#02: From Hospitality to Performance Marketing: Lessons Balbina Knight Learned to Achieve Career Purpose and Growth

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Meet Balbina Knight, she has been promoted eight times in 11 years!

In this episode, I asked Balbina a myriad of different questions to uncover how she has accomplished this.

If you’re in hospitality you’re going to want to listen to this episode. If you’re not, but are curious how someone can get promoted so many times then you’ll want to listen to this episode.

Listen to this episode to learn:

  • How Balbina has been promoted so many times.
  • How to find a balance between working hard and having a normal life.
  • Why she doesn’t subscribe to hustle culture.
  • How she found her mentor.
  • And, much, much more.

Balbina recommends following the people below on Twitter:

  • Katelin Holloway  @katelin_cruse
  • Minda Harts @MindaHarts
  • Joan Westenberg @Joanwestenberg
  • Aubrey Blanche @adblanche
  • Cicely Blain @cicelybelle_xo
  • Michelle Kim @mjmichellekim
  • Lars Schmidt @Lars

Follow Balbina Knight: https://twitter.com/balbinaknight/

The People-First Culture podcast is one where we share lessons on building a great company and career.

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•Website: www.michelfalcon.com

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Interested in having me as a keynote speaker in your company?If so, visit → http://www.michelfalcon.com/keynote/

Check out my book ‘People First Culture’ → https://www.amazon.ca/People-First-Culture-Lasting-Company-Shifting/dp/1544512147/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1550677572&sr=8-1&keywords=people+first+culture

Music Intro Credits:Too Cool Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 Licensehttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/


Welcome to the People-First Culture Podcast with me, Michel Falcon, where I share lessons I’ve learned and those of others on how to build a more purposeful business and career.

Hey everyone, welcome to Episode Two of the People-First Culture Podcast. Of course, I’m your host, Michel Falcon, and I’m very excited to introduce you to Balbina Knight. Balbina and I have known each other for over 10 years. I have watched her grow her career. She went from being 19 years old working in hospitality, like many of us have, working as a server and a bartender. When she was 21, she got her first, as she puts it, first career job as an operations assistant for a search engine marketing and pay per click marketing agency. She got promoted into an operations manager role there. At 24, she went to go work for a company that was a branch of Yellow Pages marketing group as the search engine marketing campaign manager. At 26, she joined a company called Thrive Digital based in Vancouver, and has progressed in five different roles.

I take you through how she went about this career growth, based on my math, she has been promoted eight times in 11 years. We talk about how she invested in herself and her own education to be able to achieve these promotions within her career. She talks about how she finds a balance between working really hard, but also rejecting the hustle culture. She describes how she found her first mentor, and I love the story behind this because it’s very bold.

We also talk about things such as where there might have been misconceptions about growing your career. If you are somebody who is looking to level up in their career, get promoted to earn more money, there is no better case study than listening to this episode. Pay attention to what Balbina has to say because we go in depth into some of the tactical things that she did to be able to achieve this growth. I can tell you, she sounds happy. I follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn. She seems to radiate this positivity, and it just seems very genuine.

So, without further ado, let me introduce to you to Balbina Knight. In preparation for this episode, I came across this Mark Twain quote, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions.” Small people always do that. But they’re really great make you feel that you too can become great. Balbina shares a story from a supervisor that she was working with in her hospitality days who said that she couldn’t do what she was about to try to achieve. So listen to this podcast, get your notes ready. Everyone, Balbina Knight.

Balbina, it has been more than several years.

It’s definitely been.

I have been following your career as easy it is to do on LinkedIn. And in preparation for this podcast, I actually had you as the number one guest I wanted to interview to talk about career growth and many other things because your story, I believe stories like yours need to be marketed, marketed and celebrated more so than when somebody raises money for their company. So what I would like to see is a shift in what we celebrate. And as a podcast host, which I’m still new to, what I find difficult is where do I start. So, I’ve decided that I’m going to start with how you transitioned from being 19 years old, working within the hospitality industry like many of us have, going from a server, and then a bartender, to two years later at 21, having your first, as you put it, “career job” at a boutique performance marketing agency, and your first role was as an operations assistant.

