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Flexible Leadership Strategies for Executive Women

Summary Keywords

advocate, assertive, authenticity, challenging, coaching, feedback, fixed mindset, give, growth mindset, leader, leadership, learn, man, melissa, share, strengths, talking, team, women, work


Narrator, Melissa Aarskaug, Spencer Horn

Show Notes

Welcome to the Executive Connect Podcast, where Melissa Aarskaug engages in insightful conversations with a diverse array of guests, exploring leadership, prosperity, and personal growth for the new generation of leaders.

In this episode, Melissa sits down with Spencer Horn, a seasoned behavioral analyst, to delve into the concept of flexible authenticity and its application to women executives on their leadership journey. Spencer shares his experiences working with women leaders, emphasizing the importance of adapting behaviors without compromising authenticity.

Topics included:

  • Challenging Authenticity Misconceptions: Spencer challenges the notion that authenticity derails careers, highlighting the flawed understanding of what it means to be authentic and its impact on career progression.
  • Assertiveness for Women Leaders: The discussion unfolds into the challenges women leaders face, including the need for assertiveness, overcoming biases, and the significance of self-advocacy.
  • Navigating Cross-Cultural Leadership: Spencer shares a compelling story of coaching a project manager dealing with challenges in a multinational team, illustrating the complexities of cross-cultural leadership dynamics.
  • Adapting Leadership Styles: The conversation explores the six leadership styles, emphasizing the value of leaders’ adaptability based on situational demands and the importance of a growth mindset.
  • Fostering Unity in Leadership: Spencer reflects on the need for leaders to focus on creating unity rather than promoting individualism, emphasizing the value of collaboration and teamwork.

In conclusion, Spencer’s insights shed light on the dynamic interplay between authenticity, adaptability, and leadership success. As leaders strive to embrace flexible authenticity, recognizing the value of a growth mindset becomes paramount in achieving personal and professional goals.

Thank you for joining us on the Executive Connect Podcast, where powerful stories shape meaningful connections!

If you have any questions about today’s show or have a topic you’d like us to cover, reach out to me at executiveconnectpodcast@gmail.com.

Please subscribe so you can catch all our future episodes.

About today’s guest:

Businesses globally look to Spencer Horn as an enthusiastic, insightful source for counsel and advice on developing productive and focused corporate cultures. Spencer draws upon his 31 years of executive experience to reenergize seasoned and emerging professionals and increase organizational effectiveness. He inspires change, to develop: a powerful culture, effective communication, high performing teams and engagement.

Spencer is currently the President of Altium Leadership & Coaching. He has previously been the CEO of a leadership development company and Vice President of a NASDAQ company which developed IMAX theaters in tourist destinations. There he worked with major organizations such as IMAX Corp., National Geographic Television, Radio City Productions, Disney Films and more. His experience is valuable to business leaders and their teams as he shares insight and knowledge that can be immediately applied. His engaging and interactive style contributes to him being in high demand as a speaker, trainer, and coach. He is a co-author of the “Speakers on Life” anthology “The Power of the Platform” along with Jack Canfield, Les Brown, Brian Tracy and more.


About me:

I’m an energetic executive with 15+ years of experience steering companies to new heights of growth and scale. An engineer at heart (I started my career as an engineering manager on one of the world’s largest concrete bridges), I’ve become a trusted leader and business builder in the technology and cybersecurity space.



Narrator 00:08
Welcome to the Executive Connect Podcast, a show for the new generation of leaders. Join Melissa Aarskaug as she speaks to a wide variety of guests that bring new insights into leadership, prosperity, and personal growth. While no one has all the answers, by building a community of open minded and engaged leaders, we hope to give you the tools you need to help you find your own path to success.

Melissa Aarskaug 00:38
I’m so excited to have my friend Spencer Horn here today. I have so many great questions in store for you. And I’m excited to speak with you and share your knowledge with our listeners. Thank you so much for being here today. Spencer.

Spencer Horn 00:53
Melissa, thank you for having me on. I am so excited to be with you. I’m just so proud to even know you.

Melissa Aarskaug 01:00
Oh, you’re so sweet. Okay, I have five questions I want to ask you, and I’m dying to know more about as a woman leader, I’m just gonna jump right in and ask you can you share about the concept of flexible authenticity and how it applies to women executives and their leadership journey?

