Mary Labrie – To lead you have to learn to follow

Mary Labrie
Mary Labrie is a writer and producer of radio, podcast and film. Mary is Director and Principal of strategy consulting firm, Clear Advantage. She discusses why "We all respond to incentives", why "You need to ask", and that "To lead you must learn to follow". Hosted by Jeffery Wang.

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About Mary Labrie

Mary Egan nee Labrie is a writer and producer of radio, podcast and film. She is producer and host of a podcast and radio show, Women of a Certain Age,” that first aired in California in June 2020.  Mary is host and producer of ‘The Shiver Show,’ a 30-episode radio program that showcases ‘golden era’ radio plays in the genres of Horror, Crime and Science Fiction. The Shiver Show is in its fourth year in California on KPPQ-FM.  She also produced ‘How to do Improv,’ a 13-part video series for TV.

Mary is founder and director of Women of a Certain Age, a digital media company that creates  radio, podcast, video and web content for women over 50. It is the aim of Women of a Certain Age to inform, inspire and entertain women travelling beyond 50.

Mary is Director and Principal of strategy consulting firm, Clear Advantage.  Since 1999, she has consulted to blue-chip enterprise and government clients on matters of strategy, marketing and digital transformation.

She has been a university instructor in Canada (University of British Columbia), Australia (University of NSW), and the United States (University of California – Santa Barbara), teaching management, leadership and marketing. 

Mary is a certified ‘English as a Second Language’ instructor (CELTA). She set up and offered a free ESL clinic in Ventura, California for newly arrived immigrants and refugees. She is a volunteer rescuer and carer for Australian wildlife.

Mary has an honours degree in Forest Biology and a Master of Business Administration from University of British Columbia.   Mary is a Canadian and an Australian. 

Episode Notes

Lesson 1: We all respond to incentives 01m 31s

Lesson 2: Be strategic with your suppliers 05m 26s

Lesson 3: You are the brand 08m 43s

Lesson 4: Channel like a babysitter 13m 50s

Lesson 5: Don’t Panic, Just think 17m 37s

Lesson 6: You need to ask 21m 51s

Lesson 7: To lead you have to learn to follow 25m 32s

Lesson 8: Embrace those who think different to you 28m 09s

Lesson 9: There’s always something you can do 33m 22s

Lesson 10: Develop a side-hustle early 36m07s

Ten Lessons – Mary Labrie

 [00:00:07] Jeffery Wang: Hello and welcome to the podcast 10 Lessons it Took Me 50 Years to Learn where we talk to inspirational leaders from all over the world to dispense wisdom for life, business, and career, in order to provide you shortcuts to excellence. My name is Jeffery Wang, the founder of the Professional Development Forum and your host for today.

This podcast is sponsored by the Professional Development Forum, which helps diverse young professionals of any age to find fulfillment in the modern workplace.

Our guest today is Mary Labrie, Mary Labrie is a writer and producer of radio podcast and film.

Mary is a founder and director of “Women of a Certain Age”, a digital media company that aims to inform, inspire and entertain women traveling beyond 50.

Mary is a director and principal of a strategy consulting firm, Clear Advantage. She has consulted to blue chip enterprise and government clients on strategy, marketing and digital transformation. She has taught management, leadership and marketing at the University of British Columbia in Canada, University of New South Wales in Australia and the University of California, Santa Barbara in the United States. In her spare time, she is a volunteer rescuer and carrier for Australian wildlife

Welcome to the podcast. Mary!

[00:01:22] Mary Labrie: Thank you, Jeffery.

[00:01:24] Jeffery Wang: Well, it’s such an honour to have you with us today. I’d love to just jump straight into it.

[00:01:30] Mary Labrie: Let’s do it.

[00:01:31] Lesson 1

[00:01:31] Jeffery Wang: What is the first lesson?

[00:01:34] Mary Labrie: The first lesson is “we all respond to incentives”.

So, My career, suppose, started when I was somewhere between the ages of six and seven, when I had my first little business, which was a golf ball selling enterprise. And I had a business partner. His name was Richard, and we had a pretty amazing team in terms of we, I grew up right next to a golf course.

And so, in the evening when there was no one golfing, Richard and I would go up there and, he was extremely good at finding golf balls.

So, the first time he did it, I was quite astonished and thought it was a, you know, like quite an amazing thing because it was a perfect golf ball. It had no flaws. It was, you know, obviously some golfers just sliced it right into the forest and it only had one shot before it disappeared. So, these were just the kinds of balls we wanted to have in our shop. And so, I decided that to get Richard to do that more often I would reward him. And the thing that really worked for Richard was little pieces of cheese.

So, every time he found a golf ball, I gave him a piece of cheese. Now it probably spoiler here. Richard was a Cocker Spaniel. He was our dog. But we became like an amazing team and that little business really helped me get my pocket money and uh create a better and better enterprise so that I became quite a successful little businesswoman.

But it did, It did make me think about the importance of rewarding and how that actually creates, not only does it, you know, create a behaviour that you’re looking for in your business, but it also makes sure your partner, the person you’re working with feel great, because they’re, they’re getting something out of it.

And I think that was probably the time I started to think about how people were motivated. I mean I didn’t have that kind of language at the age of six or seven, but I did actually understand that for Richard it was cheese. And it was, it’s important to understand what other people you know when we’re talking about humans that we work with, what their cheese is, and what your cheese is.

Because I found for myself that I was not as motivated by money or bonuses or financial recognition. What I really liked was just being thanked for it. Occasionally you do something above and beyond having someone thank you for it and say, “You know, that was a really good job you did.” that strangely enough is my cheese.

So, um it doesn’t happen very often though. So that I think is um something I tried to do when I was working in, had people working for me in my team is to let them know that I recognize them for what they did. So yeah, I remember at one point when I was working at Telstra, I got this very significant award.

It was called “The Best” award and it’s the highest award you can get, if you’re not a salesperson. And I was working in digital transformation, and we brought in this big online portal, we delivered it. And I was recognized, I was given “The Best” award for that year. I think it was 2010.

But nobody had actually told me that this award was happening, so I wasn’t even there.

And there were lots of financial benefits to getting that award, but the thing I really wanted was for somebody to actually thank me for doing all that work, along with all the team members and none of us were there to receive that award. So, it was a bit of a tragedy, but it did make you think once again about reward and recognition and how important it is to understand what a person cheese is.

Because that’s the key to having a high-performing happy team, I think.

[00:05:26] Lesson 2

[00:05:26] Jeffery Wang: Excellent. lesson number two, be strategic with your suppliers. Tell me more about this.

[00:05:31] Mary Labrie: Right. Yeah. So, moving along in my career, I became a, you know, the head ice cream scooper at an ice cream parlour when I was in high school.

And it was a cutthroat, very competitive trade where we were, which was down near the beach in Vancouver. And there were a whole bunch of different ice cream vendors, all competing. in. And I noticed that my manager was stressing out a little bit about that, that competition. And I noticed also that everyone had the same flavours.

Now, this is long before the gazillion flavours of ice cream and gelato and yogurt that are available today. Back then, there were literally about seven flavours. And I happened to know a family that made their own ice creams, and they were beautiful sort of gourmet ice creams and somewhat obscure.

They were Italian. So, they served the Italian community in Vancouver. And I spoke to my manager, and I said, “maybe we could get a few other ice cream flavours in and that might actually attract a few people and we could give little samples and get people all excited about these different flavours.”

Which we tried and it worked because, I mean, if there’s anything that motivates people, that’s good ice cream. So, it got me thinking about how important it is who your suppliers are and how important procurement is. Now flash forward to, you know, 2000 when I was working as a consultant, mostly in the telecommunications industry.

And mostly during that transformation of broadband, you know, so everything was about broadband and there were networks being built by Telstra. There was a network being built by Optus and was it going to be HFC? Was it going to be ADSL? Was it going be vDSL? There was all this buzz around that and a whole bunch of vendors trying to sell their gear into these very large clients.

Which on global scale, we’re actually quite small clients. But the thing I really reflected on there was how important it was with procurement to make sure that you chose a partner for procurement for supply that was stable, had good volumes and had, you know, basically not a bleeding edge solution, but something that actually worked.

And there were some very expensive mistakes made in that decade, because the technology and engineering side wanted something that was as leading edge as possible, as fast as possible, you know, feature rich. But sometimes that was quite dangerous because you were actually working with unstable technologies and with solutions that literally just didn’t have volume yet on a global scale.

So that whole thing about procurement is an absolute master. You must have a focus around that in order to have competitive advantage, I think.

[00:08:21] Jeffery Wang: Yep. Absolutely. I agree with that. And I’ve noticed you used the word partner instead of suppliers there and suggests in terms of your working relationship, the mindset that you’ve got to have in order to work with them.

Clearly, you’ve got a very entrepreneurial spirit starting your business at six years old and as a young worker to even see through that competition, that that is something that I respect a lot.

[00:08:43] Lesson 3

[00:08:43] Jeffery Wang: So, lesson number three, you know, I like this one, “you are the brand”.

[00:08:49] Mary Labrie: Yes. You can talk about this in so many different ways, Jeffrey, and I think the one that I will talk about it. Yeah. As I now have a company called “Women of a Certain Age” it’s a media company and I speak to women who are over 50 about what it means to be a woman over 50.

And there’s a lot packed into that. Let me tell you. I was getting some material made for that. We were, we’re doing a podcast. We have couple of different podcasts as you do. You know, you’ve got a podcast, I’ve got a podcast called “Women of a Certain Age”, and I also have a special show called the “Midlife Crisis Hotline”.

