Confidence and Passion with Stacy Kessler

“I think it’s key to being successful in business, to being happy in life, and to really connecting with the people you want to serve, because people can see through a lack of passion or they can see through fake passion. Right. And that’s only going to last so long to keep you motivated to do what you’re doing.” Stacy Kessler, Business Strategy Coach for Women Entrepreneurs

We speak with Stacy Kessler, a Business Strategy Coach for Women Entrepreneurs. Stacy is passionate about helping women entrepreneurs clarify their business strategy, ditch their doubt and indecision, and grow their business. She discusses how marketing yourself as an expert isn’t about pigeon-holing yourself as much as it is lining up all of your passions and talents. By figuring out who you are, what your innovation is, and who your customer is, you can gain buy-in and consumer interest. Her biggest tip is to figure out how to tell your innovation story (hint: follow the “hero’s journey”) and always ask for feedback. Do not feel like you have to do innovation on your own and do not be afraid to learn from mistakes. Find out more about combatting imposter syndrome, learning your innovation story, and taking your passions from an idea to a business plan!

Promised link this episode: Untold Content’s medical article with Crossover: “Prevalence, Predictors, and Treatment of Impostor Syndrome: a Systematic Review

Connect with Stacy, @iamstacykessler, on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as her website, stacykessler.me.


Stacy Kessler is passionate about helping women entrepreneurs clarify their business strategy, ditch their doubt and indecision, and grow their business. 

Stacy is a Business Strategy Coach for Women Entrepreneurs. In her own words: “I help entrepreneurs figure it out through high-impact strategy sessions that turn all their scattered thoughts and ideas into actionable business strategies they are confident and excited about.”

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TRANSCRIPT

This episode is powered by Untold Content’s Innovation Storytelling Training. Increase buy in for your best ideas in this immersive and interactive, story-driven experience. Where your teams refine storytelling techniques for their latest projects, prototypes and pitches—and get inspired by 25 epic examples of impactful innovation stories.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:00:04] Welcome to Untold Stories of Innovation, where we amplify untold stories of insight, impact and innovation. Powered by Untold Content. I’m your host, Katie Trauth Taylor. Our guest today is Stacy Kessler. She helps women entrepreneurs clarify their business strategy, ditch their doubt and indecision and grow their business. Stacy, I’m excited to talk with you.

Stacy Kessler: [00:00:29] Thanks so much for having me.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:00:30] So I’m a woman entrepreneur. You’re a female entrepreneur, female founder. You know, girl, boss, whatever you want to call us. You know, I’d love to hear just why you think it’s so important for women who are interested in entrepreneurship. Why is confidence… Why does that matter? Why does getting enough gumption to make big asks, like, what are your thoughts on why that matters, especially to women?

Stacy Kessler: [00:00:57] Well, I have seen with a lot of my clients just there’s this imposter syndrome and this lack of confidence that women especially struggle with. Men entrepreneurs do as well, but we, I think, are – just the way that we’re designed and the way that our culture is, we just feel a little bit more like apologetic and and shy and just a little bit more like, “I might not have a right to do this yet” or “I don’t feel confident in doing this yet.” And so I just love empowering women and building them up to let them know, like you do have a right to do this. You do have something to offer. You just have to step into your own story and stand up in confidence. And so one of my goals in helping them clarify their business strategy is to get them that clarity, that confidence and excitement that allows them to do that and put themselves out there boldly so they can really serve the people that they want to serve.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:01:48] In so many of these interviews, passion and personal competence come up as being critical ingredients to whether a pitch works or or whether someone wants to invest or wants to buy into an innovation idea. I just think that’s so critically important. And yet it’s not talked about all that much. And innovation leaders from huge enterprises who we’ve interviewed on this podcast have said and investors, by the way, too, who are making huge investments in companies, you know, series-level investments or seed-funding investments, they say that passion is so critical.

