273. The Intersection of Faith and Leadership, With Kneisha Sanders

August 1, 2023

Read Transcript

Dr. Pelè: 

Hello happy people, welcome to the Profitable Happiness Podcast. Hello everyone, this is Dr. Pelè with the Profitable Happiness Podcast, and today I have Kneisha Sanders with me. Naisha is an executive coach. She is an expert in the field of diversity and inclusion. She is an author. Naisha, you bring the whole package and today I just want to sit back and learn from you exactly how it is that you talk about employees having a choice Powerful topic. You know, I know that so many of us go to work and sometimes you don't realize what powers and abilities and capabilities we have and we just don't know we can choose. So I hope that you can share that with us today. Naisha, how are you doing today?

Kneisha Sanders: 

I am doing amazing and thank you so much for having me and I'm excited to be here to share on this topic.

Dr. Pelè: 

Oh, I really appreciate that. Now, Naisha, what I really really appreciate about the way I discovered you actually is you're positioning as a catalyst. You're positioned as someone who really gets people taking action right. You've covered everything from executive coaching to even a faith-based approach to employee experience and engagement. I'd love to learn all about that, but let's go ahead and start from the beginning. If you, Naisha, were to describe the core challenge that you deal with at organizations, what would that be? Let's start from that.

Kneisha Sanders: 

Yeah, I love that and I think that's a great place to start when I think about who I'm talking to. Most frequently is the leaders in the organizations, whether at the director, senior director level, going up to C-suite or on that pathway for C-suite. And one of the things that I find is that there's this obligation or sense that I have to be a certain way. I have to do it this way because of one the culture, unspoken rules and the things that has gotten them promoted. It's like that's what I need to do if I want to continue getting promoted. And so it creates this sense of obligation, this sense of I'm going to do this for now mentality, because ultimately, my desired outcome is to be C-suite, so I'm going to just play by the rules. I'm going to play the game. My incentive compensation is great, so I'll just keep on collecting the bonus check. But what happens is, when we're in these conversations, what I find is that they're overwhelmed, overworked and feel ill-equipped to do the job that they're actually trying to do or desiring to do. And it's not because they're not smart and it's not because they don't feel as though they can do it. It really boils down to this sense of obligation they don't want to, and it's if I could change or alter the position this way, or if I could add more insight to how I did this job, then I would be more excited or energized by it. But the truth of the matter is they're not because of this sense of obligation, and so I would say that the problem that I helped solve is really helping them decide for themselves and choose one, what type of leader they want to be, but then also recognize the fact that there's a multitude of ways to get there. And that just because one way is defined you know this is the pathway forth doesn't mean that it has to be your particular path forth.

Dr. Pelè: 

And you still?

Kneisha Sanders: 

get there, and so that is what I've been doing a lot of work around over the past couple of years.

Dr. Pelè: 

Wow, you know. First of all, I think that may be one of the most important topics in business period. Let me back that statement up, because there's one word you didn't use throughout the entire statement you just made. You didn't use the word politics as an office politics, yes. But that's exactly what I'm thinking and feeling, because I tell you, people are hired because they're they're good at something, they're they're actually very talented or skilled at something, and then once they show up, it's like they got to learn how to play this thing called office politics.

Kneisha Sanders: 

Exactly, that's exactly right yeah.

Dr. Pelè: 

And so so I really appreciate that topic and I hope you're going to share with us some details about that. But before we get there, you know, I'm just wondering how did you wake up and become Naisha, the catalyst of executive coaching and diversity and inclusion in companies? How did you? What's your story?

Kneisha Sanders: 

