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Empowering Women In Their Career: Tips To Boost Performance With Margaret Graziano

To eliminate the gender gap, it is crucial to empower women in their careers. On today’s show, Rosie Zilinskas welcomes Margaret Graziano, the CEO and Founder of KeenAlignment, and one of Silicon Valley’s top 100 women leaders, to talk about women empowerment in the workplace and why you deserve the job of your dreams. Don’t miss this episode to learn more about that, as well as work-life balance and the importance of tapping into your life’s purpose.



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Empowering Women In Their Career: Tips To Boost Performance With Margaret Graziano

We’re going to be talking to Margaret Graziano. She is a peak performance culture and leadership coach. She is incredibly inspiring. You are going to have a great time with her enthusiasm. Margaret was recognized as one of Silicon Valley’s Top 100 Women Leaders. Her groundbreaking work is driven by her power to uncover and catalyze human potential, pioneering the leading edge of leadership training, organizational culture and strategic people operations.


She brings, 1) Proven success in transforming organizational culture with more than 25,000 lives impacted, 2) Over 25 years of experience in unlocking the wealth of talent, human spirit and capacity in organizations and, 3) Methods that increase employee performance, ignite passion in teams and deliver up to ten times return on program investment. You don’t want to miss this conversation with Margaret because she over-delivers. Here is Margaret.



Margaret, welcome to the show. Thank you very much for being here.


My name is Margaret Graziano. I’m the Founder and CEO of Keen Alignment. Our vision is to forever liberate the human spirit at work, which includes women. Our mission is we shape intentional, healthy and high-performance organizational culture from the inside out.


I’m going to start right off the bat. We’re talking about women empowerment in their careers. What would you say to a woman that is doing everything that they can but their boss is not necessarily advocating for themselves? What are some of the things that these women can do?


The bottom line is to have a conversation with the boss and ask about the likelihood that you’re going to approve this application for promotion. Even before that, there are all sorts of training and coaching. The work we do is from the inside out. It begins with self-esteem, self-belief, a vision for your life and values. The conversation with the self is, “Is this the right place and the right boss for me? Do they see me as being capable and able to move forward?” It’s having a straightforward conversation with that boss about the likelihood of there being a possibility for forward movement.


About 70% of people are not engaged in the work that they do. From a management perspective, you have to have the right people and the right jobs. Let’s go the other way. What would you say to a manager that is doing everything that they can to engage their employees in their day-to-day but their employees are not quite getting there?


It begins before their employees. It begins in the hiring process. Before I created Keen Alignment, I created hiring software. Before I created hiring software, I owned a recruiting company and was a recruiter for many years. The engagement begins before you ever offer someone a job. Why are you interested in this position? If the person is interested in the position because they need a job, that’s the wrong person to bring into the organization for a job that requires engagement.


The key is before you ever bring them into the company, find out what their why is. What is their purpose? What fulfillment do they want to get out of being in the organization? What is their why? Does their why attached to the company’s why? Does it make sense? From that point forward, the manager’s job is to enable that human being to accomplish their goals through that job. That might not have been the way it was in the ’80s, ’90s, even 2000 or 2010, but it’s the way it is now.


Every person needs to know that their manager is an advocate for them fulfilling their life purpose through their career. That manager’s job is to help remove obstacles, create vision, coach and have that person see where they are in their way or to get the training so they can move forward. How you get people engaged is you tap into their hearts and heads about what they think is important, and then they will be engaged.


If it’s a job or a way to get a paycheck and put food on the table but it doesn’t inspire them, you can’t manufacture engagement especially if the boss is an older Gen X, a Baby Boomer or in many cases, a Millennial who is money motivated. Not everybody is money motivated. Some people are purpose motivated, learning motivated or socially motivated. Everyone is different and has different motivations. It’s the manager’s job to turn on that light switch or to create an environment where that light can shine bright.

When you tap into your life’s purpose, you can see a whole new future you couldn't see before. Share on X

I love that you talked about life purpose. If you don’t have the right people in the right company or position, then it’s just a job. Let’s talk a little bit more about life purpose. Everybody knows probably about core values. The perfect example that I give is when their core value is health, they’re probably not going to go work for a tobacco company because their core values are not aligned. Let’s talk a little bit more about their life purpose in conjunction with the job. How does that happen?


I want to be responsible and say, “Unless you have a coach, which you and I have coaches, you might not even know that you can have a life purpose. It might be a blind spot hidden from your view.” You might also not even know that core values are for you, not necessarily the company’s core values. When I was a young woman, I was a straight commission recruiter and a good one. My purpose as a young woman was to support my son, David, who’s now a man. I was feeding David, clothing David, putting David in a good school, and being a decent mother to him.


