The desire to be seen, loved, and belong drives so many of our decisions.
Especially when it comes to connecting in community.
Community plays a powerful role in our wellbeing and culture.
But what happens when the communities we are in make us sicker?
Part of the antidote to toxic communities is finding spaces that support bumping up against our fear of being misunderstood, our fear of not being able to handle a difference of opinion, our fear of rejection. But this is a messy process and many spaces struggle with creating this kind of culture.
And when our places of work and learning and worship struggle with messy realities, community feels less like community and more like a place for us to perform and check boxes.
Our connections and relationships become transactional instead of a place where we grow and strengthen. And when we are in transactional spaces, we are not truly seen, and the deep change we desire doesn't happen.
But Community can serve as a catalyst and container for healing and growth.
My guest today is cultivating spaces that are much needed medicine to us individually and collectively.
Founder, leader, and community builder, Shannon Siriano Greenwood knows the benefits of building her network with meaningful relationships over bountiful connections. Her work supports women professionals in creating meaningful connections that will support them both professionally and personally.
Listen to the full episode to hear:
Learn more about Shannon Siriano Greenwood:
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Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: The people who are attracted to this organization, perfectionism is a challenge for them. Typically, these are high-achieving women that are like okay, well, I got to the place that I was trying to get to, and now I’m here and I don't feel great. Like, what is happening? So a lot of that is internal competition. They're not even looking at the people around them, they are battling with themselves and their own worthiness so I almost don't have energy to be in competition with other people because I’m fighting myself so hard. I see that come up more often than I see people taking each other down.
[Inspirational Intro Music]
Rebecca Ching: Community and relationships often feel like a minefield, and the last two years only magnified the sense of risk and uncertainty when around other people. Whether at my son’s baseball games or at Sunday school or a work event, it all continues to feel a bit precarious. My love of community and connection took a hard nosedive over these last couple years, and I still feel wary in a lot of spaces that normally bring about some level of comfort which has been such a buzzkill. This is not the first time my sense of community has been rattled.
When my daughter was first diagnosed on the autism spectrum, my husband and I did a hard stop and regrouped around what community meant to us and our family. Our desire for our daughter to be in spaces and community and in relationships where she did not have to perform to be accepted as she is became a non-negotiable. It did not take us long, though, to realize we desperately needed this kind of community for ourselves, too, because it is exhausting to perform and hide what’s really going on in our true selves.
My good friends know when I’m performing, and they call me on it, and it’s amazing how quickly these performing parts of me can become a default. I see this in those I work with, too. So many I know crave community and connection but do not trust it enough to not perform, and as a result, many have lost touch with who they really are all while deeply longing for spaces to connect honestly and about how they’re really doing.
I'm Rebecca Ching, and you're listening to The Unburdened Leader, the show that goes deep with leaders whose burdens have inspired their life's work. Our goal is to learn how they’ve addressed these burdens, how they rise from them and become better and more impactful leaders of themselves and others.
We have become experts on who we should be and lost touch with who we really are. To avoid judgment, we play a part that hides our humanity for fear our struggles and doubts will lead to misconceptions and missed opportunities. When we hide our true selves, we build connection and community around a persona instead of who we really are. It’s exhausting.
Now, the desire to be seen, loved, and belong drives so many of our decisions, especially when it comes to connecting in community. Since we heal in community, not in isolation, community plays a powerful role in our wellbeing and culture, but what happens when the communities we are in make us sicker? I’m thinking of just a few examples like when you're in a work environment where there are no genuine connections and it feels like everyone’s out for themselves, or maybe you're in community where in-fighting and gossip are the norm or there’s just a constant fear of failure, for fear of backlash from leadership, all of these can extinguish the healing benefits of community.
Now, part of the antidote is finding communities and creating them that support this bumping up against our fear of being misunderstood, our fear of not being able to handle a difference of opinion or even fear of rejection, but this is a messy process, and many spaces struggle with creating this kind of culture.
Oh, do I know how perfection gets in the way of this because of its value for tidiness and control. When our places of work and learning and worship require this tidiness, community feels less like community but a place for us to perform and check boxes.
Our connections and relationships become transactional instead of a place where we grow and strengthen, and when we’re in transactional spaces, we’re not truly seen, and the deep change we desire doesn't happen. Community serves as a catalyst and a container for our much-needed healing and growth, but if the communities we are in serve as the oppressor or reinforcer of toxic ways of doing life and work, we feel weighed down and confidence feels illusive.
So when I heard about the community my guest today developed, to be honest, my cynical protector surfaced a bit. I mean, a group of highly-successful, driven women gathering together and supporting each other? Well, no cattiness or scarcity-based competition? This felt too good to be true, especially after the last couple of years we’ve experienced collectively, but my guest is the real deal and is cultivating spaces that are much-needed medicine to us individually and collectively.
Founder, leader, and community-builder Shannon Siriano-Greenwood knows the benefits of building her network with meaningful relationships over bountiful connections. Her work supports women professionals in creating meaningful connections that will support them both professionally and personally. Pay attention to what Shannon discovered when she looked for the one solution to burnout and work-life balance struggles.
Listen for Shannon’s connection to her childhood traumas and how she ended up working in and on her business because of these key learnings. Notice what Shannon learned about her pension for busy-ness. This is something all of us could take a lesson from. Now, please welcome Shannon Siriano-Greenwood to The Unburdened Leader Podcast.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Thank you so much for having me!