Which is a comedy show and we were getting some graphics made up for that. And there’s a photograph of me. So, I had some headshots taken. I don’t like getting photographs taken at the best of times, but you know, I did it because I was told to do it and I did what I was told.

So, I went and got some photos taken and I was looking at these photos with the graphic artists. Now this is the brand of our show and it’s the brand of my enterprise. I mean, I am the brand literally. So here I am looking at these photographs and you know, I’m a woman of a certain age also. So, I’m looking at them and I’m going I said to the graphic artists, look, could you maybe take out those very deep, vertical wrinkles I have right in between my eyebrows. I mean, they are literally as big as the grand canyon, those two wrinkles and maybe a couple on the side too. My graphic artist and I have to thank him for this. He said, Mary, isn’t one of your values authenticity? And I said yeah, he said, well, you’re wrinkly.

And you know what? You can’t be angry about that. It’s a, it’s actually a beautiful truth. And in fact, if you are speaking authentically to women over 50, you know, you don’t want to be airbrushing your face and pretending you look like some other person. So, it was a beautiful lesson and I love it.

So, you are the brand quite literally. Be authentic. represented it.

[00:10:50] Jeffery Wang: It takes a lot of confidence to mind Do you know what I mean, and I suppose this is something that takes time a bit of grey hairs to be able to understand, you know, in terms of embracing who you really are, that authenticity, I don’t believe people are born with that natural confidence to accept yourself, flaws and all.

I can certainly identify with the insecurity a lot of us have, or sort of putting ourselves out there as we are. How do you overcome that fear or of judgment when you’re just not so sure?

Hmm. I don’t think there’s a pat answer to that, but you do have to accept yourself and stand by yourself, literally because if you won’t, who will? You can’t take yourself too seriously.

[00:11:36] Mary Labrie: I mean, this is part of life. A part of life is getting wrinkles. And I’m proud to say that I smile as openly and unguardedly as I can. And with that comes wrinkles and I wouldn’t, regret a single moment of that, but it is, it is you do have to just kind of shake yourself and go, you know, be real, be real.

Certainly, in the media space and in the social space, the opportunity for women in particular, but men too, to have body dysmorphia and actually sort of have an entity that kind of looks like them, but isn’t really there because it’s all smooth with, you know, there’s so many applications now that can smooth you out and back glow you and make you look like some celestial beings. you know, it’s not actually what you look like anymore.

So yeah, I just say own it, and you’ll feel a lot better in the long run.

I realized with my little golf ball enterprise that I was the brand also. I mean, initially I didn’t understand it because I am a kid, you know, but what I realized was that I was actually the brand of that enterprise and a lot of the reason why. You know, gentlemen, was mostly gentlemen would stop at my little shop because I had my golf balls displayed in an egg carton, you know, and it was all very nicely decorated.

And Richard was there of course, they were stopping because, you know, I was this cute little kid sitting on the side of the road with, you know it was a little bit Yeah was scruffy tomboy, but you know, they were stopping because I was there and I’d have a really nice smile on and I’d go, good morning.

Would you like to look at my golf balls here? I’ve got some great golf balls and you know; they’d come over and. I kind of figured it out that I was a lot of the reason why they were coming over. Did they actually need some more golf balls? Probably not, but you know, it’s almost like a kid with a lemonade stand, there’s an aspect of that. You’re appealing and that’s why they’re there. That’s why they come to your shop. so, I understood it. Even at that stage.

[00:13:37] Jeffery Wang: So, at the age of six, you’ve got that level of self-awareness. That is pretty impressive.

[00:13:42] Mary Labrie: Yeah. And that I’m wear a clean t-shirt, it might drive up sales.

[00:13:50] Lesson 4

[00:13:50] Jeffery Wang: That’s funny.

Lesson number four is cryptic to me “Channel like a babysitter”, but it sounds like there’s a bit of a story behind it.

[00:13:59] Mary Labrie: Well, yeah. So once again, I love to reflect on the businesses that came before the MBA and all that stuff, you know, because those are very formative, but I’m the third child.

 And so, my sister and my brother both had babysitting jobs.

You can probably tell we all, you know, we all needed pocket change and we weren’t getting it from our parents. So, we had all these little, these little side hustles going. My sister was a babysitter and then she passed all of her clients onto my brother.

I went and I picked up his clients, so he hated babysitting. So, it was great. I was able to pick up his clients, and there was almost like a legacy of these clients coming through the Labrie family.

And that was a great way of gathering a very significant client base from the discards of someone who no longer wanted to serve those clients.

I figured out, well, if it works in the family, it probably works in the neighbourhood. So, I ended up going around to other kids that were babysitting and complaining about it and I’m going well, you know, if you’re, if you’re not enjoying that, you know, I can pick that up for you because I’m free onsite Saturday.

So, I ended up sort of picking off clients from all the kids in the neighbourhood that really weren’t all that into babysitting and didn’t really need to do it. I realized that was a great way of picking up clients is pick up the work from people who either don’t want to do those clients or don’t have time to do those clients.

And I realized that that was actually something that I could carry into later on when I had my first consulting business. I did an MBA and then I was working for one of the very large consulting firms – Arthur Anderson.

And Arthur Anderson was a mainframe consulting IT company. Yeah. So, they did a major, major mainframe installations and they, a lot of the systems are written in COBOL, which I actually know how to write in there. I used to anyway. Oh, hate it! I hated programming, but anyway, that’s another story. But what I detected, this was the beginning of the microcomputer revolution, which we now, you know we all have laptops, but that started out as what was called a microcomputer.

Now Arthur Anderson didn’t want to deal with microcomputers really that wasn’t their bread and butter. And they saw it as kind of like an annoying thing that, you know, they had to talk to clients about because clients were asking about it. Well, that’s where I got my first clients from, is the cast offs of Arthur Anderson’s microcomputer clients, who they didn’t want to teach them how to do Lotus 1, 2, 3, which was one of the first spreadsheet programs.

Bill Gates. Thank you very much. And you know, all of the other things that had to be learned, you know, the word processing software and the operating system and so on. That was my first client base.

I had a little company called “micro directions”. And yeah, it was the castoffs of Arthur Anderson.

So, I set up my own company and off I went. And as you know, microcomputers became a bit of a thing.

[00:16:53] Jeffery Wang: Oh yes. Yeah. That’s brilliant. So, learning how to operate the channel means that you can reduce your client acquisition costs and you can build a business around that. So that’s foresight. I don’t know if I should be proud to say, but I know what Lotus 1, 2, 3 years, that kind of shows my age. But I am glad that I can honestly put hand on heart and say that I can’t programming in COBOL.

[00:17:20] Mary Labrie: Well, I learned it. You know, everyone who worked at Arthur Anderson had to learn COBOL. And I’m not a programmer. I’ll just say that right up front. I definitely tried to avoid any engagements that involve programming, but it was a great organization. I learned a lot there.

[00:17:37] Lesson 5

[00:17:37] Jeffery Wang: There you go. So, your lesson number five, “Don’t panic. Just think”.

[00:17:44] Mary Labrie: Before I did an MBA, I did a forest biology degree, and I became a forest biologist. I worked in the beautiful forests of British Columbia, which are wild and dense and quite an interesting environment, very easy to get lost.

 I was a trained compass person. They were always called compass men, but I was obviously not a man. And so compass person, compass woman. Which means you’re the person who literally finds the direction through the bush and takes the crew through. We used to get dropped off at one place with a float plane and I’d have to get us over to some other place.

With pretty much precision and get picked up by a float plane, on the other side of an island or on the other side of some bush on a lake or whatever.

[00:18:29] Jeffery Wang: There was no GPS back then I presume?

[00:18:31] Mary Labrie: No, no, no, no. It’s all as all analogue.

Because of some problems with the maps that were provided to us.

And because we split the crew on that day, I ended up actually getting lost in a very densely forested area that was closed for logging. So, there was no truck traffic through there. And it’s hard to describe a British Colombian forest, but they are dense, and you can literally not hear somebody who is yelling when they’re about 10 meters away. That’s how dense forest is it just absorbs sound. It’s incredible. So, anyway, I was on my own. I had an incorrect map and I had, but I had my compass and I realized I was lost. And I don’t know whether you’ve ever had that feeling before Jeffrey, but it is a pretty terrible feeling.

It is scary, beyond scary, and in a lot of ways. So, my adrenaline was pumping. My heart was hammering in my chest. I was freaking out because I’m thinking, how am I going to find my crew in this forest?

And the temptation is to actually do crazy stuff like run, or I dunno, you know, I wanted to run, I actually wanted to run, even though that wasn’t a, a good idea, but all I did was I sat down and I absolutely had to chill out, you know, and then I had to force myself to chill out, which took quite a while because there was so much adrenaline pumping in my system. I was afraid. And then I let, you know, let my brain, you know how to do this, you are a compass person, you’ve got a compass.

You kinda know where you are, you know how to get out of here, but you know, you have to. Calm down. Stop. Now it may not sound this is relevant to somebody who’s working in business or in corporate life, but it absolutely is because we can be seized with fear. There’s a whole bunch of reasons why that can happen.

Some of them are because of, you, all of a sudden realize the risk you’ve taken on, you realize what’s at stake. You realize your that your team’s at stake for some reason or whatever it happens to be. And all I can say is that was such a powerful lesson for me because I realized I could handle it.