Spencer Horn 01:25
Yes, absolutely. You know, it may be strange talking to a man and getting advice on women, leadership and positions like that. But just for our listeners, I work with women leaders all the time, I absolutely love working with women leaders, for many reasons. First of all, 75% of my coaching clients are women executives. And I find that they are just so desirous and hungry, to learn and to grow into and to be better and to make a positive impact in the world and in their businesses. And it’s, it’s like I have three daughters, five, five children, two boys and three daughters. It was so much easier coaching my daughters, because if I was there, and they wanted to learn how to play football, I mean, they would listen and I would alright, here’s how you roll that and they, when the boys would date my daughters, they were so impressed. I mean, they, your daughters know how to throw a football, it’s because they listen, they want to learn. And my boys, they just they didn’t want to didn’t want any coaching, any listening. And I find that synonymous a lot of times in the workplace. So for me, it’s just, it’s a joy to talk to women. You know what flexible authenticity is a topic that I’m super passionate about Melissa. And for several reasons, there have been 1000s of studies of what makes a great leader. And I’m a behavioral analyst, you and I have spent some time together. And I’ve done some behavior assessments with you. And we’ve talked a lot about, you know, how you show up and how others show up and how I do in the people that you work with. And that impacts a lot of our relationships and a lot of our outcomes. And so people ask me all the time, because of this experience that I have, Melissa, you know, what’s the best style for an effective leader? Well, the good news is, is that there is no one style. So no matter what is your natural way of behaving, you can be an effective leader. And those studies that I just referred, they say that there is one thing that has the biggest impact in every of those 1000 plus studies, and that is authenticity, to be real to be, you know, to be able to connect with people to not be fake, and pretend you’re somebody that you’re not. But what’s interesting is that this idea of authenticity, Melissa, I think derails a lot of of careers and results, because what happens is if well, I can’t I can’t behave that way. I can’t do this because that’s not my authentic self. And I think there is a flawed sense of what it means to be authentic. And because of that people are not achieving the results that what they want in their careers in their relationships and in how they work in the workplace. And it creates, I think, a lot of frustration and confusion.

Melissa Aarskaug 04:25
Yeah, I agree. I love that I think I forget what study it is like Myers Briggs or one of the studies I’ve taken and they they say it’s like 10 times 100 times harder to be somebody or not than just to be somebody you are naturally and being authentic with it. So that kind of brings me to my next question. Being a woman that likes to make a strong impression myself, I think, you know, many women in their leadership roles show up kind of strong and type A pro personalities? Yeah. Can you help and maybe give us some insight on the balance between being, being assertive and confident without alienating other people within the organization or team?

Spencer Horn 05:16
You know, this is this is such a great question, Melissa. And it’s, it’s important to be assertive, whether that if, because you’re talking about people that are naturally outgoing and engaging and goal oriented and driven, and in some cases, aggressive, right, I mean that they have that those tendencies, and that can get them into trouble. So can people who are more passive is not the word, but maybe more patient, more waiting or not naturally wanting to jump in, being assertive for them, you just said, you know, utilizing your strengths, sometimes, utilizing behaviors that are not our strengths seems unnatural. And I am going to encourage Yes, everyone to utilize your strengths. But if you are not working on those areas that are challenging for you, then that’s problematic. So for that person who is naturally driven, and goal oriented, learning how to have increased patience can have a huge impact. It is going to take energy, however. If you’re that person who is naturally more reserved and quiet, and maybe avoiding jumping in right away, to learn how to be more assertive can have, and I’m going to share some stories, Melissa, give you some examples. But to talk about your example, so I coach people all over the world. And I’m currently coaching a project manager and she’s in the Czech Republic. And she’s a project manager that has six direct reports. And she has a multinational team of project managers that are all over Europe. You know, they’re Italians, they’re Germans, they’re  Romanians, there’s, there’s Polish people and Czechs. And so it creates so many different challenges. And what’s interesting is, you know, we think there’s sexism and racism here in the United States, there are real challenges when you’re working with these cross cultural teams, because in many cases, you know, she’s reporting to people that are based in Germany, now, she’s not German. And she works for a major telecommunications company is a worldwide organization. And they do not treat you the same if you are not German, and speak the mother tongue. And you’re not given the same accommodation and patience, and one of the her direct reports is a man who happens to be German, and who was challenging her for her position. Now, this is an interesting conundrum to be in, right, where you’ve got this, this man and and he’s, he’s, he’s of the, you know, the elk that her managers like, and it’s putting pressure on her to show up in different ways. And how is she to be assertive without alienating him? Or her managers? I don’t know if that’s interesting to you. But it’s very interesting.

Melissa Aarskaug 08:13
Yeah, that’s it. I’m curious to know how it’s going. Yeah.

