As part of my series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ellie Shefi. She is an Attorney, Entrepreneur, Award-Winning Author, Speaker, Implementation Strategist, and Coach.
Ellie Shefi is the very definition of tenacious. Having overcome a lifetime of adversity, including abuse, domestic violence, homelessness, cancer, and a myriad of other health issues that have seen her fight for her life for over two decades, Ellie has mastered mindset, resiliency, and resourcefulness, and she has dedicated her life to the empowerment of others.
Ellie is a featured contributor to publications, podcasts, and television shows; teacher, trainer, philanthropist, and engaged community servant.
A heart-centered, transformational leader who facilitates change, Ellie’s mission is to impact lives. A master problem solver and opportunity creator who is determined to change the world, Ellie delivers practical, easy-to-implement, results-driven tools and strategies that equip and empower you to take control and become the architect of the authentic, abundant life of your dreams.
Ellie is the creator of You Are Not Your Scars™, a movement that provides resources to empower women; Unlocking Your Superpower™ and Clarity to Launch™, programs that provide resources to empower entrepreneurs; and Amplify Your Story Now™, programs that enable speakers and authors to find their voice and tell their stories. Ellie is also the publisher of Sisters Rising™, a book series that provides women with a platform to tell their stories, showcase their businesses, and raise awareness of their work, and the founder of the Made 2 Change The World™ Foundation, an emerging global nonprofit that provides resources to empower youth.
An award-winning author, Ellie’s books include: Unlocking Your Superpower: 8 Steps to Turn Your Existing Knowledge into Income; Sisters Rising: Stories of Remarkable Women Living Extraordinary Lives; and The Authorities: Powerful Wisdom from Leaders in the Field (which she co-wrote with Les Brown, Bob Proctor, Marci Shimoff, and Raymond Aaron). Ellie is also the co-author of the upcoming books, Women Who Shine (forthcoming Summer 2021) and SuccessOnomics (which she is co-writing with Jack Canfield, forthcoming Fall 2021).
“Ellie is a transformational leader who is changing the world!” ~ Jack Canfield
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 better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you got started?
I’m an attorney, entrepreneur, award-winning author, featured speaker, teacher, trainer, implementation strategist, and coach who is determined to change the world. I provide easy-to-implement, results-driven tools and strategies that empower my clients to get more done in less time with increased efficiency so they gain the time, money, and personal freedom they need to become the architects of their lives.
Growing up, my family didn’t have money for extras, so I launched my earliest entrepreneurial endeavors — tutoring, proofreading and editing, and teaching art and dance — to pay for things like clothes, shoes, books, movies, concerts, and other activities.
By 19 years old, I was working in management training. I followed a potential job opportunity in the field that took me from California to Texas. I arrived there with no home, no connections, and, ultimately, no actual job. But I had skills: I knew how to talk to people; how to motivate them; and how to hustle! So, with what little cash I had, I lived out of my car and rented office space to open my own management training center. I would recruit and train people to manage and motivate themselves and whatever sales teams they would oversee. Once fully taught by me, my management trainees were ready to get to work at whatever company needed them! A business that I started out of nothing pretty quickly allowed me to get an apartment, build a community, and paid for my college education. That was really when I began to level-up my entrepreneurial skills. The daily need to figure things out not only for myself, but for my clients and my trainees as well, was the genesis of becoming a true strategist. Time and time again, I’ve relied on being a master problem solver who could quickly and adeptly navigate the twists and turns of life…and business.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? What lessons or takeaways did you learn?
When I was young and first going in the field as part of a sales team, I would stop anywhere and everywhere I saw people and talk to them. I pitched people in the elevator, waiting for a table at the restaurant, at the grocery story, at the bank, at the gas station, in the parking lot … even in Goodwill! As you can imagine, that didn’t always go over so well! But it taught me five key lessons:
- Enthusiasm, while great, is not, in and of itself, enough. Success also requires determination, perseverance, and resilience.
- Deliver your pitch quickly and concisely.
- Think outside the box and always remain solution-focused.
- Take action. If it doesn’t work, make an adjustment, pivot, and try again.
- Know your ideal customer! Put yourself into proximity with them and have an irresistible offer that solves their problem, alleviates their frustration, meets their need, or makes their life better, easier, or more convenient.
None of us is able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Wow, that’s a tough question….There have been so many people who have extended their hand to me, taught me, mentored me, and helped me along the way. If I need to pick just one person, I would say Tony Robbins because the lessons I learned from him as a child with regard to mindset, meaning, perspective, and gratitude have truly shaped my life.