You know, I think it's probably through personal experience. You know, I I joined corporate America first job out of undergrad and I had to learn how to play those office politics very early on and you know, I felt a lot along the way and instead of you know and it took a lot I will say this it took a lot for me to not accept failures as I was the failure, but to see failures as an event. And so really a foundational truth early in my career was failure is an event, not a person, and that has really allowed for me to perceive things in different ways and new life. So, really, looking at my journey and understanding, ok, if I got a rejection or if I got to know, or if I didn't figure out, you know how to get motivated to move forward, then I knew that it was a matter of, it was a policy. It was a moment for me, like it was a moment of pause. So really it says what was creating the gap, what was creating this sense of, I guess, underperforming or not being able to overcome, and so it created a lot of anxiety, a lot of burnout and, to be quite frank, I was just tired of being anxious and overwhelmed, and so I made a decision to no longer do that and I had a unique opportunity in my corporate career to move across a lot of different industries, a lot of different leadership programs, and so I moved up really quickly. So I got a chance to see a lot in a very short amount of time, and so that just informed who I am. And I wrote the book because I noticed that what I had started to think was just normal. Other people were struggling, and they too were anxious, and they too were feeling burnt out and hadn't yet overcome that. And so my book was birthed, out of just the pure. Let me document what I went through, let me document how I overcame it, and faith was a big part of that for me, and so I wanted to share that, because faith isn't oftentimes celebrated or accepted in corporate spaces, and so how do you bring your faith to work to be the tool to help you overcome anxiety and overwhelm when it's not necessarily accepted? And so that was how the book was birthed. It was truly out of study time, morning quotients, and I was like, oh, I should probably publish this. And here we are, three years later, a published author.

Dr. Pelè: 

Well, I am so happy that you published it and I'm proud of you. There's a saying that I keep on my wall. It says a leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way. And when you take personal experience, as you've done, and you take it all the way to putting it in a format that others can benefit from, my goodness, bravo, thank you. And, by the way, just to be clear for those who are watching this or listening, the title of Naisha's book is the Fruit of a Spirit-led Leader, and we'll get into a little bit more detail about the content of that book, but just wanted to make sure that we place that way up front there so everyone knows what we're talking about. Okay, so now we've talked about sort of what you consider the challenge in organizations and you've given us a sense of who you are and how you got here. Now, how do people listening go from? Okay, I get it all right. I agree, there's this thing called how do I lead, how do I get through the maze of politics and reality and business and actually come out on top? If you were to give, like your top three, pieces of advice for how people can actually demonstrate they have a choice, take the right choices and lead better. What would that advice be?

Kneisha Sanders: 

Yeah, I would say. The first is definitely to get real with yourself about the place that you're in. Don't sleep it under the rug, but really identify and acknowledge that you are currently in that space of not enjoying or feeling as though you have an obligation to do the work. So that would be my number one is acknowledge that you're in that place. The second thing I would say is understand what support you actually need to make a decision. And so in executive coaching, we really understand what's the limiting beliefs and all of the things that goes along with you feeling as though you can't move forward. But I think that oftentimes we lose sight that you don't always need to go find an executive coach to do that. Sometimes it's our family, sometimes it's telling them what we need them to stop doing. You know what we need them to do more of. Or maybe it's setting boundaries at work, but it's truly sitting still long enough to determine how would you make the decision, what support would allow for you to actually decide? What you need to decide, mm-hmm. Third, I would say, is To accept that you're worthy. Let you have a passion, purpose and conviction for mm-hmm and so you know that last part takes some work because it's overcoming the identity crisis that you are a posture syndrome imposter syndrome it's it's understanding the moments where you lost confidence and Revaluating, you know, if you misinterpreted those moments. You know, oftentimes I think that you see a failure and you're like, oh, I'm a failure, I did it, I messed up, I could have been better, I should have done this, I should have done that, and that might all be true, but had it worked, you wouldn't have gone through all of that, and so take it as a gift, as as insight. Right now I have a way to evaluate what works for me, not necessarily the system, not necessarily other people, but me specifically. What works for me specifically. And so I think that you know getting to that identity Plays, you know understanding who you are as a leader, who you want to be. One of the things that I have a lot of my clients do is think about you know, no matter where you are in your career, but let's just say you're still actively in your your career. Think about your retirement party, and when you say, and when other people stand in the front of the room, what do you want them to say about you? What do you want them to remember you as like, who, who you are? And Oftentimes people don't want to think about that, but at the end of the day they're not gonna say you know you, you met your revenue goal, you they're not gonna say you know, we got so much profit because of your leadership. They're gonna tell you how you made them feel. They're gonna tell you what it was about you specifically that made it a pleasure and enjoyable to work with. And so you get to decide what you them. You get to decide what narrative you want to to Share so that you can allow them to perceive it however they choose. So you can't you can't control other people's perceptions, but you can't control your narrative, and so the ultimate decision is you deciding what is your narrative, and then how do you walk that out each and every day in your job. So that would be my three steps.

