The Path to Purpose with Ashley Freeman

In this episode, I had the pleasure to discuss the path to purpose with Ashley Freeman a writer, facilitator, and coach based in Atlanta, Georgia. We covered:

  • What led her to create Flourishing Work,
  • How you can develop your personal brand,
  • How to build trust,
  • What a book discussion club has to do with continuous learning,
  • What are the essential traits of a leader,
  • and much more!
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Follow this link to stay updated on the publication of Ashley’s book.

Listen to the episode here:

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Here is the transcript of the episode

Alexis

Hey Ashley, how would you describe your role to someone you just met.

Ashley

I Am the owner and founder of Flourishing Work which is a company based here in the US that provides facilitation and coaching services to leaders of all walks of life.

Alexis

Okay, okay, but tell me more What was the pivotal moment that led you to fund flourishing work.

Ashley

Oh great question. So my background is in medical research supporting the efforts of academic medical researchers and through that experience, I like everyone had good and not-so-great bosses and it just gave me a real passion for wanting to understand what makes good leaders good and what makes those leaders that aren’t as great. You know that way as well. And so  I ended up getting an MBA in leadership to really understand and study this topic further and it. But it was really when I started managing a team for the first time when I became a people leader for the first time that everything completely changed for me so I was able to see that the lessons we were learning in the classroom and the theory could actually be put into practice and do some amazing things to help the team really flourish and the business outcomes to match that level of productivity and that was it that when I about six months into being a people leader I said this is what I want to do the rest of my life I not only want to lead but also, more importantly, share how to lead and not just lead people literally but also just interpersonal skills like navigating difficult conversations. For example, I just wanted the rest of my life to be able to coach and teach people on those topics and it’s the best job in the world.

Alexis

Okay, okay, okay so you are a leader yourself. You worked with a lot of leader. So among those you admire? What’s the one trait that stands out to you.

Ashley

When I think about what a leader is I align with one of my favorite authors Simon Sinek’s definition which is taking care of people. So the best leaders that I ever had who led me were very invested in my development and giving me opportunities really before I even felt ready for them and made sure that I was okay and that I understood what my role was and that’s it. It’s It’s just taking care of people and that’s why I say you know in my opinion you don’t have to have direct reports to be a leader you can lead anyone. That’s definitely what stands out is that they just take care of their people regardless of who they are.

Alexis

Okay, okay, so that’s that’s really important because the taking care of people is something that you described if I understand well as growing them helping them to grow and identifying opportunities that help they believe you be good for that. That’s something around those lines.

Ashley

Yes, the best boss that I ever had brought me into a lot of meetings and projects that were well outside my Immediate job description. I was actually just an administrative assistant at that time and I say just because you know those projects and those meetings had nothing to do with organizing his calendar and booking his travel and some of the things that I was directly responsible for and yet he brought me into these opportunities for the express purpose of helping me to grow and I will never forget that.

Alexis

So really an important! How did you decide to develop yourself as a leader what was the one action you have in mind that was really, the One action you take you’ve taken in the past to develop yourself?

Ashley

Oh, that’s a good question I think I have kind of a vague answer to that because for me I really wanted to understand the theory behind what I knew who a good leader was and who a not so good leader was but I didn’t understand why. And for me, I really wanted to understand the principles behind what made good leaders good and so for me and in my case, it really was a lot of studying so I read dozens of books I still to this day lead a book club every Saturday morning I never stop learning. I just wanted to have that knowledge so that I could then apply it because I didn’t know what to do without that knowledge.

Alexis

I need to I need to ask a follow-up question on one thing you just said a book club a book discussion club every Saturday morning tell me more. Why are you doing that and I guess it will inspire people to do the same.

