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Happiness at Work, with Stella Grizont

Happiness at Work, with Stella Grizont

Episode 144: Happiness at Work, with Stella Grizont

Having the perfect job might not always be the key to happiness. Stella Grizont, Executive Coach, Trainer and Founder of Woopaah, joins us this week to share her history with workplace burnout. Stella shares her expertise on the importance of individual and workplace values, and how mental health practices at work can have significant long-term benefits. Stella also talks about our brain’s negativity bias and the importance of tending to our happiness at work, as well as when planning a family.

Episode Transcript

00:12 Kristy Wallace: Hello and welcome to the Ellevate Podcast. This is your host, Kristy Wallace, with my guest co-host, Katharine Heller. Hi, Katharine.

00:20 Katharine Heller: Hello, hello, hello, good to be back. [chuckle]

00:24 KW: This is so much fun. I love having you behind the mic like this.

00:27 KH: I'm not gonna lie, I'm mad with power and I'm just gonna keep talking. No, I love listening to you and Maricella, and we are so excited to have Maricella back soon.

00:37 KW: Yes, yep. She will be returning soon. The holidays are always so weird because you spend all this time with your families and your friends. I was really fortunate, I had a fantastic holiday season and really enjoyed and appreciated the time I spent with my family and extended family and friends. But you don't realize how much you miss your work family.

01:04 KH: Awww. But you just showed me a video earlier about how Santa Claus came to your house.

01:08 KW: Santa did come to my house.

01:10 KH: Kristy took... Somebody took a video of... They found Santa on the roof dropping presents, this is real, and the next day showed it to the kids, and it was amazing. I cried.

01:21 KW: It was amazing. It was fun. I'm very fortunate, my family... My husband's side of the family is incredibly creative and just fun. It's always something different with them, but we...

01:38 KH: Your sister-in-law is also pretty creative.

01:39 KW: Yes, she is amazing. So we just had a lot of fun. We were sitting around one night and the kids were in bed, and was like, "Hey let's make a video." But... You know, why not?

01:50 KH: He went... It was like full next level. It was amazing. [chuckle]

01:55 KW: It was great, it was really great. But yeah, so all of that is such fun. And then you really do realize how much you miss people you spend your life with every day, you work family and your friends. And so, I'm excited for Maricella to come back. I miss her a lot. But we have a number of employees at Ellevate who have traveled around the world this holiday season to visit family, to visit friends, to explore different regions, and we're all coming back with fresh ideas, a new fresh spring in our step and heading into 2019 like a boss because we're gonna own it this year. And we want you, our listeners, to really own it, too. We know you will. There's been so much talk, I'm sure your social feeds and your social circles are all talking about 2019 and goals and planning. But at the end of the day, it starts with you, it's all about what you do, the steps you take to actualize your vision and to take the steps towards achieving it.

02:58 KH: Like what kind of steps, Kristy? [chuckle]

03:02 KW: Well, one is join Ellevate. We really want you to be a part of this community. It's a community that believes in supporting one another, in true and authentic relationships that go deeper than just a glass of wine, that are really based on women helping each other to get ahead, to overcome obstacles, to understand pathways they hadn't discovered before and to help all of us move forward in career and life to achieve success. So I hope you join us this month. Use the code 'It starts with me' for 20% off your membership. And trust me, it will be the best decision you ever make. You can join a squad, groups of women who meet on a regular basis online for pure mentoring and support. You can listen to one of our 100 plus webinars a year, attend one of our 1000-plus events and gain access to tons of articles, resources, podcasts like this. And just a community of women who've got your back.

04:06 KH: Changed my life, true story.

04:09 KW: True story. Mine, too. I was a member before I started working here, so...

04:12 KH: Really?

04:13 KW: Mm-hmm, yeah. Been a member for a long time. It's a great community.

04:17 KH: So join. It starts with me.

04:19 KW: It starts with me, and it also starts with Stella, our podcast guest this week. You can tell, if you listened to our interview with Lindsey last week, we were all talking about money. Stella here is talking about happiness and career fulfillment. She's got an amazing story and has dedicated her career and her life towards helping others really realize their passion and their career journey. It's powerful, she talks about burnout, she talks about culture and companies. But really achieving the goals and career paths that are right for them. And I loved every minute of this conversation.

05:00 KH: I loved listening to this conversation.

05:03 KW: Yeah. She's got... Stella has such an energy, such a passion, which comes through in everything she says and she does. But we wanna inspire you this new year. We wanna get you excited, give you ideas, and we hope you take something away from all of our podcasts. But at the end of the day, we wanna connect you to the stories, the expertise and the support to get ahead. And it starts with me. Use that 20% off Ellevate this month, and it also starts with this podcast. Listen, take notes, share it with your friends. Tell us what you learned from this, tell us what got you excited. You can tweet at us @EllevateNTWK and we'll see you back here next week for the Ellevate Podcast.


