The pandemic has pushed many of us to experiment with the ways we lead our businesses and organizations. What we’re used to in the past does not anymore apply today. One area that is undeniably transformed is that of face to face interactions with people. This episode’s guest, Kelly Ann McKnight, the founder of Stone Ridge Consulting, has been doing quite the experiment. She has shifted her focus from just face-to-face consulting and facilitation to the learning journeys by building online learning. Here, she sits down with Melanie Parish to share how she is navigating through this uncertainty and, with her book called The Resilience Way, helping others do the same and come out of the other side better than ever.
Listen to the podcast here:
The Resilience Way: Navigating Through Uncertainty With Kelly Ann McKnight
I’m here with Kelly Ann McKnight. She was left a widow at 45 with four children to raise. Her journey is one of courage, love, hope and learning. In her published book, The Resilience Way, she shares her and her late husband's story as they navigated through a cancer diagnosis, treatment, end of life, and moving forward. In the book, she shares the experience of the people she met along her journey. Her research into resilience has become a model that helps others to learn about the skills they need to develop and to be truly resilient. These are people who are like you and me, overcoming adversity and finding their way through life. She has also run a successful consulting business for many years. Her work has involved training, coaching, and the leadership development field. She now includes workshops on resilience as part of her practice
Kelly Ann, I am excited to have you on my show.
I'm glad to be here.
I want to dive right in and I'm looking forward to this conversation. I want to know about what you're working on in your work.
It's been an interesting time for everyone. For me, what that has meant as I have gone from a very busy work with doing face-to-face facilitation, leadership and management development work, lots of workshops that we had planned and we're in the process of doing. It all came to a screeching halt on about the 13th of March, 2020. It was our last face-to-face workshop. I am in the process of turning my business into a business that focused on learning journeys rather than the face-to-face consulting and facilitation that I've always been doing. What that means is I'm building online learning, virtual leadership management, team development programs that include online modules, learning modules and Zoom-based facilitated sessions. It's awesome and exciting, and I'm pleased with how the learning is going and the feedback from clients, but that's a focus right now.
It sounds like you're experimenting all over the place. How are you collecting data? How are you deciding if the things that you're trying are working or not working? How do you know when to stop one thing and start another?
There are two things are going on. I'm asking people going in what they think is going to work well for them, their organization, and teams. I'm asking them once we've partway through or when we get to the end, for sure, how did it go and what's happened in terms of the learning, how do you feel? Other people are also finding it the same work like me, they're surprised at how the learning is happening and how much of it is landing. I’m pleased with that, but it's that asking, trying to get feedback. The other thing that I'm finding interesting in terms of experimenting especially in the planning process, it isn’t necessarily something that anyone else knows anything about either.
What I'm finding is that I am asking the questions and then I'm having to use my own experience, instincts, and intuition to say, “I think we're going to try this.” Generally, I've been making some good decisions because then it's all on me if it doesn't go well. I find that even clients don't know. People haven't been here before. They don't necessarily know what the best path forward is. They're relying on me to figure that out for them.
It's an interesting time. We're used to searching for best practices and it does feel like the world is a little shy on those.
That's fine with me. I love that and it helps that I do have many years in this gig. I've been at this for a while. In many ways, I feel like it's a time when you can use what you know, you have to recognize what isn't going to work anymore and what the changes are. Even more casual conversations with my clients have been so helpful to keep me abreast of how they're feeling and what's going on for them. Therefore, what do we need to do in terms of our learning and development approach? It's a strange time, but it's exciting because there are many options, opportunities, and needs because many of my clients put off what they thought. “We'll do that face-to-face training in May 2020 or in July 2020.” Now, we're realizing that we don't know when we'll be back face-to-face, but we have these learning needs that need to be met soon.
What do you think the skills are for you as a leader that helps you experiment in uncertainty?
