Leader Effectiveness: Closing The Confidence Gap Interview with Robbie Walls
Today, there is a particular crisis for women—a vast confidence gap that separates the sexes. Compared with men, women don’t consider themselves as ready for promotions, they predict they’ll do worse on tests, and they generally underestimate their abilities across the board. A growing body of evidence shows just how devastating this lack of confidence can be. In fact, it turns out that confidence predicts success much more than competence. No wonder that women, despite all our progress, are still woefully underrepresented at the highest levels. Overqualified and overprepared, too many women still hold back on seeking opportunities. Women feel confident only when they are perfect. Or practically perfect. The good news is that with work, confidence can be acquired. This means that the confidence gap, in turn, can be closed.
Robbie Walls is the founder of The Walls Speak, author of 180* Momentum, and co-author in The Power of the Platform. She is the host of Bold Girl Biz Podcast, a teacher by profession and entrepreneur by heart! Robbie draws out talent in female entrepreneurs so that their inner brilliance and voice is Alive. This brilliance is an expression of who they are becoming personally and professionally through confidence and leadership development.
The Walls Speak delivers high-caliber group and 1:1 mentor coaching that results in significant self-confidence and more free time.
More information at https://boldgirlbiz.thewallsspeak.com/
Get Robbie’s Free Guide, “The Essential Guide to Resilience” at https://mailchi.mp/47ac02169cbd/a-guide-to-resilience
Read the Interview Transcript
Hugh Ballou: Hello, everyone. It’s Hugh Ballou. Here we are with this week’s episode of The Nonprofit Exchange. As you have come to appreciate, expect, and anticipate, every week is new stuff. Even if we have had the topic before, it’s new information and new insights. Our list of presenters represents different walks of life, disciplines, and perspectives. Therefore, there is a lot to learn from each of us.
Today’s guest is no exception: the one and only Robbie Walls. Robbie, tell us about yourself, including where you’re coming in from today. Thank you for being here.
Robbie Walls: Thank you for having me, Hugh. Welcome, everyone. I am so excited. I am coming to you all the way from St. Louis, Missouri. Isn’t that exciting? We are the Gateway to the West.
My background is education. I come from a lineage of educators. On that path to education, I graduated way, way back in the 1990s. My parents and all of my family are still educators. I decided to only do it for a short while. Of course, I am the disruptor. I come into the family, and am like, “I’m not going to do this anymore. I am going to do something else. This no longer serves me, so it’s time for me to shift and do something different.” I had to have that confidence piece to step outside of what is normal for my family, but for me, it wasn’t normal. My background is in education.
I started in entrepreneurship one day in the classroom. I was teaching 4th grade. It was a rainy day. Elizabeth was in the room. She does not like storms or rain. It gives her a lot of anxiety. Hayden decided to tease her about it. Here they go back and forth. I am on the chalkboard. All of this commotion came about. I got to the point where in my spirit I said, “I’m done.” I turned around, looked at the class, and said, “I’m done.” When I said that, they all went back. When they went back, Elizabeth said, “I’m done, too. Take me home.” I said, “I’m going home, too.” In that moment in space and time and dimension, I knew it was time for me to make a shift in my career. That was in 2008. I started a coaching school and entrepreneurship.
Hugh: I started entrepreneurship. Oh!
Robbie: Yes! Let me tell you, Hugh. When I did that, I really found my passion. It takes some grounding, some sitting down and figuring out what it is you want to do. You don’t know right off the bat. But I knew I had a passion for animals, so in hindsight, my first business I ever did was an alpaca business.
Robbie: Alpaca. Alpaca me, alpaca you. An alpaca is in the llama family. They are a beautiful animal. They don’t bite; they only spit. They are about four feet tall. You breed them with the best. It’s all about breeding. It’s in the fine and the fiber.
Hugh: When you touch an alpaca garment, it’s very soft. It’s technically wool, isn’t it?
