EP: 122 Begin Boldly: Harnessing The Power Of Risk With Christie Hunter Arscott

BWW 122 Christie Hunter Arscott | Begin Boldly


Do you like to take risks? How are you with change? Do you adapt easily, or is it difficult for you? Today’s guest, Christie Hunter Arscott, the author of Begin Boldly: How Women Can Reimagine Risk, Embrace Uncertainty, and Launch a Brilliant Career, dives into a different thought behind career risks and acting boldly at work. Self-doubt and other negative behaviors will hold us from taking good risks that can pay off in our careers. Christie shares the three mindsets that can benefit us at any point in our careers and how we can begin boldly.

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Begin Boldly: Harnessing The Power Of Risk With Christie Hunter Arscott

I’m so glad you’re here. How are you doing out there? Here’s a secret about me, just so we can get started. If my husband, John, were part of this conversation, he would tell you that I’m risk-averse. I tend to take the conservative route and often struggle with change. I know that might be surprising, especially since I started this show and did some crazy things in the last couple of years, but I will admit it. I’m risk-averse.

What about you? Do you like to take risks? How are you with change? Are you good with change? Do you struggle with change? Do you adapt easily, or is it difficult for you too? In this episode, Christie Hunter Arscott challenged me when we first talked. She challenged me to think differently about taking a risk. I’m sure that there are others out there like me who struggle with this topic, so I thought this would be a perfect thing to talk about here at the show.

During my conversation with Christie, we chatted about a different thought behind career risks and acting boldly at work, what led to her book, Begin Boldly: How Women Can Reimagine Risk, Embrace Uncertainty, and Launch a Brilliant Career, and how self-doubt in other negative behaviors like perfectionism and people-pleasing can stop us from taking good risks that can pay off in our careers.

Christie has a special risk-taking ritual that I wanted to dive into. She also has three mindsets in her book that can benefit us at any point in our careers and how we can begin boldly at any point. This show is for you. Whether you’re new on the corporate track, you’re midway in your career, or you’re about to retire, this conversation can benefit you. Here’s more about Christie.

Christie Hunter Arscott is an award-winning advisor, speaker, and author of the book, Begin Boldly: How Women Can Reimagine Risk, Embrace Uncertainty, and Launch a Brilliant Career. As a Rhode Scholar, Christie has been named by Thinkers50 as one of the Top Management Thinkers likely to shape the future of business. She was also selected for the Biannual Thinkers50 Talent Award shortlist of the top global thought leaders in the field of talent management.

Her research and writing have been featured across international publications, including the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Fortune, European Business Review, Time, Fast Company, Business Insider, and many more. Her article, Why So Many Thirtysomething Women Are Leaving Your Company was selected by the Harvard Business Review collection of the top articles on diversity. She has spoken worldwide to leading organizations and institutions, including the World Economic Forum, Harvard Business School, the University of Oxford, and the Global Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society. Her corporate clients include Bacardi, Deloitte, HSBC, and many more.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Brown University and two Master’s degrees with a focus on Gender Research from the University of Oxford. She serves on the Women’s Leadership Board of the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. Before we get started, if you’re enjoying the show, please make sure to leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. As I always say, if you’ve already left a rating or review, I thank you so much. I’m giving you that virtual hug and high-five out there.

Your support of the show is so encouraging to me to keep going, giving you, and creating good content, so thank you. You can always also share the show with your friends, family members, colleagues, and whoever you think would benefit from the show on your social media feeds. Also, it’s been a while since I’ve talked about my private community on Brave Women at Work via Facebook. If you’d like to join, it’s totally free. After the show, we talk about the show itself. We have conversations on other articles that I pull from other resources. Feel free to join me there, and I’ll let you right in. Let’s welcome Christie to the show.


BWW 122 Christie Hunter Arscott | Begin Boldly


Christie, welcome to the show. How are you?

I’m doing great. Thank you. It’s great to be with you.

We were talking before we got started. Everyone that’s followed us for a while knows that I’m in Chicago. Christie, why don’t you make us all jealous and tell us where you are?

I’m originally from Bermuda. I was born and raised here before moving to the US for my undergrad. I traveled around. I’ve lived in five different countries, but I’ve moved back home in the last few years.

Why don’t you keep going? I’m super excited and curious about your story and stuff like that. Why don’t you tell us more about your background and how you’ve gotten to where you are now?