Stacy Kessler: [00:02:28] Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s key to being successful in business, to being happy in life, and to really connecting with the people you want to serve, because people can see through a lack of passion or they can see through fake passion. Right. And that’s only going to last so long to keep you motivated to doing what you’re doing. So when I was in the corporate world, one of the reasons I left is because I just didn’t feel like I was making a meaningful and fulfilling contribution. And so it was really important to me to figure out, like, what mattered to me and what I was passionate about and to go do that. And now my mission is to help other women do that, too. And one of my favorite moments is when I’m sitting down with a woman and we’re trying to figure out what their business should look like moving forward. And some of these women are new, but a lot of them have been doing this for a number of years. But they just feel like they’re at a point where it’s like, “OK, things are getting serious, like I don’t know what’s next or what to hone in on.” And we start talking through things and they just, they’re kind of sitting back in their chair and they’re just not feeling very confident about it and they’re struggling with their words. And then there’s this moment where they’ll say something and their eyes will light up and they sit up straight and they feel, they say, you know, something with more confidence. And I’m like, there’s something there. Let’s dig into that. So that just happened this week with a client. We were going a totally different direction for her business and we were really struggling to pull it together. And I’m like, “there’s something we’re missing here.” And we got to one piece of her business strategy. And it was like she lit up and I was like, “this is what you should focus on.” And I said, “if you did only this for the next five years, how would you feel?” And she said, “Amazing.” This is it. This is what we need to focus on.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:04:10] Wow. Yes. So not underestimating the power of passion to create momentum and to kind of to me, it sort of speaks to following your gut –

Stacy Kessler: [00:04:20] Yes.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:04:21] – In some ways. And we can talk about the importance of data and research and user experience and feedback and iteration and all of that’s important. Don’t freak out. I’m not saying it’s not important, but doing a gut check, especially, you know, even in massive organizations, whether you’re inside of a global organization and you’re responsible for creating the next big product for that organization, or if you’re the startup, looking to do the same thing from the outside, having the ability to be… To show passion and to sort of follow the momentum that you’re able to find. I mean, I think even in those really established innovation teams, if you hit your head against a wall or you can’t follow your instincts ever, they’re going to slow down the rate of innovation. That’s a hypothesis. Do I have data to show that? Maybe not. But I will say that that’s a trend that I’ve heard within these interviews. No matter whether that’s coming from, like I said, investors or startup founders or, you know, successful startup founders or people who are running enterprise innovation teams that without that, you know, motivation matters so much to the output and the passion of an innovator.

Stacy Kessler: [00:05:33] Absolutely. Yeah. Well, very well said. I couldn’t agree more.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:05:37] So tell me, I love that picture that you painted of that “Aha!” moment for the entrepreneurs that you work with. Tell me what happens next after you sort of identify that point. That’s where the work starts. Right. But at least the work is usually then driven by this sort of undercurrent of momentum.

Stacy Kessler: [00:05:58] Mm hmm. Yeah, absolutely. So it’s like pulling the pieces out of them and then seeing what lights them up and connecting those dots for them and and showing them a vision that they haven’t been able to see before because they’re just too close to it. And then once they’re like it clicks for them, they’re like, “yes, that’s the vision I want, that’s resonating with me. Let’s do it. How do we do it?” Then, we really have to dive into, like, why is that the vision? So what is it that’s drawing you to that? How do we hone in on that? And so that is things like, you know, who are you working with and why do you have a passion for working with them? What are their core needs that you really want to solve for and that you feel like you have the expertise to solve for? And what’s the type of transformation you want to help them through with your solutions? And so it’s really digging into the full story of what you’re doing, for whom and why. And then it’s like, OK, let’s figure out the how. So what does that mean for how we put together offerings that really speak to them? So even if they don’t know what they need, they can identify with their problem. And then you as the expert, it’s up to you to tell them, “hey, I’ve seen this problem a million times. I worked with people like you so much, I get you. And this is what we’re going to do to make things better. And here’s the solution. I’m going to guide you through that. And no worries. I’m here for you.” And so it’s like figuring out what that path is and then communicating that story to the people that they want to serve.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:07:19] So if we broke that down because you just gave a lot of advice, it’s really important, I think. If we broke it down and slowed that back a little bit, it starts with knowing the urgent, inexpensive, heartburn, keeping you up at night, problems of whoever you want to serve.

