Liz Nead is an adventure speaker, traveling the world and taking on challenges to find lessons of leadership, communication diversity, and inclusion. A diversity speaker and researcher for over a decade, she specializes common language and daily communication around race and cultural differences in the workplace. Liz uses a direct, humorous, and vivid style from the stage to create opportunities for communication around differences. She shares life with 7 kids and her husband of 21 years.
How do you work the room with diversity and belonging in mind?
It's funny that you asked that question because just like everyone else, I am in the middle of growth and change, and I deal with my own humanity and the humanity of others. Sometimes when I see these thought leaders that are like typically on Oprah super soul sessions, their vibe is very mellow. For me, the first thing about networking is to be authentic and the second thing about being authentic and networking is that you don't take it personally which is constantly a juggle. How do you do that in networking with diversity, stay authentic, but not take it personally.
What are the questions to avoid?
It's a tough one and the reason why it's tough is because life has changed so much and honestly what was acceptable, even two years ago, like let's just say pre-COVID is no longer acceptable. The kinds of questions which are very superficial like where are you from and what's your ethnicity and you have such an interesting look or what's your take on this? Someone might ask me what my take is on something related to this. diversity in the news, not because I'm a diversity speaker, but because I'm a person of color and some of those assumptions that people are okay with you jumping in right away into their personal life are just not okay anymore. I think the expectation has changed, we have an increased expectation that people will understand what is acceptable and what is not and we're not forgiving ignorance as much anymore. So rather than say, people are too sensitive, a better thing is what's your experience with this? What do you find important? If you had to choose between these two things what would you choose? So you're getting deeper into what someone's interests are, or perspectives rather than the superficial differences that we can see with the naked eye.
What is the biggest thing you hope people take to heart in 2022?
The thing that I love to teach as a trainer and a speaker, and I've niched myself into diversity for the first time in 15 years because I think that my country needs help in strategies to build confidence around differences. Our confidence is at an all-time low which is why you see so much conflict is because the only people who are left talking are the ones who don't care what you think. Everybody else has become a bit silent because they're afraid that people will be offended and they know that that's not what they want, but they're not sure how to say it. What I hope is that first of all people understand it's not about intent, it's about impact. We all mean well and nobody goes to a networking event to hurt some feelings or to make people feel discluded. That's just not why you go to a networking event. However, the things that you say may have the opposite impact on your intent and then that's where the work starts. If you didn't intend for it to be that way, it should be pretty easy to change what you're saying, because you want the impact to be a positive one. I think that one thing can change a lot of things. A lot of ways that people connect with each other. I think confidence can be built back up and then the second thing that I'm really hoping Is that people understand that you can have the same situation but experience it differently. So one, let's say there was a temperature in the house 69 degrees. One person is wearing sweaters and mittens, and the other one has actual sweat rolling down their cheek, because you can have the same temperature but experience it two different ways. So rather than arguing about whether one person should not feel cold or not feel hot, you recognize that two people are in exactly the same place, but they don't feel the same way about it and then conversations can start. I think if those two things, if I can convince people or if people can understand that it's not a fight over who's going to take the summit, but it's really just a different way of looking at the mountain, I really think that some change could happen, and we're ready for it.
Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?
I started my business 15 years ago and it's interesting because Drew McLellan was part of that early networking. So I was very successful in the beginning because I was so open about what I wanted. I think sometimes people don't want to be salesy so they never ask for anything and they don't share how important it is. I met one of the speakers at that summit and I met Drew through that process where I was saying, my biggest dream was to talk to audiences. At the time, I wasn't even sure what I wanted to talk about, but they were able to help me because I just let them know, "Hey, I'm putting all my cards in your hands, can you help me with this?" And I probably had 20 people in those first years, help me with different things like start an internet radio show, which would now be called a podcast, I got a television show, I got countless numbers of speaking engagements, I wrote a book and it all happened in that first five years because I was so willing to help others, but also say, "I really admire this expertise about you. What do you think? what's your advice? What would my next step be?" You know when you give advice and people don't take it? I took everyone's advice and I took it all to heart. Every networking event was this fun, I just want to get to know people, I helped a lot of people and it was a precious time. It was right around 2008 when people were looking for that kind of thing and so it isn't any one thing but it was me going in with this childlike openness, saying I'm not going to play it cool, I'm going to show you who I am and you get to decide whether you like it or not, I'm not hiding anything.