Ashley

Absolutely, you don’t have to have any experience I certainly didn’t it started in the very beginning of the pandemic and we just picked a book and set out some dates and when it was over. We didn’t want to stop and ah you know the first one I only had 2 participants and then the group grew significantly so we had probably I would say too many maybe eleven or twelve something like that, which was a little bit difficult on the virtual mechanism to really have that space to have discussion. It was just a few too many people. So then we found our stride in the third book and hit around say five or seven people and that group. That core group has been meeting ever since then which as of today what is that about None ars and two months and so why do we do that I mean it’s you know every to know that we have this core group of friends and colleagues every week that we can. We can learn together but more than that we’re we’re not just reading a book. It. It certainly provides enrichment beyond what you might read in a book itself. But more than that we become like I said friends and colleagues and we can really guide each other through the process of growing together and. Implementing and understanding analyzing some of the concepts from the book into our everyday lives and even hold each other accountable to improve our lives and our work.

Alexis

I love it. I definitely love it reminded me you know that the one book discussion club I went to and I that was one of the first ones so I was really really taking notes about the book to be sure that I will really have something to discuss and really really precise in all what I was doing and then the first person starts to speak and I’m thinking to myself: “it seems we didn’t read the same book”. And it was really fascinating the things that were already standing out for that person were totally different from me and I was looking at my notes and I was thinking that’s quite crazy. That’s really incredible. Of course, there were some commonalities. There were some things that we had in common but there were a lot of things.

Ashley

Um, yes.

Alexis

So That thought that I did not even saw that or look at that in for me, it was not really as important so I learned a ton just doing that just showing what you think is important. Showing how you articulate those learnings and listening to the others and you say Wow That’s the next level! That’s something yes and you remember the book and the learnings probably the book crazy well in doing that. That’s also that’s what’s really cool.

Ashley

Um, it’s I totally agree. It’s an incredibly enriching experience. It’s almost doubling the learning and the content that you’re taking in and even more than that you know that these people are counting on you to read this book. So you read a lot more books than you actually might otherwise because you know that you have that dedicated time so can’t recommend it enough when I first started I thought they were for I thought book clubs were for kids but ah here I am None years later still doing it every week

Alexis

Ah, I read on ah on your website that you are helping people on their personal brand.

Can you tell me more about that or about that idea of personal brand.

Ashley

Absolutely you know we all have one. We all have a brand whether we’re managing it or not whether you’re a leader or not whether you work or not whatever you do you have some sort of brand which is sort of how you come across to other people. And what you’re known for if you will and the work that I do in that particular area is around managing one’s brand because you have a lot of control over how people think about you and it’s It’s such a gift to know that because it.

Ashley

It can seem like well we can’t you know control Other people’s thoughts or whatever. But when you think about it. You really do have so many opportunities and touch points and ah places where you put information about yourself or meetings you attend or so many opportunities when you really think about it. To showcase what you want to be known for which can bring all kinds of opportunities from either promotions or even just getting into the right groups of people whether it’s colleagues or in your personal or professional life who have the same values as you. Ah, so so one of the things As an example, you let’s say you’re in sales but you really want to be known more for marketing Well which meetings are you included on and not included on. Are you. Are you in the marketing meetings If not, you probably want to get in on them because people can’t read your mind. Um, you have to showcase what you want to be known for. Are you on the emails on that topic if not how can you be copied on them or you know how do people introduce you. Or what do they talk about when you’re not in the room if they say oh everybody was talking about you the other day. They just said what a blank you are well whatever the blank is that’s your brand and I just love that the blank doesn’t have to stay where it is. It can be whatever you want. Um, and there are so many opportunities to manage that.

Alexis

It’s interesting. Do you believe that when people know what their brand is it helped them to develop trust with people around them?

Ashley

I do and the reason why is because when we’re clear on what we stand for and what we value what we like and what we don’t like we naturally attract people who have those similar values and just to be clear I’m not advocating against diversity ah particularly of thought in this case because I think that that’s incredibly enriching. Um, but to develop. Trust you can you can have someone who’s very different than you but yet you both really value something like let’s say respect.