Stacy Kessler: [00:07:39] Yes.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:07:39] Sounds like it always starts with that. And really a deep understanding of who that user is or who that customer or that client is. And from there, thinking about what talents or what resources can be brought to help solve that.

Stacy Kessler: [00:07:55] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, if you’re working with clients, identifying your ideal client is number one to delivering innovation, to really building a business that’s going to work. And if you’re doing products or tech or whatever it is, figuring out that customer, that audience, whatever it might be, if you try and be something for everyone, you’re going to resonate with no one. And so getting super clear on what is the commonality of the people that I want to serve both in their values, their attitudes and most importantly, their challenge that you’re going to solve.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:08:30] Absolutely. What what role does storytelling play in both figuring that out, figuring out the burning questions and problems of the people you want to serve and also and then communicating your innovation back to them? Where do you see story mattering to both of those sort of points of communication to happen?

Stacy Kessler: [00:08:51] It’s so important. I mean, basically what you’re trying to do when you’re building a business is say, where do I come in in someone else’s story? So what are they experiencing in their day to day life? What’s holding them back? And then where do they want to go and how can I help them get there? And so if you can insert yourself into the story as the guide and guide them through that, that will tell you what your innovation should be. That will tell you what your offering should be, what you can build your business around. And this goes, I’m a huge fan of Story Brand by Donald Miller.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:09:25] Sure. Sure.

Stacy Kessler: [00:09:25] And it’s this idea of taking the hero’s journey that we’re – maybe you don’t know the term – but it’s basically what all movies are written around. And so it’s this idea of your client or your customer is the hero and you’re stepping in as the guide into their journey and guiding them on that hero’s journey with your brand or with the solutions you bring. And that’s kind of really helpful to think about when you’re developing your business. But then also it’s really helpful when you are talking about your innovation and trying to connect with your audience because you can best connect with them by first resonating with them, letting them know that you understand them and being like, yeah, I’m here for you. If you start talking about yourself first, then you immediately lose people. There’s nothing for them to connect with. Right. So. Connecting with them and their story and then telling them how you’re going to change their story, and that’s sort of the magic of doing the messaging and doing your marketing.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:10:27] Yeah, absolutely. Can you share some examples from your interactions with your clients? Maybe it’s ways that you empower them to better leverage storytelling, or maybe it’s a communication strategy that they’ve been able to really nail down that helped them define who they are and what they do. 

Stacy Kessler: [00:10:47] Yeah, sure. So there was this woman that came to me and we had kind of been in the same circle, known each other for a while, but she was struggling to articulate what she did. And so she reached out to me. She said, “hey, do you do copywriting?” I said, “I’m not a copywriter. I’m a business strategist.”

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:11:05] ….You can refer them to Untold Content.

Stacy Kessler: [00:11:05] Yes, exactly. Exactly. And I was like, “copywriters are amazing. But if, you know, tell me what your need is.” And so we talked for about an hour and by the end of that hour, like, I still was a little bit fuzzy as to what she did.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:11:20] Gotcha.

Stacy Kessler: [00:11:20] And so I said, you know what, I don’t think what you need right now is a copywriter. Because if you hire a copywriter right now, you’re just going to be throwing your money down the drain because they’re not going to understand what you’re trying to communicate either. I think what you need is to get crystal clear on what your business strategy is.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:11:35] So she hadn’t really formulated that into offerings or solutions and had clarity on the packaging yet….

Stacy Kessler: [00:11:40] Yeah.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:11:40] Gotcha, gotcha.

Stacy Kessler: [00:11:42] Absolutely. And kind of what she wanted to do was all over the place and who she wanted to work with was all over the place. And let me just say that that is something all entrepreneurs go through.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:11:52] Yes, yes.

Stacy Kessler: [00:11:52] So this is not….

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:11:53] Trying to find the right market fit….

Stacy Kessler: [00:11:55] Yeah.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:11:56] Absolutely, I agree.