And If you realize you can handle it, you can, you know, but I, it’s hard to explain. I don’t want to sound too Zen, but it, it was a very powerful lesson for me.

[00:20:51] Jeffery Wang: Wow. And you managed to get out of the forest,

I presume?

[00:20:54] Mary Labrie: I did. I did. I won’t go into how there’s a whole process for finding your way out of a forest like that.

And I don’t want to get all Bear Grylls about it, but I did, within a couple of hours, I managed to get my cell phone to force a logging road. And then once I was on a logging road.

[00:21:11] Jeffery Wang: You knew where you were.

[00:21:12] Mary Labrie: Sort of. Although there weren’t there wasn’t a lot of logging trucks, so yeah, it’s still, there’s still a process to get back, but yeah, it happened.

I’m here.

[00:21:24] Jeffery Wang: Sorry to spoil the ending, but

[00:21:27] Mary Labrie: Didn’t get eaten by a bear.

[00:21:29] Jeffery Wang: No. Well, and in British Columbia, that’s, that’s very well. That could be, that could happen.

[00:21:34] Mary Labrie: Yeah. Yeah. Well, you know, on the bear topic there the area I was in, there were a lot of bears, but they were black bears and black bears are not aggressive really, unless you get in between them and their cub. Or their cubs.

But grizzly bears are another matter, but I wasn’t working in that sort of area.

[00:21:51] Lesson 6

[00:21:51] Jeffery Wang: That’s a useful fact. Lesson, number six, “you need to ask”, you know, I know this is difficult with some people.

[00:22:01] Mary Labrie: Yes. So, this is all about pay. And I know some people say, and I know I said initially that, you know, recognition for me is not about money, but recognition for, you know, extra effort is a different thing than pay, which is what you get paid for, what you do every day.

And I think that it’s enormously important, especially for women. To really bring their A game when they’re trying to get their salary where they want it to be. And it it’s quite a strategic exercise to get your salary where you want it to be, and you must look at it that way. Don’t just let it happen. Or, or not speak about it. That’s also, I think a bit of a mistake. And just let them figure out what you’re going to get paid.

And this is something where I think women don’t, they don’t negotiate it. And this is a generalization, but it’s borne out by statistics with the pay gap that the women don’t tend to want to bring it up.

And they don’t know how to, to ask for it. And there’s a very nice calm way to ask for it. Which is to know what you’re worth, know what the market is and ask for that. And I always add 20% on, because it’s easier to come down than to go up. It’s very hard to go up. Once you put a number out there, very hard to go up.

I think that I’ve been reasonably successful in the way I’ve been remunerated. And I do despair about the pay gap and the fact that I think, many of my fellow women you know, struggle with this. So, I think that that’s worth looking into and studying and coming at that from an organized point of view.

[00:23:37] Jeffery Wang: But it’s easier said than done, right?

It’s one thing to say – go and ask for it, but how do you overcome that mindset? That, that voice in your head that, that sort of tells you that you can’t.

[00:23:46] Mary Labrie: Oh, I think you do have to be a little bit full of yourself that probably helps. I probably got slice of someone else’s ego in addition to my own, but I think you do have to be your most powerful, strongest advocate believe in yourself, but yeah, if you’re a good operator and you do a good job and you know what the market is you already know what you worth.

So, I think it’s important to know what you’re worth, to know where the market’s at. This is not easy to get at, but it is possible to get on. It takes a bit of it, but it is well worth. It, it is well worth understanding what your worth, because the, the 50-year results of negotiating a good salary are, are substantial as we all know. So yeah.

[00:24:31] Jeffery Wang: Absolutely. You have to know what you’re worth.

[00:24:34] Mary Labrie: Yeah. And, and there’s no downside, there’s no downside a person looking at you. If you’re going to someone and say, I think I’m worth this. And I think you’re worth, I say a hundred, you say 80 are they going to look at you badly? Because you’ve asked for a hundred, probably not. You know, there’s no downside. You might as well go for it. That’s the way I that’s the way I look at it.

[00:24:57] Jeffery Wang: That’s such an interesting insight because I believe a lot of people probably undervalued themselves because they believe that if they were to overstate their value, that would go against them in that situation. And you’re right.

Because when I put myself on the other side of that negotiating table, I realized that the starting price that the other person put up, tends to be a bit of a peg in terms of where their value is. Even if I don’t believe they’re worth their value. I would not go out of my way to argue with, and that’s such an interesting insight.

Thank you for that.

[00:25:31] Mary Labrie: Yeah.

[00:25:32] Lesson 7

[00:25:32] Jeffery Wang: Lesson number seven “to lead, you have to learn to follow”. What do you mean by that?

[00:25:37] Mary Labrie: Oh, well, on the topic of ego, I think that particularly in the middle of my career, I suppose in my thirties and forties, when I was, I think hitting my stride, I probably thought I was pretty darn good.

And occasionally I think I would have been a bit of a challenge to manage. um some of my managers out there, if they listen to this podcast, are you right. So, um you know it’s fine to be, to have a strong sense of self and to have ideas about how things should be managed.

But there’s a wonderful line in Game of Thrones. I think he’s, it’s not Ser Jorah Mormont, but his dad, his name’s Jeor I think Jeor Mormont who’s the head of the wall, you know, and he’s talking with Jon Snow and John Snow thinks he’s pretty good too. Right. Especially relative to the other guy.

You know, because he’s you know expert swordsman, he’s trained in a castle, he’s, you know, he’s like a Lord. Whereas there’s all these guys around him who are farmers and pickpockets and whatnot, and they don’t know how to use swords. So, he thinks he’s pretty hot. And uh Jorah, Mormont says to him, if you want to lead, you’re going to have to learn how to follow.

And I think that is just like so correct. We do have to learn how to follow. We do need to respect our bosses. The people who manage us, who have a tough job, usually they’re looking after a team. They’ve got a lot of stuff to think about.

You’ve got some great idea that you immediately want an action because you know, you’re, you’re full of ego and you you’re, you know, you think you’re the best thing since sliced bread, but yeah, so that was something I had to learn is to temper my ego, temper my idealism and my ideas and, cherishing my ideas above all others and learn to follow a good manager. Of which I’ve had many. I’m very thankful to say.

[00:27:30] Jeffery Wang: Excellent. If I could paraphrase that. It sounds like you’re in a bit of a natural leader from a young age. However, to become a better leader, you have to learn to become a team player. And I agree with that. I agree with that. I, I know a lot of people aren’t natural leaders, and it takes them a long time to understand that they can take that leadership position.

they may not have the natural ego that’s required for leadership. But I absolutely can take the point that someone with that natural confidence in themselves. In order to get to that next level of leadership, you need to learn how to be humble, to work with others and be part of a good team.

[00:28:05] Mary Labrie: And take direction, take direction. Absolutely

[00:28:09] Lesson 8

[00:28:09] Mary Labrie: Now, number eight, I have to say I’m absolutely in agreement with “Embrace those who think different to you”. Why is that so important?

Ah, yes. Well, I mean the first time I kind of came across this, there was all these wonderful tools that were coming out.

You know, sort of 20 years ago, 30 in some cases like the DISC profile and the Belbin analysis and so on. You know, we’d have team days, and you do the DISC profile, and you’d find that there were a small number of D’s, small number of I’s, a whole bunch of S’s and a whole bunch of C’s.

Now I don’t know whether the listeners will know what that means. I’m an influencer. I love ideas. I love influencing others and selling ideas to others. But I have a bit of D in me as well, which is the dominance aspect is, you know, people that tend to be very results oriented and like to drive.

The S part of DISC is I think what they call steadiness, but I also think of it as a person who’s quite sensitive to the needs of others. So, they tend to be aware of the team and how people are feeling about things and who’s got concerns, et cetera. And then the CS or these wonderful analytical people who you know, they quite often raise objections and I have concerns and outline risks. And, you know.

So, when I was learning about all of that, somebody said to me you know, all your, and I, so you would hate working with C’s. And apparently that’s supposed to be the case that I’s and Cs don’t get along very well. But I completely disagree with that. I love C’s.

I think they’re the best, they are the best. Number one, I just, I, really admire their meticulousness and the fact that they get into the details, they know the numbers. If you don’t have somebody that’s calling out risks and concerns and testing and you know, really testing the idea.

Then you have a problem in your team. So, I love seats. Ss are very important too. There’s a lot of S’s, so we don’t need to worry about that. There aren’t as many C’s as possible in there, we should value and prize them and, tell them how wonderful they are. Give them cheese whenever they want it.

So that’s, that’s one thing I would say. Did it, does that make sense? What I’ve just said?

[00:30:20] Jeffery Wang: It makes perfect sense to me. I mean, it’s something of my belief as well, that I believe that it’s about the complementarity of the people you work with. Sometime people who enjoy the detail versus people who enjoy the big picture, but if we don’t have both of these people, it’s very difficult to execute. My question though, is that a lot of us tend to prefer the familiar, prefer people agree with us. it’s almost counter-intuitive to be accepting or even embracing people who are opposite to us.

So how do you get yourself into that mindset where you can welcome people who think differently?

[00:30:55] Mary Labrie: Yeah, I think the, the way to appreciate people with a different mindset is to acknowledge that you yourself do not have a complete thinking pattern that you have preferences in terms of the way you think of things.

 There are wonderful partnerships between people with very different thinking styles and how they can really complement each other. If you’ve read Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance, you know, there, there is a beautiful, two people in that with just like vastly different thinking. It’s beautifully illustrated on this road trip that they go on.

