We are celebrating a milestone today – this is HerCSuite Radio’s 100th episode! Tune in to this hopeful conversation about imagining the future for the better with Roz Usheroff and Natalie Benamou. They discuss how the HerCSuite’s community continues to bring women from all walks of life together and help them have health equity. Nathalie opens up on why she decided to create this sisterhood of remarkable women to make sure their voices are heard and not as blindsided by society. She also discusses why leaders who admit their vulnerabilities is one giant move towards building a productive team.
Thank you to Roz Usheroff and Natalie Benamou for being on the show, and to you for listening to the show and shining your light in the world! We would be honored if you subscribed and shared this episode with a friend or colleague today.
This episode is especially important to me personally because I have one of my mentors and advisors, Roz Usheroff, interviewing me on this 100th episode. Roz also started this show with me on Episode 1. You can find out more about Roz Usheroff at The Usheroff Institute where she helps you amplify your leadership, focus your team, and maximize your potential. I hope you’ll check it out. With that, let’s start the show.
Natalie, I am so excited to be able to interview you. As the Founder of HerCsuite, where you make it possible for women to advance at every phase of their career, you help companies to gain a competitive advantage. You say that we can make our own seat at the table and you’ve created this expansive boardroom of remarkable women. I want to know, how did you come to this brilliant idea of creating this sisterhood of dynamic and remarkable women to come together? Was there a defining moment?
There was a defining moment, but I didn’t realize it at that time. It happened three years ago, January 9th, 2020. This was right before the pandemic. I hosted a program for Rocker Trade Show. You might remember that because you were a guest on that podcast also. It was called EmpowerHER. I had some of the same women that are in her C-Suite were speakers.
I did an in-person event. We had five women, and they were speaking. I carefully curated the experience and women moving from person to person. What I didn’t let people know was earlier in that day, I had the worst review of my entire career. I had no idea this was coming. It hit me like a freight train. I spent most of the day in and out of the car crying and sobbing.
I had to host 55 women in my facility and pretend like everything was marching and fine. It made me realize that all women need to feel valued and important and never be blindsided. Especially, since I’m a rainmaker, there wasn’t a justifiable reason to make me feel that way on that day. I didn’t realize it would be the starting point of me deciding at the end of 2020 to take a leap of faith. It was the defining moment that made me realize women matter. I want all women to feel valued and important.
That took a lot of courage. I always say to women, “Don’t let other people define you.” When you’re working for someone, they share this type of feedback where it could be so destructive to the other person. It takes a lot of internal confidence and self-talk to say, “I’m not necessarily buying into what you’re sharing.” At that moment, it must have been challenging to go and continue the rest of your day.
I happen to think that there’s more to this story, but defining moments. Could I take you back in history, whatever timeframe you want to go? When did it occur to you that you were different? You have this uniqueness about you. You have a freshness and this eternal optimism. You’re truly selfless. I wonder, there must have been lessons along the way that brought you to this point in your life.
I think it’s always been a fascination and curiosity of listening to other people. I would probably go back to when I was four, sitting in the kitchen, listening to NPR and stories. Hearing what other people had to say, and that curiosity made me think, “Listen to what these people are doing.” I imagine what I might be able to do, but I never thought about it in that way at that time. Throughout my life of hearing these stories over and over again, and hearing what other people were doing. I think definitely left an imprint on my heart to be heart-centered.
I’m embarrassed to say when I was four, I used to wonder who I would marry.
I think you know that my uncle founded NPR, so I had no choice but to listen to All Things Considered while my mom was cooking because it was his show. I learned to listen to the stories and it laid importance on me to think about what can I do for others. I’ve been blessed to have people in my life that have shown me the way how you can make an impact without realizing it at that time.
It’s amazing how we’re impacted and influenced. Along your journey, who were some of the women that you admired that made a difference and inspired you?
