Cascading Leadership - The Show

Ashley Brundage: How Losing Your Career Allows You to Lead Others to Empowerment

January 05, 2023 Jim Season 3 Episode 1
Cascading Leadership - The Show
Ashley Brundage: How Losing Your Career Allows You to Lead Others to Empowerment
Show Notes Transcript


Ashley Brundage discusses her experience in the restaurant industry and how it has influenced her career in leadership development. She talks about her early days working as a server and how her first manager taught her the importance of being a good leader. She also talks about her experience in the restaurant industry in terms of recruiting and retention, and how she has had to reinvent herself in many ways since losing her job in 2008.

 Ashley chats about the foundational elements of empowerment and how to move past the performative empowerment culture that exists today. She also talks about how to build the confidence and resilience necessary to overcome any obstacle.

 Ashley also talks about her unique approach to leadership development, which includes a focus on intersectionality. She explains that her program is designed to help people understand the different ways that people can lead, and how to create a lasting impact.

Ashley  discusses the importance of incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion into leadership development programming. She emphasizes that it is important to have a variety of people delivering the educational programming, and that the model should be one that connects with all people. Ultimately, this will help to bring people together and improve team dynamics and outcomes.



Ashley Brundage - Empowering Differences - S3 E 100


Leadership Development Programs: A Conversation with Ashley Brundage


The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion in Leadership Development Programs


The Impact of Diversity in the Workplace


The Impact of High Turnover in the Restaurant Industry


The Importance of Cultural Respect in the Restaurant Industry


Transgender Inclusion in the Workplace


Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace


Transgender Woman's Journey to Employment in 2010


How to Overcome Obstacles and Achieve Success


Ashley Brundage's Journey to the Top of the Banking Industry


The Importance of Inclusion in the Workplace


The Importance of Internal Capital


The Power of a Vision


Dr. Jim and Ashley Brundage Discuss Career Navigation and Personal Branding


The Importance of Being Pot Committed in Your Career


The Power of Personal Branding in Your Career


The Power of Empowerment


How to Create an Impactful Message


Networking and close down 

Music Credit: Music Credit: Maarten Schellekens - Riviera

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 Ashley Brundage - Empowering Differences - S3 E 100 

Ashley Brundage - Empowering Differences - S3 E 100 

[00:00:00] Dr. Jim: welcome to today's episode of Cascading Leadership. I am your friendly neighborhood talent strategy nerd, Dr. Jim. This is the season three premier episode, and in this conversation, our feature guest is gonna teach us what are the foundational elements of empowerment.

[00:00:15] Dr. Jim: We're also gonna learn what are the things we need to do to move past the performative empowerment culture that exists today. And we're also going to learn how to build the confidence and nece and resilience necessary to overcome any obstacle. And the person that's gonna guide us through this discussion is joining us today.

[00:00:34] Dr. Jim: Ashley, welcome to the 

[00:00:35] Dr. Jim: show.

[00:00:36] Ashley Brundage: Oh my goodness. Thank you so much for having me. I'm thrilled to be here. And we are gonna kick off your new season with a lot of interesting and exciting efforts to connect, empowerment 

[00:00:47] Dr. Jim: Just as some context for those that are joining the show or, listening to us.

[00:00:52] Dr. Jim: Ashley and I met earlier this year at SHRM Inclusion in San Diego, and she's got a really powerful story that, [00:01:00] ties into the conversation that we're gonna have today on Empowerment. And rather than me telling you that story I'm gonna have Ashley tell us a little bit about the work that she's doing, the impact that she's making, and then that's gonna frame the discussion that we're gonna have.

[00:01:14] Ashley Brundage: So I'm the president and c e o of Empowering Differences which is a intersectionally based leadership development organization. We help leaders really understand their top 10 most common differences and how to drive empowerment faster through all of those 10 differences through curated specific leadership actions that drive those measured impacts fast.

[00:01:41] Ashley Brundage: And I, came to this to this job and started doing the, this empowerment educational framework after working in diversity, equity, and inclusion for a bunch of years. I'm sure we'll get to that origin story soon enough. Yeah. But but no, it's really great. I, love being able to help leaders.

[00:01:58] Ashley Brundage: I do leadership. [00:02:00] Groups. I do training. I actually host a leadership conference on a cruise ship. All of these things to put people out of their normal day-to-day element of where they think they should get their leadership at and who they should get their leadership from. And I really reframe that narrative to help them see the world in a different lens.

[00:02:19] Dr. Jim: I appreciate you giving us a high level view. I wanna dig in that area a little bit because when I hear what you're saying, you've been in the d e I space for a while. You're, doing a lot of the work when it comes to leadership development and as a passive bystander, if I'm sitting here hearing this, the question that would pop into my head if I don't know you from anybody, would be what makes your specific leadership program different than any number of other leadership programs 

[00:02:50] Ashley Brundage: I would probably tell them a little bit more about my research that went with my leadership program. I actually spent about eight years of research [00:03:00] connected to all of the differences that we have as humans forming a research panel. By having dialogue discussions and research questions that the group went through, we were able to really center around this leadership model to make sure that it would have a lasting impact towards all the differences that we have as humans.

[00:03:19] Dr. Jim: I appreciate the context there. And I want to tie in one other element of what you mentioned earlier, which was the intersectionality aspect of the work that you do. Why is that relevant to somebody that might be evaluating various leadership development programs? How does that play into the programs that you bring to market?


[00:03:38] Ashley Brundage: So when you look at your leadership development program, I really want you to think about two parts of this. One is, who is the person who's delivering the leadership development program? Because if you don't always have intersectional differences represented across the person who's delivering the leadership message, it's not gonna necessarily have the same residence as it will if you look at the differences.