Spencer Horn 08:17
So it’s really, really challenging. How does she respond to to, you know, these folks that are, are not giving her the attention? And, and so we’re just talking about how to show up with with with respect, and, and patience and questions instead of making assertions? Because a lot of times, it’s like, well, this is the way it is, this is the way it needs to be, here’s what this person is doing. And he’s not, he’s not following directions. Instead, she’s talking about okay, what are my what are my parameters? What authority do I have to, to manage this individual, she got very clear on that. And then, with working together, we set up clear expectations of what this individual is supposed to do. Listen, you want to be a leader. So hear this, this man said to her, you need to be you need to be actively managing projects so that I know I can trust you that you know what you’re doing. She’s managing everybody doing, you’re doing the projects. What, what an arrogant attitude and question. She has proven herself, but that’s not her job. Her job is to manage the project managers managing the projects, not the projects. And so we had to handle that in a way that, listen, you want to have opportunities for leadership, you need to show up big on this team, you need to be a member of this team. And what I’d like to know is what are you going to do, instead of saying, here’s what you need to do, what are you going to do to be a more active participant on this team? And in a way that is constructive and not, you know, putting yourself first, and what are you going to do to make sure that your projects are finished on time? You know, so she’s putting pressure on him to put his you know, what he wears his actions where his mouth is, and, and embrace his desire for growth, but within the parameters instead of talking about it, go out and do it and then rewarding those behaviors and encouraging and letting them know what a good job he’s doing and rewarding good behavior instead of focusing on the things that he’s doing negative. And it’s working some of the things that that she’s asking him to do a really hard for him. But he needs to do that to be a part of the team. And if he’s not willing to do that, she needs to be strong enough to hold them accountable. And she is, and it’s creating few waves. And so she has had to learn. So I’m jumping around a little bit, but let me answer your question this way. To be authentic, in my opinion, means you are true to your goal. Your let’s say, Melissa, you have a goal to be aspiring to have success, whether that be in sales numbers, whether that be perhaps a promotion, or gain additional experience and learning. That’s what you need to be true to, not necessarily the behaviors that you are most comfortable with. Because let me give you an example. So here’s an here’s another example of a of a different manager who happened to be in in Michigan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, originally from Serbia, also having five direct reports. She had an opportunity to get a promotion to a regional vice president, incredible manager, she cares for her team, she, she’s like, I wanted to get this promotion, because I wanted to make sure that the next vice president was better than the last so that my little team could have a leader that they could look up to. Now that’s her goal. Right? Right. And she said, I didn’t get the promotion. And I want to know why. Because the person who got the promotion was not as qualified as I was. Why did that happen? Now, some of you may or may judge what what I’m going to say. But as a behavioral analyst, I could tell a lot about her personality, just by listening to her talk. And I said, you’re somebody who cares deeply about your team, aren’t you? Yes, you’re somebody that is more comfortable putting your head down, and doing a great job. And hope you get noticed, instead of saying, Here’s what I deserve, here’s why you should promote me, here’s, here’s all the good things that I’m doing. Take a look at me, she says, Oh, I never do that, I absolutely just put my head down and do a great job. I said, the person who got the promotion, was willing to self advocate. The person who was hiring had a personality that was more in line with a winning style than an earning style. And so sometimes what happens, Melissa is that, in order for you to get that promotion, you’ve got to be willing to get uncomfortable, so that you can achieve your goal, your vision. And that’s a behavioral flexibility. So that’s why I’m talking about flexible authenticity, is sometimes you have to get uncomfortable, and behave in ways that are not natural. So another study that was done, and this is done years ago, by the Hammick Baer Consulting Group, they found the best leaders, and this was done with almost 4000 leaders worldwide. That’s a big, that’s a big sampling, across all industries, across genders, races, professions, it doesn’t matter. Were able to, to, to flex between six leadership styles. And I’m gonna I’m going to tell you what they are. One is a coercive style, do what I say do it now. Number two is an authoritative style come with me, let me let me show you another is a democratic style, hey, this is about building consensus and, and getting input and drawing out input from everybody one’s in affiliate style, where people are our first and we, you know, we bring people together. One is a pace setting style. Follow me right now. And you know, high high goals and standards. Another is a coaching style. Now, I guarantee you, the people who are listening, and probably you can identify with maybe three or four of those that you’re good at. And you probably struggled with two or three of those. Would you agree?

Melissa Aarskaug 14:14
Yeah, I think as a leader, my opinion leaders are achieving something. Yeah, people that are true true leaders, whether you’re a leader of a sports team, or a leader of a division or a leader of PMOs, whatever your role is, true leaders are achieving goals, whatever the goals are, whatever the mission is, they’re achieving. There’s difference between people that achieve and people that talk about leadership. So you mentioned six and I would say each one of those traits are needed a different time.

Spencer Horn 14:49
Exactly. Sometimes all in the same week.

Melissa Aarskaug 14:53
So good leaders zone in okay, this person needs more coaching or you know this person needs more hands on, I think you have to be able to do all six…

Spencer Horn 15:05
You do. Well most people feel, well you know it’s hard for me to be coercive. It’s hard for me to be that authoritative, and for those who are natuarally good at that, it’s hard for them to be affilitative, and democratic, and get everybody, it’s hard, it feels unnatural. It doesnt feel authentic. And that’s the problem, so this other leader, that I was telling you about, that didn’t get the position, because she was unwilling to self-advocate. She missed out on an opportunity. Sometimes you have to be able to step up and say, I want this, I deserve this, and not just for you, that’s not comfortable, on behalf of the team, which is the goal. You want to care for them, and be this regional leader that this team needs, and step out of what is most comfortable for us.