Robbie: No. It might be in that family, but it’s not because it’s soft and fine and dense. You’re looking for a pattern. I used to show my alpacas at shows. They would open up the coat and look and see how dense and fine it is. Wool is a lot more rough and gritty.
Hugh: Itchy. [Puts on cap]
Robbie: Look at that. Look at you.
Hugh: It’s Scottish wool. You were a woman entrepreneur. You’re talking about confidence in your life as a woman now.
Robbie: Yes, I empower women to have that confidence. Sometimes we as women fall behind in that piece. That’s where that gap is. Confidence to ask for the sale, confidence to hire a coach, confidence to walk in a room where there are many high-power men, and you walk into that room and own the room. Confidence is deep inside of us. It lets us know that 100% we are on point, and we know exactly what we’re talking about.
Robbie: It comes through communication. It comes through what we look like, our image. It comes through when we talk and speak. Everything speaks. Everything matters. Your brilliance shines as soon as you come into the room. As soon as people see you, you are the confidence piece.
Hugh: We have lived under this false image of equality. Why should women who bring a whole new set of skills and talents and vision—maybe all of them are better than what the old white guys used to do. Men have dominated. I joked about our fragile male ego, but it is that. You come into a place that is marginal at best because it is a male-dominated culture. There is no reason women should think about dumbing down to be equal. It’s equity. It’s how you show up being fully present, which is what you said. You’re fully present with your gifts and talents.
There is a real glass ceiling. There is a real barrier in the workplace. There is also a perceived barrier on both sides. What you’re saying, I wouldn’t want to get in your way because you’re on it. My wife is the same way. She’s going with it because she’s gonna do it. It’s a calling for her. Somehow she got the confidence to do it along the way. You were bold because you chose to be bold. What is holding women back that is perceived? We talked about what’s real out there. Now there is real and perceived. How do we lower the burden that we bring to the table?
Robbie: When I work with my clients, as I am speaking to this live audience, know what you want. You say, “I’m not sure what I want.” That’s what I help you to bring out. Once you know what you want, then you’re going to look for the results. In hindsight, we don’t get what we want; we get what we believe. What you believe to be true is your want. I help get you there. Think about that.
When I do speak with people, they always tell me, “I really don’t know what I want.” Hmm, okay. I dig real deep to find out what is the belief behind that? As an educator, all I saw my entire life was teachers. That’s it. I knew that I wanted something else. I did not know what it was. However, I kept by faith doing things until I found my want. I knew I had to get out of education, the four wall of a classroom, to do something that was quite fearful, but I’m going to do it. I didn’t care what everyone around me would say. You have to be a disruptor. You have to do it. Find that want. That’s your purpose. When we get to that purpose, then we will take action.
Those are my three planes. I do everything in three steps because it’s simple. I am an educator. It’s my gift. I do everything with simplicity.
Hugh: That’s awesome. Say those three again. Those are worth noting.
Robbie: Results, purpose, action. Those three steps will take you to your want, to your desire, and to the action piece, which is what is going to get you moving.
Hugh: Yay. What is confidence? You talk about confidence. Let’s put it in perspective. How do you define confidence?
Robbie: You are confident. When I see yourself, and you don’t feel confident, you feel it, too. Confidence is a piece of energy, or you are energy, that leads us to knowing 100% that you got this. I say that very loosely and very simply because when you define confidence, it builds up to faith. You’re not sure what that faith is. It’s the substance of things hoped for, but we can’t see it, right? When you walk into the room, you 100% know that you got this. Those three words, “You have this.” In any situation. It shows. It shows in your walk. Confidence is in your communication. Confidence is in your relationships. I am confident that I am speaking to you right now. It’s a vast array of everything.
Hugh: We almost have to repeat some of those fundamental words on a regular basis because I know from my standpoint I manufacture things that aren’t real. I should be confident, but I see barriers. Henry Ford is the one that said, “Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”
Robbie: Ooh, that’s good.
