Welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview with Lyndsay Dowd, the trailblazing founder of Heartbeat for Hire. In this insightful discussion, Dowd shares her remarkable journey from a distinguished 23-year tenure at IBM to the pivotal moment that led to the creation of her own venture.
Unveiling her experiences with resilience, Dowd reflects on the unexpected twists, challenges, and triumphs that defined her path, showcasing the strength derived from a significant career setback.
Dowd’s narrative is a symphony of reinvention, characterized by the launch of Heartbeat for Hire, a company dedicated to coaching leaders and C-suite executives on cultivating thriving cultures. From navigating corporate challenges to harnessing the power of vulnerability, Dowd’s leadership philosophy emerges as a beacon of inspiration.
Join us as we delve into the depths of her insights, exploring the art of resilience, the significance of embracing change, and the lessons she imparts for CEOs steering their organizations through both calm seas and turbulent waters.
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Lyndsay Dowd: Thank you for having me. I dedicated 25 years of my career to corporate America, with 23 of those years spent climbing the ranks at IBM. During my tenure, I managed large sales teams and had an incredible journey. However, after 23 years, I was presented with an opportunity to lead a team at another company. This decision meant leaving IBM and the 105-year legacy my family had with Big Blue, making it a significant turning point in my life.
Upon joining the new company, I took on the role of managing a team of client executives. Unfortunately, after just six months, I was fired. For those who know me well, this outcome was never a part of my plan, and it felt like a gut punch heard around the world. I experienced a profound sense of shame and devastation. However, after about a month of self-reflection and healing, I posed three crucial questions to myself.
I asked, “What am I truly skilled at? What brings me genuine joy? And how can I make the most meaningful impact on others?” It became clear that my expertise lay in cultivating leaders and creating an irresistible culture that drives exceptional results. With unwavering determination, I decided to embark on a new journey and founded my company, Heartbeat for Hire. Our mission is to coach leaders and C-suite executives on building a thriving culture while empowering their leadership teams.
In addition to my coaching work, I am also a speaker, podcast host, facilitate various workshops, and authored the book “Top Down Culture.” My podcast has achieved recognition, ranking in the top 10% globally. I feature remarkable individuals such as Olympians, CEOs, Emmy-winning journalists, world champion athletes, disruptors, and other masters of their craft. They generously share their stories of resilience through the lens of leadership and culture.
Over the past two years, I’ve been honored with multiple awards for my coaching efforts, including recognition from Apple News and the prestigious title of 2023 Coach of the Year.
Can you share a time when your business faced a significant challenge? How did you navigate through it?
Lyndsay Dowd: Like many new entrepreneurs, most don’t achieve immediate success. When transitioning from earning hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to experiencing no income, one must delve deep to discover a path to profitability and brand growth. Acquiring new clients demands a high degree of creativity.
The most crucial lesson I learned during this journey was the importance of remaining open. By embracing this mindset shift and meticulously curating my network, primarily through LinkedIn, I uncovered numerous collaboration opportunities that I learned to welcome.
Some of these collaborations have even led to successful business partnerships. We’ve organized workshops and embarked on ventures that have yielded significant revenue.
Nevertheless, entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. The leap from being a corporate employee to a founder is a substantial one, and the skill set required for success in the entrepreneurial realm differs significantly.
Consequently, one must find a way to acquire and develop these skills, as well as hire individuals to fill gaps in areas of weakness. Recognizing one’s limitations and seeking assistance is paramount.
To mitigate my shortcomings, I surrounded myself with knowledgeable individuals and consistently sought their guidance. Additionally, I established a successful podcast, featuring brilliant minds as weekly guests.
These individuals have not only become friends but also trusted advisors. I frequently engage in self-assessment, seeking help when I encounter challenges or uncertainties. Effective leaders acknowledge that they don’t possess all the answers, recognizing the value of learning from those who have navigated similar paths.
I remain a work in progress, constantly evolving and growing. The positive news is that I’ve cultivated a robust brand, driven by the success of my book, podcast, workshops, and consistent content sharing. This has attracted the right clients and generated recognizable momentum.
How has a failure or apparent failure set you up for later success?
