Have you had that moment where time seemed to stand still, and you had a ton done without little effort? Like you were in a state of flow? I love it when this happens to me. It feels so good to effortlessly get stuff done and the day is not a slog.
Last year, I was introduced to Hortense le Gentil, an executive coach and author. I picked up her book, Aligned: Connecting Your True Self with the Leader You’re Meant to Be, and I was inspired by it and knew I needed her on the show. I wanted to pick Hortense’s brain to learn how I can multiply these states of flow so that I’m in alignment more often. As we know, being in this state of alignment is better for our health and happiness. It drives better results and makes us better leaders.
During our discussion, Hortense and I talked about:
- What alignment means at work.
- Signs or symptoms of not being aligned.
- What prevents us from being aligned, including mental hurdles?
- The steps we need to get back on track.
- How intuition and mindfulness play a role in alignment in leadership.
- How our work environment and the people we surround ourselves with impact us.
Listen to the podcast here
How To Be In Alignment And Connect With Who You Really Are With Hortense le Gentil
I’m so glad you’re here. How are you doing out there? I’ve been starting lately with a question or questions. I will do that. Have you had a time when you felt like time itself seemed to stand still, and you got a ton done with little effort like you were in a state of flow? When I have those moments, I love them. They’re fleeting, and they’re gone.
I love it when it happens to me. It feels so good to effortlessly get stuff done, and the day is not a slog. We don’t want our days to be a slog. I was introduced to Hortense le Gentil, an executive coach, and author. I picked up her book Aligned: Connecting Your True Self with the Leader You’re Meant to Be. I was inspired by it. I knew I needed to have her on the show.
She has been a busy bee working on her second book. It has been a while. I’m happy that this has finally come to pass. I wanted to pick Hortense’s brain to learn how I can multiply these states of flow. I can have more time like this. I’m in that alignment as she calls it more often. As we know, being in this state of alignment or flow is better for our health and happiness. It’s going to drive better results and make us better leaders, which is what we talk about at the show.
During my discussion with Hortense, we talked about what alignment means to her at work professionally and personally, the signs and symptoms of not being aligned, what prevents us from being aligned, including those mental hurdles that we all face, and the steps that we need to get back on track to that feeling of alignment. I also asked her because she mentions intuition. I wanted to ask about intuition and mindfulness and how they play a role in alignment in leadership.
We touch on how our work environments and the people we surround ourselves have an impact on us. I wanted to tell you a little bit more about Hortense. Hortense le Gentil is a globally recognized thought leader known for helping Fortune 500 CEOs and senior executives around the world connect with their teams on an authentic human level. Through her work as a coach, speaker, and author, she helps executives on their journey from hero leaders to human leaders. I love that.
Le Gentil’s work is grounded in ideas from psychology, neuroscience, and her experience, drawn from over 30 years across industries. Like ripples on a pond, human leaders, empathy, and emotional intelligence reverberate throughout and beyond their organizations. It impacts their customers, suppliers, shareholders, and communities. Le Gentil’s impact has been widely recognized. She is a 2021 and 2023 nominee for Thinkers50 Coaching and Mentoring Awards and a regular contributor to the Harvard Business Review and ThriveGlobal.com. Her trusted voice has also been featured in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., and Business Insider.
Before we get started, if you’re enjoying the show, please make sure to leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. I promise you that it takes just a minute to either leave a star rating or give me some feedback. I would appreciate it. If you’ve already left a rating or review, I thank you so much. Your support of the show means the world to me. Thank you. You can also always share the show with your family members, friends, or colleagues on your social media feeds. If you haven’t yet downloaded my freebie, 10 Steps to Being Brave at Work, get it because it might be retiring soon.
I’m going to be upgrading and changing the freebies on my site. If you want that one, I don’t know if I’m going to be keeping it on the site forever. Get 10 Steps to Being Brave. It is a great workbook. It gives you that nudge to speak up, find a mentor, and ask for what you want. It’s a workbook-style freebie. You can do it entirely on your time. Get it on my website. As a teaser, there are some new freebies coming, so be on the lookout for my website. Details are coming soon. Let’s welcome Hortense to the show.
