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Setting and Achieving Goals with May Busch

Setting and Achieving Goals with May Busch

Episode 43: Setting and Achieving Goals, with May Busch

January’s almost over; have you been sticking to your new year goals? How do you make sure you stay on track? This week’s guest, May Busch, went from being a senior executive for Morgan Stanley to creating her own path and becoming an executive coach. With over 24 years in investment banking, May has quite the insight and experience she wants to share with other executive women to help them advance in their careers. In this episode, Kristy and May discuss how to accomplish goals, how to track and achieve progress, and what you can do to take action in your lives.

Episode Transcript

00:13 Kristy Wallace: Hi, and welcome to the Ellevate Podcast. This is Kristy Wallace and I'm here with Maricella Herrera.

00:19 Maricella Herrera: Hey Kristy, you're laughing. What are you laughing about?

00:21 KW: I am laughing, 'cause I'm happy. 'Cause it's Thursday. Right now, we're taping this intro on a Thursday. I'm very excited about the weekend.

00:28 MH: You're smiling.

00:30 KW: [chuckle] You act like I never smile.

00:32 MH: No, you do smile.

00:33 KW: January has been rough.

00:35 MH: It has. I mean, January is great for so many reasons. It's new beginnings and it's that... We've talked about it. It's this line in the sand that doesn't really mean anything, but it does. And you're starting new, and you're really excited. And for us, it's probably our busiest month of the year.

00:53 KW: Absolutely.

00:54 MH: Hands down. Which is amazing, 'cause there's so many great things we're doing. But at the same time, it can be rough.

01:00 KW: I'm tired. I'm gonna sleep this weekend. Which is also making me laugh, 'cause I have three kids, that's not happening.


01:08 MH: Yeah, no. That's not happening.

01:09 KW: I'll pretend. I'll just lay there with my eyes closed. Alright, so on today's podcast, who is our guest?

01:16 MH: It's May Busch, who's an executive coach, advisor, speaker. She's actually had a great career. She was a very senior executive at Morgan Stanley. She's been a member of Ellevate for a really long time. She supported our Phoenix chapter quite a bit, actually. And when I was going out to California, I noticed that she has on her profile, that she lives in the area. So I reached out to her, and unfortunately, we couldn't meet up. But I'm glad that you guys could do the interview when she was in New York.

01:41 KW: Yes, she flew in. We met. We chatted. And then I think she was flying out to London that night. I've never... It was non-stop action for her. She's definitely someone who has owned her success, and carved her own path, and really worked to identify who she is as a professional, and who she is as a person, and what are the skills, and the projects that are meaningful to her, and how she can create a role that adds value to the company, but also is interesting and valuable to her. And I was really inspired. I was so inspired by everything that May shared with us on the podcast. I can't wait for all of you to hear it. I'm getting you all ramped up for it, but it's some good stuff.

02:27 MH: Yeah, I'm really sad I missed her and I didn't get to meet her when she was here. 'Cause I was not in New York, I was in El Salvador. I'm sorry I missed her. I'm not sorry I was at the beach.

02:38 KW: Rub it in.


02:39 KW: Just keep rubbing it in.

02:41 MH: I will until my tan is gone.

02:42 KW: [chuckle] What do we have to share today from the Ellevate community in our weekly poll?

02:49 MH: Yeah, so today... Actually, these are some tips you could take. [chuckle] We asked our members, "How do you make sure you're on track to achieving your goals?" January, for us, is a big month of thinking of goals, thinking how we're owning our careers, how we're owning our success, and how we're moving forward. So we wanna know what your secrets are to do that. 36% of our members say they write their goals down in a place they can see them constantly. 26% say they check in with themselves every certain time, every week, or month, or quarter. 12% keep notes on the accomplishments they're making towards their goals. 10% close their eyes [chuckle] and hope for the best. And another 10% don't make up goals for themselves. [chuckle] And 2% reward themselves when they make progress. I found interesting, that only 1% said they have accountability buddies.

03:43 KW: Yeah, that is interesting too. Although, I've tried accountability buddies before and we oftentimes, I think, let each other down. 'Cause you remind each other for the first week, and then we both just get busy, at least in my experience. I've also tried rewarding myself before, but the problem is I kept rewarding myself before I achieved the goal. 'Cause I really wanted that [chuckle] reward and it was...

