Stacey Shipman On Building Her Personal Legacy By Inspiring Leaders

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No one can find success alone, and certainly not when the goal is just to make money. For Stacey Shipman, she wants her legacy to be found in her developmental work, inspiring leaders to aim for bigger things beyond the typical and usual. Sitting down with Tony Martignetti, the creator of Engage The Room and host of the Shed The Formality Podcast talks about her mission to create relationships with business owners and entrepreneurs, helping them find their own path in making it big in their chosen fields. Stacey also explains how successful people find their worth not in material things and tangible resources only but instead in their impact on others and the whole world.

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Stacey Shipman On Building Her Personal Legacy By Inspiring Leaders

It is my honor to introduce you to my guest, Stacey Shipman. Stacey is a podcast host facilitator and creator of Engage The Room, an unconventional leadership development studio for startup leaders and entrepreneurial women to relinquish formal protocols stifling their personality and ideas. Boring, bland, and basic are default settings but they aren't the only settings. Stacey believes that with the right guidance, you can drop learned behavior that never felt natural in the first place, step out of the conventional bubble, and engage the room with who you are. Her podcast is called the Shed the Formality and you should definitely check it out. She lives in Weymouth, she's a cat mom, and she is actively pursuing her childhood dream of singing in stand-up comedy by pursuing some lessons in both. It is such an honor to have you on the show. Welcome.

Thanks, Tony. I'm excited to be around the show.

You’re putting the feeders out there that you're pursuing stand-up comedy. We're expecting some high standards.

Don't ask me to tell a joke.

No.

I’ve got that out of the system.

We want you to be as comfortable as possible. This is all about you sharing what you're called to share. I'm excited to get the story behind the story and get people to read what you're all about and what got you to where you are in this place in the world.

The story behind the story behind the story.

Build confidence by taking action.

The way we roll on this show is we usually do all of this by using what's called Flashpoints. These are moments in your life that have ignited your gifts into the world and there may be multiple or maybe one. They don't have to be some dramatic thing. They have to be moments when you felt like, “My world is different now and I have to do something about it.” I'm going to give you the floor but share what you're feeling called to share and we'll pause along the way and see what's showing up. Without further ado, Stacey, it's your turn.

When I hear flashpoint and I think about where I am now, both with the podcast and my business, a big flashpoint for me was when I quit my job to start a business, which is a flashpoint for so many people who go that route. When I quit my job, I was in market research so I had that corporate career for about ten years and I worked in different industries. I liked the work but I never liked either the environment that I was in, I didn't get enough responsibility or I wasn't promoted. I could never make my way into leadership conversations.

The last company I worked for was so toxic. It was horrific and the senior leadership was not good. The reason I left was more emotional than anything because I didn't want to work in a toxic environment but I also didn't have a plan for what I was going to do. I decided to pursue my interests at the time in yoga, wellness, and that space. My husband said, “If you want to start a business, you have to network.” I didn't know what that meant but I Googled it like so many of us would do and found some events locally and I went. I fell in love with networking, even though I was not very forthcoming in talking about my business. I liked being around the people because I always had this image of creating a business where people could talk to each other as much as they wanted and never get in trouble for it. I was quiet but I also like to chit-chat. Sometimes I was being told, “Stacey, get back to work.” I just want to talk to people.

The flashpoint with networking was that what I've learned over the last couple of years now that I've been out on my own is a couple of things. One, the importance of relationships in business and leadership. That's a focal point for the work that I do now with leadership development. “Do you have the relationships that you need to get your message across, get people to take action, and make these divisions?” I see everything through that lens and I didn't realize that before I left my job. The second aspect, as I said about the environment. You’re a leadership coach too, Tony, we can teach and coach people all day different skills, tools, and ways of leading and living in the world.

If the environment isn't there and doesn't allow you to express yourself to share your ideas freely, to be creative, to bring your personality to the work that you're doing to build relationships, those other skills don't get utilized to their fullest potential. Looking back was a flashpoint because it forced me to step into something that was important to me. I grew up in a Middle Eastern family that was all about expression and talking over each other, fun and helping pursue dreams and stuff.