We have so many synergies, Jen. We’re talking about brave women at work. My focus is on helping women build bold and brilliant careers. That’s what my research has been on and my work is dedicated to. If we want to go way back, I can remember writing my first speech on women when I was about eleven years old. My Drama teacher asked me to try out for the public speaking team, and she said, “Come prepared with a speech.”

The next day, I came in, and my peers were talking about their favorite cuisine, a trip to France with their family, or their extracurricular activities. I had gone home and knocked on the rectory door of my priest and interviewed him about why women couldn’t be priests in the Catholic Church. I gave that speech at eleven years old, and I don’t think I’ve ever looked back. I did a lot of work around gender and race during my time at Brown University, which is where I did my undergrad.

I was one of the first Rhodes Scholars to go to Oxford and focus on Women’s Studies, which at the time was still questioned. The program wasn’t that old. There was even an article that came out in the paper saying that most Rhodes Scholars go to Oxford to study medicine or law, but Christie’s doing women’s studies. There were a lot of times when people say, “What are you going to do with this?” Years later, I’m still here.

I was going to ask you. This is a pure curiosity for me. Was Rhodes Scholar a very competitive program to get into?

I was trying to find the words to describe what the interview process is. In some interviews, they’d ask you about your strengths. There are these generic questions, and they want you to showcase the best of yourself. The Rhodes Scholarship interview process is a bit more combative. They’re testing you. It’s sink or swim. If you barely keep your head above water, you might be successful. I walked out of my interview and didn’t think I got it, and then I got a call later that night that I had.

The amazing thing is you have the opportunity to go to the University of Oxford to do grad work there and to be amongst a community of other phenomenal people. These are people that have demonstrated leadership capabilities. Having good grades is table stakes. That’s not enough. It’s not academic solely. The will of Cecil Rhodes talks about wanting people that are willing to fight the world’s fight. You’re surrounded by people with a deep level of social, political, and environmental consciousness.

I’m like, “I wish I could have done that,” but good for you that you got that opportunity. For anyone that’s curious and wants to pitch their kid for that scholarship, is it a yearlong, two years, or how long is it?

It depends on the length of your program. I met my husband when I was over there on the Rhodes scholarship. He did a DPhil, which is comparable to a doctorate in the US. His time at Oxford was longer than mine, and I did two Master’s degrees. It depends. Some programs are years, and some are two. They look at alternative modes of funding. The key is to go and search online for Rhodes House and the Rhodes Trust and Scholarships.

The one caveat amongst other kinds of criteria is that there are only certain scholarships allocated to certain countries. The US has a number every single year, and people require sponsorship from their universities as well. It works a little bit differently in each region and constituency, but there are a number of scholars that go to Oxford every single year on the road scholarship from the US, Canada, South Africa, Australia, and Bermuda.

We’ve never talked about that. As an aside, I know that for some parents and working women, it’s getting to be scholarship season. Check that out. It’s premier and good for you. Congratulations. I wanted to shift and talk about your book. That’s how we were connected. I have enjoyed our conversations leading up to now.

The book is called Begin Boldly: How Women Can Reimagine Risk, Embrace Uncertainty, and Launch a Brilliant Career. With your upbringing and the story that you gave us, thank you for that. It sounds like it was inevitable, but was there anything else that sparked you saying, “I’m going to write a book?”

I didn’t set out to write a book. What I set out to do was get the tools and techniques that I’ve seen empower women over the years into the hands of more women. The way that I felt was that if I continue to work woman by woman, coaching program by coaching program, or organization by organization, my potential impact on others was limited. It wasn’t scalable.

Also, not everyone can afford to coach and not everyone’s organization is invested in women’s programs and bringing in individuals to run them. For less than $20, anyone can have this book, which is written like a coaching curriculum focusing on the mindsets and skillsets you need to build a bold and brilliant career in life. For me, it was about the scalability and impact that a book could have versus the other pillars of my career.

Focus on the mindsets and skillsets you need to build a bold and brilliant career in life. Click To Tweet

When I read the title and dove into the book, you say the word risk. I’ll be vulnerable here. On a risk scale, if my husband were here, he would be like, “She’s very risk averse.” I talked to a woman that is leaving her position without a net. It isn’t the right place or space for her. I believe that that is risky. I think she is so much moxie and bravery. For everyone out there, I have some room still in my brave journey, and that’s why I’m here. She decided, “I’m unhappy. I’m unfulfilled. I know there’s something else out there, even though I don’t see it now.” Tell me about your experience with risk and your thoughts on risk in general.

