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Ep 28: Own the Stage, Negotiate your Worth, Build your Brand, Network and be Powerful: Lydia Fenet

Updated: Jul 1, 2023


Hello, This is Sirisha, welcome to my podcast!

How do you command a stage of 50 to 5000 audience members? Lydia Fenet does it with flair, humor and storytelling. She shares how we can own the stage and how it took her 10 years to discover her voice and rhythm. She delves into the one crucial conversation with her manager that helped her feel empowered, valued and paid what she was worth. This also helped her get promoted and gave her the confidence to negotiate for herself at every juncture. Join her as she talks about how she has established her brand.

Have you heard the saying 'Network is your Net Worth'? Lydia walks us through how she networks in a room full of strangers and how we all have been building our network since we were kids.

I felt powerful reading Lydias's book and I am sure you will tap into your inner strength and voice as you walk on the path to being a powerful woman. This interview is laced with subtle humour and camaraderie. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Don't forget to pick up Lydia's book: The Most Powerful Woman in the Room is YOU" Lydia is a master storyteller who tells her story and passes on her message with humor, emotion, thought, and also a little bit of cheekiness. You will learn much as you rub shoulders with generous donors and celebrities through the pages...

Lydia Fenet is a global thought leader and Christie’s Ambassador who has led auctions for more than six hundred organizations raising over half a billion dollars for nonprofits globally. Lydia is represented by CAA and travels internationally as a keynote speaker helping people unlock their sales potential and empowering women in the workplace. She was named one of New York’s most influential women by Gotham magazine and has been featured in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and Crain’s, and has appeared in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Vanity Fair and Town & Country. Her widely acclaimed book, ‘The Most Powerful Woman in the Room is You’ was published by Simon & Schuster and optioned for TV by Netflix. Lydia’s second book Claim Your Confidence will be published in March 2023.

Come, let's #paintlifetogether!

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Below is a transcript of the episode, slightly modified for reading.


[00:50] Meet Lydia Fenet [Jump to section]

[02:54] Gavel Strike - Feel Confident & Strong when you enter a room [Jump to section]

[06:53] Art of Storytelling [Jump to section]

[10:05] Art of Negotiation [Jump to section]

[18:22] Networking- Face to Face- Make yourself known [Jump to section]

[23:10] How to Network Effectively [Jump to section]

[29:16] Work-Life Balance- It's a Myth [Jump to section]

[34:12] Note to your 21-year-old self [Jump to section]


[00:50] Meet Lydia Fenet

Sirisha: Hello everyone. I'm excited to have today's guest Lydia Fenet. She's a global ambassador at Christie's Auctioneer Partner and she's the global director of strategic partnerships. I came across Lydia when someone recommended her book, 'The Most Powerful Woman in the Room is You' at a Wall Street Journal conference that I attended. It's a book that I encourage everyone to pick. She's a master storyteller who tells her story and passes on her message with humour, emotion, thought, and also a little bit of cheekiness. So please welcome Lydia. And let's dive right into and hear her career, her pathway, and what she has suggestions on how we can be the most powerful woman in the room.

Lydia: I'm so excited to be here.

Sirisha: Thank you so much. To get started, can you talk about what got you to where you are today, what you do at Christie's and what you enjoy about your role?

Lydia: Absolutely. I started at Christie's as an intern in college and it's been a long career. I've been with the company for the past 22 years. And most recently in January, I stepped away from my full-time role and am only an ambassador to the company now, which means that I continue to take nonprofit auctions on behalf of the companies, but I no longer have a full-time role, which has been an incredible moment because I have been with the company for so long. So it felt like a natural evolution because of all of these other things that you mentioned, for instance, my book, I've finished a second book. And a lot of the speaking that I do has almost usurped the role that I had at Christie's. So it's been an adjustment for me to move past a corporate role into something that's much more entrepreneurial. It's well suited to my love of speaking and my love of being out there and taking auctions and frankly, just creating new businesses.

Sirisha: That's amazing. Excited to see where your career trajectory takes you and look forward to more engagement and seeing you on those platforms.