04:07 MH: [chuckle] I've done that too.

04:08 KW: Yeah, and then it didn't really work. I'll tell you, what I think is working for me, is I sat down with a glass of wine and...

04:18 MH: Very important.

04:19 KW: I wrote down all of my goals, and then I scheduled them into my calendar. If I wanted to relax more, I scheduled massages and meditation, which are relaxing to me, into my calendar. And I scheduled little things, like getting my nails done, or going to kickboxing, or spending time writing. But all of these goals that had... It's not gonna happen, if you don't commit to making it happen. So I scheduled it into my calendar, which has been helping somewhat. I've kind of keep [chuckle] moving some of those time slots around. But I'm really committed to doing that, and at least this is blocking out that time, and reminding me every week, that I have something to accomplish that week.

05:02 MH: That's a great idea. That's a really, really great idea. I should do that. I have a few things on my calendar, that I just recently set up to do every week. Yeah, I don't know what camp I fall into. No, I don't wanna say I close my eyes and hope for the best, 'cause I don't. But I kinda do. I dunno, depends on the type of goal.

05:22 KW: Fair enough. Well, let's hear what May has to say about accomplishing your goals and staying on track.


05:39 KW: You have an incredible career. And we have many women on the podcast that just blow me away, in terms of what they've accomplished, their experiences, their backgrounds. But I have to say, that you are up there as one of the top. Can you share a little bit about where you've been before today?

06:00 May Busch: Absolutely. Well, first, I'm very honored to be in that pantheon of really cool people that you've had on the podcast, so that's really exciting. My career, I had 24 years in investment banking, and during that time, I went from the entry level position... I used to joke, "Just above mailroom," not that there's anything wrong with mailroom... But Financial Analyst in the program all the way up through Managing Director, and then I got transferred from New York to London, which is where I now live, in a suburb of London. And I spent most of my career covering big corporate clients from investment banking through to capital markets. And then as I progressed in my career in London, I was asked to come into firm management, and I had two roles there, and my very favorite one, was where I had this title that nobody really knew what it meant, and sometimes those are the best.

07:00 KW: [laughter] Which is always fun, and exciting, and a little bit of a mystery.

07:04 MB: Exactly. And it was called Firm Relationship Management, FRM. And what that really meant, was that I had this little speedboat of a team, as opposed to lots and lots of people in a unit, a big unit. And we were charged with helping to knit the firm together, and help break down the business unit silos, and get people to collaborate across units, because that was the way we were gonna serve clients in a better way. We had delved deep into each silo, and we had gone as far as we could, and that was really fun. And then ultimately, I was Chief Operating Officer for Europe, before my new career as an entrepreneur.

07:47 KW: I'm always interested in and I ask about career path, because I'm always very interested in, how did you get from point A to point B? From COO, big position at a huge bank to starting your own business, which to me, is even scarier and a harder task to undertake. What brought about that change?

08:10 MB: So to put it into context, the COO role for Europe was a role where I really focused on strategy, the business strategy, and at that time, it was still growing. And also working with the business unit heads to pave the way for them to really build their businesses. That then was after I had already been at the firm for 23 years. At that time, what seemed like a Pacific Ocean of opportunities, when I first started, started looking more like a really nice pond. [chuckle] And I am motivated by change and challenge. So over those 24 years, I had eight or nine different roles. Every two years, I would get itchy and I'd just... They just kept finding new, great, cool things for me to do and that's just how I lasted that long. And so when you get to a certain point, that you just run out of things, new things that are...

09:08 KW: To do.

09:09 MB: Yeah, in a particular place. That said, it was really scary. I think of leaving as one of the most courageous things I've had to do. Which I'm almost embarrassed to say, because it's psychological fear. You read about all these terrible things happening around the world, and then to say, "Well, the bravest thing I ever did, was to leave my [chuckle].. Step away from my really great job with wonderful people to go into the unknown." But that was really scary for me.

09:41 KW: That makes sense to me, because in my earlier career, I stayed with a company for a long time and they kept moving me to new roles. That was great for them, and great for me, and it was exciting, but when you take that leap to leave, it is terrifying. I get it. I totally get it.