Stacy Kessler: [00:11:55] There’s this whole period that we all go through of just experimentation and trying to figure it out. And so if, you know, if you’re in that place, that does not mean you’re doing it wrong. It just means that’s where you are in your journey. But then at some point, you need to come back and refine and say, “OK, everything that I’ve learned through that experimentation, all that data I’ve gotten, all that you know, that gut that I’ve gotten a feel for, what I like and what I don’t like and where I fit,” then you have to go do something about it and integrate that info into your business to really refine it. So I kind of explained that to her. I said, “OK, we need to get crystal clear on who you’re serving, how you’re serving them, why you’re serving them.” And so we did that. And then when we did that, like the words came so clear, you know, and so it’s like the story became so evident. So and through that, it was also understanding her story. And so it’s like pulling things out of her that helped me understand what her experiences were, what her gifts were, what her skills were, what her passions were, and what she enjoyed in life. And sometimes we’re just too close to those things to see what the opportunity is. We feel like we’re just like everyone else. We have nothing special to offer. And so I wanted to help her see her story and say, this is amazing. Like, you have a very clear purpose and passion. Everything that you’re doing and are drawn to has something in common, but you’re just too close to it to see it. And here’s what I see. And I, like, put it up on the whiteboard for her. And she was like, “oh, my gosh, I never realized this!”

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:13:31] It clicked.

Stacy Kessler: [00:13:31] Yeah. And so first it was helping her understand her own story and then it was helping her understand her ideal client story. So, OK, based on this, these are the people that can really use you and the people I think you really want to work with. So now let’s talk about their story. What are they really struggling with? What part do you come in with? Figure that out, build the packages around that and it becomes so much easier to innovate when you understand that story.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:13:59] Absolutely.

[00:13:59] Yeah, I completely agree. It’s interesting. I have this theory. I think that our professional lives are – can be – just as complicated as our personal journeys. That, you know, especially now where people can move more fluidly between being in corporate or being an entrepreneur, maybe go back to corporate. And there are these professional sort of zig-zags that people can make. I know that our team at Untold is fascinating because our head of marketing also has a PhD in nuclear forensic chemistry.

Stacy Kessler: [00:14:32] Wow.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:14:33] And, you know, and we’re a small and mighty team and we sort of leverage our talents in these really interesting multidisciplinary ways. But I’ve joked a little bit with Alicia, who is that person, that her… Working with her to figure out her elevator pitch for how all these different elements of her talent and her knowledge come together to create data visualizations for clients and marketing for Untold and scientific writing and communications, it’s… This is just one example of how no matter, sort of, where we sit, it’s so important to be able to create clarity around how the disparate parts of who we are and where we’ve come from sort of come together in the moment we’re in and to say, “here’s why I belong here, here’s what that means,” and to be able to translate that just from a personal level, I don’t care if you’re the CEO of a major organization, you still need to be able to communicate clearly where you personally fall, where you personally sort of sit in the identity of what you’re doing. You have to have a really clear “why” and it has to sort of make sense to people. So, I mean, Alicia’s is really an interesting example from our team because she runs so many of our scientific communication projects. So she is a scientific communicator who is able to leverage marketing, design, and data visualization ,and research to produce content that helps scientific organizations tell their stories. But, you know, it took a little bit of time, I think, for her to transition from, “my PhD is in nuclear forensics” to something that’s more fluid and adaptable, that can make really massive impacts across industries. And it doesn’t have to only be sort of in nuclear science.

Stacy Kessler: [00:16:29] Yeah, absolutely. I’m a huge proponent of choosing a specialty. But where I think there’s some confusion when people think of a specialty is they think that means it has to be one….

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:16:39] Locked down.

Stacy Kessler: [00:16:39] Yeah, no! And it has to be locked down. And sometimes, can never be…

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:16:42] You can never be creative again! You’re a scientist, you can never be creative again.

Stacy Kessler: [00:16:44] You cannot leave your lane! But really, sometimes, like the magic happens when you have these, what seemingly unrelated experiences and skills and when you find where they overlap, that’s your specialty.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:17:00] Yes! Yes.

