“It starts with you, because when you embrace your own uniqueness, so will your team. When you demonstrate self-confidence, self-worth, and your strengths, they will feel the permission to do the same. When you tell your stories, so will they. At this intersection of strength, vulnerability, and uniqueness, that’s where thriving begins.” – Melissa Boggs
Melissa Boggs is the host of the “Wild Hearts at Work” podcast, redefining our relationship with work through stories and conversations with those challenging the status quo of today’s workplace. She is a leadership coach and employee experience design consultant, uniquely positioned to help leaders and employees design an intentional employee experience that bridges the gap between them, increasing engagement and inviting joy for all.
She is a former executive with a background in leadership, business, and product development. She is a former nonprofit executive and board member, having served on the Board of Directors for both Scrum Alliance and Agile Denver. She was privileged to present at the 2020 World Business and Executive Coach Summit and at the 2021 WomenTech Summit and has been featured in Business Coaching, Business Agility Emergence, and Authority magazines.
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Table of Contents
Let’s learn a little about you and really get to experience what makes us tick – starting at our beginnings. Where did your story begin?
Melissa Boggs: In July 2001, I received a phone call from my temp agency in Austin. I was 20 years old, and I was sleeping late after staying up doing homework the night before. The temp agency asked if I could be at a new place by noon. (It was 10am) They wanted me to go to a place called The Scooter Store to fill an admin assistant role. I almost said no. RAZR scooters were all the rage, and I was resistant to return to a retail job. She explained that these were medical scooters that helped those with limited mobility to maintain their independence at home. It sounded promising, so I went.
I’d had a couple of temp jobs to that point. I had no way of knowing that this one would change my life. This company was one of a kind.
I worked at TSS for over 12 years. When I ventured out into the world, I was quickly reminded that not all organizations thought the way we did. Not every organization was relentlessly focused on its mission and values in practice and not just in name. Not every organization celebrated the way we did, accomplishments big and small. For many of us, The Scooter Store changed our lives and shaped our professional experience. The ripple effect of TSS is not only felt by those of us who were employees, but our employees and their employees to come. We are the world-changers now, because of this single employee experience. I want everyone to have the opportunity to experience this kind of workplace, which is why I do the work that I do!
I graduated from Western Governors University with a BS in Information Technology and again later with an MBA in IT Management. But my career path definitely has not followed a straight line. I’ve been everything from a receptionist, trainer, stage manager, process analyst, salesperson, software tester, consultant, project manager, product manager, ScrumMaster, agile coach, Co-CEO, vice president, and now I freelance as a professional speaker, leadership coach, and employee experience design consultant.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Melissa Boggs: Can I have three?
First, my husband, Wendell. We’ve been on this journey together for a very long time, and I’ll never take for granted that have a partner who is so incredibly supportive. My journey has asked a lot of us and given a lot in return. He’s made sacrifices, going above and beyond as a partner and a parent, and has always cheered me on.
Second, I am also fortunate to have a very dear friend who is an expert at our craft. This is a person who knows me deeply, flaws and all, and believes in me relentlessly. They have had occasion to tell me some hard truths, but are also my biggest cheerleader, constantly reminding me that I am exactly where I am supposed to be at any given moment. I cannot stress how important this consistency and calm has been to my journey, and I am ever grateful that the two of us randomly met at a conference in 2015. Sometimes those three days (of attending a conference) really can change your life.
Lastly, my sister. She offers a loving but objective perspective to any given situation that I am in. She nudges me to try new things and has always believed that I was meant for bigger and bigger things.
I thought deeply about each of these people and what story I might share with you. But the truth is, there isn’t one cinema-worthy moment. With all three of them, it’s the daily grind of listening, offering advice and encouragement, challenging, caring, and sharing some humor. The mosaic of all these small stories – that’s what has gotten me to where I am. Without them, I might have given in to the lies of imposter syndrome or played small. Without them, I wouldn’t be me.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons you learned from that?
Melissa Boggs: A few months into the job as Co-CEO of Scrum Alliance, I was meeting with an employee. I made a statement that I had made many times and to many others, “Here, let me take off my Chief hat.” I made a motion of removing a hat, and I shared my opinion on something.
My intent was that by “removing my Chief hat,” they understand that my opinion was just an opinion. This wonderful team member looked back at me and said, “Melissa, I’m sorry. I know you mean well, but you cannot take off your Chief hat. You know that, right? No matter what you say, you still sign my paycheck.” We laughed, but it stuck with me.
It was funny at the moment, but as a leader young in my executive career, this was a huge lesson learned. I still think about this moment a lot, and share the gravity of it with leaders I am coaching. There is now a weight to my opinions that I cannot shake, no matter my intent. It causes me to pause before I speak. Is my opinion even necessary here? Do I want my opinion-based thoughts to be acted upon? If not, sometimes it’s enough to hold my opinions and allow the teams to carry on.