[00:03:59] Ashley Brundage: [00:04:00] So if you have just one, one gender delivering all your leadership program, or you have just one race, you want to make sure that it goes across all the differences because those lived experiences that those individuals have as a leadership development expert, this gives them the ability to connect their own lived experiences, to connect on resonance for the person who.

[00:04:21] Ashley Brundage: Listening on the other end, the other person on the other end doesn't have to be from that same gender or race or religion or ethnicity or age background. But it's a key element to have to make sure that you have a different roster of all the people who deliver this educational programming to make a measured impact that way.

[00:04:41] Ashley Brundage: And then the other part of this is back to the actual model. You wanna make sure the model has a connection to all people and that it connects back on some sort of level in relation to the differences. And it has proof points surrounding who's gone through it, who has gone through [00:05:00] it, what are the impacts, how many people have, taken this course or curriculum and and what are their successes.

[00:05:07] Ashley Brundage: All of those two parts, I think are the key element into mapping out who does your leadership development programming. 

[00:05:14] Dr. Jim: When I hear what you said out of all of that, and I take it into sort of a hypothesis that I build out of it. So even though there's a lot of focus on the things that make us different within a team structure.

[00:05:28] Dr. Jim: The way that I interpret what you're saying is this is in service of getting everybody to recognize each other's differences in service of better team dynamics, better outcomes, recognition, building common ground, those sort of things. Am I going the right direction with the, why behind all of this stuff that you've been you've been working on over several years.

[00:05:51] Ashley Brundage: Yeah. Y yeah, you're 100% right. It, has to have that connection across the differences. And I keep using the word differences because[00:06:00] I like that word much better. And, variation to the word diversity, which tends to get people all really , hot and bothered sometimes. But differences really is, the there's 8 billion different people on this planet.

[00:06:14] Ashley Brundage: No two people are alike. And I think. If you look at how you're gonna help to grow your team or grow yourself or grow your peers right, or friends or family, how you want to grow as a human, you wanna make sure that you have that connection across these things that make us different. And then ultimately what it ends up doing is it ends up bringing us together as humans to be his stronger connection on this planet.

[00:06:39] Ashley Brundage: And because you have that connection and now you've learned about what it's like to be in somebody else's shoes or somebody else's feet, right? Or somebody else's world you're almost of seeing that through their model. 

[00:06:50] Dr. Jim: There's a lot of stuff that you said that that really connects with me, but it ties back into a big reason for why we founded the show.

[00:06:58] Dr. Jim: The, purpose of this [00:07:00] show is to help professionals move their careers further faster. We have a strong d e i component to the conversation, but it's from the lens of how can we bring everybody to the same side of the table and have constructive conversations and get a better understanding of where each of us are so that we can move forward together. I'm reacting to your comment about, Hey, I focus on differences versus the phrase or the, word diversity, because that can be, for some reason, a red flag for some people.

[00:07:30] Dr. Jim: which I find weird anyways. But the intent here is hey, where can we establish common ground, common understanding, and then move forward together? Because if we're looking at advancing everybody's mission, everybody has an individual mission, you're more likely to achieve that mission if you collaborate across any number of different people and philosophies to move that forward, because that's actually where the impact or the outcomes are more often realized by leveraging [00:08:00] forces and combining forces versus being an island.

[00:08:02] Dr. Jim: Sorry. That's my, that's an early soapbox of 

[00:08:04] Ashley Brundage: No, I love it. . 

[00:08:05] Dr. Jim: I appreciate you sharing that what you're currently doing. But this isn't where you started. So wind us back and tell us about how you actually got here. 

[00:08:13] Ashley Brundage: I actually started my first career in the restaurant industry. And in the restaurant industry I, worked as a server . And I remember my first manager he said, if you're, he said, Hey, Ashley, if you're early, you're on time. If you're on time, you're late. And if you're late, you're unacceptable.

[00:08:32] Ashley Brundage: And and I said, wow, okay. So this is my, literally my first moment in learning about leadership development from the leader. And it was that moment that I was like, wow, okay. I'm gonna, I'm gonna learn how to be a really good leader. 

[00:08:44] Dr. Jim: Was your first gig in Wisconsin, because that's a Vince Lombardi adaptation because that's what he would do as the head coach of the Packers.

[00:08:53] Ashley Brundage: I, 

[00:08:53] Ashley Brundage: think that he was from, there, but it was definitely in Florida. . I, remember that like it was yesterday [00:09:00] and, then that kind of got me hooked and then I was like, okay, I'm gonna undo that. And then, so I started doing that in the restaurant industry and I grew my career to be a general manager.

[00:09:08] Ashley Brundage: And then I was a I was a regional. I was doing tr training, certified training program. I would build programs for learning. And then I was managing a team of 50 people and, was the HR point person in the restaurant industry. As I'm sure you can imagine, if you're not hiring , then you're gonna be in a really tough.

[00:09:26] Ashley Brundage: Position at some point. So I learned a lot about recruiting and, retention in those early days in the restaurant industry. And then actually in 2008, I, after working 12 years, I lost my job. It was like a perfect storm of things that happened. And, then that's when I had to really almost reinvent myself in many ways.

[00:09:46] Dr. Jim: It's, really interesting, Ashley, that you mentioned your stint in the restaurant sector, and especially what caught my attention is you're, spending time within the talent acquisition space, within the HR space, and [00:10:00] you referenced hiring. So the rest hospitality and restaurant sector typically can have, yeah, I don't know, 200% turnover year over year.

[00:10:07] Ashley Brundage: Oh yeah. Some, there were actually one 50 or below was a good target, 

[00:10:12] Dr. Jim: so when you think about the pace that you had to operate How did you build the grit to deal with that? Because most HR professionals and talent acquisition professionals and, just people, leaders in general, build really solid connections with the people that they bring into the organization.

[00:10:31] Dr. Jim: But if you're turning 'em over at 200%, that's gotta be grading. So tell us a little bit about how you overcame that aspect of the job, because that's gotta be terrible. 