Before I go into that, I want to go back to the woman you just shared the story about. One thing is we’re mentioning that she doesn’t have a net, but a net has many different shapes and forms. She may not have another role lined up right now, but her net may be her support network and people like you or others that are advising her.

Her net might involve also all the credentials and experiences she’s built up over the years because that allows her to propel herself into a different role and allows her to have faith in the security of what she’s built. It may be different people, experiences, or areas of expertise, but a safety net can take many different shapes and forms and not necessarily just mean a financial net or another role.

Thank you for giving me a different perspective because when I think net, I’ve always been raised with the net as the financial net, the next job, or the cliché, “You’re always looking for a job while you have your current job. You never leave your job until you have your next job.” Those are good learnings, but it doesn’t always cookie-cutter fit that way. Thank you for sharing your perspective on that because it’s new to me.

When I look back at traditional models of thinking around risk, I thought in the same way, but I’ve learned that different perspectives make all the difference in terms of what you’re willing to do or not. If we’re constantly waiting for another role before we make the leap, a lot of people will struggle to make intentional and well-thought-out leaps because they’re split across different areas.

Here’s one thing I did, and I’m talking about my own personal experience. I was with Deloitte consulting at the beginning of my career. I had some great exposure and great sponsorship from different partners. I was doing DEI work globally, which was amazing, but I decided I wanted to leave because I wanted to focus on the gender and inclusion space exclusively. There wasn’t the track to do that at the time at my level.

I remember thinking that I’m someone that I want to be super intentional about my next path, and I couldn’t be when I’m in consulting on the road Monday through Thursday or Friday of every week and traveling that much invested in eighteen-hour days on my client projects and also intentionally seeking out another role. I left with what traditionally would look like not a net, but I did have some of those other things that I was telling you about. That was scary for me at the time, but I knew in my heart of hearts that if I was going to take the time to truly reflect, crystallize, explore, and be in the city where I lived rather than on the road and make the right next step that I had to leave before I had that next role.

Let’s give some love via the show. There are many women and men like that who have been laid off, at least in the US. Several industries and big companies are going through a contraction. What would you say to those folks because they are in a time of reckoning, redeciding, and potential risk because they thought they were safe and then they weren’t? Do you have any words of wisdom for them?

First of all, there are so many people that are grappling with this now, and it can be scary, overwhelming, and disheartening. You can go through such a range of emotions from anger to fear. That’s okay. That’s natural as part of that process. A couple of thoughts, Jen, on things I’ve seen on people that have been successful is we cannot always control external factors in life and our careers. They are so much outside of our control. If we think we’re in control, it’s a false sense of security and control. What we can control is our mindset at all times.

This is a small example. I had some unfortunate back-to-back events that felt like the most overwhelming, perfect storm of things that happen. I remembered one of my mentors, Betsy Myers. She founded the Office for Women in the White House under President Bill Clinton. She was the COO of Woman for Obama. There were multiple different things. She told me a story about a time when all of these things happened in her personal and professional life that is very similar to what a lot of people are going through now.

She said to me that she had to take the victim out and put power in. It’s very easy for us to feel like victims of circumstance, timing, and bad luck, but she talks about putting power in. In my book, it’s what I talk about because people could be like, “What does that mean exactly? What does that look like in practice?” I talk about the fact that when change happens to us, our power comes from the choice in how we react to change and our response to change. I always say to myself and those that I coach that you can either choose resistance or strategic response.

The more we resist, the more we funnel our limited, not infinite, time and energy into resisting it being angry and feeling all of these things, “Why is this happening to me?” and the less time we have to put into the strategic response. A strategic response is thinking about, “What has this experience told me? What have I learned from my last or prior role about what I’m looking for now? Who can I surround myself with to crystallize these? What connections do I need to rekindle or reform in terms of having career discussions? What networks am I no longer looped into that I should be? What opportunities have I overlooked?”

There’s such an exploration process that can happen. There are also ways to get creative. How can you make some money in the interim on the side or do something while also looking for that next role? There are so many different ways, but we have to get creative with it. That actual question, “What am I going to choose, resistance or response?” has helped me.

I hope that folks that are reading take that away as something to incorporate the next time there are any bumps in the road. I don’t know about you, but isn’t it lovely when things are smooth, and then all of a sudden out of nowhere, it’s like, “It’s not smooth anymore.” That can be professionally, personally, or what have you. As you said, mindset is everything and a great way to look at things.

