When we all are working at our highest and best creative genius, we can solve all the world’s problems. This is what Dr. Minette Riordan personally believes. An artist, writer, award-winning entrepreneur, and an advocate for creativity as essential to the well-being of all people on our planet, Dr. Riordan is a modern-day Renaissance woman. Today, she joins Michelle McGlade to talk about creativity in the workplace and how we can overcome the challenge of letting our authentic voice to roll right out of us.
Creativity In The Workplace With Dr. Minette Riordan
We have another amazing woman, Dr. Minette Riordan, on the show. I am completely honored to introduce you to her. She’s a modern-day Renaissance woman. She’s an artist, writer, award-winning entrepreneur and an advocate for creativity as essential to the well-being of all people on our planet. That is powerful and it’s true. She lives and breathes this. That’s why I wanted to have her on the show to talk all about creativity in the workplace. She has built several successful businesses. She worked with thousands of business owners and published three books including her bestseller, The Artful Marketer. Minette is the Founder of the Confident Creative Framework, a simple but very effective transformational process for helping others to own their personal artistry. She believes that when we all are working in our highest and best creative genius, we can solve all the world’s problems.
Before we dig in, I have a little bit more to say about this episode. I take time to reflect and think about what is the one or two golden nuggets because all you need to know is that one little bit of information that can change everything. This episode is jam-packed. It’s clear that Minette and I have a lot to talk about, and we go quite a bit all over the place. We’re talking artificial intelligence and creativity in the workplace, the tug of war between productivity and innovation. We get into this deep discussion about the midlife crisis for women, how that’s different than men and inner critic.
What I want you to learn and take away is the through-line of this episode, which is where I start the interview, which is talking with Minette around limiting beliefs and her conversation around being too afraid to speak up. The challenge for women is not allowing our authentic voice to roll right out of us. That is the purpose of this show. It’s the foundation of the show. There is a little bit of everything here for everyone. It’s centered around the concept of unleashing your creative calling and the fact that we don’t do that. We ignore those voices and we’re too afraid to let it unleash and come out through us. I can’t wait to know what you think about this episode.
This is where I want to start because I was checking you out online and I was reading some of your blogs, which is Are Limiting Beliefs Impacting Your Leadership? It hits home and it’s what the conversation is all about. As a starter for this, you wrote, “At the end of the day, the message I received is I am too much, and that led to the belief that no matter who I was being, I wasn’t good enough. All these crazy mixed-up beliefs are still inside of me even though I’ve been happily married to an amazing man who loves me, even though I have a PhD from Stanford. I rarely spoke up in class. I was too afraid to speak up. Now I speak up for a living. I’m on stages, in front of rooms, leading groups, yet there’s still that underlying nervousness of, ‘Will I be judged for being too much? Will I be judged for not being enough? Will I be judged for being overweight?’ I am judging myself.” I’ve read this several times and it still makes me teary-eyed because that’s what this is. The next line says, which is funny because it says, “The truth is,” but this is about the truth. I was appreciative that you put this out there into the world. I thought how powerful it is because how many times and how often are we looking outside of us? Pointing and talking a lot about what’s not happening for us and what other people aren’t doing instead of turning that finger around.
What’s cool, Michelle, is that I wrote this in 2017. It’s colder to reflect back and look at how far I’ve come, and what an arduous journey it’s been.
I was reading that and I was thinking about readers and how many women feel held back if you take it into their corporate career but in their lives. They oftentimes don’t take the time to reflect what’s happening with the inside game.
It’s what I’m seeing and it’s why I’m making many shifts in my coaching business as well. I can teach marketing strategy and business planning until the cows come home. If you don’t do the inner work, nothing I teach you will happen. You’ll never implement it. You won’t carry it out. The same is true for women that want to advance in their careers. They don’t do the inner work. They’re never going to speak up. They’re never going to ask for the raise or the promotion. They’re never going to ask for the project that they want. It’s all what’s happening inside. Did you ever read The Confidence Code?
No. I heard of that book from you when you were chatting with me.
