tell my daughters, and I do tell them about when I started working for you, that I was willing. I, at that point in my life, was willing to do pretty much anything, like-
Robyn: Like haul boxes?
Kristin: Hauling boxes. I did whatever I was asked, and-
Robyn: Didn’t you hit a deer?
Kristin: I tried to do it fast and well.
Robyn: Didn’t you hit a deer?
Kristin: The first five years I worked for you, I kind of worked myself to death. I really burned out, because I was working seven days a week, weekends, nights. We were traveling 12 days a month, and it wrecked me. Not wrecked me, but it just burned me out, but I feel like I’m really glad for that experience, and I’m really actually glad that I have that kind of work ethic, because I think that is what it takes to separate yourself from the rest. You have to show up and show up hard and do your very best. If you don’t know how to do it, get scrappy, and figure out how to do it. Don’t think that anything is something you can’t do, because you can figure out a way.
Then, I also tell my daughters, “Don’t have children until you have a career.” They aren’t necessarily listening to me. This one might be a little more controversial, but I tell my kids, “I love all of you, but don’t have more than two kids, because they grow up, and it gets hard and expensive, and they have real adult problems, and it’s challenging, especially as a single mom.” Also, to prepare: “You should also be preparing that you might be a single mom one day, because there are a million reasons why. Something could happen to your spouse, disability, divorce, death, all kinds of things. There’s no way to predict that you’re going to get this nice, shiny, stay-at-home mom life, and so prepare every way you can.”
Robyn: Yeah, I have to say, I completely agree. I tell my daughters that, and every time I speak to young women. It is like you said before, that statistic. It’s approximately one in 10 women, who actually can stay home for their entire adult lives and be a homemaker. That’s here in the U.S., where we have more affluence. I think that’s a statistic that we should take very seriously, as mothers of daughters, that if we tell them that their only value is derived from being a mother, even if they’re that one in 10, then they hit 50 and aren’t sure what their value is. Are you seeing that as a syndrome? Do you see that around us some?
Kristin: I think so. I mean, I’m trying to think. I’m not very plugged into that world, actually, to be honest with you. I feel like my world is my job . A lot of our team is women who work from home, and I think they do have a lot of purpose. They’re super busy. They have kids, and they’re awesome moms. All of our team members, they’re moms. They’re rockstar moms, and they’re smart and talented but I remember, for sure, feeling that. In my late 20s and early 30s, when I was having babies, and I wanted more. I remember thinking things like, “I wish I could be somewhere, where I get to do something that makes me feel smart, or that reminds me that I’m smart, or that’s more stimulating.”
I really did have thoughts like that, and I felt a little bit perplexed by how I could accomplish that when I had five kids in six years (so my number four and five are twins). When I had my twins, my kids were two, four, and six. That was insane. It was all I did. I love my kids. I’m glad I had my kids, and that’s not a complaint, but I think it’s okay to hold those truths in the same space, that I love my kids, and it was challenging in a way that, yeah, it left me feeling like I wish I could do more.
Robyn: Yeah, and we have Kristin’s sister, Nikki, who works for us, and she has six children, as well. She works for us full-time. She’s our Editorial Director. It’s a good example. Your sister, Nikki, who’s actually your older sister, and so you’re your older sister’s boss. How’s that?
Kristin: Well, it’s awesome, because she’s awesome, and you know, karma. There’s a little bit of karma there.
Robyn: Did she boss you around when you were a kid?
Kristin: Oh, geez, yeah. She was a mother hen. We were kind of forced into that, because we didn’t actually have parents that parented us, so she ended up getting thrust into that role. I joke about that, but she was not a bad, bossy sister. She was just a normal … She was more just annoyed with me.
Robyn: Yeah, you two did not have an idyllic, upper middle class, intact family experience. I don’t know what you want to say about that, but you and Nikki are possibly the two most quality people I’ve ever known. What do you want to say about how you grew up?
Kristin: Oh, yeah, our mother died when we were very young. We got bounced around between extended family and foster homes. Our dad was an alcoholic. Actually, that brings up another book. Sorry, I’m on a thing with books, but I’m actually reading it right now. It’s called Boys in the Boat. I don’t know if you’ve heard of that one, Robyn, but it’s been a great read, and it’s along those same lines. I’ve loved listening to the book, because it’s about this kid who just had this crappy life, growing up, and how hard it was for him. His parents just literally abandoned him at 10 years old. He got dropped off at a church, and had to find his own food and just survive.