Here’s one other thing, Jen. I was working with a coaching client on the weekend. She was looking at another role. She had her resume chronological. It was organized according to her last roles. I said to her, “I want to know about not what role you were in but what you did. What are your capabilities and skills?” Once we pushed her to do that format of a CV, it felt like a whole new world of roles opened up for her.

For anyone on this show, let’s say you were head of marketing at a company, and now you’re looking for another marketing role. Sometimes that can limit us more than opening us up to the realm of possibilities. I believe that almost all of us in some way, shape, or form have skills that are transferrable across roles, industries, and different business sizes and locations. I’d encourage you to put buckets in terms of your skills. For her, it was strategic planning, relationship and stakeholder management, innovation and growth, and people and culture. There were actual buckets of these things. Once you start to look at it that way, it’s very easy to see how that could slot into other roles.

It’s interesting you say that. Using me as an example, people have asked me because I have a corporate job and do this work as well. People are like, “I don’t understand where podcaster comes in,” but I’m a communicator by nature. In my day work, I do marketing and run with communications all day. If you look at it in terms of the tasks and the skills that you have, then this is a natural byproduct of that.

We don’t always think. People will look at your day job and what you’re doing on the side. They might think, “These are two disparate things. They’re in silos. They’re not linked,” but they’re linked around communication, connectivity, and telling stories. There might be so many different aspects. If we take that broad-based view of, “What are our core capabilities and skills and value drivers that we could bring to any role?” that makes the whole search process post-layoff much broader and more likely to be successful.

That’s very valuable even for me to hear. Sometimes, honestly, I’m like, “How does this connect,” but you helped me connect the dots. Thank you very much. Let’s talk a little bit more about mindset because you mentioned it. As a teaser, I want women to go out and get this book. It is so valuable. You mentioned a few mindsets in your book, and I was wondering if you could touch on them.

We’ve been touching it, so if you’re ready and if we’ve already covered it, then we can move on. I wanted to touch on them. You have something listed here a curious mindset, a courageous mindset, and an agile mindset. Do you want to make any comments on that and what you listed in terms of mindset in your book?

I wanted to share that I say upfront that the most career-defining skill set is the risk-taking skill, but you are not going to be a successful risk-taker unless you cultivate the right mindset. That skillset mindset duality is so important as we think about our careers and lives. This is also applicable regardless of career stage and regardless of whether you were going to gift the book to a young woman in college, or whether you’re beginning boldly again at a different stage in your career.

Again, it’s also applicable to life more broadly. The curious mindset essentially is that women often feel that we need to have all of the answers. In reality, we only need to have the right questions, and question-asking and curiosity are some of the most powerful tools. Specifically, I talk about how curiosity has the power to help us reduce conflict, burnout, and overwhelm in our lives. I talk about how curiosity can be used as a tool of influence and how to use it in negotiations.

Curiosity has the power to help us reduce conflict, burnout, and overwhelm in our lives. Click To Tweet

I’ve written some articles about this. There was one in the Harvard Business Review in the fall around using curiosity as the tool in networking and building meaningful connections that we often stress ourselves out thinking about. We have to have this big narrative, but instead, we should focus on what we want to ask rather than what we want to say. That’s a brief summary of that one.

In the courageous mindset, I talk about courageous acts and courageous advocacy for yourself and others. Also, there’s an article that I published, and it’s gotten a lot of traction. It’s called Choose Courage Over Confidence. It was in HBR as well. They wrote to me on the weekend and said that it’s going to be included in a print special edition, which is an absolute dream.

I’m super excited about it. The core concept in one line is we focus so much on what we need to feel confident, but I think confidence is an elusive ideal at best. The most successful senior-level women that I’ve interviewed, the boldest and most brilliant, do not show up confidently every day. I was like, “Confidence is not a prerequisite for success. What is?” It’s courage because you can be courageous in the absence of confidence.

If I was waiting to feel confident before writing a book, coming on this show, and going on TV shows, I would never go, but I know I can choose courage in the absence of confidence every single day. Also, the great thing is confidence is a byproduct or output. That’s the courageous mindset. Here’s one other thing I’d say for everyone. This might be something helpful as you think about starting your courageous journey or continuing it. It’s that we often overestimate the impact of big risks, “She’s so bold. She started her own business.”

Jen, you even said you might define yourself as risk averse, but we often overestimate the impact of those things or say, “Those aren’t me. I’m not like that,” but we underestimate the impact of small risks taken consistently over time. They truly build up and have compounding returns. It might be being afraid to put yourself out there in the world and being nervous about it, and then starting to raise your hand more in meetings, to present, and to offer a point of view.