[02:54] Gavel Strike- Feel Confident & Strong when you enter a room

Sirisha: You talk about Gavel Strike, especially as an auctioneer, I think you describe where you come in, you're not selling art, you're selling experiences, it's a different sector. So, how do you use the gavel strike to own the room, own the stage and get engagement from the people?

Lydia: When I was thinking about how to write the most powerful woman in the room is you, I felt like I needed to start with a story because I grew up in the South and we're big storytellers. And I was trying to bring the reader and in many cases, the audience, into this incredible world of charity auctioneering. And I think the easiest way to describe it is those moments backstage, where I'm standing behind a curtain, looking out in many cases and thousands of people in a dark ballroom, who are watching a video about the impact of that nonprofit. And as you can imagine, the adrenaline is flooding through and I'm feeling so nervous and I'm, you know, clicking a pen and flipping my hair and all the things you start doing when there's a hard stop coming and you can feel the adrenaline just on part of your body. And I realized that one thing that had always centred me and calmed me when I walked out on stage was having my gavel. It was like my feather, as Dumbo, and I walk out on stage and I put my notes out on the podium and I pick up the gavel and I slam it down as hard as I can three times. And it's something that I've done. Just, I don't even know where it started. Perhaps, it started when I first became an auctioneer. But, I needed to quiet the crowd. I wanted them to pay attention and understand that the mood was about to shift, but it also helped me channel all that nervousness. And when I was writing the book, what I realized was, this has become something that I do in many facets of my life. If I have a difficult conversation, or if there's something I'm nervous about, I have to almost create an internal strike method. When I can't use my gavel to bring me from a place where I'm feeling fearful to a place where I'm feeling confident and the strike method for me is really what I encourage other people to think about. If you have that moment where you're giving a big presentation or you're walking into. A moment or a meeting or a conversation that you know is gonna make you feel off-centre, don't go in there feeling like that as if you don't have an outlet for it, come up with your strike method. Whether it be a mantra, whether it be something physical. I have one coaching client who I work with, who has this red stone that she says, she feels, she brings with her and she's always grasping it before she goes in for a big presentation because it just makes her feel strong. The rock makes her feel centred and strong. I encourage everybody, not necessarily to get a gavel and walk into a meeting and pound it on a table, but to find something that makes you feel strong and confident and use it every single time you walk into a meeting or a presentation or into a difficult conversation. And then after that, I always say the other key to it is not to just have the strike method lined up but to know what's coming next, do the preparation. What is the next sentence coming out of your mouth? I like to say when I get on the stage, the first thing that I say every single time is, Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Lydia Fenet. I'm here from Christie's auction house and I'll throw in a joke. And that first line for me, is the opportunity to look around at the audience and see who's there. It's a moment for me to not be thinking about what's coming out of my mouth, there are no nerves because I know what's coming next. So if you are a nervous public speaker or you're going into a moment where you feel like you're not gonna feel yourself, Memorize that line and frankly, the next couple as well. So it's almost like an auto-reply, it comes out so naturally that you don't worry about anything. Because I do think that's gonna make you feel like you're lined up for success and not the person who starts speaking and loses their words and, which we've all seen in a meeting, which is uncomfortable for everyone, not just the person who is feeling uncomfortable.

Sirisha: This part of the gavel strike is the entry, but also holding the stage, continuing to hold it because fear takes over when you present and practice is key. I think what you're saying is, those first few words trip over in your head, and now you've made an emotional connection with the audience and then it makes it much simpler to talk to people on sitting down there and then it makes you connect with them.

[06:53] Art of Storytelling

Sirisha: So I like that, because it is very hard and I work in the tech world, storytelling does not come naturally in certain settings. It's not something you think about. So having a story to tell when you come in, even with data, makes it much more engaging for people to want to pay attention?