Hugh: A lot of people struggle with this, no matter who they are. Part of what I’m seeing is we have the old guard that had control over things, and they can hide their mediocrity under being pompous and authoritarian. You have new people coming in—we’re talking about women in the workforce—who are skilled, who are confident, who are going to disrupt the status quo. Wait a minute. We have some ideas that might work. Talk about how corporate America struggles with this. Not only is it in corporate America, but it’s in nonprofit corporate America as well.
Robbie: That is the gap. When we do walk in a room, and we are very highly skilled, we have every T crossed and I dotted. When men see that, it becomes an inferior piece. I have worked with women who have said that men will look at them and not snarl, but know intuitively that they are not listening to them. That is the gap. How do we close that gap in communication? It all starts with relationship-building and communication so that the male ego can come down. We don’t have to dumb ourselves down, but we do have to power up as women to let them know we can work together. This is not a power struggle. It’s so much so in the corporate world where closing that gap with communication is key.
Hugh: I have experienced the challenge not only with the old guard males but with females who resent. I worked in a mega-church where four of the 12 pastors were women hired by a male senior pastor. Women in the congregation were the worst critics of those women clergy. It’s a systemic thing as well as a people thing, isn’t it?
Robbie: Absolutely. When you said that, I had the picture of women not in power, and then on the other board, you have women in power. That is another gap. What do we do here? This goes really deep into the mindset of this is the way that it’s done, this is the way it always should be done, this is the way I’m going to do it. We have to change the trajectory for 2021 and find new ideas. Close the gap and let everyone come together.
Hugh: I’m seeing a lot more nonprofits that are founded and led by women. Some are women founders, and some are women who have come into one that has already been founded. Nonetheless, there are women at the helm of this ship guiding the process forward. I think it’s a good day for women’s leadership in that sector, especially if you are a founder, because you can start out fresh. Not all women are able to start fresh. You have to come into something.
You talked about power. I’m wondering if it’s more about influence than it is power. We can influence people more than we can have power over them. What do you think?
Robbie: 100%. Let’s take the power piece out. Power is the hidden piece that no one really sees. It’s just there. Influence, that is the biggest part. That is where you become the disruptor because of the influence. Women have a lot of influence. When we speak, it makes it come to fruition more because of the power that we have. It is first the influence, and then out comes the power. You see that because I have noticed that in my walk, who I’m with, in my church.
Hugh: It’s a time that we’re living in to rethink some of those systems. People want to go back to normal. There is no normal. How do we rethink those systems?
Robbie: That’s good. When you talk about rethinking through things, that’s strategic. You’re right. We can’t do things like we used to do it. Let’s go back to 2020. 2020 changed. 2021, now we can look back and say, “Things will never be the same.” Because it’s new. There is a new era that we have to as women and as a culture walk on and change the dynamic of what used to be.
I owned a business. When I first started the business, I came in, and I had to change everything. I had to change the way it was run because it just wasn’t making any profit. When I had to step in and make it profitable, I had to remove some people and bring in the new hires, young hires, people who were excited. When we look at that gap and that change, we have to make it happen. We may not know what it looks like, but we know that it has to happen.
Hugh: At the bottom of what you’re talking about, I can imagine being in a room, and Robbie Walls walking in changes the whole composure of the room just because you have a powerful presence. Sometimes power gets skewed in bad ways. I would rather say that you have the ability to influence people and to add energy into the room by your presence. Can others do the same thing?
Robbie: Absolutely. It’s funny you do ask that. It’s about your look. When we talk about communication, when you step in the room, I am an influencer, and it’s my energy. Everything is energy. Period. When you walk in the room, you immediately light up the room. Not just me, but other people. It’s my glasses. I love turquoise. It’s my stone of power and connection. I have something that I set myself apart. I don’t want to look like the norm. I want to be different. It’s just who I am. Being everyday mundane is boring. I also have a friend who has a mustache that curls over. That’s pretty memorable, right? I like to have people have an impression that they remember me. Anything that I wear, do, or say, I most definitely want to be impactful to my people, to everyone.
