A Journey Of A Corporate Dropout To Impacting Parents With Diane Dempster
Parenting is challenging as it is, so how much more when you're dealing with complex kids? In this episode, Diane Dempster, the COO, and Cofounder of Impact Parents, joins Tony Martignetti to share the different turns she took in the journey of her life that eventually led her to help parents deal with a child with ADHD. As a corporate dropout, she talks about her experience of learning what she wants to be by being surrounded by people she doesn't want to become. She talks about the lengths she went through in order to find her true calling and how she became a coach. Diane also shares her take on what values are and understand why she believes that it's more than just knowing what you stand for; instead, it's about knowing why it's important.
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A Journey Of A Corporate Dropout To Impacting Parents With Diane Dempster
It is my honor to introduce you to my guest, Diane Dempster. She is a Professional Coach, Speaker, and Educator with over twenty years of corporate leadership experience. She is the Cofounder of ImpactADHD.com. Now, it's called Impact Parents. That's the new name. She's the Co-creator of Sanity School and Co-author of Parenting ADHD Now! She provides training, coaching, and support for parents and educators through Impact Parents. Diane helps parents access the best resources, training, and coaching so they too can find their answers.
An experienced leader, expert in change management, and all-around life sherpa, Diane helps clients create deep, sustaining change and open their eyes to life. No one needs this more than parents of complex kids. Diane received a Master's from the University of Michigan and a coaching certification from the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching, otherwise known as iPEC. I am so happy to welcome you to the show, Diane.
Find your safe space, and it will serve you well over time.
I feel like there should be flames or something. I'll channel the campfire. I was in front of the fire pit. I'll channel that while we're talking.
I'm thrilled to have you on. First and foremost, I love what you're doing in the world and the impact you're having, especially these days when there's so much happening. Parents are going through so much and their kids, especially complex kids need as much support as possible. I'm looking forward to hearing what brought you to the place you're in. We do that with the support of this framework that I've created around revealing it through flashpoints. Points in your story that have revealed your gifts to the world. That's what we're going to do. I'll give you the space to share what you're comfortable sharing. Along the way, we'll pause and see what's showing up. Diane, with that, let it go.
Flashpoints, you said two things. One is what were the pivotal points in your life and then this whole thing about your brilliance. I think that sometimes the most pivotal points in your life are the ones that take you to the bottom of the barrel so you can push off the bottom and come back up to the top. It's interesting because I'm a corporate dropout for a couple of reasons, but I like to tell the story. I'm fascinated by how people end up the way they end up. It's like this one thing happens. You have this one conversation. All of a sudden, your entire life changes and you end up something in a different place than you thought that you would be.
The story that I want to weave is how I ended up unexpectedly as a coach. Coaching wasn't even a profession when I was looking for careers back in the 1980s. I was always one of those helper people. I was one of those people that all my friends would come to me with their problems. It's like I could hang one of those signs out in front of my house because I was that person, but I don't think I knew that I was that person. I don't know if I ever thought, "Do I want to be a social worker? Do I want to be somebody, a therapist?" It was something like that. My mom went back and got her degree as a therapist after I had already decided what I was going to do when I grew up.
My dad was a healthcare professional and this conversation, "If you like helping people, you should go into healthcare." I was like, "I'll study Biology." I studied Biology. I decided that I was going to do something in healthcare and wasn't quite sure what. Something happened to a friend of mine. I ended up doing a volunteer gig for an organization and then all of a sudden, I got a job for this organization. I was a sexuality educator. My first job after college was teaching human sexuality, positive self-esteem.
I loved it. I loved teaching kids. I worked with parents and kids. Part of what happened when I was in that job is I had a bad boss. That was a pivotal moment. I went, "I don't want to be a bad boss. I always want to be a good boss. What do I need to do to improve that and become a good boss?" That was the first bumping point that I ended up going back to. Instead of taking this road, I ended up going back and getting my Master's degree in Healthcare Administration so that I could learn how to be a boss in healthcare.