Rebecca Ching: I’m really looking forward to this conversation. I even confessed to you we just met minutes ago, but I had little butterflies in my stomach ‘cause researching you and about your business really was energizing and exciting, and so, I’m like yay! [Laughs] I’m excited to meet someone really cool, but more importantly, I’m really excited to learn from you today. My guess is those who listen to this show will feel the same way.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Thank you so much. I’m excited.
Rebecca Ching: You bet! So I guess I want to kick off just on the genesis of your business and in my preparation for our conversation today, you’ve been really open about how your business, Rebelle, was born from postpartum depression and burnout. So I’d love for you to walk me through how Rebelle was born and how Rebelle supported your healing process and how it changed how you work.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Well, I want to explain a tiny bit that I never actually intended for this to be a business. So while, yes --
Rebecca Ching: Ooh!
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: -- it was born from this experience that I had with postpartum and depression and burnout, it wasn't like [Robotic voice] this is how I’m going to fix myself [End robotic voice] by starting a business that solves this problem. It really did happen organically.
I was consulting at the time, and an acquaintance of mine said, “Hey, I want to work on a project with you. What can we do?” We brainstormed, we brainstormed, and it turned into an event that, then, turned into a bigger event, that, then, turned into a conference, but the cool thing about that experience was I had free reign to make the content about whatever I wanted, and so, that was what was on my mind.
How do I avoid burnout again? Do other people have experiences like this? Are other people doing things differently that I don’t know that I need to know because I am a naturally very curious person? I really wanted to get under the hood of other people’s businesses and lives and know what makes them tick and what can I learn from them.
So the first event really was just about exploring the different topics of our lives. So we had four teams, and they were wellness, money, community, and creativity. My hypothesis was if I can get these four things pretty solid, then I’m doing pretty good, and so, I just kept looking for people who I thought were saying interesting things about these topics and doing things a little bit differently than I had learned in my upbringing which was very strivey, very accomplishment-focused, very output-oriented. I was hoping that there was another way, and I was determined to find people who were talking about it.
Rebecca Ching: And what did you learn from that first conference? Were there common themes that stood out from that first conference? You’re laughing. [Laughs]
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: I’m laughing because no. The thing I learned was that events are really hard. That’s what I learned at that conference, and so, after the first event I was like never again. That was so hard, but as far as themes and takeaways, I think the other thing that I inadvertently learned from myself as I was sharing with others is there is no one right way to do anything, that as many people as you bring together is going to be as many strategies there are to do literally anything including live your life, and that, I think, was the thing I walked away with wanting to explore more.
If all of these people in this room are, what I would consider, with external measures of success and none of them have had the same path, then that means there is no one right answer which was not what I believed, honestly, at that time. I really thought if I achieve a certain level of professional success, and I hit these life milestones and I do things the way I’ve seen and absorbed from media, from watching my parents’ generation, from whatever -- I really thought that there was a formula that I was supposed to master. So it was the undoing of that mindset and belief system that I think started at that very first event.
Rebecca Ching: That’s really powerful because what you described really is kind of what drives perfectionism. What’s the way? What’s this external, driven way to be, do, show up in the world, look like, act -- you get it -- and so, when you see these very diverse folks saying very different things but have all achieved a worldly success but did it differently, that is a bit of a mind explosion.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Oh, yeah, I think my mind’s still exploding on that topic. I think perfectionism is so pervasive and especially the women that we gather, right? These are high-achieving, “successful” (I say in air quotes) women, and, right, they are constantly trying to meet the expectations of either others or what’s in their own head, myself included. So, like I said, that was the tiny glimpse of it, and now I’m continuing to expand, really, how I see the world and how people operate in it.
Rebecca Ching: You talked about burnout and really wanting to hear from people on how they did things so you could do things differently. What have you learned that contributed to your burnout before you, by default, created your company? What, in hindsight, were the factors that were contributing to your burnout?
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: I mean, to go all the way deep there, I think childhood trauma. [Laughs] I think the validation that I got whenever I achieved something, whether it was a good grade, a role in the school play, an accolade at university.
There was a lot of striving in my youth, and I took those habits into the career world, and then it became even harder to get those pats on the back and kudos. So I tried to work harder for them. Even when I was my own boss, I was still operating in that way of always trying for more and better and improvement, and my standards were so high even I could not ever achieve them.
So it was bad habits and avoiding my feelings because when you slow down and you have to feel your feelings, you have to have difficult conversations, you have to do all those things that we try not to do, but if I’m so busy and working so hard, then I don’t have to do those things. That’s my personal journey, my personal experience, but I know I’m not the only one who shares those motivations. [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] Oh, gosh. No, and, I mean, when I slow down, I have to feel my feelings, and striving, which is kind of one of the tools of perfectionism, is a powerful protector to keep from -- and if you have rooted in traumas or difficult life experiences that your system’s still carrying, then of course those protectors are gonna kick into overdrive. Even Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection just had its ten-year anniversary in the fall, and it’s still rampant, and we still have an epidemic of trying to protect ourselves this way.
So I’m curious, for you, what has leading your company now that you have a little more space taught you about yourself and your relationship to work?
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Well, I am not my work would be the biggest one.
Rebecca Ching: Ooh.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: [Laughs] I mean, that’s a huge one.
Rebecca Ching: Well, why is it huge? I mean, it resonates with me, but why is it huge?
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Yeah, well, I mean, so much of my identity was wrapped up in my employment or my title or what I was doing every day for work, and I know that is absolutely something that most people still identify with. When someone meets you, they ask you what you do even though that’s, like, not cool to do anymore. Still, people don't really know what to ask instead or if they do ask another question, you still end up describing what it is that you do for work.