I’m going to say you because I had the opportunity of meeting you back when I was president of HBA. What a great treat it was that we got to do a special program on cracking the confidence code. It really helped me. Seeing how you were owning the room, projecting, and presenting inspired me to think about, “How am I owning the room? What can I do differently?” I’ve learned so much from you as a mentor and as a leader, so I’m grateful for that. I’ve been blessed also with being around amazing women from that experience in HBA. Along the time, there are so many of them that have made a difference for me. I’m grateful to each and every one of them, including you.
Thank you. That was what I wanted to have you think about. I wanted to go back even before that. I know as an executive coach, I always tell people, “Think it until you become it. Anything is possible.” As you were growing up and going through school, were there certain women that inspired you just by their journey?
I’m having total amnesia when I was growing up, but I can tell you there’s been some as an adult. One leader, in particular, Michelle Obama, made a huge impact on me. Her inspiration and her poise. I have her playlist on my phone. I listen to it all the time. There have been other women that talk about grit. Angela Duckworth has made an imprint. Amy Cuddy taking up space. We were talking about that.
While these people, I look at them from afar, they’re not someone close to me, but I think we can be inspired by people we know and people who don’t know us. It just depends on where they might lead us. I will tell you one story which happened when I had my head injury in 2008. The person that I leaned heavily into was Chalene Johnson.You can still be inspired by people whom you don’t know or can only see from afar. It just depends on where they might lead us. Click To Tweet
I had been doing her videos. She was a big workout person at that time. Now, she’s got businesses. She did have businesses. At that time, I was so focused on, “If I can do this workout again, I will be healed from this traumatic brain injury.” It’s funny how little things like that lift you up. She would never have known that that was helping me. It certainly did by seeing a focus and trying to go forward, despite a lot of odds.
Having role models is so critical for women. I remember doing some research. Research was fascinating because it made me feel good about myself. We all go through stages in our life where we’re up, we’re down. The research basically said that the qualities you admire in other people are typically the qualities you have within you. However, it’s easier to see it in others.
We tend to see who we’re not as opposed to who we are. I love that during this traumatic experience with your brain injury, you were able to uplift yourself and seek out inspiration from others. Let me move on. I’ve got so many questions to ask you. I always like to know so much about you because you are always looking at other people to share their stories, so I get to do it this time. What’s happened in HerCsuite over the last few years? Can you share how you’re making pivots along the way to be ready for the future?
This goes back to the listening piece. When I started HerCsuite with eleven women, we were all just deer in the headlights. “What are we doing? What is happening to us?” I believed that we all had this mission. We wanted to get to the C-Suite. Every single one of them, we were all women. It was my friends, division vice presidents, and women that were already in the C-Suite.
I thought we were all going to end up there. Flash forward, some have retired and some have declined the C-Suite. It’s been such an interesting journey that women have transformed so much. As part of that, as I was talking about listening earlier, I started listening to what people needed. It turned out that the women in the middle hit the director level. I know from your coaching, you know this. They couldn’t move ahead.
I started evolving all the things that we are doing for every career phase, like you said in the introduction, to now moving away from only B2C into B2B. Serving companies, helping their female employees, and gaining a competitive advantage. We’ve done a lot of pivots. Always listening first to what the customer’s asking for. I always have this, “We should solve that. Let’s solve that.” We create a solution around it.
How are you finding the response from corporations?
It’s interesting that now we’re heading into this time where there have unfortunately been these mass layoffs recently. When I started, it was the opposite. It was the Great Resignation. How do you retain anybody? There was no one to be found. There was this mass exodus, and now, there’s an unexpected exodus, but we still have to retain our top talent. The high potentials are the leaders that you want to retain, and the pressure is on them even more. Companies are looking for solutions to be able to offer a way to create a culture that will help them retain that top talent, especially in difficult times.
I’m so in agreement with you. It’s more important, even now, more than ever, to honor those top talents and support them. What have you seen as trends that make a community platform like HerCsuite, a tool for both women and organizations?
Women feel, in a way, that they were turned off by the world’s largest network. Nobody knows the business network. When I started HerCsuite, I thought, “We’re going to be the alternative to the world’s largest business network.” I’m finding that being a smaller agile community is actually nice. People feel welcomed and at ease. They feel like part of something.
