Organizational Transformation From The Top With Vicki Shillington


What makes an organization a great place to work? Tony Martignetti sits down with Vicki Shillington, a founding member and partner at ThingShift, as she shares the importance of organizational transformation in creating a work environment that allows people to thrive. Vicki explains how her experience navigating the world as a woman in tech has helped her discover her passion for working with organizations and helping them get better. She also points out some non-negotiables companies should always keep in mind to create an environment that inspires people to work.


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Organizational Transformation From The Top With Vicki Shillington

It is my honor to introduce you to my guest, Vicki Shillington. Vicki is a founding member and partner at ThinqShift, a leadership services company focused on shifting mindsets to create systemic change. Her sweet spot is in tackling the underlying culture shifts required for true organizational transformation. Vicki and her husband live on the beach in LA and have mastered the concept of work hard and play hard. She considers herself an international citizen having grown up in South Africa and eventually moving to London, and now living in the States. Her holidays are the stuff of dreams. Vicki, I’m so honored to have you in this space. I want to welcome you to the show.

Thank you, Tony. It was so great to hear you read my bio like that. I sound spectacular.

None of it is overstated. You are everything that you promised to be. I’m so thrilled to have you here. We’ve known each other for a few years and I’ve been thrilled to get to know you. Now, I get a chance to share you with a broader community, so I’m thrilled about that.

The great thing about the show here is we get a chance to dig into the story that made you into who you are and how you’re doing these amazing things in the world. We do it through what’s called flashpoints. These flashpoints are the points in your story that ignited your gifts into the world. What we’re going to do is we’re going to give you the space to share your story, and we’ll pause along the way and see what’s showing up. With that, I’m going to pass it on to you. Vicki, take us on the journey.

Where do you want me to start? There are so many flashpoints. What would be the most interesting place for me to start with?

You can start wherever you feel comfortable, but it’d be great to hear a little bit where your upbringing came from. You said you were born in South Africa. Tell me what that was like.

I grew up in South Africa during the apartheid years. I didn’t know what that meant growing up. I was a kid. In South Africa, apartheid was set up to create different groups of individuals growing up in different communities. It was never meant to be anything like slavery but in its own way, it became its own institution like slavery. The idea was to keep people separate and allow them to be their best lives. What that meant from my experience growing up was that everybody was kept separate. I’m going to call us tribes because there are about eleven black tribes and a few white tribes. In the white tribes, there was the predominantly English-speaking tribe and then the Afrikaans-speaking tribe, which is a heritage of Dutch. I didn’t meet a single white Afrikaans-speaking South African because I’m of English descent until I moved to London in my twenties. That’s how separate everything was.

It was also the day before social media. The news was pretty heavily censored, so you didn’t know what you didn’t know because you grew up in your little world as it were. Even in the time I was growing up, things were starting to change. There was a lot of anger and hatred by the groups that had been repressed through this very unfortunate apartheid system. As a young child, I remember coming home from school in grade school and having our house cleaned out. That was quite shocking. It was the days we could still walk to school and back. My mom would walk us and come back home and your house is completely cleared out. As a young child, it didn’t affect us deeply. It probably did at the nervous system level, but from memories, it was just something that happened.

I remember a few months later or maybe it was a year or two later, I don’t remember the exact time frame, it happened again. You could definitely create a sense of a shift in the way things were. You no longer could walk to school. We started to have a fence around our house. Up until then, South Africa to me mimicked very much of what America looks like in terms of geography. Cape Town looks a lot like California to some degree. It’s got the same Mediterranean climate and the same vegetation. It’s very much a model culture since they're very similar in so many respects. On the other side, as people started to feel more fear, it was then this boxing-in of getting walls, and then the Rottweilers came and bars on the window. You just create things to protect yourself.

As I grew up into my high school years, fear became the predominant culture. I remember when I first went to Europe and the UK in my late teens, early twenties, I’m seeing animals and dogs and they didn’t bark. I didn’t understand because the dogs in South Africa are there for protection. They pick up all the fear and they live in that way, so they are very aggressive because they’re there for protection. I didn’t realize dogs picked up fear like that. It was interesting to grow up in those years of transition probably is how to describe it.