I thought back then in my life that as long as I was providing fun, food and shelter, I was a good mom. I’ve learned a lot more since then, but my purpose was David. I then had two more kids and my purpose was for them too and also for my business. I was confused about this thing called life purpose. I went through a coaching program or a coaching school and the first weekend was fulfillment. They had us create our life purpose.


It took a deep meditation to sink into meeting my future self. How was my future self holding herself and living? What were her surroundings? That’s how I developed my life purpose. I took a transformational program in the potential human industry. I was like, “I love this. I want to help empower people.” Developing my life purpose was a journey. That didn’t happen until I was north of 36 years old.


On my 36th birthday, a month later, I was in the Landmark Forum looking at who I was and what’s my life about in Chicago which where you are. That’s when it began. It then moved further through my Coaches Training Institute. The purpose, when you tap into it, the heart and the chest feel it. The head starts to tingle. You can see a whole new future that you couldn’t see before. You knew that you had that purpose. You can do lots of workshops. We have one coming up. You can do that workshop where we do life purpose or hire a coach to do life purpose or read a book about life purpose.


What Color Is Your Parachute? is about purpose. Once you create the future that you want to live into, it’s the essence of that purpose is. For me, I wanted to work with CEOs and help them fall in love with their company again and even work for themselves. I wanted them to get back to that new beginning of how they felt in the startup stages, the jazz and the passion. I created that at 36 years old and I’ve been doing it for several years. It was a journey.


I always kept that purpose and future self in front of me, even in the choice to move to California to start the software company, and then close the software company. Even in those choices, it was always based on, “Am I on the right track? Am I off track?” If you don’t have a life purpose, you won’t know when you are off track. How does it work in conjunction? If you don’t have a noble vision or purpose as a company, you’re not going to get conscious, awake, motivated and hungry people to work for you because people want to make a difference.


Let’s face it. A global pandemic will do that to you. You’ll stop and say, “What is this all for? Do I want to schlep documents all day or do I want to be making an impact in the world and making the world a better place? You’ve got Company A which has a noble purpose, like my company, to forever liberate the human spirit at work. Who wouldn’t want to do that? Probably a lot of people, but a lot of people would.


You’ve got a person like Vivian who works with me who says, “I want to help empower women. I want my life to be about empowering other people to go live their full potential.” She came here with little to no qualifications to do that. We were launching our Ignite Power Program, but I knew her heart would be in it. She has participated in so many Ignite Power modules and programs. I don’t even have to coach Vivian on what to say, what to do or how to be. She shows up fully even on days when she doesn’t necessarily feel confident. She leans into it because her heart is in that game.


NWB 4 | Women Empowerment
Women Empowerment: If you’re not engaged in your work, you’re bored, your days are long, you make many mistakes, and the quality of the product is not as good.


I want to go back to a few things that you and I both have in common. I also went to Landmark Education. I was about 37 when I went through Landmark as well. For those of you that don’t know about Landmark, it’s a way to look at your life from a different perspective, no matter what you’re going through. I was going through a bad divorce at the time, which is why I ended up going to Landmark. I came out of it a brand-new person and not worried about the outcome of the divorce because I knew it was going to be okay.


I also live in Chicago. I do feel that once I was done with my divorce, I realized that I needed to take care of my kids but my heart was in my job. I was doing a lot of training at the time and I wanted to be the best that I could be at my job. For me, my life purpose was then dual, taking care of my little kids and also doing a good job at work. I found myself and that excitement and motivation within my job. One of the things that I recommend for people to do is to go back to what is their why because if you’re not engaged in your work, what happens? You’re bored. Your days are long.


You make a lot of mistakes and the quality of the product is not as good.


For employers, when you hire the right people and they’re engaged, your productivity goes up too. It’s also good for employers. I do feel that everything that you said is right in line. Our audience is women in corporate. They may not even necessarily know that they’re holding themselves back by not doing the things that you said and understanding what their purpose is and so on.


The purpose is to tap into your intuition, your highest level of wisdom. You might have to meditate to get there. You might have to go for a run, walk on the beach or the lakefront, in the forest preserve or on a mountain. It’s not as easy as you can close your eyes and say, “What’s my purpose?” It’s tapping into that innate intelligence within and asking the self those questions, “Who am I? What’s my life about? When time stops for me, what am I doing? When am I in the zone? When do I stop worrying and start thriving?”


Second of all, there is a litany of programs out there that can help people take time away from their everyday life to consider what their life is about. The Hoffman Process is an excellent program. That’s a seven-day immersion program that helps you do that. Also, Landmark Education and Lifespring, which comes up in all sorts of different names or hire a coach who focuses on life purpose.


The third thing I want to say is there are these seven levels of individual team and organizational effectiveness. The lowest level is hopelessness. This is when you have given up that you can contribute to your job. I’m talking about at work, not outside of work. You’ve given up and thrown in the towel like I did when I left the software company that was moving our product forward and changed the meaning of the product and everything else. Above hopelessness are fear and anxiety. This is where you are resisting what’s coming at you. You’re hiding out and worried.


