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Changing Business from the Inside, with Catherine Plano

Changing Business from the Inside, with Catherine Plano

Episode 52: Changing Business from the Inside, with Catherine Plano

Catharine Plano is an executive coach and a leadership development professional. She believes that we all have the resources we need to make a difference in the world, we just need to tap into our own potential. In this episode, Catherine shares her thoughts on what holds us back from achieving happiness, different ways of communicating with your team, her thoughts on family leave and how we can change the business world from the inside.

Episode Transcript


00:00 Rachel Griesinger: Welcome to the Ellevate Podcast: Conversations with Women, Changing the Face of Business. And now, your host, Kristy Wallace.


00:13 Kristy Wallace: Hello, podcast listeners, this is Kristy Wallace with the Ellevate Podcast, and I'm joined today by Maricella Herrera. Hi, what's going on?

00:21 Maricella Herrera: Hey, Kristy.

00:22 KW: Hi, Maricella.

00:24 MH: Happy Equal Pay Day.

00:26 KW: [chuckle] It's not a very happy day.

00:27 MH: Said no woman ever.

00:29 KW: Yes.


00:30 MH: Do you know, for those of you, who are not as immersed in this world as we are, do you know what Equal Pay Day is?

00:39 KW: Equal Pay Day...

00:41 MH: Sucks.

00:42 KW: Yeah, it sucks. Equal Pay Day is how far into the year a woman needs to work, in order to make the same amount of money as a man. So as we know, for white women, white women makes 78 cents for every dollar that a man makes, and it gets worse and worse for Latino women, for women of color, those numbers are even worse.

01:06 MH: Yeah, black women make 64 cents for every dollar a white man makes and Latino women make 54. It is not good.

01:15 KW: And we need to change it.

01:16 MH: Yeah, and so Equal Pay Day, today, means that we... Well, I apparently still have not made the same amount of money a white man makes, 'cause I'm Latina, but you've been working for free for the last three months, I think, four days. I guess not, because we're at Ellevate, but if you were somewhere else.

01:31 KW: Yeah, and I'm pissed.


01:36 MH: Anyway, as you know, we are all about our community, and we are all about helping each other out, and we are more than determined to close this gap. So what we did, [chuckle] is we saw that gap and we matched it for you. So this week, if you wanna become part of our community, you get 22% off membership, just by using code equalpay2017.

01:55 KW: We hope you will join the community. We've talked to so many women, who have leaned on the community for advice on negotiating that raise, on asking for the promotion, on starting their business, on getting ahead. We're gonna close all these gaps. I'm confident that we will, and I believe that the power of community, the power of networking, the power of education, and all of us supporting each other, is gonna make that happen. We'd love to have you join our community. We also wanna hear your equal pay stories. If you have something to share with us, tweet at us @ellevatentwk. Tell us your story using #equalpay, #getyours, #ellevatepod.

02:37 KW: Maricella, we have a podcast today that I taped via Skype, which is interesting, because, usually, we're in our fun fishbowl conference room when I'm talking with women, and there's all this happening outside the conference room, and then when you and I get to tape our intros, we are in a closet, up close and personal.

03:00 MH: It's literally a closet.

03:02 KW: But doing a podcast over the computer, when you can't see the person, is kind tough.

03:07 MH: I'm sure it is, and with Catherine, who is our guest today, she was in Australia. So you didn't just have to do it through the computer, but you were probably... It was like the middle of the night for her.

03:20 KW: Yeah. It's interesting. I was on a panel a few months back, around networking and online networking, and one of the other panelists said, "Well, if I'm gonna network, it needs to be in person. It's coffee, or a drink, or a meal." And in my head, I'm like, "Are you kidding me? No way. I'm all for the 10-minute phone call. 10 minutes, make it quick. I don't have to leave my office." But you really get to see, in this instance, you get to see how powerful it is, when you can look someone in the face, and have more of the verbal and non-verbal cues. And I loved talking to Catherine. She really is amazing and the fact that she's got such a fantastic personality, really helped to make this Skype experience better, but it was definitely interesting.

04:04 MH: As you were saying this, and because we are in a closet, we're not sitting face to face, but actually side to side. I'm looking at you with a side eye.


04:13 MH: I don't know how this works. Either I'm gonna get a crank in my neck or [laughter] this is just not gonna sound good.