So, I’m going to take a step back, and I want you to unpack how did this opportunity present itself? In two years, you went from hospitality to an operations assistant role within a performance marketing agency.

Absolutely. I would be more than happy to be able to share that journey with you and just give other people the insight into the career journey that I’ve been on so far, and how I would say it’s been atypical to maybe what it looks like to get to where I am now, of course, working within people and culture. But before I dive into that, I just want to say I’m absolutely grateful and super excited to be your first guest and flattered, actually, that you wanted me to be your first guest to relaunch this podcast. And it’s wild even think that we’ve known each other for more than a decade. I’ve been following your career journey as well and you’ve definitely been someone that’s been a point of inspiration for me, especially the book that you wrote about people first culture, and just being able to bring learnings from that into the work that I’m doing in the day to day within my team at Thrive. So, thank you for continuously being a leader within this space.

Yeah, just jumping into my career journey, as you mentioned, it started in hospitality, and it really started in hospitality from a really young age for me. My dad owned a few restaurants and cafes, I feel like I had this opportunity to be right in there with him just learning skills here and there that would be transferable to my careers later on. As I continued to progress in my own learning and development and to make this shift from being a server and a bartender within the hospitality industry into working at a performance marketing agency, there wasn’t really this pivotal moment of something happened when I was working at a restaurant, to maybe I met somebody or I read an article, or I had a discussion with my parents or something to that effect. It was really just this moment that I felt I could be doing so much more, impacting so much more.

And where that want, that need, that desire, that vision for myself was coming from was recognizing the impact that I was having in the hospitality industry, and just creating those really special moments for people and having them feel really engaged and excited to be at a restaurant. So figuring out, how can I translate that into a bigger way, and what does that look like for me.

So when I was turning 21, there was no magic behind that number. I’d been in hospitality for quite some time, and I was kind of getting to the end of wanting to make that bigger impact. So for me, 21, I just started to reflect, reflect in ways of having conversations with close friends around me, my family, my own self-reflection. Trying to understand different industries that are out there. What are my interests? What are my passions? What’s the impact that I want to have on the world that I’ve been learning I can have via the hospitality industry. So in the midst of all my reflection, I thought about moments that brought me a lot of joy, and that really filled my heart. And it brought me back to time I was always spending with my brother. And my brother is someone who is just absolutely such a creative, such an innovator, and was always working with technology.

And for me, I was like, I feel like I have to do something with technology, something with computers, something that can amplify this impact that I want to have, not just only in person, but being able to do that in these digital and virtual communities. So how can I do that? And that brought me to performance marketing. So impacting people through message, being able to create change through message, whether it be for an individual or for an organization.

So I decided, all right, I don’t have any experience within this space. My experience is hospitality but there’s a lot of incredible skills, which I’m sure you can agree with, Michel, that we learn within that space that are so transferable to any other industry globally. So for me, being able to step into a moment with agency didn’t have any of that “on paper” expertise, but there was these leadership skills I was able to bring into that. I was fortunate enough to have this agency see that opportunity in me to be able to come on and join them. So, it was just a lot of research, found a job posting, took a chance, went in for an interview. And lo and behold, that’s how my career journey started.

When you were doing this self-reflection, and I’m certain many people listening to this episode might be in hospitality now, and they may very well may be content. There may be some individuals exploring other opportunities, but might be hesitant to leave because of the security of the income of what they’ve earned in hospitality. Two part question, were you nervous at leaving the security of finances that perhaps you had in hospitality? And two, what type of questions were you asking yourself during this self-reflection?

Yeah, I was nervous as heck, to be honest. I took a really huge pay cut leaving the hospitality industry to get at bare minimum, a compensation, a salary that would allow me to continue to live in Vancouver. But I had to make a lot of sacrifices, specifically to my lifestyle. And that was a really hard decision to make because being 21, living in a vibrant city like Vancouver, do you want to give up those luxuries that you get from working within the hospitality industry? So that was a really tough decision for me to make, but it was a heart led decision. And for me, I knew that while this is a temporary setback for me in terms of my compensation, it’s a really positive, positive step forward in terms of me being able to step into work that I feel is truly going to fulfill me even more at the end of the day.