If you acknowledge that you yourself are somewhat incomplete and that you aren’t perfect and there are going to be things you miss, because if you’re like me, like if you’re an I, then, you need to make sure someone’s testing that idea for its feasibility.

If you’re a D and you’re, just wanting everybody to charge ahead and get stuff done. Well, you need those other quadrants because charging ahead, you might be going in the wrong direction entirely. So, so this is why we need these other people, they really round out and balance out a team.

Here’s a perfect example. When you’re in a, in an ad agency or in a marketing team, you tend to get a lot of marketing people. They tend to be a lot of them are I’s. They love stuff. You know, they love brand.

They love ideas, But if that’s all you’ve got on the floor, you’ve got a problem. You know, you’ve got a problem. You’re probably going to be spending too much money in the wrong places. And maybe coming out with a campaign that’s actually just offensive to some of your customers.

 So yeah, it’s a beautiful thing if you acknowledge it and embrace it, I think.

[00:32:33] Jeffery Wang: Yeah. And the Sydney sounds like you have to have that awareness and the humility to know that you don’t have all the answers.

[00:32:39] Mary Labrie: That totally, totally. The other one I love and this one doesn’t get enough play time in corporate life, particularly in the traditional meeting setting.

And that is the beauty of an introvert. Now, introverts don’t tend to speak as much during meetings. And I, for one, you know, I know I can flap my gums, like the best of them. So, Well, make sure you listen to your introverts because they’re thinking they’re listening, and their brain is working overtime.

And they’ve got something to say if you just listen to it. So, I think we, we should all acknowledge and appreciate the introverts in the room. They don’t get enough airtime.

[00:33:19] Jeffery Wang: Yep. I’m a hundred percent on board with that one.

[00:33:22] Lesson 9

Lesson, number nine. I like this one it sounds like a bit of a call to action. “There’s always something you can do”

[00:33:29] Mary Labrie: Yeah. So, this is, really about supporting your colleagues.

And as a woman I believe that that’s been a really important Seeing that I have tried to do throughout my career. I’ve come across situations where women that I’ve been working with have been bullied. They yeah. Being made redundant while they’re on maternity leave. They’ve been harassed and of course quite often are just sidelined or, or have some other inappropriate behaviour occurring.

And I think it’s always been really important that even if all you do is stand with that person, that already makes such a difference to that person on, on a psychological level. Because so often we have to stand alone when these things are happening and this isn’t just, you know, a woman’s issue, but it certainly is an issue for women.

So, I think standing with a colleague, if you see bullying happening in your work. You must stand with your colleague. You, you must stand up. The bystander is as guilty as the bully, and you will feel that guilt. So, I think that it’s really important to stand with those people that are around us and in stoned on those principles, even if there’s risk to you personally.

[00:34:46] Jeffery Wang: There’s a good old saying. Right? All that it takes for evil to prevail is for the good men to do nothing. My question though, is that, at what point would you be empowered to do so, you know, some people believe that it’s not until they’ve made it to senior management before, they have the power to do something about this.

What if you’re just someone who’s starting out and aren’t in a position to be able to take that sort of risk in standing up for what you believe?

[00:35:12] Mary Labrie: Yeah. Certainly, when you’ve got a bit more clout, the effect is, is more powerful and more immediate.

But you know, look at someone like Christine Holgate, she’s the CEO of Australia post, or she was and even she was treated in a certain way. There was no one standing with her. So yes, even a very powerful person can be left alone with a difficult set of circumstances.

And I do believe that a lower-level person, any person can stand with another person and when these things are happening, in fact, it’s, I think it’s just as powerful. And it’s, you know, it’s personally important that you do so. If you don’t, you’re going to feel the guilt of that. I think it’s a really powerful thing for anyone to do at any level. It is actually really helpful for the individual. Just to know that you’re there, that you stood with them, you stood by them when that was happening.

[00:36:04] Jeffery Wang: I agree with that. There’s always something you can do. Yeah.

And that brings us to the final lesson, “develop a side hustle early”.

[00:36:07] Lesson 10

[00:36:13] Mary Labrie: Yes. So, here I am a woman of a certain age. I’m 66 and yeah. Oh my God. 66. Yeah, but when I was in my probably in my late forties, early fifties, I started thinking, you know, I can see that the workplace is an ageist place. I was in a team. I won’t identify the organization.

It was a digital team. And by the time I left that team, I was the only person over 50, still working there. And I left to go and do something else, but all of the older people, all the people in there over 50 had been let go. So, over a two-year period, they at all just disappeared.

And I was the last, sort of, last of the Mohicans. And I thought to myself, I am not going to let myself be vulnerable in this way. I’m not going to let myself be at the mercy of people who will judge me simply because I have some wrinkles and I’m over 50 and maybe, I don’t know what the, you know, the latest yeah, hip hop singer is.

So, you know, cause I I’ve got a lot to offer. so that’s when I started developing my side hustle because I thought I’m going to have this ready because at some point, I’m going to need it. And I think that that was a good foresight to have. And I encourage anyone who’s in their middle career to be thinking about this because if you are an employee, you will be vulnerable.

If you have your own business, you’re not as vulnerable because you know, there’s a whole bunch of people running their own business. They’re not asking anybody whether they can continue doing their business, whether it’s financial planning or, you know, selling coffees at the corner, they are their own businessperson. And I had my own consulting business all corporate clients, I knew there was going to come a time when the corporate clients would even be looking at me and judging me as to whether I was getting too old to be doing this kind of work, whatever it might be.

So, I encourage people to, in their fifties, if not sooner, to start to develop up their little, their own little side hustle so that they’re not going to be vulnerable to this. You know, with COVID in particular, people over 50 have been hit very, very hard with being made redundant or whatnot.

So yeah. Develop your own little side hustle, maybe not golf balls necessarily, but something that you enjoy and that you have a passion for. And I think it’ll keep you in good stead. As you, as you move through your career.

[00:38:40] Jeffery Wang: Wise words and develop them early to mind you. So how early did you start? You’re saying, is it fifties, or was it?

[00:38:48] Mary Labrie: Yeah, I was, 50 when I started developing it up. The other one is, and you’ve probably heard this expression, the side helpful. You got your side hustle and your side helpful. As you move through. You do have some bandwidth, you can do something for others, you know, and find your site helpful.

Mine is being a wildlife rescuer and carer, Australian wildlife. I love that I do some other things as well, but that’s probably my main side helpful. Yeah. Think about that as well. Cause you’ll get a lot of, you’ll get a lot of enjoyment out of that as well. It’s very hard when we’re all in the throes of our career and we’ve got to work big hours and you know, all that stuff’s going on. But at some point, I think it’s really worthwhile to think about what your side helpful might be as well.

[00:39:32] Jeffery Wang: I like that, side helpful. So, we love to throw our guests a bit of a curve ball at the end of the 10 lessons.

And we usually ask what have you unlearned? So, what I mean by that is something that you believe to be ironclad truth when you started out your career, something that you just assume to be the time tried truth, but then throughout your career, throughout your years, you’ve learned that it’s just not the case. Is there anything that you can think of that you’ve unlearned as a lesson?

[00:40:06] Mary Labrie: Hmm. starting out as a forest biologist, so I was in a forestry faculty, there were seven women in 140 men. You know, very male dominated got into telecommunications, also a lot of males there too. And I had clients in energy and government, lot of, a lot of blokes about, and I think when I started out, I thought I have to kind of be a bloke to succeed almost. I know I don’t look like but sometimes you can feel like a bloke on the inside and, you think you have to model your behaviour around the way men are because they succeed, and they get things done and they rise.

I think initially I was probably doing that a little bit, being a bit blokey and not acknowledging my female colleagues as well. Cause there weren’t that many around. And then, you know, as time went on more and more female colleagues came on the scene.

And I guess I really at some point decided to unlearn that because it’s glorious to be a woman and it’s challenging and it’s interesting and it’s divine. We bring something very special to everything we do. You know, that was something I had to unlearn, you know, you don’t have to be a bloke, you know?

And you don’t want to be a bloke. Because there’s great adventure in being a woman. And there’s great adventure being a woman in a corporate context. Because it’s, it’s more challenging.

[00:41:29] Jeffery Wang: That’s beautiful. Thank you so much today, Mary. Thank you for your openness. Your authenticity. I love your colourful stories. I love how animated and passionate you are. It is just such an enlightening experience for me to get into your 10 lessons.

[00:41:45] Mary Labrie: Thank you, Jeffery. I really didn’t think I had anything to say, but here we are.

[00:41:54] Jeffery Wang: Love those stories and we’ll finish on that note. Thank you.

And you’ve been listening to the podcast, 10 lessons. It took me 50 years to learn where we dispense wisdom for career, business, and life. And our guest today has been Mary Labrie, sharing 10 lessons it took her 50 years to learn. This episode is produced by Robert Hossary sponsored by the Professional Development Forum, which offers insights, community discussions, podcasts, parties, anything you want, anything you need, and it’s all free. You can find them online at https://professionaldevelopmentforum.org/ . and don’t forget to leave us a review or comment. You can even email us at podcast@10lessonslearned.com  that’s podcast at number one, zero lessons learned.com. Go ahead and hit that subscribe button so that you don’t miss an episode of the only podcast that makes the world a little wiser lesson by lesson. Thank you for listening and stay safe, everyone.

For more information about our podcast series, please visits https://10lessonslearned.com/ . Thank you for listening.

