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Title Curiosity Did Not Kill The Cat:
Intentional Leadership and Living

To be a truly effective leader we need to be intentional. That requires us to be curious, be respectful, and practice accountability and we need to have a nuanced understanding of each and how they work together and balance one another.

Shana Francesca

Shana Francesca

Shana Francesca is a speaker, writer, and entrepreneur. She has been interviewed on more than 60 podcasts worldwide and has been published in Medium, Authority Magazine & Shoutout LA emotional intelligence magazine, and Emerge Magazine. Her work centers around intentional leadership and life design. Shana believes our present and future are transformed when we infuse our lives with intention, design our lives, and realize the power of accepting ourselves as the author of our story.Concinnate

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Interview Transcript

Welcome to the nonprofit exchange podcast stories by leaders for leaders to help you raise the bar on your own excellence, to release the potential inside of you. Now, here’s today’s podcast. This is Hugh Ballou, founder, and president of SynerVision Leadership Foundation, where we help leaders create synergy around their vision of being clear about your vision, being clear about where you want to be. There’s a number of elements that over the years, eight years plus we’ve had some really exciting guests on our show today is no exception. In you know, we have a fascinating topic. We have this this fascinating topic today. Curiosity did not kill the cat. And it’s about intentional leadership. And living in our guest is Shana Francesca, Shana. Hello, welcome and tell people a little bit about who you are.

Yeah, I hear. And David, it’s nice to it’s nice to be here. It’s nice to be talking with you. Yeah, so my work centers around I’m the founder and CEO of consonant. I’m a public speaker, I facilitate workshops, my work centers around intentional leadership and living. And my formula for intentional leadership, intentional and ethical leadership, is be curious, plus, be respectful. Times practice accountability. And it follows the pm dos rules. So be curious and be respectful are in parentheses, and then multiply and then those are multiplied. You know, by practicing accountability, because anything we want to be good at, we have to practice. And then, you know, curiosity and respect are nestled together in parentheses. Because, you know, curiosity with risk without respect is intrusive. And respect without curiosity is uneducated.

Yeah. Wow, that’s awesome. So, give us a little more about you are an interior designer. Yeah, you’re a speaker. And your work focuses on intentional leadership and living. So what that is, and what was your journey like, or what’s your passion?

Absolutely winding. My journey is not linear in any way, shape, or form. And that’s really what it is to be human. So buckle up, I’m gonna give you like a three minute tour of 38 years of my life.

So, I grew up in an abusive household and in a religiously oppressive cult.

And so, my entire life was, you know, my exterior facing life was inside of this cult, and my interior life, you know, inside of my own home was, was abusive. And, and, you know, I spent a number of years I didn’t leave the cult until I was 26. You know, so I, Myself was in positions of leadership. And as I got higher and higher, and leadership is when I saw more and more corruption, and so more and more harm. And And as that happened, I was asking questions, you know, trying to hold leadership accountable, I do know this is going on.

And they absolutely knew and that was like compound and on top of things that had already been done to me and a lack of accountability there. And so through that, through my own home environment, through the environment, you know, of growing up in that code, I saw very clearly what intentional leadership does when it’s intentionally harmful, right? When there’s lack ofaccountability, when there is lack of challenging of your perspective, when there is a holding of leadership and a godlike position.

You know, all of these things become incredibly harmful. And so I, I really, truly believe that my work now is an outgrowth of the way that I grew up. It was an it was an inevitability, because I had this, this, this absolute, you know, terrible experience, internally of what of what harmful leadership does and how it breaks people down, and how it takes from them. And so I think my life’s work has been to discover what is ethical leadership? What does it look like to hold yourself accountable? What does it look like to create community? What does it look like for your institution to be a bubble of life, rather than a place where where people feel like they’re slowly dying?

Whether they can vocalize it that way or not? And then, you know, add to that, the fact that I own my own business and have for a very long time, and as I was looking to form my own business, I was continually questioning who do I want to be as a leader? What do I want to build as a business? You know,