It’s for someone that maybe isn’t as social going to more events. That’s important. The last one is the agile mindset, and that goes back to everything we were talking about at the beginning of this. It’s so critical in times of change. It’s about how you embrace change and uncertainty and giving you the tools to do that.

This courageous mindset, you’ve got me curious. I’m tying it all together. It depends on the woman, and as I said, it’s like a spectrum. I’ve had women say, “How are you so courageous to start a podcast? How are you so courageous to write an anthology of women’s stories?” I will tell you similar. My editor and I, Hope Mueller, have this thing called naive joy, where we’re just so naive, but we’re so joyful that even though we’re scared, we keep walking forward.

It depends on the woman. One woman, as you said, may say, “My courageous act is that I’m going to raise my hand in a meeting, or I’m going to ask for something that I want.” Mine in this case was I decided to start a podcast even though I knew nothing about podcasting or I wanted to write a book when I didn’t know anything about publishing. Is that what you’re referring to? It depends, and they domino. They grow on each other until that courage and that byproduct of confidence continues to grow.

You’re right. It’s going to look different for everyone. If you are feeling nervous, afraid, or fearful, that is where the risk, the bold move, or the courageous act lies for you. Fear is an indicator. There’s this quote. I saw it the other day. It was something like, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” I was like, “I hate this quote,” because I’m like, “Fear is one of the most powerful things we have.” It’s one of the most powerful indicators.

When we feel fear, it’s an indicator that there is a choice. There is a risk to be made. We’ve got to be in tune with that fear. There is no such thing as fearlessness. If there is, you’re not being bold enough because, a rich life in existence where someone loves deeply, lives deeply, and lives fully involves fear of loss, fear of failure, and fear of personal and professional fronts. I always say that is your signal. That’s why certain things may not make me feel fearful, and other things may. It’s in those places where I need to lean into that.

I love that very much. It’s another great reminder. One thing I saw on your website was you called it the risk-taking ritual. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about that reference on your site and how you guide women through that process.

There’s this framework in my book, and it’s intentionally simple because I want you to be able to print it out, put it on the wall of your office, look at it every day, and remember it. It’s risk, reward, refine, and repeat. I’ll walk you through the risk step in a little bit more detail, but we’ll go through this first. Essentially, if there’s a risk to be made, you have to decide whether you’re going to take it or not.

At the back end, you need to assess the rewards. The reason why it’s reward and not reward and failure is because failure is a reward as long as you harness the learnings from that to propel yourself forward. I remember speaking at a global women’s conference in Normandy, France years ago, and I put this example in the book. There was a young woman on the stage. She said, “How am I going to get from here over to here?” She’s standing in heels, and no one had any idea. She couldn’t get any help or anything like that.

BWW 122 Christie Hunter Arscott | Begin Boldly
Begin Boldly: Failure is a reward as long as you harness the lessons from it to propel yourself forward.


She’s like, “If I step back and run up and jump, I’ll get further than if I just tried to hop.” That was the perfect visual of if you learn from your mistakes, you will propel yourself further forward than a consistent choice to play it safe. In the reward, you essentially assess what you learn from this or what the reward was. There could be positive things as well, and then refine. The refine phase is focused on one question. Am I going to allow the outcome of risk-taking refine me or define me?

The reason why this is so important, particularly for women, is Carol Dweck’s work on Mindset, which is some of the most phenomenal work on women and gender differences talked about from a young age, girls and boys think differently about failure. If I’m particularly any type of girl and I fail in my school exam, I’m likely to say, “I failed, therefore I am a failure.” Men are more likely at a young age to say, “I failed, but failure is data,” or as I often say with my clients, insights for improvement.

This is something for women that I’ve coined in the book as identity outcome conflation, which is we take the outcome of our risk-taking and make it become our identity, “I am a failure.” This question in the refine phase of, “Am I going to allow this outcome to refine me or define me?” The choice is refine. If you were successful, what are you going to do in the future? How are you going to harness these learnings? If you weren’t successful or you had an unintended outcome, how are you going to harness those? That refine phase is important. Repeat is to do it again. You’ve got to keep on risking. It has to be a ritual. You have to do it for the rest of your life. That’s risk, reward, refine, and repeat.

My curiosity is stirring up again. We talk a lot about this on the show. Those are some of the enemies of the things you’re talking about in your book and your work such as self-doubt, Imposter syndrome, perfectionism, and people-pleasing. In the coaching world, we could call them gremlins. We could call them blocks for our success and for living our highest potential in our lives. Where do these come into your work, and where do you see this in the work that you do with women?