Dr. Pelè: 

Now, that was a little masterclass. I'm feeling like I got to put my training hat on here and just like play that back and learn. That was powerful, and you know some of the things I really appreciated the most there. When you talk about an ultimate decision, this takes us back to your idea that we do have a choice. We do have the ability to choose a different path from what we think we're being forced into. That's really powerful and you, you talk about one of my favorite topics. I think it was Maya Angelo who said that people may forget what you say or do, but they'll never forget how you made them feel. Yes, so so. So if you were able to choose how you're gonna make people feel almost as a Path forward, how powerful is that? But you know, I want to bring this back to the topic of faith, because I know how important that is to you and how important it is in your book and, in fact, for those who are listening in and are not able to see the video right now. Behind Naisha are three powerful words love, joy and peace. So we've added to the story for us. How does faith and love, joy and peace, how do those elements actually come into play when it comes to leadership and and success in organizations?

Kneisha Sanders: 

Yes. So I would say you know, regardless of what your faith is, is under the title or topic of servant leadership. How do you serve people first? And how it was particularly come into play for me is my faith, is my code of conduct. It is how I choose to walk out, my behavior, my way of being, and so my particular way of doing that is through the fruit of the spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control, and through those nine things, I think of them as attributes, and so in my mind, it's like okay, when I think about the moments that I feel frustrated or angered in some sort of way. We all have had those moments where you're working on a project and your manager, you know, changes the deliverable, you know, or you have competing priorities and you can't get everything done, and it always feels like a moving target and you're like why does the target keep moving? I was working here and so we've all been there, right, where we've had competing priorities and just changing deliverables or competing deliverables, and that's frustrating, it's. You know, you're, you're going to have moments of anger, and for me it's about okay. In this moment, what am I giving up? Well, in that moment, I'm giving up joy, I am giving up this sense of, you know, pleasure in my work. And so how do I go from this idea of frustrated and angered and just like I don't want to do this, to reclaiming the joy of doing it, and one of the ways that I do that is just by refocusing. So it's like what am I focusing on? Okay, well, if I'm frustrated, I am focusing on the, the, the source right of frustration. Right, either it's the manager or it's. You know the project itself or it's. You know all these unknowns, all these uncertainties, how I'm going to miss the deadline, how I am now have to do extra work, like when I'm frustrated. I'm focused on me. I'm focused on what is it is, you know, interrupting or inconveniencing me and my day. But if I refocus to think about it from the perspective of service, I am thinking of it in the fact of like okay, this is frustrating, it keeps changing, but what is it that I need to figure out? Like, what is the problem that I'm actually trying to solve? What is it about what they just change is impactful for what I'm trying to do, and so it really is this exercise of refocusing, and so that's one of the ways that I use my faith as part of my like, my leadership role in corporate or even as an executive coach is don't be so moved by what you see right. Be moved by what you believe in. It is truly, if you have a foundational faith, you know, if you have faith and that's a belief system use that, believe in that, yeah, and lead in that way so that, again, one you show up authentically to you. Don't compartmentalize your life where you're feeling like I have to leave my faith at home or in the backseat, when really is is relevant to your day job, is a relevant to how you show up, and so you know, once you get it on the inside of you, it's in you and therefore, if you don't show up in that way, then you're actually leaving a part of you behind. And so, for me, I wear my faith on my sleeve because it's part of who I am and it helps me get through those difficult and challenging times when I'm in the office.

Dr. Pelè: 

You know, and good for you for embracing that. I have to tell you that there's a whole new world right now of AI, for example, that allows you to do very interesting things. For example, we could go on to chat GPT right now and we could say, all right, tell me what Jesus Christ would do In this situation I find myself in at work, believe it or not. It would take all of the teachings of Jesus Christ and it would apply them to whatever you say is going on at work and it would give you a recommendation of what to do. I mean, it is just powerful. That is wow yeah and you know, I know because that's kind of the field I mean, but in the software field. But the truth is that applying faith to business it's not a nice to have. For some people it is a must have and it is a powerful, powerful tool. So thank you for sharing that. If we were to just go one level deeper in this topic of your books, or rather your book and how you've applied faith to it and things like that, tell us a little bit about some of the tools that you use. I know that you are very much into assessments. You have a strong partnership with different organizations to do assessments to unearth what's really going on. Tell us a little bit about your favorite tools for how you get people on the right conversation about how to fix things in their leadership at work.

