Today, I interview Kristen Harcourt who shares a story from her childhood where she figured out how to live in the world confidently and speak with courage as a unique individual.
As she graduated from college and began working in the corporate world, she learned how to overcome limiting environments in order to embrace positive mentorship and set exciting goals for herself.
For more than a decade, Kristen has helped executives and emerging leaders in hundreds of organizations worldwide achieve extraordinary and sustainable results through increased self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and mindfulness. In addition to being an in-demand speaker and facilitator, she is also an accredited coach, empowering leaders to become more aware of their strengths, blind spots, values, and purpose so they can build lives and organizations of success, sustainability, and health.
On a personal note, Kristen loves to travel, do dance parties with her kids, practice yoga and meditation, and has been known to jump out of planes for charity.
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Transcript of Interview
Find Your Voice, Change Your Life Podcast
Podcast Host: Dr. Doreen Downing
Free Guide to Fearless Speaking: Doreen7steps.com
Episode #11 Kristen Harcourt
“Showing Up Powerfully, No Matter What”
(00:01) Dr. Doreen Downing:
Hi, this is Dr. Doreen Downing. And today I’m on the Find Your Voice, Change Your Life podcast. And I’m excited because I have been doing this podcast for a number of months now. And I get to interview people who have had some kind of struggle with finding their voice, whether it was early childhood trauma, whether it was just being shut up in a family with other siblings that took over, or whether it was just moving out into the world and feeling like there wasn’t a place for you and you couldn’t be your authentic self. So today, I get to interview Kristin Harcourt, a good friend of mine who’s in the world helping people and I am so glad to be able to tell her story or have her tell you her story today. But first, let me do a little bio here. For more than a decade, Kristin has helped executives and emerging leaders and hundreds of organizations worldwide achieve extraordinary and sustainable results through increased self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and mindfulness. In addition to being an in-demand speaker and facilitator, she is also an accredited coach, empowering leaders to become more aware of their strengths, blind spots, values, and purpose so they can build lives and organizations of success, sustainability, and health. On a personal note, Kristen loves to travel, do Dance Party with her kids practice yoga and meditation, and has been known to jump out of planes for charity. Oh, my goodness. wonderful to have you here today, Kristin. Thank you for taking time to tell your story to my audience.
(01:58) Kristen Harcourt:
Thank you, Doreen. It’s an honor to be here. And I’m really looking forward to this conversation.
(02:03) Dr. Doreen Downing:
So, what I like to do in the beginning is to lay the groundwork, the– what is it that is the history, your history, where you felt you didn’t have a voice, if you could just give us some background first?
(02:19) Kristen Harcourt:
Absolutely Doreen. So I, I think that my story’s a bit unique. And that I know for some people, I talk to them, they’re like, I don’t like public speaking, it makes me nervous and anxious, and all of these different things. And there’s a part of me, the extrovert in me, who likes to talk, has a lot to say, as a little child that was on the report card a lot: “Kristen needs to stop talking during class and listen to the teacher.” So speaking in some capacity has been comfortable for me. And I mentioned to you that I did my first speech contest in grade five, and I’m talking about my sibling, actually, talking about how tough it is to have a brother and have a sibling and why parents should just have one child and trying to influence people around why that’s the case. So what I noticed during as I got older, and as I got into different places where I was needing to use my voice, I recognized that there are a couple of things that show up. There is a people pleaser who wants to be liked. And so, if there’s times where I might want to say something that people don’t agree with, where I might want to say things– I don’t want to say controversial, but I want to say a bit disruptive, where I might be disrupting the status quo. Where I might be wanting to really step up in a powerful way. I started to notice that there’s, there’s a people pleaser, a wanting to be liked, a wanting to be perfect and say things in the perfect way in order to not make mistakes, that I noticed I was silencing myself a little bit and not really showing up as powerfully in the world as I could, and keeping myself a bit safer, and not letting myself be quite as visible for– because somebody might not like what I have to say.
(04:11) Dr. Doreen Downing:
Well, I’m thinking that the little girl in fifth grade already had it figured out– what perfection must look like or what you needed to do or be in order to get the—what, the applause the grade to be good. So, it sounds like perhaps you had some kind of history already of having figured that out not only having a natural ability to enjoy speaking, but combined with probably some kind of guidance about how to be out in the world in a way that would be acceptable. Is that something that you might say is true about your family history?