It goes back to the mindset portion. It goes back to taking a bit of the pressure on us from this perfectionism of having all these answers and focusing curiously on the questions. It goes back to building a sense of self, not on extrinsic areas, but looking internally. There are a lot of things that you can do to interrupt that inner critic in so many ways. There are also some amazing tools and tricks. I want to share something because the easiest way for me to sum up most of this is around the inner critic.

There’s one section in my book that talks about agile identity, and it’s about overcoming our limiting beliefs, those boxes that we put ourselves in that may hold us back from risk-taking. That whole area of the book would be great to read for anyone that’s grappling with some of those gremlins you talk about. The other thing that I learned years ago, and I forget which conference I was at, was one researcher said, and I built some of this into my programming with women is that we often hear our inner critic and try to silence it. We try to ignore it.

Studies show that does not work. We have to acknowledge it and talk back about it. You may have read stuff or heard people naming it. That doesn’t work so well for me, but I have a retort to it. For me, whenever I hear my inner critic, like, “Who are you to be standing on this stage of 3,000 people,” or whatever it may be, I say to myself, “I hear you, but I got this.” That is my motto.

It used to be how I signed into my computer every single day. It was like, “I got this 2021,” because I was getting through pandemic land with a child and being an entrepreneur. You’ve got to think about your phrase. I’ve worked with young students who have come up with their own phrases, and they were so powerful. It’s like, “I hear you, but I am meant for bigger things. I hear you, but I know my power.” When I heard these, I looked at them all on this board, and I want everyone to think about how they’re going to talk back in those cases.

Yes, I do this with my clients. When they come up with their phrase, one thing that I do is that we look at our phone X hundreds or thousands of times a day. I’m like, “Let’s put it on your phone wallpaper.” What if it’s, “I got this. I’m brave. I’m enough. I’m worth it,” or whatever just so every time they pick up their phone, they see that phrase? For them, that works.

Mine’s not the personal response that I have, but it’s something else. This is another trick that I have. I have a whole framework in that first stage of the risk, reward, refine, repeat of how you assess whether a risk is worth taking. The first step in it is motivation. It’s crystallizing a motivation that matters. It may seem trite or you’ve heard this before, but it is so important because there’s this quote I love. “She who has a strong enough why can endure any how.” When you’re why is strong enough and you come back to that why, at least for me and my clients, you will be able to power through those nerves, Imposter syndrome, or any inner critic or limiting beliefs.

For me, when I was doing the book, my why was, “I want to be an author and write a book.” That would’ve not been powerful enough for me to get through all of the days of self-doubt while I was writing, of my inner critic, limiting beliefs, tears, sweat, and all of that. My why was what I shared with you before, which is around getting this toolkit in the hands of more people and equalizing access to these tools.

BWW 122 Christie Hunter Arscott | Begin Boldly
Begin Boldly: How Women Can Reimagine Risk, Embrace Uncertainty, and Launch a Brilliant Career

One of my former coaching clients wrote on a Post-It for me. She sent me a picture of the Post-It. She said, “The gift of holding space, you have it.” It’s still on my phone because I’m like, “Every single day, I need to think about how I use my gift of holding space for other people to elevate the stories and tools of others as well.” That is something that has helped me so much.

I come from a teaching family, so I’m going to ask everyone. This is somewhat your homework because there’s so much great stuff in here. Please take some notes and read it again. What is your gift, or what is your why? Those two questions are very big assignments. Maybe you know it, but if you don’t, there are great resources. I know Christie’s book is one. I love Simon Sinek’s work, Start With Why. He has a workbook on discovering your why.

Also, understanding your strengths, whether it’s through StrengthsFinder. That’s with Gallup. There are so many assessments out there for you to find those things so you can do some of this work moving forward. Christie, do you have any other resources to share with them about why and strengths?

I’m so glad you asked. There’s a chapter I wrote that I took out of my book at the end, but I still have it. It’s an exercise that I’ve used with so many women. What I’ve found is that self-assessments have limitations because studies show that women consistently underestimate and undermine their own capabilities and skills more than men. I started thinking, “What’s the workaround for this?” It’s because if I’m working with a client and they’re trying to assess their strengths, but they’re not giving me the full picture, how do we capture that?

