When Business Relationships Go Bad

In this episode, I talk with my friend and Catalyst Founders Group member, Heather Simpson, about what to do when business relationships go sour.

Heather mentors women in leadership roles and is an entrepreneur driven to help women find success in both business and life. Through her experiences and life trials, she is devoted to supporting women through her company; She Leads Me.

Speaking of experiences and life trials, we discovered that we had similar situations with business relationships that went bad. After a recent private session, we agreed to this intensely personal conversation about our experiences.

Many of the clients I work with have seen relationships with clients, employees, business partners, or authority figures like consultants and coaches fail on a catastrophic level, and many of them walk away wondering what they could have done differently, blaming themselves and ultimately never talking about it with others.

This was an amazingly raw, honest, and cathartic conversation about something I haven’t shared with many people over the years. Our goal in sharing our stories is to help move other women struggling with dysfunctional business relationships. We also talk about:

  • why women take too long to leave work and personal relationships that aren’t working out despite the obvious signs
  • how women tend to look for their own fault rather than looking at the personalities and circumstances involved
  • how staying in shock and refusing to believe we’ve been betrayed keeps us stuck – but only if we let it
  • that no one gets to second-guess your intuition
  • and our survival tips for what to do when business relationships go bad

“That deflection tool is something that people use when they feel threatened because they throw that back at you to throw you off balance. I remember a comment that was said to me in a meeting. This person said “‘you know, I think you’re mentally unstable….'” Instead of getting defensive, instead of reacting, I knew I walked out of those doors with my head held high.”

Resources from this episode:

Connect with Heather

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Transcript

JM: Hey, Heather, how are you today?

HS: Hey, Jenn. I’m so good. How are you?

JM: I’m good. I have to tell you, I have been really looking forward to this conversation. We’re going to do things a little bit differently than we normally do for people who normally listen to this podcast. I’m going to ask Heather to introduce herself and tell us a little bit more about who she is and what she does because she’s got some fascinating work that she does with women leaders.

But we’re going to talk about, we discovered that we had a kind of parallel story. The details were different but the circumstances were pretty similar and it really revolves around betrayal and working with narcissistic personalities and wondering if you’re crazy instead of really seeing that it’s about the other person and not about you. They’re pretty interesting stories. Heather, tell us a little bit about your organization and what you do.

HS: Yes. I started a company to support women, it’s called She Leads Me. It is centered and focused around providing that support, empowerment to the community around women and leadership positions as we’ll talk about here in our stories. I was the CEO of a startup company and really didn’t have a lot of resources that I found for myself as a female leader. As I sought it out and kept looking and kept looking, I realized that was really needed in my area and just really wanted to help support women that were finding themselves in the similar situation like I was. I started a company and now I’m doing that full time and I’m so happy about it.

JM: That’s awesome. I love what you’re doing because, like you said, I think we all need this support systems, especially as women entrepreneurs or women in executive leadership, we need to have our tribe. Sometimes it’s so hard to find women that we can open up to when things get rough because when you’re a leader, things get rough. It’s nice to feel like you’re the person in charge and you’re leading the team but it can become very difficult. When things are really bad, they can really take their toll. That’s why I love working with you, I love having you in the Catalyst Founders Group and I love seeing you develop other leaders as you move forward in developing She Leads Me.

One of the interesting conversations that we’re going to get into today is around when times get tough. You transitioned into She Leads Me because you were transitioning out of a bad experience where you’re a part of another organization. Why don’t you tell us a little bit more about that story?

HS: Sure, yeah. I was part of a startup company, I mean, I really did it all. I was brought into a conversation where there was this board of directors of men that had come to the conclusion that they wanted to start this company and they didn’t really necessarily know how to so I came in and I helped them implement and open the doors of their company. Then through that just led to other situations and opportunities for me to continue to help build, grow, test systems, put things into place, and put in training. Then as we had more people there, support those people. So that’s where things kind of started and that developed into this position for me essentially where I ended up becoming the CEO of this company because I just was already doing that job then I eventually just called it what it was.