Mary Labrie

Mary Labrie – To lead you have to learn to follow

Mary Labrie is a writer and producer of radio, podcast and film. Mary is Director and Principal of strategy consulting firm, Clear Advantage. She discusses why "We all respond to incentives", why "You need to ask", and that "To lead you must learn to follow". Hosted by Jeffery Wang.

About Mary Labrie

Mary Egan nee Labrie is a writer and producer of radio, podcast and film. She is producer and host of a podcast and radio show, Women of a Certain Age,” that first aired in California in June 2020.  Mary is host and producer of ‘The Shiver Show,’ a 30-episode radio program that showcases ‘golden era’ radio plays in the genres of Horror, Crime and Science Fiction. The Shiver Show is in its fourth year in California on KPPQ-FM.  She also produced ‘How to do Improv,’ a 13-part video series for TV.

Mary is founder and director of Women of a Certain Age, a digital media company that creates  radio, podcast, video and web content for women over 50. It is the aim of Women of a Certain Age to inform, inspire and entertain women travelling beyond 50.

Mary is Director and Principal of strategy consulting firm, Clear Advantage.  Since 1999, she has consulted to blue-chip enterprise and government clients on matters of strategy, marketing and digital transformation.

She has been a university instructor in Canada (University of British Columbia), Australia (University of NSW), and the United States (University of California – Santa Barbara), teaching management, leadership and marketing. 

Mary is a certified ‘English as a Second Language’ instructor (CELTA). She set up and offered a free ESL clinic in Ventura, California for newly arrived immigrants and refugees. She is a volunteer rescuer and carer for Australian wildlife.

Mary has an honours degree in Forest Biology and a Master of Business Administration from University of British Columbia.   Mary is a Canadian and an Australian. 

Episode Notes

Lesson 1: We all respond to incentives 01m 31s

Lesson 2: Be strategic with your suppliers 05m 26s

Lesson 3: You are the brand 08m 43s

Lesson 4: Channel like a babysitter 13m 50s

Lesson 5: Don’t Panic, Just think 17m 37s

Lesson 6: You need to ask 21m 51s

Lesson 7: To lead you have to learn to follow 25m 32s

Lesson 8: Embrace those who think different to you 28m 09s

Lesson 9: There’s always something you can do 33m 22s

Lesson 10: Develop a side-hustle early 36m07s

Ten Lessons – Mary Labrie

 [00:00:07] Jeffery Wang: Hello and welcome to the podcast 10 Lessons it Took Me 50 Years to Learn where we talk to inspirational leaders from all over the world to dispense wisdom for life, business, and career, in order to provide you shortcuts to excellence. My name is Jeffery Wang, the founder of the Professional Development Forum and your host for today.

This podcast is sponsored by the Professional Development Forum, which helps diverse young professionals of any age to find fulfillment in the modern workplace.

Our guest today is Mary Labrie, Mary Labrie is a writer and producer of radio podcast and film.

Mary is a founder and director of “Women of a Certain Age”, a digital media company that aims to inform, inspire and entertain women traveling beyond 50.

Mary is a director and principal of a strategy consulting firm, Clear Advantage. She has consulted to blue chip enterprise and government clients on strategy, marketing and digital transformation. She has taught management, leadership and marketing at the University of British Columbia in Canada, University of New South Wales in Australia and the University of California, Santa Barbara in the United States. In her spare time, she is a volunteer rescuer and carrier for Australian wildlife

Welcome to the podcast. Mary!

[00:01:22] Mary Labrie: Thank you, Jeffery.

[00:01:24] Jeffery Wang: Well, it’s such an honour to have you with us today. I’d love to just jump straight into it.

[00:01:30] Mary Labrie: Let’s do it.

[00:01:31] Lesson 1

[00:01:31] Jeffery Wang: What is the first lesson?

[00:01:34] Mary Labrie: The first lesson is “we all respond to incentives”.

So, My career, suppose, started when I was somewhere between the ages of six and seven, when I had my first little business, which was a golf ball selling enterprise. And I had a business partner. His name was Richard, and we had a pretty amazing team in terms of we, I grew up right next to a golf course.

And so, in the evening when there was no one golfing, Richard and I would go up there and, he was extremely good at finding golf balls.

So, the first time he did it, I was quite astonished and thought it was a, you know, like quite an amazing thing because it was a perfect golf ball. It had no flaws. It was, you know, obviously some golfers just sliced it right into the forest and it only had one shot before it disappeared. So, these were just the kinds of balls we wanted to have in our shop. And so, I decided that to get Richard to do that more often I would reward him. And the thing that really worked for Richard was little pieces of cheese.

So, every time he found a golf ball, I gave him a piece of cheese. Now it probably spoiler here. Richard was a Cocker Spaniel. He was our dog. But we became like an amazing team and that little business really helped me get my pocket money and uh create a better and better enterprise so that I became quite a successful little businesswoman.

But it did, It did make me think about the importance of rewarding and how that actually creates, not only does it, you know, create a behaviour that you’re looking for in your business, but it also makes sure your partner, the person you’re working with feel great, because they’re, they’re getting something out of it.

And I think that was probably the time I started to think about how people were motivated. I mean I didn’t have that kind of language at the age of six or seven, but I did actually understand that for Richard it was cheese. And it was, it’s important to understand what other people you know when we’re talking about humans that we work with, what their cheese is, and what your cheese is.

Because I found for myself that I was not as motivated by money or bonuses or financial recognition. What I really liked was just being thanked for it. Occasionally you do something above and beyond having someone thank you for it and say, “You know, that was a really good job you did.” that strangely enough is my cheese.

So, um it doesn’t happen very often though. So that I think is um something I tried to do when I was working in, had people working for me in my team is to let them know that I recognize them for what they did. So yeah, I remember at one point when I was working at Telstra, I got this very significant award.

It was called “The Best” award and it’s the highest award you can get, if you’re not a salesperson. And I was working in digital transformation, and we brought in this big online portal, we delivered it. And I was recognized, I was given “The Best” award for that year. I think it was 2010.

But nobody had actually told me that this award was happening, so I wasn’t even there.

And there were lots of financial benefits to getting that award, but the thing I really wanted was for somebody to actually thank me for doing all that work, along with all the team members and none of us were there to receive that award. So, it was a bit of a tragedy, but it did make you think once again about reward and recognition and how important it is to understand what a person cheese is.

Because that’s the key to having a high-performing happy team, I think.

[00:05:26] Lesson 2

[00:05:26] Jeffery Wang: Excellent. lesson number two, be strategic with your suppliers. Tell me more about this.

[00:05:31] Mary Labrie: Right. Yeah. So, moving along in my career, I became a, you know, the head ice cream scooper at an ice cream parlour when I was in high school.

And it was a cutthroat, very competitive trade where we were, which was down near the beach in Vancouver. And there were a whole bunch of different ice cream vendors, all competing. in. And I noticed that my manager was stressing out a little bit about that, that competition. And I noticed also that everyone had the same flavours.

Now, this is long before the gazillion flavours of ice cream and gelato and yogurt that are available today. Back then, there were literally about seven flavours. And I happened to know a family that made their own ice creams, and they were beautiful sort of gourmet ice creams and somewhat obscure.

They were Italian. So, they served the Italian community in Vancouver. And I spoke to my manager, and I said, “maybe we could get a few other ice cream flavours in and that might actually attract a few people and we could give little samples and get people all excited about these different flavours.”

Which we tried and it worked because, I mean, if there’s anything that motivates people, that’s good ice cream. So, it got me thinking about how important it is who your suppliers are and how important procurement is. Now flash forward to, you know, 2000 when I was working as a consultant, mostly in the telecommunications industry.

And mostly during that transformation of broadband, you know, so everything was about broadband and there were networks being built by Telstra. There was a network being built by Optus and was it going to be HFC? Was it going to be ADSL? Was it going be vDSL? There was all this buzz around that and a whole bunch of vendors trying to sell their gear into these very large clients.

Which on global scale, we’re actually quite small clients. But the thing I really reflected on there was how important it was with procurement to make sure that you chose a partner for procurement for supply that was stable, had good volumes and had, you know, basically not a bleeding edge solution, but something that actually worked.

And there were some very expensive mistakes made in that decade, because the technology and engineering side wanted something that was as leading edge as possible, as fast as possible, you know, feature rich. But sometimes that was quite dangerous because you were actually working with unstable technologies and with solutions that literally just didn’t have volume yet on a global scale.

So that whole thing about procurement is an absolute master. You must have a focus around that in order to have competitive advantage, I think.

[00:08:21] Jeffery Wang: Yep. Absolutely. I agree with that. And I’ve noticed you used the word partner instead of suppliers there and suggests in terms of your working relationship, the mindset that you’ve got to have in order to work with them.

Clearly, you’ve got a very entrepreneurial spirit starting your business at six years old and as a young worker to even see through that competition, that that is something that I respect a lot.

[00:08:43] Lesson 3

[00:08:43] Jeffery Wang: So, lesson number three, you know, I like this one, “you are the brand”.

[00:08:49] Mary Labrie: Yes. You can talk about this in so many different ways, Jeffrey, and I think the one that I will talk about it. Yeah. As I now have a company called “Women of a Certain Age” it’s a media company and I speak to women who are over 50 about what it means to be a woman over 50.

And there’s a lot packed into that. Let me tell you. I was getting some material made for that. We were, we’re doing a podcast. We have couple of different podcasts as you do. You know, you’ve got a podcast, I’ve got a podcast called “Women of a Certain Age”, and I also have a special show called the “Midlife Crisis Hotline”.