Studies show that women consistently underestimate and undermine their own capabilities and skills more than men. Click To Tweet

I discovered this exercise. It’s called the Reflected Best Self Exercise. It’s out of the Center for Positive Organizations, which is out of Michigan. I know Adam Grant has mentioned it in some of his work. I made some tweaks to this exercise over the years to take the gendered lens into account. Essentially, the idea is you go out to a select group of people you are close with, whether it be colleagues, friends, partners, managers, or leaders.

The way that I’ve tweaked the exercises is traditionally, you say, “When am I at my best?” You could also say, “What’s the special gift that I bring to the world? What’s my unique pearl? How do I generate value for others? What am I doing when I show up at my best?” There are all of these different questions you can use. You then interview them and start to capture. It could be in an email or anything. You then partner up with someone. This is a step that I added because I realized that when I was doing it with women, they even got to the point where they couldn’t see clearly.

They were like, “There are no themes between this,” and then you partner them up with someone, and the partner sees all the themes because we need to look through someone else’s lens. You look at that and create a portrait of yourself. It could be like a movie. You could write it all down and capture it, but capturing what your gifts are. I’d encourage everyone here in some way, shape, or form to try to see yourself through the eyes of others. This exercise is one of the most powerful ones that I’ve ever used in terms of allowing women to hone into those unique gifts and move out of their own heads.

With those other folks, I have a friend in high school, and she’s one of my ride-or-die people. She would tell me I’m awesome no matter what. Do we have to go to folks that are more objective or that would push us? Who would we go to be our partner in this exercise?

It’s the people that know you best. Someone like her should be included, but be more specific than, “You’re awesome.” It has to be like, “What are my unique gifts?” As we’re here, I’m even trying to pull up and be like, “Where is this so I can give you some of the questions?” It’s so important to be specific and give anecdotes.

She could say to you, “Jen, you are great at authentically connecting with others.” You should push them for an anecdote so that you make it come to life as well like the time wherein you facilitated X, Y, and Z for me here, and create almost these stories that crystallize what is so powerful about yourself. We do not need to be thinking about what our weaknesses are in this exercise. That’s not what this is about. Studies show women will hyper-focus on that way more than areas that are their unique value generators, their gifts, and their superpowers. The key here is to focus on those specifically.

That helps a lot because with people that love us or that we’re close to, we may take that first answer like, “You’re awesome. You did this well,” but we don’t challenge them in a loving way to be like, “Can you give me more information about when?” or as you said, an anecdote. That will make it come crystal clear.

Now you’ve got me thinking. I’m like, “I’m going to put a workbook out on this so that people can start to have the questions. It’s you harnessing curiosity for self-discovery so that we can see ourselves through the eyes of others.” The rest of the stuff that we mentioned is in the book, but this, as I mentioned, was one that I took out. It was to seek to see yourself through the eyes of others who know us well and who we value. Use those insights to shape your narrative, how you talk about yourself, position yourself, and represent your best self to others in and outside of the workplace.

I encourage people to set up discovery discussions and to use questions that they feel comfortable with. One that I’ve seen people use or what are my unique superpowers is, “What is the unique pearl that I’m bringing to the world?” Another is, “What are my unique differentiators? What makes me uniquely me? What are the special aspects that set me apart? What’s my special edge? Who am I when I’m at my best?”

I encourage people to go beyond identifying their traditional strengths and think not about their points of parody with their peers but truly unique points of differentiation. Jen, to your point, I say to resist your desire to focus on development areas, gaps, or weaknesses. The last thing I say is to ask for anecdotes stories and examples to support answers because if someone says, “You were dynamic and bring life and energy to any setting you’re a part of,” can you tell me about a time I did bring energy to a situation? In the end, you want to use these insights to seek out situations and roles that harness the power of these gifts. That’s the final step. Once you crystallize what these are, where can I bring these to bear? That’s where the magic happens.

I’m going to want to get my hands on this too. You’ll have to share that with me. I love the tool, and it’s great that you’re going to create a workbook as a result of this conversation. That’s cool. I have to ask because there are probably other women reading that are in mid-career. I’m not trying to stereotype us, but it’s one thing to be young and fresh.

I remember how ambitious, and I’m still ambitious, but it’s different ambition when you’re in the younger phases of your career versus mid versus late career. Does your book apply to women in mid-careers? Do the resources we’re sharing apply to women in mid-career? Risk-taking might be a little bit different. They might take a little bit longer, or they might take a different take shape and form. Any comments on women in mid-career?

