The Magic In Being The Kind Communicator with Elizabeth Barry
My guest is a business expert who knows how to navigate the important and intimate conversations that take place all throughout life. Her new book, The Kind Communicator, is a blueprint on how great leaders show up in the real world. As an executive coach who has helped thousands discover their true voice, she discovered her secret weapon, kindness. Graduating from UMass in 2000, she quickly found her calling and started her own business a few years ago. You’re going to enjoy this conversation. Welcome, Elizabeth Barry, to the show.
Thank you very much. I’m very glad to be here with you.
One of the things that we do with all of our guests is we like to go back and start at the beginning. Maybe you could give us a little bit of background. How did you get into business?
It’s such a wonderful thing to go back in time and think about how we started, how we got here. I was a sales director. I was breaking records as a salesman in the publishing industry, when publishing was still publishing. There were actual magazines at that point and I was traveling all around the United States. I worked for Dance Spirit Pointe Magazine. I was a dancer. I started out with my communication major in publishing and I was traveling. I was in Florida several times a year. I was in LA, North Carolina and I was meeting with all of these entrepreneurs and I was breaking down the walls between us. Instead of being a salesperson, I was becoming friendly with them. I walked out of their offices, I could sell them thousands of dollars’ worth of advertising and we ended up getting scotches. We ended up talking about our love for Jim Morrison. We ended up going to different shows and things like that. I started loving those relationships, but I realized after a while that in that time, websites weren’t big yet.
It was 2004, 2005. The people that I was selling thousands of dollars’ worth of ads, they were small business owners and the ads weren’t that great that they put into my magazine. In fact, they didn’t portray their brands as I saw them as sitting next to that doesn’t sound one-on-one. Some of them didn’t have websites. I realized after that I was doing a disservice to them. There was one point or another after I was in business in the corporate world for a few years, that I decided to leave and start my own business. I left my job and within twelve days, I started Elizabeth Berry and Associates. I was the first strategic marketing firm for dance. I started to talk to the people that I used to sell advertising to and said, “Let me be your marketing coach, let me help you brand your business.” I had twelve clients within the first couple of months and I was often running.
Did you actually line up clients before you quit?
I didn’t. There’s a point also in Corporate America, I was an energetic woman in New York City and there was a point where I was superseding my goals. I was breaking all these records and the female bosses that were above me that used to high five me and cheer me on, “Go, Elizabeth,” starting to feel a little bit jealous. I didn’t understand it then because I was 24, 25 years old. I didn’t really get it. As I became a woman in my 30s, I recognize that it was jealousy and I decided to just leave. I left, twelve days later there I was and it started getting its feet from there.
What I have discovered, it’s through my own experience and through these interviews with over 150 people, that it’s generally something, there’s some push, there’s some moment in time, there’s this cognitive dissonance that occurs in one’s life that almost pushes us into building our own company. What was that moment for you?
It was the moment when I was traveling and sitting down with the souls of the business owners. I started to feel this irk. This little uncomfortable feeling in my stomach that made me think that I wasn’t doing something right. The tipping point for me was that I was staring at these beautiful business owners who I grew up in a family when my father was a self-made. I’m actually looking at the Colgate clock in Jersey City and he built that with his hands years ago. I grew up in that small business atmosphere. I knew that these people were using their own money. They weren’t Corporate America where they had thousands of dollars. It was through the eyes, souls and the actual wisdom sharing one-on-one with those business owners that propelled me to say, “I’m going to help you instead of selling you something.”There's that voice that comes up in all of us at one point or another that says you got to do something. Click To Tweet
It’s that moment where you realized that there was a disconnect between what you were selling and what the intended goal of your service was. That’s what propelled you into this place. That sounds so incredible. It’s not uncommon. There’s that voice that comes up in all of us at one point or another that says you got to do something. It sounds like for you it must have been pretty loud.
It was loud. I’ve been in business for almost twenty years. I feel it’s still there because there’s a vulnerability. I coach entrepreneurs and executives. I base my distinctive value in vulnerability and going beyond ego. Understanding compassion, kindness, empathy, leadership and all of those different things that one would think is pooh-pooh. When you have all of those qualities, you’re a good person and you show that to other people, then you can make more money than being the cold, ferocious, demanding and forceful leader. I definitely believe that that’s where my path started and it’s going to continue from there.