04:20 KW: I'm staring at the ceiling. Switching topics quickly, just for everyone who's listening, Maricella and I both have had the pleasure of meeting with many of our listeners, have come up to us at Ellevate events, and sometimes on the street, and sometimes come to see us at the office, to just tell us how much they enjoy the podcast. I wanna say, "Thanks." You know how to make a girl feel good, and it's fantastic to know that the work that we're doing every week means something to you, and that you're getting something out of it, and we're having the impact, because that's really what this is about. We started the Ellevate Podcast to highlight women that are winning, that are failing, that are learning, that are growing, and all of the other scenarios along the way, so that we each can learn from them, and learn from each other, and lift each other up, and have these important conversations, and it just means a lot that you're listening, and that you tell us how much you care.

05:30 MH: Yeah. It's so great to see y'all, as Sallie would say.


05:36 MH: To see all of you face to face. [laughter] I can't do that, but it's great to see you face to face, and it's great to know that the podcast means a lot, and helps you. I had an interesting interaction, 'cause someone came up to me and was like, "Oh, it's so nice to meet you. I hear your voice, [chuckle] usually when I'm in the shower," which was kind of odd.


06:01 MH: But thanks. [laughter]

06:03 KW: Oh, my God, this is making me think of... I just actually taped a podcast, which y'all will be hearing in a few weeks, [laughter] and the woman, Mary Mazzio, was talking about all the important conversations she had with women in the shower, when she was on a sports team.


06:20 KW: Now, I'm showered out today. [chuckle] This is awesome.

06:26 MH: That's funny. There you go. Showers.


06:29 KW: Well, we take them.

06:31 MH: If we sound exhausted, it's because we are. We had a huge event [chuckle] yesterday. It was amazing, it was inspirational, it was, I think, the epitome of what Ellevate is all about, which is a lot of people very passionate about a topic, talking about what to do, and what to do next, and how to take action to make a change in the world. It was good.

06:56 KW: Maricella is talking about our Take Back Feminism event, which we held in New York City last night, and I echo that. And we had a strong panel of passionate, smart people, who were diverse in many ways. And I think what we strive to, every day here, is to elevate diverse voices, because we know the power of diversity, when building businesses, when having conversations, when having these courageous conversations around topics that are important to us. And I added a new word to my vocabulary last night, where Carmen Perez, from the Women's March used it, and I love it. It's a 'femtor.' So, instead of saying 'mentor,' we're gonna start saying 'femtor.' And that's my new word. I'm gonna replace mentor in my vocabulary with femtor.

07:55 MH: I love that. And that's a great segue for this, because as you've heard us say, "If you have any career questions, anything you wanna ask, anything you want to hear from us, you can email us, tweet at us." And we do have a question that someone emailed in, so you're gonna act as a femtor right now.

08:14 KW: Alright.

08:16 MH: The question is, "How do you build your career, in such a way, that you feel secure in your ability to get clients or find a new job as you get older? I worry about getting to a point where I say, 'I'm too old to try to find a new gig.' I hope to feel confident and ready to make a switch at any age."

08:37 KW: Well, that's a great question. I would say to start with your skills. What are the things that you like to do? What are the skills that you cultivate, that come naturally to you? Skills that you continue to build upon and learn, take courses, talk to people. Those skills can translate into many different professions. I started out doing sales, then I was building a small startup business, then I was at Ellevate, and some stops along the way. But it's building upon skills that I gained in my early days at an investment bank, and then build upon when I was doing sales, and build upon later. And so, our career paths are not always gonna be that straight line, where you move from communications assistant, to a coordinator, to a manager, to whatever. Oftentimes, they're windy, and we've heard that on the podcast. And so it comes back to, what are the things that inspire you, that you like doing every day?

09:38 KW: And then, as your career progresses, it's about finding the right place, the right product, the right company, the right culture, that appreciates those skills, in which you feel like you can use them to your full potential. I'd also say the power of a network. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a network that you can lean on, that you can ask them questions about what skills they think you really have done a great job cultivating, that can connect you to these job opportunities. It's just important to continue, as you're building your personal skillset, to also build your personal network. And both of those will get you far away in your career.