Melissa Aarskaug 15:37
Yeah, I agree, I think too self advocate advocating for yourself is there’s a line, right. So sometimes if you push too much advocating for yourself, there’s a lot of times leaders are like, oh, she’s all about herself. She only cares about herself, but I find sometimes that people that are like that, what they’re really looking for too and the leaders that believe that about them, they’re not being appreciated, or they’re not getting what they need a lot of times from their leadership. So yes, advocate. Secondly, realize that if you’re getting feedback that maybe you’re advocating too much step back and think about it, like what am I advocating for?

Spencer Horn 16:41
That’s the flexibility that I’m talking about, because you’re talking about people that may be naturally good at that. I’m talking about people in my, in my experience, most women struggle with that self advocating because it feels so selfish.

Melissa Aarskaug 16:55
I forget what the study is. But there was a study done, it just came up on a panel that I was on recently that, you know, if women, if there’s a job, that’s whatever the job is, and the a man has the 60% of this skill, or like, I’m highly qualified, and I can, you know, I can do it 100%, but a women has to have like, I think it was either 85 or 90%, of whatever that job description says to actually even apply for it. Yeah, I forget which study it was.

Spencer Horn 17:31
Yeah. And so and so that’s part of the challenge. And there is definitely an unfair standard. And because, you know, you talked about the woman that is hard driving and so there’s, again, I’ve coached a lot. And there was another woman that I worked with and worked for a large Canadian firm and she was new on the team have lots of experience and just came in immediately was was willing to speak up and advocate saying, hey, we need to be doing these things differently. And it didn’t go well, because she hadn’t earned yet the trust of the team. You have to know just as you said a minute ago, you have to know when to push and and when to hold back. And that speaks a little bit different to what you said in the beginning. We have heard our whole lives, most of us just utilize your strengths and you’ll be happy. I believe that. However, I also believe that we have to work on those areas that are blind spots. You know, our mutual good friend Christian Napier, incredible human. He has strengths that are opposites of mine, right. And together we make almost a perfect human because we’re so opposite. But we had Scott Hamilton the golden metal skater on on our podcast together. And he I think he won, you know, from 1981 to 1984. He was on unbeatable. Long story short, he woke up one morning and was number two in the world as a skater because the top three just retired from the 1980 Olympics. The number one skater I believe was Brian Orser had strengths that were Scotts weaknesses. They were what’s called compulsory figures, right? He hated those, and he said they hated me back. As soon as he learned to embrace that, those compulsory figures, and it was never number one in those compulsory figures, but he was second or third. And he took that weakness and brought it up. And he was unbeatable. So sometimes what happens is, is if we just focus on our strengths, well, hey, listen, I’m naturally assertive. You’re gonna get some feedback at some point, but to learn how to be patient, that is not inauthentic, in my opinion. Why? Because you want to have results. You want to have the influence to get things done on the team. And in order to do that, sometimes you have to behave in ways that may not come natural. That takes energy. So the key If you don’t have to become perfect at compulsory figures, you don’t have to be completely perfect at being patient or being assertive if you just got 5% better at those things that you’re weak at, and just focus on one at a time. Why? Because we all have weaknesses. Utilize your strengths, because that gives you energy and meaning and excitement. But can I tell you think about the things that you’re most proud of in your life? Melissa? Was it the things that came easy? Or was it the things you had to work for?

Melissa Aarskaug 20:27
Definitely no, it was the things that I mistakes I made and learned from. I always tell people, I’m like, make the mistakes is one thing, but learning from the mistakes if you’re making the same mistakes, whether it’s work, work or personal, you’re not learning and you have to have kind of that, you know, I talked about growth mindset. I love that.

Spencer Horn 20:49
Make that the authentic self.

Melissa Aarskaug 20:53
So kind of pivoting on you. So talking about growth mindset, and, like, from your perspective, and talking to all these women in leadership roles, what are some techniques that you can share, on how to adopt a growth mindset and enhance your leadership skills? Whether you’re, you know, an extrovert an introvert, using all six types? Like, what are some skills that you can share with our listeners?