I’m sure it will. Let’s talk about this leader that was your model for writing your book. The reason I wanted to talk about this individual, the prototype, avatar is because all throughout my life, I’ve either been a leader or worked with leaders. They literally are one or the other. They’re either the gruff, mean type. I worked with some very famous people who acted that way towards their employees. I asked them why and their answer was because, listen, “Compared to Jack Welsh, I’m a sweetheart. Don’t make it sound like I’m doing a bad thing.” I’m trying to say, “No, you’re not doing a bad thing but people won’t respect you if you’re mean to them.” In most cases, that message was lost. That’s okay because again, as a coach, as a consultant, I have many different clients. I don’t have to be with an individual who’s like that. I do at the stage in my life, I do get to choose my clients. I like to be and work with people who are kind and people who are nice. Tell me where this moment comes about, when you’re working with a leader and the light goes on. Through your coaching can change the way they act. Explain how that works.
It’s in the reaction versus the response. When I’m coaching individuals, they’re at this place where they’re the reactor, they’re the jerk. They’re the one reacting to situations where maybe their CEOs, their bosses, their clients or their colleagues are acting manipulative. People in Corporate America, people in meetings, they throw each other under the bus. The moment that I get to sit down and this is such a beautiful experience. The time that I coach my clients is anywhere from six to nine months plus the second year. It’s through those times that we talk through the reaction versus the response. We are able to uncover the triggers and the patterns that are happening because of these demanding, forceful and manipulative people that throw you under the bus. I teach my clients to breath. I teach my clients to smile and say thank you and they learn that they can’t control others.
What happens is the coaching comes into play in that moment that you asked about, is that they realize that they don’t want to control the other people anymore, whereas they used to want to control them by reacting to them. All they’re doing is just providing this negative energy, this stress that crinkles the neck and makes you need to go get a massage the next day or a glass of wine immediately after work. I love a glass of wine after work but it’s after a good day. It’s that reaction versus the response and the humbling, the awkwardness, embarrassment, shame and the guilt. That’s where my vulnerability training comes in. I was once the reactor. I was once the one throwing my hand on the desk, walking out or saying things that flew out of my mouth. I have this ability to make people feel comfortable about the embarrassment of their flaws and weaknesses.
That’s a great quality to have in it. It’s also very helpful to someone who needs of the mirror. You’re basically acting as a mirror. You hold space for your clients and show them what it’s like to be with them. Most of the time when you do your job, they realize they don’t like it and they want to be different because you’re inspiring them to do so. Let’s get into the book, tell me the name of your book.
Explain to me what the purpose and goal of the book was.
Kind communication is empathy and compassionate leadership skills. I wrote it over the course of three and a half months. As a coach and a consultant also was the co-owner of a Pilates studio. In addition to all of these years being a B2B expert working from home, I ended up taking on an additional responsibility within the health and wellness fields. Helping a client of mine out and investing into her Pilates studio. There were a few times where I was behind the desk. I was now in a B2C environment and I said, “Wow.” I never got that because I was able to choose my clients and my clients were awesome. They were business owners. We got business done, we’re on the phone, we went to conferences and we had a good time but I was dealing with the customer, the B2C world. I was wowed and shocked at how customers speak to people of authority that own a business. What I was stepped into was a little bit of a mess to help a client out.
I realized that the way that people were speaking to me was demeaning. They were entitled, they were demanding, they wanted this and they wanted it and they wanted it this way or else. Over the amount of time where I didn’t understand that because I’d never experienced it, I learned how to shift their communication towards me by telling them how I wanted them to speak to me or else they wouldn’t get what they wanted. I did it in a kind way and I was like, “How am I going to put that into words? How am I going to teach that?” I ended up writing The Kind Communicator because I was understanding that I was able to shift a client-base of over 4,000 clients to speak differently and be grateful. Ask with gratitude and ask within trepidation rather than demand what they needed or wanted. It was miraculous how it all happened. It was like a Rubik’s cube. You have to shift it a little bit. That was one of the impetus over the summer writing the book.Life hands you exactly the experiences you need to accomplish your goal. Click To Tweet
Life hands you exactly the experiences you need to accomplish your goal. That’s what happened to you, which is beautiful. I want to tell you a story about a guy named Alan Singer. When I was building my software company, we had a policy that there was no such thing as an upset customer or a dissatisfied customer. There was zero tolerance for an upset or dissatisfied customer. When someone in customer service gets somebody who would not listen to reason, they were instructed to transfer that call to Alan Singer. Alan would take care of them. What ended up happening is that every so often I would look at my phone. The red light like the bat phone would go with light up because I was Alan Singer. I pick-up the phone, my goal was to turn every person who was disgruntled, upset, angry and dissatisfied into an ambassador for my products and company. That was the goal of every call.