10:20 MH: Yeah, absolutely, and that's all great advice. I would add one thing. You say you worry that you're gonna get to a point, where you say you're too old to try to find something new. The reality is, careers have evolved so much, that people don't do the same thing. And jobs have expanded so much, that you usually, when you used to have, maybe two or three jobs in your lifetime, you have now, maybe six careers, and you can reinvent yourself whenever. I remember...

10:51 KW: Well, look at Sallie. Right?

10:52 MH: Yeah.

10:53 KW: And I will not disclose Sallie's age, but she has a very long, and storied, and fantastic career, except for being famously fired on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

11:06 MH: Meh, it gave her what...

11:07 KW: Yeah, but it led her to where she is today. And she just recently... She's running three businesses. One that she just started, a total startup. And she talks a lot, and she's written a lot. And so check out some of her articles on Ellevate Network. But Sallie's talked a lot about how it's never too late to reinvent yourself and to take the next step.

11:34 MH: Yeah, and listen to this episode, 'cause Catherine talks a little bit about building your skills and doing all this stuff, so it'll be great for you.

11:40 KW: Well, enjoy the episode, and we can't wait to hear what you think about it, and hear your questions.


11:56 KW: Thanks for joining us today from the other side of the world.

12:00 Catherine Plano: Oh, I'm delighted.

12:03 KW: I'm really inspired by... I'm gonna read this right from your website, but you believed that, "The more people that tap into their potential power, the more the population will become awake to a consciousness shift towards the global mindset for the betterment of all humankind." And I like that, because we are a B Corp, Ellevate is, and B Corps are for-profit businesses committed to driving social change through the power of business. So we see, very much, as a business, "How can we create a better world?" And you're looking very much, if I'm reading this correctly, towards the individual on, "How can you inspire each individual to create a better world?"

12:44 CP: Yeah, absolutely. 'Cause I think that... I always say, "We are the master, teacher, and the student," and I think that, sometimes, some of us are blessed, and we're exposed to information that really does shift our mindset, and change our life. But what I do, is I encourage people to share their knowledge and impart that knowledge onto others, so that we start making a difference, because there are still... I still say it all the time, playing out to so many people, that are not aware of their potential and haven't had the, I guess, the know-how on how to really tap into that inner knowledge that we all have. But I really believe that we all have the resources that we need and want, we just have to know how to tap into 'em.

13:32 KW: So wait, let me take a step back. Why is it that you think we're not tapping into it in the first place?

13:41 CP: I think we're too focused externally. We're always externally focused on... It's always wanting more money, wanting a better job, wanting a better relationship, wanting a better life, and it's always external focus. And I think that there's, with that, comes a lot of comparison, when in reality, it's just about being that very thing. It's not about "wanting to have" all the time. But what about, if we were to be the very thing that we wanted to be? And I always say, "Fake it, 'til you make it." Until you actually feel it, and just by being the very thing that you want to be.

14:24 CP: For example, at the end, when you really deep dive into wanting more money, a better relationship, it comes down to happiness, as simple as that, for example. So why not be happy right now? Why not choose to do one small thing everyday that makes your heart sing? And it could be the simple thing of, "Stop, give yourself some time, pause." Stop being so fast all the time, because it is so fast. Everything's fast-paced. We're so bombarded by so many distractions from social media to you name it. It just doesn't stop. But to allow ourselves, to give ourselves that space, and I call it 'white space,' to just be that very thing you want to be. And let it all out, let it come from inside out.

15:12 KW: Do you find that the clients you work with and the people you speak with, they even know how to define happiness for themselves?

15:21 CP: No, they don't know how to define happiness themselves. And quite often, when I'm doing my coaching sessions, even with CEOs, executives, entrepreneurs, business owners, what is it that you want out of your life? Most of them don't really know how to answer that, because they've never given themselves that time to really reflect, "What do I want? Is this what I want?"

15:45 KW: I know you've blogged or you've written about how to boost team morale, but what are your learnings from that?