Stacy Kessler: [00:17:00] That’s what makes you totally different. So I used to help people write resumes who wanted to make career changes and…

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:17:08] Oh, yeah, that is exactly what I’m talking about.

Stacy Kessler: [00:17:12] Yeah. And it was so fascinating because these people would come with… Come to me, and they’d be like, “I want to do this. But one, I have no idea why and I don’t think I can get a job because that hasn’t been my experience to date.” And I have this strong belief that if there’s a… If there’s something that you’re desiring or an idea you have or passion to do something, there’s a reason behind that. That just doesn’t come out of nowhere. You’ve had some sort of experience or skill that puts that in your line of sight. And it’s just your job to figure out what that is and then to figure out how to articulate it. And so, again, it was like pulling out their story. “OK, tell me all the experiences you have, but not just through work, your personal, your volunteer, all of that stuff, the things that your friends come to you for. And then it’s like, see, there’s overlap here. This is why you’re interested in this, because this is like this is perfect for you. So we just have to reframe…”

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:18:10] Yes. Yes.

Stacy Kessler: [00:18:11] “…What your experiences are and your skills are so that it makes sense to the new place that you’re going and to the audience that’s trying to see that connection.”

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:18:19] Absolutely. And I think, you know, we’ve talked about… We’ve been focused, you know, for the last little moment on how that matters to your professional story and being able to, I just imagine, sort of tons of Post-it notes up on a wall where if you had to put a Post-it note for each really critical experience or bit of education or, you know, professional experience, whatever that is, or relationships that have sort of been a part of your professional identity and then really threading the needle across them and being able to connect those dots and sort of come up with different ways of describing who you are and figure out the one that resonates. And honestly, I think we should all, as professionals, have multiple versions of that, depending on who we’re connecting with or what the purpose of that connection is.

Stacy Kessler: [00:19:06] Yeah, absolutely.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:19:07] But I think, you know, for the innovator in particular, someone who is tasked with coming up with the future and building it from nothing from thin air, I think about how critical that is for them, too. So how do you take multiple “aha!” moments and bits of data, bits of evidence, bits of user feedback, trends that you see in the marketplace, trends or patterns that you see across human behavior or environments, relationships, all of these things? How can you thread those things together to create a powerful story and help people have really good clarity about what this concept is, why they should buy into it. And then, of course, you get to feasibility and that sort of thing later. But that original ability to sort of show your journey, that’s an innovation story pattern that we identified at Untold. We looked across a lot of different innovation stories and how people sort of communicate their prototypes or their pitches and their concept boards or storyboards. And one of the trends was taking the listener on a journey to show. Here’s where, you know, I went to this, you know, I found this bit of data. I saw this insight. I saw this trend or this pattern. And together, here’s the resulting concept.

Stacy Kessler: [00:20:30] Yeah.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:20:30] So kind of like building into the evidence there.

Stacy Kessler: [00:20:32] Absolutely. So you went through that journey to arrive at that conclusion. And so if you just show people the conclusion…

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:20:41] Right….

Stacy Kessler: [00:20:41] …It might feel totally out of context. “Well, this defies everything I think of as reality. So, no,” you know? But if you can figure out a way to, like, almost condense the story that you went through, the journey you went through and tell that really clearly so that people can see themselves in it and can come along on that journey with you, then they’re much more likely to buy into something that is game changing and going in a new direction. And I learned this… I used to do market research that was like my corporate gig.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:21:16] OK. Oh, yeah. Then you know this world, for sure. Market insights, all of it.

Stacy Kessler: [00:21:20] Absolutely. So it’s like digging into the qualitative data, the quantitative data. And, but, you can’t just present the final summary. I remember there was this organization that hired me and I probably can’t share too many of the details, but basically they had this perception of what was going on with the people that were trying to serve. And when I dug into the data with fresh eyes, I was like, it’s the total opposite.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:21:44] Interesting.

Stacy Kessler: [00:21:44] It is completely different than what you think it is. But like, at first glance…

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:21:50] And you’re innovating against the wrong problem.