Would, having been in all these different roles in the corporate world, having been, I’ve been a mentor, having had my own team working for me and with me, you know, wanting to take those things that I learned in those leadership positions and in the corporate world and create something, a company that I’d actually want to work for, and that I wish had existed when I came out of college, and through and what’s interesting is that through my interior design work is how I got here, right? So, my philosophies as an interior designer, were very much hinged on the fact that I knew what it meant to be not safe in your physical environment. And I was creating these environments for people coming to the table with them and saying, like, who is it that you want to be in the world? How does this space? How do you want this space to support you? And your dreams? So, what do we what do you know? What do you want to do with your life over the next one year, three years, five years, and really creating like a business plan for people’s lives. And then, you know, creating that physical environment that supported them, much in the way that, you know, a stage, a stage set, sets the stage for a Broadway play, you walk in, and you have some sense of what’s about to unfold, and it supports the actors and what they’re portraying, right. That’s the way environments should be supporting us and us moving through our lives. That’s brilliant. You know, you see so many people that are defined by their past, and they’re limited in have a psychologist friend who says, some people live life to the level of their dreams, others live life to the level of their wounds. So, I commend you for stepping up and defining your space in the world. Our definition for leadership is very simple and SynerVision, its leaders are influencers. And you’ve demonstrated that so and you’ve got your own business and your own future, in your step out, you have stepped out in the limb. Are we any of us who are entrepreneurs have stepped out of the corporate space to do our own stuff. So, there’s a bit of bravery to go on that. So, before we go on, let David asked you a question. What is intentional living life design?

So, you said business in the talk about being intentional? Yeah, you define a bad side and a good side of intentional, intentional leadership. So there, there’s lots of leadership and lots of bad intentions. And there are ways that leaders isolate themselves. So, they don’t know what’s going on now. And your case, they were the ones that set up the evil stuff. So, talk a little bit about more about intentional living in life.

Yeah, I don’t I mean, I, I want to start companies, I don’t really consider things a binary bad or good anymore, because I don’t know too many people who wake up in the morning and think I’m evil, and I want to, I want to hurt lots of people, right. And so, I think it’s really important for us to recognize that by labeling people bad and good, it causes a whole world of issues. Instead, if we just recognize that people are people and recognize that at any given moment, any of our singular action can be harmful to one group of people, while beneficial to another, it starts to create a lot of nuance that I think is lacking in our understanding of how we are in the world, and how we, and how we move through it, and the ripple effects of all of our actions, right. And I think that’s the beginning of accountability is the recognition of how powerful we truly are and how everything we do has an effect on the world around us.

But my definition of intentional leadership, and living always comes back to the you know, the formula of be curious, plus be respectful times practicing accountability. And when we do all of those things, we kind of move right into intentionality. As we start to get curious and apply respect to that, right? We start to say, okay, if I’m curious about someone’s life, I first have to establish trust and respect that relationship to gain the right to have access to someone’s story, right? Like I, and even then, I don’t, I’m not owed their story, right. But like, if I want to be able to gain access to ask someone like to share your life with me, that’s a very vulnerable thing for someone to share with you. Right. And that’s, that’s a lot of hard-earned information. So, we, when we get curious about someone’s life, we have to establish respect and trust in that relationship first. And then by practicing accountability, we become accountable for the information that we learn and applying it and making sure that we are aware of the impact of our actions as we take them and move through the world. And then when we do all those things, we’re able to to build true community around ourselves and be part of a true community. Rather than creating this hierarchical structure with a loan. You’re at the top. Oh, so well expressed if you’re listening on watching us on Facebook Live. This is The Nonprofit Exchange. We’re here every week at this time. And we interview with thought leader. And certainly we have a powerful thought leader. And David, she spoke about her 38 years of experience.

How did you get so smart and being so young Shana, you just like you were to active and you’re just, you gave us a whole bunch of sound bites and just, you know, 10 minutes of this interview, so I’m excited already.

You got it, you know, you got a question. But oh, I have a two-part question for you. All right.

Yeah, I really have to respect your vulnerability and expressing it, you know, having the grown up in the, in the circumstances that you did, you know, you obviously, were limited with the outside world to a degree I must be if you know, if it was a cult style, arrangement, and your family was involved in it, probably didn’t see a lot of the world. So, who are your mentors? You know, who do you envision that you’ve gleaned all of this transformation from? Who’s in your head now?

Oh, gosh, there’s so many mentors in my head. And my, you know, mentors, because I didn’t have access to the world around me. And let me clarify for people that in a way that might help them to understand when you grow up in a religiously abusive environment, and an abusive at home environment, usually there’s a correlation.

There’s nowhere that you’re safe. And you are limited to access to all kinds of things. For instance, the level of control in my life, was down to the fact that I wasn’t allowed to like to have a proper lock on my bedroom door, I wasn’t allowed to close it and have any privacy unless I was getting changed. And then it was only allowed to be closed for the very, like, one minute, so that I could literally change my clothes, right? Like it was there was a level of control everywhere in my life.