It fell apart for different reasons so I've come back to that place both as a leader myself developing my skills, but also focusing on the environment that I'm creating when I work with people or host events, or my podcast, and also developing leaders to do the same thing. There have been other flashpoints along the way but when about where I am now, that step into networking, and looking at the environment, how I show up, and the importance of relationships was a huge one for me.

The way you describe it, it seems like you were unleashed when you left and not even knowing. You’re Googling networking.

I’m like, “Sure. I'll do it.”

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It's funny because there are a lot of people who are in that place. They don't know what to expect about networking. There are different flavors of socializing and loving connection with people, but not knowing how that plays out and how it manifests. That part of the nature of getting to know yourself better can be powerful because maybe that flavor of networking is not going to a large event and being a wallflower in a big room. Maybe it's more of that targeted one-on-one and having conversations with people who get you. It’s finding your tribe.

I gave up on the big giant events a long time ago. It's too hard to feel seen and heard. It's too hard to get in there and meet people and more is not always better. I'm a big believer in smaller and more intimate quality conversation than bigger meet as many people as you can but it doesn't mean anything or go anywhere.

I chose that word, unleash, for some reason and I don't know why. There’s something about that for me when I think about your story, in general, it's like when people are held back, and they don't feel they can be themselves. It's like a pressure cooker that is waiting to pop. When they don't feel they can be themselves, they can't show who they are, but when they can unleash that gift, it's powerful.

That’s where the name of the podcast comes from, Shed the Formality, because those are what I call formalities. They weigh a ton and they can hold us back. Unleash is a perfect word. I use words stifling and restraint. When you feel restrained, you need to unleash it. You need to break free of it. That's what happened for me and with this message of shedding formalities. I realized that's something I've been doing my entire life. It’s challenging the status quo by saying, “No. Why does it have to be done that way? That doesn't make any sense.”

I want to dig in and find out more about what behind all this means besides this moment, which is so powerful, and it is clearly a huge flashpoint. What else happened in your life that created who you are in this element of wanting to get out of the box that you've been in?

Personally, professionally or either?

Usually, they’re both.

They’re not separate for sure. When I think about it and I did allude to it, I grew up in a big Middle Eastern family. It was loud. I'll never forget the first time my husband met my dad's side. We were walking down the hall. My grandmother lived in an assisted living facility at the time but everybody was stuffed in this small little apartment. As we walked down the hall, he said, “Do you know which apartment is hers?” All of a sudden, we heard, “Bwahaha,” and I was like, “That one.”

Your worth is not defined by anything other than the impact you have on people.

On both sides of the family are loud, food, and all-day gatherings. My cousins, we were super close. There’s laughing, fun, and supporting each other. I had big dreams of becoming a singer and all that. My uncle is a musician so he'd bring us all down to his music studio and we’d set up the microphone. It was amazing. It was purposeful and I knew who I was. I had a sense of belonging and there was no judgment. It was freedom. It felt free and it gave me purpose because I knew who I was, where I belonged, and where I fit. In high school, the whole thing collapsed. My parents got divorced, my grandparents died, my cousins moved away, I went off to college and all the things.

When that happened, I was like, “Without my family, who am I? Where do I fit? How do I belong?” Talking about flashpoints, that's what sent me hiding because it was like, “I can't get her anymore,” and I put the wall up. The networking stuff when I started a business was a step out, back out the door to figure it out. In business, it's like, “Who are you? What do you offer people? Who are your best clients?” All these business and marketing questions that I had to ask about clients and prospects were also questions I had to ask myself.

In that process, I was like, “I don't like being alone. I like the people.” People have stories. I have a story. It was this huge unleashing and shedding of these beliefs, corporate lessons, and fear-based coping strategies that I had built up for myself. Those had to come down. A lot of them had to come down. Some of it stayed because it worked but the ones that kept me in hiding, if you will, had to come down. There's nothing I love more than hosting events and bringing people together. I've always said that I want marketing.

In my business, I want you to feel like you've come into my home and we're having a conversation. That goes back to how I grew up and that feeling of purpose, belonging and freedom is what I'm trying to give people through my business. It's like, “You belong here. Whatever your story is, it's cool. Whoever you are and your personality, I want to see it. Meanness, disrespect, and all that, I'm not talking about that stuff.” The parts of ourselves we tend to hide are the most interesting. They help us stand out as leaders and business owners and are welcome.

