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5 Questions with Mamie Kanfer Stewart of The Modern Manager

We’re excited to welcome business coach and podcast host Mamie Kanfer Stewart to the blog today for 5 Questions with SPPR! You may have seen Mamie on our social before – Dyan was featured as a guest on her podcast and we are big fans of Mamie’s work. She has transformed what we know about management and thriving together as a team!

In addition to being the host of The Modern Manager Podcast. Mamie is also the author of Momentum: Creating Effective, Engaging and Enjoyable Meetings, and Founder of Meeteor. She’s spent most of her life working to improve the world by helping others manage themselves, their teams, and their organizations more effectively. Between art school and business school, being an entrepreneur and a mom, she’s learned that how you work is just as important as what you accomplish!

1. We are obsessed with the fact you started your first business when you were twelve! Could you tell us about your role & journey as an entrepreneur and what inspired you to start as a business coach? I was raised in a family of entrepreneurs, so starting a business, even at age 12, seemed completely natural to me. I always knew I wanted to be independent and build something of my own. After attending art school and graduating with a BFA in ceramics and art history, I thought about starting a gallery or opening an art center that offered studios for artists and classes for the community. While I was in the planning stages of what that path might look like, I became involved in philanthropy and organization development.

I quickly fell in love with the processes and practices organizations use to bring people together and organize their work. After a short time working in a nonprofit, I went back to school to get a business degree. During that time I explored a number of start-up opportunities with a few partners, but nothing took off and we eventually parted ways.

It was then that I felt ready to truly build my own business. Meeteor was launched initially to address the challenges of project management, but over time evolved into a meeting effectiveness company. I was lucky to find incredible people from around the world to join my team. Meeteor began as a software company even thought I knew nothing about developing software. After a few years of building a truly amazing product, it became clear that we weren’t going to survive as a software business. So, I pivoted and focused on offering workshops, webinars and trainings on effective meeting practices.

That led to the birth of The Modern Manager which initially was only a podcast, but now has courses and a membership community. It was through building The Modern Manager that I entered the world of coaching. My husband jokes that I’ve been coaching and advising since my early twenties and it just took me 15 years to realize I could make it into a career.

What I really love, though, is being a “translator.” Someone once shared a model with me that describes three types of people. There are people who conceptualize and bring ideas into the world, those who translate those ideas and make them accessible and applicable, and those who execute and operationalize the ideas. I am squarely a translator in that I’m constantly learning from others, combining learnings from multiple sources and sharing those lessons so that other people can apply them.

Being a coach comes very naturally to me. The artist in me finds great satisfaction in producing content that helps thousands of managers around the world. It took me a while to find my way to where I am but now that I’m here, I’m loving it.

2. What are some lessons that you have learned from coaching others on how to be better managers? The process of coaching is a two-way street. I often learn as much through the coaching process as I give to my clients. So many of the challenges people face are the same whether they are leading a business, managing a team, or just trying to navigate doing their job. Many times the advice or solutions we generate together on calls are things I would benefit from doing in my own life or business. Things like communicating more transparently, taking time to care for myself, delegating work that is keeping me from my highest priorities, giving feedback when someone is underperforming… We’re all human and we struggle with the same things.

3. You are an expert at running a business and connecting with your clients virtually. What advice do you have for others who are navigating virtual work for the first time due to Covid-19 There is lots of good advice about how to work virtually, so I’ll try to add something new to what’s already readily available.

First, take advantage of the perks or benefits of working virtually. It will be different for each person, but here are a few examples: Not having a commute gives you more time for sleep, hobbies, or exercise. Being home for meals allows you to cook or enjoy that time with your family. Removing the 9-5 workday enables you to be productive during hours that best suit your energy levels. When you intentionally look for the benefits, you can design your day or week to reap those benefits. If you don’t pay attention or explicitly set yourself up to receive the benefits, it’s easy for them to be swept away in the chaos and stress of life.

Of course we may not be able to really enjoy these perks of working from home specifically because of the added layers of complexity that COVID brings. So my second recommendation is to be kind to yourself and your colleagues. Working virtually during COVID is not the same as working virtually during normal times. There is so much additional stress in our lives from the virus, lack of childcare, inability to socialize and enjoy normal activities that would usually help us relax, economic pressure and uncertainties, sheltering at home with family or roommates 24/7, or being alone 2/47, and so much more. To the extent that you can, go easy on yourself and others.

4. What is one of your favorite resources to share with your clients and colleagues that inspire them to lead with more confidence? This is not a resource exactly, but one of the approaches I share is to act from a place of logic and love. It is this combination of kindness and practicality that my clients often tell me makes my coaching unique. In short, I believe we are more confident when we know we’re acting in line with our values and what’s best for the people involved AND we’ve thought from a rational perspective how to get to the outcome we need.

When you do those two things, you can trust yourself. And even if you make a poor decision, you know that you acted with thoughtfulness and integrity.

5. Who is a female entrepreneur or leader that you admire the most and why? I’m a huge Brené Brown fan. So much of how we choose to lead depends on whether we are rooted in fear or are willing to be vulnerable and honest with ourselves and our people. I try to embody her teachings by acknowledging what I don’t know and taking responsibility for my mistakes. I love everything Brené promotes from being authentic and courageous, to being a learner, not a knower.

I also love how she role models these behaviors and characteristics in her writing and podcasting. I try to do the same.

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