What ended up happening, I’m going to say dozens and dozens over the course of the years I operated the company, there were several and we turned each one of them into a raving fan. We did it with kindness. What’s interesting about it is that I wanted to do it from a position of non-authority. I wanted to understand the process of what it took to turn somebody around so that I can duplicate it and bring it into my customer service division. What would end up happening is somebody would call and the first thing I would do is I completely empathize with them. Which is again is one of the steps in your process. Once I empathize with them and got them to the point where we’re now at the same tone level, I’m going to start raising their tone by understanding what they wanted, what they needed. Most of the time, I’m going to refund their money. I’m going to give them a complimentary year of service and have them keep the product that they bought anyway. By the end of the call, they’re asking me what they could do to help. This process of kindness, of empathy in business is magic. I applaud you for taking this into the world and sharing it.
I have to say, I use that word magic all the time. It is magic when you put it to good use. When you use your words wisely, you use your words effectively to get to the hearts and minds of people because that’s all they want. They want to be listened to. We all want to be listened to. We want that connection rather than the separateness and the division of who we are. Kindness is listening to someone rant and rave or listening to someone when they need something.
It turns out that we could actually take this one step further. Yes, it’s great to be kind and it’s great to be empathetic but we once we step this up one level to admiration, well that’s the universal solvent. That will fix about any problem. It’s very funny too because if you watch the political scene, once you get to admiration, the game changes completely. I believe it’s a level above empathy. Now, you are not only understanding the person but literally admiring them for being who they are and what they do. That has been magic for me in my life.
The vulnerability of owning your weakness, owning your strengths. What you said that Alan Singer did has allowed them to own their weakness, that they might have yelled at you, they might have been angry with you, but you were able to turn them around. Shift them like that, one click of a Rubik’s cube and become that advocate, become the promoter for your brand and asking how they can help. At that point, you can definitely admire somebody for that. That’s the whole key to business coaching. A lot of people have this in trepidation. They have this scared moment where they don’t want to call someone to call it and get a business coach.
They have this fear and fear holds us back. The opposite of fear is love. Once we learn that we can have this admiration for us, for ourselves and for others then that opens the door up to a whole realm of stuff that we didn’t get in school. My clients call it business therapy. When they talk to me, it’s conversational leadership. It’s business therapy. It’s not going from a book, I didn’t go to a certification course and learn something. This is pure years of being a marketing consultant, doing marketing and branding. At the end of the day, being their coach and their consultant, taking them through a brand launch or a rebrand. I shifted the tables to be a coach and a consultant and I just happen to be an awesome marketer and brander as well.
Elizabeth, maybe I should send you a copy of my book, Power Tribes, which will tell you and teach you how to take what you do and turn it into a certification program, so other coaches can learn from you.
I was checking that out. I had my eye on it. I would absolutely love that.
Let’s get into the nuts and bolts of exactly how you teach people this skill. Let’s say that I’m your new client and I want to work with you, help us out by showing us exactly what the steps are.
The steps are simple, it’s solving a problem. When you call a business coach or a consultant and you come to the table with a problem, your brand rebranded and you feel stuck. You don’t know how to get from one step to the other. You’re lost in your own business space. The first step is understanding what the obstacle is. The second step would be getting through that feeling of unstuck, which is I would call it maybe admiration phase. This allowing, this being, this shaking it off phase. I feel like when you have an obstacle and you have a problem, our shoulders are so thick with the layers of that obstacle. The stress and all of the worry that has hindered us until we had gotten to a place of getting to that business coach. That it isn’t until we shake all of that off that we can actually go through the next steps of those phases. Step number one, we understand what the obstacle is. Step number two, we get to know each other a little bit better and we get to feel good about the end cause.
Step number three would be working through the problem. It’s having what I call is conversational leadership training. My process is very conversational. It’s very real. It’s very raw. We were talking about the fact that I wrote a book on The Kind Communicator. I’m a very nice person but I am a tough business coach. I’ve curated several TEDx events. I hold people accountable in quite some way. The next step would be calling people out on what they need to be held accountable for. That’s where that vulnerability training starts to enter in, where we understand what our weaknesses are and where we got to that place of that stuck-ness in the first place. After that, we start to understand it and it’s not me. You said this yourself through your training and on your website is that we’re not magicians, we’re not the Oz behind the curtain. I am an Oz behind the curtain because I like to put my clients in the forefront, but our clients work through their problems and work those obstacles.
It’s our job coming back to that listening, is to listen to them because we both solve the problem together through that conversational discussion and that leadership training that happens consistently. Each and every week there is that phone call and the dialogue that builds onto the growth. We continue to work through there. It’s the empowerment, the confidence building and the being held accountable. I have been calling it an ED, follow up, you could probably help me by giving it a name but I have a written follow-up, executive summary that I sent to my clients thereafter each call. It’s a personal way that I allow them to know that I heard them loud and clear. When people get coached, they get back into their busy schedules. I’m coaching people who are running multimillion-dollar ad agencies, marketing agencies or working in marketing and sales and they forget all the little things. I send a follow up that allows them to know that I heard them, but it’s very personally written. They’re calling it themselves like it’s a chapter in their leadership book. That’s my process and that’s what I’ve created to help my clients in my own fashion.