I started reading one that came out called Outspoken, which is all about our voice and how our voice has been squashed in many ways emotionally, physically and how we do it to ourselves, with our Spanx and how women tend to curl in. She calls it the hedgehog position when men tend to sit very open. She’s a singer, so it allows them to access breath. When you access breath, it allows you to speak.
Do you remember who the author of The Confidence Code?
It’s written by two amazing journalists. They’re professional and been lifelong journalists, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.
What drew me in originally to your writing was how’s it holding you back in your leadership. I think about this a lot. This is my own soapbox, but I think a lot about individuals in leadership and how it is critical to recognize that the work starts inside of you and when you can do that work. You talk about it, Minette from a business perspective, but you’ll see the changes in your team when you step to the next version of yourself. I wanted to talk about creativity. Tell me where this journey of personal discovery started for you.
It’s started in the summer after my freshman year in high school when I went to Peru on an exchange program. I would say that the journey started when I sitting at the foot of this amazing space on Machu Picchu. At fifteen, I was that weird kid who was reading existentialist philosophy, poetry on this journey of introspection from quite a young age and it never stopped. There have been big gaps focused on raising kids and growing businesses. Every time that I’ve stopped, it’s created a lot of havoc in my life.
How does that havoc show up for you?
Being not connected to my spouse, not taking care of myself. The physical impact of that, weight gain, lack of sleep and mostly lack of happiness and joy. It feels like I’m slogging through every day as opposed to paying careful attention. I think the biggest thing that I’m noticing in my life is the care and attention and sense of wonder that I bring to the days. When I don’t, then I can easily fall into anxiety, overwhelm, there’s so much to do, worrying about kids or worrying about my husband. I’m going into self-judgment and criticism. It’s easy to fall back into the habit unless I’m in that space of careful attention.
I can relate to that. I’m glad we’re giving this some space and time because it shows up almost the exact same for me. Everything seems to suffer. It’s always a push.
It’s a push instead of a flow. A push instead of allowing or attracting.
I think I lived in a push for about 35 years.
I didn’t last quite that long, but it was a good decade. Maybe even through college and grad school, I like school a lot. I did BA, Master’s and a Doctorate. I think those years were a push because I was hiding in a lot of ways.
I would wait to get kicked on my behind with some health challenge or some breakdown of some sort and then I’d get back up and do it all over again until I got a little smarter.
I did that when my kids were little. I would tend to get everything that they were bringing home from school. I owned a publishing company and publishing a monthly magazine is very deadline-driven. I would push and then get sick and be out of work for a week.
What I’ve learned for myself and you saying as well, when you make space for self-care, personal development, and studying, whatever that means to you, it’s not just your wellbeing. It’s not that things tend to flow and manifest for you naturally. That’s when the creativity starts coming in.
For me, creativity was a different entry point to the personal development work. It became a more playful and fun way to do that work, and an almost faster way to intuitively connect what I was feeling inside. Dreaming and imagining inside where sometimes we get caught up in our thinking mind and it can be very challenging. I don’t know about you, but I read many self-help personal development books. I bought the courses. I listened to inspirational podcasts all the time. There’s a lot of input happening, but without the output, the release, the practice and the creating of the habits, then nothing sticks. We keep reading the same thing over and over again going, “I’ve heard this before.” I’m reading to this wonderful by Chase Jarvis, who’s the founder of CreativeLive called Creative Calling.
This is the stuff I teach my clients, and these are things that I know and that other productivity experts talk about around managing our time and our creative calling. He’s not talking to just professional career artists or designers, he is talking to all of us that have this creative calling on our heart and we’re not making time for it. I feel like personal development is an aspect of that creative calling. It’s an expression of radical self-care that feels joyful and fun and not like therapy. Sometimes I think when we go down a deep path of personal development, it’s hard emotional work. It can be hard physical work.
It can be challenging spiritual work, reconnecting to the divine trying to find our identity after decades of careers. After birthing kids, big transitions in life, death, marriage, and divorce. All these things can create these deep wells of emotion that if they don’t get poured out of us, get stored inside of us. For me personally, I’ve found creative expressions through collage or a painting to be such a beautiful outpouring of the emotions that makes it go quickly. It’s more flow and I’m not trying to muscle my way through my personal development. I’m playing my way through it.