10:00 MB: I'll just describe to you what it felt like. So you know those cartoons, like Road Runner? Where there's this cliff and the cartoon character is running so fast, that it's usually... I think Road Runner, is that a male or female? Oh, no, it's the coyote, right? Definitely, Wile E. Coyote is a guy... Guy coyote... Anyway, runs so fast off the cliff, that he doesn't realize that he is just running on vapors. Then he, all of a sudden looks down, and goes, "Aaah!"


10:28 MB: And he's falling, falling, falling, and then he looks up, and grabs onto this branch that is, thankfully, hanging off the edge of the cliff, and hanging, hanging, hanging, going, "Oh, my God, I cannot hold on." Finally, he just cannot hold on, his fingers are slipping, and then falls, and then realizes you were only 12 inches off the ground the whole time.

10:49 KW: I feel it, what you're talking about right now.

10:51 MB: Yeah, that's what it's like, and I do wanna say, in case anybody else is out there feeling like running off the cliff, and [chuckle] that you have to make sure you're good and ready before you do this. And for me, what did it for me, was I keep a journal, and particularly when I'm upset, I write in my journal. It's my, I don't know, way of processing. I looked back through my journal over Christmas, before I resigned in the following January. It was Christmas of 2007 and I noticed that every two years, for the last four years, I had been writing the same thing, "Am I meant to do this? What's my next challenge?" Blah, blah, blah, and then they kept finding me something, and I thought, "Oh, my goodness, this is now the third time I'm writing this. If I don't go now, I'll never go." But I was good and ready to go. That's just a caveat. You're like, "Don't try this at home."


11:51 KW: We don't want some listeners dialing in like, "I left my job, now what?"


11:57 KW: "You told me. You said it was okay, this ground was right there." So where did you end up?

12:02 MB: I ended up... Well, first, I was in a role in an industry, where I did not have any time or mind space, really. I probably had the time, but I just didn't have the mind space to think about it while I was in my job. I felt like I had to give my job full attention, otherwise it's like riding this bronco horse, [chuckle] you're gonna kicked off, if you don't pay attention. So I took about nine months, just to decompress and figure out what I wanted to do. And actually, I was always somebody who wanted to do something different, and prove that I... I think I had a lot to prove to myself, really. And my whole family is full of academics, medical people, research scientists, government officials back in Taiwan, and I... All I knew was, I was not gonna do any of those things. I was gonna do something different and... I ended up in investment banking. I think my parents still don't really know what I did. [chuckle] They think I was a stockbroker, which I wasn't, but...


13:07 MB: Not that there's anything wrong with stockbroker, but that's not what I was doing. And so now, I am also doing something that is different from anything I've done before, but it's something that leverages, and builds on all the things that I learned all along the way. I'm so grateful that I had this 24-year career, because it gives me just a lifetime's worth of knowledge, and experience, and content that I am now able to put together, in a way that I can share with others, and help them to be better, and do more, and make the difference they're meant to make.

13:53 KW: So when you left that last day, was being a coach in your mind? Was that something you were thinking about or did you just have no idea?

14:02 MB: One thing I was clear on, there was absolutely no way I was gonna be a coach. [laughter]

14:06 KW: Okay, so you were like...

14:08 MB: I said, "No!"

14:08 KW: Yeah, that's not happening, that's not me.

14:09 MB: That is not happening... Yeah, I said, "I am not a coach. I am coached." [laughter] 'Cause only, really, senior executives, who are doing well, get coached. So I was just trying to figure out what I wanted to do and I did a lot of experiments, which is what I tell a lot of my clients to do, "Try out different things." I tried being a Non-executive Director, so I joined a couple of not-for-profit boards. At the same time, I started to do some speaking, and I designed a workshop, and was hired to deliver that. I was doing a variety of things and that's when I discovered that, in fact, I was less interested in the board piece, certainly for the current time, because I still wanna be an executive. I didn't realize that being on a... Being on a board is really cool. You see things at the very top of an organization. You have a vast responsibility. That said, you are specifically not supposed to execute. You're supposed to stay out of the way and I wanted to be right in the muck. And I thought back, and recognized what things I really enjoyed, but then it was about experimenting, and trying on the dress, or the suit, to see exactly which pieces fit.