There’s not the constant solicitation and borderline harassment that might be experienced in that other place. I’m seeing a trend where people always thought you had to have this mega-big place, like the Metaverse. It may not be that anymore. Maybe people like the small intimacy of knowing people and knowing your neighbor.
Remember those days when you wouldn’t know your next-door neighbors? That’s not the case anymore. In HerCsuite, we want people to know their neighbors. We want people to feel welcome. I think that’s a trend going forward that we crave human connection. The one thing that’s been difficult with the pandemic is the loss of human connection. I see a human-centric connection as one of the opportunities for the future. To focus in and out, but also broadly across.
We’re totally craving human connection, especially in this virtual world. It does help with resilience when you have a community that supports you. What I love about this community that you’ve created is there’s no judgment. I feel that when women talk to each other, it’s with the idea of giving. You don’t find that everywhere. There’s this selflessness and this desire to lift other people up. I could talk about this forever, but I’m here to interview you. I’m curious to know what happens when women join HerCsuite. What changes for them?
One of the things is their confidence in being able to share authentically in a safe space. It’s great to see. I have the benefit of facilitating many of our mastermind programs and I see the evolution. One of the greatest things that I observed was one of our members. When she came in, she was more introverted, very accomplished, a scientist background.
She blossomed and expanded. I see it in her face. I see how she’s expanding her business. It’s a joy to see that evolution. I’m sure you experience that when you have women that you’re coaching and you see them go from the chrysalis to the butterfly. You’re like, “That is amazing. That’s a gift that we can carry forward in our hearts.
There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing women self-empowered. Tell me about the magic formula that you’ve created.
The magic formula started out without realizing it. Originally with masterminds, you have someone that’s facilitating a conversation. You put someone in a hot seat. People go around, and they talk about what’s on their minds and where their challenges are. That’s how we started, and then we discovered through working with other companies that it’s good to have an outside perspective.
We bring in expert speakers for the first 15 to 20 minutes who talk on a topic that the group wants to hear from. This is on the B2C side, and for businesses as well. The idea is that if you have a three-part success formula of first starting with an expert speaker who’s a thought leader followed by an executive coach or a facilitated conversation where you get that peer-to-peer learning.
You either see results or for companies, we deliver feedback of, “Here’s what I’m hearing from that leader. Here’s what I’m hearing from the group.” They get to see the trends, and then they can help change the culture. It’s a three-part series that we do, which is an executive speaker-facilitated conversation, and then output to the company.
Tell me how you implemented this formula.
It’s interesting that we were doing B2C already for our members, but I had the amazing opportunity to do it for a company. They had a very eye-opening experience in the way that they got the feedback back from them. We went into a very large company, they have 26,000 employees. We went and did their executive summit. We did a morning where we had three women executives on stage.
They gave me the grace of having three females on stage. I did not want to have men on stage. I wanted to show that we could have thought leadership in women, so we did. The follow-up was we had executive coaches doing breakout sessions, nine of them. We did in-person and hybrid. We had executive leaders and coaches online, and then we also had in-person.
We delivered the output back to the company, and it was very eye-opening. What was so great was that leadership was pretty aware of what the feedback was going to be on the topic. It was the manager to director level that was like, “You mean leaders are feeling the same way that we’re feeling?” They got to see that output. It was very rewarding for them to know that their leadership was facing some of the same challenges that they were. It had a couple of benefits there. We started with the high-level speakers, then the facilitators, the output, and the ability to make change happen.Leaders feeling the same way as their team is a rewarding and inspiring setup to have. Click To Tweet
I love the insights that you were able to provide to this company. Being able to see that leaders are human beings and vulnerable is so important. We don’t want those resilient, “I can do it all,” and those mouth heroes. We want to know that other people are going through challenges, right?
Yes, for sure.
It’s so comforting. About listening, I find that sometimes it’s hard to get a handle on what’s going on. How do you listen with deeper analysis? How do you get a sense of what’s going on out there that you could address for your fellowship?
