STB 024 | Michelle Tenzyk

Create Meaningful Conversations and Connections with Michelle Tenzyk

Michelle Tenzyk advises and coaches CEOs and senior-level executives to create company cultures that attract and retain critical talent at all levels. Michelle shares something so important in today’s episode — Tell your story and speak your truth. It’s going to be difficult; there will be many people who judge you online, but the more of us that share our story, the easier it will be to bring those walls down!

Create Meaningful Conversations and Connections with Michelle Tenzyk

Before we start the show officially this week, I want to take a pause and express my gratitude to the universe and the amazing women on this show that I have the pleasure of chatting with week in and week out because it is really an honor to be able to curate meaningful conversations with powerful women that exude compassion, thoughtfulness, and just truth. Like women speaking their truth.

And I’m telling you this conversation with Michelle Tenzyk is a doozy. It is a doozy when it comes to speaking your truth. I just love, love, love it. So, I would like to officially introduce you to the CEO of East 10th Group, Michelle Tenzyk, who leverages her 25 years in business to bring insight, perspective and experience to all aspects of leadership and people strategy. No doubt. She advises and coaches, CEOs and senior level executives to create company cultures that attract, reach and retain critical talent at all levels.

I love that sentence. I want to say that again, like really listened to this cause. This is so her, I believe this is so her, she advises and coaches, CEOs and senior level executives to create company cultures that attract and retain critical talent at all levels. I love that. She is known for her no nonsense direct point-of-view, delivered with compassion, in order to propel excellence and leadership. Michelle has served on executive and leadership teams for big companies like Lehmann Brothers, Senate Trip Network and Healthcare Consultancy Group. She received an MBA in HR Management and Systems from the University of Albany and has earned her Executive Coaching Certificate at City University of New York Sickling School of Business. And it doesn’t stop there. I mean she is a well credentialed woman. She completed the Goldman Sachs 10K Small Business Program and earned a Certificate in Entrepreneurship.

She holds a BS in Music Education and Piano, which I did not know. We don’t talk about that in the interview – from the College of Saint Rose, where she is a distinguished prominent alumni and Michelle is a Board Director for Dan Kerr, along with a core guide for Chief. So, as I mentioned, she is smart, savvy business professional modeling leadership. Leadership from the inside out. But she is compassionate, she is thoughtful, she is bringing a voice to her story and she’s doing that all for you today on the show. So without further adieu, this beautiful lady, I can’t wait for you to meet her. Ms Michelle Tenzyk.

Of course, I’ve got a golden nugget or two, but first I want you to know this is one of those interviews and most of them on the show, by the way, I do call this out, but they’re good. These conversations are so good and this one is a doozy, as I mentioned as well. There’s a lot of deep conversation here. So sure. You know, if you’re going for a run outside and we’re in your ears, that’s fabulous.

But this might be one of those conversations, those interviews, those women that you’re going to want to listen to the conversation I have with Michelle several times. So I encourage you to grab a quiet corner if that’s in the closet. I get it right now. In the bedroom, in your favorite chair, outside looking at the trees, a place where you can really absorb – along with a pen and notebook because I even went back and was taking some really great notes about this conversation.

Let me just give you a couple things that stand out and then I’ll wrap it up with a few more ideas before we go. But this conversation is definitely at the core about leadership, but we talk about, and we dive right in to the fact that we’re living in uncertain times and Michelle provides her personal tool kit, the way she walks herself through kind of her own self-talk to boost her mental condition.

And she provides you, she provides three easy steps for you to implement like right now, to thrive through uncertainty, to stay in the moment, to help you remain present in your being, to begin to teach yourself and go to the mental gym on the fact that what you’re experiencing, what we’re experiencing right now, is temporary and it’s so, so good. And we start out there and that is more than enough of gold goodness for the conversation, but it really doesn’t stop there.

What I can’t wait for you to hear is two more things.