Lydia: Absolutely. A lot of people say, and I've been talking a lot about this on Instagram recently, people say to me so often, oh, you're such a natural on stage and it always makes me laugh. And I think about the first, probably 500 auctions that I suffered through and the poor audience had to suffer through as well, because I was just pretending to be what I had seen in this role which is, I thought that charity auctions, which are, as you said at the beginning, very different from art auctions. People show up to buy art at charity auctions. Most people are just at a gala that they're attending, many in many cases, just on behalf of their friends, and have no idea that there's an auction. And even if they do know there's an auction, they don't even know what I'm selling till I get on stage. So I often say to people, my job is not about selling anything. It's about selling a story. And once I realized that on stage, it wasn't the way that I had learned to take art auction, Certainly it was something that I created because I realized that's what the audience responded to. And I do tons of public speaking. I speak for myself, I'm represented by CAA. I do corporate speaking and in each of those speeches, because I love being on stage because I've spent so much time up there, I'm very comfortable. I do tell a lot of stories and I do make them fun and lively even though sometimes what I'm talking about isn't fun or lively, because an audience, even if they're listening to you talk about data points still loves to understand how that looks in the context of a story. And so I just encourage people, like draw from your past, bring something human to a story whenever you're presenting, because that's what makes people wanna hear more and frankly wanna know you more. And in sales, there's nothing more important. When you're telling that story of the data, don't forget to tell some of the sort of trials and tribulations of going through the experience because not everything comes out, pristinely clean at the end, ever.

Sirisha: And walking through that path, I think, helps connect people to see, Oh, and I think also shows a bit of your personality, what you had to overcome, what you did to get where you are.

Lydia: Absolutely. It's a place to build a personal brand.

Sirisha: Exactly. I'm sure that's what you do a lot constantly, but that's intentional or not intentional. So, every time you get on a stage, in a meeting, or wherever you are building that personal brand and how to be intentional about building it.

Lydia: Yeah, absolutely. A lot of times in my auctioneering, something will slip out or I'll say something as I did at the beginning of this, I'm Southern that's just, it has something to do with me, but nothing to do with the auction. And interestingly, that's what people will remember more, I'll get off stage in front of 700 people and as I'm walking to the exit door. There will be 12 people who stop me and say, oh, I'm from the South. Where are you from? And then all of a sudden it's, oh, I know this person. They know you too. It's such a funny, it's funny small world when you start allowing parts of yourself that people wouldn't expect to know about to be out there and to be okay with that.

Sirisha: Very true. I think that's all we remember. It's the stories, nothing else at the end of it. So, switching a little bit, you talked about 10 years doing about 500 auctions before you figured out how to story tell.

[10:05] Art of Negotiation

Sirisha: You also talk about how you had to negotiate and advocate for yourself. In the beginning, there was the glamour of the job and what you got to do, which you enjoyed but when you were starting to look at your financial outlook and your financial picture, you realized you had to take some very intentional moves and change your strategy. And so how did you practice for this conversation with your upper management and what emotions did you go through when you were getting ready for this?