There is something about this that I wanted to talk a little bit about in terms of the sense of injustice. Was this something that was very present for you or was it like a fish in water? You didn’t really see it. It just was because you grew up in it. What I mean by that is, did you have this inner burn to see something different in your world?

I was too young at that stage to know what it meant because the news and everything were sensitive, you didn’t understand what you were living in. You were in your little bubble. I know my parents have a completely different view of the injustice of it all and feeling helpless in that system, not knowing how to solve it or what to do with it. It was a very small minority controlling how that all worked. A lot of people who were against it, there wasn’t much choice in that system other than leaving the country. For me, it only became something that I was exposed to that I’d evidenced around as I got into my university years. That’s when you start to get exposed to like, “There’s all these other kinds of people and different kinds of agendas and things.” Otherwise, growing up, it was just the daily struggle to stay alive and have a good life, and the rest of it. There wasn’t too much awareness of anything outside our little bubble.

It’s funny, you remind me of this thing that I was thinking about around adaptability. Humans have this ability to adapt to so many situations. That’s a great quality, but sometimes we adapt to live in environments that don’t suit us. Even in the work culture too. Sometimes our cultures we adapt to are not the cultures that serve us well, but we adapt to them anyway because we’re so good at adapting.

No question about it.

I want to get back into your story. Here you are, you’re in South Africa, and then you move to England. At this point, what age were you when you made the move? Was it the full family or just you?

It was just me when I finished university. My mom’s parents were German Jews that escaped to South Africa before the Second World War and reinvented themselves as French Christians. At that time, it wasn’t good to be German or Jewish. We didn’t actually know that they were German Jews until my granny died and then we found her birth certificates and realized there was a whole different story. I had this hankering in me for Europe ever since I can remember. When I finished university, a boyfriend I had at the time was going to Switzerland for a six-month internship at his dad’s company, and so I went with him. I fell in love with Europe. I love the architecture. I love the history. I love the festivals and the culture. Everything was so different.

If you love what you do, it becomes what you love.

South Africa is about as old as America in terms of the way it's been set up and this was founded in the 1600s as well. It's got that same lack of culture from a historical perspective when I think of it that way. Europe has thousands of years and I fell in love with that. I spent six months there and decided to go back to South Africa because it was very difficult to break into the work world without a visa, without any work experience, which was probably one of the hardest countries because they keep themselves so tight. I had family in Switzerland who said, “Go back. Get yourself a job in IT and technology, and you’ll get a job anywhere in the world.” It was the mid-90s, so technology was the place to be. I was like, “I can do that.”

I went back shortly after a pivotal election when the ANC came into power and Mandela was elected, and there was the change of government. It was important to wait until that was over because everyone thought there was going to be Civil War and it was the most peaceful transition. A lot of it has got to do with Mandela and his huge humanity and humility and sense of forgiveness for everything that he’d been through. I got myself a job at IBM and my goal was always to get back to Europe, and within three years, I was transferred to their headquarters in London, and then that started my next adventure.

The fact that you even went back to South Africa in the first place was shocking in a sense, but I guess not so shocking because your family was there. That was the big call there to come back and spend time with the family as well as to experience.

I’m more of a means to an end person. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to find myself a career and so I had work experience to get a work visa. I see that would be the case in any country that I was in. It was important to go get that experience and then find my way. I was like, "Go back. Get me a job in an international company and make my way back to Europe." That was the rationale for doing that and it was easy going back and staying with mom and dad and having a salary come in and being able to buy nice clothes. That was all a very pleasant start to a working career because I had no drive to be independent to do my own thing. It was literally a transition state of, how do I build the skills? How do I maximize my time here so that I can create that opportunity for myself?

It was the intentionality of going back into Europe because of this love of the place, the history and architecture that’s always driving you back. You end up back in London. Now you’re this tech leader and you’re excited about this endeavor you’re in. Your journey already has been quite impressive in terms of needing to move from a place where things are very different, experiencing a new environment, and then coming back and being able to say, “How can I create a new future for myself in a new place?” At this point, you’re still on your own. Everything has been navigating on your own.