One thing that I hear often is that it's not always like you see something that is great and you want more of it. Sometimes you see what's not right in the world and you want to see how you can fix it. That was your call. It was almost like thinking of the hero's journey. The call to arms is that moment when you said like, "This might be my calling."
Flash forward and I'm going to skip a couple of chapters of that and go back to them. When I lost my job in corporate, one of the pieces of feedback that I got was that my team members enjoyed me more than my colleagues did. The people who were under me thought that I was a better boss than the people who worked with me, who were my peers. It was because I did work hard at creating relationships, developing and coaching them, and all those things that happened.
The other piece of this was my relationship with money. I could have gotten a job as a social worker or something like that. I was making $12,000 a year in my first job after college. I've never been that kind of person who strives for a lot of money, but there was this, "How do I make a good living? How do I pick a job that's in a good living?" I'm an analytical person. I got one of those steel-trap brains that can figure anything out. I'm a huge problem solver. I love data and numbers.
After getting my Master's degree, I ended up as a medical economics analyst, which was so far away from a social worker, doctor, or whatever else. It was like, "You got to use your left brain, Diane." I was doing it in healthcare organizations. For years, I did data analysis. I worked for an actuary. I did all these crazy things with numbers to help healthcare organizations make sure that they can pay their bills, pay their doctors, and all those other things.
I always worked for nonprofit organizations. That was part of my core value. I wanted to be helping people underneath it, but I ended up in this behind-the-scenes role. I moved from analytics into marketing. I stayed in that allied healthcare world and I did it behind the scenes. That was an important part of it. It was this, "You can make money because you're smart. You can do it by working for organizations that you believe in instead of having me be the one that's out there taking care of people and doing those things."
Is that a value of yours or do you feel like it was something that you were thrusting on yourself? You liked the purpose and the drive to support those types of missions but was being behind the scenes something that you strived for?
That's a third thing we could talk about is being behind the scenes. I've always been a great number two person. In my business now, my business partner, who you interviewed, Elaine, is this great visionary person. I'm the person who's like, "Show me your vision and I'll figure out how to make it happen." I'm a great systems thinker. I see how things fit together. I'm like, "We can take this from here and this from here. We can throw it on a piece of paper and it'll happen." I'm a social person, but I'm an introvert. It's like, "I would rather be far behind the scenes. It's my little safe space." It served me well over time.
What do we do with that? That's the question. I'm analytical. I want to work for organizations that have a strong mission. I want to help people but up until then, I wasn't doing it face-to-face. It wasn't in that kind of caregiving environment. In 2008, like two other million people, I lost my job. Part of that was what was going on in the world right then. It was the recession. Part of it was that there was a re-org and I wasn't a good fit with the leader. Part of it was burnout. That's the reality is that I'd worked for leaders who were not a good fit for me, pushed through and made stuff happen. I lost a little bit of connection with my passion.
Don't hide behind the conflict. Instead, figure out how to engage in the conflict.
At the time, I had a lot of stuff going on in my personal life that also made life hard for me. I wasn't exactly in a good mental space then. "There you go. You're going to lose your job." It was one of those great times to figure out, "Who do I want to be?" It was the year I turned 40. I remember right before I lost my job, I went on a one-week silent meditation retreat. Talk about preparation. The universe was like, "Here you go. We'll get you ready. You're going to lose your job." I didn't spend the whole three months on the couch. I spent about a month on the couch, healing and licking my wounds and then trying to figure it out.
I was fortunate enough that the company I worked for gave me an outplacement service to help me figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up. It was like, "You're 40 years old. What do you want to do when you grow up?" I did one of those little Myers-Briggs, "Do what you are or something." I can't remember. There's a book that's out there that you can take the Myers-Briggs and it'll say, "Here's the job you should have based on your Myers-Briggs." I did this whole thing and it was like, "You should be a therapist. You should be a social worker. You should be a minister." It was all the stuff of where I was back when I was 14 or 15, but it had evolved away from me. I explored a few things. I was like, "No."