Lydia: Yeah. I talk a lot in the book about this particular story, about being 10 years into my career and having a series of conversations that made me realize that I was getting paid a third of what I should have been paid on the open market. There were so many levels of emotion. I was upset with myself for not investigating that more than 10 years into a career and kind of expecting that the company that I had worked for at that point for a decade, really thought of me in the way that I thought of them as a family member. I had invested so many hours working and I'm sure people listening to this who have done this and put in their time in a company, know this feeling where you feel like, you have personally built something and you expect that they're looking back at you thinking, God, she is doing such a great job. Let's give her five times what she did. Yet, Nobody ever thinks that. Just FYI, I don't care how much your company loves you. They want you to walk in the door for the least amount of money that they can give you. Period. End of sentence. I wish it was a different story. It's not, I'm not jaded. This is business. So I will say to you, The greatest thing that I learned through this process of finding out that I wasn't making what I was supposed to be making, asking around and finding out what I was supposed to be making, and then having a series of conversations with different people that led me to a place where I felt confident that whatever I was asking for was going to be market rate. Illuminating and very empowering the way that the conversation came out is something that I would hope that nobody ever has to get to in their career, because I don't think it's the way it should happen. If you're a good boss or you're an employee who is invested in ensuring that your boss knows what you want, you're gonna have these conversations with your boss before you have a moment where you walk in and tell them that you're quitting. Yeah. It's great to walk in with a resignation slip, but how much better to have someone who's openly advocating for you? Who knows what you want, who understands that you're gonna be asking for more every year and is realistic about what that looks like? That's a much better way to be. In my case, I had a great relationship with my boss and adored my boss, but my boss often told me that I worked for the glamour of the job. Like those were words that came out of his mouth. And also that, I was lucky to have my job and, everyone is lucky to have a job, but at the same time, if you're doing the work, they're lucky to have you as well. So you can't just say that the people, oh, I'm so lucky to have a job. It's a two-way street and I was doing a really good job and I was working incredibly hard and making very little money for it. And so, I went into his office and I don't think I meant to tell him that I was quitting that day, because I certainly did not have another job lined up, but I had one conversation with another company about potentially working there, but there was no job offer on the table. I'll put it that way and I said to him, so I'm going to go work somewhere else and I'm leaving in two weeks. We were coming up against the busiest season, the busiest part of the auction season. And the two women I hired on my team were almost 10 years younger than me at that point and had very little experience. He knew as well as I knew that he was in a very hard place because there was no one to do my job at that point and he stuttered. He said the words that I never thought he would say, but will never forget that he said was, what will it take to make you stay? Which is such a validating thing to hear. But again, we should never have gotten to that point. So, at the end of the day was a back-and-forth negotiation about the title, about every single thing that I wanted, that I ended up getting as a result of that conversation. It taught me for the rest of my life to ask for more than I thought I was going to get, ask for more than I necessarily thought that they were going to give me because you never know what they can give. And you also never know how much it's going to make you feel great when you get compensated in the way that you deserve. My entire relationship on that day shifted with my company. because I no longer felt like I was being taken advantage of. I felt like I was a valued member of the team because they were paying me what I deserved. That for me, was such an incredible moment and one that I have tried to recreate throughout my career as many times as possible. My old boss, I remember years ago, I went into a performance review and he just started laughing. He's like I know what you're about to say and I was like, I know, of course, you know what I'm gonna say? We need to talk about compensation. It was always something that I brought up and whether or not I got it. I knew I had asked for it. And that was always a feeling that left me feeling very empowered.

Sirisha: I like your last statement especially, very much. I've struggled with it. The first few times I did not negotiate, but it's something that I intentionally, consciously think about when I'm having conversations. For one of the promotions I got, I didn't ask and when my colleagues asked me, did you negotiate? And I didn't even realize I had to. It was embarrassing, right? You're breaking yourself and the next time I thought about it, it's a good conversation to have, whether you get compensation or not. I think it's more empowering for you to feel that you've asked that you have not left something on the table and that they have considered it, and they're compensating you correctly. You can do your market research, you can do everything else. And you are very right about not putting your cards on the table and saying I'm gonna quit or not, but being able to have that regular dialogue with your peers and others so that you can find out whether you're compensated. We all come to work. Yes. We enjoy the job, but we also want to feel like we are treated with respect and we can look out for our family's futures and everything else.

Lydia: Absolutely.

Sirisha: And for all the work we do not want to paid down for.

Lydia: Yeah. And I had a friend who told me a story. She worked at a tech company. One of the biggest tech companies in the world and it was very early on in, in starting it and was fundamental in building it. And years later, she told me that after the first year, when it was clear that it was gonna be a success, all of the others were given a raise and everybody else went in and asked for equity in the company because she worked with all guys. She was the only woman and she said it was, as you just said, she had no idea that it was even an option and all the guys that had the conversation and they all decided that they were gonna go in together and she was just not part of that conversation. And to this day, she will say that is the difference between her never having to work again. Like all of them and still being at a corporation and working. And that was the conversation that took place in her first year. You think about how many times and, I always think about over that decade, if I had been able to get those raises time after time how different my base would've looked. And we all know about the compound in interest and the importance of money building over time. So if you don't know what that is, look it up because it's one of the most important financial lessons that you will ever learn, if you have money and you start saving when you're 21, versus when you're 31, that's gonna make a huge difference. I think that was something that when I thought back on it was very disappointing for me. I was disappointed in myself for not having educated myself, we didn't have Instagram and I didn't have amazing young women telling me to do these things the way that, that people who are in Gen Z and millennials do now. I do think that it is something that if you really take control of your future, your financial future, and also make yourself the architect of your career, you are gonna feel so great. By the time you get further, along in your career, you took the steps at an early stage that will pay off in the long run.