I think I look for the hidden opportunities that you might not be used to listening to. I would say that’s probably because of my business development background and being from sales. I was always listening, trying to look for opportunities. That transcended over into what we’re doing of reading between the lines when someone says, “I can’t work this way anymore.” “Tell me more. What are you really telling me?” “I’m overworked and under-resourced.”
Some of it is just asking the right questions, but it’s also looking for that side opportunity. The program I was describing to you actually came about because I was talking about something completely different, which is a mentoring program. Somehow in the conversation, the person said, “Right now, I’m trying to prepare for this summit.” I was like, “Tell me more about that.” I think people have to be looking for where there’s the door opens to a conversation and learning more about what is at the heart of what the person is talking about. Whether it’s an opportunity for you to grow together, synergy, or whatever, it’s paying attention to every detail.
I like the idea when you say “tell me more” because that’s genuine. Something I often ask someone once they share their challenge, I’ll say, “What’s the real problem here for you?” Once they see, there’s more to what people tell you, isn’t it?
On the surface, you’re giving them the wrong advice, and we could be advice monsters without realizing it.
I always ask, “What does success look like for you?” I feel like if you start with that question, it makes people really think about, “Personally? Professionally?” Tell me all of it. What does it look like for you personally? What does it look like for you professionally? What are your goals? What is your epic decade going to look like? All of those things gives you insight into where the person is in terms of their journey.
It’s seeing the bigger picture. I showed up in person on stage and it was so weird when I walked into the ballroom. At first, I didn’t know if I should shake people’s hands. I didn’t know how to greet people. It was strange. I understand now you’re back in person in front of audiences. Tell me a little bit about what does that feel like?
I had the same sensation. It was very strange, but it was exhilarating to be back in person. I have to say when I took that stage, I was like, “I’ve missed this.” Some people don’t like being on stage. Others enjoy the experience. I quite enjoy interacting with an audience and connecting. It was so wonderful, different, and a good blend of past and future.
Natalie, this is a very superficial question. Did you wonder what you were going to wear?
Totally. I had to plan down to the T. I was downtown for a few days, so I had to get it all. I was like, “This is what it is.” You have to allow for commuting time and doing all this other stuff. It was good.
It’s funny because I’m so used to dressing from the waist up that I thought, “What’s going to go on the bottom?”
True story. I got blisters, and I wasn’t expecting it because I had been walking so much.
Of course, getting back into your shoes. With the return to events, how is this going to shape the future?
I think there’s going to be this hybrid for a while. I don’t think that we’re going to be in person unfortunately for a bit. I think the most important thing is aligning with the right technology and understanding how you make that experience. How do you connect? What is it that you can do to engage with the audience in different ways that make it memorable?
One time, I interviewed someone from Microsoft. They had this thing called Show Bacon. I’m a vegetarian, but it’s an interesting concept. If the event wasn’t taking off, they would serve the best bacon possible, and it would get people in a good mood. Isn’t that crazy? They called it Show Bacon. They even had a Facebook group.
It’s very creative what I’m getting from you, too. You have to have a sense of humor. You can’t go through life. Everything is so intense. We take ourselves so seriously at times, don’t we?
How do you develop that sense of humor? You’ve been through real challenges in life, especially when it comes to health. How do you adopt the mindset of, “This too shall pass?”
I’m a firm believer that with every peak, there’s a valley, and everywhere in between. The experience is going to be what the experience is. You have to look for the silver lining. Find joy where you can. To quote, Free to Be… You and Me, It’s All Right to Cry. Do you remember that song? You have to be able to feel all the emotions, but laughter is really important. It’s a healing source.With every peak, there’s a valley everywhere in between. Always look for the silver lining in any experience. Click To Tweet
I’m kind of laughing at myself because sometimes I cannot leave what I just did.
A hundred percent. I do that all the time.
It’s really important. I have another question for you. Where do you see the biggest opportunity for women to create their own future now?
I think that women need to continue on the path of being authentic and true to themselves. That is the beginning. That is the one wonderful thing that has happened as a result of the last three years is authenticity, accepting, believing, and knowing that who you are is just right. That will take you to where you want to go. If the people you’re surrounded by don’t appreciate that, then find new people to surround yourself with, because the opportunity is there as long as we’re true to who we are.