Also, I was leaving the restaurant industry, there was one pivotal moment that kind of gave me that nudge that I needed. And it was a supervisor that I had that said, you’re making the wrong choice, you will never succeed. And that was a catalyst for me to be like, you know what, now I feel like I just have to prove to everyone that I can do it.

I wasn’t expecting that. In my questions that I have, I’m going to put those aside because I want to unpack that. A supervisor had said that to you before you exited into the operations assistant role within the performance marketing company. When you say that you wanted to prove to people that they were wrong, how did that drive you? Other than the obvious of what you just said, in that you wanted to prove people wrong, did you feel like there’s a bit of a, maybe even a vendetta toward that person specifically?

I would say I didn’t leave the situation feeling a vendetta to that person, but more so just public perception of me stepping into this industry into the sector into a first time career job that I didn’t have any experience in, and also didn’t have any academia. So, quick background for everyone listening, I did one semester of college pursuing my Bachelors of Science, and just decided that that wasn’t the path for me, and I was really grateful for the opportunity of that experience, but I’m a college dropout. I did not finish college. So I am not going into any situation leaving hospitality having had academia in my court, to have people look to me and say, yup, this person has it going on, they have this experience coming in, we’re really excited about the opportunity to partner with them.

So a bit of this moment that I had with this supervisor when they were leaving was conversation of your only experiences in hospitality. I was like my only experiences in hospitality but it’s such a tendered and lengthy and exceptional experience that I’ve been able to have and I feel so confident in these skills that I’m able to bring forward into these roles that I’m wanting to pursue that I know maybe other people don’t have that same depth and breadth of experience. And that’s something that I’m really proud of and I’m going to carry forward with me.

One of the reasons why I’ve been asked to speak at companies, host workshops for them, is because every industry knows that it is advantageous to be more hospitable, both in how they treat their customers, and of course their employees who build their culture, which is why I agree with you that hospitality often is the springboard to the next thing if hospitality isn’t the thing. I often hear people say, oh, I just work in hospitality or I just worked for a restaurant. And language matters to me and I think we really need to change that narrative behind working within hospitality. It sounds like you were able to do that really well.

I wanted to go back to the self-reflection questions. So before you left hospitality, you said you were doing some self-reflection. Were there any specific questions that you were asking yourself?

Absolutely. I touched on them a bit earlier, but the questions I was just asking myself is trying to better understand me as a person. Being 21, very limited life experience, not a whole lot going on there. Has, again, predominantly only worked within hospitality, had minor bouts over at the Gap where kind of same to McDonald’s, they give a lot of leadership opportunity to young people and really instill that confidence for them and that ownership for them at a really young age. So, for me, just being able to kind of look back and reflect on the limited experiences that I had was giving myself permission to get it wrong in my reflection.

So what do I understand now about myself? What do I know about me right now? How do I see this evolving for myself? And if it doesn’t evolve in that way, am I okay if I take a different path? First and foremost for me in that reflection was, again, understanding where I am right now. What are the things that I really enjoy to do at this moment? What are the things that I’ve enjoyed doing maybe for the past five or 10 years? What were things in high school that really brought me a lot of play and a lot of purpose? Can I draw from those experiences and be able to apply that to a career path? It might work, it might not work. So it was all just an experiment, and I think it’s so individualistic to each person when you’re doing that reflection for yourself, what are the things that are going to come out of that reflection that are going to be that catalyst for change for you moving forward?

What did that physically look like? Did that require you to have some alone time? One of my business partners used to call it Kumbaya time. Did it require taking a pad, a paper and a pen and writing, or was this just all you kind of internalizing things?

I would definitely say I’m very much a pen and paper type of gal. Now, I use Evernote so it’s fingers to keyboard. But it was really pen to paper, a lot of internalizing, but pen and paper. I wish it was something maybe more sophisticated than that but I really want to highlight to people that it can be a really simple process. It doesn’t have to be this maybe glamorized version of what we tend to know self-reflection to be, it can be meditative in the way of it’s just simply you, your thoughts, a piece of paper and a pen.