Which is a comedy show and we were getting some graphics made up for that. And there’s a photograph of me. So, I had some headshots taken. I don’t like getting photographs taken at the best of times, but you know, I did it because I was told to do it and I did what I was told.

So, I went and got some photos taken and I was looking at these photos with the graphic artists. Now this is the brand of our show and it’s the brand of my enterprise. I mean, I am the brand literally. So here I am looking at these photographs and you know, I’m a woman of a certain age also. So, I’m looking at them and I’m going I said to the graphic artists, look, could you maybe take out those very deep, vertical wrinkles I have right in between my eyebrows. I mean, they are literally as big as the grand canyon, those two wrinkles and maybe a couple on the side too. My graphic artist and I have to thank him for this. He said, Mary, isn’t one of your values authenticity? And I said yeah, he said, well, you’re wrinkly.

And you know what? You can’t be angry about that. It’s a, it’s actually a beautiful truth. And in fact, if you are speaking authentically to women over 50, you know, you don’t want to be airbrushing your face and pretending you look like some other person. So, it was a beautiful lesson and I love it.

So, you are the brand quite literally. Be authentic. represented it.

[00:10:50] Jeffery Wang: It takes a lot of confidence to mind Do you know what I mean, and I suppose this is something that takes time a bit of grey hairs to be able to understand, you know, in terms of embracing who you really are, that authenticity, I don’t believe people are born with that natural confidence to accept yourself, flaws and all.

I can certainly identify with the insecurity a lot of us have, or sort of putting ourselves out there as we are. How do you overcome that fear or of judgment when you’re just not so sure?

Hmm. I don’t think there’s a pat answer to that, but you do have to accept yourself and stand by yourself, literally because if you won’t, who will? You can’t take yourself too seriously.

[00:11:36] Mary Labrie: I mean, this is part of life. A part of life is getting wrinkles. And I’m proud to say that I smile as openly and unguardedly as I can. And with that comes wrinkles and I wouldn’t, regret a single moment of that, but it is, it is you do have to just kind of shake yourself and go, you know, be real, be real.

Certainly, in the media space and in the social space, the opportunity for women in particular, but men too, to have body dysmorphia and actually sort of have an entity that kind of looks like them, but isn’t really there because it’s all smooth with, you know, there’s so many applications now that can smooth you out and back glow you and make you look like some celestial beings. you know, it’s not actually what you look like anymore.

So yeah, I just say own it, and you’ll feel a lot better in the long run.

I realized with my little golf ball enterprise that I was the brand also. I mean, initially I didn’t understand it because I am a kid, you know, but what I realized was that I was actually the brand of that enterprise and a lot of the reason why. You know, gentlemen, was mostly gentlemen would stop at my little shop because I had my golf balls displayed in an egg carton, you know, and it was all very nicely decorated.

And Richard was there of course, they were stopping because, you know, I was this cute little kid sitting on the side of the road with, you know it was a little bit Yeah was scruffy tomboy, but you know, they were stopping because I was there and I’d have a really nice smile on and I’d go, good morning.

Would you like to look at my golf balls here? I’ve got some great golf balls and you know; they’d come over and. I kind of figured it out that I was a lot of the reason why they were coming over. Did they actually need some more golf balls? Probably not, but you know, it’s almost like a kid with a lemonade stand, there’s an aspect of that. You’re appealing and that’s why they’re there. That’s why they come to your shop. so, I understood it. Even at that stage.

[00:13:37] Jeffery Wang: So, at the age of six, you’ve got that level of self-awareness. That is pretty impressive.

[00:13:42] Mary Labrie: Yeah. And that I’m wear a clean t-shirt, it might drive up sales.

[00:13:50] Lesson 4

[00:13:50] Jeffery Wang: That’s funny.

Lesson number four is cryptic to me “Channel like a babysitter”, but it sounds like there’s a bit of a story behind it.

[00:13:59] Mary Labrie: Well, yeah. So once again, I love to reflect on the businesses that came before the MBA and all that stuff, you know, because those are very formative, but I’m the third child.

 And so, my sister and my brother both had babysitting jobs.

You can probably tell we all, you know, we all needed pocket change and we weren’t getting it from our parents. So, we had all these little, these little side hustles going. My sister was a babysitter and then she passed all of her clients onto my brother.

I went and I picked up his clients, so he hated babysitting. So, it was great. I was able to pick up his clients, and there was almost like a legacy of these clients coming through the Labrie family.

And that was a great way of gathering a very significant client base from the discards of someone who no longer wanted to serve those clients.

I figured out, well, if it works in the family, it probably works in the neighbourhood. So, I ended up going around to other kids that were babysitting and complaining about it and I’m going well, you know, if you’re, if you’re not enjoying that, you know, I can pick that up for you because I’m free onsite Saturday.

So, I ended up sort of picking off clients from all the kids in the neighbourhood that really weren’t all that into babysitting and didn’t really need to do it. I realized that was a great way of picking up clients is pick up the work from people who either don’t want to do those clients or don’t have time to do those clients.

And I realized that that was actually something that I could carry into later on when I had my first consulting business. I did an MBA and then I was working for one of the very large consulting firms – Arthur Anderson.

And Arthur Anderson was a mainframe consulting IT company. Yeah. So, they did a major, major mainframe installations and they, a lot of the systems are written in COBOL, which I actually know how to write in there. I used to anyway. Oh, hate it! I hated programming, but anyway, that’s another story. But what I detected, this was the beginning of the microcomputer revolution, which we now, you know we all have laptops, but that started out as what was called a microcomputer.

Now Arthur Anderson didn’t want to deal with microcomputers really that wasn’t their bread and butter. And they saw it as kind of like an annoying thing that, you know, they had to talk to clients about because clients were asking about it. Well, that’s where I got my first clients from, is the cast offs of Arthur Anderson’s microcomputer clients, who they didn’t want to teach them how to do Lotus 1, 2, 3, which was one of the first spreadsheet programs.

Bill Gates. Thank you very much. And you know, all of the other things that had to be learned, you know, the word processing software and the operating system and so on. That was my first client base.

I had a little company called “micro directions”. And yeah, it was the castoffs of Arthur Anderson.

So, I set up my own company and off I went. And as you know, microcomputers became a bit of a thing.

[00:16:53] Jeffery Wang: Oh yes. Yeah. That’s brilliant. So, learning how to operate the channel means that you can reduce your client acquisition costs and you can build a business around that. So that’s foresight. I don’t know if I should be proud to say, but I know what Lotus 1, 2, 3 years, that kind of shows my age. But I am glad that I can honestly put hand on heart and say that I can’t programming in COBOL.

[00:17:20] Mary Labrie: Well, I learned it. You know, everyone who worked at Arthur Anderson had to learn COBOL. And I’m not a programmer. I’ll just say that right up front. I definitely tried to avoid any engagements that involve programming, but it was a great organization. I learned a lot there.

[00:17:37] Lesson 5

[00:17:37] Jeffery Wang: There you go. So, your lesson number five, “Don’t panic. Just think”.

[00:17:44] Mary Labrie: Before I did an MBA, I did a forest biology degree, and I became a forest biologist. I worked in the beautiful forests of British Columbia, which are wild and dense and quite an interesting environment, very easy to get lost.

 I was a trained compass person. They were always called compass men, but I was obviously not a man. And so compass person, compass woman. Which means you’re the person who literally finds the direction through the bush and takes the crew through. We used to get dropped off at one place with a float plane and I’d have to get us over to some other place.

With pretty much precision and get picked up by a float plane, on the other side of an island or on the other side of some bush on a lake or whatever.

[00:18:29] Jeffery Wang: There was no GPS back then I presume?

[00:18:31] Mary Labrie: No, no, no, no. It’s all as all analogue.

Because of some problems with the maps that were provided to us.

And because we split the crew on that day, I ended up actually getting lost in a very densely forested area that was closed for logging. So, there was no truck traffic through there. And it’s hard to describe a British Colombian forest, but they are dense, and you can literally not hear somebody who is yelling when they’re about 10 meters away. That’s how dense forest is it just absorbs sound. It’s incredible. So, anyway, I was on my own. I had an incorrect map and I had, but I had my compass and I realized I was lost. And I don’t know whether you’ve ever had that feeling before Jeffrey, but it is a pretty terrible feeling.

It is scary, beyond scary, and in a lot of ways. So, my adrenaline was pumping. My heart was hammering in my chest. I was freaking out because I’m thinking, how am I going to find my crew in this forest?

And the temptation is to actually do crazy stuff like run, or I dunno, you know, I wanted to run, I actually wanted to run, even though that wasn’t a, a good idea, but all I did was I sat down and I absolutely had to chill out, you know, and then I had to force myself to chill out, which took quite a while because there was so much adrenaline pumping in my system. I was afraid. And then I let, you know, let my brain, you know how to do this, you are a compass person, you’ve got a compass.

You kinda know where you are, you know how to get out of here, but you know, you have to. Calm down. Stop. Now it may not sound this is relevant to somebody who’s working in business or in corporate life, but it absolutely is because we can be seized with fear. There’s a whole bunch of reasons why that can happen.

Some of them are because of, you, all of a sudden realize the risk you’ve taken on, you realize what’s at stake. You realize your that your team’s at stake for some reason or whatever it happens to be. And all I can say is that was such a powerful lesson for me because I realized I could handle it.