For instance, I learned from him the power of choosing to assign empowering meanings to events and circumstances in my life. Being able to reframe my perspective has allowed me to control my mindset, which has been critical throughout the COVID pandemic. You see, I’m a true social butterfly — always traveling, attending concerts, going out to restaurants with my friends — you name it, I’m out doing it. Since COVID hit, however, I’ve basically been by myself for the past 11 months (and counting!) in a small 800 square foot apartment. Had I not learned how to control my mindset, assign empowering meanings to events and circumstances, reframe my perspective, and live in gratitude, the isolation could have been devastating.
But, instead, I’ve been able to recognize this time as an opportunity and seize it with gratitude. During the 11 months since COVID began, I’ve written three books, started three companies, opened two publishing houses, run countless workshops and trainings, spoken on numerous international summits (and even hosted one of my own!), coached and mentored many clients, and launched a nonprofit! Never would I have been able to do all of that if I wasn’t forced to spend nearly a year alone in my apartment. Nor would I have achieved any of that without Tony’s teachings.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. How do your business services reflect your vision and purpose?
At my core, I am an impact-driven, heart-centered, transformational leader whose life’s mission is to change the world; the vision and purpose of my business services are an extension of me.
My umbrella company, Made to Change the World, Inc., currently offers a variety of programs and services in four pillars crucial for effecting change in the world: entrepreneurship, mindset, written and spoken advocacy, and empowering the next generation. Unlocking Your Superpower™ and Clarity to Launch™ provide entrepreneurs with the tools and strategies they need to launch, pivot, diversify, and scale their businesses. Creating an Impervious Mind™ teaches tools and strategies for creating a resilient, unstoppable, and limitless mindset. Amplify Your Story Now™ helps authors and speakers find and use their voice and tell their stories. And my nonprofit, the Made 2 Change the World™ Foundation, is an emerging comprehensive global youth movement that equips youth with mindset tools, advocacy tools, and entrepreneurial skills that together will enable them to effect change and create the lives and the future they envision. Made to Change the World, Inc. also offers a publishing house dedicated to telling stories that empower, inspire, and facilitate change.
Made to Change the World, Inc.’s sister company, You Are Not Your Scars, Inc., equips women with the tools and strategies they need to shed external labels and expectations, find their voice, step into their power, and define for themselves who they are and what they want their life to be, so they can become the architect of their life. You Are Not Your Scars, Inc. also publishes Sisters Rising™, a book series by women, for women, to celebrate and showcase remarkable women living extraordinary lives.
And as an implementation strategist and coach, I help my clients gain clarity — clarity of their voice, clarity of their superpowers, clarity of their objectives, and clarity of their vision. Once my clients have clarity, I equip them with the practical, easy-to-implement tools and strategies they need to get from where they are to where they want to be.
To me there is nothing better than seeing my clients find their voice, stand in their power, take control of their destiny, and create the business…and the life…they envision. Then, fully aligned in their purpose and their mission, they impact not only their lives, but the lives of their families, their communities, and ultimately, the world. It’s a ripple effect. I’m so grateful that I get to live my mission and my purpose and that my businesses get to impact countless people’s lives.
What do you think makes your services stand out?
I offer no-fluff, easy-to-implement, results-driven tools and strategies to action-takers who are ready to level-up their business and their life. My services are practical; I provide my clients with the strategies to gain clarity and do more in less time with increased efficiency so they attain their desired goals faster. I work with impact-driven clients who use their businesses and their lives as a force for good. For me, it’s about enabling my clients to achieve their desired time, money, and personal freedom so they can live a meaningful and impactful life they love.
You mentioned COVID earlier. Based on your experience and success, what do you consider the five most important ways a business leader can lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times?
First and foremost, have a clear vision and allow it to guide you. With it, you can lead with conviction and certainty, while remaining open to input and feedback. Remember, a clear vision doesn’t mean it’s rigid. It’s consistent, yet flexible.
Second, practice and implement your own “how can I” mentality. When you believe that bigger opportunities lie on the other side of big obstacles, you’ll remain solution-focused and be driven to smash through whatever is getting in the way. You won’t take “no” for an answer, nor will you accept “it’s impossible” or “there’s no way.” By asking “how can I,” you’ll see possibility and either find a solution or create a solution.
Third, of course, lead by example. Step up and be the person most present — figuratively and literally! Be the first in and the last out. Do the hard work and the menial work and let your people see you involved at this level. Success takes a village, so be part of the team!
Fourth, take responsibility. If something isn’t going well, own it. No blame. No shame. And no excuses. When your team or your clients get stuck in the “It’s hard; I can’t; this excuse, that excuse; this obstacle, that obstacle” cycle, stay present and steady. Cheerlead and encourage them, while providing them with implementable solutions.