When you’re in hopelessness, you are unhappy 95% of the time so you’re not productive and effective. When you’re in fear and anxiety, you’re unhappy 90% of the time. When you’re unhappy, you can’t be productive. Your body is flooded with chemicals like adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine racing through your body, chest, heart, stomach, digestive system or thinking brain. The next level up is frustration. This is when you get to the point where you’re mad as hell. You’re not going to take any more and make a change.


You’re going to draw a line in the cement, step over it and say, “This isn’t working for me.” Don’t have a conversation with your boss on that day. Breathe and get calm but that’s your catalyst for change. Frustration is the lowest level of the ineffective levels but it’s the beginning and the mother of change because there’s energy there. The good news is when you’re frustrated, you’re only unhappy 75% of the time and 25% of the time, you’re happy.

If you don't have a life purpose, you won't know when you are off track. Share on X

When you step over the power and freedom line, you’re encouraged. You see a whole new possibility for your life and believe it. You see, feel and experience the possibility of a new future. You’re happy and encouraged 65% of the time. It’s a state of mind or a mindset shift in engagement, which every company wants everybody in engagement. You’re happy 79% of the time. You’re leaning in and feel like you’re a real contributor. You’re working towards a positive future.


The next level up is innovation. This is where you’re in creation mode. Rosie, it’s where you are with this whole new business and this show. You’re having a blast. It’s a lot of work but you’re in creation. You’re using your highest level of intelligence. You see a wide aperture and lots of opportunities. When you are creating with someone like me or someone else who’s also in creative mode, there’s infinite intelligence available. Innovation is happy 89% of the time. In synchronicity, there’s happiness 100% of the time.


Synchronicity is like kumbaya, Dalai Lama, Ohm and this feeling like, “I am one with the world.” Everything that happens to me is a gift from the universe and a magical coincidence. I’m not moaning or complaining. I’m looking at what I’m learning. The reason I bring these up is because many women, especially the bigger companies, feel they’re stuck. Before you can make a move or ask for help from your boss, you must have a strong dose of self-awareness.


You need to know why you’re where you are, how you’re where you are, the impact of being where you are or how long you’ve been there. I would interview people in your life, “On these seven levels, how do I show up to you?” One of my friends asked her husband. I was driving with her for a long period. I said, “I noticed you complain a lot.” That’s all I said and I said it neutral. She didn’t respond. That night she asked her husband in a text, “Do you find that I complain a lot?” What do you think he said? “You complain a lot.” I’m a coach so I spit it out there. I probably should have said, “Are you okay? I noticed you’re complaining a lot,” but I didn’t. I was kind and loving when I said it.


I’m so glad you brought that up because I was going to ask you about the seven levels. I’m glad that you went there. What would you say to women that feel that they don’t deserve to have the career of their dreams? We’re so hard on ourselves. We’re perfectionists and all that stuff. Sometimes, we don’t even know that we’re holding ourselves back and we are unhappy. To your point, your friend that’s complaining a lot and didn’t realize it. Under the waters and the iceberg, women may believe that they don’t deserve that promotion or the career of their dreams. What would you say about that?


I’m always a little contrary. First and foremost, I specialize in human potential. I will tell you just as many men don’t think they deserve it either. There is a small percentage of people and many of them, at least up until this point in the world, are very ego and economic driven. That drive has them go for that job. I coach executives for a living and 50% of them are men. They have the same stuff even when they’re on the job, but we’ll talk about women.


There’s something called patterns. By the time we’re seven years old, our patterns are programmed in our computers. One of the core patterns is, “I’m not worth it. I’m not worthy. I’m feeble. I’m not capable. I’m not lovable. I’m bad. I’m broken,” whatever it is. At Landmark, they call it your sentence set. In Hoffman, they call it patterns. It’s this way of thinking that happens from the point a human is born and maybe in the uterus but before they’re seven years old.


When I was little and having David, my mother-in-law said, “You have to read Dr. Spock. He knows everything about raising children.” She was a clinical psychiatrist. Leaving children to cry in their crib to suit themselves puts a shame wound in a child and an abandonment wound that no one is there for them. They’re a baby and screaming. They didn’t understand why this person was loving and hugging me and now the baby was screaming. I let all my kids cry it out. They’ll all be in the Hoffman process saying, “She let me cry it out. I’ve got an abandonment issue.”


The point is by the time we’re seven, it could be simple or the second kid is born. The older kid says, “What’s wrong with me? Why wasn’t I enough for you?” Once we have that groove and neural pathway in our brain, “I’m not good enough. I’m not worthy,” we don’t even know we have it. That is invisible from our view. Our perspective, our viewpoint, the way we listen, and the way we talk are all on top of that shield of, “I’m not worthy.”