[00:10:41] Ashley Brundage: Yeah. my recipe was to make it almost like a family. and, which is hard in a chain kind of style of a restaurant business.

[00:10:51] Ashley Brundage: But just by having humanistic related conversations with people and actually getting to know what's important to them, you'd be amazed. [00:11:00] And, but knowing going into the conversation that you're probably not gonna have that employee for very long, but treating them like they're just a part of the family is and, when I say family, like I'm talking about that you actually really like this person , because I know that sometimes we can have family and not be a good scenario.

[00:11:20] Dr. Jim: Yeah. The, common wisdom is if you ever hear an employer describe their organization, we're like, family here. That's a big red flag. And you run the other. 

[00:11:28] Ashley Brundage: Yeah. But to the point of we would have an actual conversation and actually care about each other. And, I really wanted to make it be known that that they were gonna go off to college and then when they went off to college, that they were welcome to come back and work when they come for the home for the summer.

[00:11:44] Ashley Brundage: They could come back to work during spring break. They could come back to work whenever they want it because I wanted to be able to make it known that they were always welcome. So I think that's part of it. And then the other thing I would say is is goes back to the differences that we have.

[00:11:59] Ashley Brundage: Really [00:12:00] getting to know how different everyone is in this space. One of the biggest differences that I think has impacted a lot in the restaurant retail sector is language. Language being one of those top 10 most common differences. If you don't have the, respect in nature to be able to at least.

[00:12:18] Ashley Brundage: Speak four or five different words or phrases or sayings in another language, then you're not gonna really build that kind of cultural respect that's necessary for them to be your employer. And so in America obviously you need to be able to speak Spanish in some nature, especially in this industry because that's gonna be a lot of, what people may speak.

[00:12:42] Ashley Brundage: So I learned a lot of restaurants, Spanish to be able to make that bond stronger. 

[00:12:47] Dr. Jim: I never really thought about the multilingual aspect of success factors in in the retail or restaurant space. So that's that's really interesting. One of the things that you mentioned is that [00:13:00] after this pretty long stint in in the restaurant space You basically had a confluence of events where you were out of work and you decided to reinvent yourself.

[00:13:11] Dr. Jim: So tell us a little bit more about what that process looked like and what that involved. . 

[00:13:15] Ashley Brundage: I was out of work and I was losing my house from the 2008 housing crisis and I really wanted to find a new home. But when I found, when I was ready eating myself, I really actually worked a lot on step one of my leadership model, which is know yourself.

[00:13:34] Ashley Brundage: And that was all about doing research around how you solve yourself in the world. And it really helps you to focus on building your own confidence framework. And then that is what led me to have conversations and try to, and be ready to go back to work. And. I went through this process of trying to find employment and, I realized that I could find employment, but it was going to be an entry level [00:14:00] position somewhere, and I was gonna have to work my way up.

[00:14:03] Ashley Brundage: And that was like the ultimate red flag that I needed to have waived at me that said, Hey if, I'm gonna go and work and have to work my way up in an organization again, then at least I'm going to do it and be authentic and live only one life and stop hiding who I really am. And then, that's when I made the decision to, to transition my gender because I just wanted to be comfortable.

[00:14:27] Ashley Brundage: And if I was going only going to be a part-time associate starting in a bank then. , at least I was gonna do it and be comfortable and be me. And it wasn't a big flyer for them to take a, flyer on hiring someone like me because I was gonna tell them all the, about all the empowerment research I was doing, 

[00:14:47] Dr. Jim: The, people that are gonna catch this on YouTube, they're gonna see me lapse out of my normal R B F and make a questional questioning face. When when you mentioned it wasn't much of a flyer, [00:15:00] I'm thinking about the sector that you, were you, moved into, banking and finance, right?

[00:15:05] Dr. Jim: Yeah. So even with an entry level role that you're taking on, I wouldn't think that's necessarily the environment that's gonna be quote unquote accepting of that. Change or process that you were undertaking. So how did you create this space to even do that in that space? 

[00:15:24] Ashley Brundage: It starts with definitely looking up a little bit more about the employer that you're going to interview at. And and so I saw that PNC Bank had a diversity and inclusion program that they had just launched that, that year.

[00:15:38] Ashley Brundage: And that was one reason why I thought that might be a good place for me. I saw that had a program and, all. And then the other part to this is that it all comes down to the human who's on the other side of the conversation, . And I actually interviewed the man, the hiring manager, who said yes.

[00:15:53] Ashley Brundage: During the inter, she didn't say it during the interview but, I interviewed her for the book that I wrote [00:16:00] because I wanted to have her perspective. I wanted to know what she was thinking when I walked in the door, and then what she was thinking when I left that interview. And it's a microcosm of, empowerment because I had to share, I had to walk in with the confidence to know that I belonged in that space.

[00:16:19] Ashley Brundage: When she came to the door, her immediate first thought was when she looked at me. And now for those watching on YouTube, I have a little bit more passing privilege than I did when I first walked in the door that day. But I walked in and she, and and her first reaction was in, in her mind. She didn't say this verbally, but she said it to me when we were having a dialogue about it.

[00:16:43] Ashley Brundage: I said, please tell me what your honest feedback was. What did you think when you saw me? And she thought that I was a man in a dress. And that is probably the biggest fear for any trans feminine person in the world is hearing those words. And so we, I went from, that was our first [00:17:00] reaction. To her wanting to hire me at the end.

[00:17:03] Ashley Brundage: And how we got there was all through empowerment and sharing parts of my research that I had started working on in that day. And that part was the confidence, but it also was sharing information about who I am and getting and helping the other person in the conversation to learn about differences.

[00:17:22] Ashley Brundage: And then it was sharing strategic information about my identity so that way the other person could take in leadership actions. Necessary to drive a measured impact. And the measurement part was that I talked about the fact that there are more than 2 million transgender people who live in this country.