And, and so you know, there isn’t when your parents are unhealthy people, they do not surround themselves with really healthy people. So, it’s not like you have access to physical human beings can pull you out of it, because your entire life is encapsulated in trauma. And so the only place I had to turn with books, and books took me from a place of indoctrination to education. Right. And that was a very long process, or anybody listening here, right? You don’t, you don’t undo, like 26 years’ worth of indoctrination. Overnight, it took me I left that cult, but then I went to another church like it, thinking that it was the church itself, and not the belief system that went along with it, and found the same pattern starting to happen in this other church. And then I left that one, and I went to another one, and then found the same pattern starting to show up in that. And I was like, wait a second, it’s actually this belief system that’s leading directly to this thing. And so, so all of this time, I’m educating myself, I’m reading a variety of different books, and trying to cultivate, like, when you start cultivating curiosity, you don’t even know what questions to ask. Right? Like, you’re curious, but you don’t know what you don’t, you know, you’re trying to figure out the world around you. You don’t know what direction to go. And so books really helped me to focus on that. And I start with I started with

people like Eleanor Roosevelt, and Jane Austen. And like started reading, you know, both fiction and nonfiction. And I read, like CS Lewis, his nonfiction work, I’ve actually only read one of his fiction works.

Because I was allowed access to CS Lewis, because he was a Christian writer.

And then as I got older, and I got a job, I was able to, like buy a variety of books. Now the mentors in my head are people like James Baldwin, who wrote this incredible book called how we show up. And I think it’s a really important book for leaders to read, because it talks about what is the formation of community. What does that look like? How do we participate in this world together? How do we, how do we actually create something that we haven’t really been taught how to do? Because we’ve been taught about the nuclear family, but we haven’t been taught about community? And what does that really truly look like?

And, you know, other incredible writers, I’m reading a book by a Kya Winwood and Rogers Finney

Rogers Feeny book I’ve been reading right now calling Leading with Joy. You know, I’m always reading something from someone who’s a thought leader, who’s diving into their own curiosity so that it can help continually foster my own. So, there’s a lot of there’s a lot of mentors in my head, you know, including people like Brene Brown, Maya, Dr. Maya Angelou, you know, lots of lots of mentors in my head. I could go on forever but literally books saved my life. Yeah.

See my life? Oh, the second half of that question. You know, based on everything that you’ve said now and how you were raised and the transformations you’ve had to go through. Tell us a little bit about your current spirituality. Where do you sit with your belief system?

My belief system is one that I’m still working through, right? Like none of us has the answers, and I certainly don’t either. I put this in a way that’s gonna sound funny, but for right now, I’ve put sky daddies on hold. Right now. There’s no sky daddy’s like, there’s no puppet master in the sky. For me. I do believe that we are all deeply connected. I do believe that there is a power there. I don’t know what I call it. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know how to define it. I’ve gotten to a place where I’m just curious about what that is and what that looks like and reconstruct and just constructing my own. What is what is my What are truly my beliefs? What actually feels okay, and safe for me.

So that’s the place that I’m in a place of questioning? I don’t know. Right. Well, that’s I appreciate your candor. Yeah, thank you.

Oh, that’s, that’s very wise. I served Christian churches for 40 years. And I started when I was 12,000. Members. And that was important. slavery as a getting married. And this preacher was a salesman, he took this church, because the huge because he said, when you got to join the church, and you know, if you don’t ask question, you won’t get an answer. But he has asked us to the groom while you’re waiting to go into the wedding, he said, you know, this is one of the most powerful preachers and most well-known preachers in the country. He’s the guy says, sometimes I really doubt my faith. And the answer he got from this breach was, so do I,

the one we quit trying to destroy, we quit scarring, we could quit discovering this except the status quo. You know, there’s a lot of manufacture things. So, your wisdom still, I say far exceeds your linear years. So, this is really refreshing to hear this. So, your website and we’re going to show people in a minute, I don’t know how you say it. It’s for people, and I’ll it’ll be on the podcast, that narrative for people. But why that name? And what will people find when they go there? Yeah, so Okay, first part of the question, what, why constantly, it’s a word. It’s a real word. And it has a beautiful definition. So, I’m going to read it for you. It means to arrange or blend together skillfully as parts or elements put together in a harmonious, precisely appropriate or elegant manner.