At this stage, when I moved to London, I was lucky in that I was working in a set of technologies where there was a group of Americans, Scots and Brits who were working together on this particular technology. Some of them had worked in South Africa for a couple of years with me on projects. When I moved up to the UK, I had a little group of people that I knew from work. One of them ended up being Jim, my husband, and so that was quite a useful transition. Those early days were tricky as I navigated how to get myself known in the IBM world to get on cool projects in Europe, how to build the skills that I needed for the different software platforms we were working on, where was I going to live, how was I going to afford anything on my new young person’s salary, and all the rest of it. 

It was about six months of discomfort as I navigated it all, but also excited because I was with this group of international travelers who weren't living at home. We'd meet up on weekends in Barcelona or Amsterdam. Every new place I went to in Europe, it was like, “I have to live there.” It was so exciting to me. It was another gorgeous, historical, beautiful place that I fell in love with. I joke to this day like, "Every single place I visited, I want to live there." It was these fresh eyes, that fresh feeling of seeing places that lit you up, which you only get the first time around. As time goes on and you go back, you don't have that same feeling that you did the first time around, but I still remember it like it was yesterday.

Just the way you described it makes me feel it again because that's the experience that I have whenever I travel. I'm like, "Yes." I want to go back into this feeling besides the excitement. What were the challenges of being a woman in tech at that point? Now, I'm sure it's very different navigating the world as a woman in tech. It was great to have a pod of people who were helping you in your journey, people to navigate with, but was it challenging for you particularly to go through this journey as a woman?

It’s interesting. I’m going to leap forward about 5 or 6 years when I was a leader in another consulting company and I used to get asked this all the time, “What’s it like?” At that time, I was the only female leader in this company. This may sound odd to you and your readers, but I didn’t understand the question because I’m a female. I’m a woman, not obviously, but I do identify that way. I never thought of myself as that. I just thought of myself as a leader or a human. It wasn’t in this particular physical form. It was a very confusing question for me because when I was a leader in this company and they asked me that, my thought went to, “Are they asking me because they’re curious about motherhood and leadership and working? I’m not a mother, so why are they asking me? They should ask the dads. They have more of a reality check in that world than I do and how do you balance that,” but they weren’t asking that.

They were literally asking what I’ve now come to understand over the years of how women see themselves in the workplace and the opportunities or lack of, and then all of that. I’ve never seen that and I’ve never experienced it, maybe because I’ve never seen it for myself. I see the themes and the patterns, and I understand it and it’s very sad. For myself, it’s a little bit my means to an end. I see the world the way I see the world and I don’t buy into these stories.

That’s an interesting perspective. The reason why I asked this is because those were different times and even in Europe too, it might be different than how we experienced it in the US. I’m curious if there were stories that you would experience along that path that tainted the way you saw the path for you.

Now that I know a little bit more about that world and how people see themselves and the experiences they have, I do know that because I saw myself in that way. I just pick up that I saw myself in that way. I never had any issues. The boundaries, the potential people could pick that up. I never allowed myself to be categorized in that way and they never saw me in that way. I truly believe that that is one of the reasons why I was able to be so successful at my core. When someone had asked me, it wasn’t that I was pretending not to understand. I literally didn’t understand it. It was not something that entered my world.

You spent quite a few years in tech. You rose in the ranks in the world of tech. What happened next? What was the next thing that called you into new worlds?

After IBM, I was headhunted into Arthur Andersen to help set up their integration and architectural practices. It’s still pretty technical at that time. It was the early 2000s, so we had the fish tanks and the lovely cafeterias. There was just so many wonderful things in those early years, but the projects were tough. I remember a particular project where we were implementing their first handheld technology solution. We were working until 4:00 in the morning with these leading-edge technologies for a good eighteen months. I’m not feeling like there was much recognition individually. You had to be doing all the things back in the office with the partners to be able to create that level of personal growth for yourself. The whole model didn’t seem right, and then Enron happened and took Arthur Andersen down. I remember the Deloitte London CEO walking in. I’m like, “All those little things that we value have to go, the fish tanks and the cafeteria,” and it was a sign. It then made you question, “Why am I working until 4:00 in the morning every day? Why am I trying to do this? For what end?”