Ashley

And so you can you can develop a level of trust with them because you know that about each other whereas if you weren’t making that clear or you weren’t even sure yourself kind of what your brand was or what you care about then it’s pretty hard to find other people who share those same values.

Alexis

So showing who you are and being clear about the values that are important to you That’s building that trust, building that relationship at the at a deeper level in a way.

Ashley

Yes, yes, much deeper than you know we have the same job title or we live in the same neighborhood. It’s much more… It’s much deeper than that. It’s we we we care about the same things even though we may disagree on many other things. Ah, the core of who we are and what we care about is very similar and almost ironically I guess that actually opens up the opportunity to get to know people who are very different than you or who you might not naturally think that you would get along with or want to work with and yet you realize that. At the core you actually do value the same things and it becomes much easier to build trust that way.

Alexis

You mentioned diversity and the way you talk about the topic reminded me of a quote from Lincoln and I will paraphrase because I don’t remember it exactly but it’s something along those lines. It’s I don’t like that man much. I need to get to know him better.

Ashley

Yes I love that yes I want to jump up and clap I absolutely love that mentality I think you know I see it a lot in the personality work that I do I’m a Myers-briggs practitioner and there’s actually it’s not just something that I’m personally interested in the research shows that I’ve seen anyway that when you have that that completely different perspective on the same team working together your work product is better.

Alexis

Yeah I used MBTI before and other kinds of personality profile tools with teams and it’s really incredible to see that with some teams I worked with everybody was nearly on the same side of the of the disk or the quadrant or things like that and in other teamsm It was very very well-balanced.

Alexis

And you can see the result on what the team is able to do definitely. It’s quite incredible. You are using MBTI with teams.

Ashley

Oh yes, I think any personality assessment is very helpful because it’s it helps you understand yourself and how you’re different or similar to others and those insights are incredibly valuable. That particular one I find works best with teams because it looks at how clearly you prefer different ways of taking in information and making decisions about that information or coming to conclusions about it and if you think about those things taking in information and making decisions with that information is that not what teams do all the time and so it really sort of gets to the core..

Alexis

Um, yeah.

Ashley

You know where we get conflict in teams and to your point without fail when I have a team that is more similar of thought and personality type. They have the same blinds spots they get along great. They enjoy each other’s company and they get things done very quickly because they all agree on everything but they also have the same blind spots and so when you have the team that is less similar. They tend to come to me because they’re having either communication or conflict issues and when we break it down. It’s really a very touching moment really in this corporate setting where you wouldn’t expect it to be touching. But once we get all of the personalities sort of up on the screen and we start to just see the bigger picture of how we’re different and how we need each other. You just see the light bulb go on where it’s not just oh I don’t like that person because they’re not like me or they don’t think like me or they’re always so annoying you start to realize not only why they’re like that. But how much you need that different perspective to do better work. It’s really cool. It’s a very cool moment.

Alexis

So when you have those people in the room when you help people collaborate or work with each other I can imagine that it can become really intense and could even reveal conflict. How do you handle conflicts and how do you help the conversation move forward?

Ashley

Yeah, it. So from that perspective it really comes down to helping both sides see the value that the other one is bringing. So for example with in this particular context with Myers-briggs I’ll often see a dichotomy between those who are very efficient and effective versus those who are very people oriented and empathetic.Not to say that we can’t be both It’s just for whatever reason I am coaching clients tend to go into those buckets and so with the ones that are very efficient and effective. Once we start looking at the yes that’s incredibly important and what a gift that strength is because you know the rest of us would never get anything done without you. Thank you at the same Time. Um. Listening is really important and developing those relationships actually becomes more efficient and effective in the long term because those people that you’ve built relationships with and that you’ve listened to really carefully want to work with you and go out of their way to work with you and trust you to your point earlier. Um. You know, whereas on the other side. Maybe if they’re really focused on building relationships and listening to people and being empathetic and if that’s their strength then they may not get as much work done as their colleagues would like them to and then they get this perception of something you know back to our point about personal brand. Maybe it’s a brand of they I don’t know aren’t effective or so. Whatever the brand is and it’s in those conversations. Ah, where you start to see that that person is not just ineffective or hard driving or whatever the perception is it’s when you start to see what their strengths are and why you need them that it’s not necessarily that you just love working with them because they’re so different than you but you start to get an appreciation for why you need that other perspective to get the job done Better. It’s in the combination that we succeed not in the collective blind spots where it’s more comfortable and more fun to be.