Before I move forward to another conversation point, the sacrifices you had to make. You have gone from, had an incredible career trajectory. If you visit your LinkedIn, you can just see that. But what often people don’t talk about or recognize is the sacrifice along the way. And you mentioned living in Vancouver, which is not a cheap city to live within. Were there any moments when you realized these sacrifices were really hard and thought about abandoning this path?

Definitely. There’s probably two ways that I can respond to that question, I will respond to that question. So the first part just lifestyle wise, I had to give up a lot of moments I wasn’t able to be a part of, especially at a younger age, your friendship group is just, it means everything to you, and being able to experience certain moments with them. I had to learn self-discipline really quickly. I had to learn how to not get into debt really quickly because having access to a credit card at 21, it is really easy to just spend that money. It’s there, it’s accessible. And if you don’t have that discipline for yourself, it will obviously create more problematic moments for you down the line.

So for me, first and foremost from a lifestyle perspective, yeah, it was tough. I am extremely grateful though that I had support from my parents to help out with things like food. I didn’t even think about food being an issue, buying groceries and recognizing how expensive, something that should be accessible to every single person, how it all of a sudden didn’t become something that was accessible to me after I left the hospitality industry. There were times when I was working at my first agency job and my lunch would be a couple of crackers. That was all that I had left for the week. Friday afternoon of eating a couple of crackers maybe with some mustard. That’s all that was available and accessible to me.

And of course, those are the extremes that I was heading to, but I feel recognizing that the lack of accessibility to groceries and how expensive those are, that’s a really important point that we don’t talk a lot about, and I think that also comes too from organizations having to need to step up and be paying people adequately based off of just the bare minimum livelihood costs within really expensive cities. So I will say that for this first agency that I was working at, the compensation wasn’t where it needed to be, and I don’t think it was fair for the work that was being produced.

The second part that I would add to that were sacrifices being made was, do I want to put myself through this? Is it worth it? I thought it would be so much easier and it’s not. I thought having a career was all this glitz and glamor and fully being adults and having accessibility to all these luxuries that you don’t have when you’re a teenager. But that was very much perception versus reality. And there were a couple of moments where I was like, I just don’t know if I can do this anymore. I don’t know if I’m equipped to have a career job.

And how did you get past that because that’s a mental block, and there was a fork in the road and you could have gone left or right. How did you get past that? How long were you feeling that way first and then how did you get past it?

I was feeling that way probably for the first two to three years. I know each industry and each sector comes with its own challenges. Especially being a woman in the tech industry, there was different challenges that I was faced with. And also being very young, I was naive to a lot of things and thought, okay, this is the way that it must be. So I must tolerate it to be able to progress in my career. Everyone goes through this, every woman in tech goes through this stuff. Behaviorally, all these things happening around me are totally normal.

For me, how I got through that, from the livelihood, the experiences within the agency, it was really having a moment with my mom first and foremost, and being like, you don’t have to choose this career path, it’s not serving you in the way that you want it to. You have my full support. If you want it, go on a different path. Whatever it is that’s going to fulfill you at the end of the day, please do that. I just care about you and I love you so much. I don’t want to see you having to make sacrifices that are going to end up compromising your mental, emotional and physical health.

Second to that, just thinking about making that decision and pushing through those blockers. I had to do another moment of reflection and be like, is this what I want for myself? Am I in a healthy position right now with my relationship that I’m having with my career, or am I just not in the right environment and this is the path that I want to continue to pursue? So I decided to try working at another agency and really seeing environment wise, is there something that’s going to change here. Also further to that, if I felt and knew that I wasn’t being adequately compensated, do I feel like I can speak to my value and worth and ask for what I need from a compensation standpoint?