We talk about putting the oxygen mask on yourself before helping others and Michelle just goes right at it. This is her straight talk. She says, showing up for yourself first. Yeah, that sounds great in theory, but it can be quite difficult. But she breaks it down into a very bite size, three to five second tip for what you can do when all the crazy is going around you, especially right now, to make the slightest adjustment that can change your entire day. Yes. Change your entire day. So listen for that. It is amazing.

And there is so much more in here. There’s a fabulous segment around Michelle’s personal story and her movement called Truth Behind Our Titles and the importance of telling your story or one story at a time to help the walls come down. I’m already getting lengthy on this, so I’m going to hand it over to the conversation with Michelle. But I’ll stop back before we wrap it up for today and point out a couple more things that I hope you didn’t miss in this interview. Okay. Without further adieu, let’s hear from Michelle.

Maybe one of the areas we could start with is this uncertainty because I’m sure you’re having a lot of conversations with your clients and just for your team as well and how you are moving through it for you, but then also for your team and is there a difference there?

Very importantly for me is home. And I’m very enormously grateful that I have a home that I love. It’s a beautiful home. It’s decorated in a way that I want it to be decorated. We live on the Hudson River. We get to see the Hudson every single day. I have a husband I love immensely and a dog that I just adore. So having those certain, those are certain for me, my home is certain husband is certain, my dog is certain, they’re here. And so that certainty allows me to feel good in my day.

And I’ve also adjusted over many years of practicing this, which is living a day at a time. And really just looking at the moment in front of me. And today in fact, my assistant can get, not annoyed, but certainly at times upset with me because I won’t look at next week or I don’t even look at the next day until later in the day. And then you know, I’m, or what about this or what about that? Because I really worked in the day and I stay with what I know. And so that in a time that really, there almost isn’t certainty for any of us because there’s so much unknown about the virus, about the state of affairs, about the global economy, about what’s the world  going to really look like a year from now. The ability to live just in the day helps me almost fend off the discomfort that really could emerge from this state of constant uncertainty around us.

So, I’m just enormously grateful that I’ve got that toolkit at my fingertips, that I’m able to pull that out as an incredible resource to manage myself and manage my own mental attitude. What I’ve got to be conscious of is, most people around me don’t have that toolkit or haven’t  built that muscle. And I’m not saying, Michelle, you know, please don’t misunderstand. It is not perfect by any means on any given day, right?

I mean, you know, and I, and a great example is I’m the one who goes to the grocery store out of the family and I was in the grocery store earlier this week and I had my mask on. I had my gloves on. We’re avoiding other carriages and I have to, I teared up. I teared up with the immensity of that moment, the immensity of, Oh my goodness, I’m wearing a mask in a grocery store.

I’m avoiding people, you know, there’s certain shelves that are empty and it really, the enormity of the moment did get my emotional attention, but fortunately, I don’t linger in that space

Cause the muscle that really resonated. Like you’ve been going to the mental gym a while.

That’s right. I’ve been going in the mental gym for quite a long time and I have to say I am almost gobsmacked with how much that’s paying off right now because I truly believe without that muscle, I would be in a state of despair more regularly. I would be crying, wanting to crawl underneath my bed more regularly.

You know, our business overall is down almost 50% year over year right now in terms of revenue, I’m not curled up in a fetal position. I’m sort of thinking about, you know, how do we pivot? What are we going to do for the next number of months? How do we best service our clients right now? And I can just only go back to strengthening that muscle of mental resilience, courage in the moment, staying in your day. Boy, that’s paying off for me anyway. That’s certainly paying off.

You mentioned others don’t have this toolkit and some, you know, depending on how you’re moving through this time, you might’ve spent the first four, six weeks not even aware of that yet. And it’s coming into the awareness of how uncertain you are about aspects of your life when you’re stationary.

That’s right. And most of us, right Michelle, I’m sure for you, too, but most of us life tends to be more certain, right? You know, many of us are very structured in our day. We know we’re going to get up at a certain time, the alarm goes off, we exercise, whatever we might do, have our breakfast, you know, kiss the kids goodbye, go off on our way in terms of the day and so forth. And there’s a real certainty to how the day goes in terms of that structure.

