Welcome to Powerful Leaders, No Apologies.
Beth and Debbie talk with software and technology sales executive Debbie Richardson about being a leader at LexisNexis, her career journey in the legal industry, and the importance of disruption and questioning the status quo. They also talk about her leadership approach and the value of back-to-basics learning and share stories of inspiring and mentoring others in their professional growth.
Links from the episode:
[4:48] Being a disruptor can be a positive thing
[7:31] Professional development sources
[10:12] What was hard about the journey
[25:13] Leadership superpower
Debbie Foster (00:03):
Welcome to the Powerful Leaders, no apologies podcast, the show about women who are ready to own their power and change the world. My name is Debbie Foster.
Beth Thompson (00:12):
And I’m Beth Thompson. Our guests are fierce and fabulous women who are making a difference in their personal and professional communities. Are you ready to be inspired? If so, stay tuned and also check out our email@example.com slash powerful leaders. Here’s the show.
Welcome back. We’re Powerful Leaders, no apologies, podcast, and we are here for another episode. I’m super excited about today’s guest, but before we dive into that, Debbie, we’re still going really strong. I pinch myself every day, especially on post days, on Thursdays, every other Thursday because we just get such warm and fuzzy feedback from our episodes. It’s been amazing.
Debbie Foster (01:00):
We really do. And I feel like we could almost fill up a podcast episode with some of the great stories that we’ve heard from people who have listened to our episodes. Maybe that’s an idea for a future episode is kind of talking about the impact that talking about your leadership journey can have on other people. So that could be a fun thing to do. I also think it’s important to acknowledge that you and I are really lucky because we have some awesome people helping us put this podcast together. Chelsea Schuster from our team is like our master organizer. She is amazing, so helpful. And Brittany Felix, who is our podcast producer, she does such a great job of taking our recordings and making them sound completely amazing, even when we have phone ringing or dog collars, jingling, or whatever happens to be going on in the background. So we couldn’t do this without that awesome support.
Beth Thompson (01:51):
No, they make us look good. And as we spoke about earlier, we’re so fortunate to know so many amazing female leaders already. We have been pulling from our own networks of women that we feel are impactful and have something to say and can help other people. And today’s guest is no different than that. Debbie Richardson, thank you for joining us. I’m excited to have you here. We’ve known each other for over 10 years. We don’t see each other often enough or for long enough. It’s usually now passing each other at conferences. But thank you so much for joining us today.
Debbie Richardson (02:27):
You’re welcome, and thank you for having me. You said Debbie and I was all excited to jump in, so I’m going to apologize in advance if I step over.
Beth Thompson (02:36):
That’s a really great point. We do have two Debbies on air today. We have Debbie Foster, our host, and we have Debbie Richardson. Debbie Richardson, we would love for you to share your origin journey and also how you did you get to where you are now. We would love to hear your career path.
Debbie Richardson (02:55):
So we have an hour, 45 minutes.
Beth Thompson (02:58):
We have 30, but speak quickly. Oh,
Debbie Richardson (03:00):
No, I’m already trying to, trying to stretch the limits, which is probably part of my personality. I’m a bit of a disruptor, but thank you again. So I started my career about 29 years ago in legal, and I started at a company called Night Writer and making copies. So really that’s where we started. And it was really a service industry. It was how to support Lawyerist and law firms in Reprographics. And throughout my career, the journey of legal and how legal operates I moved into technology wasn’t my second step. I think legal really drove how we had to all respond to supporting law firms and the path of legal operations. So I’m currently a Lexus Nexus and I lead the new business initiative teams. What that is, is a strategic team put together where there’s 12 folks and it’s consultants, sellers, and post-sales. The team was put together last year really from the industry asking us to do a better job with implementation of software technology, not only doing the revenue piece of sales, but really helping law firms utilize technology at the best level. LexusNexus has lots of different tools and I think that the ask from our clients was, how do we implement and use better or more effectively and efficiently? And so that’s the team that I lead now.