And based on my simple math, it would appear that you have been promoted into different roles eight times in 10 or 11 years. That’s quick, simple math on my end, and correct me if I’m wrong. What do you attribute this to other than hard work? Because you went from hospitality to seemingly an industry you did not know anything about, being performance marketing, and you didn’t have the degree or the certificate from a brain station or an organization like this. How did this all happen? Sure, hard work is one thing but maybe luck is another thing. How would you describe that because I thought my career trajectory was good, but you’ve been promoted more times in a shorter period of time than I have. So help us understand this.

Oh, my goodness. I chuckle because even sometimes, I’m still trying to understand it as well. But from what I can understand from that is, yeah, definitely a bit of luck. Right place, right time. One of the agencies I was working at, there happened to be this opportunity that opened up that Thrive. And this person that I was working with at this agency was like, you know what, this opportunity is not for me, but it feels like something that might be the next best step in your career just based off of conversations that we’ve been having. So, felt super supported and advocated for in that moment. And went, had an interview with Thrive, felt really excited about the company, but had kind of my own reservations about it, because at this point, I would have been moving from an agency that was 1000s of people, well established, Fortune 500 company moving to a startup, where I would be the 13th employee joining.

What type of environment am I choosing now to step into? Am I ready for that next adventure and challenge that I might encounter? And fortunately, everything worked out great, I’m still at Thrive, and I just feel so excited about the work that I get to continue to do there. But being able to join an organization that was really actively seeking that sustainable and hyper growth, afforded me this opportunity to be able to help create career paths within the organization, and be that person with others leading and creating and testing out these roles, and trying to figure out, how can they come to light within the organization.

So if you’ve noticed, in my tenure at Thrive, I’ve been in each role for anywhere from eight months to maybe just over a year and a half. And it’s really been trying to accelerate my understanding alongside my peers and our executive team. These roles that we’re creating, how can they impact the organization? How can we have them be established within the company to be able to have them become a centerpiece to our organizational structure to which we can then promote more people into them. So, it’s been such a fun and unique opportunity I feel like in that way where my development and my skills and my expertise and abilities have been accelerated in that way just by being in this environment where there has been that hyper growth happening.

So, at 26, you joined Thrive Digital, which is a Vancouver based agency. You recently had your six year anniversary. And I’m just going to rattle off the titles. You went from online advertising specialist to team strategist at a managerial level. Then you were a program manager. Then a director of project operations. And then I believe this is most current role, the director of people and projects. Those are different topics. Bringing the people side of things is another thing to unpack. However, when it comes to learning new topics, how do you self-educate yourself? Is this by way of mentor, books, podcasts, all of that? What can audience members take away from how Balbina likes to self-educate her on a topic she’s not familiar with?

Oh, my goodness, that’s such a great question. I feel like just based off of, and you might chuckle that I reference this because you know how much I love Twitter, but just based off of a tweet that I saw from Lars Schmidt of Amplify the other day, he said something along the lines of Twitter is the best classroom you can ever create for yourself. And that’s probably why you see me spending so much time over there. And I feel like, for me, it’s not necessarily seeking out new information, it’s surrounding myself with new information day to day, and how can I draw inspiration from that to continue to elevate and amplify the work that I’m already doing.

Beyond Twitter, and there’s so many amazing people on Twitter that I choose to create my classroom with. And I’m so grateful for their daily teachings, even though they might not know it. Beyond that, I was really fortunate that when I stepped into Thrive, asking for my value and worth not only from a compensation standpoint but from a learning and development standpoint, I asked our then managing director to commit to being a mentor for me and figuring out together what would that look like, and recognizing that that’s what I needed to unlock this next step in my career within the performance marketing world.

So still, to this day, Ross McGowan, just absolute gem, confidant, the Yin to my Yang. We just always are brainstorming and kind of getting into these different think tanks about what I can be doing to further that impact for people and culture at Thrive. But he’s always always been my biggest supporter and advocate as well, and is constantly challenging me in the work that I’m doing. So helping me learn more about myself and potential different new experiences or skills or abilities that I can acquire.

And then further to that, I mean, books, got to love books, got to love what’s on the top seller lists and just kind of figure out there, even if it’s something that is not relevant to what I’m trying to pursue today, I’m always trying to expand my horizons and my interest. So, what is there out there right now that I can learn about that might not be directly related to the field of the work that I’m doing but is in some way applicable or might enhance or amplify the work that I’m doing?