The book tells his backstory and then how he becomes one of the members of the boating team that ended up winning the 1938 Olympics in Germany, and just what a heroic and cool experience this team had in coming together and working as a harmonious team, and how important that is in that sport. All of the members of that team had in common that they had very hard growing up years. What it created in them was this humility that enabled them to be able to put the team above self, and really dig in. That was the key to their success was that they knew that the other people on the team in the boat were going to do precisely the right thing at precisely the right time. It came because there was no ego.
The idea that all of these hardships he had made it possible for him to do something great is just a fantastic and meaningful life lesson that I think is really true. Sparing our kids hardship is not always the best thing for them.
Robyn: Yeah, I feel like you’re really good at that, and you innately understand putting the group ahead of yourself, but then you’ve referenced that you were working seven days a week. You were burning out. You were also going through your divorce during that time. That was-
Robyn: Tough times. We were traveling a lot. I was on lecture tour, and the first couple years of that, you were the one traveling with me, and then finally we had other people doing that. I feel like one of the things that you’ve learned also is boundaries in a lot of ways, boundaries to your work. I’m sorry for anything that I had to do with the fact that we were both working 70-hour weeks through a lot of that. It’s crazy, because we were newly single mothers and our kids at pretty tender ages, and we had to provide. We had to. I never got any alimony. You never got any alimony. Sometimes we got some child support. I never got a lot. I had to keep going back to mediations and even court to get it, to get my child support. You’re really good at putting the group ahead of yourself. Have you had to learn to make yourself important, too?
Kristin: Yeah, probably. I don’t regret those years. I think, in a way, it was how I coped with the hard stuff in the divorce; I just threw myself into my job, which may or may not be a good coping mechanism. I’m glad it was work and not something else, because doing it with the job progressed me in a good career.
Yes, of course, I have had to. Nothing in my background, my family, prepared me. Growing up, all of the women in my family are pretty passive backseaters. The value was to put everybody else’s needs before your own. That was what I was explicitly taught, and with every female role model, growing up, with the exception of my grandma, who mothered me for several years when I was a child, but she was just a fantastic, maternal, ferocious, awesome lady, but she trained me still. She raised me for several years after my mom died.
She still had a good balance of that, but all of my grow-up years I never really had a good example of a woman who was strong and looked out for herself, which I think really worked against me. It made it very hard for me to internalize that it’s okay to look out for myself because, to me, that was actually bad. It was bad. It was selfish. I’ve had to learn that it’s okay. I, unfortunately, had to get pushed up against a wall, really, to get there at times, when my health has gone downhill, or I’m just so overloaded and overwhelmed that I cannot function, but that happened to me during those years when I was going through a divorce. I was like you. I was in and out of court multiple times. It was very stressful.
Being backed into a corner, where you’re like, “You know what? You’d better start taking care of yourself, or you’re not going to be able to take care of your family.” It took that extreme for me to start recognizing it. I still am not good at it, but I’m working on it.
Robyn: Yeah, I think we give a lot to our children, and we feel like the more we give, the better a mother we are, but I want to offer a counterpoint perspective to that, that just brings me to my knees every time I think about it, because it’s actually fairly recent. Kristin said she’s had to learn that it’s okay to put herself first sometimes, and to push away from the laptop or say no or put limits on people who need your energy: say no to things.
I felt guilty the whole time I was a working mom, prior to my divorce, and even more afterwards, where I felt like they needed more from me. Then we were on the road, because building our audience had everything to do with being out there. We didn’t know how to do it, otherwise. Everybody else was giving away a free eBook and marketing. Kristin and I didn’t know anything about marketing. I don’t think we knew anything about marketing until the last two years, when we decided to learn a little bit about marketing. We were just out there. I was just teaching and sharing, and Kristin was hauling boxes and the rental car and helping me put products together.
My older daughter, and Kristin knows this story, that recently she has said to me, in both writing and to my face, “Mom, the thing that was most powerful to me about growing up…” (and here I think it’s going to be like gardening or that you had me drink a green smoothie every day or whatever). She said, “I watched you build your business, and I watched you be scrappy, and I watched you create jobs, and I watched you do something meaningful and make a living doing something that you were passionate about and that helps others. Mom, I think you’re a badass, and thank you for your example. I talk about it in my work all the time, and my boss is always saying, ‘Emma’s mom taught her,” blah-blah-blah.