Step one is understand the obstacle and the problem and then build a relationship with this particular individual or client. Step three is work through the problem, understand what the solutions look like, your third party, your objective, you’ll see things they don’t. Number four is come up with a plan and get them to understand it and then agree with that plan. Step five, use empathy to hold them accountable and then step six, use that accountability to help build confidence and then finally follow up. Does that summarize it pretty well?
Yeah, that’s beautiful.
When I work with my clients, the ones about the same thing you do but I have a visual tool that I use with every session. I actually build a mind map for my clients as I work with them. I don’t think I do the same work that you do. Most of the time, what I’m doing is I’m working with people’s entire marketing structure and sales structure. All of the different channels, all of the pricing issues and all the things related to their business and growth. There are a lot of moving parts. For me, the mind map makes it so easy to see where we were last and what we need to do this week, as we get through the coaching process. That follow-up that you do sounds exactly perfect.Kindness could change the world. Click To Tweet
It’s been a blessing and it also allows me to know that my job has been done because they normally respond with something terrific. It made their day or made an impact, it’s exactly what they wanted to hear. It’s my own personal process but I’m always looking to evolve, expand and learn from people like you to continue on my path of growth and mastery. I appreciate you asking that question.
We’re all on that path together and we learn from each other. Frankly, the reason I love this doing the show so much is because of being able to connect with business geniuses like yourself and learn from you as I do with every guest. The next part of this show is all about going a little bit deeper when it comes to you. One of the questions I like to ask helps the audience better understand what you care about, what you think about and maybe even where you come from. Who, in all of space and time, would you like to have one hour to enjoy a walk in the park, a quick lunch or an intense conversation with?
My answer to that would be the people who built The Freedom Tower. My reason why is that I’m a documentary buff. I haven’t had a television in over twenty years. I learn, I read, I love the behind the scenes. I love hearing about people who build things or make things. I don’t know if you’ve been up in the new Freedom Tower. I was amazed at the ride up and how they transformed The Freedom Tower and made it something special and memorable. I remember crying and recognizing the journey that they created for the next generation to experience World Trade Center. I honor them and I want to thank them for building something upon a tragedy and the aftermath. The sheer brilliance of it warms my heart.
We might be able to find the architect and put you two together. Would that be of interest?
That would be amazing. I knew someone who knew one of the builders or welders and I was trying to get him to speak at one of my TEDx events, but he was not the speaker type. If you can find any of that guy, I would love to sit down with him.
I’ve put some incredible meetings together. Let’s see what we can do, no promises but I’ve been able to arrange a couple of these for folks. I’ll give it a shot, how’s that?
That would be absolutely amazing.
Elizabeth, tell me what it is that you have as a special gift for our audience?
My special gift is a complimentary 30-minute consulting or coaching session with me, Elizabeth Barry.
In order to get your free 30-minute personal one-on-one session with Elizabeth Barry, all you have to do is send an email to request your free session. What I’m going to ask you to do before you mail Elizabeth is to please include enough information so that she can get an idea of who you are and what you’re doing so you don’t have to waste your precious 30 minutes bringing her up to speed. Tell her what you do. Share your website. If you’re having a problem or an issue, share that too. I have a feeling you are going to love your time with Elizabeth.Kindness is listening to someone rant and rave or listening to someone when they need something. Click To Tweet
Don’t forget to sign up.
Now, we get to the grand finale, the change the world question. What is it that you are doing or would like to do that truly has a potential to literally change the world?
I’m answering that question with the idea of kindness and it’s simply because I’ve been in corporate situations, I’ve been in small businesses where people aren’t getting along. There are a lot of unhappy people sitting behind cubicles, sitting behind closed doors and offices. I believe that if I can go into office spaces and do a kindness workshop, bring the idea of kindness, compassionate leadership to the sales teams, to marketing teams and to any employees and their CEOs that we can all become kinder communicators to each other. It will then equate to profits and revolving doors no more and people loving their jobs. We get to love our jobs because we’re entrepreneurs, but sometimes people in Corporate America or small businesses, they get a paycheck. They have to go nine to five. They don’t necessarily love their jobs when they have to deal with those things. I’d like to change world in that aspect.
What a great mission, Elizabeth. Anything I can do to help you, count me in.
I would love that. We’ll talk about that over the glass of scotch.
Thank you so much for spending time with me and with our audience, who I hope got as much out of this conversation as I did.
Thank you so much, Mitch.
Resources Mentioned in This Episode:
- The Kind Communicator
- Elizabeth Barry
- Power Tribes
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