We’re energy and these things you’re mentioning are energy. If the energy comes in, it’s got to go out. Otherwise, stuck energy is just eased.
We all store it in different places in our bodies physically. Women often tend to store it in our guts. It’s why women tend to struggle with many different digestive complaints, diseases and distress because we store so much of our emotionality and our feelings in our gut. It’s a gut feeling, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I know when a fear always straight to my gut, anxiety around, big decisions or money questions, I always feel it in my gut. Whereas daily work stress, I feel in my shoulders. I’m very present to how I’m feeling this in my body. For me, walking is another way that I move those emotions. My husband and I were about ten years in and we were struggling to reconnect with each other.
We trained and ran a half marathon together and those training runs saved our marriage because there was so much. Those long Sunday morning, 2 or 3 hours of running, walking and talking. We still walk and talk. It’s the thing and the opportunity. It’s where we dream. It’s where we plan. It’s where we spent the time to change our whole lives. In 2012 we packed up our kids and moved from Texas to California and we did all of that through walking and talking because we were able to move the dreams, move the energy, and to release the fears.
It makes me think that if I had to come up with an alternative word for creativity, I would almost say movement. What do you think about that? That’s coming to me hot off the plate.
It’s the movement of ideas and energy. It requires physical action in the world. No matter what the form of creative expression is, they all require movement. I often think of it as artistry as opposed to creativity because we all bring artistry to whatever it is that our job, career or profession is. We bring our unique brilliance, our own zone of genius and level of originality and innovation to anything that we’re doing. We get confused because we conflate creativity with art-making as opposed to incorporate it. It tends to go towards problem-solving, innovation, creative thinking, and design thinking. There are different perspectives on creativity. Most people, if you say, “Do you think that you’re creative?” Their instant response is, “I can’t draw.”
When I was looking online to see what’s being written about creativity in the corporate culture, the word is often innovation. Many companies have people who are the head of innovation. What do you think about that?
It’s an interesting time in the workplace in terms of what companies are seeking. There’s this big push to be more innovative, to stay at the forefront of the moneymaking game. I have to get the newest thing to market the fastest. There’s a drive to get more creative juice and more innovative thinking out of employees by creativity and innovation requires spaciousness. They require downtime. They require daydreaming and brainstorming. It often looks to people like creatives aren’t doing anything when the truth is the magic is all happening within. They’re walking, feet are up on their desks and they’re twiddling their pencil because they’re deep in this creative space. The push for productivity and the push for innovation don’t support each other. It depletes creative thinking by the push for getting more done faster because what creativity needs is time.
Do you see any companies doing this well?
The typical ones that we all hear, the big names like Apple and Google. It’s cool what Amazon is doing with Alexa. Amazon moved into Santa Barbara. They took over an old Saks Fifth Avenue. It was fun to see the job descriptions of what they’re hiring for. They’re looking for Alexa developers that come in and do the fun thinking to help Alexa come up with creative answers to anything we could want to know. That level of innovation in technology, how artificial intelligence and robotics are going to become part of our everyday world is pretty magical. I think what Elon Musk is doing is pretty amazing out there as well. My husband works for a small company here in Santa Barbara called Ontraport. They are a company of about 100 people, which would be considered a small business. There are local startups. We’re both their clients and I use them for all of my CRM, database, email marketing. I love their system. My husband went to work for them as well.
We’re a little biased towards them. We love them. What I hear from the founders, how I see their approach to how they lead their teams. No company is perfect, but they consistently get voted as one of the top companies to work for. I think because of the creativity and innovation they bring to engagement and to honoring and acknowledging their very young employees. A lot of Millennials and twenty-something right out of university coming in and getting started in their careers. There’s a level of play. Brad had only been there a month or so, and they had a sandcastle building contest that was a team-building event. It’s cool to live at the beach.
I didn’t think about that sandcastle instead of maybe snowmen in Minnesota where I’m from.