Hugh: That is what I tell nonprofit leaders is what we should be talking about: impact. You go into a room, and someone pushes back and says, “Robbie, this isn’t about you,” which is right. It’s not about you, is it?
Robbie: I love that. I have heard that. This is not about you. Not to me directly, but I know it. I always say that. When I am speaking, this is not about me. I want to have interaction with you. It’s not about me. One of my gifts is listening. I listen. It is so not about me. It’s not about anyone. It’s about what I can do or say that will impact you to take action.
Hugh: You are a class A transformer, which helps me think about the quote from Richard Rohr who writes in the epistle that my wife and I read every day, “Transformed people transform people.” You are in the transformation business, aren’t you?
Robbie: Yes. Here is one of my favorite quotes. “You can get everything in life that you want if you help other people get what they want.”
Hugh: God bless Zig Ziglar.
Robbie: You got it. That takes me out of the picture. Completely removes me. That’s what I love. I don’t think about me. I am so passionate about helping people and seeing their journey. It is about the journey. No one else has your journey. You don’t have my journey. Your journey is your journey. It is just about that.
Hugh: As a performer, I had to learn that. It ain’t about you, Ballou. In May 2007, I was invited to be on the faculty of CEO Space. There were about 600 people in the audience with screens and cameras. The person who founded it and put me on stage didn’t realize I had spent 40 years with my back to the audience as a conductor. I have to turn around, and everybody’s staring at ya. I have to come up with a different schtick. I wore my tuxedo and got people engaged by singing right off the bat.
Robbie: I love it.
Hugh: I had to get over being nervous because nervous was lack of confidence. I knew my stuff. A couple years later, I was on the schedule following none other than Les Brown. He ignites the audience. They’re on fire. I made the mistake of being in the room. They’re going on break, and I’m getting dressed in my tails. I’m thinking, “Oh my word, I am in a heap of trouble.” I’m tying my tie, and I look in the mirror, and I look at myself and say, “You’re going to go out there and be Hugh Ballou.” It was the best I ever did. I’m not Les Brown. I can’t do that. People loved it.
Part of this confidence thing is making sure we don’t think it’s all about us, right?
Robbie: Absolutely. When you take yourself out of the picture, that’s when the magic happens. Now you are not there. The spirit, the holy spirit, is just leading you. That’s what I do. When I come here, that’s what I ask for. It’s not about me. I want to touch someone out there to have that confidence piece and know that you got this. Everyone needs a coach to help them, an accountability coach to continue to pull them out and get you back on your feet and get you to do what makes you happy. Your ultimate goal is your freedom.
Hugh: Whoa. You’re free by being who God created you to be. You can find Robbie at Robbie@RobbieSpeaks.com. You can find out more about Robbie and what she does. What category of expert do you fall under? Are you a coach or consultant? When people ask you, “What is your profession?” how do you answer that?
Robbie: I am in the space of coaching, but I am an accountability person who will help you every step along the way. I also work with resilience. That is a piece of confidence I didn’t mention. I actually have a free educational guide that will guide you to resilience. Sometimes we need backbone as women. I have a free guide to resilience. Just download it and enjoy it. It’s very colorful. I have done a lot of work on it. I think it’s fabulous. It was inspiring for me to do that. I really enjoy it myself and look back and say, “Okay, I got this, too.”
Hugh: To say you enjoy yourself is probably an understatement.
Robbie: We’re not perfect. When I am in my daily one, not my diary, I talk into it, and it says what I’m doing and how I’m feeling. Sometimes I got to go back because I need some backbone. You need some resilience. That is a big piece of confidence.
Hugh: You work with women in leadership positions in all kinds of organizations, correct?
Robbie: I do, yes.