Spencer Horn 21:22
So great question. I, my, preferred way of starting is just find one, we all have an area that kind of is a fly in the ointment, you know that, we’re like, oh, man, I wish I could just change that. There’s always that style of somebody that you say, oh, I wish I could be like, Melissa, you know, I wish I could be like, Christian, right? I mean, there’s certain things just find that one thing. You don’t have to you don’t have to work on everything, find one thing that you that may be your weakness. So, so for me, I mean, if I were to just work on, so let me back up, because I’m going to talk about your your growth mindset here. So let’s go back to the strengths based approach. I heard a speaker one time say just focus on your strengths, and it will automatically bring up all your weaknesses. First of all, that is not a growth mindset. That’s a fixed mindset. And if I were to focus on just my strengths, I would be belligerent, I would be assertive and aggressive. And I would I would get the project done, but there would be blood all over the walls, right? And at what cost? Would I get it? Get it all done? And that’s not okay. No, but I’m proud of the fact that I’m goal oriented and good at getting things done, but at what cost? Right. So I, I, I’ve had to learn that I want to get things done, but I have to change my approach, in order to do that. I have to get more buy in. I have to get people wanting to do the work. Leadership is about doing important things, but it’s about having a team of people that want to join you, in your vision to do important things. And sometimes that means you can’t just, you know, push and shove, you have to invite and and so for me, it’s about saying, I know that I can’t do things the way I’ve always done and, and instead of saying, well, that makes me a bad person, I’m a failure. That’s a fixed mindset. A growth mindset says, You know what, this is an opportunity for me to learn and grow. I’ve made a mistake I’ve had, I had an incredible mentor early in my career, Melissa. His name is Kelvin Colbine where I talk about him all the time. Christian knows his name by heart, but I was just out of college, had a master’s degree and again, thought I was doing a great job, he sat me down and he said, you’re not achieving what I had hoped for you. And I want you to make these changes. If you can’t, I’m gonna have to replace you. I’m gonna give you six months. Now some people say well, that’s harsh, right? But because of the relationship that I had with Kelvin, I loved that man, I did not want to let him down. He I knew he cared about me. He didn’t just sit me down, and say you’re you’re failing and not hitting your goals. He spent time with me. And he said, this is what I need you to do. Within those six months, and naturally by nature, I have a fixed mindset I have had to work really hard to shift into that growth mindset. In the six months after that, he promoted me and I became a vice president of a publicly traded company at 27 years old, but part of that is because I had an incredible mentor. So to have a growth mindset is to in my opinion, is to be goal oriented, it is to say, you know what, I I’ve failed at doing it this way. I need to learn more skills. I have to, don’t worry the fact that you’re not perfect. It’s not about perfection, and it’s not about doing everything 100% right all the time. It’s about progress.

Melissa Aarskaug 25:01
Yep. I think it’s definitely about progress. And I think another that’s fantastic. I think one other thing I would add is getting feedback, right for a lot of people in your life, I think it’s not just, you know, something I’ve been working on for years is as an engineer, my backgrounds engineering, I see answer, sorry, I can’t, I can’t tell you A, B, C, D, I see the end. And so sometimes I’m at the end, and people are at the beginning. I have to learn how to take them from, how do you get there, this date, to this date, to this date? So I think one other thing I would suggest to, love that, feedback, feedback from everyone, not just your job, you’re not just defined by your job, but your spouse, your friends, your children…

Spencer Horn 25:49
How did you do that though Melissa? How did you get comfortable with that? Because some people that’s really hard for even for me, I thought, if I’m getting feedback, it means that this is the fixed mindset, that I am not a good leader, there’s something wrong with me. And I didn’t want to get feedback. I just wanted to do the great job all the time, so I never got any feedback.

Melissa Aarskaug 26:07
You know, I’ll tell you not all feedback is good feedback, too. So I think, let’s say, you know, I’ve been given some feedback I absolutely disagree with, right. And I am I take it and I listen to it, and I make a decision, okay, is this person that I’ve asked to, for to speak into my life because they’re speaking into your life and thoughts become things as we know, right? So, um, you know, if somebody says something to you that you’re X, and you don’t believe you’re X, it doesn’t you’re not defined by that, I think you have to ask yourself, is this potentially who I’m behaving like, whatever the behavior trait is, or, and make adjustments accordingly. But not all feedback, I would say, don’t change your life based on one person’s feedback. If it’s something you don’t agree with, ask another, ask another get a second opinion. Like you go to the doctor. And they tell you you have you know, you have a disease or an ailment or get a second opinion, they don’t, they don’t have all the answers to everything.

Spencer Horn 27:10
But it gives you a feedback that you don’t like, what do you say?

Melissa Aarskaug 27:13
I say thank you. I appreciate that feedback. And if I violently disagree, because I have had some of those people say, I’m sorry, you feel that way. I disagree with you. And so when I say that to some people, sometimes they’re like, I don’t know, or like, you can see their faces change. But I think.

Spencer Horn 27:32
but and you say thank you, though.

Melissa Aarskaug 27:35
I say thank you. I appreciate that. Because I have blind spots. And but I think them first because it takes confidence to give feedback. And it takes vulnerability as well, because you potentially be affecting your relationship.

Spencer Horn 27:50
And if you don’t accept that feedback, I say if someone gives you a gift for Christmas, that an ugly sweater that you absolutely hate, do you say like this is stupidest sweater I’ve ever received? What do you, why would you give that to me? They’ll never give you a gift again, will they? Right? So you want people to give you feedback. And so thank them, even if you don’t agree, and you’re exactly right. And you can be confident enough to say you know what, thank you and appreciate that, and I’ll keep going with my life. But if you say no, pretty soon people will stop giving you feedback, and that’s a dangerous place to be in.