And so that’s been tossed up in the proverbial air right now where there isn’t even on a daily basis for most of us, a certainty about how the day might go. Everything from people, I don’t have children, but people who have kids, homeschooling, will the schools open? Won’t they open? Are they going to have summer camp? Are they not going to have, I mean every day is a flood of unknown of is this going to happen or not?

When we’re in normal times, there is just a lot more we know. Oh yeah, the kids are going to go to school and the camps are gonna open and Saturday is going to come and it’s going to be the weekend and we’ll socialize with friends. Will we socialize with friends? I don’t know if we can socialize friends now. So what are we going to do?

So all of that, I mean the underpinning for us in the human condition tends to like live in certainty. That’s been ripped away from all of us right now.

So there’s that toolkit of staying in the moment. Maybe you have a couple ideas you can offer to the woman listening who is feeling like things are totally out of control. What can you offer up?

Yeah, I like that. Yeah, I love that you asked me that. So the first thing that just immediately sprung to mind is, and this is my self-talk, look at my feet. Where are my feet today? Where are my feet right now? All right. My feet are in my home office, which I happen to love and I’m in a conversation with you to hopefully inspire and bring hope and some optimism to your listeners, right? And to each other and for myself. Because when I hear, like when I remind myself, look where my feet are. Oh, that’s right. Let me check where my feet are. Like, okay, I know where I am. I’m planted right here right now. So that’s certainly something. And I sometimes, I mean there are days, Michelle, where I have to use that constantly throughout the day. Where are my feet?

Okay, where are my feet? Where am I right now? Just to bring me back to the moment. So I, that to me is one of the first one is that comes to mind.

The second thing that really comes to mind and this is really strong is, and this comes from my personal story, which I know you know, is I have learned over the years that the situation I’m in right now is temporary. There will be another side to this. Most of the time I really don’t know how long temporary is, although I now have tangible evidence for most things in my life. If I have an upset or if I don’t feel my best today, but that’s only probably gonna last a day or a few days and then I’ll turn the corner, so I remind myself that what I’m experiencing right now is temporary.

That really helps me because I don’t then have to think about it as it’s never going to end. This is going to be permanent. This is always going to be the way it is. Isn’t it awful? Okay. It might be awful today, but it’s most likely not going to be awful tomorrow or the next day.

And I don’t mean to sound Pollyanna to your listeners in terms of, especially this crisis, right? I realized that temporary is probably going to be temporary for a long period of time. But what I do know from my own personal life is even if it’s long, it still is temporary. It’s not going to be per minute. The virus will not be here forever. We know that from science, and we know that from the medical professionals, it’s just a longer temporary than we’re used to. It’s not the day or the week or the month.

It’s multiple months and potentially even up to a year or so.

But within that, how we feel about it is changing every day. And that’s right. Focus on that. Feelings are like, if I have a really rough day with how I’m feeling about our world, yeah, that’s temporary too.

And then finally, the last thing that I’ll offer, I always like to offer things in threes. We can only control what we can control, right? It has to be within our grasp. So for me, one of the things that I can control is my news consumption. That’s up to me. Do I want to just sit and stare at CNN or whatever other news stations we might watch and just go in the rabbit hole with it or do I choose to limit that intake so that it boosts my mental condition?

Because candidly for me is I can’t afford, because of my own personal background, I can’t afford to be in despair for a long period of time. I can’t afford to go down that rabbit hole. That isn’t a good outcome for me in terms of how I’m mentally wired. So that’s a choice I get to make on a daily basis. And again, this is not about perfection. It doesn’t mean I don’t go down the rabbit hole, some days. I do. I mean I checked probably the news, you know, multiple of times a day. But do I check it for a second or do I just stay on it for hours after hours? I still check it a lot, but I just don’t state in it a lot. And that’s a choice that I’m making for myself. Cause the days that I stay in it a little too long. Oh, I can see my mood slip easily. So I hope those three things will, will help any of your listeners in terms of what they might do for themselves.