Because they’re small, they have a little more flexibility than some of the bigger groups. My sister-in-law works for Coca-Cola. I love hearing about the things that they’re learning and what they’re doing on the marketing side and how they’re creatively approaching engagement. She’s helping restaurants figure out how to sell more of their products. The way that she gets to approach that is fun. Plus, the amount of educational opportunities and access to what’s new and happening in digital marketing is brilliant. They’re making it possible for their employees to always be on the cutting edge of what’s happening in the marketplace through education. They have almost unlimited access to LinkedIn Learning. Another company that’s being creative and innovative since they bought Lynda.com is LinkedIn. They know that they have to change, grow, and innovate. That combination of platforms of the LinkedIn networking system with the LinkedIn Learning system has been an innovative approach to keeping their users engaged.
It’s going to be fascinating to watch because it’s like a new era in the sense that we’re talking more about creativity and innovation combined with technology. That’s the trickery of it.
It’s the magic, but it’s also the possibility and potential because as AI, robotics, automation, and technology take over more of rote tasks, they’re still not creative. AI is not creative and innovative. It’s programmable, but it creates new space and opportunity for people to bring their creative brilliance to the workspace. When the industrial revolution ends, what’s needed is novel thinking. There’s this amazing transition that’s coming. In this book, Chase Jarvis talked about when the Gutenberg Bible was created. There was an innovation and a huge era of literacy for people that never existed before. He says that creativity is the new literacy and I love that.
I heard that in a TED Talk done by Dr. Ken Robinson.
He talks a lot about education.
That’s a great point too. We went right to corporations, which makes a lot of sense because I wasn’t raised in an education system that fosters creativity in any way, math and science to support industrialization to your point.
It’s continued long beyond its usefulness. I would say literacy is one of the causes that I care most about and I’m most passionate about because when people can read and write, they have freedom of choice in a way that they don’t. Beyond reading and writing creativity is the next level. Brené Brown talks about how we all have creativity scars from childhood that we were all told at some point you can’t dance, write, sing or play. Chase Jarvis talks about how he overheard his art teacher tell his parents he should stick to sports. He’s better at sports than art and how that shut down his creativity for decades and what a big impact that had on his career. We all have those stories. I never got good grades in writing. I never got good grades in art. I’m not a trained artist and yet I’m making art all the time and I’m selling art. I have written and published three books, a planner and a coloring book. My writing has garnered me a full ride to Stanford and multiple scholarships. If we let those voices intimidate us, that calling that’s on our heart that we all have is going to stay on our heart and not take a fruit or take a flight out into the world.
It goes back to where we were starting this where that energy is stifled. That expression is stuck inside of you. You see it play out. I called midlife crises all the time.
I don’t think as women we get enough credit for experiencing midlife crises in the same way that men do. It manifests itself very differently. It looks different. There’s always lots of jokes about men going out and buying sports cars and having affairs. It’s sad for them that they have all those awful stereotypes as well. I’m 54 and what I’m seeing with women 50 and above, that this midlife crisis is a recognition that they’re not living in their highest purpose. There’s more that they want to be doing, yet they don’t know what that is. They have this feeling, this longing to be more expressive, to do more good, to leave a legacy at 54. I’ve got maybe a decade of work left before I’m looking differently in my life. I’m about several months away from being an empty nester. I’m looking at my life through that lens. It shifts our perspective and we get a lot clearer about where we are in our lives and what we want to be different.
I love how you said it gets expressed differently. For me, I’ve had those kinds of thoughts and feelings through my whole life. I’m curious for the woman in the 50 something range, is she feeling confident to be able to ask those questions? Because what I experienced was, who are you to want something more from other people around me? Is she just stepping into that being a little bit more fearless by 50, more agitated, done with it all? What is the sense behind it?
It’s often precipitated by a dark night of the soul that we’ve all experienced throughout our lives where there’s that dip incompetence. It can be a crisis of faith in self and God for more spiritual people. It could be a crisis of, “Am I in the right career still?” I hear a lot that women are hitting this period going, “Why am I still here and where am I going?” I’ve got a new client who ended a career. As she went onto the job market and she’s 60-ish, she was experiencing ageism quite dramatically. I love these stories of women went back to school, got an MA in Psychology, got a coaching certification and is stepping out as an entrepreneur. I see a lot of that shift in women in their 50s and 60s stepping into becoming business owners.
