As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times” we had the pleasure of interviewing Beate Chelette.
Beate Chelette is the Growth Architect and Founder of The Women’s Code and provides strategies blueprints and results-oriented, tangible tools and techniques that unify your teams, give you clear steps to improve your business systems, and strengthen your leadership skills.
A first-generation immigrant who found herself $135,000 in debt as a single parent, Beate bootstrapped her passion for photography into a highly successful global business and eventually sold it to Bill Gates in a multimillion-dollar deal. She is amongst the “Top 100 Global Thought Leaders” by PeopleHum and “One of 50 Must-Follow Women Entrepreneurs” by HuffPost.
Recent clients include Chevron, Merck, the Women’s Legislative Caucus of California Cal State University Dominguez Hills, the Association of Corporate Growth, Advertising Agency TracyLocke and thousands of small businesses.
Beate is the author of the #1 International Award Winning Amazon Bestseller “Happy Woman Happy World — How to Go from Overwhelmed to Awesome”–a book that corporate trainer and best-selling author Brian Tracy calls “a handbook for every woman who wants health, success and a fulfilling career.”
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I was an immigrant from Germany and had come to the United States because I was seeking adventure. During a recession, I was laid off with a newborn while struggling to stay in my marriage, and I suddenly had to figure out how to be an entrepreneur by myself.
Over the next ten years, I experienced what I call the decade of bad luck until I finally cracked the code and built and sold a business to Bill Gates himself. It has been an absolute, crazy journey where someone who didn’t know much about business had to get smart quickly — and I accomplished all of this with a photography degree.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I had this idea to start an eBook business with two partners. Our specialty was to do coffee table books as eBooks. We realized very quickly that these didn’t exist because it was a really terrible idea. When you go to someone’s house, and you see an iPad on the coffee table, you don’t have the inclination to pick it up and browse through the coffee table book that’s hidden in the iPad.
I had to remind myself that if an idea doesn’t exist, it’s for one of two reasons — either everyone else is stupid, or you are! In this particular case, I was the one who was stupid because I didn’t think this through.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
The successful idea of launching my speaking and consulting career really came from a woman who spoke many years ago at the National Association of Women Business Owner (NAWBO) annual conference. To this day, I know exactly what she said. I realized that I had to have a story to tell in order for me to do what she did. And that began how I started to design a strategic plan that would get me into speaking and consulting.
Sometimes mentorship isn’t about having someone hold your hand and talking you through something step by step. Mentorship can be as simple as making sure that you are around lots of other people and actively listening — because you never know what idea could be sparked. In this particular case, it was just a simple story someone told that put me on that trajectory that I’m on today.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
Well, first of all, I am a serial entrepreneur, and I built businesses and sold one before. So when I started The Growth Architect, I first wanted to give back to the creative industry to help other creatives to monetize their creativity. I realized very quickly that the creative industry was undergoing major changes and had become commoditized, which was one of the reasons I had sold my business in the first place; I knew it was coming.
The way business works — the strategy, designing blueprints, and building teams — has always been easy for me. But, now I realized that my calling shifted to a different and much larger purpose, which is to change the way men and women lead together in organizations. Because let’s face it, looking at the struggle that people have to retain and engage their employees speaks loudly and clearly to the fact that the current structure is not working.
Now, our purpose is to provide visionaries and leaders and provide them with tools, blueprints, and strategies to make their impact.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
When I look at leadership, I have to look at what works from my perspective, which is an eight-time disaster survivor. My disasters include fires, floods, riots, earthquakes, tsunami, 9/11, and now I have added a pandemic on top.
The type of leadership that works in a crisis tends to be more female-centric. When we talk about traditional leadership, we look at male leadership that is often ruled by winning, competition, power — all things that do not work in a crisis. In a crisis, you need to bring people together.
Now that type of leadership is a lot more female-centric because most women are, by nature, more nurturing, more community-oriented, and more empathetic. So that shifts how we look at how we lead our teams in uncertain times.
For me personally, it was to make sure that we immediately had to increase communication and make sure that all team members that are all over the world are taken care of. We did outreach to our clients, just checking in to make sure they knew we were here for them. We made sure that they knew that their well-being was our priority. We published an insights paper, The Future of Leadership — A Return to Humanity, because we wanted to share what we learned from thought leaders and C-Level executives what leadership trends were emerging.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
Giving up is not in my nature. I will keep going even if it kills me — that’s just the kind of person I am. What I find challenging, at times, is that sometimes you are just tired, and you want to take time off, you want to sleep, and play more, only to realize that there is a lot more for you to do. People depend on you.