I worked with a group of five men and that’s where a lot of the challenges came in – not because they were men like I don’t want to say anything bad just because these group of guys, I think guys get a bad rap a lot of times, I think there’s a lot of really amazing men out there. I have amazing men in my life – but for some reason, the dynamic of this group of men, there wasn’t enough trust I think established amongst the group and so it started to create some conflict and problems that were really hard to work through because they were masked by the stress of starting a business when really the underlying factor was really not knowing each other and not really knowing the ins and outs of each other. There was a lot of my time that I had spent working within the challenges and so I kind of thought like I had two different jobs. I had the people in the company that I worked with, trained, and helped to bring up and I helped to develop them and then I had this group of people that I kind of always had to almost referee and try to bring together constantly. Then this was supposed to be the leadership of this company.

JM: Right, and you’re mediating.

HS: Right. It was just this ongoing and it just would escalate as we grew more and more. There are so many more details in there but what we were trying to do, we’re trying to accomplish, looking back on it was pretty challenging considering the circumstances of people coming together that barely know each other in business and I was looked at as I had to be the fixer of that.

JM: And you started that pattern early on. How do you then get yourself out of that once you’ve kind of established a pattern? With my situation, it’s interesting, this was several years ago, I still have my social media company but I had this particular client through that business and they were a personal development organization. I do want to say upfront for anyone who listens to this or anyone within my support system, my circle, or my audience that might know who I’m talking about, I got a lot of good out of the relationship, I definitely did and there are definitely times that I look back and I did feel supported. I learned a lot about myself through their programs but they started as clients and I started working for them.

It’s interesting because, to give a little background on the story, I wound up at one point working a lot for them and it was always reduced fees because I wanted to and because they needed that. But it was reduced to a free work and then I started doing more work for them and there were some trade involved. Looking back, the power structure there of the people who are running the company had some pretty specific ideas about why certain things happen to us. While I’m certainly a believer in karma and that we create our own reality much of the time, I think there’s also other people’s freewill involved and things that do happen. You look at things around health and some people run themselves into the ground certainly but there are other things like I don’t think people ask for cancer, they don’t ask for brain tumors, there is that I think back now. A way of controlling people is to say, “You brought this on yourself, what are you going to do differently?” There are all these things that in retrospect before that relationship, which we will get to, is to trainwreck at the end and I wish I did a lot differently. That’s why I’m excited to have this conversation, if you can be excited about horrible shit that happens too because I learned so much that I feel like I can share but wouldn’t you say, I mean, that’s kind of the beginning context for both of our stories and so now, gosh, looking back, I just let it go and I let it go and the problem got bigger and I felt more manipulated and I got more confused and I got deeper into the relationship.

Looking back now, right from the get-go, the fact that I was already compromising myself financially to be there, I was already not respecting my own boundaries or my own code there. When you look back at that situation, what are some of those early warning signs that now if you were to get into that type of circumstances that you’d be like, “Oh, red flag, this are the early warning signs that I wish I had seen,” what were some of those for you in retrospect?

HS: Yeah. In retrospect, there’s a couple of things that really stick out to me and it’s easier to see them now obviously just like in anything where you look back on something and you can see things clearer, a lot of these things were masked by really good relationships with people so it was this interesting dynamic where I had really great relationships with these people. I felt very happy to be at work every single day, I loved what I did.

JM: Can I ask you a question about that before you go on? I don’t want you to lose your place but I often think that too, I think that’s so interesting. Do you think that good relationship was that, when you look back, was that good relationship mostly on your part? Was that a good relationship but overlooking some bad behavior? Do you think it was really a great relationship that then went south? Because I think that’s part of why, you and I both stayed too long in our situations, is that because of the relationship. Was it truly that good then?