And If you realize you can handle it, you can, you know, but I, it’s hard to explain. I don’t want to sound too Zen, but it, it was a very powerful lesson for me.

[00:20:51] Jeffery Wang: Wow. And you managed to get out of the forest,

I presume?

[00:20:54] Mary Labrie: I did. I did. I won’t go into how there’s a whole process for finding your way out of a forest like that.

And I don’t want to get all Bear Grylls about it, but I did, within a couple of hours, I managed to get my cell phone to force a logging road. And then once I was on a logging road.

[00:21:11] Jeffery Wang: You knew where you were.

[00:21:12] Mary Labrie: Sort of. Although there weren’t there wasn’t a lot of logging trucks, so yeah, it’s still, there’s still a process to get back, but yeah, it happened.

I’m here.

[00:21:24] Jeffery Wang: Sorry to spoil the ending, but

[00:21:27] Mary Labrie: Didn’t get eaten by a bear.

[00:21:29] Jeffery Wang: No. Well, and in British Columbia, that’s, that’s very well. That could be, that could happen.

[00:21:34] Mary Labrie: Yeah. Yeah. Well, you know, on the bear topic there the area I was in, there were a lot of bears, but they were black bears and black bears are not aggressive really, unless you get in between them and their cub. Or their cubs.

But grizzly bears are another matter, but I wasn’t working in that sort of area.

[00:21:51] Lesson 6

[00:21:51] Jeffery Wang: That’s a useful fact. Lesson, number six, “you need to ask”, you know, I know this is difficult with some people.

[00:22:01] Mary Labrie: Yes. So, this is all about pay. And I know some people say, and I know I said initially that, you know, recognition for me is not about money, but recognition for, you know, extra effort is a different thing than pay, which is what you get paid for, what you do every day.

And I think that it’s enormously important, especially for women. To really bring their A game when they’re trying to get their salary where they want it to be. And it it’s quite a strategic exercise to get your salary where you want it to be, and you must look at it that way. Don’t just let it happen. Or, or not speak about it. That’s also, I think a bit of a mistake. And just let them figure out what you’re going to get paid.

And this is something where I think women don’t, they don’t negotiate it. And this is a generalization, but it’s borne out by statistics with the pay gap that the women don’t tend to want to bring it up.

And they don’t know how to, to ask for it. And there’s a very nice calm way to ask for it. Which is to know what you’re worth, know what the market is and ask for that. And I always add 20% on, because it’s easier to come down than to go up. It’s very hard to go up. Once you put a number out there, very hard to go up.

I think that I’ve been reasonably successful in the way I’ve been remunerated. And I do despair about the pay gap and the fact that I think, many of my fellow women you know, struggle with this. So, I think that that’s worth looking into and studying and coming at that from an organized point of view.

[00:23:37] Jeffery Wang: But it’s easier said than done, right?

It’s one thing to say – go and ask for it, but how do you overcome that mindset? That, that voice in your head that, that sort of tells you that you can’t.

[00:23:46] Mary Labrie: Oh, I think you do have to be a little bit full of yourself that probably helps. I probably got slice of someone else’s ego in addition to my own, but I think you do have to be your most powerful, strongest advocate believe in yourself, but yeah, if you’re a good operator and you do a good job and you know what the market is you already know what you worth.

So, I think it’s important to know what you’re worth, to know where the market’s at. This is not easy to get at, but it is possible to get on. It takes a bit of it, but it is well worth. It, it is well worth understanding what your worth, because the, the 50-year results of negotiating a good salary are, are substantial as we all know. So yeah.

[00:24:31] Jeffery Wang: Absolutely. You have to know what you’re worth.

[00:24:34] Mary Labrie: Yeah. And, and there’s no downside, there’s no downside a person looking at you. If you’re going to someone and say, I think I’m worth this. And I think you’re worth, I say a hundred, you say 80 are they going to look at you badly? Because you’ve asked for a hundred, probably not. You know, there’s no downside. You might as well go for it. That’s the way I that’s the way I look at it.

[00:24:57] Jeffery Wang: That’s such an interesting insight because I believe a lot of people probably undervalued themselves because they believe that if they were to overstate their value, that would go against them in that situation. And you’re right.

Because when I put myself on the other side of that negotiating table, I realized that the starting price that the other person put up, tends to be a bit of a peg in terms of where their value is. Even if I don’t believe they’re worth their value. I would not go out of my way to argue with, and that’s such an interesting insight.

Thank you for that.

[00:25:31] Mary Labrie: Yeah.

[00:25:32] Lesson 7

[00:25:32] Jeffery Wang: Lesson number seven “to lead, you have to learn to follow”. What do you mean by that?

[00:25:37] Mary Labrie: Oh, well, on the topic of ego, I think that particularly in the middle of my career, I suppose in my thirties and forties, when I was, I think hitting my stride, I probably thought I was pretty darn good.

And occasionally I think I would have been a bit of a challenge to manage. um some of my managers out there, if they listen to this podcast, are you right. So, um you know it’s fine to be, to have a strong sense of self and to have ideas about how things should be managed.

But there’s a wonderful line in Game of Thrones. I think he’s, it’s not Ser Jorah Mormont, but his dad, his name’s Jeor I think Jeor Mormont who’s the head of the wall, you know, and he’s talking with Jon Snow and John Snow thinks he’s pretty good too. Right. Especially relative to the other guy.

You know, because he’s you know expert swordsman, he’s trained in a castle, he’s, you know, he’s like a Lord. Whereas there’s all these guys around him who are farmers and pickpockets and whatnot, and they don’t know how to use swords. So, he thinks he’s pretty hot. And uh Jorah, Mormont says to him, if you want to lead, you’re going to have to learn how to follow.

And I think that is just like so correct. We do have to learn how to follow. We do need to respect our bosses. The people who manage us, who have a tough job, usually they’re looking after a team. They’ve got a lot of stuff to think about.

You’ve got some great idea that you immediately want an action because you know, you’re, you’re full of ego and you you’re, you know, you think you’re the best thing since sliced bread, but yeah, so that was something I had to learn is to temper my ego, temper my idealism and my ideas and, cherishing my ideas above all others and learn to follow a good manager. Of which I’ve had many. I’m very thankful to say.

[00:27:30] Jeffery Wang: Excellent. If I could paraphrase that. It sounds like you’re in a bit of a natural leader from a young age. However, to become a better leader, you have to learn to become a team player. And I agree with that. I agree with that. I, I know a lot of people aren’t natural leaders, and it takes them a long time to understand that they can take that leadership position.

they may not have the natural ego that’s required for leadership. But I absolutely can take the point that someone with that natural confidence in themselves. In order to get to that next level of leadership, you need to learn how to be humble, to work with others and be part of a good team.

[00:28:05] Mary Labrie: And take direction, take direction. Absolutely

[00:28:09] Lesson 8

[00:28:09] Mary Labrie: Now, number eight, I have to say I’m absolutely in agreement with “Embrace those who think different to you”. Why is that so important?

Ah, yes. Well, I mean the first time I kind of came across this, there was all these wonderful tools that were coming out.

You know, sort of 20 years ago, 30 in some cases like the DISC profile and the Belbin analysis and so on. You know, we’d have team days, and you do the DISC profile, and you’d find that there were a small number of D’s, small number of I’s, a whole bunch of S’s and a whole bunch of C’s.

Now I don’t know whether the listeners will know what that means. I’m an influencer. I love ideas. I love influencing others and selling ideas to others. But I have a bit of D in me as well, which is the dominance aspect is, you know, people that tend to be very results oriented and like to drive.

The S part of DISC is I think what they call steadiness, but I also think of it as a person who’s quite sensitive to the needs of others. So, they tend to be aware of the team and how people are feeling about things and who’s got concerns, et cetera. And then the CS or these wonderful analytical people who you know, they quite often raise objections and I have concerns and outline risks. And, you know.

So, when I was learning about all of that, somebody said to me you know, all your, and I, so you would hate working with C’s. And apparently that’s supposed to be the case that I’s and Cs don’t get along very well. But I completely disagree with that. I love C’s.

I think they’re the best, they are the best. Number one, I just, I, really admire their meticulousness and the fact that they get into the details, they know the numbers. If you don’t have somebody that’s calling out risks and concerns and testing and you know, really testing the idea.

Then you have a problem in your team. So, I love seats. Ss are very important too. There’s a lot of S’s, so we don’t need to worry about that. There aren’t as many C’s as possible in there, we should value and prize them and, tell them how wonderful they are. Give them cheese whenever they want it.

So that’s, that’s one thing I would say. Did it, does that make sense? What I’ve just said?

[00:30:20] Jeffery Wang: It makes perfect sense to me. I mean, it’s something of my belief as well, that I believe that it’s about the complementarity of the people you work with. Sometime people who enjoy the detail versus people who enjoy the big picture, but if we don’t have both of these people, it’s very difficult to execute. My question though, is that a lot of us tend to prefer the familiar, prefer people agree with us. it’s almost counter-intuitive to be accepting or even embracing people who are opposite to us.

So how do you get yourself into that mindset where you can welcome people who think differently?

[00:30:55] Mary Labrie: Yeah, I think the, the way to appreciate people with a different mindset is to acknowledge that you yourself do not have a complete thinking pattern that you have preferences in terms of the way you think of things.

 There are wonderful partnerships between people with very different thinking styles and how they can really complement each other. If you’ve read Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance, you know, there, there is a beautiful, two people in that with just like vastly different thinking. It’s beautifully illustrated on this road trip that they go on.

