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  • Writer's pictureLaurent Notin

Challenging Leadership Norms and Disrupting the Status Quo with Rachel Rider

This interview is a transcript from Inter:views, Cracking The Entrepreneurship Code, with Rachel Rider, the founder of MettaWorks, LLC. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Rachel Rider, Founder and Executive Coach, MettaWorks LLC

Entrepreneurs are challenging the usual ways of leading and shaking up how things are done. Instead of following the old rules, they develop fresh ideas and take risks to make their businesses successful.

Entrepreneurs are bold leaders who inspire others to break free from the norm, try new things, and make a positive impact. They're changing the game and showing that being a successful leader means being open to new possibilities in the ever-changing business world.

Rachel has been working with leaders for many years. She shares her expertise, experience, and insights.

Laurent Notin: On your LinkedIn profile, you wrote that you help unconventional leaders disrupt the status quo. What do you mean by that?

Rachel Rider: I'm thrilled to share my personal experience with you because I truly believe I've challenged the status quo of Corporate America. Instead of focusing on interpersonal healing, I've brought my work into the workplace. I work with leaders whose companies challenge the conventional way of doing business. They don't want to drain their employees or mimic the culture of giants like Amazon while striving for success. They ask, "Can we do it differently?" I am convinced that inner work transforms leadership, so I attract those willing to question corporate norms. We scrutinize these assumed truths and consider if they truly lead to success. Let's examine and start with my own beliefs and how I want to lead.

So, what are some common patterns in the corporate world?

One recurring pattern I address is performance. What does pushing our people to perform mean? What's the story of success we're telling? It's clear that many companies equate performance solely with numbers, resulting in high turnover and recruitment costs. Even in the tech world, there's a war for talent. There's an opportunity to do things differently. We evaluate cultural decisions and how a company portrays integrity. Customers quickly distance themselves from companies that don't align with their values. My work with leaders focuses on choosing a stance and maintaining integrity, leading to loyal customers and stronger profits.

We often hear the saying, "We never leave a company; we leave a manager." Is it because people are seeking integrity?

I'd love to say yes. On a larger scale, that might be true. But at a deeper level, it's about how my baggage interacts with your baggage as a leader and what prevents us from connecting. People want to feel seen and heard by their superiors. It's not about delivering difficult messages – leaders always do that. It's about delivering them in a way that makes someone feel acknowledged. I recently worked with a CEO facing a tough situation. He had to inform a high-performing employee that she wouldn't get the promised C-suite promotion. He realized he had made commitments he couldn't fulfill. Instead of leaving her isolated in disappointment, he made her feel seen and heard. He admitted his mistake, acknowledged her good work, and offered to work together to reach the new goals. Communication like this, rooted in honesty, feels connected to integrity because it's genuine and sincere.

I often conduct an exercise in my work with clients and leadership training. I ask people to envision the best boss they could ever have and list the reasons why that person is or would be the best boss. Interestingly, all the answers revolve around human skills, not technical skills.

You've hit the core of my work, particularly at the highest levels of an organization. I emphasize that CEOs and C-suite executives are no longer defined solely by deliverables, OKRs, KPIs, or quarterly/yearly numbers.

Their job centers on relationships with those responsible for meeting these deliverables. It's complex, has no definitive answers, and can be disorienting. Yet, this is the most influential role a leader can play.

You mentioned performance earlier. Many leaders were never taught these essential human skills. They often ascend based on their individual performance or technical expertise. A prime example is the sales manager or director who excels in sales. However, being a top salesperson doesn't necessarily translate to being an effective leader. Some may prefer to remain top performers.

Precisely. This is something seldom discussed. In my book, I recount a client who said, "I wish someone had told me this was actually the job description." He had reached a senior position in the organization, yet his default response was always "no." People didn't want to work with him. Through our work, he realized that his constant "no" alienated others. It's about managing expectations. You can say, "We can do this, but these other things will have to wait." The content of what he communicated didn't change; it was how he said it and how he viewed the other person. These skills are rarely addressed because they are more challenging. You can't master them in a simple leadership class. Learning to communicate is one thing; applying these skills is far more intricate.