Sirisha: Very true, time is your friend here. And I heard someone say this when you negotiate, you almost have to make them gasp. If they don't have any emotion, when you're saying 'This is what I want', you're asking for too low.

Lydia: Yeah. I know one of the case studies in the book, one of the women who wrote that said, she said make them wince. If you haven't made them wince, you haven't asked for enough, which I always thought was great.

Sirisha: Very true. And I heard a friend, her colleague did the same thing. He said, you asked for this crazy number that you think is way out of this world and that's what he got. He thought they were gonna negotiate him down, but they just came. So you never know what that is.

[18:22] Networking- Face to Face- Make yourself known

Sirisha: When you're talking a lot of your journey's been about confidence and owning your power, owning the stage. So what advice do you have for early and mid-career women, you only talked about negotiating and, talking about your financial outlook but what can they do to negotiate themselves and build their career towards leadership roles?

Lydia: Make yourself known. We're in a world right now in many cases, either hybrid or some work-from-home office situation. I think that you don't understand how important it is to have a little FaceTime at some point throughout your career. So to the extent that you have the option to spend time with senior executives in your company, make yourself known. I know that the people who I even met briefly during COVID, I would go into the office here and there, there were a couple of interns, for instance, whose names are blazed in my mind versus people I worked with for an entire year, because I met them for a day or two throughout that time. And it is a valuable thing to establish those relationships. So take advantage of that if you had the opportunity I know it's such an interesting world, especially for someone who worked in a corporate office for over two decades, to watch, but I can tell you some of the most valuable relationships that I have to this day are people who I met early on in my career in the office, long hours spending time together. So definitely try to do that if that's possible. And if not, but you work in a place where you're all on Zoom, but perhaps in the same city, try to make those connections outside of work, ask someone for some time, make coffee, organize drinks or a walk, or, day of community service with other members of your team, and try to spend time creating those bonds. So that would be the first thing that I would say. I said this in the last part too, be the architect of your career, especially with everything going on in the world right now, don't expect other people to be mapping out your career, think about what you wanna do. And if there's something that you're, doing in your nine-to-five job or whatever your hours are, and you hear of another part of your industry, that's interesting, or you think that something else might be a better fit, reach out to people and spend 15 minutes on a phone call asking what they do. Get other people invested in your career journey, but don't expect an HR team to map out your career because frankly, in my opinion, that rarely happens in the way that you want it to. I find that the people who are the most successful are the people who are doing what they're supposed to be doing in their job, but always looking for other opportunities to grow and evolve, action leads to action. So if you want something to happen, you need to take action to make it happen.

Sirisha: Very true. And also in looking for stretch roles or projects or some way to engage either in the office or even, I think of a great place to do it. If that's not the forum or you're thinking of changing to look at professional organisations, look for leadership roles because you expand your network instantaneously to this huge community. Or like you said, nonprofits, I think you were talking about before, just volunteering. What speaks to you is, because that way you build a community around you, you help. you're investing your time into something really good. And also connecting with people from different walks of life that are not usually part of your normal foray of people you run.

Lydia: Yeah, And in my case, in many ways, as I said earlier in this conversation, I had my day job at Christie's, but my day job at Christie's was something I had done, basically for over a decade. I wrote my first book and out of the book came all of these speaking gigs. And then during COVID, I was doing master classes on Instagram and then the master classes turned into coaching. And then I turned it into me writing a second book and all of these things that I was passionate about were fuelling me in a different way than the job that I had loved to do for so long was fuelling me. And there were so many moments throughout the past couple of years, especially during COVID where I would sit with my husband and say, is it time to leave? Is it time for me to try something on my own? Never really dared to do it, but I think that's the dream of an entrepreneur. You have your day job, which you're doing and you can do it well, but you find something on the side that builds, and sustains your soul. And over time you grow that to the place where you can walk out of the door and do that full time. And, I speak as a case study of one, but it certainly is an incredibly fulfilling life to be working for myself now. And, I have three children who are five, seven and nine, and they got used to having me around during COVID. And I got used to being around them in a way that I hadn't been able to because I was travelling all the time for work and auctions. And my auctions are always at night, which means that I can be with the kids after school and during the days during the summer and only, I leave my apartment in the city. it's between 7:30 and 8:00 at night, as they're getting into bed, kiss them and off I go. And so it's a very different way to work, but it certainly works for our family. So it's been fun.