Stacy Kessler: [00:21:52] Exactly.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:21:52] Wow.

Stacy Kessler: [00:21:53] Exactly. Like, it’s totally counterintuitive and here’s why. But I had to, like, get some help from my team to articulate that in a way to get in the mind of, like, who I was trying to sell this really challenging idea to like, how can I get buy in on this? Because I’m basically telling them the very existence of their organization is built around the wrong thing.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:22:15] Oh, my goodness. How did you do it?

Stacy Kessler: [00:22:17] Well, it ended up being… I was put in a very awkward position. I was like the fifth person on the project because some professional things kept coming up. And so they, when I came in, they already, like, didn’t trust me because they’re like, “oh, here’s like the fifth person working on this.” And so I had to find a person that they trusted to help me share that story. So, because they didn’t come to me with trust just because of the situation that I was in.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:22:45] Sure. OK, so battling that.

Stacy Kessler: [00:22:47] Yeah.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:22:47] Were there certain strategies that helped you reveal, you know, the validity of your findings?

Stacy Kessler: [00:22:53] Yeah, I think just backing up what you’re saying with, you know, how can you concisely show that information and then how can you help build in the rationale behind it? Like, OK, this seems counterintuitive, but here’s why it’s not. And here’s how, if we do make change based on this, if we do go after this, this is how it can be different and why.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:23:20] Absolutely. It’s so challenging. You know, internal buy in plays a massive role in innovation, and especially when a new idea has to replace an old process.

Stacy Kessler: [00:23:33] Yes. 

Katie Trauth Taylor:[00:23:34] Or an operation or a way we’ve always done things or where we’ve always thought about things… That kind of internal, whether that disruption comes internally or from the external, you know, from a startup that’s taking market share on an increasing scale, it’s so hard. Why is change so hard for humans? But I do think there are strategies you can use to help spark that change and collaborating with the stakeholders who’ve always done it a certain way or who that’s their baby, that manufacturing process or that that approach is what they created or that’s what they see as success and really trying to partner and not just trying to prove them wrong usually creates a better outcome and helps speed up the rate of innovation. If you can help them see their role, whether that’s a changing role, whether that’s changing resources and/or completely changing an operation, that might, that’s sometimes necessary to take that risk. And… But I think through partnership rather than through, you know, “you’re wrong and everything is going to change for you. Suck it up.”

Stacy Kessler: [00:24:46] Yeah.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:24:47] Ideally, when you can, help create believers. And I think that takes a mindset from everyone across the organization, not just the innovation team. If you only have the innovation team working in isolation and you’re not sort of coaching and training the rest of your organization to think in an innovative way or think creatively, then those conversations are going to be so much harder for an innovator to have, you know, with the established… With other parts of the organization. 

Stacy Kessler: [00:25:20] Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, I have a little bit easier go at it now because I’m working with, you know, solo-preneurs and it’s easier to come alongside them on their journey. What I saw when I was in the corporate world was just the challenge that these skilled organizations have in leaning into that and approaching innovation in the right way. They all have this goal of innovation, right? They all want to have the next big breakthrough, the next big moneymaker for their company. But the reality is, is that that organization is at a point where they’re designed to scale. They’re no longer designed to innovate. And so in order for that to be effective, the organization as a whole, the culture as a whole, has to prioritize that and build that into their culture. Like, for example, Google, where, you know, 20 percent of an employee’s time is meant to just kind of dick around.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:26:06] Think outside of the box.

Stacy Kessler: [00:26:10] Yeah, think outside of the box. And like, you know, like, and that’s where… I…

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:26:12] Right.