Hortense, welcome to the show. How are you?
I’m very good. Jen, thank you for having me. I’m delighted to be here.
I am too. I love your accent. When I was a child, I wanted to go to Paris. When I was a teen, I went to Paris. Please do not speak to me in French but I studied French in college. I let it go. I’ve got to go back and do that. I lived in Aix-en-Provence in the south of Marseille. It is a paradise. You have a beautiful place. I believe you’re in New York now but I want to let you know I love your home country.
Thank you, Jen. I love Aix-en-Provence also. It’s a very nice place. I love my country too. I’m happy to live in New York. I’m glad you like it.
I love it. How long have you been in New York?
Were you in Europe until then?
I moved years ago because time flies before COVID.
You’re settled now. We’re happy to have you. I’m so happy to have you on the show. Everyone knows I love hearing women’s stories. Why don’t we jump in? I ask this of all of my guests. Tell me about your background story and how you’ve gotten to where you are. I know that’s a huge question. You can take me anywhere you want across that arc. Tell me a little bit about your background.
I was very slow because I took the scenic roads to arrive where I am or to discover what I call my calling to be an executive coach. I was born and raised in Paris in the north of France surrounded by horses. I was a horse rider. I studied both in Boston and Paris. I studied marketing and came back to France. I worked for decades for corporate and as an entrepreneur. In the meantime, I had two wonderful children who are adults now.
I found my calling. It was to help people. My purpose or what drives me was to help people. I’ve always been interested in neuroscience and psychological things. I had a lot of questions. I was looking for answers everywhere, reading a lot of things, and learning. This is how I grew up and evolved. One moment, a friend of mine asked me to help another friend of his. I realized at that moment that I learned a lot and I could help a lot of people. This is where I found joy. This is who I am.
That is so cool. It also encourages us and fires us so that we can take our windy roads to find our calling. For those of you that found your calling when you were a kid, I’m jealous. It takes some life experiences. It takes some bumps and bruises. Some people find it right away. I too feel like the work I’m doing with this show and helping women is part of if not my calling to help women. It’s great that you found it. We’re going to talk about your book, Aligned. We will talk about the title and the concept of being aligned. Many people may not heed that call. Good for you for being brave to heed the call for what you’re meant to do.
Thank you. You arrive at that moment where everything makes sense because sometimes you go in your life. Things happen, bad and not so bad. Sometimes you ask yourself, “Why me? What happened to me?” We are all looking for meaning. At one point, you understand your life because for me, everything has a reason but it’s true that you need some courage. You need to move, change, or evolve. You cannot stay in the same place and think the same way and everything like that if you want to find yourself and your alignment.
I believe that. This was your first book or it was your first book in English. We will have to ask if you wrote some books in French as well. We’re going to talk about it. It’s called Aligned: Connecting Your True Self with the Leader You’re Meant to Be. I loved it. It’s so accessible. Good for you for writing about a complex topic and making it something we can digest. I’m excited about talking about it with you. What drove you to write this book?
I had a conversation with one of my client assistants. She told me, “You are a coach.” Back at that time, I was in Paris. When you are in Paris, France, coaching is very backstage. You don’t talk. You don’t say it. That woman asked me and told me, “I want to learn from you. Where can I find something?” I was so ashamed because I didn’t have anything. It’s a question of culture.
As a coach in France, at least at that time but it’s still the same, we don’t have anything to say. You are not supposed to tell anything. At that point, I promised myself and said, “I’m going to write a book. This book will help everyone who wants to be helped or needs help.” I’m so happy. It gives me so much joy when someone tells me, “I read your book. It helped me somewhere.” This is how the idea of a book came.
I encourage everyone to pick up a copy of the book. I promise it is easily digestible. I wanted to ask and start by asking you this. What does the word alignment mean to you?
Alignment for me is being in the zone or being at the right place, the right moment, and the right person. It’s having your head, heart, and hand completely aligned. It’s like a surfer catching the perfect wave. He’s there. He’s happy. He knows that he is in the right place. Everything gives you joy. Everything is easy. This is that state of mind. This is what for me is alignment. This is when you’re connecting with who you are. It’s something straight.