[23:10] How to Network Effectively

Sirisha: That's exciting to see because you've slowly transitioned from, like you said, being a carpeting stack to moving that needle and owning your career the way you wanted it. I'm sure, not only in your professional relationship, when you only talk about, building that face time networking is key. I think you said your dad says network or die. You're constantly building connections. So how do you network, what do you think of when you think of networking? I know the word sometimes intimidates people on what they should do. And I also recollect that you have sort of this intimate breakfast club with some close friends that you've built this diverse network. So can you walk through what people can do to build those networks? Some suggestions, something that makes it easy. So people are not feeling. The fear of networking and sometimes to be Frank, it's also they feel like the icky factor of, oh, am I asking for something, but it's not about asking for something for building an emotional connection.

Lydia: Exactly and that's the key, you've been networking, with people since you were born. I say this in the book, you've been networking with people since the day you were born because every single person that you meet throughout your life becomes part of your network. The question is how you choose to activate that network and what you do to cultivate that network. My first piece of advice, when it comes to networking. Say yes to every opportunity. So never go to an event and stand in the corner and talk to one person never receive an invitation for something and say, no, you don't wanna burn yourself out. But if you are in a place where there's an opportunity to meet more people, Push yourself out of your comfort zone and go, I, my father used to say that he loves nothing more than walking into a cocktail party where he doesn't know anyone. And when I first started taking auctions, that was often the case with me, cuz I'm walking into a room of 300 people. And my only role there is to go on stage and everybody else there knows one another and I would stand by the bar. and when people were getting drinks, I would strike up a conversation with them just so that I had someone to talk to. And then I would stay with them until they introduced me to someone. And then I might stay with that person and it was a little bit of like a clinging factor, but now I walk into events and in many cases, I know half of the people in the room by the end of the event, either because I've been on stage or because I've been just chatting with people the whole time and those people become part of my network and that's really what networking is. You can network with people in Starbucks, you can network with people in an aeroplane, and anyone anywhere in the world can be part of your network. But if you wanna be very strategic about it, in terms of your business, find groups and organisations of like-minded people. So we were talking a little bit about non-profits, a great way to meet people is to volunteer, to join a friends group or a board of a nonprofit so that you have the opportunity to meet people who have a belief or something. Is also connecting. To something that you care about and when you move to a new city, there are plenty of opportunities. If you exercise to go as a running club or a climbing club or a biking club, just don't sit at home and think to yourself, like, why have I never met anyone? How can I meet more people? Because there are ample opportunities to do it, you just have to push yourself out of your comfort zone to do it. And in a corporate sense, as I said earlier, ask for 15 minutes of someone's time. Look, we don't know each other and you reached out to me. That's why I'm on your podcast, right? You never know who will say yes to an invitation and it takes nothing to send an email asking for 15 minutes of someone's time. And frankly, on the other side of that, if you don't have time to do it, you don't have to do it, no harm, no foul, but at least answer the person and tell them that you won't be able to do this because of whatever reason or no reason at all. But the bottom line is the easiest way to network is just to start and to reach out and keep doing it and keep going back to those people so that they know, what you're doing and what you're up to. If you've reached out to someone to ask if they could be connected or you could connect them to someone, reach out and let them know if those connections yielded anything or not. If you have any time in your job where you're making a transition, that's a great time to reach out to your network, to let them know what's going on, that you're moving into a new career or a new role. And also to just ask them if there's anything that you can do for them in that role, because people love to be helpful, but they also love it when people offer. So don't forget to do both. Don't always just network by asking network and give as well.

Sirisha: Yes, very true. Especially, I think of even mentor and mentee relationships, right? You have to end by asking what you can help with or how you can enable that. Because there's always something that you bring, even if you think, oh, I'm new to this career, I'm new here, maybe, about social media, maybe, about something that they have no idea, or you can even give them feedback or inputs.

Lydia: A friend of mine is a mentor. She said that at the end, her mentee asked her, is there anything you could do? And she said, I'd love to know how to make a reel on Instagram and the girl was 23 and she showed her how to do it. My friend said that was not that difficult. I just didn't have the time or the energy to learn how to do it. She gave me a little advice and I gave her an hour of my time and it all worked out well.