[00:17:44] Ashley Brundage: I didn't just self-identify as me as one person. I started sharing economic impact statistics for my difference. And then I would share an economic study. I would share information from the UCLA Williams Institute and I would share [00:18:00] information from the national L G B T Chamber of Commerce. This st kind of information really started to change the dynamic of the conversations.

[00:18:09] Ashley Brundage: And it was that moment that I had the conversation with her where she said, wow, okay, this is really interesting, , oh, I think you're actually way overqualified to be a teller, a part-time teller in the bank. And then I addressed that, that concern . 

[00:18:24] Dr. Jim: There's a lot of material here, but I think I, I think one of the important things that I'd like you to draw out is build some additional context in terms of the era that this is happening.

[00:18:36] Dr. Jim: So these sort of conversations are experiences that you're describing even now are difficult to enter into. Yeah, but this didn't happen like yesterday. 

[00:18:45] Ashley Brundage: No, this was 2010 in Florida. . 

[00:18:47] Dr. Jim: That frame of reference, because I, don't want it to be undersold.

[00:18:51] Dr. Jim: The risk and, maybe that's not even the right word. The risk that you took to do. or say this or be [00:19:00] authentic in the way that you were, because back then, even though we've come a fair amount of distance that was not the time where you could be open and transparent.

[00:19:10] Ashley Brundage: Did, you just make a pun transparent? ? 

[00:19:13] Dr. Jim: Oh my God. No. I didn't, I didn't I don't think that could be undersold as, as far as the era that you did this 

[00:19:19] Ashley Brundage: Yeah, but the thing is, that when I got to that interview at PNC Bank, I had already had 40 nos. So I had a door slammed in my face. I had the cops called on me, I got trespassed from a job interview. I got to experience all the ways that it could burn and crash really fast. And I got told, oh, you don't have a job interview here today?

[00:19:41] Ashley Brundage: Oh, you have the wrong address. Oh, we don't hire people like you. Please leave. Those were all, some of the conversations that I had and those all kind of shaped the way at which I was going to frame the information with enough heartfelt information around how I was gonna show up and how I was gonna move.

[00:19:59] Ashley Brundage: I was gonna [00:20:00] address all of those things that I was going to be here in this moment. I was going to show up for work. I was gonna be respectful. Look, respectful. I, had to address all of those things plus hit him with the economic statistics. 

[00:20:13] Dr. Jim: I'm, processing you your comment about, Hey, I was told no 40 some odd times and had all these things happen.

[00:20:21] Dr. Jim: I don't understand how you navigated all that without being a bitter, angry person. We don't, we haven't known each other for a really long time, but you seem like a really positive and uplifting type person. And having gone through that I could probably, Say I'm just gonna turn into one of these.

[00:20:39] Dr. Jim: I hate the world type people. 

[00:20:40] Ashley Brundage: But this goes back to Thomas Edison, right? And learning how to invent the iridescent light bulb, right? It's how many what? 2000. I learned how many ways not to make a light bulb, and then I learned the one way I needed to do a two make. 

[00:20:52] Dr. Jim: Yeah. No, that's fair.

[00:20:54] Dr. Jim: That, that makes sense. 

[00:20:56] Ashley Brundage: But you have to learn something from every time you interact with someone and it [00:21:00] doesn't go the way you wanted it to. Or you didn't get the intended outcome that you were hoping for. I walked into the first interview and I wanted to get uh, to a yes, right?

[00:21:09] Ashley Brundage: But all of those companies that said no weren't in the right space, in the right moment and the right place for me anyway. . 

[00:21:16] Dr. Jim: When I listen to what what you just said and apply it to one of my favorite books, which is chop wood Carry Water, it's it's don't obsess about the outcome.

[00:21:25] Dr. Jim: It's, focused on the process and how that process is moving you towards the desired outcome. Yeah. So I think I think that's important. So I, really love the fact that the way that you got to your win got to your Yes. Was by tying in all of the economic impact and making the business case. So you ended up getting the job, and now you are in finance and banking as a bank teller in a job that your hiring manager is saying you're potentially, you, you're overqualified for.

[00:21:57] Dr. Jim: So how did you bridge or [00:22:00] move through that environment, ? 

[00:22:01] Ashley Brundage: That is when I just kept the pedal of the metal. In essence I realized that in the banking finance world you're either an ops person or you're a salesperson,

[00:22:12] Ashley Brundage: And and honestly, I I understood both of those worlds pretty well from the restaurant industry, and I just applied them. I, think that you, you don't necessarily, you can't necessarily teach extroverted skills to people, right? And, if you're going to sell things to people you need to make sure that it's something you believe in.

[00:22:34] Ashley Brundage: So I started to learn about, all the banking suites of products. And then I'd really started to follow into the economic statistics. And I would go to where the community was and I started really focusing on the L g LGBTQ plus community, especially the transgender community. So I would use my own money and I would set up a booth at a transgender conference, , and and they would walk through the conference and they would see write wigs and [00:23:00] jewelry and makeup and, then there was PNC Bank

[00:23:03] Ashley Brundage: And then they were like, you would do a double tag. And then they would look at me and they were like, And then they would pick up my business card , and then they were like, oh, wow. Oh you're, like one of us . And it was like a shocking moment in that moment. And, I would work a weekend at one of those events and I would bring in like enough clients for an entire quarter of business that I had to book 

[00:23:24] Dr. Jim: So there's a really important call out that I wanna bring attention to right there. And it's it, comes up over and over in our conversations with other leaders, which is the whole concept of representation matters. You have to look like the organizationally in, before we get into the performative, non performative element of it at, a fundamental level, you should be looking like you're the communities that you serve.