HS: Yes, and no. There were so many different people involved especially on the leadership team. I had excellent relationships individually with all of them I felt but then later realized that one of them, it was circumstantial. I would have these amazing conversations with each of them as an individual, but as a group, I was always confused because there was this a disconnect and then later realized that one of them would oftentimes go behind my back, other people’s back, and the company and have individual conversations with some of the other people to try to get them to see things through their lens or to kind of sway about or to get people to change their perspective through this person’s lens. It was one of those things that I couldn’t see at the time and I truly felt that I had some great relationships especially with this one person I had issues with. But to me, I kept the professional things professional and the personal things, I kept those two things separate.

If there were things that were happening in business, let’s say I had to hold this person accountable, to me that was business and we were having a business conversation. It was for the better of the company but then what I didn’t realize was the conversations that were going on behind my back because that person took something very personal and try to make it something that it wasn’t.

JM: I think that’s a good point and it’s interesting that you bring that. So much of it as cultural about maybe where you’re working at that time because we had a very similar dynamic. You can only have the relationship that you think you’re having on your side when you don’t know what’s happening with the group of people around you.

Again, you look back and it’s hard to see your own situation but I remember being confronted about a few things. I had worked my way up in this personal development company to preparing, I was training to start teaching some of these courses, and I went to my first course as part of this preparation, this training. I remember that I was confronted afterwards by one of the leadership people about how somebody else had some nasty things to say. I think there was a lot of jealousy of my relationship with the leadership there and it was, “She wore jeans and she wore this and she did that,” and I’m like, “Nobody told me that.” It was at first, you know what I mean, it’s the first time we’ve ever done this and nobody had prepared me for any of that.

I look back now and I’m like, “Oh, God, there were so many undercurrents of jealousy and people talking.” Then I think it got to the leadership within that organization and it wasn’t handled correctly either so it is definitely a cultural issue when those side conversations are happening and side bars don’t help. I’m a big believer and you got to say whatever needs to be said to everybody involved, I can’t have those side conversations.

HS: Oh, absolutely, that’s the only way to live life.

JM: Absolutely. You got to a place where you are mediating between these group of people who is not doing very well together. That was not great circumstances to live in general but when did things really kind of start to go sideways?

HS: It was just progressive throughout. There wasn’t any necessarily one big event that had happened for things to truly start going downhill, I mean honestly looking back had just been kind of going that way from the beginning almost, it started which is that one person, that one person that would occasionally have a problem with me and try to sway other people’s thoughts about me and then they would be shut down like the other group, the rest of the group that hold that person accountable and would call them out and just be like, “Listen, you can’t do this stuff, you can’t act this way,” and it wasn’t just with me, it was with other people in the company as well. This was kind of becoming an issue that I didn’t necessarily see the stuff directed at me. It was stuff that I knew was an issue with other people and so this person started being held more and more accountable and I was the first one to stand up and say, “Enough is enough.”

Throughout the progression of that, at some point, I had this realization, the more authentic that I became as a person because I am a person that truly believes in growing yourself, developing yourself, and staying in the same place, if you’re not growing, you’re moving backwards and so I became more and more myself, more and more authentic in my place, more and more confident in what I was doing, and our company was seeing huge amounts of growth because of that. We were thriving, I mean, we’re a startup company, we had money coming in which is great, we had capital to work with, to roll over into the next year, we were doing amazing and really making a name for ourself and our marketplace here. The more authentic I became, the better the success of the company but the more threatened and intimidated that one person became. That’s when it started to escalate a bit more and more and the issues just became more heightened within the group.

But then it started to change, the direction and the tone started to change to them bending against me which made it really difficult and confusing because then in conversations or in meetings, this person would make a comment and I would look around the room like, “Really? Was that just said? Is anybody like backing this up?” Because again I’m a person that wants to grow, I want to be held accountable. I want to know where I can grow and change as a leader because I know that I don’t have it figured all out. I seek the guidance and counsel of other people around me so I can do a better job everyday. I would always be looking for these answers to these questions as far as, “Where is this coming from? Give me more information about that so that I can truly work on whatever the issues you think there are and walk away and move forward with that.” I mean, that’s really not a clear answer but it was just this what I really dial it down to is me being more authentic, that’s when things were escalating to really get to the end of that journey.