Beth Thompson (04:33):
So I have a question for you, Debbie. You mentioned a little bit earlier that you well described yourself as a disruptor. I would love to hear more about why and maybe some examples of how you’ve been a disruptor because we haven’t had that conversation yet on the podcast.
Debbie Richardson (04:48):
Yeah, it’s a great question. I think the word disruption sometimes has a negative connotation. So when I say disruption is I often ask why. So if we’re doing a certain process, whether it be internally in the company or with our clients, is if it doesn’t make sense not to be afraid to disrupt the conversation, to say it doesn’t really make sense. And in large companies and in law firms as we know, it’s not always a comfortable conversation to disrupt how someone may be thinking about a certain situation. So that’s really where, when I use the words disruption is we must all disrupt how we’re thinking or doing things at times to notice if it’s the most effective way to do things.
Debbie Foster (05:36):
That’s great. And I, you’re in good company here because I feel like Beth and I are also disruptors, but it may not always be looked upon positively, but the intention is always how do we make this better? How do we leave something better than we found it? So let’s talk a little bit about leadership. For you. What does it look like now? You said you have a team of 12. What about day in the life from a leadership perspective? Tell us a little bit about that.
Debbie Richardson (06:02):
So leadership for me, because I lead different types of roles, I is a little different. I think that the word leadership for me is we are a team. And so understanding where people are at certain levels is important to me. I mean, obviously we have an outcome and we all clear with our outcome. Everyone needs to know where need to be at the end. But in leading teams, it’s really understanding them in their own growth to get to an outcome. So from a day-to-day operational types of things, we all have roles and we have to measure ourselves in how we’re doing that role, not just professionally, but personally as well. So as I lead the team, as they’re noticing, we have a company goal, but we also have a personally. So there’s that balance in leadership. I also, I’m a big metrics person, so I believe that if we can’t measure it, we can’t monitor it. And I really encourage the team to think like that. So if we can measure something, we can see how we’re doing in life, you’ve got to measure things and then monitor and adjust it. Making adjustments is okay. It just means that we’re noticing how we’re doing things.
Beth Thompson (07:14):
Where do you look for inspiration or leadership, professional development? Do you have any particular leadership books that stand out or podcasts that you listen to? Are there mentors in your life? Where do you go for your professional development?
Debbie Richardson (07:31):
That’s a great question. So early on, I was a trainer for Tony Robbins and I led fire walks and I learned a lot about N L P neurolinguistic programming. In other words, how the brain works and how we think and what thoughts do. And so I’ve always used that as a foundation throughout my career and my leadership is understanding how human beings operate, think work. We did fire walks. If you can walk on fire, what can’t you do? But I also, Brene Brown, I do a lot of listening books on tape. I love her, I love her stuff. She talks a lot about it’s okay to be wrong, it’s okay to make mistakes. So I do a lot of that as far as if I’m on a plane. I think from a sales tactical, I think it’s important as a leader not just to understand the tactical part of selling the tactical piece of implementation and training change management. So Simon Track listened to a lot of his book, the Typical Sales 1 0 1 books.
Debbie Foster (08:31):
Those are great refreshers listening to a sales 1 0 1 book when you’ve been a sales professional for however many years. Talk about that. Careful, why do you listen, but why do you listen to the 1 0 1? Is it the refresher? Is it the back to basics?
Debbie Richardson (08:48):
It’s such a great question. It’s so funny because I just had this conversation with my team two months ago. Fanatical Prospecting was the right, and I asked them all to listen to the book. And it was, well, what do you mean? It was really kind of like, oh my gosh. And before I do anything I, before I ask people to do something, I try to do it myself. Cause I think that’s important. And it is back to grassroots. It’s how we were all trained coming up in the ranks when we all carried a bag or had a number. It’s understanding the things we get away from that cold calling, pick up the phone, all of those types of the training, I guess if you will, that we had coming up and selling and in law firms. Yeah, and it was interesting because many of them said, we came back and said, oh my goodness, I never really thought that was important to block time for myself to do the things that.dot. And so getting back to the basics sometimes is the simplest way to reset to get back on track.