Kneisha Sanders: 

Yeah, definitely. So I would say the one tool, and again, maybe bias, but it's everything. Disc, that's a tool that I use to really get people present to their preference, their natural inclination, and I think sometimes, again, we lose sight of what we naturally do. And to appreciate what we naturally do, because we see, within whatever culture that we're in, whatever work culture that we're in, what gets celebrated, what gets promoted, and so we try to adapt ourselves to that particular way of being, when in reality we lose sight of what was special about who we already are. And so how does what we bring to the table is valuable? Now, there are times when it's going to be more effective or efficient for you to be one way versus another like to be direct. We'll use an actual term. So there's times when you need to be direct right, when if you're passive and soft-spoken, it may not work, but there are very. There's just as many times that it is efficient for you to be, or effective for you to be, soft-spoken and thoughtful or quiet, and so it's really helping people really decide one is it okay for me to be me? And then how is it effective in the culture that I'm in? And then I think that's the other decision is is this a place that I want to stay in? Now, I'm not saying not to be flexible, I'm not saying not to meet people where they are, because we're all capable of that, but it's also about going back to that identity crisis we were talking about earlier of how do you appreciate who you naturally are, and so that is a tool that I use to really get people present to that idea of here's what I naturally do, here's my preferences, and then from there it's really about conversation. It's really about how do you take these insights and then apply them. So I'm really big on applied knowledge and so, Drew, my coaching. I have a coaching process that really helped people discover, you know, the specifics around. What is it that is creating this outcome in my life? Right, what I'm seeing, because the reality is, is what you see is formulated from a belief you had a thought you had that you keep allowing to show up, and so it's really important for you to get clear about your thinking so that you can see something different in the atmosphere. And so I'm not going to preach so not like I was getting too preachy, but really I mean, that's really what it boils down to. And so, you know, that's a tool that I actively use. I also, you know, as part of coaching. I think coaching is really effective. Some people would say that coaching is not a tool, but in my mind it is. It's a mindset, it is a way of doing a thing, and so that would be my second power tool is coaching asking powerful, thought-provoking questions and giving people space to sit in them, you know, and lean in the question, sit in the question and give them an opportunity to take action, you know, challenge them on. What is it that you are going to do to change the outcome to be more enjoyable? And not just because you want to be happy, but because you want to feel good about the work that you do. You want to add value you want to, you know, operate in purpose. All of those things are fulfilling. So really it's not just about being happy, it's really about being fulfilled, and so that is hopefully that answers your question, but that's how I, that's how it's coming for me Coming up.

Dr. Pelè: 

No, no, you're absolutely correct, and I think there's there's a word you used a few times and that is outcomes. Right, and you know what are the outcomes. How are you feeling them in your heart, your body, your mind? And, yes, you're right, it's not about the sort of hedonic happiness, the kind of happiness that's about pleasure. Hey, I feel good today. It's not always about that, but it is about eudaimonic happiness, which is the kind of happiness that's about engagement, like am I engaged in the work I do? Do I? Does time fly when I do this work? Do I have flow? Am I, am I really connected to the mission and the purpose of this organization? And if I'm not, then I'm not eudaimonically happy and so and so, when we so. Thank you for bringing that up. I love to help, to help people understand that profitable happiness is not just about, you know, the rah-rah type of feeling. It's really about the engagement that we feel as employees and the employee experience being something we want to continue to have. Which brings us to our topic, right. Like how do you connect Profitable happiness, the kind of engagement happiness, with the work you do? What are the sort of intersections between a faith-based or a spirit-led leadership and helping employees be happy with the work they're doing.