[00:23:49] Dr. Jim: Yeah. And we're in global communities, so what does your organization look like? And, I was smiling when. You're telling the story about the reaction that you got. Oh, you're one of us. It's the same [00:24:00] reaction that I have when I see somebody who looks like me in a general sense, in a position of leadership in any organization that I happen to be checking out.

[00:24:09] Dr. Jim: It's pretty cool to at least. at some level, make that connection, oh, this prob this person is likely to have a similar experience in their journey to where they are as I am. So I, had to jump in there. 

[00:24:21] Ashley Brundage: Yeah no, It's totally okay. . And but yeah, that was that moment.

[00:24:25] Ashley Brundage: Then I was like, oh, okay, what if I started applying this in other spaces? And, then I was thinking, okay, maybe I should be thinking like more broadly, like I don't have to actually just go to the L G B T Q event or the trans event. I can just go to any diversity event or any event. And I started moving myself in other spaces and, then over the course of the first four years working in the banking industry, I had a couple different titles.

[00:24:52] Ashley Brundage: I was a banker, I was. I was a I did some business banking and then I was a registered investment advisor. I passed the series seven [00:25:00] and 66 exams. And and then that led me to to becoming like I was the top, I was in the top one, two or three revenue producing employees across the whole bank for three straight years.

[00:25:14] Ashley Brundage: And then that gave me a lot of political capital in the organization and I actually built a business plan and I pitched this business plan around what I was doing to go around to diversity and inclusion based events in Florida. And then I could do that across the whole company. It helped that I was in the PNC Bank employee Hall of Fame and I actually won the per their performance award, which is their hall of fame thing that they have.

[00:25:42] Ashley Brundage: And I. Pitched this job, and then they were like, oh my goodness, we would love to have you. And then we found a sponsor to fund it. And, then I was running off, as the National Vice President of Diversity, equity and inclusion building a program for all of our 50 some odd [00:26:00] regional markets to have their own, almost their own diversity, equity and inclusion strategy around how they were gonna go to market in each community where we were doing business.

[00:26:10] Dr. Jim: When I listen to that journey, it's you, move from having a niche focus and, building that and proving out a revenue model and then expanding that out. How did you keep from getting pigeonholed into where that's great and all Ashley, but we want you to do this sort of thing, which is your quote unquote wheelhouse.

[00:26:29] Dr. Jim: Did you encounter it? And if you did, how did you get over it to make a more broad based business case?

[00:26:36] Ashley Brundage: that Kind of really stems into why step three is to develop your strategy of my four step leadership model.

[00:26:43] Ashley Brundage: You have to have a strategy to empower all 10 of your differences. If you think that you might be getting pigeonholed, then that means you're probably, your strategy is pretty basic to one of your differences or two of your differences. And what happens for those in the LGBTQ [00:27:00] plus community is we start getting pigeonholed about gender or sexuality.

[00:27:05] Ashley Brundage: And so that did happen to me and happened to me even after I got to that position. It still happened to me because I was the national VP of D E I I was still being asked to go and speak at the out equal or at the national L G B T Chamber, or, Hey, we want you to come and march in the Pride parade with us.

[00:27:22] Ashley Brundage: Those were the kinds of things I was getting asked to do. I wasn't being asked to go and represent other of the diverse dimensions of differences. So then that's when I said, you know what? I need to make sure that I put myself out in those spaces and that I functionally just show up even if I'm not invited.

[00:27:38] Ashley Brundage: And, I'll work my way into the room and I'll say, Hey, yeah, I'm here. I'm representing P N C. Or sometimes the worst, what someone's gonna say is, no, you're not allowed here. 

[00:27:48] Dr. Jim: There's an interesting aspect or di element of your career progression during your time at P N C that I'm curious what your take would've been.

[00:27:57] Dr. Jim: So I think one of the [00:28:00] things when I listen to you tell the story is that you've built this you called it internal capital, I think is the, phrase that you used, but that was from production. You, won all these accolades and I'm we'll never know the answer, but I'm curious how would that story have turned out if you were a middle of the road producer that still went this route?

[00:28:22] Dr. Jim: Would you have gotten as far in terms of advancing these issues? 

[00:28:27] Ashley Brundage: No. . There was a fork in the road, actually. Okay. Earlier in my career there. So the fork was I, think it was like probably in the first, like five, fifth, my fifth month or sixth month there.

[00:28:40] Ashley Brundage: I, the head of the bank for Florida was for retail was in, in the branch that I worked in. And she came up to me and we were having a conversation and she was like, actually everybody just keeps talking about you have to meet you , right? And so we had the conversation and it, ironically, it was during the holiday [00:29:00] season and I wanna say that I was talking about how I was gonna help a nonprofit organization.

[00:29:04] Ashley Brundage: Have this biggest Turkey donation ever. So I had to go after work and find as many turkeys as I could, all the grocery stores, . And so we were talking about that and she was like, oh my gosh, how can I support? And, we were just having a conversation and she actually literally in that moment asked me if I wanted to enter into the leadership development program for managers and become a branch manager in the bank.

[00:29:27] Ashley Brundage: And I remember it clear as day because that was what happened when I was in the restaurant industry. and they saw that I had leadership skills and they immediately wanted to suck me into that leadership model, right? So that, that way I would go into the development program and then I would be a branch manager, I would get vp, I would get that VP title.

[00:29:46] Ashley Brundage: But then I thought to myself, I literally went back in in my lived experiences and I said the same thing could potentially then happen to me. I'm gonna go in that pathway. It'll work out great. I'll become a branch manager [00:30:00] probably pretty quickly. And and then I'll be a branch manager and then what's after that?

[00:30:05] Ashley Brundage: And I didn't have a lot of confidence that was gonna get me onto the national stage and then the international stage where I am right now today. But that was my thinking, was that if I took that path and that was gonna potentially limit how I would've had a lot more layers of people.