15:53 CP: I think the main team is really important and I think the way that how we work as a team, is we all work with our strengths. I know some of my opportunities, I don't like to call them weaknesses, but to me, they're opportunities, and for me, I like to know my strength, work with my strength, and that's what we do. My whole team, that's how we all work, is work with our strength, and I teach this as well. When I'm going to a large corporation, I say, "Use your people's strengths, because the thing is, if you don't use, and work with people's talents, and strengths, what happens, is they will eventually start feeling disengaged, and not so passionate, and so focused." It still surprises me how many people out there are doing a job for the sake of doing a job, and it's not bringing the passion into all of that, that love into their heart. They're just doing that for the sake of money. And you could see that, when you start working with them. It's like, "Well, is this really for you? Is this really what you want to do?" "No, it's not." "Then, what is that thing that you want to do?" And it could be something completely different.

17:02 CP: So for us to boost team morales, we all work with our strengths, and I think, too, when we come up with a new project. For example, with Rise and Thrive, that was a big thing. This year, I decided to simplify things, and start putting some of our things online, so that I wouldn't have to travel this much, and I was more accessible. But in doing that, it actually created so much more work for all of us. And the great thing is, we were able to sit down, and just flesh out ideas. And I think that the important thing for me, is I listen to my team's ideas, because as leaders, and as individuals, we don't have all the answers. And definitely, if you have that learning mindset, and the open mindset that somebody else might come up with a better idea, if you open it up to the table with your team, or... It's more of a very mastermind group.

18:00 CP: That's how I treat everybody. It's like a mastermind group, "This is an idea. What are your thoughts?" And we want to pass this piece of paper around the table with one idea, and they add to it. So, by the time it gets to me, it's this full idea with some of the things I've never thought about. That's how I work with my team, and that's how we boost each other's morales, is we really respect each other's thoughts and ideas.

18:30 KW: How would you recommend dealing with a situation when you have some quiet team members, who maybe don't feel comfortable speaking up in a meeting? Is that when you pass around the paper and that helps to eliminate that barrier?

18:45 CP: I think so too. Now, I think that, definitely, by putting... 'Cause it depends on their style as well. We all have different communication styles, so some people are very visual, some people auditory, kinesthetic. I find that sometimes the kinesthetic people, they like to feel, they're tactiles, they like to feel something, so I might have a couple of slides, I'll talk it through, but I think that passing that paper is connecting with the kinesthetic, that tactile person. They might not have that courage, they might be a little bit more sensitive, a little bit introverted, but having that piece of paper makes them still participate, without having to speak up. And it depends on how large the group is, but I think, in time, those people will open up, and there are those people, those individuals that sit there, and they're really deep in their thinking, and just observe, and they may come and have a chat to you later. That's happened to me also.

19:43 KW: Can you tell me a little bit more about Rise and Thrive?

19:47 CP: With Rise And Thrive, what we did, we actually put everything online, and so the reason we did that, we thought, "Our mission's very big. We want to touch as many people as possible and the only way to do that is through online." And I think that, for us too, it was also... Going into a corporation, for example, I would only, most of the time, work with executives, middle management, and then there's a whole lot of other people within an organization, that are just not getting the information, because it doesn't get cascaded down, as much, as I say, "Share the knowledge," it wasn't happening, and so that was another driver. Speaking to some of these large corporates, who I'm working with, was a matter of, "Well, if we did something online, would this be of interest to you, so that we make sure that everyone's on board with this shift of culture, with this shift of mindset?"

20:44 CP: Because what it does, the 12-week program really unpacks your mind, so really unpacks some of that stuff that's going on, and some of that stuff that is those limiting beliefs that we have, that we're not even aware of, and basically, what this course does, is it shines light on those blind spots that we're not even aware of. It could be as simple as we encourage people to go and seek feedback, and seek feedback by asking three questions, "What am I doing well? What are my opportunities?" And, "What can I do differently?" And what that does, it opens a conversation, but it allows an individual... We all have blind spots, including myself, and I'm constantly seeking feedback from my team, and my partner as well, 'cause your partner's always being really honest with you too, by the way. [chuckle] But, yeah, seeking feedback. But the 12-week program, the first piece is really unpacking everything in your mind, and then recreating, or reinventing a new you.

21:48 KW: And how does this tie in to... I know you have a book as well, "Getting to the Heart of the Matter," can you tell me a little bit about your book?