And I read that definition. And I was like, That’s it. Right? Right. It’s about harmony. It’s about what’s precisely appropriate. But not perfection. It’s not about perfection, because Perfection doesn’t exist, right? I love to say to people, if you if you want to be perfect, you’re going to be perfect, exactly one thing, absolutely nothing. And so, it’s better to move forward in the way that feels precisely appropriate for you. And for the people like as a leader, right, we must move forward in a way that feels precisely appropriate that we in a way that we understand the impact of our actions on the people who are going to be impacted. And we take accountability and responsibility for those actions. And we are, and we are moving forward in that the way that is precisely appropriate for that. Right. And so, when I saw this name, I was like, it encompasses everything that I do and everything I talked about to beautiful, precisely appropriate way. So, I that’s what we went with. And what was the second part of your question?

So, I’m going to show your website when people go there, what are they going? What are they going to find there? Yeah, when we go there, and I’m showing it to people who are on the video, if you’re on a podcast listening, you gotta go constant eight dot world to find it but tell us when they get there. Yeah, so you’re gonna find information, a couple of short videos, you’re going to find some digital workshops.

Yeah, so you the list of some of the companies that I’ve worked with recently, I’m constantly we’re constantly updating, you know, information there, some of the places I’ve been published. There’s information on there about me as a speaker, you’re gonna find lots and lots of information. That’s why That’s why we hate everything in the More button because otherwise it could feel a little a little overwhelming, but you’ll find my contact information. So you know, there’s lots of information there for people I love. I love to begin to usher people into curiosity and to do you know, provide some information to get them started. And then hopefully, you know, they can you know, either reach out to me for additional resources so that they can continue that journey on their own. What I see is a joyful person, and you have overcome the limitations of your past. But you know, there’s a bunch of stuff every day. So how do you stay connected to joy?

For me, I had to get to the place where I looked at what is joy for me. And joy for me has become being present, accepting what is not comparing it to where I wish I was, or what I wish was happening, while still setting myself goals and expectations for the next moment. And I may or may not hit them, but I’m still going to be headed in that direction, right? For me goals. And, and, and expectations or desires are like, creating a direction on a compass, right? I’m not creating them in the fit, and the fact that I’m like, okay, one year from now, this is where I have to be, or I’m gonna feel like I failed. It’s more like, this is the direction we’re heading. And I’m going to, I’m going to get there at the pace that I get there. And I’m going to do everything I can to get there. But along the way, I might discover that that thing actually isn’t the best course of action. And maybe I have to course correct and move around. Right? It’s the difference to me between getting like map directions. And picking a direction on a compass, right, a direction on the compass, you have a way of getting back to the to where you’re headed, we’ve mapped direction and you’re like, wait a second, I can’t make this left the roads under construction. And then you’ve got to reroute, right? It’s a little bit more rigid. And I find that for me, rigidity and life don’t really go well. So, so for me, it’s just a matter of direction on a compass and heading that direction. Well, and that’s the there are such thing as smart goals. But there’s also smarter which adds evaluate and revise. Yeah, I think is, is really, really good. So, I agree with David, and you model what Brene Brown talks about and transparency vulnerability, which is a really strong leadership trait. And so many of us are afraid of that. So thank you for sharing that. David, what’s brewing with you?

I’m curious, just for a moment, if you don’t mind to tell us who your ideal client or however, you describe it, your customer, your client, or organization that you work with, who do you prefer to work with? Um, you know, I’m right now talking with the Girl Scouts, you know, to come in and talk to them and do some leadership workshops there. So, you know, a nonprofit is, is great. Also, it’s really about what the leaders are trying to accomplish. Are they open to learning? Are they open to creating systems of accountability, right? Because this has to start with, right. One of the things that I talked to leaders about is the fact that communities, teams, organizations, they’re, they’re an ecosystem. And they need to be a reflection of an ecosystem, because you do not see homogeneity in an ecosystem, right? It’s a whole National Geographic defines an ecosystem as a, as a geographic area, where a variety of organisms move and work together, supported by the land and the weather. And what I tell leaders is that leadership is the land and the weather. Leadership is the foundational vision and the

support there, people need to accomplish that vision. And the weather is the culture, right. And so, what I’m looking for is either leaders who have already begun the transformation of their culture or looking to move their culture into a more positive, healthy way, they recognize that the way things have always been done isn’t a healthy way. And it’s not the way anymore. And if you want to hire and retain great talent, you can’t do things as they’ve always been done. And they never should be done, as they’ve always been done, because we learn, and we grow. And we recognize the ways in which our past behavior was harmful. And we have to make taking make a corrective action, right. And so, I’m looking for leaders, who are who are looking to continue that work within their organizations, or to you know, get it get it started moving in that direction.