Beth Thompson (09:49):
Debbie, I knew we were kindred spirits because first of all, Debbie Foster and I are huge Brene Brown fans, and I am a huge Jeb Blunt fan. I’ve read most of his books including Fanatical Prospecting. So we are on the same page there. So we will certainly link to some of Brene Brown’s work and her podcast as well as Jeb’s book in the show notes.
Debbie Foster (10:12):
So next question, what was hard about your journey? Was there a time that people counted you out? Where did you have to keep showing up? Tell us about an obstacle that you overcame or a difficult rough patch in your journey that you rose above.
Debbie Richardson (10:29):
Oh gosh. One, you just want me to do one?
Debbie Foster (10:33):
Let’s start with one.
Debbie Richardson (10:34):
So it’s interesting. I think much of it was a mindset. I think that going through your career, you’re always, I’m competitive. I wanted to achieve, but I really wanted to lead people. It was important to me to lead people in order to be leaders as salespeople. Moving into that role, there’s a different skill set as far as achieving numbers. And I think if I were to think back in my career and someone actually offered me this coaching is I wouldn’t sit at the table. I knew I could do it and I wanted the opportunity. So when I moved into leadership from a transition where I was into a, actually it was a court reporting company to lead the west, I was afraid in the sense where I didn’t think I could, but I knew I could. So I wouldn’t sit at the table and someone offered me that coaching, you don’t put yourself out there, it’s not going to happen. And that was from a lesson, and I say it was probably my own lesson to trust myself and to know and to ask to take that roller sit at the table.
Debbie Foster (11:39):
Do you have any stories where you have been able to inspire someone else who has been struggling with claiming their seat at the table or a mentor, mentor-mentee situation where you were impactful taking the advice that you had received and kind of paying it forward?
Debbie Richardson (11:58):
I do. I have both actually. And it’s a great question because many times there was this one leader, she wanted to lead a team, and the challenge was sometimes your skillset at what you do is fabulous. And we believe that if we’re in a different role, it’s going to feel differently. So it was more of being in leadership is not so much being center stage, having all the attention. So it’s coaching in that direction. I think my favorite story, and I don’t know if I could say it, but as my daughter, she is in say legal sales and she grew up back in the copy days, but really wanting to get out of college and have a job as a VP and all the years in what we’ve been through to understand the industry and understand how things work or how you need to behave takes time. And I think that’s the blessing that we’ve all learned throughout the years. 20 something years of doing this 10 years is it takes time to learn the industry learn. In our case, law firms learn about yourself. So I think that mean that story of, and now she’s going to the president’s club, she’s, she’s doing all these things looking back, but you must be patient and learn about where you want to go. And then if it’s not the proper fit, recognize that it’s not a personal thing, it’s just what your strengths are.
Debbie Foster (13:30):
I totally agree with you. I think that whether it’s our daughters or people that we’re working with, if we can help them get ahead or kind of leapfrog a situation that we had gone through, it can be so helpful. And at the same time, it’s also pretty cool to watch them travel through some of those same roads and figure out how to get to the other side in their own way. So I love how you shared that about your daughter. So the next part of our podcast, it’s intentionally called powerful leaders. No apologies. The no apologies part really came from us thinking about how much we apologize for things that we don’t really need to apologize for. Just starting an email with the words, I’m sorry. And then I’m like backspace, backspace back. And Beth and I have talked about this a lot, about how we’ve become so aware of apologizing since we started doing this show. And there’s a lot of statistics around women apologizing more than men often because when they’re not responsible for situations, there’s things that just don’t require an apology. I would love for your thoughts on that. Why do you think that is the case and do you have any apology stories yourself where you found yourself apologizing for things that you didn’t need to apologize for
Debbie Richardson (14:47):
These questions? So I have a standard belief about apologies, and it’s if you’ve done something with intent to hurt or harm someone, you need to apologize. And so that’s just my standard in general in life with people. And I think there are occasions that you need to apologize. I think apologizing for having an opinion or apologizing for making a call, when I say making a call, making a decision to do something is not my belief. It doesn’t align with how I believe in the way in leadership. I ask people, make decisions, keep moving. I used to be in that category constantly apologizing when I was very young because I wanted approval. And I think that as you learn that saying you’re sorry, sorry, is an important word in life and it should be used in the appropriate contents. And there have times I’ve had to apologize whether it be for something, not thinking about others’ feelings, but I think apologizing basically starts a conversation with asking for someone’s approval to do what you’re already doing.