05:57 KW: Stella, thank you so much for joining us today on the Ellevate Podcast. It's really great to have you here.

06:02 Stella Grizont: It's my pleasure, so good.

06:05 KW: I have an unfair advantage because you were speaking a little bit ago at an event around mental health and mental health, specifically in the workplace at Burling Cameron, and I sat in on your presentation. So I have the inside scoop on Stella, but our audience does not. So can you share just a little bit about yourself and your career journey, which I learned that day is a very interesting one.

06:34 SG: Yeah, well it started in advertising and I thought I was in my dream job, dream career and was giving it my all. And I noticed a few years into it, it started to get hard and harder to wake up in the morning. And then it got harder, I would get sick very often and my attitude just started to shift. I used to be this really vivacious, bubbly, go-getter and then I started to become like a lot of people I had seen at the organization, become very jaded. And I didn't wanna be that way, that wasn't my kind of thing. So, I was getting ready to quit and I was sitting on the bus one day. I remember thinking, "This is ridiculous. I gave my all to this company, and I don't even need that much." I was, I don't know, I was really Junior. "I don't need any money, I don't need a lot of money, I don't need... I just want some opportunities to learn more. That doesn't cost them anything and they're gonna lose me and they're gonna lose a lot of my cohort who are really talented because they don't see this big gap." And so, I came up with this idea, a gamified rewards idea called... I called it in Y&R generators. And we developed a way to reward people who go above and beyond. And that actually sparked something in me where I realized, "Oh my god, this is what I love. I love helping people grow."

08:15 SG: And so even though I was in advertising, and I started to feel worn down by what I was doing, I ended up staying 'cause I got to create this program. But I... Kind of like the Hero's Journey, the hero hears the call, but then ignores it. And so, I was just like, "Okay, that's nice but I need to keep moving forward." And I was in a focus group one day, and it was the fifth hour of listening to moms talk about goldfish crackers or something, and I was stuffing my face with M&Ms to stay awake and then I just had this moment of like, "Oh my god," and I ran out, I went into the bathroom, I sat on the toilet, I cried, I clasped my hands, and I was like, "God, there's got to be more to this." And I'm sure many of your listeners can probably relate. And so, we all have those moments. And so, I mean, this happened quite miraculously. The next day, I got an offer to go work for a startup called Ladies Who Launch, which is a... It's no longer in existence, but at the time, it was really the first of its kind to speak to women entrepreneurs.

09:24 SG: And so, I went and joined that organization and I was like, "This is it. This is where I belong. I'm super passionate about this. This is my dream job." And I was there for eight years, and it was the most rewarding work. I love helping women and... But I gave my all again. A little bit of a pattern [chuckle] and then I started to resent it. I started to resent it and then that's when I was like, "Something isn't right." And so I realized, "Well, maybe this just means I have to own my own business," 'cause I was part of an organization. So then I launched WOOPAAH, which is my company, where we're dedicated to helping people work happier and live better lives, and I do coaching and speaking and training. And when I launched this company, I thought, "Oh well, now I'm in total control, so I will totally be happy at work." And then lo and behold when I'm not working, I'm sprawled out on my couch, laptop on my legs searing my thighs and Netflix addict, totally non-stop, just watching re-runs of Frasier and 30 Rock. [chuckle] And I was just like, "Oh, my god. Here I am, I was helping women achieve their dreams, and I was like sabotaging mine 'cause I was denying business." At the time, I was also in school getting a Masters in applied positive psychology, and I was totally depressed.

11:04 SG: And so I would say I just felt like a total fraud. I was like, "What is going on? Like I'm depressed, I'm sabotaging my own." So that's when I realized it's not just about what you know, 'cause I knew all the tools, but I wasn't doing them for myself. And so, I hired a coach and that's when I had to take my own medicine. And it's actually from there that I developed this program called The Work Happiness Method which is designed to help people get clear on what is it that they really want and how to go do that? 'Cause I technically had all the... Achieved all the things I set out to achieve, but still I was sprawled out on my couch watching Netflix.