Can we interchange the word aligned with being in a state of flow? When I say I’m in a flow state, it’s like an intersection of my ability, joy, and passion. Things start moving. Would you say alignment is also synonymous with flow?
I would say that. I hesitate between, “Is it a consequence? Is it the same?” Maybe I’m wrong but you have to be aligned. This is what you say also. This is the state of joy, happiness, and knowing you are in the right place. This is how you are in the flow or the zone.
I want to make sure that if I use the word flow, I’m okay there. One thing I read in the book that I wanted to talk about is some of the signs or the symptoms when we’re not in alignment. Do you mind sharing some of those? If women are going, “I want to be in alignment. I want to be in a state of flow,” what are some reasons for them to believe, “I’m not in flow. I’m not in alignment.” What are some of those symptoms?
The first one is you feel drained. If something or someone drains you, this is a very good sign. When you position yourself, blame everybody, and feel unhappy, you are not aligned at all. Sometimes that could be that you don’t sleep well, for example. You could be sick. It’s not always the reason but often, it’s a good clue. If you see yourself not sleeping well, nervous with a lot of anxiety, or things like that, for me, they are clues. Remember, our brains are stronger than our bodies. Our bodies are telling us things and speaking to us. We have to listen to that.
I remember one time in my life when one day, I couldn’t wake up. I was sick because I was fighting all the time. At one point, I didn’t have any more guts. It was over. I had to do something. My body told me, “You stay in bed until the time you’re going to understand and decide what you want to do with your life.” It’s extreme but this is true. I’m not the only one who experienced that.
We have to be listening carefully to our bodies. Our bodies know everything but our brains are very strong. It’s a conversation between the left and the right brain. Your left brain is rational. It’s going to tell you, “You have to do that.” The right brain is all about emotions and things like that. It doesn’t have any more oxygen, cannot talk, and cannot express itself. This is how we get sick.
Here’s a small example. I’m sure this has happened to you. It’s happened to me. Let’s say you’re in a super busy period at work. You’re going. Maybe you’re busy at work and home. You’ve got all these stresses. You keep going on adrenaline. You go on vacation, and you’re like, “I’m going to have so much relaxation on vacation.” You get sick. It’s because your body is like, “You need to pay up.” I’ve had other signs, symptoms, and little things that can override our bodies. It’s the ego. The brain is overriding what the body is saying.
I’ve had little silent things. For a while there, I had an eye twitch. My eye started to twitch. My body is like, “You’re exhausted. You’re stressed.” It’s things like that which I’m trying to ignore, “It will go away.” I’m trying to override my system telling me, “You need to slow down.” I like those. I don’t know about France, Europe, and the US. You’ve been here for years. In the US, we’re not taught to listen to the body. It’s almost like we’re overriding it. Is that something that you’ve had to learn? Have you always known you’ve had to listen to your body?
I had to learn because, in France, it’s the same. Often, you are raised with the opposite idea, “Don’t listen to yourself. Don’t listen to your body. Do more. More is not enough. It’s never enough.” In a way, when you raise up and everything, maybe it helps but at one point or one moment in our life, we have to be aware of what’s happened. That doesn’t mean that every day you have to complain. It’s not about complaining. It’s about being aware of what happened inside of us.
I practice a lot of meditation. I learn a lot from meditation. When you are at that present moment, you take 1 second or 2 seconds to check, “What’s happening now, body?” You feel your foot. You are aware that your foot is here. Your hands are here. Your head is here. Maybe your heart is going fast or not fast. Everything is in place, or maybe something happened, and you feel pain somewhere. You didn’t realize that you felt pain. This is how to be aware.
I love that. We have talked about physical alignment. What about mental alignment? You have whole sections in this book about mental hurdles. I’m wondering if you can comment on some of the challenges that we either have or put in our way mentally or emotionally that stop us from being in alignment.