I don’t think there’s a fearless stepping out incompetence. I wish I could say, “Yes there is.” Instead, what I see is more of a retreat. Maybe a little cautious foray into trying new things. I met another woman who probably is also about 60 went through a divorce course. She started taking lessons and doing a rock drumming like a drum kit. She shared a video of her full out rock drumming. It was the most beautiful thing. Sometimes we allow it to slip in through hobbies. Oftentimes around crafting and singing. Another woman in her 40s who’s an attorney that her first-generation immigrant family. She was not allowed to dance, sing or do any of the things that were important to her because it wasn’t part of the family work ethic.
Culturally, those types of things were considered a waste of time, not a useful opportunity. In her 40s, she’s gone back to ballet and started taking classes and is looking for a local choir to join. There are many ways that we begin to cautiously step out in exploration. It’s a huge leap to go into fearless self-confidence around this because of some of the things we talked about and exactly what you said, “Who am I to want more? Who am I to think it’s okay to do this?” This is when I hear a lot, “It’s selfish to spend the time and the money on myself.” It’s selfish to take time away from family, to take time away from work. It’s selfish to put myself first instead of putting others first all the time, but we both know that putting others first all the time is the most depleting thing that we can do.
I feel like I love the windiness of this conversation, but it all comes back to that core of what we talked about are these limiting beliefs that we have been sitting with and embodying our whole lives. Either as a creative and an extroverted person, I was too much. I was too giggly, I was too out there. I was too independent. All of us. Tony Robbins says this beautifully, that core wound that we all have is, “I’m not lovable as I am.” Too much is just a mask for, I’m not enough. When all of a sudden, we realize that there’s more that we want to create in the world, we go into instant fear and we start to hear all those voices in our heads again.
I’ve been having a lot of conversations with women and highly powerful and wildly successful-looking roles, but it’s still there.
They’re often unhappy or they’ve often put on masks of who they think they have to be.
That was where I was going with it. Whether they’re telling me they’re unhappy or not is not what I’m seeing, but what I’m seeing is there’s another season coming for them. You’re right, there’s an underlying voice of who they are and what people expect of them, and then what the voice wants to say and figuring out what that voice is.
The work that’s most important to do is to find your authentic voice, which is why I love creative expression. Several years ago, I wasn’t even hardly painting. I was starting my journey. I’ve always been a writer. I’ve always been a craft or doing all kinds of fun, crafty things. It was a long journey for me to heal my inner artist and to battle my inner critic and turn that into my ally. To be in that space of I don’t care what anybody else says and to put my energy on the canvas. This is where I allow it all to flow in bright, vibrant, crazy colors. My art tends to be playful and whimsical because it needs a place to express itself.
I have art that’s dark. After the #MeToo Movement, I did this huge wolf painting of a wolf howling at the moon because it’s how I felt inside. Finding ways to give voice to our artistry is essential, especially as we grow in our careers. It’s not about giving up everything you’re doing to pursue an art career. I’m not telling anyone to go do that. What I am saying is that finding a form of creative expression that you love, cooking, gardening, dancing, singing, it can be anything. It will bring new-found joy, love and energy into the career path that you’re on. Because I do believe that creative play is a form of radical self-care and that what’s missing and for all of us, me included, is more self-care and more radical self-love and self-acceptance.
It’s not education or knowledge. We know what we’re good at, but it’s finding the way, voice, and the means to express that more fully and to speak up. It seems such a hot topic in California about getting women on boards of big companies because California passed a law that companies have to have a certain number of women right on their boards of directors. Yet the general consensus for men and women is not enough women are prepared to fill those positions, which is a debate that someone could have. The truth is that women aren’t speaking up and asking in the same way that men are. They aren’t asking, “How do I get ready to do this?” It’s fascinating to watch these conversations happening around me in the corporate leaders that I know here in Santa Barbara.
How do they begin to ask?
Practice like baby steps or tiny steps. I’m a big fan of rehearsals, just like you would for any art form. If you’re going to go in and ask for a raise or ask for insight into a career path at a company, rehearse ahead of time what you want to say. Have numbers in your head. The fearless part is learning to ask for the support that we need. Say, “In several years, I want to be on that board. How do I do that?”