Rebecca Ching: So how do you know this, though? How do you know you’re not your work?
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: I think what’s been interesting the last few years -- so as the company has found its footing, I would say, and we’re not in the “Oh, my gosh, is this gonna work?” mode. We’re in the “this is how we’re operating mode.” It’s been much clearer of I have a job at this company that I happen to own and run, but that doesn’t mean that I am it and it is me because it could close and I’ve had that happen. I owned a business and then I didn't own it anymore, and I’m still operating in the world even though that piece of my experience can’t be my identity anymore.
Rebecca Ching: Yeah, your experiences, your meaningful work is differentiated from you and your worthiness and your safety, even though it can feel risky, right? Losing a business, going bankrupt, having public failures, all of those things, especially in this culture, can feel very risky. That differentiation of identity, of you are not your work, that’s hard-earned in this world, isn’t it, to really get to that space, to separate the two.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: I feel like a major grownup, not gonna lie. Yes, I did that.
Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] You’ve arrived, Shannon.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: I am.
Rebecca Ching: You’ve arrived.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: I am. I have major grownup points.
Rebecca Ching: Anything else leading your company has taught you about yourself or your relationship to work?
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Hmm, I think, again, a recent realization is that everything doesn't have to be exciting all the time.
Rebecca Ching: Ooh.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: That’s a new really fun one. I think having worked in startups, having started my own business, and then starting a consulting company, and then starting another business, for a long time, work was very intense, and I thought that that intensity meant excitement and that excitement meant I was doing something right. I saw a post on LinkedIn a couple of days ago that was talking about this false sense of urgency, and I think I was operating that way for a really long time, again, seeking that excitement of the work, and that was what was keeping me going when I was actually tired or bored or what have you because it still felt very high stakes. And so, something that I’ve grown into, really probably in the past year, is yeah, it doesn't have to be exciting all the time, and that doesn't mean I’m doing anything wrong. That doesn't mean I’m being lazy, that doesn't mean I’m uninspired or unmotivated; it just means that I’ve reached a point where it doesn't have to be intense all the time, and I really am enjoying that space.
Rebecca Ching: I appreciate you bringing that point up. It’s a really important one, especially how the conflation of exciting and intense -- they’re different things.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: For sure.
Rebecca Ching: And from a nervous system perspective, right, we get those dopamine hits, and then if we’re not in that constant intense space, and we downshift, our nervous systems say what are you doing wrong, what are you doing wrong, this isn’t safe, this isn't our normal. And so, to unlearn that and to detox from that is having -- I’m in the process of doing a whole other level of that downshift. It’s super awkward and uncomfortable. [Laughs] How are you feeling with that?
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Yeah, I mean, it goes back to the same thing of, like, if I’m busy all the time, then that means I’m doing something important. If I’m stressed and feeling that adrenaline, and the dopamine, and the, “Oh, my gosh, we’re gonna achieve this thing on this crazy timeline, and then when we get to the end it’s gonna be great.” All of that, again, I think were bad habits and still rooted in that I have a perpetual fear of people thinking I’m lazy. And so, I can’t be lazy if I’m always dialed up to a ten, and if I’m producing all of these things.
Rebecca Ching: Right.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: But really I’m not lazy. I just really like to take naps. Those two aren’t the same things, and it would be totally fine for me to do both.
Rebecca Ching: Yeah, perfectionism sure shames rest and really caring for yourself well. What is the story that maybe still echoes around being seen as lazy? What’s going on there?
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Again, it goes back to childhood stuff. My parents were divorced when I was young, and so, there was a lot of shuffling back and forth between households. In one household, I was expected to just sit in the other room and be quiet, and in the other one I was expected to get up and do things, and there was always kind of the conflict of I never really knew what I actually wanted to do because the expectations in each house were totally different, and I was just trying to navigate the circumstances around me.
Rebecca Ching: Mm, and you kind of can win if you're doing, right? If you're always doing.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Oh, definitely.
Rebecca Ching: There’s control, there’s agency, and there’s a sense of empowerment. It’s not all bad, right?
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: No, and there’s praise. I mean, and I love me some praise. Still do. [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: It’s a drug of choice.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: I know.
Rebecca Ching: It’s a drug of choice.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: So good! But yeah.
Rebecca Ching: Yeah, it’s like a sugar high; you eventually crash, right? Praise doesn't sustain, versus believing and having a sense of inner-knowing regardless of the external. Oy, that’s easier said than done.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: I was gonna say. I’m still working on that one. I’m definitely still working on that one. [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: Yeah, I would say anyone in Western modern culture is working on it too.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Absolutely.
Rebecca Ching: Well, I want to shift, because you developed this company that’s about meeting (conferences and gathering), and we’re literally recording this days away from when the world shut down two years ago. I’d love for you to walk me through what was going through your mind two years ago, going from a business that was in person and then radically having to shift to online.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Yeah, well, it sucked. I’ll be totally honest about that.
Rebecca Ching: Of course.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: I’m sure I’m not the only one that has the memory of where were you when the world shut down, and so, I was actually at a team meeting for our conference that we were planning for spring 2020, and I got a text from my husband that someone that he worked with had an exposure, and so, we all dispersed never to see each other again, basically. Not ever, but in that context we canceled the event. I remember having to make that video telling our community that we wouldn't be holding an event, and then I spent a lot of time scrambling around trying to figure out what I was gonna do, how I was gonna recoup, how I was gonna not lose all of the momentum that we had built over, at that point, two-and-a-half years of growing our community and growing the size of the events that we were producing.