NWB 4 | Women Empowerment
Women Empowerment: We won’t be able to do it all, so we have to learn to delegate.


We then get a job. The employee says, “I’m bored,” as I said when I was at my first recruiting job. One of the managers said, “Bored? You make more money than God. Sit down, shut up and get on the phone.” I did. I never thought that it was wrong that she said that to me. Eventually, maybe eight months later, I got a different job because I was bored. I wanted more. I could place people with my hands behind my back. It was a gift that I had.


Let’s go back to these patterns. We have our first job and have an experience with that boss. If it’s not a good experience, it validates that pattern. Even if we had a good experience and then something bad happened, it validates, “See, there’s more evidence.” We don’t know we’re saying this and we might develop a new behavior around that pattern. We might get further and further down the road. The neuropathway in our brain gets thicker and thicker, and then another job. What winds up happening is these patterns run our life.


They get in our way of making good decisions. I have a dream. I want to work with CEOs to help them fall in love with their companies and their lives. The pattern says, “Who do you think you are? Who are you? You can’t do that. Your father was a plumber,” or whatever it says. If you’re not determined and have fervor, you will listen to that voice and take the left road. After I was in the Landmark Forum in the advanced course and saw my life twenty years from now, which was living in Northern California and doing retreats, it took me a decade to take action on that possibility. There were lots of patterns, beliefs, habituated thinking, habits and conversations.


I fought the fight against it. I kept working towards that future. I would go left and right. I would always get back on the road. I spent a lot of time over here in the ethers or on the wrong path or with the wrong people. When I first announced that I wanted to sell my recruiting company, all of my recruiting friends thought that I had lost my mind and I was having a midlife crisis, “What’s wrong with you? You do this program and suddenly you think recruiting isn’t good enough for you?” I was like, “No, that’s not it. I want more. I wasn’t running away from anything. I was running to something.”


Back to your original question, why do women second guess themselves, question their ability and hold themselves back? I love the way you asked that question because the only person who can hold you back is you. It’s your thoughts, beliefs, habits and patterns. The key is you have to have a possible big enough for your life, a vision and not just, “This is what I want to do for work,” but “Where do I want to live? How do I want to live? Who do I want to live with? What’s my life going to be like? Where do I want to go on vacation? How much money do I want to have? What’s my future?”


I had a guy that I was interested in. I said, “What’s your future for retirement?” He says, “I think I’ll collect Social Security.” I was like, “Run for the hills.” I have so many goals and dreams. I don’t want to be with somebody whose future is collecting Social Security in this world. It’s a very good parallel to people who see themselves as no bigger than the box. I was there. Every time I would think about my future, I would only think of a better version of recruiting or a better kind of recruiting company.


I couldn’t think of anything outside of this box. That was it. That’s all I could see. Until one day, I tapped in far enough and I could see a whole wide future. It’s a belief system. That’s where that self-awareness comes in. Many people will say, “My boss won’t promote me or doesn’t give me enough work or enough challenge. I can’t talk to my boss.” All that stuff is projecting and transference. You can talk to your boss. You have a mouth. Say, “I want you to know I’m bored,” like I did. I didn’t know any better. She didn’t like what I had to say but eventually, I said, “Bye-bye,” and went and brought all my talents and gifts to a competitor without even trying to. I needed a job.


I am going to go back a little bit and unpack something. You work with executive males. They have the same type of beliefs as far as if they’re not good enough. They have whoever that roommate in their head talking to them. I’m sure that you’re fully aware of Hewlett Packard did a study of their staff many years ago. They found that men apply for jobs having 60% of their skills, whereas women usually wait to apply for the same job until they have 100% of the skills. When we go back to your commentary about males having the same thoughts and baggage, why then do they go ahead and apply for those jobs while women wait?


This might not be the politically correct answer but if you think about the evolution of the species, men were hunters and providers. Men must protect, provide and procreate to be happy. That’s in Alison Armstrong’s work. They are hardwired to be providers. Remember when I was mommy to David and being a straight commission recruiter or collecting welfare at one point because I wasn’t getting child support. I made the right choice because I had the drive.

When you step over the power and freedom line, you see a whole new possibility for your life, and you believe it. Share on X

It comes down to the fundamental drivers. More men are driven to earn high incomes than women are. It could be programming, hereditary or epigenetics, but more men have their top motivation as the economic return on investment. Whenever I hire people for my company, I want people who want an economic return on investment. I’ve had some great female candidates who want to change the world but don’t have an economic return on investment drive. The concern is will they do what they need to do to build a business?