How do you stay in front of and best nurture the relationships you’ve created?
We have social media and authenticity is what makes social media run. With the advent of reels and tik tok and just the way video works, that is the capital. If they like you, and if you build a following on the real you, you're never going to get sick of being you and so I have always used social media and been real. You'll know about my husband, you'll know about my children, the things that make me sad, the things that make me excited. It's not all about me, but I'm the engine and so social media was one really big thing. Also, blast video! When video came on the scene that became a partner to authenticity, because 90% of your communication that's nonverbal, that people have their intuition, they really can decide whether you're telling them the truth, whether you really know what you're talking about overtime. I really came in at the best possible time, I have things like newsletters, but video is the place where someone will say, I watched two hours of your YouTube channel and finally sent you an email, I would like to hire you as a speaker. So back in the day, when I had, I still don't have that many viewers like I think I might have 40,000 views, but out of those 40,000 views, I have gotten an incredible number of speaking engagements and opportunities. Video is for anyone who wants to get in front of the camera and be themselves. I think that's the biggest way that I stay connected with my community.
What additional advice would you offer to those business professionals really looking to grow their network?
There are a couple of things. The one thing no one wants to hear is that I still think that you have to put yourself in front of people and that you have to be ready to explain what your value proposition is and who you are. I think that that is a really important first layer. So you do need to find your people and show up. I mean, I found at the summit that we met at, that was a networking thing for me. I decided that I wanted to put myself out there, get into that group of people and I think that first impressions are really important. Then the other side of it, it doesn't matter what you're selling, everybody's trying to sell an idea or a product or connect meaningfully in some way and you have to show what you're doing. I look at Tic Tok which I'm fascinated with, but there's this account and she makes these stickers that go on the back of laptops and phones, and then she makes these key chains and all she does is video what she's doing. They're really pretty things and sometimes she gives you uplifting things like it's her voice and she's just talking about what's going on in her life. But you want to buy it because over time you feel like you're part of it and so I think that when you get connected with the in-person connection, you maintain that. Find a way to show people what you're doing. Don't give them the curated version, just show them what you're doing and get over yourself wanting to look perfect. At the end of the day, that's what people want. They want to invest in something that they feel like they can be part of and I think for anyone who's starting out it really doesn't matter. You can accelerate your process if you're willing to put yourself out there in person and then pull back the curtain and reveal who you are and I'm saying through video. Everyone should have a tic tok! I have a tic tok I'm still not very good at it, but I think that's where it's going to be for a while.
If you could go back to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell yourself to do more or less of or differently with regards to your professional career?
So I just moved from a city to a small town. I made that choice because it was best for my family, and for me. It didn't really make sense from the standpoint of what people thought of me. They thought I'd be one of those people who retired in a loft and I walked to get my baguettes and my coffee and I'd never had any groceries in the fridge and we'd travel all over. Instead, I'm living in this small town and I have a boat and a cheap golf membership and I'm going to live my life with my husband while I work my rear end off and hang out with my kids. What I realized now after making that really big decision because I had lived in another place for 20 years, and before that a similar place for 20 years before that. So by upending my life, I realized, "Hey, 20-year-old Liz, do not make any decisions based on validation and approval." Don't do it! Look at what other people are doing and figure out what your belief system is and align it and refine it, but stop worrying about whether or not people think you're okay. The world is a place for you to cultivate the life that you want and your job is to live out your purpose and to master how to live out your purpose and not to make sure that everyone likes you. I think that I'm not going to regret anything but I could have avoided a lot of stress in my life if I had understood that the power of knowing that you could live anywhere you want, you can do anything you want. You've just got to be yourself and it will work itself out is the message that I continue to give my 20-year-old self actually so she'll be brave and let me make some decisions.
Do you have any final words of advice for our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
I really think that as we move away from thinking that people are diverse and that it's situations that are diverse, I really think to make sure that you're working to understand a person's experience. We have this unique moment in time where it's tumultuous, and there's so much that is unknown. What a great opportunity to get to know each other at a deeper level and say things like, "What has been your experience with that?" And dig deeper about why would you choose one thing over another. Why is that so important to you? This is our moment, we have so much influence on other people, but we're afraid to use it. I'm really hoping that people will see that work better together and start using our influence in a positive way.
Connect with Lynn
Tik Tok: @mamanead