Stacy Kessler: [00:26:12] There’s some statistic. It’s something crazy. Like 80 percent of Google’s, like best innovation and most profitable stuff has come from that 20 percent of freedom that they’ve given their employees. But they didn’t just give them that time. They actually value the output that comes from that. And I remember being in the corporate world and with someone with an entrepreneurial mind and that likes to innovate and find ways to do things better, it was one of the most frustrating experiences just being told, “that’s just the way we’ve always done it. So that’s the way we’re going to continue to do it.” And you just felt like you didn’t have any ownership and you didn’t… You weren’t empowered to actually make the changes or make the suggestions to make the changes that they were actually asking you to do and they were actually wanting. But the system just wasn’t set up to actually allow for that innovation and to actually believe those stories.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:27:01] Absolutely. I think that’s why it’s so exciting to see the number of startups rise and, you know, the number of women founding startups and getting investments. It’s rising. It’s slow, but it’s rising. What other perspectives do you have about, you know, sort of advice you might have for women in particular who are facing imposter syndrome or looking at the amount of venture capital and who it’s going to and think, “I am not of that identity. How do I play that game and play it well?” What advice do you give them?

Stacy Kessler: [00:27:37] Yeah, don’t go it alone. And I tried to do that for so long because, you know, I thought that my pride was, like, wrapped up in my success and what people thought of me was wrapped up in my ability to do it myself. But that is such a false lie and a story that we tell ourselves that keeps us where we are and keeps those blockades in front of us. But if you can ask for help and find those strategic thought partners that actually help, you see what’s amazing about you, help you see why the imposter syndrome is a lie, because you’re they can lay out your story for you and say, no, see, this is evidence and this is evidence and this is evidence. And this is why you’re amazing and this is why you need to do what you want to do. But sometimes are just most of the time you’re too close to it yourself to see it. So I surround myself with people that, you know, give me those reality checks. And that’s now what I do for other women entrepreneurs as well. And then once you realize that, then it’s like going to people like you and Untold to actually then communicate that story to the world and show that new confidence that they have.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:28:45] Absolutely. I think this work is critical. Even executive leaders of huge enterprises have leadership coaches who are helping them get through this. Imposter syndrome infects and affects everybody. And actually, fun fact, we just published a meta, the first meta analysis on imposter phenomena. It’s called Imposter Phenomenon in the medical literature.

Stacy Kessler: [00:29:10] That’s amazing.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:29:10] We partnered with an organization in Silicon Valley called Crossover Health, and we worked with them and analyzed all the existing research studies around imposter syndrome and came up with this publication. It was sort of… Compared what the medical literature says with information in the news. And it definitely has a larger impact on minorities, on women, but it impacts everyone and it can be debilitating to your professional success to be thinking that you’re not good enough. That’s essentially what impostor syndrome feels like. And I mean, we can probably both riff on all of the moments where we’ve questioned whether we were good enough. And I’m sure listeners are thinking of that, too. I don’t care how high up, how much responsibility you have, how much success you have, you probably can relate to feeling like an imposter or worrying about whether your identity was good enough in those moments. So I agree. Being more vulnerable… I do want to hear more conversations where people are opening up and saying, “wow, I really, you know, because of this, the environment in this situation is not conducive to me, saying that I feel left out or, you know, some of these things are sometimes invisible or difficult to sort of label.

Stacy Kessler: [00:30:32] Mm hmm.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:30:33] But it’s really, I don’t know, one piece of advice, I guess, I would add to this is, like you said, not go it alone. I think opening up, sharing more stories about where we had concerns and knowing that everyone feels these ways. I mean, I can’t tell you when I first started my company, and I left my job as a professor, I had to get a lot of small wins with clients where I could grow in my confidence and really know that we’re adding incredible value and creating a return on investment for the people we’re working with. And now I’m in this position of leading a team in doing that and trying to build into them and knowing that passion matters and that that small voice in our heads or that loud voice in our heads that tells us we don’t deserve to be at the table is, most of the time, really ridiculous. And some of the strategies we’ve talked about, I think, can help people overcome that, which is: affirming thoughts rather than degrading thoughts and really doing the work of sort of patching together the reasons why those voices are wrong. And sort of… Maybe that’s the woman in me, too, though. I need to like, validate. And honestly, that’s another reason why women don’t get as much venture capital, is because they are questioned for the validity and the worth that they bring where…. Whereas male founders are questioned by venture capitalists for their… The futuristic opportunity that might come for them. So…

Stacy Kessler: [00:32:15] Absolutely, yeah, [00:32:15][0.1]

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:32:15] There is gender bias in so much of this. And man, it just, it’s down in my bones.