So Twitter, I’m more of a scroller, sometimes engage. However, it is how I stay informed. And like you, kind of use it as a think tank and as you referenced it, a classroom. So for those of you listening not on Twitter, it’s probably not what you think it is. Personally, I think Twitter hasn’t done a great job at making it easy to understand the value of it. But if we do have some individuals that are on Twitter or going to explore joining Twitter after this episode, can you name two or three of your highest value people that you follow from a kind of career or even culture perspective?

Oh, my goodness, I can only name two or three, it feels like an impossible task. My mind immediately goes, I’m just going to rattle off three people here, Katelin Holloway, just such an incredible leader within the people and culture space alongside Lars Schmidt. Both are just absolutely amazing, amazing mentors, and they’re always offering their guidance, their advocacy, their sponsorship for other people that are trying to have a further impact within the people and culture space. And I always appreciate them just open sourcing all of their learning. Another person, Aubrey Blanche over at Culture Amp, oh my goodness, the work that she does and just the honesty and integrity of all of it is so beautiful, especially within the DEIB space. Joan Westenberg, another just incredible, incredible leader. Cecily Blaine, Michelle Kim, oh, my goodness, [inaudible 00:33:39].

I will link those four or five people that you mentioned below for everyone so that it’s very easy just click to follow. Mentorship. Did you have a blueprint when you approached the leader at Thrive that you had mentioned? Did you know how you were going to approach this conversation about mentorship or did you volunteer the idea? You referenced that you both kind of framed it together and established what that relationship would look like, but did you have maybe even a semi-baked blueprint in what that would look like when you presented it to him?

Not at all. I feel like I went into that moment, it was in my final interview where an offer was made for me to join the organization, which was so exciting. I feel like it was one of those moments where I just held my breath and kind of blurted out, I also want you to be my mentor. But I didn’t even really know what that meant at that time, I just read an article somewhere of like, this is what you need to succeed further in your career, and not even fully understanding myself at 26 moving into my fourth agency that I am working at, not having the accessibility to that or even conversations of that happening at these other agencies. I didn’t even really fully understand or know what that meant, what that could look like. It was just something I blurted out and was like, I think this is what I need but I don’t know how I need it.

I love that, because in employment, when you’re interviewing, is a negotiation. And personally, if I had a candidate that was interested in and perhaps I was interested in other candidates, but one of three of the candidates said, I want you to be my mentor. And even if they didn’t have a fully baked or had a blueprint of it, that tells me that they’re thinking long term, and likely long term with the company. So that for me, for audience members listening, if that’s one thing you can take away from that episode is getting serious about being a mentee and taking that step forward to finding a mentor.

Have there been any myths and misconceptions about growing your career that you’ve experienced?

Misconceptions. I would say is probably what I had mentioned earlier, just that you have to have had academia to be able to step into an agency. You would have had to have prior experience to even gain experience at an agency. I feel like misconceptions that might come along with that are that if you don’t have this experience, you’re not going to succeed. You can’t even apply for the role and I just want to encourage everyone that’s listening, you can, you absolutely can. I feel like there’s such a huge opportunity across all industries to make more roles accessible, the recruiting application stage for people to be able to join organizations, I feel like there’s a lot of missed opportunity right now for incredible candidates that can join an organization and really help further that impact in that growth of the company that a lot of people aren’t tapping into right now by way of just suppressing what the actual recruiting process is the touch points of applications.

In terms of maybe any misconceptions that I’ve personally experienced about growing my career, I feel like sometimes just based on the, I don’t even know how I want to phrase this, but maybe it’s just these associations that are with “the HR industry,” and maybe the more archaic outlook that is still being held in some organizations of what HR is right now versus what HR could be and how we can progress that and be taking bolder action and creating a better workplace for everyone. I feel like misconceptions about my own career journey come up when I’m stepping into a room with people who are really, really tenured and more traditional in their HR experience and having question marks and puzzle looks of, well, you didn’t do this traditional path to get where you are. How did you do it? It seems impossible. I feel like that’s maybe the misconception that I encounter still today, unfortunately, but pretty predominantly or early on in my career.