JM: That’s when you really knew that there was an issue. It’s funny in my situation, I look back and it’s hard because I don’t want to be super self-critical but I just think like, “You, fucking moron. The signs are everywhere but it’s like you’re the crab in the pot and the water starting to boil and you don’t notice it until it’s getting pretty damn hot.” But I look back and I think that a lot of signs and integrity was such a huge theme there in a place that personal development is the business and it’s integrity, integrity. I look back and I think I wish I had said more, I wish that I had brought up my discomfort more. I think that would have been more aligned with my own integrity, I was very nervous and intimidated. I really looked up to these people tremendously and would have had a hard time at that time questioning their authority. But I do think that there was a lack of integrity with the way that things were dealt with and it started to seem, in retrospect I think, I don’t know that it was an intentional thing on their part but I did start to see where I think maybe they were manipulating people just to make life easier in their business and to grow their business.

There was a lot of ambition to grow that business and it just wasn’t in a place of flow much of the time. I look back and think, “Oh, God, there were all these kind of warning signs.” It started to feel like there was more conflict like I remember in one session my husband and I had with one of the owners, we were also clients of hers, they did private sessions and her husband had done a job, my husband is a real estate broker and he had done a job at one of the houses, I don’t remember all the details, I think maybe he was a contractor or something and the bank was supposed to pay him as part of the way that this particular kind of deal worked. It was taking a long time and then one of our private sessions, she just found ourselves completely under attack like, “Why? Where is this money, Where is this money? Where is this money?” And I look back and I think, “Holy, shit, the desperation over the money,” number one should have been a huge red flag, number two, to be confronted, having never heard of it before at that level of intensity, I should have never put up with that. Number three was my session with her, this was supposed to be my part of the trade like my time and here I’m finding myself in the middle of this like onslaught. There are all these red flags that I wish I had dealt with differently.

I think now, my God, I would have never put up with that. Maybe, you go through these things and you think you learn, you wouldn’t put up with bad behavior the way you did then so that’s one of the good things I guess. But for me, I really knew that there was a problem when we were in a staff meeting. It was a large group of people and I had come on as the consultant there and I help them make massive, massive changes to their website. When I say I help them I mean, not only did I help them with the strategy, I made all the changes like lots of changes and then suddenly this brand new consultant hops on and here’s another red flag. It’s like we keep kind of like glamming on to the next person who’s got something to promise, we keep changing the direction.

Suddenly this new person shows up and he wants everything changed on the website, more changes, more changes, and I remember just shutting down in this meeting thinking, “My, God, I was overwork, I was exhausted, I really in the moment, couldn’t figure out how I was going to deal with it,” and somehow being in that feeling wound up, putting me squarely against one of the owners of the company in this meeting and this is a person who, I’m italian, I’m very passionate, I can get very angry, with a lot of intensity but this is a person was enraged that I was not on board and then I was in conflict with her.

Looking back, I think she really did not know how to have conflict with somebody in front of the team and keep her sense of leadership in front of this group. I was basically given an ultimatum that I needed to kind of get back into alignment and like, “Who the fuck is in spiritual alignment when they feel exhausted, overwhelmed, under attack?” That’s fucking bullshit, pardon my french, I’m so mad because I’m back in that moment.

HS: No, absolutely.

JM: I look back at that and it’s like, “Who’s in spiritual alignment in that moment?” That was not a spiritually aligned moment, that entire experience, and so it’s given the ultimatum to either kind of snap back into place which now I think we were calling it spiritual alignment but it was know your place. “Rank and file, know your place, get back in line or leave,” so I fucking packed up my shit and I left. That was the beginning of the end for us obviously.