Stacy Kessler: [00:32:20] Yeah, absolutely. And first of all, that study is amazing. If it’s publicly available, I want to read it.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:32:25] I will link it in the show notes. It is. It’s a really amazing study. The fact, too, that we are able to publish findings and trends from news articles in a medical journal, that was a little unheard of. We worked with the editors and they were very gracious at the journal, JOEM, where it was published. And yeah, but that part was really interesting because so much of the discussion around imposter syndrome is not happening with your doctor or your therapist. It’s happening in Forbes.

Stacy Kessler: [00:32:56] Yeah.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:32:57] People are talking about it like, “this is relevant to the professional world” and the medical world is just kind of starting to catch up.

Stacy Kessler: [00:33:02] Yeah, absolutely. That’s amazing. And yeah, just echoing everything you say. And I think the one thing that I’ve noticed, like, something very practical you can do, is get over the fear of asking for feedback because…

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:33:16] amen to that.

Stacy Kessler: [00:33:18] I mean, I’m a perfectionist. I take things very personal, like that’s hard to do. I’m the first to say that is really hard to do because we always have things that we think we could have done better. And we think that by asking for feedback, our worst fears are going to be confirmed. But really, we always blow them out of proportion in our head. And here’s what happens when you ask for feedback. And I’m talking like businesses, people who have service businesses, like, ask every single client, send them a survey, talk to them about their feedback. I think it’s so important.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:33:51] Yeah! Feedback on experience, feedback on product design, feedback on pricing, feedback on…. Yeah, yeah. And on how they felt personally throughout use or engagement.

Stacy Kessler: [00:34:02] Yeah. Because even if five percent of the things end up being opportunity areas and things that you didn’t do 100 percent perfectly, one, that’s normal, two, you now have information about how to improve so that that might not happen again, or you can work on it not happening again. And so you’re going to gain confidence around doing it better and better. But three, ninety five percent of the feedback, if you’re doing the right kind of work, is probably going to validate what you’re doing and help you build your confidence and help you build your story to make those pitches.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:34:35] Yes.

Stacy Kessler: [00:34:36] To get people to back you, to get people to hire you, to get that funding. And so that’s like the number one question I get when I push my clients, “OK, let’s come up with a feedback survey.” They’re like, “I can’t. I won’t. I’ve had one but I don’t want to send it out.” And I was like, “here’s all the reasons you should. And it will get easier and easier to accept that critical feedback for what it is. It’s just an opportunity to learn.”

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:34:58] Absolutely. Yes. And I can hear the consumer insights person in you and where that’s coming from, because that’s what it’s all about, right? Like always trusting the voice of your customer, trusting the voice of the consumer and not being. If you’re afraid to ask, then you’re not innovating for them.

Stacy Kessler: [00:35:15] Mm hmm. Absolutely, yeah, and the more you get that information, the more… The better you can innovate for them because you’re just going to have more information to go back on. You’re going to understand them so much better. And what happens is you develop a “gut” for them to act on their behalf and innovate on their behalf in ways that they never could have imagined because they know what their problem is, but they don’t know what the solution is. That’s your job. That’s your role in their story.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:35:41] I love it. Stacy, I really enjoyed this conversation. Where can listeners follow you? Find you?

Stacy Kessler: [00:35:47] Absolutely. So you can go to my website, Stacy Kessler.me and you can find me on all social platforms @IAmStacyKessler. And I would love anyone to reach out if they’re interested in chatting. I love connecting, especially with women entrepreneurs.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:36:01] Definitely. Thank you so much for being here. I’ve loved our conversation.

Stacy Kessler: [00:36:04] Thanks for having me.

Katie Trauth Taylor: [00:36:07] Thanks for listening to this week’s episode. Be sure to follow us on social media and add your voice to the conversation. You can find us at Untold Content.

You can listen to more episodes of Untold Stories of Innovation Podcast.

*Interviews are not endorsements of individuals or businesses.

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