At that stage, that was my first pivotal moment. I was about ten years in. I was like, “I am highly ambitious and accomplished but to what end? I think it’s time to be a florist, at least I can work with my hands. I can be creative.” At that time, I met Vips Kapadia, now my partner in crime. He was like, “We have all left this organization. We are starting up our own management consultancy. We are going to be a friend of the CIO, the Chief Technology Officer, but we’re not going to do any of that heavy lifting. What we want you to lead is the people organization and all the transformations around people." I was so relieved because I knew I was a much better people person than I ever was a techie. I knew it at my core.

I know it’s going to be so much easier for me, but I still approach the people agenda with a very left-brain analytical hat because that was my background. I was like, “What are the biggest challenges organizations have? What are the silos that they create and all the dysfunction as a result of that.” They don’t have honest conversations. They are not structured in a way that allows people to thrive. I geek out on the problems and the root causes, and then I looked for the solutions that were out there that others had created. I started to build a practice around, how do you transform an organization from the inside out that isn’t about moving the deck chairs on the decks, and doing a bit of a restructure that creates an everlasting change?

At that time, this little group that I joined that we were building, we just made it up and we figured it out. We’re like, “Who do we need to hire and how do we give them tons of feedback and rewire them?” As we grew from individual contributors to managers, how do we help them go through that journey so they don’t experience what we experience? I remember being in what I call my circle of suck for three years where I was a great individual contributor, but I was a crappy manager and I didn’t know that at the time. I had three years of hell and then at some point, instead of the 5 out of 5 performance rating, I got a 4 out of 5 from my CEO, and I was devastated as a high achiever. My clients are happy and bringing in lots of money. They’re like, “What are you doing working long hours?” I knew what they meant. My teams and people weren’t happy. That was my moment of, “Hang on a second. There must be a different way to lead. This can’t be the only way.” That’s what opened my eyes to, “How does this work?” That’s when we started to help people through the change as well.

There’s something about that feedback that you receive, and those experiences that didn’t go so well that becomes powerful for creating something amazing in your business. You start to see that the things you didn’t do well are now the fuel for creating solutions that work. If you didn’t go through those challenges, if you didn’t have those 4 out of 5 that miffed you, then you wouldn’t be in that place where you’ll be able to say like, “We can fix this thing. We can make something better.”

Every day is a day where you can add value to the world.

I know and Vips and I often have these discussions like, “Do you have to go through hardships to find out who you are?” He’s definitely of the belief you do. I’m still gathering my data and evidence to know whether that’s true or not, but he’s of the view that you have to almost orchestrate hardships to help people grow and get them through what we call the circle of suck and come out of the other side.

I tend to fall somewhere in the middle because there’s an element of creating some scenarios for yourself to think through. You don’t necessarily have to experience every pain point. I think about that whole exercise that you and I have been exposed to around the portals. Have a portal. Have a way to leap forward by thinking through these things that could help you leap ahead, as opposed to every single thing that you could struggle through. I don’t want anyone to make all the mistakes that I’ve made. That’s for sure.

The other side of my journey is everything that I go through, I see the growth opportunity in it. I don't look at that now as "I wish I hadn't gone through it." I'm so grateful for it because it's what I needed at the time to make my shift from being the superstar, accomplished high achiever to the, "How do you create leverage? How do you create teams? How do you build high performers and still have value?" That's something that so many people struggle with. As a result of doing all these amazing things internally with this company we were building in parallel to all this work I was doing externally for our clients, I realized that we have the secret recipe of creating a great foundation of a place to work.

I was like, “I need to teach the world how to do this.” When I was a kid, I would walk into the Johannesburg, CBD, the Central Business District, and look up at the skyscrapers and think, “Look at all these office workers. I want to be one of them. That’s so exciting.” Until I got into my first job and realized that I’m not paid what I should be paid, and I’m not treated the way I should be. All that sheen gets taken off and what I realized is, it doesn’t have to be like that. That then became my mission.

My mission is that every single organization embraces what I call the four non-negotiables so that people have a place where they love to work and it’s fun and joyful because that’s how it should be. That’s what kids imagine when they think about work one day. They don’t imagine the lack of honesty, the politics, the silos and all of that. That hurts the bottom line. That hampers happiness and it hampers profit. By the time I’m done, that’ll be the world.