15:28 KW: How does the woman, who is not going to be a coach, become a coach?

15:34 MB: Oh, yeah, that's a good question. Well, the analogy I would use is, I was splashing around in the pool, but I was not getting to the other side, [chuckle] in my search for my next era of meaningful work. That's what I called it. I was...

15:50 KW: I bet you also received tons of unsolicited ideas, for what your next era of meaningful work should be.

15:57 MB: Yeah, different people had different ideas. And yet, everyone's ideas are about what they think is really...

16:06 KW: Of course.

16:06 MB: Cool and interesting.

16:07 KW: That's such a personal... It's such a personal thing.

16:08 MB: It is. It is. That said, that's exactly how I got into coaching. One woman, that I met at one of these events in London, she said to me, "May, go and get your coach credential. Go get training, even if you never use it, it will be like a platform. It will be a platform that you can stand on." And so I did do that, because I didn't have a particular direction. The two things that I did that were fundamentally important, in terms of finding my next role, both were these type of serendipitous things. So one was that... And she kept... I was gonna say badgering me, but in the nicest, most British, polite way. [chuckle] She kept on me, and so I finally did do that.

17:00 KW: But you need that, you need someone who's gonna hold you accountable.

17:01 MB: Yes. Every time she saw me, she said, "So have you signed up for the coaching program? It would be a great platform for you." And it has been a great platform. So that was one, and then the other one was... I was invited to join a panel at Oxford Business School and it was on the entrepreneurial leadership of universities. And I got to that invitation by being on a council, like a board. 'Cause this was while I was still at Morgan Stanley, I said, "I'd like to be on a... A board member." And so they said, "Well, why don't you represent Morgan Stanley on this particular board?" And I went there, and after I left Morgan Stanley, I came off of the board, but that organization reached out to me when they needed business people. So I went, and I coincidentally met the President of Arizona State University, and discovered that he is this hugely visionary, charismatic person, who is doing some hugely amazing things to reshape the way higher education works, so that it's fit for purpose.

18:07 MB: And he invited me out there to see what it was like. It really reminded me of my favorite job that we talked about or favorite role at Morgan Stanley, the one where... With the FRM, Firm Relationship Management. Because he is also breaking down silos, collaborating toward a common goal, and being really innovative. That's how I also got that platform and that has been hugely important. It's very hard to build something completely on your own and have it... Without joining forces or having different platforms that you're part of.

18:46 KW: Can you explain a little bit more what a Executive in Residence is? What do you do? 'Cause I'm not sure we all know what that is and it sounds like a lot of fun.

18:57 MB: Well, I was the first Executive in Residence in the President's office. That title was one that allowed me to create a role, where I could bring... Leverage my connections and... All the things that I'm able to do in service of the university and to help them. And we decided it was really going to be hard for me, if I was embedded into one of the colleges, or one of the units, because then I wouldn't be able to cut across, and I'm a good person to cut... I like to cut across. Executive in Residence means a lot of things to a lot of people, but in this case, it means that I am running a few programs, that I have jointly created with the university, that serve their faculty and staff, and help them to become better leaders. We've got some leadership development programs that we're developing, and I also chair a group called the Idea Enterprise, which brings together CEOs and former CEOs, with these academics, and faculty, and staff who had big ideas aimed at addressing societal challenges. And we help them to take those ideas, and make them more fundable, more backable, and more immediately understandable by the rest of the world.

20:31 KW: What percentage of your business is coaching versus ASU?

20:34 MB: This is a great question. I would say that I spend a quarter of my time at ASU. I spend a quarter of my time coaching one-on-one. I spend a quarter of my time designing and delivering speaking engagements and workshops for groups. And then, the remaining quarter of my time, I'm developing a online and virtual aspect to my business. Through my blogging, I've just developed an online course with five modules, plus live calls, plus three months of support, and different ways of engaging with people, so that I can reach more people and help more people. Those are the current four ways. And my mission is to serve a million people over the next 10 years. That's why I've... I've set that big goal, so that I... I have to go online.