I follow you on social media, it would appear that you live a balanced life between your personal and professional life. Am I accurate in thinking that, and has that always been the way?

Oh, my goodness, I would say younger me, not so balanced. Definitely fed into that mentality of work harder, play harder, hustle culture, all of which I believe is absolutely toxic, I do not want to promote hustle culture, just want to very clearly state that. But I would say me now in present day has definitely come to see the benefits and the health of really living a balanced lifestyle. And a balanced lifestyle doesn’t mean 50-50. For me, a balanced lifestyle can look different each week based off of how I am emotionally, mentally, physically fit in that particular moment. But for me, when I think about a balanced lifestyle, I would say it’s knowing that I’m happy and fulfilled with what I’m doing, whether it be within my professional life and my personal life. And I feel like just because you’re doing more in a particular way, so for example, working longer, doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re learning more, gaining more, progressing forward.

I feel like when I’m thinking about me being accomplished and what I’m doing in the day to day, it means I’m achieving that mental, emotional, and physical fitness. That I am able to give to a nurturing and loving partnership, I’m able to spend time with family and loved ones, but I’m also doing and showing up and being able to impact my best work at Thrive each day.

So it sounded like earlier in your career, you didn’t have that same balance and you were whether it was officially or unofficially subscribed to hustle culture, we didn’t even call it that back then. Do you think you would have still achieved the same career trajectory if you hadn’t subscribed to that?

I feel like it would have looked different, of course, because every decision that I’ve made and every choice that I’ve made throughout my career has arrived me to where I am today. I feel that I still would have arrived where I am today but the path to get there would have looked quite a bit different. And I can’t say what that path might have looked like, but I do believe that that innate curiosity and just that absolute appetite for learning and asking a lot of questions, asking to be part of opportunities, having these extracurriculars that were related to work that I was really investing a lot of my time into, and having an appetite for that. Yeah, absolutely, all of that stuff that I chose to spend more time in when I was younger in my career did lead to where I am today.

What would your mentor say your values are?

I don’t even know if he could answer that. I think he would say that, oh, wow, that is a tough question. If I would answer that from Ross’ perspective, I would say he would say that my values are being very principled, being very authentic, and really, really leading with kindness.

Is that who you are? For a six year old Balbina, did you learn these along the way? Where I’m going with this is every strong leader that I know and ones that I’ve studied have very strong values. Whether it’s Kobe Bryant, Richard Branson, Howard Schultz from Starbucks, Sara Blakely, Oprah, goes on and on. But what I’ve learned in speaking to younger professionals often, they don’t know how to define their values. So, was there an exercise that you did? Did these values get cemented in you by a mentor that you had mentioned? How did you discover these values?

There is that accessibility to do those pretty traditional value type of exercises. So you’ll get 200 words on a page, circle the 20 that first stand out to you, then whittle that down to 10, and then to five, and then pick your three and really romanticize them to yourself. What do those mean? Do you see them showing up in your day to day? So I’ve done that exercise quite a few times. I would say that I tried to revisit that for myself at least once a year because I’m constantly growing and changing as a person, and my values are constantly growing and changing as I evolve. I feel like sometimes people can hold on to values and try to wield them into existence because they perceive that’s what other people want to see of them. But I would say values are only successful if you’re actually living into them in the day to day and that they’re truly authentic to yourself.

So, beyond my values, I would say, those things I mentioned that maybe Ross would perceive of me absolutely true and six year old Balbina, definitely principled and kind and really just needing and wanting to make change and being passionate and curious and stepping into all those really great things. As my values change each year and as I make that effort to just continue to understand myself today versus where I was a year ago, it doesn’t mean that I no longer care about those things, they don’t show up in my values, it just means I’m going to learn a new part of myself, how I can really lean into that and create better and stronger habits around it.