I firmly believe, and my work has demonstrated, that becoming a powerful leader starts with self-awareness. Unfortunately, corporate America doesn't commonly use the language of self-awareness. Leaders need to understand what triggers them and why, not simply avoid triggers. It's about recognizing your triggers and how they serve you. When do they hinder you, and when do they help you? My dream is for this work to introduce a shared language in the workplace, encouraging individuals to reflect on themselves. It's not self-blame but self-realization that I am the tool, the superpower. How do I leverage myself to make it all work?

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Exactly. It all starts with understanding our inner belief systems, emotional reactions, and personal assets.

Is being a leader for everyone?

This question is intriguing. To me, everyone is a leader in some capacity. Anyone with a life is the leader of their own life, making decisions that impact their surroundings. So, in the smallest sense, you're a leader of your own life. However, the real question might be whether everyone wants to lead many people or can handle the responsibility of larger decisions. That's a self-selective process. It's about knowing what's personally important and interesting to you.

I appreciate your example about sales reps being promoted to Chief Revenue Officers (CROs). It raises the question of why this happens. Even the sales reps themselves sometimes find that they've never paused to consider whether it's what they truly want. They chase titles without reflecting on their actual desires. If you understand that ultimate success lies in relationships and self-awareness that resonates with your aspirations, then leading an organization might be appealing. But if someone's primary goal is financial gain or feeling powerful in their role, they should pause and ask if that necessitates leading an entire organization.

So, you're saying that to become a better leader, one must start by looking inward and understanding oneself better. Where should someone begin this journey?

That's an excellent question. People are at different stages of their personal journeys, and they often seek help when something isn't working or when they feel a need for more. So, I suggest starting there. Ask yourself, "What isn't working?" or "What do I wish I had more of?" For instance, consider a behavior that you already know isn't serving you. You mentioned "bottlenecks."

Let's take that as an example. Bottlenecks are pervasive, affecting leaders across the board, from solopreneurs to those overseeing thousands of employees. Let's delve into the inability to let go. I've encountered many leaders who claim to be excellent at delegating, yet it can be profound when we explore the "let go" aspect. It can consume your energy, making you obsessive. This is where we often start as leaders if we wish to make a shift.

I like to refer to these behaviors as "survival mechanisms." They've served us well in the past, but they might be outdated now. Acknowledging their wisdom is crucial before attempting change. Invite your survival mechanism to the party; thank it for always looking out for you. That's the starting point. Then, have a conversation with it, personify it, and ask for its wisdom. This process can help us grow and evolve as leaders.

It resonates with me. I like to talk in terms of saboteurs. You know, understand your saboteurs, starting with your judge, that inner voice that talks to you. Or the chimp. I often mention this great book, "The Chimp Paradox." I forgot the author. It's a very practical book about how your mind works. It's coming back to understanding yourself so that you can develop emotional intelligence and control your responses.

Absolutely. I particularly appreciate you mentioning the judge because we all have one, especially ambitious and driven people, including entrepreneurs, who often have a self-critical judge. It has served them well in some ways but can also hinder them. I share a story in my book about a woman who was tasked with creating a strategy deck for her company but was paralyzed by her inner voice telling her it wouldn't be good enough. Through our work, she personified this critical self and found a way to work with it, allowing it to contribute when needed.

It's a matter of muting that inner voice.

I would say it's about having a healthy relationship with it.

These voices and saboteurs will always be a part of us, but they don't have to control us. They're not idiots; they have their wisdom. We need to learn to coexist with them.

And what you're saying is very important: that voice will never disappear, so you have to learn to mute it.

I'd say have a healthy relationship with them. It's about acknowledging that these are our inner demons and part of what makes us human. They won't go away, but changing our relationship with them can make a significant difference.

Here's a tricky question for you. If I were to ask your team to describe you as a leader, what would they say?