I coach a lot of women in a mid or later career that use exactly the same tools. One of them crossed out the book cover and was like, “Begin boldly again.” One sent it to me, and he had crossed it out and posted on Instagram how anyone can reimagine risk. Let me give you a little context. I focused more on women in the early stages of their careers because what might work with organizations around the globe showed me was traditionally, when we have women’s programs in organizations, it’s at the senior management or executive level when they get access to those resources and tools, and it’s too little too late.

Women are lagging behind men in compensation, job title, aspiration, and confidence within the first two years of their job. I was thinking more about how we address that existing gap at the earlier stages of the pipeline because we want to address some of those things early on. With that being said, these are things that I will use for the rest of my life and career. They are tools that are so important, and it’s not only about being ambitious in terms of wanting to rise through the ranks or anything else.

It will help you think about how you want to invest your unique gifts and time outside of work. It will help you think about how you prioritize with your family so that you don’t feel so stretched and you can make bold moves and things that tap into your gifts. This is something that is important at any stage, and it transcends the career stage.

That gives us also motivation and some spurring on to say, “It applies to me no matter where I am and no matter what age I am or what stage I’m in.” I have to ask you this question as we’re wrapping up here. What are 1 to 2 ways that you believe that women can be braver at work now?

There are so many. One chapter that I have specifically talked about is courageous advocacy for others. There are such simple ways that we collectively can advocate for those around us that are also underrepresented in most executive tables and whether that be elevating their voice, addressing when they’re interrupted, talking about their capabilities, skills, results, and interrupting bias where you see it.

There are a lot of simple steps that you can do to amplify the voices and careers of others. We could all be a little bit braver. It goes back to my former coaching client on the Post-It on how we’re holding space for others. If we could create a movement of bold and brave women supporting each other, it would go a long way. The other piece is I’m going to go back to what I shared before. Don’t overestimate the impact of seemingly big and bold risks like taking a sabbatical, leaving your job, moving country, changing industries, or going back to school.

Those aren’t the make-it-or-break-it in life. It in fact makes risk-taking even harder to do. What we need to do is not underestimate the impact of small, courageous acts taken over time. If you haven’t started taking those acts, it doesn’t matter whether you’re on day one on the job or you’re 35 years into your job. The time to start taking risks is now.

The time to start taking risks is now. Click To Tweet

Where can women find you and your work online?

You can find the book at any major retailer. It’s also on Amazon. In terms of my work, it’s my name. It’s ChristieHunterArscott.com. If you look up that name, you can also find me on LinkedIn. If you’re interested in learning more, you can shoot me an email via my website. I’m happy to share any insights, tools, or resources as well. If you’re embedded in organizations, I not only do one-on-one coaching with women, but I also offer coaching cohort programs within corporate entities. If there’s ever any interest in them, I offer to bring the Begin Boldly method to those contexts. That’s a new offering I started this 2023. That’s my bold move.

Christie, it’s been so fun having you on. Thank you for making time.

Thank you, Jen. Thank you so much for the great conversation and your curiosity and for all the work you’re doing in this space. In terms of the show, the stories, and all of that, it’s inspirational. There’s so much synergy between our areas of focus.

That’s a wrap of my conversation with Christie. I hope you found this discussion both valuable and inspiring. As a reminder, please rate, review, and subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. The show is also available on Google Podcasts and Stitcher. Until next time, show up, rethink risk, and be brave.


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About Christie Hunter Arscott

BWW 122 Christie Hunter Arscott | Begin BoldlyChristie Hunter Arscott is an award-winning advisor, speaker, and author of the book Begin Boldly: How Women Can Reimagine Risk, Embrace Uncertainty, and Launch A Brilliant Career. A Rhodes Scholar, Christie has been named by Thinkers50 as one of the top management thinkers likely to shape the future of business. Christie was also selected for the biannual Thinkers50 Talent Award shortlist of the top global thought leaders in the field of talent management.

Christie’s research and writing have been featured across international publications including Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Fortune, European Business Review, TIME, Fast Company, Business Insider, and more. Her article Why So Many Thirtysomething Women Are Leaving Your Company was selected for the Harvard Business Review collection of the top articles on diversity.

Christie has spoken worldwide to leading organizations and institutions including the World Economic Forum, Harvard Business School, the University of Oxford, and the Global Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society. Her corporate clients include Bacardi, Deloitte, PWC, HSBC and more.

Christie holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Brown University and two Master’s degrees with a focus on gender research from the University of Oxford. She currently serves on the Women’s Leadership Board of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard Kennedy School.

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