Absolutely. Yes. Yes. And I have a big smile on my face. I love what you delivered, Michelle, because I haven’t heard these things this way and they’re very tactical. Anybody can do it. And most importantly, what I love about it is the, just the emphasis on this is something you became aware of and you practice every day. It’s not like, Oh, you know, well, it’s not available to everybody. It’s available to everybody, but you have to make it intentional.

Yeah. And I think that, you know, right now, gosh, with the state of the world that we’re in, I don’t even like to use the word have to, cause I don’t believe any of us have to do anything right.

It, you know, it’s a willingness to maybe try something for the day. And out of those three, I just suggest try one or try a version of one, see how it works out, and then try it again. We have to be enormously kind and gentle to ourselves and to each other, particularly at this moment.

You know, I’d like to say that I started the, I’m sure many of your listeners have heard of Adrian Yoga on YouTube and she’s phenomenal. She’s just lovely and easy. And I started off with that, I’m going to do it for 30 days. Yeah. Well not so much now. I’ve beaten myself up some of the days that I haven’t done it. And then I’ve decided, no, I’ve got to go easy on myself. Okay, so what, so what, I just skipped the last 10 days. I’ll just start, you know, so it’s that, be gentle and try, just try it.

I love that you caught my words there and yeah, I love that. And the thing is, too, around this, I believe that this is, and I really want your input on this, but I really believe that this is the face of true leadership where you come from a place of working with a new first and then modeling that and helping to extend that into the world.

I believe that this is such a special time for us to show up for ourselves first. Right? The old adage of put your oxygen mask on first. You know, we all hear that when we travel via airplanes. Some of us hear it some of us don’t, you know, cause we’re so used to the announcements, but when you really take that and apply it right now is that oxygen mask on ourselves first. Wow.

And that might mean, you know, I can imagine some of your listeners, I can really see them and I appreciate they’re rolling their eyes like, really kids and I’ve got the husband and I’ve got this and I might have a parent living with me now. I mean all sorts of the complexities are enormous. Even if when you wake up first thing before you put your feet on the floor, we talked about feet on the floor, I’d where are your feet? Right? But before you even do that, take three seconds, five seconds to maybe take an extra breath in and out before you get into your day. That’s an oxygen mask on first. That’s a few seconds. Might be an oxygen mask on first. And that may be all that’s manageable and reasonable right now for some of the folks who are listening to us.

But I believe there’s always space for a second, two seconds or three seconds to make a slight adjustment to how we’re going to show up that day. And that ended up itself. That could change someone’s whole day, those three seconds.

You know, I became aware of recently that I hold my breath a lot, especially like when I’m thinking or stressed or so I’m really intentionally working on breathing. So just taking three times a day, take three deep breaths. So, this does not take long at all, has changed my entire level of energy, focus and mindset as well. So much more grounded. But the challenges in the simplicity of it. Yeah. I’ll just do that in 10 more minutes. I’ll get that done. I’ll get that done. But I can make it first.

That’s right, that was three phone calls first. Then I’ve got to go rush over here. Yeah. Oh yeah, exactly. Yup. Yeah.

So I know one of the things that stood out when we first met as you talked about compassion and leading with compassion, but now as I’m listening and chatting with you, I feel like it has such a different meaning than I originally thought. You’re talking a lot about self-compassion. How do you translate that into like leadership and just leading teams?

You know, what I’ve learned over the years is I’ve gotten substantially better at what I do for a living and my leadership space and human resource space. Because I’ve taken so much better care of myself, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. And I realized that because of that work, although at times I’ve resisted it, I fought it, I didn’t understand it. But when I think about who and how I am today with the leaders that I partner with, I don’t have to articulate it like you and I are talking about, right? Like we’re trying to break it down and understand it and be able to then borrow and beg and steal and use some of these concepts for other people.

But because that’s who I’ve become, I have to say there’s not one conversation that I have right now with a leader that doesn’t include what about the people? What about yourself? What about your family? So, I hopefully model for these CEOs that I work with by asking those questions that somewhere in their brains it triggers and goes, Oh, Hm. If she’s asking that with me, maybe I should be asking that with everybody that I’m talking to.