[00:30:23] Ashley Brundage: Retail banks have lots of layers of, People you go from, branch to regional to super regional to the state, then you know, it's like literally there's 10 layers of management levels to get to the top. And, I literally said that, you know what, I'm gonna go, I'm just gonna focus on being an individual contributor for right now.

[00:30:43] Ashley Brundage: I'm gonna, I'm gonna continue to do that and, that way I'm gonna gain that capital that way and I'm gonna see it. I'm gonna try it this way cuz I wanna see what happens at the end of the day. 

[00:30:53] Dr. Jim: There's a really interesting aspect of what you just said that ties me back to a conversation that I had recently with Chris [00:31:00] Williams.

[00:31:00] Dr. Jim: Chris Williams is he's all over the place, but you can primarily find him on TikTok. But he's he is a former VP of HR for Microsoft. And like half of the technologies that you're working with, if it's from Microsoft, he probably led the teams that actually built those. And one of the things that he said is that if you want to build a high performing organization or even be a high performer for yourself, one of the most significant predictors of success is having a clear and compelling vision for what you want to accomplish.

[00:31:29] Dr. Jim: And having that define. Every decision that you make, no matter how small or large it might be, you tie it back to the vision. And that's, what struck me about the story that you just walked us through when you had that fork in the road. So it's, great stuff how all of this connects together.

[00:31:47] Dr. Jim: And I think if, we're advising professionals of any sort even, as you're going through your career navigation, define your vision as early as possible and you can modify it as you go. But that vision is gonna [00:32:00] inform what decision you should make because you can always tie it back to that question that you ask if I do this, what's next?

[00:32:06] Dr. Jim: And if you can't answer what's next in service of your vision, then you have a problem. I wanna push this forward. So you've, gotten to the VP level at P N C, you're doing a lot of work in the in the de D N I space. You're starting to branch out across all the dimensions of d e I versus just a small segment, which is sometimes the direction that you were pushed into, what happened after.

[00:32:30] Ashley Brundage: So I I finished all of the research that I was doing on empowerment, and I protected my intellectual property by putting a copyright on it. And and then I went to market and I started publishing that. And so they, knew that I had my own company and I had a, it was more of a side hustle, in essence.

[00:32:50] Ashley Brundage: I would show up and share my story at companies and, go from there. And then I would do some trainings. And then I realized that there was a larger [00:33:00] play regarding my research and that it was not just a book, but it could be a workbook and it could be a learning e. , and it could be a co, a leadership led cohort and it could be an online technology to help people understand how to drive empowerment faster.

[00:33:16] Ashley Brundage: And it could be me hosting conferences and events and all of those things came to head at the end of 2021. And, then I took a look at my at my financial results as, 2021 was coming to an end. And, then that's when I realized that I was earning more with my company than I was working at P N C Bank.

[00:33:37] Ashley Brundage: And and so in that moment I was like, okay I guess I've seen the riding on the wall. I'm only working 15 hours from my company and I'm absolutely giving everything in my heart, compassion mind to PNC Bank for lots of hours, way more than the 40. And especially navigating through the, some of the [00:34:00] hardest two years I've ever seen in the D e I space 2020 and 2021.

[00:34:06] Ashley Brundage: Ha Literally having to have conversations with people who who, didn't even know what racist meant. And, helping people understand that there's more to equity than pay . You name it 

[00:34:17] Dr. Jim: you were very intentional and, I didn't connect the dots until just now where I'm looking at the timelines. You had an L C or a business that was set up that was concurrent with your banking career. and I think there's an important thread I want to pull there. So if you're thinking about a general career navigation perspective, why were you intentional about setting up those two streams in, in service of a broader vision that you had for yourself?

[00:34:46] Dr. Jim: And how is that relatable to an average professional that is working through their career right now? 

[00:34:51] Ashley Brundage: Cuz everyone has your own personal brand and your personal brand. It's everything that you're known for. When someone wants to look, potentially hire you, [00:35:00] they're going to look you up on Google, right?

[00:35:02] Ashley Brundage: They're gonna wanna see what art. Articles have you contributed towards what, publications are you in? What are your, what is your ex If you are really an expert on leadership, right? Where, are you at? Are, you in Forbes? Are you in Bloomberg Business Week? Are you in these places? Because if you are, then you need to have your own brand and you need to make sure that you're managing that appropriately at the same time.

[00:35:26] Ashley Brundage: And, so for me, the brand started with just my website. I had ashley and I, bought that Everyone should have your own website with your own name so people can find you and you have a digital print of your brand. And so like my my bio sits on that website and. it's just there.

[00:35:46] Ashley Brundage: And then obviously now it redirects people to empowering But that was I, actually bought empowering like 10 years ago. I didn't have hardly anything on it. It was literally, which is linked to ashley [00:36:00] until I was ready. So you have to be thinking about back to that fork in the road.

[00:36:05] Ashley Brundage: The fork is always going to be there, . You're gonna always have lots of different paths that you can take as a leader. You just need to make sure that you don't burn anything. The bridges I, love my time at PNC Bank. And and I hope that if I wanted to go back there, that maybe I could but I could certainly go back into the d e I space.

[00:36:23] Ashley Brundage: I get asked a lot about d e I positions in corporations, especially since I ran a major program at a major corporation, 60,000 employees. We're all touched in some way by the program that I ran. It's, you have to make sure that, you are always managing your brand. The 

[00:36:44] Dr. Jim: You've said so many things that are interesting in this conversation, and I appreciate you sharing that so openly, but there's, one it, you're gonna laugh when I say this.

[00:36:53] Dr. Jim: There's an element of your story that I tie to how you play poker. your best[00:37:00] just. Buckle up. I'm going somewhere with this 

[00:37:02] Ashley Brundage: and I play poker okay. Oh 

[00:37:04] Dr. Jim: great. Then, you know the concept of being pot committed. You never want to get into a position where your pot committed on a single path unless you're absolutely dead on Sure.