It’s that killer instinct that goes back to evolution. Men had to hunt to feed the family. Women were gatherers. They gathered the berries, talked to the other women and shared information. They were collegial and connected. A lot of women are driven without even knowing it’s hidden. Another hidden from their view is they’re driven to serve. If you think about serving, I wouldn’t want to apply for that job. I wouldn’t be serving them because I’m not fully qualified. Where a man says, “I need that money. That’s a great paycheck. I’m going to go get that job and work in the evenings to get myself qualified so I don’t lose that job.”


We could say that I’m part male because I’m very driven by economic, political and theoretical. Here’s what’s interesting. Before I had David, I was in school to be an interior designer. On the first day of the class, the professor says, “You think interior design is about being creative. I’m going to tell you one thing. If you want to succeed in interior design, you have to sell, cold call and build a business.” I changed my major that day. My motivation changed when the child came into my life and I had to be a provider.


I can relate to that because when I was divorced and had these two little kids to take care of, I had to bust my behind so that I could start providing for them. I can agree with that. Margaret, how does all this translate into women who continue to advance in their careers, they are happy and fulfilled and still have their families? There’s that work-life balance. How is it that we are expected to do it all?


We’re not going to be able to do it all. We’re going to have to learn to delegate. I’m not saying delegate the rearing of the children but you can delegate the cooking of the meals, the cleaning of the toilets and laundry. We’re going to have to pick the things that are low value and delegate them. Secondly, I do think we’re going to see a huge upswing in female entrepreneurialism as you see in the Black community.


The majority of businesses owned by African-Americans or Black folks are entrepreneurial. They have gotten the message, “The only way to succeed and accelerate my life is to be the master of my domain.” That’s the same for women. Some companies are super innovative, not just talking about inclusion and diversity and promoting women because the board said they had to, but have this experience of we are a multi-gender organization.


It doesn’t matter. Women are going to have to be proactive in finding or creating those opportunities. The vision for your life and value will determine what you need to say no and yes to. Let’s also get that we don’t need to be superwomen. She’s a hero. She’s not real. Superwoman doesn’t exist. We all have what Alison Armstrong calls the ideal woman. What would the ideal woman be doing? The ideal woman would bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and never let you forget you’re a man. She’s hot as hell. We all remember that commercial, except probably if you’re under the age of 30. The point is there’s such a commercial on TV about who you needed to be in order to be a successful woman.


You had to be beautiful, have a great body and earn a living. You had to be able to come home and make a homemade meal. You had to be the servant to your husband’s sexual needs. Whenever he says, “Now, lady,” and that’s not real. We need to give ourselves a break and set good boundaries around how much time we will spend at work. I honestly think the 40-hour workweek is going away. There are going to be way more people who say, “I love the idea of 32 hours because I get to be in school and have fun with my family. I’m going to get so good at my job. I can command more money in less time.”


It’s like the four-hour workweek guy but it’s becoming more modern to go to the boss and say, “I’ll do this and this. Here’s what I want to do it for. I promise I’ll deliver an X or Y.” It’s more of a negotiation. Have your vision for your life and values. Look at the areas of life that are important like health, wellness, family, romance, vacation, travel, fun and recreation, all of it. You need to say, “How much time am I going to spend in each of these categories? What do I need to do for myself every day or every week, maybe not in every category but parts of these categories?” Most people are running on autopilot until 2020 when they have time to say, “What is going on with my life? I don’t want it to end if this is all I’ve accomplished.”


NWB 4 | Women Empowerment
Women Empowerment: The culture will either forward your strategy or derail it.


2020 was a massive reawakening, a reset and a recalibration, which is why we’re having so many people say goodbye to their traditional 40, 50 and 60-hour workweeks. They’re done. I had spent a lot of time with CEOs and you can see how impassioned I am. It is getting easier and easier to get them to listen to what their people and what women need. Many years ago, it all landed on deaf ears, but now women are rising and saying, “Bye-bye.”


You either ran a workshop or were in a workshop where there was a problem post to the participants and the men weren’t getting the solutions, whereas the women were getting solutions. Could you talk a little bit about that story?


We were doing Deep Alignment. It’s an Alignment Squared workshop. We were working with this organization in Middle America in the heartland with 90% men and two women in the room. Part of this process is people looking within and at the team, “What’s my role on the team, in constraining this organization or being a pencil in the ears? How’s the team working together? How is the team either entrenched in their culture? How are they emergent in their culture?”


To the degree that it’s entrenched, you’ve got a great strategy but no execution because the behavior of the people in the culture is the culture. The people in the human system are the cultures. Culture will either forward, collide or derail your strategy. This company realized that they had an issue and it had something to do with the culture. The general manager got enough feedback that he was a flaming jerk and needed to fix himself or he wasn’t going to be there.