So we did online events to start, and while that helped, I think in the beginning of us feeling connected still, from that point, it was a lot of just, like, should I try this, should I try that, should I try this, should I try that, with also a grieving and just a really, really big sense of disappointment. I had the story running through my head of you’ve lost all of your momentum. All of the sacrifices you've made over the past two-and-a-half years are for not. I had some really, really sad stories going on, and it was super disappointing because, not only did I love the work that I do, it fed me. And so, there’s two questions there that you now have to figure out. What do I do now at a time that everything is uncertain?
So I think it probably took me a good year and a half to get out of that funky place. I was still operating. We were still producing online events. We produced two online conferences that I’m insanely proud of the content that we were able to put together, but it just wasn’t the same, and I honestly, up until even probably a few months ago, didn’t know if we’d ever get back to doing what we were doing before. So where I go in with now, I mean, it’s even more a validation of I’m not my business, my business is not me, these are separate identities because I really didn't have a choice but to try to figure out other things that I could do to fill the gap.
Rebecca Ching: Well, so let me jump in. So you did have a choice. You could have quit.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: I could have. I thought about it a lot. [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: How come you didn't?
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: How come I didn't. I didn't have a better option? I don't know. I truly don’t know why I didn’t. I think I was lucky that we had a program that was running, that was still able to run pretty much unphased online, and the revenue was not what I needed, really, at the time, to sustain, but I was seeing incredible transformation and community in those people I was serving.
Rebecca Ching: Wow.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: So it’s like all right, I know this isn’t actually enough, but if I can do this and keep doing this, at least I’m not laying in my bed all day. Maybe that’s what --
Rebecca Ching: So I think this is really important because it wasn't -- I mean, the bottom line is we’re business owners. These aren't hobbies.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Yeah.
Rebecca Ching: But it was the meaningful work that was sustaining. This was what was fascinating to me early in the pandemic and even as it continued, to see who, especially some of my friends who are local business owners (like restaurant owners) and seeing how they were immediately pivoting -- outside dining and got the heaters and shifted and upped their delivery and got their websites up, and others that just froze or just called it a day. There’s no judgment. It was just kind of fascinating to see who did what and why. Your answer there just really sits with -- I mean, from what you're saying too, you have these internal drivers to do, and even that has its dark side, its shadow side to it, but also that you saw transformation happening. This felt aligned to you, and so, it was bigger than you. That’s how it lands with me. Is that right?
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Absolutely. Absolutely, and I’ve owned multiple businesses as I’ve explained now. I’ve never been as confident in the product, I think, as I was (and am) in this product. I always was like it could be better, we could be doing more. I owned a brick and mortar business. It was literally never enough there. With my consulting, I never could deliver enough value. This one program that we run, I would not change -- I mean, I would probably change tiny administrative things on the back end because I’m very unorganized, but other than that, the delivery and the way that we’re able to impact people, I feel so confident about. I just literally never felt that way before.
Rebecca Ching: That’s huge. When you talk about program, you’re talking about SWELL by Rebelle, the community of leaders, kind of a mentorship of cohorts that gather?
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: It’s peer mentorship, and it is so powerful, and I think I knew it kind of when I started the program, but I really had no idea until it started moving and people started really leaning on each other during a really challenging time and making some really big, bold decisions.
Rebecca Ching: Mm, that’s powerful. Are there any echoes of the burdens of that time? Feeling the grief, feeling like a failure? Any echoes from that time two years ago that are still with you today that you’re still navigating?
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: I’m sure there are, but I am distracted by my optimism for the future right now.
Rebecca Ching: Mm.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: I am really happy to say that [Laughs] ‘cause I have not been able to say that for a while.
Rebecca Ching: I’m distracted by my optimism for the future. I’ll cosign that.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: That’s good, right?
Rebecca Ching: Yeah.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Well, it’s kinda like when you bring everything down to the bare bones and then you have the tiniest bit of opportunity to start it back up, everything can be exciting again.
Rebecca Ching: Yeah, but that’s the hope, right? To me, it’s more than optimism. There’s this sense of hope, and then you're in this space of action and connection. It’s not just a Pollyanna bypassing thing.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: No, not at all.
Rebecca Ching: It’s backed up by a lot of intention, a lot of action.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Yeah.
Rebecca Ching: It’s aligned with what’s important to you. I’m really excited to rumble with you on this question ‘cause it’s something I’ve been digging into a lot lately. You built a company and a community that focuses on women supporting and learning from women, right?
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
Rebecca Ching: And yet, women are still very competitive with each other and struggle to truly support other women, especially when they feel like they're missing out on their own success. So, first, tell me about a time when you experienced competition from other women in response to your success and achievements, and how were you feeling at that moment?
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: I love this question so much because it takes me way back. Before I was a grownup person, I was a professional ballet dancer.
Like, literally, I grew up doing ballet from the time when I was six years old until I was sixteen, and I went to a Russian ballet conservatory. I literally lived and breathed it. None of those people are still my friends that I spent literally my entire youth with because we weren’t really allowed to be friends. We were in competition with each other at all times.
So we were being compared to one another in class every single day. We competed with each other for the roles in the performances. Even after we would get a role in a performance, we could still be replaced by our peers, and that did happen once. I replaced another dancer, like, halfway through the rehearsal season, and it’s so interesting because I think my experience now as an adult is shaped by that but, actually, in a different way that you would think. I cherish my female friendships and female relationships and I want nothing but what is the best for every single woman in my life because I basically didn’t get to have that as a young person, and it took me a long time into my adult life to realize wow, I don't have any friends. Like, that’s strange. Why do other people have friends and I don't?