But then I went on to want to start, very early on in my work I was wanting to sort of infuse more spirituality and fulfillment into my work even into the social media that I was doing. I remember that I put a class out there and don’t you know who registers for the class is this person so I reach out and I’m like, “No, you’re not going to show up and then spy on me. If you want to know what the material, basically the implication was you’re stealing our thoughts, you’re stealing our concept,” because I dare to be spiritual in anything that I do now, apparently they own that, it’s trademark, spirituality is trademark. She was going to basically spy on me. She was going to come watch me so I took her out of the class, I sent her the materials and then the harassment started. It was this horrible long emails. I had a video at that time that talked about vibrational energy and how you either require other people to rise up to your energy or you stoop down to theirs and forgive me because I can’t remember the name of the book right now but it was based on a book that I read, and even that, it was like, “You took that from us,” I’m like, “No, go Google that concept, there’s fifty million results. You did not invent the concept.”

HS: Right, you don’t get to own that thought.

JM: Right, even my purpose, I had my purpose, it was something I worked on. My purpose is to be a catalyst for expansion which is where Catalyst comes from. I have reclaimed that in this brand, in this identity. But even that, I worked in one of their classes to identify that purpose and it’s like, “Well, you can’t have that on your site.” “Oh, now you own my purpose because you held me to determine it.” It was crazy things.

I wanted to go meet with them in a neutral place. I want to go meet in a restaurant and we refused to do that and the crazy emails, they started bringing out. This one person, the whole team and it’s like twilight zone. I’m thinking none of these people see what’s wrong with the situation and she would just send me this long angry ranting emails and it was, “How we were there for you when your sister died.” My sister died when she was actually, as of the time of this recording today, it’s the seventh anniversary of her passing away of a drug overdose, very sadly. It was really like a lot of emotional turmoil that had just happened and it’s like were thrown at me and, “How we were there for you when your son had a brain tumor,” like somehow now, they own me and everything I do because they knew this information and they were there for me so into perpetuity, I can never do any of these things without them. So this is where we really transition into things falling apart.

When you’re in that place, I guess as we kind of progress through, it’s like there’s all these early warning signs that we don’t see until we finally get to the place and now the pot’s boiling, we are the crabs and the pot is boiling. At that time, for you, when you were in that place where you’re like, “This is not good. Things have shifted, the tone has changed, these meetings are not productive,” when you’re in that place, what are you thinking to yourself? Are you still in denial that things are going badly? Because I know for me, I had that realization where I’m like things have gone fully sideways, things have completely changed, I feel totally betrayed but I’m still wondering, “What did I do wrong? What did I do wrong?” Were you pretty clear like these guys are fucking crazy or where were you in that part of the situation?

HS: Yeah, I knew where the disconnect was with one and then as I started to realize what was actually happening and that others had been manipulated, that’s where it was hard for me to try to reason with what I do nex. I think another piece of this is that I was hired by them to be the fixer. I was hired by them to be the hero, for lack of a better term, that’s the identity that I carried throughout this journey where I was like, “This is why I’m here because they need my help,” and so I really fought against my intuition a lot of times because that was the mission that I carried, was that these people needed my help, I am the fixer and I am supposed to be the one to carry this thing through to the other side if there is other side and realizing that there really was no other side. That was hard for me to realize it at the very end and when I did realize it, that’s when I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

But it was also hard because there were so much of that emotion in it like when you create these relationships with these people and you pour your heart and soul, I mean, I worked my ass off year over year for these people working way more than I was being compensated for always being underpaid because we were startup because I felt like the investment was there and that eventually there would be a payoff of this. So for me, it was I carried the story, I was in it, I was invested and then once I realized it wasn’t going to happen, I had to make some pretty big moves to make it happen quicker and they also helped with that, I mean, it was very clear that they at least, the one wanted to me to be out, I mean, going back to a point that you spoke to earlier where this person kind of calls you and deflected right in that moment where they said, “You’re not in spiritual alignment,” that would happen all the time and would really throw me off my game. I realized as the more and more people I worked with, the more stories I hear like yours, that deflection tool is something that people use when they do feel threatened because I throw that back at you to throw you off balance so you don’t know how to respond back to that. I remember one comment that was said to me in a meeting, that was this person said, “I think that you’re just really mentally unstable.”