Lyndsay Dowd: The most significant setback I encountered in my career was getting fired. However, it turned out to be the push out of the nest that I needed. Without that challenge, I would have never taken the leap from corporate America, where I was earning a substantial income, to the life I’m living now.
Despite how difficult and painful it was, it was a gift in disguise because it propelled me towards this new path. It truly involved embracing a pivot and reinventing myself, even though I’m not exactly a spring chicken.
Staying open to learning from people of all ages, whether they are wise owls or young chickadees, has been crucial. There is a wealth of knowledge to be gained from diverse perspectives, and I don’t believe any single person has done everything perfectly.
It’s also important to tailor your journey to what feels right for you. Opportunities and options abound, but along the way, you’re bound to make mistakes. Granting yourself the grace to acknowledge those missteps and not dwell on them endlessly is vital. Instead, accept them, learn from them, and move forward.
Failure is a valuable teacher, and if you don’t learn from it, you’re likely to repeat it. This is precisely the approach I encouraged my team to adopt. I told them that we would experiment with new ideas, knowing that not all of them would succeed.
However, as long as we learn from our endeavors, we can improve. This created a sense of psychological safety for my team, enabling them to embrace innovation. I’ve since realized the importance of extending the same grace to myself.
How do you build a resilient team? What qualities do you look for in your team members?
Lyndsay Dowd: The first essential quality that everyone needs is the ability to accept that change is constant. When you embrace change as an inevitability, you become less fearful of it taking different forms.
In the world of technology, change occurs every day, every quarter, every half; it’s just the nature of the industry. This environment served as an excellent training ground for me to become comfortable with discomfort.
However, it’s important to understand that growth and comfort do not coexist. This is a concept that I believe is particularly challenging for the younger generation today. I observe it even in my own children; the moment they feel uncomfortable, it can trigger panic attacks.
Living in a perpetual state of panic is not sustainable. We must learn to accept discomfort and ask ourselves, ‘Am I going to be okay? Will I get through this?’ The answer is almost always ‘Yes.’
Once we acknowledge this, we can breathe and move forward. The same applies to adults. When faced with difficulty or a challenge, we have a choice in how we respond. Good leaders remind people that they always have that choice.
Panicking and running around in a frenzy rarely solves anything. Instead, we must pivot, accept change, and learn from it, as it is in those moments of discomfort that some of the most significant growth occurs.
How do you maintain your personal resilience during tough times?
Lyndsay Dowd: I surround myself with individuals who both uplift and challenge me. These are the same people who push me to try harder, work harder, and do more. I appreciate their willingness to challenge me. These are people who understand my potential and challenge my motivation. They genuinely want to see me succeed.
Building a network of individuals who consistently support your growth and success is invaluable. It provides a safety net on those dark days we all experience. I’ve had my fair share of moments when I questioned my path, contemplating the ease of a regular paycheck.
However, in those moments, I reach out to them through a call or a text, asking if they have a few minutes. I need their perspective to help me navigate my thoughts. These people have become incredibly vital for the survival of my company and my overall mental well-being.
I believe that any new venture is bound to present challenges. How you rise to meet those challenges ultimately rests with you.
What strategies do you use to manage stress and maintain focus during a crisis?
Lyndsay Dowd: For me, stress primarily manifests in concerns about profitability. While some individuals fear public speaking or dealing with the press, those aspects don’t intimidate me.
What truly worries me is ensuring the long-term success of my business, maintaining a steady pipeline of opportunities, and having satisfied clients waiting for our services.
To manage this stress, I make sure to maintain a healthy pipeline by continually networking and seeking new revenue streams. One noteworthy change in the business landscape is the shift away from relying on a single income source.
Many people now have various side hustles, which can help alleviate stress by diversifying their income streams. Wait, were you asking about stress? And what was the other question?
When it comes to dealing with crises, which can take various forms, I consider myself a practical individual. I understand that certain elements are beyond my control, such as the weather, and I don’t waste energy worrying about them. Instead, I focus on how I can respond to the situation effectively.
I often step back, examine the bigger picture, and ask myself what actions I can take to influence the situation positively. I also assess whether there are aspects I must endure and persevere through.
In moments of crisis, whether it’s a health emergency or another kind of urgent situation, I tend to keep a level head. I’m proactive and aim to identify actions that can improve the situation immediately. My approach involves compartmentalization and a focus on problem-solving to navigate through challenging times.