So for me presently right now, instead of doing a values exercise for 2021, I did the exercise of just figuring out what’s going to be my word that I’m going to center myself around for this year. And that word was sincerity. And for me, that was just making sure that I’m showing up to be absolutely truthful in all my partnerships, even when it’s hard, even when I’m like, I don’t feel like I want to have that conversation because it might bring up conflict. But recognizing the insincerity in that, and that I want to maintain integrity in the work that I’m doing. I don’t want to do something because I think someone thinks I should be doing it or copying what someone else is doing. I want to bring my truth into the work that I’m doing to create that better workplace for people and to ripple that out into society and impact in that way. And also recognizing from a sincere standpoint, that sharing honesty from the perspective that being clear is kind, and giving that to Brene Brown there, and just needing all that inspiration from her.

While that’s really hard and I feel like my value of kindness sometimes, I can defer to not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings by recognizing you can hurt someone’s feelings by not sharing something with them that’s going to help them out. Kind of choosing which path do I want to take there. And it’s not always easy, I’ll admit that. There’s times I’m like, I don’t know if I want to enter that conversation with that person right now. It’s going to be tough for them. They might be ticked off at me for a while, but am I holding back something from them right now that would have otherwise helped them succeed even further?

Being averse to conflict, I’m going to assume you’re 99% of most employees in joining the workforce in a “career job.” How did you learn to get better with having hard conversations in the workplace?

Yeah, I’ll say that most people have that relationship coming in where they don’t understand the power of feedback. They don’t understand the power of giving feedback, they don’t understand the power of receiving feedback. I feel like there can be this relationship with feedback where it’s confrontational and it’s overly critical, and it’s not promoting career growth or success or amplifying a person’s progression. And what I really try to do with my team internally at Thrive is break down the barriers of that.

For me, though, of course, I was nervous in my first few conversations giving someone feedback. What are they going to think of me? Are we going to have a conflict now? Are they still going to talk to me after this? Am I going to have a really hard time being this person’s manager now because they think differently of me? I feel like I created all these narratives for myself about what it would be for me to give that person feedback. And what I really had to do and challenge myself on and shift my thinking was how is this going to impact this person if I don’t give this feedback. So, instead of centering myself in the situation, how can I center the other person and recognize that if I don’t step into my responsibility and my leadership here, I’m not being the best leader that I can be.

That’s brilliant. And I’m paraphrasing what you just said there because I want to reinforce it. But what is this individual missing if I don’t tell them what needs to be said? And that’s what separates great leaders from mediocre leaders is not being averse to conflict and having those conversations that ultimately will fuel that team member to be able to improve. And it can be hard, that fear of they’re not going to like me. But when we stand up to be leaders, we’re not standing up to be liked. That was one of the most mind-bending things that you’ve said on the podcast because it’s actually something that I’m going to take back and kind of unpack myself.

My last question. 21 year old you, what would you tell her about growing your career?

Oh my goodness, what would I tell her?

Let’s go one thing, first thing that comes to mind because I’m a huge believer that the first thing comes to mind is usually the thing that [inaudible 00:49:53] most.

Three words, you got this.

Nice. I love it. Balbina, where can people find you on Twitter? What’s your handle on Twitter?

My handle on Twitter is BalbinaKnight, B-A-L-B-I-N-A, and the Knight spelt with a K. I would love to meet more people via Twitter that I can add to my classroom and just find a way to interact and be able to engage with others out there in the twittersphere.

Everyone, I will link Balbina’s Twitter handle below. Like I said earlier, if you’re not on Twitter, I highly, highly, highly, highly suggest signing up even if you’re just somebody that scrolls and observes and reads. It has been a massive learning tool for me as well. Balbina, I am going to let you get back on with your day. Thank you so much for joining me on the podcast, and have yourself a fantastic rest of the week. And one day, I don’t know how, I don’t know when, but I’m motivated to one day be working with you in some capacity. So I don’t know how that’s going to happen or when it’s going to happen, but I’m motivated to make that happen.

We’re going to do it, we’re going to make magic happen. Thank you again, Michel, for just having me on the podcast today. It’s been such an absolute pleasure.

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