I don’t want to go on and on about that, even though I could not be more blown away by that, but I think not only is it okay if sometimes we put some of our own personal pursuits, not necessarily ahead of everything else, but make it a priority. I had no idea that, not only was I not failing my daughters by building a business and being a working mom, but both of my daughters have recently told me about the impact of watching my struggle, my successes, my failures. I wonder if your daughters have expressed this to you, or if you see in them that your own stepping into your power has been meaningful to them.
Kristin: Yes, absolutely. They have said it explicitly a few times. They don’t say it all the time, but they’ll say things like, “Mom, you’re such a hard worker,” or things like that. I don’t think they have quite the sense [of what it took]. Your kids have seen you be this powerhouse and very influential. I know that they are just busting with pride when they get to hear you speak, and stuff like that. It’s because you have this really cool energy about you. You’re a great speaker, and people want to hear from you. Yeah, I definitely see that a lot.
Yeah, my kids are complimentary about it and really positive about it, for sure, especially watching me go through my divorce. My kids are grateful that I did that for our family, even though it was very hard. They acknowledge that it was the right thing to do, even as hard as it was for them, for many years, but yeah, they do. They express, all the time, their gratitude for that process and watching me go through it, and they’re very complimentary about it.
Robyn: What have you done to help mentor our employees as they rise up? We’ve seen people who were doing piece-rate at home, become managers and directors. We’ve taken technicians and say, “We really need you more in a management role.” You’re working with a couple of our employees to cross bridges. You crossed them yourself, just a few years ago, as we’ve talked about, but what’s that like for you, watching? I would imagine it’s probably pretty gratifying for such a people person like you, watching people step into their own power, two steps behind you figuring out how to do it yourself. Tell a story of somebody you’ve worked with on our team. Name them or don’t name them, but what do we do to have a culture of, like you described in the very beginning of this interview, of everybody being super supportive of each other?
(I want to tell you, side note, thank you for the fact that you don’t criticize me to our team. What’s the book I’m reading right now? Oh, Rocket Fuel, the tension between the visionary and the implementer, you being the implementer/integrator, take some ideas, put stakes in the ground, project manage, manage the team, and me as the visionary. It says that tiny little differences between us will be seen as chasms, huge differences, by those around us. I just, I was like, I don’t … She just doesn’t do that. She just has my back.) So I want to thank you for that, and I want to know what qualities of your own have you brought to make our team so amazing, and they feel useful, they feel valued, they feel heard, they feel like contributors. How did you do that?
Kristin: I think it’s really something that’s always been very important to me, so probably just because I’m 46 years old now, and I’ve had some time with other human beings on the planet, and I work really hard at relationships. I have a lot of weaknesses as a leader. We could go over those, too, but one thing: I just care so much about the relationships I have with the team, and building them up and making sure that it’s a safe place, and that they trust me. I think they know well what my weaknesses are. Sometimes, one thing, that I don’t know if it’s good or bad, is that none of them are afraid of me, at all.
You laugh when I say that, because you know that’s true, but sometimes I’m like, should they be afraid of me? Do I need to be more scary? I don’t know, but I guess what I’ve seen is it’s more [about] the long play, and the long play is building relationship and trust, and knowing they know that I’m going to jump in the trenches with them. They feel supported that way. Then we can have honest conversations. When things are hard, and they’ve had enough, they can come to me, and we figure it out.
Robyn: That is really brilliant. I feel like you’ve hit on something really important here, and that is that, in our work, we offer each other our vulnerability and our authenticity, and we say that we make mistakes. I say that I make mistakes, and the team has seen me fall down hard. They’ve seen me go through devastating things and devastating losses.
We started a second business that we had to fold, and we’ve had things that literally cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars, and most of it, if not all of it, was my fault. When you go big, you are also more likely to fail, as well as succeed. You guys have all had my back, and you’ve just been there to put your arm around me, and so why would I be anything different than compassionate if you make a mistake?
I don’t even know what you’re talking about this week, that somebody came to you and said, “I’ve made an expensive mistake.” I hope that we have a culture, where you know that you don’t even have to tell me about it. I mean, sometimes it may help to tell me about it, but we don’t have a micromanaging culture. We have a culture, I hope, of supporting each other and empowering each other and knowing that we are all human. It’s not like you leave that at the door, when you walk into your job.
Do you believe that when we go through hard things with someone, and we have seen someone in their most vulnerable place, and we have seen someone’s failures, and we’ve seen how they have this gift, but they have this weakness, too … Do you believe that when we talk through that with someone, and when we go through that, take them across that bridge, do you believe that these conversations we have strengthen our relationship with that person?