Sirisha: Now with social media and other things, the opportunity to learn and the generational difference is quite significant. That there are always more things that you can take away, and give. When you're talking corporations and setting up time, almost all corporations have an open-door policy. So I urge people to send a calendar invite for 15 minutes, because. With 10,000 emails, they get pushed to the side. I've not had anyone reject and say, not able to do it, they may reschedule, but if you prepare for it, think of what questions you wanna ask.

You've done some research either about their organization or about themselves and have some key questions you'd like to ask, even if you're trying to learn something, it builds a sense of achievement. And you're respecting their time. So that you are prepared for it, and then you ask them the questions. Very often there are two questions, I end up with the conversation with, depending on how it goes, is who else they suggest I talk to because that builds you to the next person, the next network, and if they can do an introduction, especially if it's someone in a significant leadership role. And the second thing is if there's anything you can help with, and sometimes they ask perspectives on where you're working or what you're doing, and you've been able to probably give ideas that they can incorporate into their organization. So there are so many ways that this balance that you may think of as an imbalance of power is not an imbalance, but how you can balance it.

[29:16] Work-Life Balance- It's a Myth

Sirisha: Moving forward, you have three kids, your careers transitioned quite a bit. What do you think of work-life balance? To me, it is a myth, it doesn't exist because it's a constant transition in my mind, I was just wondering how you manage, how you've evolved and what works for you and what doesn't. And how do you continue to re-strategize?

Lydia: It's so funny because I wrote an entire chapter in my second book, the one that's coming out in March of next year, about the myth of the work-life balance. After all, I agree that it does not exist. And I think as a society, we have to start thinking about how we stop expecting there to be a balance. I always say that if you think about the word balance itself, Think about balancing on a balance beam, these things are not easy to do. Balance is not something that comes naturally between two scales that are perfectly lined up. And I think the reality is in most cases, many of us are either in a place where one is higher than the other. Or in some cases, one is slamming to the ground while the other is sky high, realistically, especially when you're adding kids into the mix and trying to juggle work and all of the different things that looks like. And it's interesting because I don't think that there's anything wrong with that's life. It's okay. That there are times when one thing the work side is slamming to the ground and life is sky high. There are times when life is slamming to the ground and work is sky high. I think we have to give ourselves the grace to be okay with that and understand that there are gonna be times when it's like that. That's not ideal, but what we should be trying to do is find something a little bit off-centre that makes us feel good. And as long as we feel good about where our life is, Then it's fine because the bottom line is not everybody has the same idea of balance. I have some friends who love it when they're crazy busy at work and it's just, go and they don't want it to be in a place where everything's balanced. That's just the way that they are driven. At the same time, I have friends who wanna spend 24 /7 with their children and that's all they wanna do. They have no interest in a corporate job or any kind of work and that's fine too, because that's what their work-life balance looks like. So I think we have to say farewell to that myth, personally, as I said, not being in a full-time role anymore and a company has been a real change for me because I am used to being insanely busy to the point of, everything gets juggled into a calendar that has 90 different sticky tabs and, my, my days just fly by. But I've had to say to myself just be present and be okay with that. You're not missing anything right now. This is the way that your life is going to look moving forward. And there will be times, as I walk into the fall when my auction calendar, every night, there will be an auction and I will be on planes a lot for three months. And I know that September, October, and November are very busy slow down again in December, and start up again in January. Summer has been very slow. I often say to my children, there are times when there are sprints and there are times when it's calm and when I'm in sprint mode, I need to give myself grace and I need as a family for us all to understand that this is gonna be a time when I'm gonna be hard-charging. And then, when things slow down, that's when we are full-on family time. So I think it's just really being honest with yourself about what that looks like and what makes you happy. And if it makes you happy, then stick with it. It doesn't then make changes to get yourself to a place where you feel like you're living the life want to live.

Sirisha: And making sure you make some time for yourself in all of this.