JM: Oh, my God.

HS: Right.

JM: You and I also talked about the concept of women at the stake like that women who are persecuted for being strong women, that is what we love to do, “You’re mentally unstable, you’re a witch, we’re going to burn you at the stake.”

HS: I looked around the room first of all because I was just in so much shock and I looked at this person – this was towards the very, very end so I had already really picked up on more of what was happening – that comment didn’t throw me off as much as that would have a couple of months prior but I just looked to him and I was like, “Oh, can you give me a few examples of why you think that? Tell me what I’ve done.”

JM: That is the nicest response I could possibly imagine, that was the nicest response. Can I ask you a question because I also had a moment like that in just a minute, I would like to tell you what I wish I had said in my particular moment but if you could go back in time, what you would have said in response, like now after you’ve had some time to process that situation, would you have handled that differently?

HS: I thought a lot about that and there’s nothing that I could have said to get through these people. I think that holding my poise, staying true to who I was in that moment for me and staying authentic to, “Okay, I want to hear you out here. Tell me please, tell me why you think that,” instead of getting defensive, instead of reacting, I knew that I walked out of those doors with my head held high because there’s nothing in actual reality that they could have said or claimed against me that was, “She was irrational, she flew off the handle, she did this, she did that.” There was nothing about the then rumors that came through afterwards that could have rang through because I held my composure.

JM: And you retained your credibility in that process.

HS: And I retained credibility and I was professional because it was a professional setting even through he took a personal job. Obviously your imagination runs wild with all of the things that you could say and the explicit content that can come flying out, but I feel very aligned with who I am and that’s just the moral of this whole story is that I was aligned with who I am, I know what I’m doing, I know my purpose, I’m marching forward. All of this mess that’s there, the bigger it gets, the louder it tries to get, it’s not going to pull me from who I am.

JM: Oh, you’re so strong, Heather. I wish I have said so many things differently. I think for me, I really, because I had worked so closely with these people and admire them so much and I also was not in a place of power, I think these people were brought on by you to be leadership and I think that I didn’t feel on the same ground with these people at that time. For me, one, I think I was in so much shock, I mean, I hear that as a theme in your story as well where you’re just so shocked by somebody’s behavior. I remember distinctly having that feeling where I was in so much disbelief that there was this betrayal that was occurring and looking back there were so much happening behind the scenes that I could have never known so I was just completely in shock. I mean, you want to believe that the people that you love have your back and that they love you too and it’s like for me, I’m taking things so personally, I’m searching for, “Why? How? When did this happen? How did things go so sideways? They can’t possibly feel this way for me.” It’s like I’m still trying to save it in the face of complete catastrophic failure of this relationship and I’m trying to figure out what happened and where was I responsible. I look back now and I just think, I just didn’t see that I triggered something in this group of people, some insecurity where they felt like I was trying to compete with them or step on their toes.

I look back and logically now, I think I wonder if, I don’t know, it’s not like I was as successful or more successful with that type of content than them because I was just starting out but looking back it’s like I allowed them to shut down my calling. This was always what I was supposed to do. I was always supposed to bring spirituality, fulfillment, and purpose into women entrepreneurs work lives and I let them shut me down because I couldn’t believe that I was being betrayed by these people in a way that is, whether or not you are a licensed therapist or you have client confidentiality as a theme within your work, when something is shared with you in private, it’s fucking confidential and you don’t go back and throw that in somebody’s face to manipulate them later. There are all these things that I wish I had seen.

But at the end, there was one particular, there was an email exchange I will never forget, this was the “your mental moment for me,” I had this moment where the vernacular there very much was listening to that inner voice or intuition, if that’s your higher power, whatever that is, I’m sure I’m going to get a cease and desist letter from their attorney for using this but it was your message like, “What is your message on this? What is your intuition telling you?” I just said, “My message is you don’t belong being in this class. This isn’t going well. We need some time apart.” She came back and told me, “That is not your message, that is not in alignment,” and now I look back and it might seem relatively minor to somebody who has not done that type of work to really establish that connection and work hard at that connection but I look back and I wish now, that is the one thing, I feel like I did a pretty good job of just trying to keep my nose clean. I was questioning myself so I didn’t really fight back a whole lot. I don’t think I was very offensive and looking at those emails, I wish I had said more. I wish I had said more with less if that makes sense.