If you acknowledge that you yourself are somewhat incomplete and that you aren’t perfect and there are going to be things you miss, because if you’re like me, like if you’re an I, then, you need to make sure someone’s testing that idea for its feasibility.

If you’re a D and you’re, just wanting everybody to charge ahead and get stuff done. Well, you need those other quadrants because charging ahead, you might be going in the wrong direction entirely. So, so this is why we need these other people, they really round out and balance out a team.

Here’s a perfect example. When you’re in a, in an ad agency or in a marketing team, you tend to get a lot of marketing people. They tend to be a lot of them are I’s. They love stuff. You know, they love brand.

They love ideas, But if that’s all you’ve got on the floor, you’ve got a problem. You know, you’ve got a problem. You’re probably going to be spending too much money in the wrong places. And maybe coming out with a campaign that’s actually just offensive to some of your customers.

 So yeah, it’s a beautiful thing if you acknowledge it and embrace it, I think.

[00:32:33] Jeffery Wang: Yeah. And the Sydney sounds like you have to have that awareness and the humility to know that you don’t have all the answers.

[00:32:39] Mary Labrie: That totally, totally. The other one I love and this one doesn’t get enough play time in corporate life, particularly in the traditional meeting setting.

And that is the beauty of an introvert. Now, introverts don’t tend to speak as much during meetings. And I, for one, you know, I know I can flap my gums, like the best of them. So, Well, make sure you listen to your introverts because they’re thinking they’re listening, and their brain is working overtime.

And they’ve got something to say if you just listen to it. So, I think we, we should all acknowledge and appreciate the introverts in the room. They don’t get enough airtime.

[00:33:19] Jeffery Wang: Yep. I’m a hundred percent on board with that one.

[00:33:22] Lesson 9

Lesson, number nine. I like this one it sounds like a bit of a call to action. “There’s always something you can do”

[00:33:29] Mary Labrie: Yeah. So, this is, really about supporting your colleagues.

And as a woman I believe that that’s been a really important Seeing that I have tried to do throughout my career. I’ve come across situations where women that I’ve been working with have been bullied. They yeah. Being made redundant while they’re on maternity leave. They’ve been harassed and of course quite often are just sidelined or, or have some other inappropriate behaviour occurring.

And I think it’s always been really important that even if all you do is stand with that person, that already makes such a difference to that person on, on a psychological level. Because so often we have to stand alone when these things are happening and this isn’t just, you know, a woman’s issue, but it certainly is an issue for women.

So, I think standing with a colleague, if you see bullying happening in your work. You must stand with your colleague. You, you must stand up. The bystander is as guilty as the bully, and you will feel that guilt. So, I think that it’s really important to stand with those people that are around us and in stoned on those principles, even if there’s risk to you personally.

[00:34:46] Jeffery Wang: There’s a good old saying. Right? All that it takes for evil to prevail is for the good men to do nothing. My question though, is that, at what point would you be empowered to do so, you know, some people believe that it’s not until they’ve made it to senior management before, they have the power to do something about this.

What if you’re just someone who’s starting out and aren’t in a position to be able to take that sort of risk in standing up for what you believe?

[00:35:12] Mary Labrie: Yeah. Certainly, when you’ve got a bit more clout, the effect is, is more powerful and more immediate.

But you know, look at someone like Christine Holgate, she’s the CEO of Australia post, or she was and even she was treated in a certain way. There was no one standing with her. So yes, even a very powerful person can be left alone with a difficult set of circumstances.

And I do believe that a lower-level person, any person can stand with another person and when these things are happening, in fact, it’s, I think it’s just as powerful. And it’s, you know, it’s personally important that you do so. If you don’t, you’re going to feel the guilt of that. I think it’s a really powerful thing for anyone to do at any level. It is actually really helpful for the individual. Just to know that you’re there, that you stood with them, you stood by them when that was happening.

[00:36:04] Jeffery Wang: I agree with that. There’s always something you can do. Yeah.

And that brings us to the final lesson, “develop a side hustle early”.

[00:36:07] Lesson 10

[00:36:13] Mary Labrie: Yes. So, here I am a woman of a certain age. I’m 66 and yeah. Oh my God. 66. Yeah, but when I was in my probably in my late forties, early fifties, I started thinking, you know, I can see that the workplace is an ageist place. I was in a team. I won’t identify the organization.

It was a digital team. And by the time I left that team, I was the only person over 50, still working there. And I left to go and do something else, but all of the older people, all the people in there over 50 had been let go. So, over a two-year period, they at all just disappeared.

And I was the last, sort of, last of the Mohicans. And I thought to myself, I am not going to let myself be vulnerable in this way. I’m not going to let myself be at the mercy of people who will judge me simply because I have some wrinkles and I’m over 50 and maybe, I don’t know what the, you know, the latest yeah, hip hop singer is.

So, you know, cause I I’ve got a lot to offer. so that’s when I started developing my side hustle because I thought I’m going to have this ready because at some point, I’m going to need it. And I think that that was a good foresight to have. And I encourage anyone who’s in their middle career to be thinking about this because if you are an employee, you will be vulnerable.

If you have your own business, you’re not as vulnerable because you know, there’s a whole bunch of people running their own business. They’re not asking anybody whether they can continue doing their business, whether it’s financial planning or, you know, selling coffees at the corner, they are their own businessperson. And I had my own consulting business all corporate clients, I knew there was going to come a time when the corporate clients would even be looking at me and judging me as to whether I was getting too old to be doing this kind of work, whatever it might be.

So, I encourage people to, in their fifties, if not sooner, to start to develop up their little, their own little side hustle so that they’re not going to be vulnerable to this. You know, with COVID in particular, people over 50 have been hit very, very hard with being made redundant or whatnot.

So yeah. Develop your own little side hustle, maybe not golf balls necessarily, but something that you enjoy and that you have a passion for. And I think it’ll keep you in good stead. As you, as you move through your career.

[00:38:40] Jeffery Wang: Wise words and develop them early to mind you. So how early did you start? You’re saying, is it fifties, or was it?

[00:38:48] Mary Labrie: Yeah, I was, 50 when I started developing it up. The other one is, and you’ve probably heard this expression, the side helpful. You got your side hustle and your side helpful. As you move through. You do have some bandwidth, you can do something for others, you know, and find your site helpful.

Mine is being a wildlife rescuer and carer, Australian wildlife. I love that I do some other things as well, but that’s probably my main side helpful. Yeah. Think about that as well. Cause you’ll get a lot of, you’ll get a lot of enjoyment out of that as well. It’s very hard when we’re all in the throes of our career and we’ve got to work big hours and you know, all that stuff’s going on. But at some point, I think it’s really worthwhile to think about what your side helpful might be as well.

[00:39:32] Jeffery Wang: I like that, side helpful. So, we love to throw our guests a bit of a curve ball at the end of the 10 lessons.

And we usually ask what have you unlearned? So, what I mean by that is something that you believe to be ironclad truth when you started out your career, something that you just assume to be the time tried truth, but then throughout your career, throughout your years, you’ve learned that it’s just not the case. Is there anything that you can think of that you’ve unlearned as a lesson?

[00:40:06] Mary Labrie: Hmm. starting out as a forest biologist, so I was in a forestry faculty, there were seven women in 140 men. You know, very male dominated got into telecommunications, also a lot of males there too. And I had clients in energy and government, lot of, a lot of blokes about, and I think when I started out, I thought I have to kind of be a bloke to succeed almost. I know I don’t look like but sometimes you can feel like a bloke on the inside and, you think you have to model your behaviour around the way men are because they succeed, and they get things done and they rise.

I think initially I was probably doing that a little bit, being a bit blokey and not acknowledging my female colleagues as well. Cause there weren’t that many around. And then, you know, as time went on more and more female colleagues came on the scene.

And I guess I really at some point decided to unlearn that because it’s glorious to be a woman and it’s challenging and it’s interesting and it’s divine. We bring something very special to everything we do. You know, that was something I had to unlearn, you know, you don’t have to be a bloke, you know?

And you don’t want to be a bloke. Because there’s great adventure in being a woman. And there’s great adventure being a woman in a corporate context. Because it’s, it’s more challenging.

[00:41:29] Jeffery Wang: That’s beautiful. Thank you so much today, Mary. Thank you for your openness. Your authenticity. I love your colourful stories. I love how animated and passionate you are. It is just such an enlightening experience for me to get into your 10 lessons.

[00:41:45] Mary Labrie: Thank you, Jeffery. I really didn’t think I had anything to say, but here we are.

[00:41:54] Jeffery Wang: Love those stories and we’ll finish on that note. Thank you.

And you’ve been listening to the podcast, 10 lessons. It took me 50 years to learn where we dispense wisdom for career, business, and life. And our guest today has been Mary Labrie, sharing 10 lessons it took her 50 years to learn. This episode is produced by Robert Hossary sponsored by the Professional Development Forum, which offers insights, community discussions, podcasts, parties, anything you want, anything you need, and it’s all free. You can find them online at https://professionaldevelopmentforum.org/ . and don’t forget to leave us a review or comment. You can even email us at podcast@10lessonslearned.com  that’s podcast at number one, zero lessons learned.com. Go ahead and hit that subscribe button so that you don’t miss an episode of the only podcast that makes the world a little wiser lesson by lesson. Thank you for listening and stay safe, everyone.

For more information about our podcast series, please visits https://10lessonslearned.com/ . Thank you for listening.

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