He happened to believe in what we were doing and brought us there to work with the executive team. They work on themselves and say, “What got me here is insufficient to get me there because if you’ve never done something, you don’t know who you need to be to do it.” It’s the climbing or moving through the gap that gets you where you want to be. They got to inquire, “Who am I? What am I bringing good and bad to this team? Who’s our team? What are we doing that is causing entanglement or entrenchment?”


You go to the person and the team. It’s a lot of talking, inquiry, journaling and exercises. One of the experiences that we give them is an opportunity to work together as a team and do something extremely challenging. The only way they’ll be able to do it is if they follow this recipe for what a high-performance team does. The majority of the companies go right to execution without talking about strategy. They blew off the entire twenty minutes I gave them on what it takes to be a team like listening to each other, having a plan and looking at the big picture. Many people, a lot of women and more men, have something called the adrenaline bias.


Remember when he’s out hunting back as a cave dude and has got these running and hunting. It’s the adrenaline bias, as Patrick Lencioni coined it. What the adrenaline bias has us glom on to solve the problem immediately because we must produce but we miss the picture. That’s all tasks-mode. Let’s get to it. There were 10 or 7 people on the leadership team. We gave them an hour and they asked for five extensions.


The general manager kept bringing me out into the hall and said, “We’re never going to be able to do this. These sucks. My team sucks. Why are you giving us such a hard project? Why couldn’t you make it easier?” After he pays us all this money to bring his team to the next level, he’s whimpering and whining. Maybe that’s part of the reasons things weren’t working. There’s a woman in the room. She happens to be ready to give birth any day. She goes, “I think we ought to do this.” She sees the whole thing.


One of the things about this woman is she has very high systems judgment. In other words, she can see the whole picture. She also has high empathy and task dimension. She’s a hard worker. She grew up in the heartland on a farm. She has this thing called balanced decision-making. She could not only see the tasks that they were building, but she could also see the big picture and the sheet by the way of what it takes to be a high-performance team. She could see and notice all the frustration and entanglement of her leadership team.

The only person who can hold you back is you: your thoughts, beliefs, habits, and patterns. Share on X

I heard her say, “What about this?” She was talking the way I’m talking. I said, “Mary,” that’s not her name, “What is it that you see that they don’t see?” “I think they should do this and this.” I said, “Do you believe that you have the right answer?” “Yes.” “Why aren’t you saying anything?” She says, “You don’t know what it’s like. I’m in so many meetings with these guys. Every time I say something somebody says, ‘This is what Mary meant to say. This is what Mary means,’ or somebody talks over me and interrupts me. They never listened to me.”


I said, “Do you want to have a breakthrough in self-expression?” She says, “Yes.” I said, “Mike, get over here and hold the chair. I’ll hold the chair.” We propped her up on the chair, pregnant belly and all. She said, “Listen, you guys. I have the answer. We’ve been jacking around with this for almost two hours. This is the exercise and what the strategy is. Let’s do this and this.” They finished the project in twenty minutes.


That woman has been promoted four times. I’m still in communication with her, but she had to do an awful lot of internal work because she was raised as the polite, pretty girl on a farm that you do as you’re told and don’t talk back. Since that day with Mary, I’ve been to over 100 companies and I can tell you every single executive team, someone is talking over the woman in the room to the point where I have called it out in a compassionate, bold way and haven’t been asked to come back to the company. Those women that were talked over all left those companies.


We created that retreat out of a need that I saw for women’s empowerment. Even at that first company with Mary, she saw it all that weekend. I worked with her for another eighteen months and her team because we were doing an organizational cultural transformation from a 136-year-old company to a new age, a great place to work. It takes time. She saw so much about herself in the other women and how they were submissive, waiting and asking for permission.


It didn’t make her sick until the bag was pulled off her head. She saw her weaknesses in all these other women. She pitched not only her company but the corporate office. On a women’s leadership program, you know what they said? “We don’t need to be part of this women’s movement.” My team and I said, “We’ve got to do something about this.” We had the females from all the clients that we work with help us create the curriculum.


We have a robust program called Ignite Power. It’s all about having women access their innate intelligence and intuitive side. One of the things I was going to bring up was how Mary got to see the solution. This is documented. The reason men produce such great results is when they’re hunting that antelope, they have a single focus. The focus is to provide. They’re looking at what they need to do.


Let’s look forward to the year 2022. The single focus will have you miss people and the big picture. The single focus has you focused on fixing problems rather than being strategic. Here’s what women naturally have. They have diffused awareness. Alison has taught me a lot, which I didn’t even know I was going to say on this but she’s showing up. Alison Armstrong, you’re here in spirit. Women have diffuse awareness so they can come into the home, be on a company call, maybe a conference call where they’re not doing anything but they’re listening.


They can start making dinner, watch little Johnny that he needs to do his homework, and see the baby crawling that’s going to fall down the stairs. It’s a natural innate skill women have. More women than men have balanced decision-making and systems judgment. They can see the whole, the work that has to get done and the people.