I really don't experience much of that competition in my life, and the people that I allow into my circle are just not that vibe because I think I’ve seen how isolating and awful it is, and you walk away with a world of other challenges being a professional ballet dancer other than not having friends. So it’s just something that I really just have no tolerance for. If a woman is going to come into my circle and have that competitive attitude and not want to be supportive of the other, you just aren’t gonna be around me for very much longer.
Rebecca Ching: It’s a hard stop.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Literally. Game changer. Like, done.
Rebecca Ching: And so, the thing is I’ve been researching and getting into some of the stuff that’s been written and studied around internalized misogyny, right? I’m wondering how, given what you do and what your company does, do you have a plan to overtly address and identify internalized misogyny so we can identify in ourselves and help the women in your community do the same?
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: So I saw that phrase, internalized misogyny, I literally had to Google it, and I was like I couldn't even tell you an example of what that would be, like, how that would show up. So I do not have a formal plan [Laughs] or policy on how to navigate that as a challenge. Of course, I mean, we are a part of the patriarchal system. We all have these internalized biases that we don't even recognize that we have. I think what has helped us so far, as far as creating a community and the environment, is how the leadership of the organization has showed up. So that’s me and the entire team that works with us. We just have an everyone is involved, everyone is included, everyone is invited to explore their biases here in a safe space. So it hasn’t shown up as in a conflict amongst any of our members ever. It hasn't shown up in any of my groups that people are challenging other people with that kind of basis of bias. I think we are so open to exploring literally all biases in these conversations. it’s kind of on the table regardless. So if you say something that you can, then, have mirrored back to you like, “Oh, wow, you're right. I did make that assumption.”
I did have one group once where this woman was talking about a challenge that she was having with another woman at her workplace, and someone mentioned, “Well, you're very attractive, and that could be one of the reasons,” and it was like… yeah, no. I mean, maybe that’s part of that person’s experience, but, like, not okay. That’s a weird thing to say to someone.
Rebecca Ching: Yeah, and I guess I’m just -- from what I’m learning about you and what I’ve read about our company, it’s probably gonna attract women that are not -- I mean, I think we’re all burdened by this belief that we need to sell ourselves short, and I think perfectionism is definitely one of those acceptable ways to do that, and then that to compete line -- no. My bosses that were female in the past were my most challenging bosses, and I’m trying to be respectful because I do have a reverence for them, but it was rough at times because, I think, there was this sense of it’s either you or me instead of there’s room, and I’m gonna make room for you.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: I mean, the data shows that absolutely still exists, and I think there was an article that came out recently in the Harvard Business Review that said pay inequity is worse when there are more women leaders in a company than when there are more male leaders in a company. Very similarly, I think, linked to that challenge or to the challenge of we have higher expectations for the other women around us because we’ve had to work so hard to get where we are.
Rebecca Ching: That!
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Right?
Rebecca Ching: I got a lot of lectures on that, yeah.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: It’s not even that you and I are in competition, but this is how I got here, and so, for it to be any easier than you is somehow bad which is literally the goal. So that doesn't make sense logically. Like, no, I’m working hard so that the next generation can not do this.
But to go back to the internalized misogyny and perfectionism, those two things kind of being connected, I think you are correct in saying the people who are attracted to this organization, perfectionism is a challenge for them, typically.
These are high-achieving women that are, like, okay, but I got to the place that I was trying to get to, and now I’m here, and I don't feel great. What is happening! So a lot of that is internal competition. They’re not even looking at the people around them; they are battling with themselves in their own worthiness. So I almost don't have energy to be in competition with other people ‘cause I’m fighting myself so hard. I see that come up more often than I see people taking each other down, not that they don't exist in environments where that happens.
The other thing, a lot of women that find our organization are the only or very few women in the teams that they operate, so maybe that’s happening but they have bigger challenges than that at the moment.
Rebecca Ching: That makes sense. Yeah, it seems like your business and community has a little bit of a secret sauce I’m trying to tease out because my assumption is you, like myself, have been to groups where it’s all women, and there’s times where I’m like I need to take a shower.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Oh, for sure.
Rebecca Ching: This was a little like, “Hi! How are you?”
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Performative.
Rebecca Ching: I’m like ew, performative, insincere.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Yes.
Rebecca Ching: I got a lot of elevator eyes. You know, they look you up and down.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Yes.
Rebecca Ching: The sense I get from your space is that that doesn't draw, so I’m just kind of wondering what do you think sets apart your community from these performative kind of competitive organizations and gatherings?
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: I mean, me? I think the answer might be me. I mean, I am the leader of this organization, and the way I show up is like I’m not performing for you. I am going to openly share the struggles and the challenges. I’m not positioning myself as an expert because I am literally not. I come with full-on curiosity, and I expect everyone else in the room is doing the same. So I think if people do come that are used to and more comfortable in those performative places, they realize and slink to the back pretty quickly, and they're not the ones that keep coming back again and again.
Rebecca Ching: See, now you bring up something. I really just want to acknowledge that ownership there. That’s awesome, and I actually think you're correct. It brings me back to when I was working in DC in The Senate. I could tell, even if I disagreed with the other senators, I could tell the type of leader the senator was by my interactions with their staff.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Mm-hmm.