The first thing is we have to face our fears. It’s afraid to change. It’s afraid to look at the thing. You have to compare the status quo to change. What is the price to pay? Sometimes you don’t know. Sometimes the price of change is higher than the price of the status quo. Even if a part of yourself knows that you should move on, change, or whatever it is, it’s difficult because you have to listen to your voice. Sometimes it’s difficult. One day, you’re ready. That’s okay. You have to wait until the day you are ready.Sometimes, the price of changing is higher than the price of status quo. Click To Tweet
We grew up with our education and others’ voices. Sometimes it helps until one day, it doesn’t happen anymore. This is because especially as a woman, you have to be a perfect working woman. You have to be a perfect successful wife, daughter, and so on but what do you think? What do you want to do? If you decide that, for example, you don’t want to have children, this is fine.
What you’re talking about hits home for me. There are a couple of things in there. A lot of the women that I serve or those type-As have perfectionism. We don’t want to make a mistake. I’m calling myself. I am right up there with them. I’m not being like, “You’re a perfectionist.” I’m very much with these people. It almost feels like we give our power or our responsibility for our lives away because we want to please all these people. We want to make sure that our parents are happy, our boss is happy, and everyone is seeing us as agreeable. These are also naturally female traits that have been studied but I can say for myself that it’s something I’ve had to unravel. It’s taken a long time.
I would love to tell people, “I figured all this out in my 20s or even my 30s.” I’m figuring it out in my 40s. I’m like, “What do I want? What do I need?” I’m taking full power back and responsibility for my life, not blaming anyone else, and not doing something because someone else wants me to do it. I’m going to be honest. It does bring up a lot of fear but it’s also a lot of excitement. Is all of what I mentioned part of the alignment journey?
One hundred percent. I’m so happy that you’re saying that because this is a journey. In the beginning, maybe those voices and what people wanted for you helped you to grow because you didn’t know that at one point, it doesn’t serve you anymore. I don’t know about you but when I learned how to do the bicycle, I had two wheels. It was helpful at the beginning but after when I learned how to bicycle by myself, it doesn’t serve me anymore. The wheels hold you back because without wheels when you know how to ride your bicycle, you can go fast.
It’s the same. It’s what you’re talking about and those voices. Go back to yourself and ask yourself, “What do I want to do?” It’s a process of going back to that and challenging this idea. After that, let go and replace emotions, behaviors, or whatever it is with something more positive for you. This is exactly what alignment is about. It’s to free yourself and to dare to free your voice.Alignment is about freeing yourself and daring to free your voice. Click To Tweet
Having read the majority of your book, I can say that I am going through that process. I am telling everyone that you can be at any point in your life. I’m in midlife. You could be going through it now. In this book and this resource, this journey comes when it comes. It comes at the right time for you. If you’re a younger woman, good for you. You could get through this earlier but if you’re in my phase of life or even older or better in years, then that’s fine because you find a journey when you find it.
One other thing I will tell you that I want to highlight that you mentioned is that you talked about letting go. When you’re ready, you’re ready. When you’re ready to let go of shedding the old skin of who you were to go toward where you’re going, it takes time. I’m type-A. I will often beat myself up, “Why am I not on the other side of this alignment?”
It’s going to come when it comes. It has been infuriating. I’m letting everyone know that there could be some moments of infuriation and frustration along the journey because it’s not a 1 or 2-step process to unlearn what you’ve been doing most of your career or your life and then go into a new direction. I’m learning that there’s a huge part of surrender in that. Is that part of this process too?
Absolument as we say in French. You explained it very well. First, it’s a process. It doesn’t happen in one day. It’s a journey. When you are ready, you have some signs. You have to follow the signs, be courageous, and go for it. This is what I would recommend because at the end of the road, and I’m not at the end of the road, I hope, or the other way, you see balance. You see joy because it opens the door to who you are exactly.
Before, you were sharing that you want to please others. It’s the same for me and everyone but it’s exhausting at the end of the day. You never know what they want. Maybe they can change their minds. Imagine, instead of trying to guess and please someone, you put this energy into yourself and what you know is good for you, even if you don’t know at the beginning. I didn’t know at the beginning but you feel that it’s still good. You heard your voice, “It’s me.”