Hence compassion. It gets leaked into it. You know, I’m not unafraid to share and I’m sure you know, you may have seen this, but you know, yesterday the CEO of Airbnb, his letter went public in terms of his communication to his organization. About four weeks ago there was another CEO, I’m just blanking on the company name. It was another San Francisco tech company. His letter went public that he shared with his organization about sort of the tough changes and adjustments that need to be made. I don’t hesitate to share those with my clients right away.

Use parts of it, not use parts of it, but my message always is transparent, honest, loving, compassionate communications. But I have to go first. I could sit here and debate and say, Oh, you know, I don’t know because this client is really in a hardcore manufacturing environment and would that work for them? And it’s a different, no, I share it. Let them decide what of it works for them or doesn’t work for them.

But because I’m sharing that I’m interjecting compassion into how they can be leading. And I sent a note to a CEO on Monday. I thought they were going to start their adjustments of their restructuring this week. It ends up being next week. It doesn’t really matter. But there are, you know, more than a $2 billion organization primarily in manufacturing. And my note was remember to lead with your head in your heart this week, whatever you do remember to care. And I know that he takes that to heart and that will now he’ll put that in the top of his mindset when he goes into these actions next week.

And that’s an active choice I get to make in terms of how am I partnering with these leaders. And to your question very specifically, which is how do I help others demonstrate that level of compassion in their leadership. It’s my ability to be courageous and unafraid to bring these topics up even perhaps in the most unlikely of businesses.

And I can tell you are extremely passionate about this just by your body language and watching you. It’s oozing out of you.

Yes. But in the same conversation this morning with another client, we’re talking about profit, we’re talking about profit and the fact that he drove great profit in the prior years to the company. So if there’s some slippage this year, they’re happy. They have a good foundation because of the high level of profits. So if it’s, and we’re talking about numbers, bottom line results.

So, it’s all of you. It’s all of you, Michelle, is what’s coming out and you’re not holding any of it back based on the company or the person you’re talking to. You’re just like, Hey, this is my toolkit, this is who I am and what I believe.

That’s right. And so I love that you talked about showing up wholly. So again, to people who are listening, it has taken me years and years to get to what and how I do things today. It just has. I’ve tended to have, and people who know me well will agree. I have had very thick walls up around me. I don’t let people in all that easily. It is tough. They are iron. They are thick iron. Like, you know, you look at the banks when you go in the basement and you see them opening that big, you know, opening, let me open the bank door where all the money is. That’s my door. And trust me, no one has the combination to open that door.

But as I’ve told my story publicly as I’ve become who I am today as a woman, as I fell in love with my husband and fell in love with my puppy dog, all of that started to bring down the walls. I’m not going to say that my walls are always down. Some people will tell you no, she still has them up at times. But I have come to a place, especially at my age now that I’m more and more comfortable showing up wholly who I am and that all the different sides of me can be seen in my work environment. I’m a career woman. I love work. I love working with them clients. I love business. It’s, I thrive on it all but it’s been such a relief to show up fully as myself. I mean I have to say that it’s just been a relief. I realized that the, when I do keep the walls up, I actually find that there’s more effort I have to put more effort into the walls being up. Although after they go up a number of times, it is much easier when I’m not bumping up against those.

Yeah. I see a lot of myself in what you said and I imagine there’s at least one, if not hundreds of women listening to this thinking my walls are up too. And it’s exhausting.

It is. It’s understandable. You know, it’s funny, I’m working with this other organization and I am facilitating a group of about 10 women, all C-suite CEO’s, substantial roles. Companies that you would recognize if I name them. And what’s interesting to me is I could, I can see the walls they have up around them and I get it. I understand it. There is a lot to protect and there’s a lot of risks when those walls come down.

Judgment, what people will think of us and information getting out into the press that we don’t want out in the press about ourselves. No need to know. People don’t need to know about these things personally for us. But what’s interesting is the longer I’ve worked at the CEO level in the work that I’ve done, and the longer I have a client, which I have them usually for multiple years, the more I personally get to know them and I let them get to know me.