I’m hoping you’re not done anytime soon, although I do in some ways because I want more people to live in a world that is like that. I think the work you’re doing is so amazing. Tell me more about the four non-negotiables, if you don’t mind, if you’re willing to share.

As I look back at all the different organizations we’ve worked with in South Africa and Europe and the States, the transformations they’ve all gone on as well as the companies we’ve built, what are those four things that make an organization a great place to work? It’s very simple. They can be dressed up in vision, mission and values that can manifest in different ways, but if you boil it down to these four. These are the most important.

The first is more obvious and that’s being an effective communicator, and not how you think you communicate but how others experience your communications. Are you clear? Are you direct? Do you have good agreements? Do you have good follow-through? Are you able to inspire and create a narrative that people want to follow you? There’s a lot in that. That’s a key one. If you can’t do that, then it’s very difficult to create followership. It’s very difficult to get things done effectively, so that’s called non-negotiable.

Then the second is grit and hustle, the energy and desire to succeed. That one is self-explanatory. The thing with these four non-negotiables is if you don’t have them, it’s very difficult for somebody to teach them. You can’t teach somebody grit and hustle. You can give them feedback. You can’t teach somebody to be a truly effective communicator. You can send them to Toastmasters. You can give them voice coaching. You can teach them how to create a great presentation. For them to be able to set clear agreements, inspire others, they’re going to do that deep work on their own. They want to do that and get better and better at it. The same with grit and hustle. You can give someone feedback that they’re not as solution-focused as they should be, thinking about the greater good, but that’s on them to do themselves.

Next is a bit trickier and this is usually where we get into tricky waters from what I see in organizations. The third is to have an inside-out mentality. That means that you are willing to look at yourself and what you can do differently, ask for feedback, be willing to grow, have a growth mindset and not blame others, the organization, Trump, the world or Biden. It’s all about taking ownership of your specific situation and looking at what you can do differently to create the life that you want.

The fourth one is another tricky one. That’s having your values aligned to the environment you find yourself in. I don’t mean the values on the wall, integrity, honesty and all these great ones. I mean literally the environment you find yourself in. If you’re working with an organization that’s continually transforming, you act what’s transforming and work for the greater good rather than yourself. If you are working with an organization that needs to downsize, you’re okay with downsizing because you understand what the business needs to go through. It’s about aligning yourself and then having your mission aligned to that organization as well. You’re not just turning up to do a job, but you’ve got your purpose and passion tied to the work you’re doing. Every day is a day where you can add value to the world.

These are so powerful. I think about it and they are right on the money in terms of being able to drive a person to do the right work. One thing that came to mind as I was thinking about this is that your heart has to be in it fully. This can’t be a mind exercise only. You’ve got the values at the end, but when I think about it, you can’t communicate in a powerful way if you’re not fully engaged in whatever it is that you’re trying to bring forward. If the business is something that you’re doing for money or because it’s something that you’ve inherited or something that you are doing, then it’s never going to quite work out. Your heart has to be fully in it. It has to be coming from a place of a real deep desire for you to get all those four things kicking off. Would you agree?

Spot on, completely. The challenge is if two or more are missing, it's never going to work out. If you think back to yourself or people in organizations you've worked with that have or haven't worked out, it's always a violation of those non-negotiables. I work with leaders and organizations, especially start-ups, small businesses before they've got too big, because once they're big, then I work with them to embed and root out all the others, but that's a huge journey. If you can do it when you are small and you're hired to it, and you manage to it, and you grow to it, you are set with the foundations of, “If we need to scale in this direction, people are aligned to the values of the environment, so they’ll scale.” They’ve got the energy and desire. They can communicate and inspire others to follow them. They’re looking inwards at how they need to shift differently to scale. You’ve got everything set up to allow you to go in any direction you want and people will be successful. From an individual’s perspective, they are the non-negotiables to be adaptable and successful in life because you will always thrive no matter what environment you see yourself in.

Here’s a tough question for you. I know you can handle it. Have you ever been called into an organization and then found that the leader or the person at the top of the organization was lacking in one or more of these areas, and you’ve had to tell them, “This is not going to work out?”