At the time, I was not yet a single mom, but I was the sole breadwinner in my family. I was under a lot of personal stress. My husband at the time was an alcoholic. I was struggling with what was going on with him. I was like, "I would love to do that passionate thing, but we need to pay the bills." I quickly went back and got another job in healthcare that turned out to be completely the wrong fit. It was a good job because it paid the bills and it ended up being not a great fit for me. It was because I was using different skills and things like that than what I was connected to and what I wanted to be doing.
When you have a desire to do something and you're driven by this passion to do something that's purposeful, you have that desire, but then reality sets in that the world is requiring you to make money or deal with other situations. How do you create that momentum towards something you want while keeping grounded in the real world? You described something that made me think of this. In reality, I think that's what you did. You were able to somehow keep both of them influx at the same time thinking about your purpose, but also juggle a very challenging situation.
That's the point in that particular job, I struggled because it was a healthcare organization. I remember a couple of months in going, "My job is to make money for a bunch of doctors." It felt completely different than where I'd been before, where I was working for an organization that was focused on helping people, preventing illness. That's where the disconnect happened. I probably imploded because I couldn't connect to the mission. It was like, "Why are we doing this? What is the purpose of this project, initiative or whatever else?" It was like, "We got to be the best. We got to make more money. We got bottom-line stuff."
It was very disconcerting. I worked hard. I tried to do my job, but there was always this underpinning of, "Something is not right." That was part of why that job ended up imploding. I call it my cosmic bitch slap. The universe went, "Diane, this is not what you want to be doing. This is not for you. It picked me up and threw me out of that job." It paid for a new kitchen, but that was all that job did besides eject me and put me on a new path.
That's a powerful way to look at it. I like that term because so many people go through those moments and it's like, "Now, it's time to wake up and see what's happening and what you want to happen in your life."
I'm trying to remember when I hired a coach but I'd worked with coaches on and off through my job transition to the second job that was such a not great fit. When I lost the second job, the question my coach asked me was like, "What's the worst thing that would happen if you didn't have a paycheck for twelve months?" I was like, "What do you mean? I'll not have a paycheck for twelve months. This is crazy." I was the breadwinner. I was covering my kids, expenses and all this other stuff. I was like, "What would happen? How would I get the money? What would I do?" It shook me out of the box to think about, "What could I do?" It gave me permission to say, "What if you could go without a paycheck for an extended period of time?" I don't know whether I was willing to say twelve months. I think I probably was safer with six months, but it was, "What would you do?"
That was when I gave myself permission to explore this concept of coaching and what becoming a coach would look like. I went and got my coaching certification. I did that pretty quickly. I started a coaching business where I was working with leaders and educators. I was paying attention to the kinds of people that I was attracting as a coach as a way of formulating what I want to be doing with my coaching business. Every coach goes through that. It was, "Now, I'm a coach. I want to hang up my sign and say, 'People come and I'll coach you.'" It was that, "What's your niche? How do you define it? What kind of people do you want to coach?”
I don't know if you have a question about that, Tony. What I knew at that point was the kind of people I loved coaching. I was very clear about who are they. My official niche was not so clear. It was just, "I want to work with women. I want to work with people who are maybe yoga moms." The thing I would say was like, "I'm more interested in people who are more interested in walking their spiritual path than climbing their corporate ladder." Those are the kinds of people I could identify with. Those are the kinds of people that I want to coach and work with.
I want to go far back. Since you were young, you were always thinking purpose first and not money. Even though you had your departure throughout your career, where you did go the corporate path and go into the more analytical stages of your life, the reality is who you were serving is back to being in line with who you were as a young person. We talked about your moments.