Interestingly, I recently had heartwarming conversations with two of my team members who voluntarily told me that working for MettaWorks has changed their lives. That meant a lot to me because my work centers around working with leaders who disrupt the status quo, and I consider my company to be a product of myself. We offer to leaders what I need to cultivate within myself. I'm always examining the culture I'm creating and the behaviors I want to see resulting from that culture.

I believe my team would describe me as kind and compassionate yet clear and accountable. I don't want to be a pushover that creates confusion, but I also acknowledge that I struggle with being controlling, urgency, and anxiety when the stakes are high, if I'm being honest.

So, you're the bottleneck in the business.

Of course, it's my work. I'm constantly working on myself. It's funny because I pride myself on delegation, but there's always more to learn and improve.

Absolutely. Well, what does it mean for you to be an entrepreneur?

To me, being an entrepreneur is the ultimate inner journey. It's about constantly cultivating trust and confidence in myself with every decision I make. It's a journey of questioning whether I'm following my own path or someone else's rules. It's about embracing the fact that I'm doing this because I want to do whatever I want.

Whenever I feel like that freedom is slipping away, it's an opportunity for me to ask whose voice is this? What belief system is this? What old trauma is this? So, being an entrepreneur is the essence of my deepest inner work, aligning with what I do.

I love that it's so closely aligned with my "Why" as well. I wonder if most people feel that way when they become entrepreneurs. Is there this deep calling? Because it does require a lot of hard work, not just in terms of long hours, but in continually revisiting and reevaluating your why. I would imagine what you're saying about doing what you want, being bold, being yourself, that is a constant work in progress because there's so much opportunity to fall into patterns or try to follow someone else's rules.

But there's one thing that will always remain. It's the day you created the company. We all have those moments. Every entrepreneur knows that day. I remember the day I had that moment when I was like, "Yes, I know this is what I'm going to do." That is the foundation. It's the DNA that will never change. It will always be there. And when you feel like you lack clarity of direction, I would recommend going back to that day, to your story, because that day is still at the core of everything you're doing. It's about moving on.

Absolutely. It's about us. That's my premise.

You moved from the corporate world and have been an entrepreneur for about seven or eight years now. What are some of the lessons you've learned along the way?

One significant lesson is that if I follow someone else's rules, I do it wrong. This lesson became very apparent to me recently. As the company became more successful, I started feeling increasingly disheartened about going to work. Success is something I strive for, and I'm ambitious, so I was confused. We had coaches working for us, a back office, and companies reaching out to us without my even meeting them. All through referrals. But I realized that I wasn't being entirely myself. I had built a website and used language that I thought companies would want, but I wasn't fully leaning into my unique approach. People would tell me, "I don't know what you guys are doing, but it's working. Let's have more of it." Yet, I wasn't talking about the somatic experiencing work or the polarity therapy work because I was worried about alienating potential clients in the corporate world. I realized that I needed to be authentic and lean into who I was to attract my ideal clients who wanted to do that deeper inner work.

This has been a powerful learning experience for me, as I realized that I needed to embrace who I am and what I offer to find true fulfillment and success in my business. It's a continual process of understanding myself and staying aligned with my purpose.

It's about avoiding that disconnect.

Exactly, I did feel a disconnect. I felt like I was doing this for everybody else when, in fact, I had started this company for myself.

Many entrepreneurs I've talked to on my podcast often mention the craving for impact as one of their main reasons for entrepreneurship. They want to change something, and sometimes, they want to change the world, even though that may seem like a utopia. But they want to make an impact, and usually, the impact they seek is around helping people.

What's interesting is that you say that as I'm sitting here, I realize that I was helping people, but the disconnect I felt was that I wanted to help people in the way I had been helped, through the power of inner work. So, the change I made in my approach was about aligning my helping style with what truly resonated with me. Thank you for helping me reflect on that.


Connect With Rachel Rider

Resources mentioned:

Listen to the full conversation on Inter:views, Cracking The Entrepreneur Bottleneck.

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