If you put your energy there, more and more you’re going to become who you are and picture who you are. In my next book, I’m going to talk about that. It’s about this process, “Where are you trapped? Do your mind shift?” You have to change and let go of something. It’s not easy. What do you want to build? What is good for you? What do good success and joy look like for you? You picture that.
Without getting too far, you need to say where you get trapped. I hope that in the book, you cover this. We will talk about the new book coming out. I’m excited about the new book too. Sometimes you could get trapped. I’m wondering if this has happened to you maybe with the coaching work with your clients. People get trapped. This may be the definition of codependency. You get trapped because people see you a certain way, and then all of a sudden, you’re not the same anymore. They’re like, “We want you to be over here. We were so comfortable. We knew you, and now you’re becoming this entirely different person.” How does that work when you’re going through this alignment process?
That’s not an easy part. What I learned from that and what I see in my coaches or so is if you go back, people see you that way because maybe you used to be that way. One day, you feel that you need to change because this is not possible. You are not aligned or happy. You are not who you should be. You change. Change is scary for you and your environment because if you change, your environment is going to change. You give the signal that what was right yesterday is not going to be right anymore.
I’m sure you have plenty of examples. If one person in your environment changed something, the dynamic of all the groups changes also. When you are on that journey to alignment, you know, “I have to do that because this is me.” You go through the process. This is what I did. Go to the process of looking at what you did or the people and say, “Thank you. It’s helped me until now but now, I have to move.”
This process of letting go and moving forward means that even if your best friend Margaret sees you as a very powerful woman, and one day you decide, “I’m going to leave my work and I’m going to travel for two years,” even if Margaret is disappointed, if it’s good for you, you have to do it because it’s your alignment. This is when and where it begins to be hard because it’s hard. You still want to have Margaret as your best friend who can understand you and be on your side. It’s hard. Nobody says that it’s easy but the result if you do that with a lot of love and respect for your environment, it works.
It works, changes, and encourages other people to change and look at their alignment, which is also a beautiful thing. For those that say, “It’s scary,” everything we’re talking about is scary. We’re walking through the fear and doing it anyway. Feel the fear and do it anyway. I have tried to stay within sections of my life or stay within roles because they were comfortable for me and other people.
I caused myself to get sick by overstaying an old version of myself. It doesn’t work in the end. Take it from someone who’s been there. If you try to stay in an old version of yourself because it’s too scary to move forward, your body will reject that eventually anyway, whether it’s mentally or physically. The calling forces you to walk through the door. Whether you walk through willingly or you’re pushed through, you are going to go through this process.
I love that because it’s exactly that. Something is going to happen. Either you decide for yourself or you stay there and you wait but it’s not going to work anyway.
We’ve got to walk through the fear. We have mentioned a lot of tools. To get back on track and to sum up, we’re going to talk about another one. We talked about meditation, mindfulness, and tapping in. A lot of what I’m hearing from you and your work is about intuition, listening to that intuitive voice or wise voice within you, not only in going through the alignment process. You talk about leadership. A lot about the leadership of ourselves, other people, our causes, and our callings are part of intuition. Do you want to comment at all on how intuition plays into that toolbox for women to use?
The intuition is coming from our right brain. Albert Einstein said that the right hemisphere was our sacred gift, and the left one was a faithful servant. We never listen to our gift. It is important because emotions can help us to understand, connect with others, and react in a good way. If you have an intuition and if you can listen to your intuition or this little voice, that is going to tell you where you should go or what you should say.
It makes a difference, especially in this time of uncertainty, especially for leaders. We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. You have to face your teams, your stakeholders, and a lot of things. You don’t always know how to do it. Women know. You are aware of it and you allow yourself to use it. We’re good at that.
I’ve talked about this in other episodes. We can shut it off too. We have to be willing to let it flow and form or reform that relationship with that intuitive voice because it’s waiting to come on in but we have to allow it to flow as well rather than cut off its life force.
It’s our secret weapon. We should use it.
I like that. Let’s use it. There are many other exercises. In the book, I love how you have activities and exercises for people to write and go through the process of alignment. Here’s one of the things that you also wrote that I liked. I’ve never done this. I wanted to ask you why you believe this is important. Let’s talk about mapping out our lives and why that might be important for us to do in this process.