What it is as far as neuroscience, the left hemisphere of the brain is about what’s logical and practical. The right hemisphere of the brain is about what’s intuitive, innate or creative. We all want integration between our right and left hemispheres but if we lean too far left into, “What’s the bottom line? What are we trying to fix?” and our left brain runs the show, we don’t develop a muscle for the whole systems thinking. It’s exciting because we can easily fix it and train ourselves. I see it so often.


NWB 4 | Women Empowerment
Women Empowerment: We are the sum of the five people we spend the most time with.


I don’t want to bash the dudes because I’m single and dating. I don’t want anybody thinking that I don’t like guys because I love men. The men don’t mean to talk over the women. If a woman sits there and doesn’t stop the man like our Vice President stopped Pence from interrupting her, that was one of the most profound things I’ve ever seen on national TV in my life, “Excuse me, Mr. Vice President. You interrupted me.” She did so much for the brand of women in that debate. I was so proud of her at that moment.


The women don’t say anything like, “Excuse me, George. Thank you. I was talking.” They let it be. We teach the men how to treat us. When we’re in a relationship and the husband doesn’t make dinner and doesn’t clean, and we’re working and maybe making more money than him, we come home and still do it all and we don’t tell them, “Honey, it’s not working so well for me,” in a nice way, we wind up divorced. There’s a lack of reciprocity.


It’s one thing if you’re staying home and that’s your job. I’ve even dated men who have a business and I have a business. They think I’m the cook, the chef, the cleaner and the entertainer. I’m like, “I don’t think this is going to work.” We have to find a way to communicate what we need. I’ll tell you the truth. It has even happened to me. In my first large group, a cultural transformation program, I brought in a 68-year-old guy. Every time I spoke, he would go, “What Margie means to say is,” and my colleagues were so offended. I didn’t even know he was saying it.


The women in the audience and my girlfriends were offended because they were in the audience. They’re like, “You need to stop this guy.” He did not know he was doing it. It’s like this ego that somebody turns on and they’re there to protect and provide for us. “Dude, I don’t need that in the workplace. I got it. I can do that job.” We need to be fair to the men because we have dealt with this our whole life and then suddenly, we’re going to throw them all out.


We do not want to emasculate our men. I’ll tell you that much. Jesus Christ, whether you believe in Him or not, He’s a historical figure, when they put Him on the cross and they crucified Him, He said, “Lord, forgive them. They know not what they do.” People don’t know they’re being jerks. It’s the way they have always been. It’s their program.


In the program that the 7-year-old started writing, the 14-year-old coded a little further, and the 21-year-old coded a little further, and nobody has called them out all these years. People cannot change overnight. We have to give them time. We have to be the advocates for loving and having compassion for them and saying, “I know you probably don’t know you’re doing it but when you cut me off, I feel pissed off. I don’t want to feel pissed off at you anymore. Can we have a truce?”


When is your retreat?


Our retreat is in Sonoma at the Sonoma Mission Inn on April 29th, 30th and May 1st, 2022. It is for female executives or women that have the ambition to be an executive. Fundamentally, it’s also for female entrepreneurs and women who see that they want to have an influence in the world. They know that they need an edge to create that influence. This is about giving them the edge. This is not fixing anything. We’re not doing deep therapy. We’re working with healthy people who want to break through their career satisfaction, fulfillment and revenue and want to create a life they love. You can find it on our website. It’s or put in #IgnitePower.


Margaret, this was an incredible conversation. Everything that you said is in line with women that are trying to advance in their careers. This was fantastic. I wanted to make one additional comment that sometimes when I’m telling my husband about something, he’s trying to solve it for me. I’m like, “I don’t need you to solve it for me. Just listen.” Now sometimes, he’s like, “Do you want my feedback or do you just want me to listen?” We have that a little bit lined up. Last thing, could you give me two actionable things that women can do in their careers?

Women have more balanced decision-making judgment than men. Share on X

I’m going to give you examples from my life, two actionable things. One, be very selective with who you surround yourself with. It’s fine to help the underdog and have needy friends, but if everybody in your life needs you to rescue them, you will not head higher than the highest person you’re hanging out with. It’s fine to give back and contribute. I do it with Ignite Power.


We need to surround ourselves. We are the sum of the five people we spend the most time with. Energy, attitude and perspective are contagious. Hanging around a lot of party animals is probably not going to achieve your goals. Hanging around a lot of complainers whose life sucks who are victims is probably not going to achieve your goals. The second thing is I spend a minimum of 2 weeks a year, 14 full days in training and about another 150 hours in training.