Last, remain in alignment with your passion, purpose, mission, and vision. When challenges arise, the most effective leaders remember their why and forge forward.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
Because I live in alignment with my mission and my purpose — to change the world — I’ve never considered giving up! I know with absolute certainty that I’m doing what I was put on this Earth to do. It’s not something I turn on for business and turn off later. I live it 24/7. Now that doesn’t mean I don’t face challenges or trying times, but my clear purpose and my unshakable why fuel me to get up and live my calling, even through exhaustion and frustration. As long as there’s a breath in my body, I’ll keep going.
To sustain my drive, I surround myself with people who think as big as me — those who are dreamers, doers, and impact-makers. I also invest in my own growth and success with coaches and mentors who are further along in the journey. They guide me, help me avoid costly mistakes, and ultimately allow me to go further, faster, with more clarity, so I can impact more lives.
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?
Anticipate obstacles and opportunities; it will bolster the team’s trust in you, your vision, and the future. Likewise, be prepared and solution-focused. Stay grounded, steady, and present.
Be interested in your people and their lives. Ask them questions, and get their input. And really listen and welcome feedback.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and clients?
Address difficult news right away with certainty and transparency. Be proactive if possible! Honest and upfront communication about the facts of the situation engenders more trust that you’ll find a plan, solution, or even a silver lining. Be open to feedback on your plan or solution because your team might have insight, knowledge, or perspective on things related to the situation that you might not be aware of; their feedback can be a game-changer!
Also, maintain composure and deliver difficult news with clarity, sensitivity, and grace. No one likes to receive bad news, but by delivering the message in this way, you’ll enable your team and your clients to digest and assess the news with as little chaos as possible.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
Life is unpredictable, and no one ever knows what tomorrow will bring. As an effective leader, you recognize and accept this fact and don’t allow unpredictability itself to become an obstacle. Instead, make informed decisions, keep your finger on the pulse of your clients’ needs, and continue to serve your clients powerfully.
The bottom line is that in order for a business to run, the leader must future cast, make plans, and continue driving the business forward. But while a leader must make plans, it’s equally critical to be flexible in those plans. If you realize you need to pivot, then pivot. If you realize after you pivot that you need to make another adjustment, do it! Embrace unpredictability as a constant opportunity to iterate, innovate, accelerate, and dominate!
Can you share a few of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid making the same mistakes?
Too often, businesses fail to adapt or pivot. They stick to business as usual and fail to change with the times. Sometimes, this is because they’ve become complacent with their systems, processes, or market position and don’t have the knowledge or the technology to adapt. It can also be because they’ve become resigned to the difficult circumstances. Other times, it can be due to a know-it-all boss who’s not open to feedback or ideas. Regardless of the reason, businesses that don’t adapt or pivot during difficult times face a much lower chance of surviving.
When times get tough, many businesses immediately focus on the money they’re losing or the money they don’t have for people and materials, and they look to cut expenses. Immediately focusing on what can be cut, rather than looking for the opportunities to increase efficiency or innovate, is another common mistake. You can cut your expenses to the bone, but if you’re still running with inefficiencies, your business will continue to lose money, regardless of the cuts you’ve made.
To avoid these mistakes, be open to possibility. Ask yourself: if this were all perfect and there was an opportunity here, what would it be? Make space and allow your mind to quiet enough to be able to think, hear, see, and recognize solutions. Adapt or pivot. Look for inefficiencies and correct them. See the possibilities behind the problems. Empower your team, and be receptive to feedback.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, and 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?
First, focus on the “who.” Ask your clients what they need and what they want; pay close attention to their answers. Then innovate, create, and deliver the products and services they’re asking for. Also look for ancillary and complementary needs your clients have, then find a way to meet those needs!
Next, focus on the “how.” Come from a place of service — serve powerfully, add massive value, and consistently overdeliver. Do the little things like sending birthday cards or celebratory notes to show your clients that you value and appreciate them, and that they’re important to you. Be consistent and clear in your communication. And build and nurture an inclusive community that your clients will feel part of.
Before we wrap up, can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? How is it relevant in your life?
I actually have two quotes that are powerful life lessons for me; both from Tony Robbins. “Life happens for me, not to me” and “Change your story, change your life” have been my guiding forces since I first learned them as a child. By embracing these principles, I have been able to train myself to find and choose empowering meanings in even the most trying events and circumstances, to live in gratitude, and to actively seek the good, find the solution, recognize the opportunity, and look for the lesson in all that happens in my life. This has allowed me to master my mindset, grow, make consistent progress, and ultimately become successful.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Reach out! Connect with me on social media at @ellieshefi or contact me via my website, ellieshefi.com.