21:55 CP: Sure. Actually, the book took me three and a half years to write, and the reason being is, because as I was writing it, my stuff was coming up during it, which was really an interesting journey, and it was fantastic, because that was the purpose of it. So it took a little bit longer and I found myself procrastinating on going back to the book. I might even give myself a break of a month or so, but it took me ages, and it was from the book, that the 12 weeks... Basically, everything in the 12-week program, you'll find in the book. Obviously, the book, there's a lot of more, 'cause there's lots of stories in it and so forth. And probably a little bit more in the book, but the book, that's how the whole 12-week Rise And Thrive came out of the book. Basically, it's a non-nonsense guide to personal and professional development.

22:47 KW: I would love to know your insights on working women and I have to pause for those that are listening, check out Catherine's website, It's a beautiful website. I love your graphics, but I also really love the language that you use throughout the site. I wanna talk about your brand in a few minutes, but on the page where you talk about working with women, there's this quote that says, "Don't let anyone ever dull your sparkle." And I think that is so true. We tend to get... I just had a conversation with a woman that I mentor, who was saying she was full of self-doubt from a situation at work and I'm like, "No, come on, believe in yourself. You're your biggest advocate." But what are your insights with women in the workplace?

23:39 CP: For me, I was that woman. And I was that woman that was a single mother for eleven years. I worked in the corporate world for 22 years. It was very much a man's world in the environments I was working in. And it was really interesting, because what I found myself, is whether I was attracting them, or whatever that may be, I was attracting... There was two specific type of women that kept... That I was coaching, that had very similar stories. The first woman was the woman that was a mother climbing the corporate ladder, being torn between work and home, riddled with guilt. That was one. The other was the corporate woman, all of a sudden, she finds herself turning 50, and looking at her life, and going, "Jeez, I don't have a partner, but I don't know how to love," because she has closed herself off to protect herself from the environment, that she, then, didn't know how to get into a relationship, because she didn't know how to get in touch with her emotions, because she had hidden them for such a long time, climbing the corporate ladder.

24:48 CP: So, what I did, was then create the Iron Woman Project, because it was very clear to me, that there was enough evidence, with the amount of women that I was coaching, that there was this thing happening to us, where we were either riddled with guilt, or just didn't know how to love again. It was that simple. From that, was how Iron Woman Project came alive, and it was a community, and we would catch up for breakfast, or lunches, or women from all over the world would either write, and share their stories. It was just a little community for us to share our stories and help one another that have gone through that. And I've definitely gone through that. The two women that I spoke about, I was that woman. I was working really hard, closed myself off from the environment, because I was there for me and my son, and my purpose there was to make sure that my son had anything and everything he wanted, and I didn't really mind about what I had to go through to do that, but I did that. And it was tough, really tough.

25:58 CP: But also, I was that woman riddled with guilt, because I couldn't be at school making cupcakes and joining him like other mothers. That's why I was saying, that earlier on, I wasn't too sure whether I actually attracted that, or whether that was the reality, but it is the reality, because there's enough women that have come together now, that share these stories, and have had the same experience.

26:20 KW: Catherine, in the US, a very hot topic, sadly so, is paid leave, and the lack [chuckle] thereof, mandated paid leave in the United States. But I know Australia has a pretty robust paid leave program, correct?

26:38 CP: Yes.

26:38 KW: 'Cause I would love to learn from you and your experiences, your thoughts on an extended leave program.

26:47 CP: When you're saying extended, I know it's different in the US, isn't it? For example, you have, is it two week?

26:54 KW: I guess I'm talking specifically about maternity leave, so post-having kids.

27:02 CP: I don't know, what is it in the US?

27:05 KW: We have no mandated paid leave program. Women can...

27:07 CP: None at all? Okay.

27:08 KW: Yeah. Through a Family Medical Leave Act, women can take up to, I believe it's 12 weeks unpaid, you can go on short-term disability, and get some pay back that way, and many companies have been coming out lately with paid leave programs that are driven by the company, so it's the private sector, really raising the bar, in terms of what leave looks like. But from a federal standpoint, there's no mandated paid leave for parents.

27:41 CP: I think that it is extremely important. I think it gives... It's really important for an individual. And whether it's a mother or father, I have clients who take turns, so they worked it out where the mother does it for a short time, and then comes back to work, and then the father does it. It's not just always the women that are taking time out of work to look after their children, for a newborn, for example. But I think it's definitely... It's important, because it allows you to spend that quality time, but you need that time as well, to rejuvenate, recuperate, but also to reconnect and connect. I think that that's really important. I think that in time... It's funny, one of the things that we always talk about, and we do, you hear it all the time, the women are better educated, but men are better paid.