Kristin: Absolutely. I think vulnerability draws people to you; whereas, being perfect repels people. I spent a lot of my life trying to pretend to be perfect, and it was pretty isolating. Learning to do the opposite (which I had to work really hard to learn because that perfectionism in me was strong, and I felt like I had to be perfect) was very difficult but, man, when I learned it, it was so powerful to see how, when you open up to the people around you and show them what’s inside, that only good things come of that. I mean, in my experience, only good things come of it.
It’s been a really life-shaping, life-changing thing. I feel lucky that I get to work with people that I actually can do that with. I do. I open up to them, and I tell them when I’m having hard days, and they do the same. It builds that culture of trust, and that ferocious loyalty that I was talking about. That is not an understatement. If anybody’s having a hard time, our Green Smoothie Girl team is a great place to go with it, because they just lift you and carry you along, for as long as you need it. It’s pretty cool.
Robyn: Yeah. If you want to hear more from Kristin, go on the Vibe by Robyn Openshaw Facebook page and tell us. What do you want us to talk about? Because she and I could probably talk for four hours about high vibration marriage. I was married for 20 years, and Kristin was married for 18 years, but she’s been married again, and it’s one of the most phenomenal marriages I’ve ever seen. I haven’t even run that past her. I don’t even know if she’s open to talking about high vibration married.
You might think, “What do two divorced people know about high vibration marriage,” but you might be surprised. A disproportionate number of marriage therapists are actually divorced. You learn a lot when you go through the “valley of the shadow of death” and come out the other side.
We could talk about what she has to say about high vibration parenting. She’s an absolutely outstanding parent. She knows how to be a mother bear and go to the mat and fight for her kids. She also knows how to be calm and patient and long-suffering. That’s probably the biggest thing I get from her, because I’m a butt-kicker as a parent. I’ll hold the bar high, and I’ll encourage them, but I’m not always the best at being patient.
We could talk about high vibration divorce, not because we necessarily had one, but what we would tell someone who’s going through divorce. If we see some interest on the Facebook page, Vibe by Robyn Openshaw, in another conversation with Kristin, please do let us know there. In the meantime, anything that you want to leave us with, Kristin?
Kristin: I think, probably because we talk about this so much, and the book that we’re reading now, Rocket Fuel, highlights the relationship between the visionary and the implementer, and it was so cool to have words for what you and I have been experiencing. We talk a lot about how we’re the yin and the yang, and what a magical combination that’s been in our friendship, but also in our work relationship. One of the questions you had asked me was just about how do we get greatness from our people?
I think, first of all, you get good people. I know that’s probably oversimplified and very difficult to do. Maybe we just have lucked out and just have amazing people, but one of the ways that Robyn and I play off each other is I think Robyn has a high bar, and that’s good. I need that. She has that fire and energy and drive that propels the company.
We’ve joked a lot about how she’s this freight train, and everybody on the Green Smoothie Girl team are little people hanging off the caboose, just dangling, holding on for dear life. I also like to say that she’s a stallion, and it’s our job to make sure that she gets to run. The team is [composed of] all similar personalities, where we are not fast-start personalities like Robyn. We’re a little bit more slow and meticulous and technical and deep thinking people; and I’m sure that it’s frustrating for you, at times, Robyn, that you’re like, “Oh, my gosh, when are these people going to get this stuff done?” Because a lot of it is you don’t see the details, but a lot of it is also the methodical way that we work.
I think it’s cool that one way that’s played off each other is that you provide this energy and drive. Everyone feels it, and everyone loves you and actually wants to make this business and you and all of us to be successful. Then, because I’ve built these relationships with the team, that energy comes through me to them. That’s how I see it, because I’m not a good driver of people, like a pusher-driver. I appreciate your energy in that, and again, it’s that yin and yang thing that plays out really well. I feel so fortunate that I get to have this experience, because it’s so gratifying on so many levels. I just admire you and think you’re a rockstar. I feel lucky to be in your orbit.
Robyn: I’ve heard it. Everyone, I feel really, really so blessed that I got to let you in on a little conversation with someone I love so much. I think you can see how, even though I’ve been through a lot of hard things in my life, and Kristin has been through more hard things in her life, that she’s the reason I’m still standing. If I ever go to the mat and go fight for something for her, I always tell people, “Here, I need you to do this for Kristin,” or whatever, “because she’s the best person I know.” I think you got a sense of that. Kristin, I just want to tell you that I love you.
Kristin: I love you, Robyn.
Robyn: Thank you.
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