[00:37:15] Dr. Jim: That you have the best hand. 

[00:37:17] Dr. Jim: The, reason why I connected that way, it to me is it's one of the conversations that I regularly have with with people who are coming up as younger professionals or even my peers and leaders, is that you never want to put all of your eggs in one basket.

[00:37:31] Dr. Jim: That's another cliche, but it's the same thing as pot committed. If you are really committed to looking at your, at yourself and your career as you're the c e o of your business what does A C E O do? A C E O looks at multiple revenue streams that they can generate for themselves as a product so that if one goes away, you're never left with that scenario is holy crap, what am I gonna do now?

[00:37:55] Dr. Jim: like everything that I poured myself into, you, you were spending 60, [00:38:00] 70 hours working on your W2 job and you're looking at the balance sheet at the end of the year and you're like what do I really want to do? And what do I enjoy doing? And what's the payoff? And and all of these things. So there's, a poker component of being pot committed.

[00:38:15] Dr. Jim: That came to me right away when you mentioned it, and I think that's, phenomenal advice to anybody that's looking at how do you navigate a career? You have a lot of different options. . 

[00:38:24] Ashley Brundage: And I, would add too while you're on that career journey, also use the poker analogy of pot committed.

[00:38:31] Ashley Brundage: Because in order to know if you're pot committed, you have to be looking at the pot and counting how much is in the pot. And that means that every time someone puts money in the pot, you should be able to look at it and know exactly how many chips are there and approximately how much money is in that pot.

[00:38:47] Ashley Brundage: And then you should be able to process a percentage number in relation to what you have left of capital. How much capital are you holding onto your own hand, and in every moment that you move about [00:39:00] this world. So if that's in my own company, right? So when I signed a contract to do a conference on a cruise ship I knew what the overall impact was.

[00:39:08] Ashley Brundage: It was $110,000 commitment. I knew that was the end goal. And, so I said, okay I can pull back . I know what the actual full commitment is. Look, I can lower the count. I can lessen the, impact. But I know how much money I'm committed to doing. Yeah, so monetary part of what you do to grow yourself and your company, the company you work for, you should do this even as an HR professional in the company you work for.

[00:39:36] Ashley Brundage: Oftentimes as HR professionals we, tend to not think about us as being the monetary instrument for the organization, but you really are the mo one of the most monetary portions of the company. You can have a major impact, right? On the retention, the recruiting rate, how much does it cost to bring someone?

[00:39:53] Ashley Brundage: You have to know these number of pieces because that's where the empowering data lives. That's where the power [00:40:00] number and empowerment lives. 

[00:40:01] Dr. Jim: The way that I understand what you just described when we're and, we're going all out on the poker references here, is that when you're looking at the pot, 

[00:40:10] Ashley Brundage: no, we're going all in

[00:40:11] Dr. Jim: That, too, we're going all in. But the, way that it connected with me is that not only do you have to know what's in the pot, you have to know how much of that pot are you responsible for. Like, how much of that did you drive? How much? And, you need to know those numbers because if you're driving your career forward, you need to say, Hey, I want this because I've actually done this, and this.

[00:40:34] Dr. Jim: And it's related to this much in terms of business impact, which is what you did to get the job in the first place in, in your own story. Like everybody needs to be equipped that way. I wanna wind this back really quickly to one of the other points that came out during our conversation, which was when, we're talking about personal brand there are people that are gonna be watching and listening to this saying I'm, a two or three year experienced person.

[00:40:57] Dr. Jim: What kind of brand do I have? And I [00:41:00] think it's important to call out that every person has something of value to somebody else. So you just need to tap into, okay, I'm three years into my career what's, the person that's just starting out need to know that I can actually share with them and potentially monetize that as, part of my effort.

[00:41:20] Dr. Jim: So you, don't ever think that, oh, I'm just, because my title is this, I don't really have anything of, value to offer. 

[00:41:28] Ashley Brundage: Or it could literally be your first day on the job or the first day in the organization. Guess what? You have a perspective that's highly valued. You have literally a complete outsider's perspective, or you have someone who's on the first day's perspective.

[00:41:43] Dr. Jim: I know that throughout the conversation we've been walking through your story and all of the different turns and pivots that have happened in your story.

[00:41:52] Dr. Jim: And we've talked about empowerment in general and some of the things that people need to pay attention to. If I'm looking at it from an organizational [00:42:00] perspective and I want to create an inclusive organization, an empowered organization, what are the things that I need to do from a framework perspective and an execution perspective to make that real versus performative?

[00:42:15] Ashley Brundage: Yeah I, think it comes down to really having a better foundational knowledge level for all your employees on the three parts of empowerment. And I've been hinting at them throughout our conversation. But the authority is, of course, all the things that give those employees confidence to exist in this world.

[00:42:33] Ashley Brundage: Those are where the emotional ties to empowerment live. Person to show up even though they don't feel well or to to put power through on, a day that they don't really wanna be there. They have a competing priorities. That person does that because they're really emotionally tied to the organization.

[00:42:51] Ashley Brundage: It produces more emotionally intelligent employees who really understand their authority impact on an organization. And then the power [00:43:00] portion of empowerment is all of those measured non performative, right? The super impact number database, right? It was me talking about the more than 2 million, or if I was going to talk about the 1.7 trillion buying power of the L G B T business community, where it's me talking about the more than 3 million in revenue that I was producing every single year in new business development.

[00:43:26] Ashley Brundage: Those are the perf those are the performance nature items that all have some sort of unit of measure. The unit of measure is usually some sort of number track metric. If you don't combine both of those, the impact of the emotional side of why you're here and how you're gonna do your work and, all of those things.