I remember distinctly after I got my coaching certification and they posted on Facebook. One of my best friends from undergrad, who I had lost contact with other than being Facebook friends said, "This is the perfect career for you. I always knew you'd do something like this." It made me cry. It was this moment where I was like, "I've done this total detour." I would never erase the detour. I'm not the kind of person who's like, "I've missed all this part of my life." The detour was necessary. This is who I am at my core. It gives me the space to be able to be like that.
You've picked up along the way the other part that makes you unique, which is this operational expert who does well with the analytics.
My business partner likes that when I can play with the numbers and make things happen.
At the same time, be in line with like, "I have a purpose that's aligned with helping the people who are heart-centered and want to be doing what's inside of them that is strong and not just to make more money."
It's about understanding not just what we stand for but what's important about it.
There were a couple of other pivotal moments as I was trying to figure out what kind of coaching I wanted to do. I did start out doing the vanilla leadership coaching. I loved coaching whatever showed up. I remember distinctly three things that happened. One was I went out to a networking breakfast with someone in a BNI group or something like that. He was like, "Tell me who your ideal client is." I was trying to explain it to him and he was like, "You got to work on this because if I can't reach into my Rolodex and hand you a card, it's not going to happen."
The second thing I did was this visualization thing and some coaching thing where it was like, "I'm going to walk you through this visualization and you're going to see your ideal client." Who I saw was me. It was very clear as day. It was like I'm sitting there in the audience of this thing. I was giving this talk and everything else. I was like, "What do I need?" At the time, I was struggling with this lifework, "My family needed me. I want to be making money. I want to be serving the world." It was, "How do I merge the two together?" I was sitting with that a little bit.
The third thing that I did is I went to another coaching workshop. Somebody was doing a little workshop around finding partners and connecting with other people to do work together. I said, "I need somebody else." It was like, "This is what I need." I'm an external processor and introvert. My ability to do stuff on my own is very different than my ability to do this with something else. I was like, "Universe, we are going to manifest a business partner. That's what we're doing." It happened. It was one of those moments where maybe it was the retribution for the cosmic bitch slap however many years ago. It was like, "I pushed you over here and I'm going to give you the gift." I then met my business partner. When I met my business partner, Elaine, we were both at a national conference supporting ADHD. We now support what we call complex kids, kids with anxiety and ADHD spectrum.
At the time, the national conference was in Atlanta. I was having this conversation with myself. My son had been diagnosed and I was struggling as a mom. I knew my ex-husband had ADHD. We were still married at that time. I was struggling with my relationship with him. I was like, "Do I want to do something in this space? Do I not want to do something in this space?" She and I had met through a mutual friend. We showed up at this conference and started talking about, "How do we serve?” That’s the same public health mindset of how do we serve?
As we talked about that community of people who are impacted by ADHD, there was nobody out there helping parents. The conversation was, "I'm Elaine. I'm an adult with ADHD. I need help." I was like, "I'm Diane. I'm an adult without ADHD. I need help because everybody else in my family has ADHD and I don't understand them." We talked about what we learned as coaches when we were with their coach training and went, "These tools changed our parenting. What if we taught coaching tools to parents who have kids with ADHD?" It was this, "Yes, this sounds great. This would be a great way to teach what we love and serve a population that needs support."
She was already doing that. She had been working with parents and educators. She was a little bit earlier on in her coaching journey than I was. That moment of, "Yes, sure," and I was like, "That sounds cool. I want to coach cool people." I have this part of me that wants to save the world. It was this, "I can do a little bit of both." I knew that she was one of those out there in the front eye of the public that I could be that cool, behind-the-scenes, get-it-done, awesome number two person. I don't know that she would say that I'm an awesome number two person. I feel like we're partners. We are in a business relationship where we let our strengths shine. That's super cool.
That's one of the best things I've heard. Whenever I talk to people who are in partnerships, they always seem to allow the best of the other to shine through. There are arguments, but they get settled by way of having the trust and the foundation that has been built. If there is no trust, things don't last.