Yeah, many times. It’s tough when that happens. When I embrace them, they sound great, but then you watch their actions, they don’t live and breathe it. I’ve had an organization where that was the case and I knew in my soul, I had to move on. It wasn’t a good situation at all. Your soul knows if you can help or not. What’s interesting is I often find these organizations that have the closest proximity to cash, the further away they are from cash. When you think of the universities or the healthcare system. They’re far from cash. It’s a lot easier to have the concepts in place than organizations that are closer and closer to cash because cash cows everything.

I totally see that. It also hides a lot of the things that lead to inefficiencies and all the things that can get in the way.

Revenue covers a lot, it seems. People don’t want to embrace these things when there’s a lot of money flowing or they’re close to cash because there’s too much risk. People end up playing it safe rather than playing to win. That’s when it’s so sad because the organization starts to fail at a very foundational level.

The way you share your message and the way that you come across, you feel like the sage and I love it. I want to call you the whisperer of businesses. What has been 1 or 2, maybe 3 lessons that you’ve learned about yourself that you want to share with people in your journey or in your process of helping other companies come to life? What are the things you want to share with people?

See the growth opportunity in everything you go through.

The first is that it’s important to know what the end looks like for you. What is your real purpose? I don’t know if I could articulate it throughout my whole life. At my core, I always knew that somehow I was there to work in organizations and make them better. When I was a young kid walking into these City Centers or at university starting a business degree, or even at IBM getting into computers, it was all about at some point, I’m going to be helping these organizations get better. I didn’t know what it was, and then over time, because my purpose was so clear, I get nudged into more and more alignment with what I’m supposed to be doing in the world.

The how wasn’t clear but the why was spot on.

It’s listening to that little voice inside you. It knows. We’re all here with a perfect design. We just don’t want to listen to it. You know something in me loves these skyscrapers and these City Centers and these office workers for some reason. Why is that? What is it about it? Even though I didn’t know exactly. Without trying to fix it or figure it out, I was like, “Let me be in that space and see whatever happens.”

I think there’s so much there. That right there in a nutshell is such great insight. Begin with the end in mind, to borrow from Stephen Covey. You’ve said all the way through to have the end in mind. It’s powerful to think like that and the path you take to get there has a very colorful way to get there.

The second is probably just love everything that you do. Throughout my career or before my career when I was waitressing or working at supermarkets, I always loved everything I did. If you love what you do, it becomes what you love. Wherever I am, I love what I do and I’m grateful for whatever it is I’m doing for where I am because that’s where I need to be right now for whatever reason. I didn’t try and second guess or change it. I’m like, “This is where I’m supposed to be right now, so let me love it, and then it’ll evolve into what it evolves into.”

As I look back on my life, I wish I knew more deeply that there is a greater design. It’s always there nudging and guiding. It’s like a little feather that’s always tickling us and if we don’t listen, we get whacked on the head by a big trunk, which could be some sort of disease or an accident or a divorce or addiction. Something happens if we’re not listening. It’s listening and these days, I’m so much better at yielding to whatever is being asked of me at that moment and not trying to think too much about where it’s going or what it needs to look like. Having a clear picture in my head where every company is working the way it needs to with the full non-negotiables. How that’s going to happen, what my role in that is going to be, I’m not worried about that.

It’s a great model of how we need to be in the world now. I think that statement with you at this moment, many more people need to be that way. I thank you for sharing that.

It also even takes me to my third point. It also makes life so simple because you don't worry about what you can't control. You're like, "If it's in my purview and I can control it and influence it, and it's something I need to take action on, fine." Everything else, "What am I worried about it. Why am I thinking about it? There's nothing I can do about it." It allows you to have a greater sense of peace than fighting about stuff that is not in our control. For me, that's why COVID has been such a gift because I realized from the get-go, it's not in my control. What is in my control? I get to work from home now, which was never possible for me before. I get all the space and time. I’m no longer commuting and I get to be me and have so much more energy saved from all that commuting time, and to have a much better self-care routine. That’s in my control. The rest of it is not in my control, so why am I worrying about it?