11:47 KW: Yeah. Well, I know that that's something that myself and our listeners relate to, right? I did that, the same thing you... My career is my number one priority, not even my career is... The company I was working for, you put 110% into it and I would get so upset about certain situations. If a project didn't work out or someone disagreed. And I remember my boyfriend at the time, now husband, would say, "Why do you care so much? Why do you care?" And my response was like, "I care because I'm a hard worker and I'm passionate. And how can I do something well if I don't care about it?" But you realize that that's exhausting because you put so much into something that you actually don't fully control and are not getting the return on that time and energy. And that's burn out and that's just unhappiness. And the second part of what you're talking about which is then okay, you think you found what you wanna do but is that really it, or what do you wanna do? And that also, oftentimes, will keep us from moving forward because we just don't know the answers. And you you just... So you'll just... That'll become your new norm as you're just sitting where you are with Netflix, you're unhappy because you don't know what happiness can be and what it can look like. So how did you find all these answers? Tell us the secrets.

13:18 SG: Yeah. [chuckle] Well, so when there was no one left to blame 'cause I was owning my own business, I had to look inside. 'Cause no matter where you work, there you are. And so what I realized is like, "Oh, I need to take some responsibility." And so what I had done, which I think is what most of us do when we think about success and our future, is we kind of come up with some really exciting goals. And I had come up with those goals of what I wanted to achieve and I achieved them. But then why was I... Why did life suck? And so what I realized is it's not just about what you wanna do, it's about how you wanna be. So what we do is we end up achieving goals and we're like, "I don't like my life. I don't like... I'm not happy." And that's because we created our goals backwards.

14:10 SG: So you first have to actually come up with how is it that I wanna be, what's the quality of existence that I want to occupy, and describe that. So maybe that's creative, collaborative, having flexible hours, working with people I respect and I'm inspired by. Whatever that collection of qualities is and then you come up with goals that will lead you there. So I described that as a vision. Your vision is an expression of your most alive state. And then your values, I describe as, are the guardrails that keep you in the right lane moving towards that vision. 'Cause we toss out those words all the time, but if you actually know how to design them correctly, they can help you on every micromoment of your life. And then you're like, you go to bed that day and you're like, "Yeah, today was worthwhile."

15:10 KW: I just had an a-ha moment as you were saying that because I know I have values as an individual and our business has values. But when it comes to our business and the values, we're constantly making decisions based on those values, we use it as a guardrail individually within departments and within the whole company on a regular basis, are we sitting down and discussing? Are we living by our values? Are we making the right decisions? Should those values change? So we're very intentional about looking at the values and how that correlates to the things that we do and the direction of the business, but, for me as an individual, I know what my values are, but I'm not intentionally making those decisions or asking myself those questions. And so, I can already see the misalignment in many ways.

16:00 SG: Yes. And that's the thing. We all know our values inside 'cause that's who we are. But sometimes, we don't take the time like you did for your corporate values, to really write them out, to organize them, to prioritize them, rank them. And then once you have them sorted in such a way that you can actually use them, they're really helpful. So one of the things I do for myself and my clients is we come up with accountability questions at the end of the day. So you focus on three values that you really wanna be amplifying per quarter. And then you ask yourself, "Well, how did I live that today?" And so what it gives you a chance to do is appreciate how you're living a life worth living and also remember what they are. So like mine is... One of my values is vitality 'cause I wanna feel vital and strong in my body and energized. And so I'll ask myself, "How did I contribute to my vitality today?" And so I went to the gym, I got a massage. I mean, those don't always happen every day, [chuckle] And so, sometimes, it's just like I chose to drink tea instead of coffee. But once you're really focused on those values, what you realize is there's actually infinite ways for you to express them. And so when people come to me who are feeling miserable at work, I say, "Before you do anything drastic, let's figure out what your values are and how you can express them right here and right now."

17:24 SG: And most of the time people realize, "Oh my god." A lot of times they're like, "Oh, I actually love my job." Literally, a client of mine was ready to quit and two weeks later, she's like, "A friend was asking me how I'm doing and and she's asked me how work was going," and she said, "I love my job." And then she emailed me right away, she's like, "I can't believe I just said that." And it's because we're walking around thinking we don't have control, we're stuck, this is just the way it is, I have to go somewhere else. But actually you have more control than you think. And that's what I've realized after so many days on the couch watching Netflix, is that I need to rally myself and really start being who I wanted to be.

18:07 KW: So when you and I first met a few weeks ago, it was an event specifically on mental health in the workplace and the event was specifically about women, but I think it's an important question across the board for anyone in the workplace. And I know you work with many companies as well, so what... This is such a broad question, but what is your take on mental health in the workplace, in the sense that we don't talk about it. It's not something that comes up frequently, day-to-day. Oftentimes, companies, it is not... You're not thinking, maybe how do we have productivity or maybe how do we create work from home policies? But when you really think about the mental well-being, that's not a priority; it's not a discussion. So what are you seeing with your companies and in general with your clients around just the state of mental health, the challenges that employees are faced and what companies are really standing out as addressing that and making that a priority?