For me, it's about being true to my values and that hasn't been difficult for me, but I know it's been important. For instance, early on in March, April and May 2020, it wasn't time to try and replace the business or find some quick way of making cash because the planned business stopped. I recognized immediately that what I needed to do, what was going to make sense and be true for me, which is I stood by, supported and had lots of free coaching conversations.
They felt good to me too, but they were about supporting the people that I had relationships with in my business that needed me to listen, to have a sounding board, especially one that they knew and trusted outside of their own business. The leaders needed someone that they could explain what they're struggling with. It because they were not necessarily feeling comfortable to add to the stress that their direct reports were feeling. That ability to follow my values, know that helping was what I needed to do in those moments and couple of months where we weren't doing a lot of actual work, but I thought I was doing very important work.
That's an interesting list of skills and it is drawing my attention to the fact that you wrote a book about resilience. I'd love for you to talk about that a little bit.
The Resilience Way, which was published in 2019, and is now in the process of becoming an online workshop. It’s an online course based on the content that has been an important piece. For me, it always made sense to write this book. It was a long journey getting there. With the struggles we've been through, resilience has become even more of an important topic and thing for people to focus on. It has been a big part of my coaching business to bring this content to people. The resilience way is an understanding based on research, gathering stories, and a deep dive into what it takes for people to be able to handle the struggles that come along in their lives and/or the struggles that they want to take on in their lives.
It's either those unexpected things that we didn't plan for, but here they are, I’ve got to get through them. Also those pieces that, “I want to accomplish my dreams.” For most of us, our dreams are not baby steps, they're big steps. We might take them in baby steps, but they're big and struggle by choice. The content of the book is to help people be able to do that and do it effectively. After a couple of years of researching and writing, there is a model, structure, and process people can take. Now, there's a workshop that helps people understand exactly what needs to happen in terms of building their extraordinary lives, whatever they want to do.
What do you think the outcomes will be for someone who adopted the thinking in The Resilience Way? How would they be different?
The point of The Resilience Way is to give us this model way of thinking about resilience that helps us to become whatever it is we dream to become. The process of getting there involves understanding where you are. There's a self-assessment that looks at the five practices of resilience that are in The Resilience Way. To answer your question in terms of how someone would do this, it depends on where they're starting because the beautiful thing is that you can look at the areas that you're already good at, and then you can use those as leverage, as strengths that will help you then to develop in the areas you aren't good at yet. That would be your process. It would be developing those areas that are not there.
The model is it involves emotional wellbeing, which is the piece around understanding your emotional situation, emotions, and feelings. It talks about mental health and the importance of making sure that you're monitoring and managing that. A piece around spirituality is in there as well. There's a piece around relationships. Making sure that the relationships in your life support you and that you have boundaries around the ones that don't. There's a great piece around understanding your plan. You asked about values or what mattered in terms of leadership these days. For me, that piece around values, vision, and planning, knowing where you're going and how you're going to get there is a critical piece of the resilience puzzle.
There's another piece around dynamic thinking, which is about having the confidence to know you can do what you want to do, being realistic about what's in the way and obstacles that are going to be in your path and how you're going to get around them. The last piece is around physical health. That's those pieces of our physical health that we can control. We must so that we're able to focus on the other four factors and be able to be as resilient as we want to be. Long story short, there's a lot there that’s a very holistic model. It's intended to give you the opportunity to build action plans around the pieces that you want to develop so that you can move your resilience forward in very concrete ways rather than, it's not meant to be. It’s just a theory or model that is very interesting, but I can't do anything with it.
You're a busy leader, creating new things, pivoting, written a book, what do you do for self-care in your life?