It’s such a great message to think that way. Initially, when this pandemic hit, it was this element of the change. All the things that are happening and granted, there have been so many catastrophic things that have happened, but if you take that perspective of like, “What can I control? What is the thing that I can do?” That’s where the shift can be seen. What is the positive that you can take out of this?

It’s a little bit like I’ve always had this view when I’m traveling through airports and in situations like that like, “Why am I worried about what’s going to happen? I’m completely out of control here. Nothing about this whole experience is in my control.” I remember one time flying from London to the US when I was still living there and doing some work over here. It was on my birthday and I meant to be meeting with a friend and colleague in Charlotte that evening for my birthday. The plane got delayed and we had to transition somewhere else. I remember having a conversation with the gate agent like, “It’s my birthday. Couldn’t you get me on an earlier plane and this and that?” Of course, they had no interest in any of that. Again, why would I get upset about any of this? This is not in my control. As soon as I get into that airport, I’m in the hands of whatever is going to happen to me. Taking the positives instead of getting all riled up, “It’s my birthday. How could that be? Let me make the most out of an airport birthday experience. That’s what I’ve been gifted now.” It makes life so much more fun.

My first birthday at the airport.

What a place to spend a birthday. I've always had that view, but I've got more and more into that view as I got older. It's so powerful because you don't surrender to life's annoyances. That's just noise. You know what is and what isn't, and you stay true to that.

That's a great mindset. I want to shift gears to our last question, which is quite different from what we've talked about so far, but it's always fun to hear. What is one book or books that have had an impact on you and why?

There are probably 3 or 4 that are so amazing to me. The one that I’d share is a book called The Wisdom by Florence Scovel Shinn. She was an author in the 1920s, 1930s. This book is made up of a number of books, but one of them is The Game of Life. She realized a lot of the concepts that I’m talking about how we create our world. Our world is nothing but our thought, and if we are able to see what is true, then we can ignore the noise of what seems to be true, the destruction, the disease and the devastation because we know what is true. She describes very metaphysical concepts. They’re very easy to read in an engaging way with lots of stories and practical examples. It’s something I’ve always known and loved and believed in my whole life. It’s such an easy-to-consume book when I need a little reminder of, “Hang on. Am I buying into what everybody else was buying into? Am I’m looking at what’s really going on?” It gets me back to the center.

I’m going to have to track this down because I’m so completely amazed by that. That sounds cool. That’s the best thing about this question. I keep on finding books and I thought I was pretty well-read, but there are so many great gems out there that are just waiting to be uncovered. Thank you so much for sharing that. I can’t thank you enough for sharing your story and your insight, I should say your wisdom because the things you’ve shared are game-changing for me. It makes me think differently about how I’m bringing myself to the world. Thank you.

You’re very welcome. It has been a gift to be with you, Tony. I’ve enjoyed it.

Same here. I want to make sure that the people can find out more about you. Where’s the best place to find more about you and your company?

The website would be the best place to go. That is and it’s all about shifting thinking. After all the years of doing these large organizational transformations, we’ve realized that change only happens one person at a time, and you’ve got to start with the leaders and rewire their mindsets to these four non-negotiables. If you don’t start there, nothing changes. We’re in the business of reinventing the world through rewiring the mindsets of these leaders to get them to the place where they embrace these non-negotiables.

I am such a big fan and supporter of your mission, whatever I can do to make that happen. That’s why we do this. We want to make sure that we get your great messages out into the world and amplify that.

Thank you, Tony. I appreciate it.

Thank you.

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About Vicki Shillington

With over 25 years of experience, Vicki Shillington has a reputation for leading cultural transformations for Fortune 500 companies across 3 continents. As a former executive of a global consulting firm, Vicki was accountable for Executive Sponsorship for over 300 People & Change practitioners and creating multi-million dollar accounts. She's an expert in positive psychology. And she's known for speaking her truth to high-level leaders.

Leaders working with Vicki have achieved significant results, whether they’re a Michelin starred chef, a celebrity, leading a startup, transforming a technology organization or pivoting a $500 billion organization. She is recognized as one of the best in her field.

Vicki is a certified facilitator in a number of leadership programs. She speaks internationally on what it takes to shift an organization from enduring to thriving that focuses equally on people, planet and profit. Vicki is a proud recipient of a Women Leader in Consulting award.


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