It's funny because I think about this in an element of your child is now free to do what it's going to do and this is what you're wanting your people to do. You want them to reconnect with who they were as a child. They’re free to create what they want to create and that's what I often hear people get to when they come on the show. A lot of the clues that were left. When we were kids, the upbringing we had was most of it is positive.

I shouldn't say always, but there are a lot of things about who we were in that freedom that we operated with, that we have to reconnect with because of the programming that we end up having along the way, which not all of it is bad. Some of it is good but now it's allowing ourselves to say, “What do we want to keep and what do we let go so we can be truly who we need to be now?” That's part of also what your gift is now with the people you're working with.

My best gift is creating that space. I did a program with a small group of people. One of the young women in there told me, “Have you ever considered being a therapist?” I was like, “No,” but it's that ability to create a space where people can talk freely, share their ideas, share their challenges, and step out of their comfort zone that feels therapeutic, but it's not therapy. That is one of the gifts that I bring forward. It’s creating that space because I know what it's like to not be seen, to be judged and criticized. It stinks and I don't want people to feel that way. With the work that I'm doing, I have a core belief that everyone deserves to feel seen, heard and valued. I want to create that space for people so they can develop themselves.

I want to ask a question about the early days of you getting out. It must have been scary as all heck to get out and say, “I'm leaving the corporate world. I'm burning the boats and ready to go off on my own.” What were the challenges that you faced in the early days?

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One of the biggest ones was, and I was in market research so I had a behind-the-scenes job where everything happened to the computer. Learning how to shed that belief that work happens at the computer was a huge one because I was tied to the laptop. The reality was, as a business owner, I needed to be out promoting myself. That was one I had to shed. That took a long time to get my head around.

The biggest one for me was putting myself out there. I happily went to that first networking event, but I almost had a panic attack on my way in and almost turned around and left because I was like, “I can't do it. What if they think I'm silly and my business is stupid?” All that nonsense that goes through our heads. I did turn around to leave, but I was like, “If you leave now, you're going to have to get another job,” and that felt far worse than walking in a room full of strangers so I did it.

Even after that, the biggest thing for me was learning how to promote my own work, myself, and my own ideas. For a long time, I got caught up in promoting other people. I’m like, “I'm going to host this event and have all these different speakers, and that way I don't have to speak.” It was like, “I have something important to say.” That showed up anywhere, public speaking, networking, introducing yourself and your 30 seconds elevator speech, and being on a show like this. It showed up in a lot of different places for a long time. It was a step-by-step process to shed one layer at a time.

It's funny how you said that. It happens over a period of time and it's in building that confidence. Some people are wired in this way that they show up, and they have that unstoppable confidence but behind that confidence, they're probably scared beyond belief. They seem to have pulled that confidence ahead of them. They're putting on this amazing show but underneath the surface, there’s this scared person. For some of us, we can't put that show on. It's hard to do that. You have to build the confidence one event at a time and one thing at a time. Before you know it, you’re there. You start to show and you say, “This is it. This is what I'm doing and this is who I am. People will accept me for who I am, or they won't and I'm okay because I know what I stand for.”

I don't know if you follow Brené Brown, but she talks about that in one of her books, Braving the Wilderness, which is all about belonging and you have to belong to yourself first before you can expect to belong elsewhere. You talk about confidence and sometimes people think, “I'm not confident enough so I can't do it.” The reality is you build confidence by taking action. One of the themes of my life is when it matters when I have a desire for something, I've never been afraid to do the work. I'll figure it out. If I want something I will do the work to get it and that's what happened with business. I had this desire to do this on my own so I stepped in and did the work. A lot of people don't do that. Some do, but others don't realize what it takes to do that.

I have a question around community. Your business is built around community, but have you found that you've needed other people all along the journey to make this happen for you?

Yes. We can't be successful alone. We all need an outside perspective or that person to call and say, “This is happening. Help me,” or “Let me talk about it.” The support network is huge. For me, over the years, my husband has been a huge part of that. Networking is in part. You want leads and clients, but also you're meeting people who are doing or trying to do similar things to you so you can't have this group of people that get it, which is very important. When I first started, my family didn't get it and I was like, “Why am I talking to you, people? You’re bringing me down.” Also, a variety of different coaches over the years, different programs, conferences, and being around other people trying to do this is so incredibly. It’s not only helpful but a necessity.