But I look back now and one thing that I wish that I had expressed that I take with me everywhere I go, and for this I thank God for this experience because now I know this, nobody gets to tell you which your intuition is. Nobody gets to tell you your message. Nobody gets to hold that connection between you and your higher power, your gut, your intuition, or whatever you call it, nobody gets to say that they know that better than you do, nobody.

HS: That’s right, that’s absolutely right.

JM: I know that, I had to go through that to learn that which really sucked but now I know that.

HS: But isn’t that so amazing? You were a strong person, you had to go through that to do what you’re doing today. Same with me, I remember having a conversation with one of my really good friends and I think I brought this up to you at one point where it was like I have experienced a lot of different things in my life. I have realized that I am very resilient, I’ve been through a lot of shit, a lot of shit that most people don’t recover from and I just in this moment, after all of these things kind of collapsed, I just was talking with this friend and I was just like, “I am tired of being the comeback kid. I am tired of having to pull myself up and brush myself off and do that thing.” He was like, “But that’s why people follow you, that’s why you do what you do. People resonate with you and they resonate with your story. That’s why you are here, you are here to go through that stuff to help other people.” It’s so painful and it’s painful what you experienced, what I experienced and I still get an upset stomach thinking about some of the things that happened to me but it’s also part of this process, it’s part of our calling to experience some of these things so that we can help other people as well.

JM: Absolutely, it’s interesting in another interview that I did recently, we talked about Brené Brown has this talk and it was, I’m going to completely butcher the title because I’m going from memory which is I’m old now, but the title is something about how the critics are the ones who matter the least and she talks about going into the arena to do battle and for her that conversation stem from things that people are saying about her in social media like really personal things that really would hurt if she let it. She talks about how when we go into the arena, you think about gladiators and how they’re getting ready to go fight and you imagine they’re armoring up and they’re putting on this armor because they’re getting ready to go fight. But how really when you are a leader and you’re learning, you’re open, and you’re teaching from what you’re learning, you’re going out into the arena naked which is also a horrifying thought but you’re going out into the arena, the analogy is that you are vulnerable and you have dropped your armor. I am so proud of you and so in awe of you for how you have been willing to look at this story and kind of take all the lessons out of it, be willing to share it, and teach from it. It’s amazing.

HS: One thing that I will say to the whole armor analogy is that because we are in that place as leaders, for those of you listening might get it so important that we build ourselves up and we grow as people.

One of my favorite books that I always come back to of all times is called The Four Agreements. There are four agreements to life, if you haven’t read them, you should really pick up this book. It’s one of those books that you could open up right in the middle and it doesn’t matter if you read the beginning or the end, you get something from that context right there. The Four Agreements are: be impeccable with your word; don’t take anything personally; don’t make assumptions; and always do your best. If you equip yourself in those ways as a leader, you can go into that arena naked and you could come out hopefully with as few scratches as possible because that is the power that you hold. It’s so, so important in the work we do as leaders, so important.

JM: Absolutely, and integrity. I know we need to wrap up soon, we could record this like all day long and keep talking. It’s like so gratifying to finally feel like I’m coming out. What are a couple of your survival tips like if you look back at this situation, I would hope that our listeners never have to go through this, but the reality is in this day and age, business can be so difficult and it can be so cut through and you wish that everybody was impeccable with their intentions in their words like The Four Agreements, I think I’m going to order that book for everybody I know for Christmas, but you wish that everybody operated by those rules but they don’t. So if you find yourself in that situation, what are some of your survival tips?