Resilience is critical in critical times like the ones we are going through now. How would you define resilience?
Melissa Boggs: In a time when the pace of change has never been faster, we cannot afford to be fragile people or fragile companies. Resilience is the ability to bounce back and to do so with grace and ease. That’s not easy! Resilience is a capability that you have to intentionally build in yourself. You gain resilience by being less attached to “the way things have always been”, setting your ego aside, creating thoughtful experiments, and seeking opportunities for learning and development. Self-care is also incredibly important to resilience. Without recharging, our brains have a reduced ability to absorb new information and bounce back.
Resilience is equally important to organizations and can be built in similar ways. Small experiments, frequent feedback loops, detachment from the status quo, willingness to collaborate, alignment to core values, and constant cross-training can all lead our organizations to greater resilience in the face of constant change.
In your opinion, what makes your company stand out from the competition?
Melissa Boggs: This is an amusing question since I am a solopreneur. In essence, what makes my company stand out from the competition is … me. While others may have the same or more certifications, degrees, and even work experience than me, no one else has had my same lived experiences or offer the same perspective that I do.
When I share a keynote or sit down with leaders to evaluate their employee experience, I bring a level of empathy that most say they’ve not experienced with other consultants. In particular, my experience as a CEO allows me to see the employee experience from every angle. I don’t bring blame or judgment to the leader or to the employees, but an objective perspective that allows us to find a solution that marries the needs of both. I also believe that hope is audacious, and I am endlessly hopeful and audacious about my clients’ goals.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success?
Melissa Boggs: Several years ago, I sat down and defined my own personal mission, vision, and values. My three core values are Courage, Empathy, and Creativity, and believe them to also be character traits of mine.
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the ability to see the fear and step through it. I have made some bold moves in my career, and I consider myself to be a bit of a corporate rebel. I’ve had to really lean into courage in some of these instances where something had never been done before. My courage has yet to let me down.
Empathy is the ability to understand someone else’s perspective and to see a situation from their point of view. I’ve grown to understand that my empathy is a super strength of mine, despite early cautions that empathy makes me too weak or too sensitive. If this is you too, just know that your empathy makes you incredibly powerful in nearly every situation. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.
Creativity enables so much success because it allows us to see beyond what IS and into what COULD be. My creativity is what has helped me to craft exceptional employee experiences, and to have a lot of fun at work! Without creativity, work-life would be black and white, always the same, and endlessly boring.
How important do you think it is for a leader to be mindful of his own brand?
Melissa Boggs: It’s incredibly important for a leader to be aware of how their personal brand shows up. Brand is similar to culture in the sense that it is reflected in the small and large decisions that we make. When you are a leader in an organization, your personal brand reflects on the company and is also reflected upon BY the company. This is especially true for solopreneurs and company owners. My personal brand is reflected in the work I choose to accept, the clients I choose to work with, the approach I take to solving problems, and the conversations I have on social media. The best thing I can do for my brand is to be authentically myself, staying in my integrity, and staying true to my values. If I do that, I will attract the right clients and we will all have a great experience.
What’s your favorite leadership style and why?
Melissa Boggs: I personally lead from a place of authenticity. Authentic leadership means that I, as a leader, am self-aware, mission-driven, and human-centric. I lead with my heart, making space for the other humans in the organization. I believe deeply in creating connections between team members, but also with our customers. By demonstrating empathy, I am inviting others to bring their own empathy and connection to the table. This may sound like rainbows and butterflies, but I also focus on results and outcomes. I believe wholeheartedly that engaged, aligned, and happy employees make happy customers!
What advice would you give to our younger readers that want to become entrepreneurs?
Melissa Boggs: Two words: Do it. I don’t mean to be flippant at all, but seriously – trust yourself and go for it.
For so long, we have been taught that the only way to success is to go to college, maybe grad school, get a corporate job, climb the ladder, and work 40+ hours a week until you are 65. That may have been true at one point, but the world has changed. Information has never been more readily accessible, and it has never been more possible to start your own business. The possibilities are endless. I’m not saying it is easy, but it IS possible.
There is more than one path to success now, and your big idea might just be the next one to change the world.
What’s your favorite “life lesson” quote and how has it affected your life?
Melissa Boggs: This quote from Theodore Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
It is a lengthy quote, I know, but every word of it is important. Especially as we pursue new ventures or new ideas, we will be met with criticism. There will be people who doubt the validity of our ideas or the depth of our character. We have to brush aside their criticism and push forward. We have to get in the arena, get dirty, and see for ourselves. This quote is on a plaque in my home office and it constantly reminds me to keep daring, keep trying, keep erring, and keep winning.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Melissa Boggs 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 Melissa Boggs or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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