That's the piece of it as a coach, too. Think about it. We call those conversations. In a very different way, I think about what was hard for me in corporate, I've learned completely differently in my business partnership because you don't hide behind the conflict. You figure out how to engage in the conflict and say, "We're not in agreement. How are we going to solve this problem?" rather than it being about, "She said this. He said that." It's a whole different way of engaging in the world when you're wearing that coach hat. You bring your coaching into your business management.
It's so great and refreshing to hear when you hear this coaching approach to being brought into a partnership. It's not always that way. There are two coaches in a business together. That's fantastic. When you think about two people in a partnership in other businesses, it's not always magical. It's not a great connection.
Let's take it back to what I do for a living. It's two people in a relationship. Whether it's a couple who are trying to solve the problem of, "I've got a complex kid who's struggling in school. I've got a kid who won't listen," or as a parent and a child, "We're figuring out how to solve a problem." I've got a lot of parents who are struggling with their teenagers who are checked out of school because they can't handle online school or they're not sure about online school or they're trying to be more independent. Their parents are getting a completely different view of them because they're seeing them eight hours a day because they're doing school from home. Everything is changing around us.
This is a good transition point. I'd like to hear two things. One of them is, what is the most profound message that you have around where we are in terms of how people are managing with kids and the whole pandemic? What's been coming up for you around that?
It's funny because everybody handles the pandemic differently. I work hard not to judge anybody's fears, non-fears, or anything else. The quote that I'm channeling is, "It's all for our good." I want that to be my spiritual practice in life. It's like this knowing that the universe has my back, knowing that everything that happens will project me forward to something new, something different, and something more interesting. Keeping that mindset is what I strive for and that's the thing that families need. It's, "How do I stay connected to hope? How do I stay connected to my core values, beliefs, and happiness in a time that it's a struggle?"
This message is important but it also makes me think about these elements of setting values as a family and making sure that everyone in the family knows what they stand for and who they stand for as a family. That always can get you back to the place of grounding.
I like the way you phrased it. It's interesting because you started with the word "values" and then you went back to "what we stand for." The piece of it is that a lot of times we get attached to what we say our values. We go to church or we do this or that. It's not that those things are right or wrong. It's this, "What is it about going to church that's important?" Whether we have a strong relationship with our higher power or whatever we call that thing we have a relationship with that's bigger than us. It's about understanding not just what we stand for, but what's important about it.
We take care of each other because we want each other to always feel there's somebody that's got their back. It's like, "I want you to work hard in school because I want you to feel good about yourself and have an opportunity for success as you define it." Many times, we get attached to a thing instead of what happened behind it. It's this, "I want my child to go to college." What is it that you think your kid would get from going to college? They would have a leg up or they would feel good about themselves. It's asking that question of what's important about it that helps you to clarify your values in a different way.
This is a great message and I think it’s something that oftentimes we miss is the underlying story behind it. I think of the child who asked why a couple of times like, "Why? Why?" The reality is that's a great question.
That's the piece of it is that a lot of times we get into these habits as a family where we always do this. We always have Sunday dinner together. What are we doing and why? Why are we having Sunday dinner together? Are we meeting that objective or are we just having Sunday dinner together? A lot of times, people had that Sunday dinner together because they want to stay connected as a family, have fun together and know one another intimately. They want to be able to influence and learn from one another. There are a million ways from Sunday to do those things that may or may not have anything to do with Sunday dinner. Sunday dinner could stink if you aren't doing the things that you want to be doing.
This is such a great sentiment right now because what we need is more of that connection and the underlying reason why. I want you to reflect back. You've had a remarkable journey to get to where you are. You've done amazing things in the world. What are the 2 to 3 lessons that you would say are the biggest lessons you've taken away from your journey to getting here?
They may not have anything to do with anything else. When I think about my life lessons, I always tell the story of how my dad taught me that I could do anything. He made the mistake of not telling me that there was a caveat, which you can't change other people, and that everybody has their own path. That's one of the things. I spent a lot of time in my marriage and relationships trying to make things fit my paradigm instead of figuring out how to let people be who they are and merge in with that.