That's so far been a common thread to so many people who come on the show. You can't do it alone and if you try to, 1 of 2 things will happen, you're burning yourself out in the process of trying to get there or you make all the mistakes that you possibly can make and you end up giving up.

The more you put yourself out there, the more likely you gain access to different opportunities.

It’s because you don't think you're good enough or have the knowledge. The reality is you don't have to. You know other people who can fill in those gaps.

Tell me more about if you look back into your past, what are the biggest things that you've learned about yourself on this journey? What is the thing that you've taken away from the journey that has made the biggest impact on you?

I used to equate my worth to my weight, what it looked like, how much I made, and the title that I had. When you talked about some of the roadblocks, that was definitely one of them when I left my job because without a fancy title and paycheck, who am I? It was redefining what success looks like for me. That came up once and I was talking to a coach about it. She was like, “Tell me some things that you've accomplished.” I went on and on and she was like, “Do you even hear yourself right now? You’ve accomplished all these things and brought people together.”

It wasn't things I accomplished for myself, it was programs and useful things for other people but they weren't making the money that I thought they needed to make. She's like, “What impact did you have on other people?” That doesn't mean I don't need to make money. My business has to make money. This is not a hobby. It took some pressure off because it helped me reevaluate what success looks like and now I see that my worth is not defined by those other things that I thought but the impact that I have on people.

While making money is great and I still like money, the comments that people make to me about how they feel, what they think now, and the shifts that they've made. Also, the new awareness that they have, or the new connections they made, because they came to one of my events feeling more connected to the people they work with. That's the value. Redefining that and seeing that my worth is not defined by material things or money but by the impact that I have on other people and redefining the legacy that I want to have. That's been a huge one.

I'm so glad you brought that word legacy in. First of all, what you shared was so beautiful. It’s something that resonates with my soul. I feel that connects us in such a big way but legacy is something that I talk a lot about because when you're reflecting back around, “What impact did I make? What was my contribution?” No one is going to go to think about how much money I make. They're going to be thinking about how many souls I impacted. What did people say about me? What will people say about me when I'm gone? That's the powerful thing that people rarely talk about. It's not about likes because likes are meaningless. It has nothing to do with that. It's what do people feel when they're in your presence? What do people experience from what you've put on their lives in terms of your fingerprint? That's the power. It’s almost priceless.

I agree. It's priceless. You can't put a dollar value on that. If someone watches your video and reads your blogs if you're lucky enough that they've reached out to say what the impact is. I had a woman on my podcast, she was a guest and she emailed me afterward, she said, “My mom listened to this and we've always had a difficult and tumultuous relationship. After she listened, she called me and apologized. She said, ‘I'm so sorry for how I've treated you over the years. I get it now.’” I'm having a conversation with this woman finding out her story, much we're doing here and when she told me that, I was like, “You can't put a price tag on that.”

To piggyback on that question you asked, keep doing it if it feels right in your heart, whether it makes money or not, keep doing it because you don't know how it's going to impact someone in a positive way. From an opportunity perspective, quite frankly, the more you put yourself out there, the more likely you are to gain access to different opportunities. It does both and most of the people I talked to and for myself to, quite frankly, is to have a business that makes money and makes a difference. It's not one or the other. The biggest thing is to keep doing it. If you trust that it's the right thing, the right message, and the right medium, keep putting it out there because even if it's one person, it matters.

VCP 70 | Inspiring LeadersI love that because that keeps showing up. If you think about it from a lot of the businesses that I talked to, they're purpose-focused. If you went into business to make money, the likelihood of you surviving is low because you're not going to get people engaged in your mission. Getting people to sign up to work with you is going to be hard because you need to inspire them to want to show up every day and do the work. If it's about making money, it's hard, because people want to have something to look forward to and to do that's going to be more than just a paycheck.

The people that you're selling to know that you're selling versus there's a meaning behind the selling. People know.

Is there anything else you wanted to share? I feel that there's so much that you do in the world with the work you're doing.