HS: The things that are important for me just in my life with this situation or anything else is also to rely on my support system, who’s in your inner circle. If somebody’s not there and supporting you, then they need to be out of your inner circle first of all. But the people that are in there and that are truly loving on you and helping you, lean on them, they are so, so important. For me in this stage of my journey of my life, my support system was huge.

Another one is to get my brain unstuck. So instead of re-reading those chapters of the book, it was time for me to turn the page to the new chapter. I had to move forward, I had to pick myself up, I had to get outside, go for walks, take in good content, listen to podcasts, read books. That’s where The Four Agreements comes into play. There are so many other really great books out there but you have to move forward in the story because that’s where people get really stuck. You just have to move forward and trust your gut and your intuition like I wish that I had listened more and more to that. It’s so important that a lot of times I did but sometimes I let somebody else’s agenda making a second guess myself and so I would say those things. One of The Four Agreements is always do your best, that doesn’t mean that your best is always at a level ten. That means that your best could be at a level three for this situation. But if you show up and you do your best, overtime, the more and more you will become a master of that transformation because the practice of that makes the master.

JM: Ooh, that’s so good. Oh, Heather, you’re so wise. I just love listening to your advice. A couple of things that come to mind for me are looking back in retrospect if I have something to teach from that, I wish that I had not taken on so much responsibility in the relationship. I think a big one for me is really learning that when you’re at a place where the 50/50 balance of the relationship starts to kind of go off-kilter and you’re taking on more responsibility in a relationship than is practical as necessary as responsible to yourself, you have a problem. I wish that I hadn’t stayed as long as I had. I think in retrospect, there are a lot of dynamics happening in my life that I felt like that was sort of this safe harbor which there really is no such thing. When you’re going through something, sometimes you just have to go through it, you don’t get to circumvent it. I think it just made me stay longer in a situation that I wish that I had not stayed in, definitely.

I think I was just not ready to let go. You and I had had our conversation previously about how as we evolve, change, and grow, there are some people you can’t take with you and you try to keep your relationship going for too long realizing that sometimes you’ve gotten in a different direction and you’ve evolved and changed and it’s time to just sort of let those people fall away. I wasn’t in a place where I was prepared to do that yet, I honestly, as them as part of my support system for a long time I was in so much shock like an entire community of friendships was then gone and I look back and I thought at the time, I don’t know how I’m going to move forward without the support system and here I am, you know what I mean, you have these like irrational thoughts and fears and it’s simply not true. Good survival tips.

Heather, I have loved talking with you. Thank you so much for your vulnerability, your openness, and your willingness to teach from what you have learned. I think that this is one of the things that we don’t talk a lot about as women leaders and women entrepreneurs sometimes is that betrayal that happens because we’re so stuck in blaming ourselves. I really appreciate your insight. If listeners want to reach out to you, where can they contact you?

HS: Yeah, we are very active on social media through She Leads Me. We’re on Instagram @she.leads.me. Also you can follow my personal page, see all my kids, and all the activities that we do all the time @heatherfsimpson and then sheleadsme.com where you can plug in and see what we’ve got going on, we’ve just launched our podcast.

JM: So exciting.

HS: Yes, it’s very exciting we have some great topics around the leadership that we’re discussing and some great interviews coming up. That’s where you can connect with me.

Jenn, thank you so much, thank you for being a catalyst and doing what you do and being amazing at it. I mean, you have been part of my journey too. You have helped me get to more of these other side of the recovery stage of the bullshit experiences and I am so thankful, so thankful for you.

JM: Oh, I’m so proud of you and I’m so thrilled to be here to witness it and support you. I just think you’re incredible and I’m so excited to see what more you do with She Leads Me so congratulations on your continued success.

If you’d like to reach out to me, I’d love to hear from you, my website is brandwithcatalyst.com. With that, I’m sorry to say goodbye, Heather, it was amazing. I thank you so much for a great conversation. It’s like the most fulfilling thing I’m going to do all day long so thank you.

HS: Thank you. Likewise, sister. Talk to you soon.

JM: Alright, take care, bye.