[00:43:47] Ashley Brundage: And then also combine that power element, the authority and power has to also be connected to people so that way people know that this is part of the organization's impact. [00:44:00] Oftentimes, you will hear or we'll see the advertisement campaign that says, oh, come work here, because we, empower our employees to grow their career.

[00:44:08] Ashley Brundage: But in the end of the day, that statement alone on its own from a corporation doesn't involve people and it doesn't necessarily involve any sort of metric that is power driven. And they might be trying to hit at your authority to, so you hear that you can grow in your career at that company, but it doesn't include all three.

[00:44:29] Ashley Brundage: So it really should not have the word empower. Into it have to be able to combine all three elements. So an employee could go on an ad and say, come and work here. Because I worked here for three, four years and I grew in my career from part-time associate to become the national Vice President of d e I.

[00:44:46] Ashley Brundage: And that's why I felt like I was empowered to to, grow in my career. I could say that could be an ad. 

[00:44:52] Dr. Jim: When I think about authority and power, I look at it slightly differently. If we're trying to make d e I or any element of [00:45:00] diversity or empowerment real and versus not performative, you have to have buy-in.

[00:45:06] Dr. Jim: But not only just buy-in, you have to have people that actually live what you're talking about at the highest levels of the organization. Tell me a little bit more about how this model plays into getting your executive and senior leaders to live what they're talking about as a function of advancing d e I in general, but empowerment in particular.

[00:45:28] Ashley Brundage: That comes down to the differences. And that's where the differences because it's empowering differences, . So then the differences assessment that I put a leader through helps them to recognize whether they have privilege or dis privilege in relation to the 10 differences. And then that's where, if they see that they do have a privilege or they see they have dis privilege, those are the items that they should be focusing on first.

[00:45:52] Ashley Brundage: And, then that's how they drive the empowerment faster is through those leadership actions and the four empowerment steps. So the four empowerment [00:46:00] steps also then connect through the empowerment. So step one is to know yourself, and that's where you'll learn the emotional intelligence necessary to execute what you feel empowerment is and how you connect with it, and then how you connect it to other humans.

[00:46:14] Ashley Brundage: And then step two is to know others, and that's where you learn about the differences. So as a senior leader in an organization, you have to be able to say, okay, I don't know a lot about this community. I need to go and learn. I need to actually show up at their event. , this is why you have employee resource groups.

[00:46:32] Ashley Brundage: If you have them, So that way the people who are not from that difference can show up and actually learn about that community. The first employee resource group that I ever joined was the Asian Pacific Islander employee group at P N C I showed up there because I really wanted to learn more about that community and that culture because it was the one that I knew the least about.

[00:46:53] Ashley Brundage: And so that's how you actually grow as a leader is, you can learn about the differences. And then step three is to develop your [00:47:00] strategy. You develop your strategy for all 10 of your differences, not just one of them. So you even have to ha So for white male executive leaders who are cisgender and straight, you also have to learn about and build a strategy for race or sexuality.

[00:47:15] Ashley Brundage: Even if those terms or those differences make you uncomfortable. You need a strategy around how you're gonna drive empowerment through differences for each of them. And then the fourth and final step is those empowering actions as I call them. And then those are the actions that you do based on your differences.

[00:47:34] Ashley Brundage: So whichever differences that you have that, that need the most empowerment for self, for you as, an individual contributor, then those are the ones you should focus on driving empowerment faster through. And if you are the leader, then you need to make sure that you are empowering the other people in the organization.

[00:47:51] Dr. Jim: Just those two things that you, or two elements that you just mentioned could be a show in and of itself and breaking [00:48:00] news. If you want to dive into the details, I'm sure Ashley is available for hire to help you navigate through all of that. So I'm just throwing a plug in there for you.

[00:48:08] Dr. Jim: This has been an awesome conversation, Ashley. I appreciate you sharing all of that insight. Before we wind everything down if you take everything that we've talked, about, and you are framing it in terms of key lessons or key things that people listening and watching are gonna need to walk away from, what would two or three of those most important 

[00:48:27] Ashley Brundage: takeaways.

[00:48:27] Ashley Brundage: I think that the biggest thing is be cognizant of, where you are on, on, on this journey. Take stock, right? We said take note of what's in the pot, . Okay? Going back to the poker reference, you should know how many chips you have left in this journey where you are, how committed you are to the organization.

[00:48:48] Ashley Brundage: All of those things drive into you as a leader. That connects back to the differences. It connects to the empowering actions that you do. All of this requires you to look at this stuff very [00:49:00] holistically. Like literally thinking about step one, know yourself. You have to do that holistic evaluation of where you are on this journey.

[00:49:10] Dr. Jim: Great stuff. Ashley. Last thing before we sign off. Where can people find you? 

[00:49:15] Ashley Brundage: Yeah, so definitely go to empowering That's where all of your empowerment needs are there. And then if you want to connect with me on social media, I'm at Ashley, a s h l e y t, Brundage, B R U N D A G e.

[00:49:32] Ashley Brundage: And you can find me on any, and all of the social media platforms using that. And then you can also connect with my company Empowering Diff on Social Media, cuz differences is just too long apparently. 

[00:49:44] Dr. Jim: I appreciate you hanging out with us and and sharing your story and also the, critical takeaways and lessons that came out of your journey.

[00:49:52] Dr. Jim: . I, definitely hope that you share this out with your friends. When it comes to. Cascading leadership. Our mission [00:50:00] as a show is to help people move their careers further faster.

[00:50:03] Dr. Jim: So definitely listen to the show, subscribe and follow on all of your favorite podcast platforms. You can find us on YouTube. We're on TikTok, we're on LinkedIn. That's the main channel that we're on. Tell a Friend because one of the things that we're looking to do is is aggressively grow the the listenership.

[00:50:19] Dr. Jim: And we've had a great first couple of seasons. This is the kickoff to season three, and we will have a lot more interesting conversations coming up on future episodes of Cascading leadership.