I’m not talking about reading books. I’m talking about spending time with Dr. Joe Dispenza, in a Landmark seminar, at the Hoffman Process or with my coach, learning neurolinguistic programming or neuroscience or traveling to a new country. This is when you can travel and learn to speak the language of the country you’re going to. If you spend a considerable amount of time in the growth zone, your brain or neural pathways will become much more elastic and flexible, making it much easier to learn something new, change behaviors and open up your aperture.


You cannot do it unless you put lube in the machine. The machine is static. It’s like a computer program. It’s not one of these emergent technologies. The brain is fixed unless you train it to be agile. That’s the beautiful part about being a human. We can reprogram our program but we have to know we’re reprogramming it consciously. If we say, “I wish I had a better job, a great boyfriend and my life were easier. I wish I had a servant and I could have this and that,” that’s not going to happen.


We have to say, “This is the future I want. These are my values. I’m going to go at learning, getting better, being better, kinder and more compassionate, and learning to manifest my dreams.” That takes work. Surround yourself with people who have a like mindset who believe as you believe and the future that you want to create. It can be in any way. You can go find them, build the community or help and try to get your friends to see life your way, but that might take a lot more time.


Second, never stop learning, not just reading books but engaging in training, new perspectives and stretching your brain. Five keys to neuroplasticity, retraining the brain, that’s almost the entire conversation we had probably because that’s my field, human potential. Remember, the vision is to liberate the human spirit at work forever. Five keys to neuroplasticity, eat well and not from the old food pyramid but the Mediterranean food pyramid.


Second, move your body. That sing, “Shake your body,” move it. I’m not talking about aerobics or karate or anything. Get the body moving, yoga, walking, running, biking, hiking, you name it. The body is meant to be in motion. A body that stays in motion stays in motion. We don’t want to be decrepit when we get old. Third, get enough sleep. I was in a week-long program called the Hoffman Process. Every single they said, “How much sleep did you get?” Why did they say that? They know you can’t learn new things. You can’t change your behavior if you’re exhausted.


The fourth is to have fun. Go do novel cool things that you’ve never done before. I had this coworker once in my life. Every quarter, she would learn something new. I said, “Why are you doing that?” She said,” I never want to get stale.” That was the first person I met that was living the growth mindset. Last is to practice focusing on yourself. It could be mindfulness or meditation but it doesn’t have to be. It could be needlepoint because, in needlepoint, you must focus right in front of you. It could be art but it can’t work. It’s training the brain to focus on one thing. Cognitive scattering is the biggest problem with being able to learn and grow. It’s turning into an epidemic.


I have a book coming out and that book is called Grow Up. It’s all about transforming organizational culture from the inside out. We talk about this multitasking addiction, cognitive scattering and depletion of creativity. Training your brain to focus allows your brain to sort out. Remember how we said the men have mano focus? A lot of women are scattered. Another word for diffuse awareness is scattered. We’re multitaskers. We have to learn to focus on the one thing we’re working on and get it done. Five keys to neuroplasticity are mindfulness, novelty, sleep, exercise and good nutrition.


This entire time that we’ve been together, we’ve been talking about the growth mindset. There is a book, Mindset, by Carol Dweck, which is a fantastic book. Thank you so much, Margaret, for being here with us. Take what serves you. Apply it to your life because we talked a lot about life stuff, but apply it also to your job. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a corporate job. It could be any job. With everything that Margaret said, you can take at least one thing and apply it to your life.



This was such a powerful, inspiring and motivating conversation with Margaret. She brings so much passion to the conversation, which I love. She is an incredible advocate for women and leaders all around. I am going to recap the two tips that Margaret gave us. The first tip is to be selective with who you surround yourself with. We are the sum of the five people that we spend the most time with. If you’re hanging around with a lot of partiers and complainers, more than likely you’re not going to meet your goals. Make sure that you’re hanging out with people that will help you meet your goals.


Tip number two is to spend time in an immersive program. If you spend a considerable amount of time in the growth zone, your brain will become much more elastic and you will be able to learn much easier and change your behaviors. Those are the two tips that Margaret was able to share with us. They’re fantastic. She added a lot more information on those tips but I’m just recapping.


If you have any suggestions on any topics that you want us to cover, please send me an email or a message on LinkedIn. That is a wrap. I know we went a little bit longer than we normally do but I thought everything that we covered with Margaret was fantastic. With that, remember to be brave, be bold, and take action. Until next time.


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About Margaret Graziano

NWB 4 | Women EmpowermentMargaret was recognized as one of Silicon Valley’s Top 100 Women Leaders, her groundbreaking work is driven by her power to uncover and catalyze human potential. Pioneering the leading-edge of Leadership Training, Organizational Culture and Strategic People Operations, she brings:
• Proven success transforming organizational culture with more than 25,000 lives impacted
• Over 25 years of experience in unlocking the wealth of talent, human spirit and capacity in organizations
• Methods that increase employee performance, ignite passion in teams and deliver up to 10x return on program investmentv