19:12 SG: Yeah, that's a great question. And I think, unfortunately, it's not looking very good. We know that nearly 70% of US workers are un-engaged. Globally, it's 80%. We know that eight out of 10 doctors visits are due to stress at work. We also know that when you have a friend at work, you're seven times more likely to be engaged or you're seven times more engaged. So having connection, just having a friend at work really matters, and it just shows you what an impact that can make on our productivity and our engagement. And so, I think the problem is that... Not the problem. We spend most of our waking lives at work, and if we're checked out, that doesn't feel good because no one wants to be checked out. All of us want to be on purpose, all of us want to be achieving and mastering and feeling challenged. And so it sucks when we don't feel engaged, and I think that takes a toll on our mental health and because we have... Our brains have something called the negativity bias, which I know you guys talked about with in Nataly Kogan's podcast, an earlier interview. So our brains have a negativity bias which means that we pay attention to anything that's bad, wrong or threatening. It's like velcro to our attention. And because we tend to obsess over the negative stuff, if we're starting to kind of go down a downward spiral, it's very hard to work ourself out of that.

20:58 KW: Yeah.

21:00 SG: And unfortunately, organizations are not teaching employees the skills to do that. And I think it's as critical, if not more critical, than job skills. I mean, not more, but equally.

21:12 KW: Yeah, equally.

21:13 SG: Equally.

21:15 KW: So, we know also... I'll throw out some other stats that came out of that event. So nearly 75% of women believe that mental health should be on the senior leadership's agenda, but only 47% of companies are proactive about mental health in the workplace. I'd be very interested in understanding how companies are doing that, but also for myself as a business leader and how I can be more proactive as well. Almost half of women believe work is a contributing factor to their mental health and wellness. I would absolutely agree. Women are three times more likely to report the highest level of work place anxiety than men. So, higher level of workplace anxiety. One in four women are open about the mental health and wellness with colleagues. So we know it's not being talked about. And only 33% of women have ever offered to help a colleague with a mental health issue. So it can be a very lonely place.

22:09 SG: Yes.

22:09 KW: And at the baseline, we know we spent at least a third of our lives in the workplace. So whether work is contributing to our mental wellbeing or not, we spend a lot of time there and in that state. And oftentimes, work is contributing to it. And I really, really appreciate and applaud you for the work that you're doing.

22:33 SG: Thank you.

22:33 KW: Because it is so important around how do we change that perspective, how do we... I know there's some factors out of our control, but there's many things that we can certainly change by taking action, by, like you said, living by your values, by really having that internal self-assessment, by seeing things in a different perspective, by taking action, why is this... I know you shared your personal story, but why is this so important to you? And how has this mission evolved as you've started WOOPAAH and beyond?

23:09 SG: For me, it's ultimately about living the best life you can, and if you spend most of your waking hours at work, that's a good place to start. And I've always just been so driven by... I always... I love working at our... I love working, I love being at work. But I can understand also as a new-ish mom, my daughter's turning four next month, I can understand that stat about how women are really feeling it more than men because we carry a lot of that mental load about what's happening at home and what's happening at work. And even though we may have the most amazing partners, I think... And there's lots of great research about how women are still managing and... Not only executing, but managing what has to happen. I think you and I talked about this one phone, too. And so, it's really important to me because... I love this quote, I don't know who said it, but it's, "If you find your place in the puzzle, you enable 10,000 others to find theirs." And so, if we can tend to our own happiness, our own engagement then we are unlocking that and shining the light for others. And so we always talk about purpose is like a really exciting buzzword now, but being purposeful is about being a part of something bigger. And the best way you could contribute to something bigger is to tend to yourself, so that you can be your most alive self.

24:41 SG: And so, I think that what's happening is there's so much pressure on organizations and on leaders to engage their employees, to make sure they're happy. There's ping-pong tables being thrown up everywhere, which is nice, great, but ultimately that's not gonna solve the engagement issue. Only employees can really do that for themselves, if all other circumstances are handled like fair wages, of course. But all things set equal, it's up to the individual to know how to exercise that mental fortitude to keep themselves in the game, at the desk, engaged and alive. Because no matter where they go, there they are, and those same issues will continue to come up. Like for me, it was burning myself out, giving my all to organizations. For others, it might be around relationships, not speaking up.

25:36 KW: I just wanna say thanks so much for joining us today on the Ellevate Podcast and for sharing all of your great insights and inspiration. It's been meaningful for me and I'm sure to our listeners as well.

25:49 SG: Ditto. Thank you, thank you so much for having me.


25:54 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 get 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 voice-over artist, Rachel Griesinger. Thanks so much, and join us next week.


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