Lydia: The other thing about making time for yourself, I interviewed Allie Love Instagram, who's a Peloton instructor and she said something that I've never forgotten because, I said to her, it was the middle of COVID and I said, is there a moment for you. You're on this bike, inspiring a quarter of a million people to live their best life. And you're just going all the time. What do you do to fill up and take a rest? And she said Some people need to go to a spa and enjoy a cup of tea to relax. She's that's not who I am. I am filled up and energised by being around people and by motivating other people. And there was something for me that was so freeing and hear her hearing her say that because that's how I am. I don't wanna go sit in a hotel room by myself. That makes me sad and lonely. I want to, if I'm travelling to a city, stay with a friend in their house and be surrounded by the chaos and make plans with every single person I know in that city while I'm there to take an auction, because that fills me up. And I think we also have to know ourselves to know what that is and what that looks like for each of us. And once we realize that we can structure our lives in that.

Sirisha: We all feed off different energies, at different phases of our life and at different times of the day. Probably going to an auction just energizes you and lights you up from the inside. I'm sure just the energy from the crowd. You can be an introvert. You can be an extrovert or as they call an Ambi word and at different times, during COVID for me, there were times, being isolated was okay. But when I saw people, it was just as energizing to see them. But balancing those two pieces to get, figure out what works for you.

[34:12] Note to your 21-year-old self

Sirisha: So, if you have had a corporate career for 22 years you're going through a huge transition, Finding your entrepreneurial spirit and building your own business. What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? You've given a ton through this whole conversation, but what would be like some key things that you'd say here is one thing I would give my 21-year-old self as I look through the future.

Lydia: I think I would say to my 21-year-old self, it's all gonna be okay, it's gonna work out. You have what it takes to get through the hard times you have what it takes to push through the really good times and enjoy them. And don't lose that. Don't ever think that you need anything more than yourself to get through anything in life. And, my family was in a car accident on Halloween of this past year. My three children, my husband and I fractured my spine. I broke seven ribs and was in the hospital for nine days. My children were all in the hospital. My husband was in the hospital and it was an incredibly difficult time to be not only in so much pain myself but also trying to help my family recover from such a traumatic time. And I think back to what I've gone through throughout my life, nothing even remarkably like that, nothing was even close to what I went through, but everything prepared me for that. I never had a doubt. From the moment that we were hit to the moment that I got to the hospital and had the first surgery and then the second surgery and, the subsequent follow-up from all of that, there was never a time during that period where I didn't think you're gonna be okay like you've got this, you're strong enough. And I realise that all of the things that have prepared me for that have happened really in my adult. To be ready for something like that to happen and to be strong enough to not only get through it myself but also help my family get through that. So I think I would say to my 21-year-old self. You got this, just trust yourself, believe that you are strong enough to do whatever you wanna do and build the life you want. And I would say that to everyone else out there, whether or not, you are strong enough and there are gonna be challenging times. There are gonna be difficult times, but we all are strong enough to do it. So hang in there, live through the hard times, even the rock bottoms, you're gonna be able to pick yourself up and keep going. Sometimes it's minute by minute, sometimes it's day by day, but you got it.

Sirisha: I'm glad you're all doing well. And I think this spirit and confidence in ourselves because we will figure out right. It's resilience to come back.

Lydia: Absolutely.

Sirisha: So in all of this as you have you've changed over time. What is the one word you would use to describe yourself?

Lydia: Resilient and I know it more than ever now.

Sirisha: Very true. And I think it's probably coming to start contrasting in the last year, right? As you look back and have to go through the accent industry with everything that's come through. So thank you. I'm glad to hear everyone's doing well. So Lydia, thank you. This has been a great conversation. You've touched upon how networking, how we can build our voice, and how we can own the stage. You use the gavel technique, but how we can own our presence, our brand? How we engage with people. FaceTime is critical to building that connection with people and figuring out the art of storytelling to convey our message. So it sticks with people. There are so many things that you touched upon. And for everyone who's listening, there are things that you can take away from humour from the way you convey your presence that will enable not just your career growth, but help build those relationships. as you direct your career in whichever path you choose to do, there are so many things that you constantly build on and wishing everyone, All the best. And, Congratulations. I know you have your new book claiming your confidence coming out next year. I look forward to reading that.

Lydia: It was such a great conversation. Thank you so much.


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Host: Sirisha

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