Alexis

Yeah, that’s really exciting because that gives a sense of where you are going how do you interact with people. When you when you are coaching them or when you are facilitating conversations. So I am I really like the way you are framing all that you have something very exciting coming I need to speak about that so you worked on the book for the last two years something like that right.

Ashley

Yeah, one year and a half!

Alexis

And so the book is coming ready right now.

Ashley

Um, it is we are hoping to target a mid-July publication date.

Alexis

Excellent. So tell us more about the book.

Ashley

Absolutely And I’ll tell you in the frame of putting the pieces together that we’ve talked about and how it translates into why I care about this topic because it’s a little bit different than what we’ve been discussing and the way that pieces tied together is that the book is About. It’s called the path to your career purpose. So finding purpose in one’s work is something I’m very passionate about the way that connects to what we were talking about earlier in terms of leadership and coaching and facilitation is that. I have a couple of beliefs one is that I believe we all have a career purpose something and what I mean by that is we have a set of unique passions. Things that we’re very passionate about doing. And also a unique set of talents or skills that we have sort of our tools in our toolkit to carry out those passions in the world and that no 2 people have the same combination of those 2 things. So It’s very one of my passions is bring whatever that is for any individual on the planet out into the world because what I’ve seen in my work is that too many people are doing work that just provides for the family or pays the bills and that’s very important I’m not diminishing the importance of that. But what I’ve found in my journey is that you can do both. You can pay the bills you can provide for your family. You can you know build the lifestyle that you need and want to have and do work that is incredibly fulfilling and so that’s that’s what the book teaches the reader to do is go from wherever you are today to living a life of the fulfilling work that I would call you what you were meant to do

Ashley

And again back to the connection to what we were talking about so that was one belief the second belief I have is that we all deserve to have good leaders waiting for us when we get to whatever that dream job is and in the book I talk about you’ll have many dream jobs over the course of your career. They’re just kind of one point along the journey. But when you get there. Whatever that is whether that’s being a stay-at-home parent. That’s a job whether that’s working in a corporate setting whether that’s nonprofit whatever that is for you retirement. Whatever your job is um I just think that we all deserve to have good leaders there who will help bring out the best in us and so that’s how those pieces connect is that I’m bringing out what these unique gifts and passions are out of people through this book and then and then I’m teaching workshops and doing executive and leadership coaching to help people become those leaders and again I don’t define that as having direct reports just taking care of other people. So when you get to that dream job using the methodology in my book. You have the supportive environment that you need to flourish in your work which is the name of my company.

Alexis

I Love it. So the okay the book is on my reading list. That’s absolutely critical so you convinced me I Love the energy I Love the passion about that and I understand way better now where you are saying a leader is someone who takes care of people I Love it.

Alexis

Thank you very much Ashley for joining the podcast today.

Ashley

Absolutely, it’s been my pleasure.

Author

  • Alexis Monville

    Alexis Monville worked in multicultural and distributed environments for years, coming back from the US and now based in the southwest of France. When asked if he misses the work in the office, he usually answers that he spent half of his 30 years of management experience in diverse sectors outside of the office and a lot of that working from home. Alexis is Chief of Staff to the CTO at Red Hat, a long-time hybrid open-source software company with more than 100 office locations in 40 countries, where half of the 20,000 people work remotely. Alexis is a firm believer that change starts with the self. He is the author of two books: Changing Your Team From The Inside and I am a Software Engineer and I am in Charge. Alexis facilitates successful playful collaborations. He designs and builds sustainable and high-impact teams and organizations.

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