And I think that when you’re constantly worried about what other people think, as opposed to knowing that you’re good at your job or knowing that you must move forward as opposed to getting people’s approvals and permission. Now there are times that we make the wrong choices. There are times that we have to go back and go, oops, that was, whether it be with a client or with a colleagues. So again, I go back to you don’t start a conversation with, I’m sorry, and maybe that doesn’t align with what some folks think, but if you don’t do something with an tent, you don’t need permission to either do your job or help a client. In many times clients won’t even understand that, right? In other words, you’re there to help them through a process.
Debbie Foster (16:44):
That’s awesome, Beth. And I think, I don’t know what episode we’re on now, but some of the stories that we’ve heard about women apologizing, the point about it’s apologize when it’s appropriate to apologize. But the part where people feel like they have to apologize for an idea in advance because it might not be a great idea or something that they believe in because they’re afraid that other people at the table might not believe the same things is where we’re really kind of zoning in and saying, that is where we need to confidently show up and say, this is what I think, not, I’m really sorry, this might be a bad idea, but this is what I think. And that’s where I think we can be really impactful to the people that we work with, to women who are younger, who are kind of coming up through the reins, own what you think, own what you believe and own your ideas.
Debbie Richardson (17:34):
I agree. And I, I’d add one piece to that, being a mother of daughters is do some research. When you have an opinion about something and you want to have a conversation in the world we live in, share your thoughts on it, but also come to the conversation of why, and I go back to the metrics to understand percentages or this is what I’ve looked at, or this is what the history has shown us. Because you also feel more confident when you have some statistics or metrics or whatever that may be to say, if someone pushed, here’s what I’ve seen. Right? Yeah. So I always add that second piece, come to these meetings, give us your ideas and give us the meat behind why you believe that or what numbers will tell us. Because a lot of times in history of business, that’s what we’re up against. That’s what people want to know about.
Debbie Foster (18:24):
Yeah, that’s really great. So going into our final segment, leadership superpowers, we love to ask our guests in every episode about their leadership, leadership superpower. It’s an opportunity for you to tell us what you do really well when it comes to leadership. And I can’t wait to hear what yours is.
Debbie Richardson (18:44):
So funny. I have my team also identify with a superhero because I believe that we’re all superheroes. And I would say from a leadership standpoint, I believe I lead with empathy. I mean, anyone who knows my personality, I’m pretty competitive. I’m pretty resilient. But I think that empathy is probably really understanding where people are in their life, in their professional world. And I think the other one is probably resilience, as we must be resilient and continue too. So between empathy and resilience, I think those are my two. Not one superpower.
Debbie Foster (19:21):
That’s okay, you can have two. But now since you opened the door to this, who’s your superhero? I need to know.
Debbie Richardson (19:29):
Wonder Woman. Oh yeah. Wonder Woman. Yeah. My, we all have Wonder Woman.
Debbie Foster (19:34):
Why? Why Wonder Woman Bracelets, right? The bra, the bracelets. So it’s funny, you won’t be able to see this, you podcast listeners, but I have my superhero right here on my desk. This is incredible. And it’s always sitting right on my desk reminding me that I can always be a little bit more incredible than I am currently being. So I love the superpower. I love the superhero idea. Thank you so much for joining us today. We really like your story’s great. The examples you used were very impactful, and we appreciate you spending some time with us today.
Debbie Richardson (20:09):
Well, thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
Beth Thompson (20:15):
And that’s a wrap. Thanks for listening to Powerful Leaders. No apologies. Be sure and subscribe to our show and help us spread the word by sharing our show with your network,
Debbie Foster (20:25):
And check out our show notes at affinityconsulting.com/powerfulleaders for resources and ways to connect with us. See you next time.