Your life is your story. Imagine that you are a movie maker, and this is your story. If you want to know who you are, what is important to you, and what to connect with, you have to take the time to look at your story, go back from the beginning, and try to remember what you remember. It doesn’t matter. It’s everything that comes to your mind like how you were when you were young, your successes, and your failures. How did you react? What did you learn? What do you feel when you revisit your life? How do you feel? Maybe you’re going to discover, “I remember this story.”
You still feel angry or sad when you think about it. Maybe it’s a clue because you have to come back at that moment, remember, and try to understand why you are still sad even if it happened years ago, for example, and things like that. You will also discover what is important for you. Each time you took a decision or changed your story, you will discover what is important to you. If you want to be aligned, you have to know what to align with. This is how you discover your life and who you are.
I like this too. I’m planning to do this exercise. I’ll check back with the community and let you all know how this all works out for me because you’re also looking for patterns. If we’re in our lives, we can’t see the patterns. We can’t see where we’re learning something over and over again, which is fine, or where we can go differently because we’re so in it rather than above it. I assume that this will also help us rise above it to that more strategic level and hopefully, a more objective level of our life to see those big-picture things.
You see the big picture. If you take a step back, for sure you’re going to see better. At the museum, when you are looking at a piece of art, if you put your eyes in front of the piece of art, you don’t see very well but if you take a little time and go a little far, you can see better because you see the whole picture. You have to step back to do that. You cannot see if you stay completely with your nose on the wall.
You’ve given us so much good stuff to think about. We have talked about meditation, mindfulness, and intuition. We want folks to use the exercises within your book and the fact that it’s a process. We want to give ourselves patience. It will be difficult sometimes with relationships but we have to push through that fear. Is there anything else in terms of the book that you would like to leave our audiences with? Is there any other key information that you want to share with them about your book?
Alignment is a journey. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Speak up and speak your voice because this is the best way for you and your environment to find joy or happiness and to make a difference in the world.Alignment is a journey. Don't be afraid to be yourself. Click To Tweet
I love it. I probably stole your thunder on that. I didn’t even ask you but these are your answers. Would you say that the things you mentioned about being yourself and speaking up are ways women can be braver at work? Do you have anything else you would like to add to that question?
Don’t be afraid to speak up and to speak your voice at the table. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to be yourself because yourself is more than okay. This is what the world needs and this is what you need also.
I love that answer. There’s one other thing. I was talking with a client, and she was saying, “I don’t have the snazzy background that person has. I don’t have this or that.” That comes out because people compare on social media. They compare their resumes. I love the fact that we all know that we are individuals. From what I understand, there’s not one human on the planet that has a different fingerprint. Your voice is unique to you. Your experiences are unique to you. It makes you feel like, “I can speak up because my voice is unique to me.” Thank you for sharing that wisdom. I appreciate it.
Thank you for having me. Write your story. This is important.Write your own story. Click To Tweet
You told me that you have another book coming out. Do you mind sharing what the title is? I know as we’re doing this, it’s a little way out but we want to get it out there. We want people to learn about it. What is the title of the book?
Thank you for asking. The title is The Unlocked Leader. It will be released on September 26th, 2023.
I didn’t tell you as we were prepping for this show. It’s my birthday.
Happy birthday. What a gift. I didn’t know that.
I’m going to go and get it for myself on my birthday when it comes out. I will remember that. You learned about The Unlocked Leader here. I wanted to have you get the book Aligned: Connecting Your True Self with the Leader You’re Meant to Be. In addition to the book which I’m sure is available wherever books are sold, where can women find you and your work online?
Thank you again for being on the show. It was such a pleasure to talk with you about alignment. Your book has taught me some things. I’m going to do that life map. I’ll report back to you.
I hope so. Thank you very much for having me. Thank you for this opportunity and the conversation. It was great talking to you.
That’s a wrap of my conversation with Hortense. I hope you found our 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, get aligned, and be brave.
- Hortense le Gentil
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- The Unlocked Leader
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