But also, I’m, you know, as a speaker, I’m hired by conferences by, you know, different organizations, by businesses who are, you know, having these conversations within their corporations. So it’s really, you know, it’s lucky because I don’t have a specific niche, right. If you’re a leader, and you’re working with a group of people, I’m here, you know, I’m here. I want to work with you, if you’re interested in having those conversations. Great. Thank you. That that’s so spot on. It’s just so you left corporate America the security of a paycheck. Perfect

Yeah, and you’re an entrepreneur, talking to nonprofit leaders and clergy of all faiths here. We are social entrepreneurs. And we many times fail to realize that we are in fact running a business. And there’s all the systems that we need to have in place for this is a for purpose business, not for profit. So, we were driven by our vision and our philanthropy, you know, the love of humankind is why we’re doing this. So, talk a minute about your leadership, your yourself, you’ve started a business. There are challenges with any business, like any nonprofit starting up, but how did you separate you and your business? And how do you separate you know, your own personal growth and your business growth? And how does? How do you keep from the business owning your life? Yeah, those are great questions. Okay. Number one, how do I separate myself in the business? I don’t, because they both can, they are both connected to me who I am. And my private life is who I am as a leader, and so they are inextricably connected, and I cannot separate them. So, my growth and my business’s growth are directly correlated, and they always will be, and leaders have to know that and have to understand that you cannot be who you are, you cannot be one thing in public and a different thing in private, they leak a leak and affect one another.

You know, how so that was the that was one part of your question was, what was the other word? Let me let me reframe my question, because I didn’t ask him very well. I get that. And you cannot be different people in Yeah. But that we have in specially in the nonprofit work. We have a crisis of burnout. Oh, yeah. Yes. How do you create separation there? Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. There are simple ways. Our brains are really dumb. Okay, so sometimes you just have to make it really simple, right? And one thing that I teach people is that scent is one of our strongest connections to memory and emotion. And we can use that to our advantage, right? So a lot of times I’m working from home, how do I separate? How do I tell my brain, it’s time to be done working, it’s time to relax? Well, I’ll light a candle, I’ll light a lavender scented candle. When I when my brain smells, that scent, it knows, okay, this is relaxation time, right. And I can keep coming back to that, yeah, there’s nose blindness after a while, and I don’t need that lit for very long. But I might come back and I might just, you know, after, after turning it out, I might put some lavender oil on my on my wrists and just, you know, or rub it in my hands and just take a breath. And there’s ways that we can make simple action to remind ourselves, it’s time to relax, because it can be really hard to make those separations especially now that we’re working more from home. But in you can do something similar within, you know, within your business environment, if you are going into the office, you could have a specific scent that is only present in that office, right, and that you’re not using elsewhere. You could listen to specific, right, I’ve created a specific Pandora radio station that I listen to only when I’m working. Right. So like, we can create these cues for our brain that can say this is working. And then this is not working, right. And we have to create these really basic practices to kind of remind us, because visual cues aren’t enough anymore, our brains that our eyes are seeing stuff all the time. And so our, our eyes are like, done, like they’re just done, right. So to create other ways to create cues for ourselves little subtle reminders that, Okay, it’s time to take a break, it’s time to take a break, it’s time to take a moment. And the other thing I do is put my phone in the other room.

i It can’t be near me, it can’t be near me, I have to leave it in the other room. On silent, I have to go away from it. Because it’s so easy for me to be checking a text message from a friend, and then hop over and check my email. Right and to and to just go right from doing something for fun. And so you know, my friends know, you know, hey, if I don’t text you back right away, it’s having as I don’t care, and if it’s urgent, you know, call me right and, and if and if it’s something where like you want to leave your phone, not on silent, you want to leave it on so that you could hear maybe turn off all your notifications. And just so that if it rings and you’d be able to tell your people, you know, if it’s emergency call me otherwise, you know, after X time, I’m not present with my phone, I might check it once before I go to bed. My phone is separate from me at that point or something I loved. Everything I’m going to implement again is having two separate phones, one that’s just for business and one that’s just, you know, so that I can leave the business one away and know that, that that’s a separate thing. So, there’s ways that we can we can work with our brain, you know, that’s the cheaper way. And then the more expensive way is to have two separate phones or to separate our technology.

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