And the conversations are just so enjoyable and there’s so much more understanding about who they are and what they’re, how they’re showing up in the world, what their home lives are. You know, the fact right now, I mean, right Michelle, we’re all, most of us anyway, many of us are now working from now.

I happen to have a home office cause I’ve worked from home for a long time, but there’s a lot of people who don’t have home offices and yet they’re there being asked to work in the home environment. So we’re seeing their kitchens, we’re seeing their bedrooms, we’re seeing, you know, their bathroom. We’re seeing lots of things right now. I, you know, and as jolting is that is there’s an intimacy to it and there’s a personalization and we’re seeing people show up almost more wholly right now because the situation has forced us just show up that way.

We’re not all getting dressed up for our zooms. I did for today cause I knew we were being recorded, but we’re not, we’re showing up without the makeup, the hair is not done. The earrings aren’t on. And we’re getting okay with it and we’re, and it’s not because we don’t care, but it’s just because that’s the moment we’re in. We’re not getting caught up with, Oh my God, I got to clean up what’s behind me. Oh, so there’s dirty dishes and there’s something about that that I think is just creating an openness and a connection to each other and not judging and going, Oh, you know, what does that person have behind them? It’s just about like, I’ve had people ask me now, especially, I mean people have seen them in our home office, but the rest of my life, Oh, what’s that? And what’s that picture and what, and it’s still, it’s nice and personal and it’s warming and it’s lovely.

Yeah. I hadn’t thought about it that way because I’ve been doing the virtual thing for quite some time and I’m always shocked at how much attention people are paying to the things like my nail color or my eyebrows or my shirt or my jewelry or my hair. I’m like, Whoa. But they’re watching. I mean, we don’t have the three dimensions.

That’s right. Yeah, that’s right.

So one of the areas I know you’re really passionate about is your initiative, which I believe you call the Truth Behind Our Titles.

I do.

When did you kick that off? I didn’t make note of that. How long has that been happening?

Yeah. So, so it was late 2013. And, with more substance behind it in 2014.

Yeah. And do you want to talk a little bit about what that initiative is?

I’d love to, I’m so glad that you asked me. So, you know, my own, I say my personal story, it’s my story. It’s not personal or professional, it’s both. But I suffer deeply from clinical depression and I was diagnosed in 1994 and what followed was many, many years of multitude of hospitalizations, unsuccessful attempts on my life and living with a mental health condition that is certainly trying and difficult and tragic at moments ,without a doubt.

All the while I was trying to forge a very formidable high performing career. My goal was to become a human resources leader and take the top spot and be on executive teams. And at the same time I was grappling with this credibly debilitating mental health condition that would hospitalize me. It created an intense shame for me and embarrassment and really talk about uncertainty, about how might I get to top positions while still struggling with what I was struggling with and still struggle with today.

And yeah, thankfully I’m well today, I’m as well as I can be knowing that I still have to take care of myself greatly with this condition and I have a great treatment plan, but I certainly am in good stead today. But, for a long time I wanted to come out and I wanted to talk about my story in the business and the corporate setting. And so, working with some other folks that I knew quite well,

I ended up coming up with the movement that I called the Truth Behind Our Titles. You know, I can show up and look pretty good. I can look the part, you know, the hair’s done, the makeup, you know what I’m wearing. Yeah. I work with a stylist and, but you know, that’s not a whole me, you know, that’s a version of me that people see and they see a level of confidence and they see a level of achievement.

Boy, the truth behind that title is I was hospitalized multitude of times. I had to leave jobs because of my mental health condition. I had to sorta white lie about my resume and some movements because of what I’ve gone through and so fine founding this movement and really being able to come forward with no, here’s the real truth behind my title. Here’s the real picture of what goes on for me. And then I brought other women forward to share their stories that were different than mine, but certainly about stigmatized topics that we really need to keep talking about walls that we need to bring the walls down around. Right? So talk about my thick walls coming down and being exposed.