Kneisha Sanders: 

Yeah, you know, I think the first thing that comes to my mind is going back to something I mentioned earlier of this idea of feeling worthy, and when I think about profitable happiness, I think it goes back to that idea of passion, purpose, and I think this is on your website passion, purpose and conviction and I think that that is the connection is when you decide that you want to serve other people or you decide that you're going to do the things that are fulfilling, and oftentimes what we find is fulfillment comes from helping other people, serving other people, from knowing that you're doing good in the world and that you've done something that mattered. That's when you have this sense of fulfillment. And so how I connect the work is really you know, you don't step, you can't just go to work and say you know, I think that I'm going to be a finance person today. You went to school, you probably had a degree, you got some certifications. It was a process, it was a journey to get there, and so when I think about this leading, being spirit-led or incorporating your faith or any of the things we've talked about so far, it's about understanding the journey. It's about understanding where you, what started the journey. Was it a desire for passion? Was it a desire of you know, walking in purpose? Was it a flat-out conviction or revelation that you knew I just have to do it this way now, and I think that when you do that, then the outcome or the output of that is the profitable happiness, because now you're walking in it, you're applying that knowledge that, oh no, this is what it looks like for me. This is what it feels like for me to operate in purpose. This is what it feels like for me to have the courage to step out on a conviction. And I'll give an example really quickly. A couple years ago, I felt a strong desire that it was time for me to walk away from my corporate job and do my business full-time. That wasn't, you know, just like oh, let me wake up and decide that one day. It was truly a moment of revelation that it was time and so for me to say that I'm, you know, doing this full-time. It was because I had a moment that was like this is it. This is now, and as a result of that, I feel fulfilled, right, doing that work. And there's a lot of decisions, other decisions that came along with making that one, you know primary one but I think that's the connection is that the profitable happiness is the outcome and the work that I do is really about the journey.

Dr. Pelè: 

Yeah, no, powerful. I appreciate that because a lot of people really do get stuck in sort of a feeling at work where they have no choices, they aren't happy with their work and they really don't know how to change anything and they just sort of give up and go along with the program. And I think you empower people to connect the dots between your work and your profitable happiness, because if that connection isn't there, you'll just, you know, feel like you have no direction, no purpose, right, as you said.

Kneisha Sanders: 

Exactly, I love that.

Dr. Pelè: 

What are you working on right now? What are you excited about? I mean, obviously you want to share your book and I want to make sure people know how to get the fruit of a spirit led leader. But what? What projects are you excited about now and how can people get a hold of you to connect with those projects?

Kneisha Sanders: 

Yeah, I love that. So yes, for me right now it's really about you know giving people options of how they can lead. You know, I think you know in my career it was one way was you know the command and control and the world is moving to. You know, be more coach like and trying to embrace that. But I think it's critically important in a time that we're in right now to know that that's not just one that's, it's not the one way to be. And I think that for some of the people who are like, how do I bring my faith to work? How do I, you know, be all of me at work without feeling like I'm going to offend other people around me? I want to give them another option, and so that's where the book comes from. Is is that's the heart of the book and why I want to get that to the marketplace that, although it's talking about faith, it is for you and your corporate job, if you really want to incorporate who you are spiritually and not feel like you have to offend others. And so that is always going to be a consistent passion and joy for me to do. And then the other thing that I'm working on is just really I have a couple programs and frameworks. That is really about, you know, navigating the employee experience. How do you and actually the framework is called you decide framework, and it's all about how do you navigate your career, how do you choose for yourself what it is that you want to do and not have to fall into the office politics. And I just love coaching and so I do a lot of one on one group coaching and facilitation, leadership development, training. So, yeah, like you mentioned earlier, dr Pallee, I love to do it all. That is awesome and where can?

Dr. Pelè: 

people and where can people find you? We obviously connected on LinkedIn, but do you have other places that people should go look for you and your book?

Kneisha Sanders: 

Yes, so either LinkedIn or you can just go to my website, wwwnaisha sanderscom, and that is my first and last name.

Dr. Pelè: 

Okay, all right, I will make sure to have both the LinkedIn and your website information below. But, naisha, I just want to say thank you so much for being a guest on the Profitable Happiness Podcast.

Kneisha Sanders: 

Yes, thanks so much for having me.

Dr. Pelè: 

Awesome.