Rebecca Ching: I’m like your staff is so nice even though your policies suck, but I would bet wow, they care about their team, and sometimes it would be people that I really admired what they were doing with public policy were horrible leaders, and their staff were competing against each other, turnover was high. So I appreciate and want to acknowledge you taking ownership of that. I think that’s awesome.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Thanks!
Rebecca Ching: All right, I want to get in to talk about networking. I’m really excited about this part. For me, I am excited about networking, and pretty much no one I know feels the same way.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: I fan-girl networking with you.
Rebecca Ching: Yes! But we’re not in the majority.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: No, I know.
Rebecca Ching: Okay, okay, ‘cause this is a loaded word for people.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Yeah.
Rebecca Ching: Networking often has a negative connotation, and I could see sometimes, too -- you’ve got to go network is almost like you've gotta go be a used cars salesman (nothing against used cars salesmen), but the whole connotation is salesy and icky, and they see it as a practice that feels dreadful but a necessary evil, right?
So what are your thoughts on why networking has such a bad reputation?
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: I love this question because this is --
Rebecca Ching: Okay!
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: -- one of my soapboxes. So the reason why networking has a bad reputation is because there are so many bad networking events and opportunities, right? There are so many of those spaces that are those performative, icky spaces. There are so many people that think they have to so they don’t show up in a way that’s actually conducive to meeting or getting to know anyone. I mean, if you've been in DC, you absolutely have been to god-awful events where the goal was networking, and I’ve been stuck in the corner next to the one insurance guy who’s afraid to talk to anybody else but I look nice so he corners me and then I’m stuck talking to him forever ‘cause I’m too polite to walk away.
That is what people think of when they think of networking. I mean, yes, going to an event is one way you can meet other people, but networking is so much more than just showing up in a room with a drink ticket and ten business cards. Networking can be done online. Networking can be done on social media accounts. Networking can be done through referrals and introductions and invitations. There are so many other ways to meet people which is really the goal of networking, right, to meet people. Then meeting people is actually only, like, one step of networking. You have to develop a connection and a relationship with that other person for it to be meaningful in any way, shape, or form.
Rebecca Ching: What would you call a bad networking event? I mean, you touched on that. It’s performative, here’s your drink ticket, it’s the setup, but I’d love for you to elaborate a little bit more on what’s a bad networking event or experience.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Oh, my god, I’ve been to so many. How do I line it up? People that really are truly just there to make sales, right? I have a business. I need more clients. I’ve been told the way you get more clients is to come to this thing, and so, I have no curiosity for the other human beings that I’m connecting with aside from can I sell them my thing. That is one bad one.
I’ve been to networking events where the people who are attending are just a mish mash of too many different interests, and there’s no connective tissue or no program or not format that gives them anything to talk with each other about. So it’s just really one awkward conversation after another. Those are, often, networking events that have no host. So there’s no one actually in charge of anyone having a good experience there and no way to give feedback on whether that was a good experience or not.
I’ve also been invited to things that I trust the person who invites me, and I go there, and then it’s no one with anything to say. Literally a room full of introverts that none of them want to be there or talk to each other, and so, then, I end up performing myself to not have it be silent. So I could go on… I could go on.
Rebecca Ching: Oh, I’m actually having memories flash of different moments.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: I could go on. I’m getting sweaty as well.
Rebecca Ching: I think we both could.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Ah, don’t make me go back!
Rebecca Ching: ‘Cause they're awful. They're awful.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Yeah.
Rebecca Ching: It’s the agenda. If you go there and there’s an agenda of taking and getting and not seeing a human being in front of you and a relationship to be built and then just a curiosity to see what it could lead to and that that in itself is a good thing --
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Yeah.
Rebecca Ching: -- but we’ve really, for a long time, lost the capacity and appreciation that it’s not transactional. Let’s just build connection.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Mm-hmm.
Rebecca Ching: And the rest is where the magic sauce is. So how is your approach to networking different than the conventional wisdom on this very important business pillar?
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Yeah, well, as a person, not as a business owner who helps people make connections with strangers, but personally, my philosophy is, again, going back to just curiosity. I’m really interested in people, what makes them tick, what they’ve done, who they are, how they got there. So I genuinely have lots of questions to ask people because I’m just really nosey about them. My other philosophy, especially when I’m making outreach which I do a lot because, like I said, I don’t like to go to networking events because it’s really challenging to build a real connection when there’s so many people in the room. That’s another thing that I think a lot of networking organizations get wrong. There’s a special number where people can actually connect and meet each other, and it is not 50 people. It is less than that.
Rebecca Ching: What is the number?
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: I think it’s 30.
Rebecca Ching: Mm.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: If it’s facilitated, it can go higher. The best is 10 people.
Rebecca Ching: Noted.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: But, again, this is my experience. I try to come from a place of gratitude. You know, I literally email strangers on a regular basis whether it’s to participate as a speaker at one of my events or I think what you’re doing is really interesting and I want to learn more. I just started a new project which is Rebelle Magazine which gives me another excuse to email random people and ask them about their business, but I always come from a place of gratitude, of you’re doing this thing that I find really interesting and inspiring, and I would like to learn more about it, but also, I’m just happy that it exists in the world, and I’m gonna share that with you in some way.
I just interviewed one of the cofounders of Owl’s Brew Boozy Tea. I don't know if you've seen it in your Whole Foods, but it’s basically tea cocktails that are in a can. They sell them at Whole Foods. They're absolutely delicious. They’re, like, revolutionizing clean beverages in the alcoholic beverage space, and they have this really interesting story that -- I think I’m gonna get the number wrong, but it’s something like 4% of alcohol, not just owners, but people in the industry are women. It’s so small. Where 22% of women leadership in your average startup company, it’s 4%. Like, everything from the founder to who makes it to who puts it in the bottle to who stocks it on the shelf, all men.