That would be one of my life lessons. You got to let people be who they are and figure out how to dance with that rather than trying to figure out how to make them fit in a box or fit with you. Don't take yourself seriously. That's an important lesson. I was a Straight-A student. I was way too serious. My daughter was the best medicine for me in terms of figuring out how to not take myself seriously. It makes it easier because if you realize that life is a journey and not about a destination or getting it right, you handle it completely differently. Those are two good ones.
When I hear those messages, they make me think so much about how we need to be in the world. They're very profound. Thank you so much for sharing. I have one last question. What is one book that has had an impact on your life and why?
The thing that immediately popped into my head and it connects to the story I told about my daughter is this book by Sandra Boynton called Pajama Time!. This was the book that we read every night. I had two kids who were nineteen months apart. For five years, I was reading the same bedtime stories every single night. Pajama Time! was one of those books that were fun and lighthearted. We would laugh, dance, and sing it. It was this playful thing. It meant a lot to me because it was at a time in my life where things were pretty rough and we had this lightness of heart in it. It reminds me of this lesson that I told you that my daughter taught me, "Don't take yourself seriously." Take time to have fun and enjoy yourself, even if it's with a children's book about bedtime.
I love that you shared that. When I've asked this question so many times to people, I've gotten a lot of interesting answers back. This is the most interesting. It makes me think of the memories that I have of the books that I would read my son. That's what makes you think, "It doesn't have to be a profound book." It could be, "What was the thing that has had an impact on you?" Time spent with your family is a very powerful impact on you. Does it matter how big and robust or how many word counts that the book had to have? That's beautiful. Thank you for that.
If you realize that life's a journey and not about a destination or not about getting it right, you handle it completely differently.
Diane, this has been fantastic. I'm blessed that you came on the show and shared your insights and stories. I'm grateful. For starters, thank you.
You're welcome. It's been a blast, Tony. What a great format and this has been a lot of fun for me.
Thank you. I want to make sure I give people an opportunity to find out more about you. Where can they find out more about you?
The best place to find me is at ImpactParents.com. We've got a lot of information as well as programs available for parents of what we call complex kids. We do training and coaching, but it's about helping parents feel more confident and kids feel more independent. Those are the things we're focusing on.
It's such a great resource place. I've been to the website a couple of thousand times to look around. It's great that you're doing what you're doing. It's a gift to the world. Thank you for coming on. Thank you to the audience for coming on the journey with us. I know you're leaving with some great insights and thoughts to connect to your life. Thanks again, Diane.
- Sanity School
- Parenting ADHD Now!
- Pajama Time!
- Elaine Taylor-Klaus - Previous episode
About Diane Dempster
Diane Dempster is a certified professional coach with over 23 years of corporate leadership experience. She uses an “inside-out” approach to help individuals, teams, and families transform by connecting them to a positive vision, and uncovering roadblocks on the way to success. The results for her clients: increased engagement, productivity, and effectiveness, as well as a more positive approach to work and home.
The Co-Founder of ImpactADHD, Diane provides ADD Parent Support for managing kids with ADHD. ImpactADHD’s coaching and training programs help parents help kids by learning how to deal with a child with ADHD.
Diane received a Masters degree from the University of Michigan, and her coaching certification from the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). She is seen as a highly effective leader and change agent who brings a unique combination of strategic and tactical capability to translate ideas into action.
Diane and her family live in Tucker, Georgia. She is committed to living a conscious, balanced and joy-filled life and helping others do the same.
Specialties: Life Coaching, Parent Coaching, Parenting Children with ADHD, ADHD Management, Core Energy Coaching, Executive Coaching, Life Purpose Coaching, Spiritual coaching, and Energy Leadership. Diane is available for workshops as well as group and individual coaching.