You dust yourself off, and you get back to why you’re doing this in the first place. When you realize that you are helping other people to make an impact, that’s a powerful aphrodisiac. Currently, we are working with a mental health organization that trains first responders and an organization that combats homelessness. We are a part of the solution to two huge problems. Now, that gets me up in the morning, every single time. Money motivates — purpose gets you out of bed. That’s my drive; I want to help as many as possible to achieve their goals and step into their brilliance.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
They must remain calm and transparent.
In a crisis, nobody expects the leader to have all the answers, but they expect the leader to be honest. Sometimes insecure leaders want to withhold information because they feel that it upsets people. However, I found that when we share the bigger picture with the people we lead, it serves us better in the long run.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
Earlier, I mentioned that I wrote an insights paper about this called the The Future of Leadership — A Return to Humanity. In this insights paper, I interviewed C-level executives and thought leaders and asked them those exact questions. What do you do in a crisis?
We found that there are four very specific quadrants that leaders are concerned about:
1.) Safe spaces: How do you create a safe space mentally, physically, and emotionally?
2.) Transparency: Tell them the truth and communicate.
3.) Outdated systems: Make sure that the systems, strategies, or structures that you’re using are actually still functioning, which is what we do for a lot of our clients.
4.) Fragility and sensitivities: Artificial Intelligence (AI) measures engagement, not the truth. If team members engage or are interested in a topic, AI will deliver more of what they already believe regardless of whether it is true. As a result, you have people who don’t necessarily know the facts — this is why you have to ensure that you communicate with your teams so that they understand the accurate picture. This brings you back to #2 — tell them the truth so that you control the narrative.
You have to master all of these things to boost morale, inspire, motivate and engage during challenging times.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
Again, it is about being transparent and giving them the backstory of what is happening. It’s not about perfection. That is the vulnerability you need to show for people to connect with you on a deeper level.
It’s about getting the job done, and being human generally always works.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
I always compare this to this one scene in the Indiana Jones movie where Harrison Ford needs to take a step to cross, but he cannot see the path. He has to muster up all his courage to take that first step only to find out that he couldn’t see the bridge because of an optical illusion. The second step only shows up after you take the first step. Leaders just need to take the first step, and the next step will appear. It takes a lot of trust and courage.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Simple: Focus on people and build relationships.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
- Leaders who think that their way is the only way. Frankly, it is ridiculous to insist that the way it’s always been will be the way to move forward. There’s no faster way to get yourself out of business than to follow that idea.
- Not understanding how leadership is changing and that we must incorporate both male and female leadership principles and how that changes the future of leadership altogether.
- Not investing in mindset or having a daily practice that aligns your inner vision with your outer actions.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
My entire business imploded as all speaking engagements and training went away when COVID shut us down. The first answer to everything is to check your mindset. Then, find the opportunity in what’s happening to you. Once you have your mind in the right place, you look for the opportunity, and inevitably it will show up.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
1.) Be an information junkie. Don’t believe everything you think; make sure that you get diverse viewpoints and have multiple conversations with many people in your organization, with your clients with your prospects, so that you get a pulse for what’s going on.
2.) Understand that what got you here isn’t necessarily going to get you there. You want to actively strategize on whether your plan is even still valid. A strategy needs to be adjusted as the circumstances change. Then you set your priorities, and execute in a phased approach.
3.) Make it about your people. Connecting with your team members and your clients on a vulnerable, human level is probably the biggest key to loyalty, especially right now. Every business owner has to fear that their best people are being poached. So as a leader, you have to keep them very close to you and engage in constant conversations.
4.) Practice gratitude; it could always be a lot worse. You could have a lot less. It could have always gone a completely different route. But you’re still here! You’ve still got your business in whatever shape or format it is in — show gratitude for what you have and build from there. Gratitude is a fantastic way to show the universe that you’re ready for more; always find the opportunity and the gift in everything.
5.) Remember, as a leader, you do not have to have all the answers. That’s what you’ve got your people for. Don’t ever stop asking questions and invite open dialogue — and then when you are told the truth, take what people tell you at face value. If somebody feels a certain way, there might be some validity to it. Keep an open mind — your customers might feel the same way, and evaluate what that means for you and how you lead your business.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Maria Shriver said during a conference that courage is when you feel the fear, and you do it anyway. To me, that states in a nutshell that at our core, we are all afraid. We all don’t know if the decisions we make today, as leaders in our organizations, will bring us the desired results. But it is better to make a decision than no decision at all. When you practice this muscle and consistently use your courage to overcome your fears, you can’t help but score wins again, and again, and again.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Download the Future of Leadership — a Return to Humanity at Diversify.world
Reach out at BeateChelette.com or email me at BC@BeateChelette.com I’d love to hear from you.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!