21:37 KW: You know from working in business, you have to set a goal, and then you have to figure out, "Okay, what are the mechanisms we're gonna put into place to achieve that goal? And who has to hit which KPIs?" And so now, you're saying, "I'm gonna help a million people and this is how... I need an online platform, and I need something that's scalable, and I need... " And that's very important, and a lot of entrepreneurs, and business leaders, at all stages, don't always understand, "Okay, what is your goal and how are you gonna get there?" But I love what you're doing, because at your coaching work, you spend a quarter of your time working with the individual, "How do I help you? How do I... " Creating that connection. "How can I have that impact on that individual and help them move ahead?" Your work at ASU is really looking at a structure that's serving tens of thousands of students. Over the course of time, millions of students...

22:30 MB: Try 75,000 a year, 79,000 a year.

22:32 KW: Okay. 75,000 students a year. And education, I'm very passionate about education. I think if we're gonna be spending 18 plus years of our lives in educational institutions, how do we break down the silos? How we do innovate with technology? How do we help provide more resources and reach populations that don't have access to education?

22:57 MB: Yes, very important.

22:58 KW: But here, you're impacting a huge societal change and being a leader in that. And then, with your own work, scaling that business, and challenging yourself to grow your business, and to drive impact. And so you're hitting on so many different touch points, from the individual, to you as a business leader, to the institution, the school. Are you just so happy right now? Do you feel like a new person?

23:26 MB: I feel like I'm a better person. And yet, I find that I can take these things that I choose to do, and then I... These are in my wheel house of my special strengths and unique abilities. Yet, I can turn those into worrying, anxiety-producing events. [laughter] This is the opposite of alchemy. You're turning, whatever, tin to gold. I can do the opposite as well, if I'm not careful. I have to really remind myself that, "Hey, wait, I'm choosing to do this." And I need to remind myself that this is supposed to bring me joy, and not to worry about it.

24:14 MB: This reminds me of two things that I've come across recently. One is Marshall Goldsmith and he has these six questions that he suggests you should ask yourself everyday. And these are active questions, as opposed to passive questions. For example, a lot of companies do these engagement surveys and ask, "Are you happy in your job? Do you have friends at work? Do you this, that, and the other?" And it's very easy to then say, "No, I'm not happy, because my boss gives me no direction or feedback," or whatever it is, and it becomes this... You use the word 'empowering,' a 'disempowering' thing. Marshall says, "Well, you should be asking active questions like, 'Did I do my best to be happy today? Did I do my best to serve my clients today? Did I do my best to... ' And then fill in the blank." I started asking myself that, and it's really empowering, and he said, "If you do this for... " I can't remember what he said, two weeks straight or 20 days, you're going to be feeling a lot better about yourself, about others, and a lot happier. That's one thing that I've started to learn. And another is this book I started reading, someone else recommended it to me, it's called, "What to Say When You Talk to Yourself." Do you know that book either?

25:40 KW: No, but it sounds like something I should be reading.

25:42 MB: Well, I think we all should be reading it. It's by Shad Helmstetter, I think. It's back from 2011, so it's not a new book and I had never heard of it before, but it's about self-talk. And he talks about how we are all bombarded with negative, "No, not, you're not good enough, why can't you be like your brother? Blah, blah, blah." By the time we're teenagers, 148,000 times on average. And that forms our behavior, and how we think. And so it's really hard to... The brain's like a computer, and it only responds to what data we put into it, if that's the data, then no wonder we can't feel good about ourselves, and feel empowered, and change our habits, because we've been told, "No, you can't do that. You're not good enough," whatever. And so he says, "In order to really have lasting change, you've gotta reprogram yourself through self-talk. You gotta replace all those negative thoughts." And so I've been starting to do that too. I was running up... When I visit my parents in La Jolla, there's a steep cliff walk down to Black's Beach, which I later learned is a nude beach. I've never seen a nude person on that beach, I promise you.

27:01 KW: [laughter] Surprise!

27:02 MB: Yeah, surprise. Well, I can promise you I am fully clothed. So when I was at the bottom, I challenged myself to run up this very, very steep hill. I think it's 33 stories, somebody told me. I was going really, really slowly, and just so I didn't have to stop, and as it was getting really hard, I remembered this self-talk book, and I haven't gotten to the part of the book where he gives you scripts yet, [chuckle] so I had to write my own scripts. You just keep it going. I made up one on my own. I said, "I am strong. I am tough. [chuckle] I possess everything I need to be successful in my chosen field." And I'm just trotting up like this, [chuckle] pounding, and by the time I got to the top, I'm going, "Yes, I can do this! I possess everything I need to be successful in my chosen field." And I also got to the top without stopping. It was really, really great. And I'm this big... I haven't gotten to the guy's scripts yet. [laughter]

28:03 KW: But I don't know if you need to. I'm sitting here, right along with you, chanting, "I can do it. I can do it."