I wasn't always good at that. I'm deliberate about self-care. We've all heard that expression, “If you don't care for yourself, you can't have any help from anyone else.” I know that's true. I'm a mom of four, that creates the perfect recipe for never worrying about self-care because there's always another need, not very far away, but I'm good at it. What I do is a couple of things. The big one is I am a meditator. Transcendental meditation is the type of meditation that I find works beautifully for me. That's simple twenty minutes, twice a day. I sit still and do very simple training to know how to make that work for me. I never don't meditate. I do it religiously twice a day, which is more surprising to me than anything because I've only been doing it for a year and I'm not good at keeping to any habit. I tend to fall, I start something and then I get bored. I'm not great at routine, but this is something that I have stuck to because it's clear that it's important.
What do you tell yourself on a daily basis? What goes through your head that has you do that practice religiously?
I've tried many other types of meditation and I've never stuck to it. The simple difference is that it's a very concise way of meditating. In other words, it is twenty minutes. You do the training so that you were very clear on a couple of simple steps that you need to do to bring yourself into this meditative state. Instead of thinking like I do about exercise when I wake up in the morning, “I’ve got to get on that treadmill. I don't want to.” I wake up in the morning and I start with my meditation. My initial thought is always, “I can start with meditation.” It's not at all an onerous thing. It's something you want to get up and do.
In the afternoon, things can be very busy, but at some point in my day, I will think about it and I'll realize, “I should go do that now,” or it might be that I'm tired. When I get to that afternoon point where I think I like a chocolate bar because I'm feeling tired or at least that's what would go through my mind normally before I started this, now it will be, “I should slip away and do my meditation now.” By the time I finished my meditation, I'm energized and I don't feel like I want to sleep or even stop working. I'll come back and keep at it.
It's like your transcendental smoke break.
If you're a smoker, you don't forget to have a cigarette. If you're a TM practitioner, that's exactly true. You don't forget to do something that has become helpful and there's nothing difficult about it. There's nothing that, “I don't want to do that.” No, you love it. I had a friend before I started and the friend that recommended it to me said something that I thought was very interesting that he never misses because he happily sets his alarm twenty minutes earlier than he has to get up because he knows that it's more powerful to meditate for twenty minutes than to have twenty minutes of extra sleep. I remember thinking, “Really?” It’s because I like to sleep. I love my bed first thing in the morning, I'm happy to fall back to sleep, but he's right. You've recognized that you enjoy it and you’re ready to jump up and do it.
I heard that you have about three seconds between the time that you have a thought, “I should do something,” and between the time your brain starts to tell you all the reasons that you shouldn't or that you couldn't. I swim at 5:30 in the morning. I think it's my meditative time. I missed it, but I get up and swim at 5:30 because there's nothing else that I can make up that I need to do unless sleep. There's nothing else that's going to conflict with a 5:30 AM. I heard that you can think about things that way and you can say to yourself, “I should go exercise,” and 3, 2, 1, that's how long you have to go do it.
It's true. I can see that.
I love asking successful leaders what they noticed or seen. You don't have to give me your deepest, darkest secrets. What do you know about imposter syndrome? You're a coach, a consultant and I'm sure you've run into it. What light can you shed on that?
It's been an interesting concept for me because I don't think I had heard the term imposter syndrome for about the first decade or so of my career, but I was living it. It's because I don't think I've met another woman who doesn't understand this concept and lots of men also have experienced it. It's not just a woman's experience, but I lived to that for a long time. Sometimes I even had good arguments for why I was living it. Even now I was like, “Do I have to write a book?” I tend to take stuff on want to do something so I do it. Early in my career, I was already doing that. I was getting myself into a job that I wasn't qualified for. I did that 2 or 3 times. That idea that you're not ready for this and who are you to be sitting in this room in an industry you have no experience and doing a job you have no experience with so much younger than everyone else around you.
I was living that, and I don't anymore. One of the beauties of age is I don't think everyone does take advantage of it, but you have the opportunity to get to a point in your maturity and in your confidence where you say, “Maybe I don't know everything, but I bet whatever I've learned along the way I can apply in interesting ways to new ideas and concepts. I have something to add to that confidence that I may not know what everyone else knows, but I have something useful to add.” For me, the key is I don't feel that now. I naturally have learned and noticed over time that I don't have to be an expert in everything and sometimes, I should listen rather than talk. After I listened for a while, I usually have some peace that somebody else hasn't thought about or some offerings that are uniquely mine. I bring that forward with everything I can. I offer and hope that it helps.