So they're doing really interesting things, and that’s why I want to talk to them. This is so interesting to me, so that’s the pitch that I’m sending them. I’m so interested in this, I want to interview about it, I want to include it in our magazine, and they're like great, yeah, win.
Rebecca Ching: I find that, at least in my experience too, is like hey, you’re around a group of people you want to learn more about or that I serve and I want to see what you're experiencing and learn from you. That’s such a compliment to pay to someone, especially if it has to be sincere.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: It has to be sincere, yeah. Don’t be a weirdo. [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] That’s the title of this episode: Don’t Be A Weirdo.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Well, that might be the title of my entire existence, but okay. [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] Mine too! Mine too. All right, this is really helpful, and I think that we can find our way to connect. It doesn’t have to be in a room with a bunch of people with dated business cards.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: The one other thing I want to say, I think, that’s the misconception about networking is that your network is only powerful when it’s lots of people. I think very similarly to we want to get more followers on social media, you feel like you want to get more connections and have more relationships, then I find that’s not really the case. The deeper you can make your relationships with people that really care for you, that are looking out for you, that are interested in what you're doing, that, to me, leads to more than just knowing a lot of people or have gone to a lot of events and people think you're familiar versus people really knowing you and what you’re about and genuinely wanting to help you.
Rebecca Ching: Oh, I think that’s great. Yeah, again, genuine coming up. Authentic, intentional. It doesn't have to be in person, yeah. Following your curiosities is a great way to network.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Yeah, man.
Rebecca Ching: I feel like I’ve heard people who talk about building your email list. It’s not about more, it’s are these folks engaged and what’s your relationship with them.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Yeah.
Rebecca Ching: Yeah, more isn’t better, necessarily, in this space. I agree.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: I mean, it’s not chocolate, people. This is something else.
Rebecca Ching: [Laughs]
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: [Chuckles] In that case, I’ll be like correct. [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: It’s not Swiss chocolate, I’ll say that much. All right, so I’d love to talk about success. How do you define success today, and how is this different from what you were taught?
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Well, I was taught that success is mo money, mo power, 2.5 children, white picket fence, vacation home, nice car, everyone in the world loving you, I think, was also on that list. Like, every human being on the earth thinking that you’re great.
I remember, actually, when I was like five years old, and something was happening. I don't even remember who was president, but somebody was president, and my parents were talking about how they didn't do something right or whatever, and it was like this realization of oh, my god. Not everyone likes the president? I don't ever want to be president.
Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] Definitely.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: That was, like, my five-year-old brain being like I don't want that job because people might not like me. Like, that’s so weird. I mean, I still don't want that job, but that’s not why. So that is what I believed, as a youth, what success would be, but my version of success, I actually have a good answer to this ‘cause it is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. It’s just enjoying my day. I know that sounds simple, but I like my schedule. I like the people that I get to spend time with. I like that I get to take a nap most days. I look in my closet and I actually like the clothes I have to wear. There’s just little things in my life that please me, and I get to experience them which, maybe having more money I’ll have a little bit nicer pair of pants, but I'll probably still shop at Target. So the money thing, I get that that’s not a thing anymore. I really don’t care about cars, so my Subaru is just perfectly fine for this suburban, white mother that I am. The other stuff is just stuff, right? Even experiences are just experiences. If I can like my day to day, that, to me, is success.
Rebecca Ching: That feels like joy. it’s finding your joy, and it’s not the kind of joy that was conflated with intensity and excitement. It’s a grounded, customized presence --
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Mm-hmm.
Rebecca Ching: -- that isn't externally connected. You get to author it, and it’s really reclaiming what we’ve given away. To me, that’s what internalized misogyny is. That’s what I’ve had to unlearn.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Mm, I’m gonna need to read more on that topic. That’s very interesting to me. Yeah, no, it’s literally just getting to experience simple things and being happy with those things. I’m not chasing anything. I’m not striving for anything, and that makes the inner dialogue in my brain a lot nicer, and I also think that is success. When I am actually nice to myself everyday.
Rebecca Ching: Imagine that.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: I know. I’m definitely a weirdo with that. I don't know many people who are nice to themselves every day.
Rebecca Ching: No.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: It’s kinda sad.
Rebecca Ching: We’ve got an epidemic. I often will say to people, wow, if this were possible, we could take a restraining order out on you for how you talk to yourself and treat yourself, right?
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Oh, my gosh, right?
Rebecca Ching: They don't even realize it ‘cause it’s so normal. It’s just in the water that they’re swimming, so it’s so normal.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Well, I remember the first time I realized that my thoughts are not me. That’s a mine-explosion time, but a lot of people are still not there. I forget sometimes, and then will host a workshop on thought work, and I’m like oh, no, you really didn't know that. Okay, cool. We’ll go back. Take a few steps back.
Rebecca Ching: The basics.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Mm-hmm.
Rebecca Ching: It’s really about those basics, absolutely. So I’m curious, too, is this, meaning leading Rebelle and doing all that you're doing within that company, is this what you thought you’d be doing today?
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: No. Definitely no. I thought I would be wearing a power suit and working in a really busy office and driving at least an hour commute every day, smoking Parliament Lights during my drive. [Laughs] I mean, really, you want to know what my goals were as a teenager? That was it. That meant I made it, in very high, high heels and probably even pantyhose which was a thing in the past.