But you know what’s so funny, Michelle, is when we had our event in 2014 and I’m still grateful to this day. We got about 200 people in the audience. I obviously brought down the walls fully. Cause I was the first time I ever told my story publicly. I had mentioned depression in the past, but I had never gone to the depth of the hospitalizations and the unsuccessful attempts on my life. And right after the event, those walls went right back up because it was so scary and vulnerable for me to come out with my truth and all the things that, if people listen to Brene Brown, and I’m sure a lot of your audience does, right? She talks about this from her first TED talk where it went viral. Man, it was this result that she never had imagined. And she also closed back up because of the people who didn’t get in the arena with her, but yet wanted to take pot shots and negative commentary and so forth about her appearance and many other things.

So she put the walls right back up. And similarly for me, certainly we got great the response from the event, but there were critics. That’s the nature of anything that we do today. There’ll be critics from this podcast today because that’s just the nature, right? That’s what happens even though we’re trying to do good in the world.

And those really, because it was so personal for me and I had been so forthcoming, it hurt on such a deep level. And from there, you know, I don’t want to say I shelved the movement, but it took me a number of years again to get comfortable with what do I do next with this movement? How do I continue to integrate it with the company that I run, East 10th Group. And as you know, last summer I was asked by LinkedIn to put my article, my personal story on LinkedIn.

I keep saying personal. My story, I should just look at this is helping me right? Rethink and reframe my own things is my story. Whomever helped me in LinkedIn, I had never, I didn’t know what they were doing. I just said yes, the story went viral on LinkedIn last summer. And the difference though between 2014 and this was I was ready. I had done more work. I had told my story a few times at this point. I had told it on a stage. I had told it in some podcasts so it wasn’t the first go round for me.

It certainly does exhaust me and it certainly wiped me out still the level of LinkedIn response that we got, but I still sat there and was able to say in the corporate and the business world, we need to hear stories like this. We need to know we’re not alone. We need to know there’s hope. People need to know. There’s someone like me with my background and what I do for a living and that I’m living well today, that I’m good for today, I’m healthy for today, I am a high achieving professional. And yet I have a condition that is stigmatized and that is really difficult to talk about and to live with.

But I’m thriving and that gives people hope. That gives people the possibility that if it happened for me, maybe it will happen for them. And so I’m still a huge believer in my movement. Candidly, I haven’t really done much more with it then talk about it like this and continue to espouse it to the world in any opportunity that I get. I’m still fully committed in the corporate arena that by week we’re telling our one story at a time, the walls will come down. And my figurative and literal walls have come down because I’ve told the truth behind my title.

Did you see I’m getting teary-eyed because you basically just fulfilled my dream. This is why I’m having these conversations. So thank you.

You’re welcome. You’re welcome.

I don’t know where we’re going to go from here! That’s it! I want women to feel safe, too. Be all of them. And you and I, I’m listening to you and I’m saying, there she is, another woman that wants to do that and is willing to do that as a model leader.

But here’s the thing, right? I mean, let’s talk about the truth, right? The truth is, is that when we bring our walls down around us, when we speak our truth, there definitely is repercussions. We cannot be naive and we, I cannot sit here and say, Oh yeah, no problem. Just go forward. Everything’s going to be just fine. You know, just, Ooh, it’s not, no, there are repercussions. There are consequences. There are judgements made.

What I want to say to folks is I understand that I can’t always explain why am I able to talk the way that I’m able to talk. It’s complex. Why I think I am. It has to do with my upbringing. It has to do with how I’m just genetically wired. It has to do with, I feel like I’ve just been blessed with enormous courage and resiliency. It doesn’t make me better or worse than any other person. Not everyone has my constitution and because I do have my constitution, I am able to speak my truth now, but for those who can’t, won’t or are concerned, I’m in, I’m with you sister. I totally respect that and I get it because you know, the truth of it is that yeah, people raise an eyebrow, you know, and this is where it will catch me, Michelle.

Cause this is important I think to talk about is yes, I’m bold with my truth right now. It’s mental health awareness month in May and because of this crisis, I’ve been tasked to do quite a few speaking events, right on podcast conversations and so forth. Right. But I still, this is what’s amazing and I don’t want to say I get upset. I think I get curious is as many more people now know about my true, even when they acknowledge it verbally on a phone call, they still are tiptoeing around it.