Melissa Aarskaug 28:27
Exactly. And you should solicit feedback from all areas of your life. Friends, I’ve had friends tell me, Melissa, you’re so busy, I can never get I can never get in touch with you. And I have to step back and say, yep, you’re right. I’m sorry, I’m being a bad friend. And I’m going to do better. And I’ve done that to several friends in my life, one of which I just met this past week. And, and we caught up, we, you know, hug and did all the things, but I think you know, it’s, I don’t like the word work life balance. It’s more like integration these days. And I think we’re going to make mistakes for humans, but getting better at taking feedback and giving feedback is, in my personal opinion, way to lead an authentic life and to learn and grow.

Spencer Horn 29:17
You know, you’re so right. And I know our time is kind of wrapping up, but I just have to share one more story. I have a client friend who I worked with several years ago, who retired from a kind of a first responders industry, in working actually for the government and 90% of the team were men. And she was the chief of mean huge organization. So kind of quasi military firefighting, police work all of that it was just this really, really challenging environment for an incredibly strong woman that was dominant and  outgoing and and patient. And she realized that, you know, these, these people, men and women depended on her to really help them to be a high performing team to love the work that they they do. I mean, they, they love the work, but there was so much dysfunction when there wasn’t an emergency, that’s when these you know, all the fighting and dysfunction came about. And so for her, that authentic self was, I want this team to love to work together. And then she had to put her ego aside. And she actually ended up having to, to testify in front of Congress, about what was happening in the government for sexual harassment and, and it created a huge wave of anti, just frustration with a lot of the men I mean, they were, it was really a tough situation. So there are environments out there that many women are dealing with that are so challenging, and I am telling you that it’s hard, but it can, you can succeed. And you can have success by standing up for what is right for your, for your vision for your goals, for what you know, is fair, in terms of treatment. It’s going to take courage, and it’s going to take getting uncomfortable, which takes energy. So it’s not just about saying, let’s let’s do what you love, and you never have to work a day in your life, that’s a fairy tale. Do what you love, so you can put up with the crap that’s hard to deal with.

Melissa Aarskaug 31:34
Right. Rigth. Okay, so I have one last question for you. As a coach of many, many people, what was your AHA! moment that you’ve witnessed in women executives that you work with? The one thing like what’s one thing that or three things that’s really taken a person you’ve coached from here to there?

Spencer Horn 32:04
You know, I think one of the biggest things that I’ve, that I’ve learned is you can be to be assertive, let’s go back to that, that idea is, so is such a great place to come from. And it means that you stand up for yourself without making others wrong. And that is something that once people learn that it gives them permission to say, hey, I can self advocate, and I’m doing that without, hey, I’m right, you’re wrong. That’s an aggressive dividing type of, of style. And that’s not what we’re, we’re, that’s not what we want to achieve. We want, right? We have so much division in our society, right now. We have, you know, we’re divided by political beliefs, we’re divided by gender, you know, ideologies, and, and and by behavioral tendencies, and just by religious affiliations. We need to spend more time instead of what I my AHA! is instead of, you know, here’s my authentic self, and it’s me above everything else. How do we work better together? How do we come together and say, you know, we’re, we’re part of the same team at this organization. We are all Americans, we’re all Czechs. We’re all you know, we’re all working at XYZ company, instead of promoting just me now, do I need to be assertive at times? For the better of the for the better part of the team? The answer is yes. And so the AHA is, is how do I need to shift to get people to come together, and work together as a team and when we learn how to get out of our own way, and when I see women get out of their own way, and men, wonderful things happen. And it is hard, hard work. And it takes it takes humility and vulnerability, which you’ve already brought up. In terms of receiving feedback, it takes vulnerability to say, I have, I can be better. I can be more inclusive, we talk about inclusive and there’s so much more to look at diversity and inequity in terms of just race, but more even in how we think and how we communicate. So my AHA! is how do I change so that I can create more unity.

Melissa Aarskaug 34:30
I love it. I love it and just closing the loop on authenticity. I think it’s you know, I think of a book Curious George is taking a genuine interest in people or if people are wearing you know that I love your green shirt green is one of my favorite colors and being genuine with the delivery of what you’re delivering instead of saying okay, I need to tell five people hello today. I need to make sure I tell three people that I like their shirt. People know when it’s not authentic, they read it, they feel it were seen.

Spencer Horn 35:04
If you’re not authentic, that’s maybe a good place to start to start practicing. And you’ll get…

Melissa Aarskaug 35:10
Exactly where I’m going is telling, telling people, I see yo. I see you doing big things. You’ve motivated me to be bigger and better. And, you know, there’s women around me that I look up to, and I share with them, you make me better, you make me stronger, and share that with people, share those things, what no matter what their role is, or what they do. I think it’s it’s one step towards being an authentic leader.