Hugh: You talked about taking over an organization and having to change the staff to change the financial picture. There is another myth that we tell ourselves, nonprofit leaders and clergy, that we can’t be focused on money things. As a matter of fact, we do want to eat and buy gas for our car. There is a necessary revenue generation piece. It’s the business of churches or nonprofits that we tend to underestimate. How do you speak to that piece of revenue in that tax-exempt space?
Robbie: Everything is based on where you see your ROI. When you put your marketing dollars into something, you always want to look for that ROI. Does it solve a problem? Look for things that solve a problem. When it solves a problem, that’s where I want you to put your money. Put your money into your marketing. Put your money, heart, and soul into making that happen because that is where you are going to see your biggest return.
Hugh: There are a lot of things we tell ourselves in nonprofits that aren’t true. Nonprofit puts us into scarcity thinking. What are some of the mental objectives that women in leadership need to think about reversing?
Robbie: That’s a very good question. The first one is break down barriers. The whole fear is that you think that you can’t do what you know that you can. I say that backwards and then back forward. You know the answers. They are always inside of us. We sometimes pull back and say we can’t solve that problem. You’re here to solve the problem. Does that make sense?
Robbie: That’s that confidence piece that comes out. We are afraid to make mistakes. Everyone, I am here to tell you, if you don’t make the mistakes, you can’t grow. You have to make the mistakes in order to grow. When we are at that point where now you are growing, be comfortable by making mistakes. It’s part of the journey.
Hugh: I now accept the introduction as expert because I have made more mistakes than anybody else, which I classify as learning opportunities.
Robbie: Exactly. That is why I have my podcast. My podcast is Bold Girl Biz. It’s about women that are in entrepreneurship and have taken these roles as CEOs. They have made these mistakes along the way. The listeners are thinkers who say, “I don’t want to make this mistake. I don’t want to get into that business because someone is going to sue me.” I have heard that so many times. That is a barrier that you don’t know enough about. When you have business insurance, you’re covered, but they don’t know that. I work with that a lot.
Hugh: The reason we have a corporation is to give us liability protection if we do the safeguards. Also, if we left the house in the morning, we’re liable to get in trouble. At some point, we need a platform to influence other people. It’s Bold Girl Biz.
Hugh: We can find it anywhere we get podcasts, right?
Robbie: Yes, it’s all on the platforms. Or you can text “Bold” to 55312, and that will take you to my site. All the podcasts I have been working on are on that platform. On the screen is my phone number, 314-277-3222. I am personable and would love to talk to anyone. You can get a free 15-minute strategy call. We can talk. I am so passionate about helping people, women in particular. Men are welcome as well.
Hugh: Thank you. That’s very gracious. Women helping women, Bold Girl Biz. You can get Robbie’s virtual card. Text “Bold” to 55312. You will get a return text that takes you to a link with contact information as well.
Robbie: Everything is right there.
Hugh: You can stay in touch with them. Robbie, you’ve given us some good things to think about today. Confidence is a choice, isn’t it?
Robbie: Absolutely. Let me go back and think about that. Is it a choice? Yes, it is a choice that you have to believe in yourself that you have.
Hugh: God didn’t create any junk.
Robbie: That’s right.
Hugh: Look in yourself. Robbie Walls, a lot of good stuff. As we’re ending here, what tip do you want to leave to leaders, especially women leaders?
Robbie: Oh my goodness, I have so many tips. The biggest tip I want to leave is to remember that you can’t fail. You can only get results.
Hugh: That’s wonderful. Thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom and challenge with us today. Robbie Walls, you can text “Bold” to 55312. You will be in touch with this bold woman.
Robbie: I’m looking forward to it. Thank you so much. This has been a lot of synergy. I am just thrilled. Feel free to say hi. We can talk.
Hugh: It says in the background, “Dream, You Got This.” Robbie, thank you so much.
Robbie: Thank you, Hugh.