You can still the sensitivity of people not knowing what to say next or I did a speaking engagement for LinkedIn a number of weeks ago and it was amazing. I sent it out, people listened in and I got some beautiful notes for some people. But after that note, Oh, there is no further engagement, there is no further. Let’s talk further. Let me learn, because it’s hard. These topics are hard and our human nature is just like with grieving you. And I’m guilty of this too.

Someone loses a loved one. You acknowledge it in the moment and so forth and then the next week you’re moving on to the next thing. Well that’s not how grief works for any of us who grieved the loss of a loved one. No, grief is sometimes never ending. Okay, well we talked about that move onto the next, right. And so that there is a continuum on how well we can react to that.

And for me, I would say there was obviously a level of me that was ready to talk in 2014 but since 2014 it’s ebbs and flows. There are moments where I really can get very upset and very anxious and mad about conversations about my own background or when people start poking around. And then there’s other days I’m uncomfortable with it. Like today I’m in good space and I’m comfortable we can poke around. So you know, for listeners who are thinking about, well, when can I tell my truth? What I do say to everyone is pick someone who you know loves you really well and really deeply and if they don’t already know your truth, start there. Because it really risky going much wider with our stories. And I think we all need to give that due consideration. And the truth is not all of our stories need to be told in a public setting as mine has been.

That is right. It might just be that one person.

That’s right. But we also never can never imagine the impact that we can have on one other person, even if we’re talking about ourselves because we never fully know someone else’s whole story.

Oh my goodness. Beautiful lady. Did I tell you or did I tell you there is so much goodness in this. I hope you do have a chance to go back and listen, but I wanted to make sure you didn’t miss a couple more pieces of this that I thought were just so juicy. You know the segment where Michelle and I talk about her approach to leading with compassion and really that it’s rooted in modeling the fact that she focuses on bringing her whole self forward and rooted in that is her ability and willingness to take the risk to go first. That by sharing first she is injecting and interjecting compassion into that, that there’s the opportunity for that to leak down. I love that. I love that language that she uses around it. It’s really, really powerful.

And the last thing I hope you didn’t miss in there is around showing up wholly as yourself and what type of relief that can offer you when you let some of those walls down. And that, the fact that we talked about it can take more effort to keep those walls up.

But the best part about this, the best part I really do believe is, and this just shows you the depth of leadership that Michelle brings forth for herself and her clients and anyone and all of us really that comes into contact with her is her thoughtfulness around speaking your truth and bringing the walls down doesn’t have to be on this big stage for it to be impactful in her thoughtfulness around that, to call out that there can be consequences, there can be judgments, there can be repercussions and that to do it in a way that feels safe for you.

I just love that and I can’t wait to hear what you think. So find me on social, I’m on LinkedIn. Of course. Stop on over to And let’s continue the conversation there. All right, beautiful lady and gent cause I know there’s a few gents out there listening. Have a fabulous, beautiful day and we will talk to you soon.

About Michelle Tenzyk

STB 024 | Michelle Tenzyk

As CEO of East Tenth Group, Michelle Tenzyk leverages her 25 years in business to bring insight, perspective, and experience to all aspects of leadership and people strategy. She advises and coaches CEOs and senior level executives to create company cultures that attract and retain critical talent at all levels. She is known for her no-nonsense, direct POV, delivered with compassion in order to propel excellence in leadership.

Michelle has served on the executive and leadership teams of companies including Lehman Brothers, Primedia, Cendant Trip Network, and Healthcare Consultancy Group (an Omnicom Agency).

Michelle received her MBA in HR Management and Systems from the University of Albany and earned her Executive Coaching Certificate at City University of New York’s Zicklin School of Business. She completed the Goldman Sachs 10K Small Business Program and earned a Certificate in Entrepreneurship. She holds a BS in Music Education/Piano from the College of St. Rose where she is a distinguished prominent alumna.

Michelle is a Board Director for dancker and a Core Guide for Chief.

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