How do you communicate with your team during a crisis?
Lyndsay Dowd: It’s all about maintaining a consistent message and approach. When faced with uncomfortable and daunting situations, I encourage my team to come together and strategize. We ask ourselves, “What can we do collectively to weather this storm? How can we mitigate the impact? And what steps can we take to position ourselves favorably once the crisis has passed?”
These questions are essential for minimizing the effects of any disaster that comes our way. Sometimes, we’re reflecting on what we’ve learned after the fact, but it’s a critical step. Learning from our experiences is how we prevent history from repeating itself.
In my view, crises, whether in business or personal relationships, can be transformative moments. Just like in disagreements, how we navigate and resolve crises can make us stronger. It’s in these moments of challenge that we have the opportunity to grow and strengthen our bonds.
When I take on a leadership role, I present these challenges to my team. I don’t seek mere feedback; rather, I challenge them to assess the situation, determine how we can move forward, and extract valuable lessons. It’s about shifting our perspective and realizing that even in the darkest moments, there’s something to be gained.
Every crisis has the potential to reshape and improve our future endeavors, and it’s crucial not to lose sight of that fact. This is a principle I emphasize with my teams regularly.
What advice would you give to other CEOs on building resilience in their organizations?
Lyndsay Dowd: CEOs need to lead by example. One common mistake I often observe is that leaders desire a specific tone and culture in their organizations, but they fail to embody those qualities themselves.
I’ve noticed that leaders who exhibit behaviors such as shouting or displaying erratic emotions are often surprised to find that their company culture mirrors these traits. They may not realize that their actions significantly influence how others behave.
It’s essential to remind leaders that when they demonstrate behaviors aligned with their desired culture, such as leveraging recognition and delegating effectively, they strengthen their leadership skills. In turn, their team members will follow suit.
Leaders effectively set the tone for how they want everyone to engage throughout the company. If a leader behaves cutthroat, embarrasses employees, or yells at them, it’s likely that their team members will adopt the same negative behaviors.
To create a culture where people feel empowered to tackle challenges, leaders must lead by example and show vulnerability. Sharing personal stories of fear or past mistakes can make leaders more relatable. Every time a leader opens up in this way, they tend to be embraced by their employees, viewed differently, and establish a valuable connection.
I understand that many leaders may feel uncomfortable when encouraged to be vulnerable. They might worry that admitting past mistakes or failures will reflect poorly on them. However, it’s essential to recognize that vulnerability demonstrates personal growth and resilience, qualities that can inspire and motivate teams.
Successful companies are led by leaders who inspire their teams. Resilience is a crucial trait for leaders because they often face challenging decisions such as layoffs, reorganizations, or threats to profitability.
Even in the face of adversity, leaders must maintain their compassion and reassure their teams that they are in it together. This resilience and sense of safety create an environment where employees feel empowered to take risks, which can lead to innovation and success.
Throughout my experience, I’ve encountered numerous tough days and received unpleasant news, but I always strived to bring out the best in my team.
It involves putting on a brave face, sharing the reality of the situation when necessary, but ultimately conveying the message that the team has the capability to overcome challenges, with the leader’s unwavering support.
How do you prepare your business for potential future crises?
Lyndsay Dowd: To prepare my business for potential future crises, I believe the most effective approach is to establish a robust pipeline, garner numerous recommendations, and amass a wealth of testimonials. Building my brand has emerged as a crucial element in this endeavor.
It involves creating brand recognition and a distinct association between myself and Heartbeat for Hire. This clear identity is something I frequently receive positive feedback on. It ensures that anyone choosing to collaborate with me comprehends my values and what they can expect.
Therefore, my daily efforts include expanding my brand, consistently addressing large audiences, maintaining the podcast, and employing various methods to disseminate my message and stimulate client engagement.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about leadership in times of crisis?
Lyndsay Dowd: Everything will pass; nothing is permanent. While it might feel awful and seem like the sky is falling, remember that it’s not forever.
As long as you’re willing to take risks, be brave, and take care of your people, you’ll come through it in a positive way.
Jerome Knyszewski, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Lyndsay Dowd for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Lyndsay Dowd or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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