Spencer Horn 35:40
Oh, you know, and that’s what makes you so great. I don’t know if you remember when one of the first times I ever talked to you, is I said, you are a person that can make other people uncomfortable, just because of how naturally outgoing and successful and driven that you are, and can create jealousy, or what are the other things and by you doing exactly what you said, by turning the table and recognizing them and lifting them up. You flip the script on on those types.

Melissa Aarskaug 36:07
I do, and I you know, and I think the boys get a bad rap. But let’s let’s be serious. I am who I am, because of all the men that we have been part of my life since I was born. And I think all the difficult things and all the challenges have paved the way to where I am today. So I think the men I think the women, I think all the religions and all the cultures and all the people that have been part of my life, because they’re the sum total of who I am today. So closing up here, I know your time, I want to you know, just thank you for being here. Thank you for sharing your insight. I love talking to you. I love hearing from you. Any final thoughts? Let can you share with the listeners on how we can connect with you, and learn from you, follow you? And then just any final thoughts?

Spencer Horn 36:58
Yes, thank you so much, Melissa it was wonderful to be on your show. I love to hear you and your energy always get me so excited. I mean, you should have seen I’m spraying over here. And luckily, you’re everyone’s far enough away, they’re not getting you know, reach out on LinkedIn. I LinkedIn is a great way to connect. I write articles. I have podcasts, that you can just check out and learn. I mean, you know, here I am an older bald white guy with you know, really big nose and tall so I can scare a lot of people, get to know me. I have learned a lot from my failings. And I have learned from great mentors and great people just like you. And I think one of the things that just a message that I that I want to leave is be willing. If you want to have success, you know, I show oftentimes pictures of this, you want to talk about authentic, I show pictures of me on the top of the mountain, climbing mountains, and I’m all happy and excited. But then what you never see and I show pictures of what it’s like to get up there. And it is I’m 280 pounds. And so it’s the six foot seven carrying this carcass up that mountain is torture. So I had my son take a picture of message people need to see, because I’m always showing them, you know, look at me, I’m on the top of the mountain. And it’s hard work becoming the person and the leader. And the husband, the wife, the partner, the parent that you want to be is going to take effort. Celebrate your strengths. So absolutely use them, but focus on one thing that you can get a little bit better. And I didn’t give you the formula. Once you let’s say for me, I needed to be more patient and listen better. I’m going to ask myself this question every day, did I do my best to listen and be patient before responding? And I will say right rate myself on a scale from one to 10. And without judgment. I had a terrible day today. So it’s a three right? And I average my score for the week. And I look okay, this week, I was a seven My goal is to get to eight and a half or nine. Once I’ve gotten my focus on the behavior that I want, and I’m starting to listen and be patient, that’s a habit now I’ve just I’ve learned. I’ve started to put that weakness into now my strengths column. Then I can work on the next thing. Don’t overwhelm…

Melissa Aarskaug 39:42
Then it will become a habit, right? And you’re gonna have to think about it.

Spencer Horn 39:44
That’s he growth mindset. Yes, but keep it a narrower, narrower focus because it’s going to take energy. Just work on one thing at a time. Listen, don’t overwhelm yourself with everything that you get to work on. Start with the one that you think will make the biggest difference and just get a little bit better. That’s it.

Melissa Aarskaug 39:59
Yep, I love it. That is fantastic. Thank you so much for being here. Thank you so much for your time. I love it. To all the listeners follow this man. He’s fabulous. And my happy to call him my friend. Thank you so much for being here today. And I look forward to talking to you again.

Spencer Horn 40:20
Thank you.

Narrator 40:23
You’ve been listening to the Executive Connect Podcast. If you have questions or ideas on how to bring leadership to the next level, email us at executiveconnectpodcast@gmail.com And don’t forget to subscribe so you can catch every new episode. Until next time.

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Bryan Hancock Headshot — Founder of Integrity Development

Bryan Hancock

Founder of Integrity Development

Integrity Development

Executive Biography

Bryan Hancock has been managing real estate investments—and overseeing development and construction projects—for nearly two decades. He has deep roots in Austin, Texas, and comprehensive knowledge of the opportunities and challenges in this fast-growing market.

Through his development and syndication companies, which he built from the ground up, Bryan has developed 50+ urban infill projects and managed $25M in real estate sales with approximately 35% return on investment at the project level. He also co-founded two private equity funds.

Bryan brings in-depth industry awareness, sharp business acumen, and extensive in-the-trenches experience to his work as co-founder and principal of Integrity Development. He partners with a team of professionals and industry experts (many have been involved in Austin real estate for 40+ years) to identify value-added and opportunistic investments that protect capital and reduce risk for lenders—while delivering outsized returns for investors.

Earlier, Bryan founded and directed Inner 10 Development, a residential development firm focused on Austin’s top zip codes and surrounding communities, and H2i, LLC, a real estate syndication company. He steered these organizations for 17+ years, overseeing the acquisition, buildout, and sale of single-family and multifamily properties, including a 350-unit urban infill joint-venture project.