Even keeping with this, I often tell people, “Your presence is a gift.” If you know who you are and you're grounded in that, your values, what you believe, the goodness, the gifts that you can bring, and you bring it, it doesn't even have to be in a teaching way, that's how you're showing up. I show up with my comedy, my singing lessons, with the lessons and the vulnerability of the failures and mistakes that I've made. It's not a therapy session but you can be that open, vulnerable, accept and acknowledge where you've been, what you've learned, and who you've become.

People trust you more and that's the most important thing for me. “I don't care if you like me, I need you to trust me no matter what.” When you're showing up that way, your presence is a real gift because it gives someone else hope. It helps them see a different way that maybe they didn't think was possible. Also, it gives us inspiration and I've had people tell me this, “I see you singing and it reminds me that I used to want to play the piano. Do you know where I can take lessons?” If it inspires someone to look into their own life differently, that's a gift and we need more of that.

It's another way to say it and this is what's coming to mind for me. You're modeling the way for others to be. That's a powerful way to be. If more people can be free to be who they want to be, it allows them to show up and create the life that they want. That's the real message behind all that too, which I am taking away.

We have to be careful with this show up the way we want because we are also in a relationship with others. We're not here alone. It's okay to be angry but process your anger first so you approach it in a respectful and productive way. It’s not a willy-nilly like, “I'm angry and I'm going to show up that way.” It's like, “I'm angry. Why am I angry? Let me process this. What conversation do I need to have to make sure that my reputation is intact at the end of that too?” It's complex.

Be free but also use some emotional intelligence and social intelligence.

Whether it makes money or not, keep doing it. You don't know how it's going to impact someone in a positive way.

Which is part of shedding formalities. Part of the formality is we're not allowed to do that, have an emotion, or talk about the emotional parts of us. We have to be able to do that and we can't stuff it.

I have one last question for you. What is a book or books that have had an impact on you in the way you think?

There are two and the first one had an impact on me when I still worked in corporate. It's The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma. I don't even remember what part of it impacted me in this way but some passage in there made me realize that I didn't have to hit snooze ten times every morning because I dreaded going to work every day. I could get up early and use that time for me, for something that was of interest to me. It didn't mean I had to go to work early or whatever. That was a life-changing moment because I started to get up earlier and use that morning time for activities that were joyful for me even if it meant cleaning my house.

The second book is Your Erroneous Zones by Wayne Dyer. There was a passage early on there where he compares a piece of coral that's constantly moving and evolving because it's alive to a rock which if you look at them under a microscope, the coral is moving. It's constantly changing because it's a living organism but a rock doesn't change at all because it's not a living organism and the point was, if you're not growing, changing, and evolving, you might as well be dead.

That was huge for me because I am an evolver. I've learned, I change direction and I do things differently when I've learned better in different ways. A lot of people outside of me would look at that, especially early on when I had my business. They’d be like, “You're stressing me out. You keep changing things. What are you doing?” It made me feel a little crazy but then that passage made me realize, “They're the ones who are dying inside because there's life in movement and evolution.”

That's so powerful. First of all, both books are amazing. I haven't heard Wayne Dyer's name in a while. I'm a huge fan.

That was his first book in the 1970s. I don't even know if I was born yet.

Also, Robin Sharma because I'm a fan of his too. The last book I read by him was The 5AM Club, which is a gem.

VCP 70 | Inspiring LeadersI have read that one.

It's good. I don't even know where to begin, Stacey. This has been so powerful and I didn't ask you to do one joke, not even once.

You did watch my comedy online for that.

Your energy is amazing and your stories were powerful. The insights were insightful.

Thank you.

Thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show. I want to give people some information about how they can find you. What is the best place for them to find you?

EngageTheRoom.com is my website and that's probably the best. They can find me on LinkedIn too as Stacey Shipman.

Thank you so much. Thank you to our readers for coming on the journey with us. Please do reach out to Stacey. She is a gift to the world at this point. I can't wait to see which scene you’re next.

Thanks, Tony. It was great to be here. It’s great to be on the other side of the mic.

That's a wrap. Thanks.

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About Stacey Shipman

A podcast host, facilitator and creator of Engage The Room, Stacey makes people feel comfortable in uncomfortable settings.

She continues to “shed the formality” in her own life through stand-up comedy classes and singing lessons, sharing elements of both in her work.



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