28:08 MB: Yeah, jogging [28:09] ____. [chuckle]

28:10 KW: No, but that is... I love that. I love that. It's in those moments of self-doubt and like, "Will I be able to accomplish this?" If you have your internal mantra like, "I can do it. I'm smart. I'm strong. I can do it." Sometimes that's all you really need to help turn that perspective around and help you get up the hill, if you will.

28:35 MB: Absolutely. And you know what? I just realized... Kristy, this is so cool that you're asking me these great questions, because I just realized that I put together two things that I was afraid of into that one thing. Which is one, I was afraid I wasn't gonna make it up to the top without stopping. [chuckle] That was the, "I am strong. I am tough." And then I was afraid that I would not be able to realize my mission of serving the million people, and getting to the top of that hill, so I tagged that on too. How interesting. Somebody listening here is a psychologist, I'm sure, and will be able to tell us which dysfunction is that.


29:20 KW: You're gonna need all kinds of it, [chuckle] all kinds of insights. Well, to help your mission of reaching a million people, I know you have a blog?

29:27 MB: Yes.

29:28 KW: And you also have a book, or books coming out?

29:31 MB: I have a book, yeah. Came out last year.

29:32 KW: Okay. Ooh, so tell us all about it.

29:36 MB: Yeah. The book is called "Accelerate: 9 Capabilities to Achieve Success at Any Career Stage." And it lays out some principles in a framework, a way to look at your career visually, and some concepts to explain why we are where we are, and more importantly, the way in which we can make sure that we're positioning ourselves to advance. Whether that means getting promoted, or whether that means getting more recognition, or whether that means being compensated in a way that you think reflects your value, whatever you decide is your definition of advancing, and being successful.

30:21 MB: Or maybe it's having more time to spend with the right people. I think the two biggest concepts in the book are, first, this idea that, as we go through our careers, there are these gates, I call them career gates, that we have to pass through successfully, if we're gonna continue on our trajectory. And as we get more senior, as we get beyond the early days, when you're in the training program, and people looking after you, then it gets a lot harder to recognize what those gates are, and those gates... There are those times when you've got to show to the right people, that you've got what it takes to get to the next level. So it's showing and to the right people. And I call them gates, because you know those horse races, where the horse and rider have to go over these gates, and through the pond, or not through the pond, I guess. What is that called? I think it's show jump. I thought it was steeple chase.

31:23 KW: Dressage? Is that... No.

31:25 MB: Maybe it's dressage...

31:26 KW: I don't know.

31:26 MB: Well, anyway, whatever that is, you've gotta go over those gates in a particular order, otherwise you get points off or you're disqualified. And the same thing happens to us in our careers. Only nobody tells you what they are and where they are, so you might just run right past some of them. And that's where understanding these capabilities, and... That's the second concept, which is, I believe that there are three categories of capabilities that you've gotta be working on regularly. One category is how you work with people. The second category is how you work on the business. Are you expanding the size of the pie or are you just doing what you're being asked? And then the third area, is how do you work on yourself, which, I think is absolutely crucial for being a good leader, and advancing in your own career, to know yourself. Those are the two main concepts I think are really helpful to people. They've helped people that I've coached and I used them, even when I was mentoring people, back when I was in investment banking.

32:38 KW: That sounds very interesting. And the book can be purchased at

32:43 MB: Yes,, and I also have a web page that has some more description. It's

32:52 KW: And also you have a blog, I know as well, that we wanted to make sure to mention. Where can we find the blog?

33:00 MB: On my website, which is

33:05 KW: Alright, we're on it. Take action, this is about action. We've been talking about action. That's your first action.


33:12 KW: Do it. Alright. Well, thank you so much, May, for joining us today.

33:15 MB: Thank you, Kristy. It's been really joyful.


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