Rebecca Ching: Ugh.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: So yeah, no, definitely not, but also, I mean, that’s kind of a joke, but not really. That is true of what I thought my successful, power-woman life was gonna look like. Even a year ago, I wouldn't have seen this being my experience. I thought I was on a different path even with the growth of this company. I thought we were gonna have bigger and badder events, and go to large cities and build a team, and there was still a lot of striving attached to my goals for the company, even up until the pandemic. I’ve had an opportunity, as I know many have, to really reevaluate. How can I still feel that I’m growing, still feel like I’m learning but not pushing? That’s my new goal.
Rebecca Ching: Learning and growing without pushing. Kind of another word that I use (and a colleague of mine uses), efforting. Without pushing and efforting.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: I used to love to effort. That was my jam. Now, I would like to not at all.
Rebecca Ching: Oh, my gosh. I ‘m gonna be thinking about that for a while. This is awesome. Okay, I’ve got some quick-fire questions for you.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Okay.
Rebecca Ching: All right, what are you reading right now?
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Okay, the last book I finished was called Other People's Clothes, and it was basically about my 20s, but it is these two girls that are art students, and they go to an exchange program in Berlin, and they start throwing raves in their apartment, but then something crazy happens ‘cause it’s a thriller. I liked it. I thought it was good.
Rebecca Ching: Adding it to the list. What song are you playing on repeat?
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: I have been listening to “Beach Boy” by BENEE. It’s just like a really pop, lovely tune for the ears ‘cause I’m in spring mode and I’m ready to have champagne Thursdays on my back patio and listen to pop music.
Rebecca Ching: Ah, nice. So speaking of pop culture…
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Mm, mm-hmm!
Rebecca Ching: What is your favorite 1980s movie or TV show?
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Point Break is my favorite movie of all time.
Rebecca Ching: Oh, that’s a good one!
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Yeah!
Rebecca Ching: What is your mantra right now?
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Let it be easy.
Rebecca Ching: Mm, let it be easy.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: That’s it.
Rebecca Ching: What is an unpopular opinion you hold?
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: I have very many, I think. Let me pick one.
Rebecca Ching: [Chuckles]
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: Bras are overrated. I don't know if that’s unpopular, but definitely people are not living it and I am.
Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] Oh, my gosh, I’m sorry for all the belly laughs for those listening today, but you're bringing it today. You're bringing it today.
Who or what inspires you to be a better leader and human?
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: I have a mentor and dear friend of mine who I basically just try to follow in her footsteps all day every day, and her name is Racheal Baxter Cook. Racheal Cook. She’s a genius business strategist and literally the person who showed me that you didn’t have to work so hard to be successful, and so, I try to just keep following her and her journey. It’s led me to good place so far.
Rebecca Ching: That’s awesome. Shannon, this was a joy. Thank you so much for your time today, for sharing from your heart and your experiences. I know many people are gonna resonate with what you shared. I know I did. So really, really an honor today. Thank you.
Shannon Siriano-Greenwood: It was a lot of fun. Thank you.
Rebecca Ching: We perform to protect. It’s easier to be confident and cool when you perform, right? But to lead with vulnerability means accessing immense discomfort, and we have a discomfort problem where many communities cultivate cool and tapping out of discomfort and pain instead of feeling their way through the hard things.
The pendulum can swing to the other extreme with people sharing all the things, lacking boundaries, and performing what looks like vulnerability but feels intrusive and manipulative. Now, this is the opposite of what those who are in the Rebelle Community experience. I loved how Shannon owned her responsibility as a leader in her Rebelle Communities, and her value of a posture of deep curiosity versus being the expert is a powerful reminder and example to us all.
So I’m wondering after listening to today’s show, how about you reflect upon this. How do you take up space, and how are you curious about others around you? What kind of community do you want to cultivate, and what unhealthy communities or systems are you in right now that you might need to rethink? Now, just remember, true connection and community is felt and earned, but to really live it, man, this is the work ahead of us, and this is the work of an unburdened leader.
[Inspirational Music Interlude]
Leading is hard, and leading is also, often, controversial as you navigate staying aligned to your values, your mission, and your boundaries. Navigating the inevitable controversy can challenge your confidence, clarity, and calm. Now, I know you don’t mind making the hard decisions, but sometimes the stakes seem higher and can bring up echoes of old doubts and insecurities during times when you need to feel rock solid on your plan and action. Finding a coach who gets the nuances of your business and leading in our complex and polarized world can help you identify the blocks that keep you playing at safe and small.
Now, leading today is not a fancy title or fluffy bragging rights, it is brave and bold work to stay the course when the future is unknown and the doubts and pains from the past keep showing up to shake things up. Internal emotional practices and systemic strategies are needed to keep the protector of cynicism at bay and foster a hope that is actionable and aligned.
When the stakes are high and you don't want to lose focus, when you want to navigate inevitable conflict between your ears and with those you lead, when time is of the essence and you want to make hard decisions with confidence and clarity, then Unburdened Leader coaching is for you, where you deepen the capacity to tolerate the vulnerability of change, innovation, and doing things differently than the status quo.
To start your Unburdened Leader coaching process with me go to www.rebeccaching.com and book a free connection call. I can’t wait to hear from you!
Thank you so much for joining this episode of The Unburdened Leader. You can sign up for the weekly Unburdened Leader email, find this episode, show notes, and free unburdened leader resources along with ways to work with me, at www.rebeccaching.com.