Bryan was successful in delivering strong returns while minimizing risk for bankers and investors by taking a targeted, data-driven approach to opportunity analysis, due diligence, and strategic decision-making. He zeroed in on potential risks and developed proactive mitigation strategies to protect and grow investments.

Concurrent with his work at Inner 10 Development and H2i, Bryan established Gentry Lending Group, a private-equity debt fund. He also served on the board of Bullseye Capital Real Property Opportunity Fund. These experiences provided Bryan with a grasp of both investor and banker viewpoints, including an understanding of risk and liability on the lending side. This aspect of his background continues to shape his real estate decisions to this day.

There is another unique aspect to Bryan’s career—a corporate history that differentiates him from other investors and developers in this field. Bryan has built organizations, controlled multimillion-dollar projects, and supported billion-dollar programs for some of the world’s largest companies: Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Dell, CACI, and Charles Schwab. He managed teams and vendors in the US, China, France, and India, and often balanced up to 10 projects at a time. He was trusted with a Top Secret Security Clearance from the United States government.

A business-savvy leader and lifelong learner, Bryan holds an MBA in Finance and Entrepreneurship from Texas Christian University and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.

Bryan founded the Wealth Investment Network, co-founded RealStarter (a crowdfunding platform for real estate investors), and was a member of the Urban Land Institute and Central Texas Angel Network. He has been a guest speaker at 20+ national events, including conferences and meetups through the Information Management Network (IMN), SXSW, Rice University, Bay Area Real Estate Summit, Soho Loft Conference, Texas Entrepreneur Network, and many others.

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Melissa Aarskaug Headshot — Founder of Executive Connect

Melissa Aarskaug

Founder of Executive Connect

Senior Executive, Board Member & Advisor

Vice President of Business Development
Bulletproof, a GLI company

Executive Biography

Melissa Aarskaug is a global executive and business leader at the forefront of the technology/cybersecurity industry. She shapes strategy, leads teams, and partners with Fortune 500 companies and other enterprise clients to protect their organizations from risk and noncompliance—while improving operations and accelerating growth.

For 15+ years, Melissa has taken the reins to propel organizations to the next level of performance. By combining business acumen and revenue optimization with the sharp mind of an engineer, she uncovers and seizes opportunities for profitable growth in the US and around the world.

Melissa has established a distinguished career with Gaming Laboratories International (GLI), where she is a key member of the senior executive team. Throughout her tenure, she has assembled teams, developed new markets, and influenced P&L impact, ultimately positioning GLI as the #1 provider of testing, certification, and cybersecurity services to the global gaming and lottery space.

After achieving this feat—a big win for GLI and game-changer for clients worldwide—Melissa steered both GLI and Bulletproof (acquired by GLI in 2016) into untapped verticals: finance, government, healthcare, higher education, hospitality, and retail. An enthusiastic, knowledgeable growth driver who cultivates partnerships and rallies teams, she led GLI/Bulletproof to dominate these markets as well.

Before joining GLI, Melissa shaped and executed strategy as Vice President of Business Operations for LV Investments, where she built and optimized a portfolio of commercial and industrial properties. Earlier, in a very different role as Project Engineering Manager for Fisher Industries, she directed and mobilized a team of 550 employees and contractors to develop the world’s largest concrete bridge. Previously, she headed a major engineering project for Pacific Mechanical Corporation.

A curious, lifelong learner, Melissa holds dual Bachelor of Science degrees in Civil and Environmental Engineering with minors including Business and Mathematics. She is a Karrass Master Negotiator and C4 Executive Coach who actively pursues ongoing education and inspiration as a member of Chief, Austin Technology Council, Austin Women in Technology, and Toastmasters International. In addition to her own personal and professional development, Melissa is committed to helping other people thrive both inside and outside of the workplace. She actively mentors and empowers team members at GLI/Bulletproof, and is an executive leader and coach for Global Gaming Women. She founded Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) Austin and is a current or past board member of many organizations, including Emerging Leaders in Gaming, Ballet Austin, Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired, the Society of Women Engineers, and the American Society of Civil Engineers. She has been a Junior League volunteer in Austin, Las Vegas, and Reno for 15+ years.

Throughout her career, Melissa has inspired individuals, teams, and entire organizations to think differently about innovation, cybersecurity, leadership, and business development. She was honored as one of the “Emerging Leaders in Gaming: 40 Under 40” and she continues to share her ideas and expertise through publications, podcasts, webinars, and presentations.

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This is the Executive Connect

A show for the new generation of leaders. Join us as we discover unconventional leadership strategies not traditionally associated with executive roles. Our guests include upper-level C-Suite executives charting new ways to grow their organizations, successful entrepreneurs changing the way the world does business, and experts and thought leaders from fields outside of Corporate America that can bring new insights into leadership, prosperity, and personal growth – all while connecting on a human level. No one has all the answers – but by building a community of open-minded and engaged leaders we hope to give you the tools you need to help you find your own path to success.