It’s interesting because one of the things that HerCsuite does is it connects women together, as I said earlier, in sisterhood to help each other, guidance, uplifting. I feel it’s really important to assess who you want to get out of your life. I often say to people you need to have your own board of directors. People that A) Believe in you and see you could be even greater. B) They believe in opportunity. They’re not stuck in the past. Sometimes we need to fire people who are on our board. Just because they’re in our life doesn’t mean that we should necessarily seek out their guidance, especially if they’re looking at the world as a glass half empty. I’m curious to know, where are you going from here?
One quick thing on what you just said, which is level up your network. In everything that you do, you should push yourself outside your comfort zone to reach out to someone. Whatever your limiting belief is, level up. Don’t be afraid because you might find a delightful relationship that you had no idea would exist if you hadn’t tried.
I often say your network is your net worth and being able to nurture it. I think it’s all about giving that helps build. I remember this book by Tommy Spaulding. It’s Not Just Who You Know is the name of the book. He said, “Move from networking to net giving.” That’s what HerCsuite does. It gives back to people.
I love that net giving. What a great metaphor. That’s wonderful.
I wish I made it up, but I didn’t. It does make sense, and that’s what you represent.
So do you. Do you know what popped into my head just now? When you came and did a workshop and we had to come up with a word, you helped me realize, “I think rainmaker was the word that was the description of me.” I never would’ve done that myself. I never would’ve said I’m a rainmaker because we’re taught to not want to say who we are. That goes back to where are women going. You need to put the stake in the ground and own it. Own that you’re the rainmaker, and level up what that might be.
My last question. Where are you going from here? I want to be part of it.
Thank you for this wonderful conversation. We started at number 1 and now we’re going to number 100 together. The journey has been amazing. In my heart, I want to not only be giving to our community and to the women and the companies. Health equity is at the heart of who I am. As my story with my daughters, but also my personal story, and hearing continued stories for many women. Women of color and women that are struggling. I want to have a foundation that is where I’m going to go with once HerCsuite becomes what it is destined to become to have a foundation and help women have health equity. When we see a doctor, they listen to us and we get the best care. That is my personal goal in the future.
It’s just so exciting to be in your company and follow you from way back when. I remember reading up about you and someone had described you. I don’t know if it was a colleague or a manager, but they described you as the hardest-working person. I thought that’s not really how I see Natalie. Forget about hardworking. That’s not going to get you very far. We’re all hardworking.
I see you as extraordinary. You help women to refire their passions to being fearless. That’s how I’m going to describe you. That’s the beginning of my elevator narrative for you. I want to thank you for making a difference to so many women. The kindness that you bring every day is an inspiration, not just to me, but to everyone who’s fortunate to have a connection with you. Thank you for letting me interview you.
Roz, it’s been such a delight and such an honor. Thank you for being here with me.
Take care. Much continued success with me, of course, along the side.
Yes, of course.
Thank you for spending your time with us. This show is sponsored by HerCsuite Turnkey Speaker Events where we have amazing speakers including speakers like Roz Usheroff and members inside our C-Suite. You’re invited to find out more on HerCsuite.com. Learn how you can gain a competitive advantage and help more women advance in every career phase. If you found this episode helpful, I would be so honored if you would share it with a friend or colleague. Keep shining your light bright. The world needs you.
Roz’s passion in life is growing and equipping others to feel inspired to achieve and sustain success for themselves, their people, and their teams. She is committed to helping clients to overcome limiting beliefs and behaviors in, or that lead to, positive lasting change. Sharing practical and proven methods, Roz’s personal joy is found in leading others to do remarkable things and live life with purpose, presence and significance.
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HerPower2, Inc, | CGO HerCsuite™ | Podcast Host HerCsuite™
Natalie founded Herpower2, inc. to create products under HerCsuite™ to empower women to make a lasting impact today and into the future. She takes a ‘serve first’ approach to life and has applied this principle throughout her career, serving in leadership positions in business as well as non-profit organizations.
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