Having said that, I coach people who are struggling with this constantly, and it's amazing to me. It's not amazing, that's not a good word because I recognize and understand it, but they are so often such amazingly talented people and women who have so much to offer and they are holding back what they're offering because of fear that they don't belong, not as expert as they should be, or somebody is going to suddenly realize that they're not that smart, educated, and experienced. It becomes a great coaching conversation. I love to get them to think about who else is in the room and what their experience is and compare yourself to the people you're working and living with and feeling so inferior to. Are they different than you and isn't it possible that they're also feeling the same way?
I also think that when you're feeling imposter syndrome, you're focused on yourself. Whereas if you're focused on delivering value, which is what you said, then it's not such a selfish thought that imposter syndrome and worrying about what people think about you is self-focused whereas offering value is another focus.
It assumes that at any moment, somebody is going to turn to you and you've got to be able to answer all the questions and have all the answers ready. When for many of us, what we recognize is where we do our best work when we are asking good questions and listening well or maybe facilitating collaboration. There are many moments when as you said, it's not meant to be about us. If we can let go of that. I never thought about this until this moment. I always joke that when I was younger, I had an ego and I let go of it because it wasn't helping me. It sounds ridiculous.
I realized but it's true that I did have a huge ego and I don't have it anymore. I wonder how much that impacts like I also don't have imposter syndrome anymore. I used to think it was all about me and I thought it's that combination and moments where I felt like I was spectacular and other moments where I felt like I was completely out of my league. My ego was important. Maybe it wasn't that it was big. It mattered and now it doesn't.
Where can people find you?
There's a website for the consulting practice, which is StoneRidgeConsulting.ca. The book has its own website, TheResilienceWay.ca. The workshop and information about the workshop, that will be available on that website as well.
I have loved our conversation. It's been interesting to know your wisdom and thoughts about all of these things. Thanks for being here.
It's been my pleasure. Thank you, Melanie. I love thinking about true things in different ways. You've helped me to think through that imposter syndrome piece. I'll be able to have different conversations with people going forward about it.
I love that. That's fantastic.
I've been talking with Kelly Ann and I'm fascinated by this idea of there are no experts in our world now as we pivot and experiment. We have to find our own way and what those skills are to do that. I love that she does Transcendental Meditation twice a day religiously. It's interesting to think about what that might bring and how she knows that's going to be a part of her day. I'm curious about this idea that we have in such a short period of time to make a decision about something good for us and to go ahead, move forward and not to wait. It's all-powerful. Her book on resilience is a great resource for people who are wanting to create more resilience in their own lives. I'm also curious that the idea of ego and the experience of imposter syndrome might be linked. It's been a fascinating chat with Kelly Ann. Go experiment.
Kelly Ann McKnight was left a widow at forty-five with four children to raise. Her journey is one of courage, love, hope and learning. She shares her story, and the story of her late husband as they navigated through cancer diagnosis, treatment, end of life, and moving forward. She also shares the experiences of many other people just like you and me… overcoming adversity and finding their way in life.
Kelly Ann’s book explores a powerful model of resilience that can help change your life. It covers five elements of resilience that enable you to successfully deal with uncertainty.
By day, Kelly Ann is a personal development consultant, author, and resilience researcher. For twenty years she has run Stone Ridge Consulting, a firm which provides leadership and management development programs. She has an M.B.A. and several professional certifications that support her work. She is also a mother, wife and farmer.
A public speaker, consultant, workshop leader, author, and Master Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation, from whom she received the Prism Award, Melanie is an expert in problem-solving, constraints management, operations, strategic hiring, and brand development.