28:35 CP: I don't know if you have the same story [chuckle] in the US, but it's definitely the same here, and I'm sure it's the same everywhere in the world. I think for us, what we're doing as a team here in Melbourne though, I think it's moreso that we're really looking at, "How can we create this shift, and how can we start a movement, and stop talking about the woman being the weaker sex?" Or the woman... For example, I read an article a little while ago, about mothers spend more than twice as many hours each week looking after their children, compared to fathers. Women account 92% of primary carers for children with disabilities, 77% primary carers for parents, and 52% of primary carers for partners.

29:18 CP: As you can see, it doesn't matter where we are, it's innate in us. We are constantly looking after people, and it's because we, whether you are a mother, or not a mother, I think we are born to be mothers. We are born to help other people. And I think for us, what we're looking at, is to stop the labeling of whatever that may be. And I think it's one of those things that we just gotta stop talking about, the women thing. Some organizations, what they do, they sign on to this, a larger group, and it's saying that, "Yes, 50% of our employees are women," blah, blah, blah. And it doesn't happen.

30:00 CP: When you go into these organizations... Actually, it's everyone is still, it's male dominant in the larger corporations. And yet, we still talk about it. I don't see that there's a change and there's a shift at all. And we keep talking about it. It's been going on for years, and years, and years, 50 years. But how can we make that shift? What can we do to make that change? And I think we just gotta stop talking about it. Because it's almost like our point of focus is, we're looking at, "We are the lesser than." And therefore, I think that that almost is dangerous, 'cause that creates more of us thinking, "We are the lesser than." And you can see this play out, and especially in corporate. You can see this play out, how women doubt themselves. For example, where there's these opportunities, men jump at it. They don't think about it. They'll work out "how" later. Women tend to sit back a little bit, think about it, and ponder on to it, as to, "I don't know if I could do this." And you start self-analyzing, and that inner critic comes in, and they don't go for these opportunities.

31:11 CP: And this is where it's important, where sometimes, we see the talents in these individuals, and it's up to us as leaders to actually give them a bit of a nudge, and help them, push them forward, because there's not enough women jumping into things, and putting themselves out there. And this is really important to understand, because meaning that the system is set with old mentality, created the current gap, and disadvantage in the first place. And for me, and this is where I say, "For us to create a movement, is to really understand the foundation that we're standing on, is the system. For us, we need to change the mindset and the belief system first, in order for us to be able to view the system without charging conflict. I think, we, once again, is change the world inside, in order for the real changes to take place around us."

32:04 KW: There was a really good Harvard Business Review article recently around this, that is talking about, "We can pump as much time and resources of money into creating diversity programs within companies, but until we change the foundation of those companies, and the way that we're hiring, and measuring employees, and promoting, and reviewing, that nothing's gonna change. You have to change it at the foundation... "

32:35 CP: That's right.

32:37 KW: "And re-think the business, in terms of a more diverse workforce, and then you can start to figure, and create programs that'll work."

32:48 CP: I agree. I agree. And see, for me, these are opportunities. I don't believe in problems. I think that if we look at things like this as a problem, we get stuck in that mindset. But if we look at these as an opportunity, it helps us move forward with a solution. This is a great opportunity for all of us to work through.

33:04 KW: Wonderful. Well, thanks so much, Catherine. It was great talking to you today. I really appreciate you making the time to Skype with us from Australia.

33:13 CP: Thank you so much for having me on the show. It was a pleasure and I love what you ladies do.

33:18 KW: Oh, Thank you.


33:23 KW: Thanks so much for listening to Ellevate. If you like what you hear, help a girl out. Subscribe to the Ellevate Podcast on iTunes. Give us five stars and share your review. Also, don't forget to follow us on Twitter @ellevatentwk, that's Ellevate Network, and become a member. You can learn all about membership and all the great things that Ellevate Network is doing at our website: That's E-L-L-E-V-A-T-E And special thanks to our producer, Katharine Heller. She rocks. And to our voiceover artist, Rachel Griesinger, thanks so much, and join us next week.


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