It’s speaking up and out. It’s one of the reasons I want to have these conversations and I get so charged up about it because I believe that the more we see women doing that, the easier it will be for any individual to take on the dress rehearsal and go in there and ask for what they want.
That’s why I often reference the Confidence Code book by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman because they do such a good job of showing all the ways that we quiet our own voices. One of my favorite stories in the book was about a male basketball coach who went from coaching professional men’s basketball to coaching professional women’s basketball. He talks in the book about how much of his time he spent nurturing the confidence and boosting. Whereas in the men’s, managing egos. On the women’s side, it was all about managing confidence. These incredible players with so much talent. Women at the top of their athletic game crying in the locker room from fear and lack of confidence. There are many other stories like that from sports to what’s happening inside the companies. The biggest distinction they make about women is that we’re a perfectionist and that we never feel ready. We think we always have to do more, be more and learn more before we can ask. Whereas men are fearless and asking when they’re nowhere near ready.
There has to be a yin and yang to it. I wouldn’t want to change those things. I also think that fostering a supportive environment, women amongst other women would be the next helpful step.
I see it happening inside a company and inside a community. You and I both met through The Dames, which I love the amount of support that happens there. I’ve done a lot of research on leadership in Santa Barbara. I interviewed a lot of women of all ages around their leadership and corporate. I’ve been an entrepreneur for many years. I have never worked in corporate. I was a school teacher. I’m not inside the companies seeing what’s happening and it was sad to hear the women talk about it. I thought more had changed from the outside looking in and the impression is that not enough has changed. Every woman that I spoke to regardless of her age, role or position in the company needed more community. She was looking for a supportive place to belong and one woman from Lockheed Martin said there’s going to be a gap in leadership for these women in their 40s and 50s that are moving up as women in their 60s retire. There’s a dearth of women in leadership that’s going to happen and these women are going to be proactively looking for mentors and requiring mentorship, yet the mentors that are there are retiring. She’s forced seeing this interesting gap in leadership that I found a fascinating conversation
That is fascinating, especially at a time when women are being called to take more roles.
They’re being called but they’re not stepping up.
I believe it starts with that inner voice, finding that voice and using creative play to help tap in and express that. That will breed confidence and expression that allows you to feel empowered to make the ask. Thank you so much for your time and being on the show, Minette.
Thank you so much for having me.
I wanted to also mention to you something that I didn’t yet give the time that I wanted, which is Minette’s powerful insights around signs of a midlife-life crisis in women. I thought it was not even an intentional aspect of the interview. I asked her here for conversations around creativity and innovation, but I think that reflecting on it. That ended up being one of the most powerful aspects for you to maybe take away and think about. How it all looped together around the through-line of being afraid to speak up, holding and ignoring the calling on our heart that Minette talks about. What that can do for a woman like you or I at the mid-life time, how that starts to show up, how you begin to get that little knock on the door? It’s almost like a little tap on the shoulder at first, then it gets to be that knock on the door.
Pretty soon, it feels like somebody’s hitting you right over the head because you’ve been ignoring the voices. Every time I ignore the voices, it does not turn out well. My thought for you and call to action for you is to take time and pay attention to what that little voice is saying to you, even if it’s not crystal clear. Even if you can’t hear every word to begin to acknowledge it, to recognize it and to at least listen and become curious, I would love to hear from you on this. I would love to hear any conversations around creativity, where you’re incorporating it in your company as the CEO of your business, into your life and how it’s made a difference. If it’s been absent for you, what that has done and what might be that calling on your heart. Reach out. Until we’re back, we’ll talk to you soon.
About Minette Riordan
Dr. Minette Riordan is a modern day Renaissance woman: artist, writer, award-winning entrepreneur and advocate for creativity as essential to the well-being of all people and our planet.
She has built several successful businesses, worked with thousands of business owners and published 3 books including her best seller The Artful Marketer.
Minette is the founder of the Confident Creative Framework, a simple and effective transformational process for helping others to own their artistry. She believes that when we are all working in our highest and best creative genius, we can solve all the world’s problems.