(04:56) Kristen Harcourt:
Yeah, it’s a great point Doreen. I think that in terms of what I would have seen growing up, I definitely had parents and a brother who were, I wouldn’t necessarily say, my mom and my brother definitely more introverted. And then my dad, I’d say, ambivert, kind of in the middle. So, what I saw modeled was, you know, “we kind of keep things safer here, like, we don’t need to be so loud out there.” And so, I would have seen that as, that’s how we, that’s how we behave. And, and, and never in a way, they never held me back and said you shouldn’t be, you shouldn’t be as loud and putting yourself out there, but definitely didn’t see it modeled as much. And I do have to say– and I talked to my daughter and my son, and we actually had a conversation about this this morning, which is ironic– around the bossy piece. So, I did get that a lot, sometimes with teachers, sometimes with me, or even being in church in the Sunday school teacher, so other adults who weren’t necessarily my parents, but other adults basically telling me she’s, she’s too bossy, she needs to keep it quiet. She has too much to say for herself. So, there was definitely some of that. Now, my parents didn’t come back and say, “You shouldn’t be that way.” They didn’t say, you know, “you’re being too bossy and stop it” for sure. That didn’t come from them that way. But there were other adults in the outside world in the community that were giving me that message.
(06:22) Dr. Doreen Downing:
Yes, that’s what happens. We have our first environment, which is our family. And we usually, for many of us, that’s true. We can shine. Others, no, that’s not so true. But if we have inner, some kind of security in the family, but then we move out a little bit into the world, that’s where we start testing. It feels like we start saying, “okay, am I acceptable in this arena?” And I hear that what you said is that when you stepped into these other arenas, it was like, no, no.
(06:59) Kristen Harcourt:
Keep it down, keep it quiet. I always I always reference, Sheryl Sandberg where she has a quote that says, “Stop telling your daughters they’re bossy, tell them they have executive leadership skills.” I definitely didn’t get any messaging around “Oh, wow, you’re a natural leader. Keep speaking…” Now later on in life, I think I did get a little bit more of that. But in those formative years, it wasn’t encouraged, it wasn’t celebrated, that I naturally had a lot to say for myself, it was really seen as a negative quality.
(07:31) Dr. Doreen Downing:
I think you just pinpoint exactly what we’re talking about, is that the early messages, the environments that we get ourselves surrounded is kind of like a mirror, you know, you look out and instead of having “the mirror” (other people) tell you, “Yeah, you, you’re a natural leader,” it was “shut up,” is what it sounds like. And so, there’s a little bit of conflict, but you moved on nevertheless, with your spirit, your bright, strong spirit. And that’s where it seems like our environments, our arenas get larger. And so that seems like what must have happened for you, is that you started to, what, enter the world of work, where you– those environments are already pretty containing aren’t they? They have certain norms, and, you know, we have to fit in, especially as women and you know, you’ve got a natural tendency to stand out and stand up, it feels like you’re noticed, and is that a good thing or not? And so, say a little bit about that part of your journey, please.
(08:47) Kristen Harcourt:
Yes, that was also very interesting, Doreen. Because, as I left, graduated from university, and started to get into the corporate world, I actually found that some of those patterns were repeating and I was experiencing what I actually is– and I love the way that you’re wrapping this up so beautifully– I didn’t actually even see it in that way until we’re talking about it right now. But I did have some people, those first couple of bosses that were similar to those people that I would have experienced out in the community. And they definitely weren’t mentors. They weren’t helping me to grow, encouraging me to grow, they were actually trying to keep me—“let’s just keep you safe here.” Sometimes almost fearful, like I wanted their job and wanting to move into leadership and I wanted to pull them aside and say, “You have nothing to fear, this isn’t the direction I’m going into. I don’t actually want your job.” So I did experience that with a couple of leaders and then I had a leader who actually had some dysfunction around leadership and just, one of those people that quite abrasive as a leader and probably shouldn’t be in leadership. But when I’m happy to report– and this is where I probably started to see a lot of those shifts about 15 years ago– got surrounded, it just happened to be that I kept on getting amazing mentor. So, whether in the organizations I was working in, it might not even be my direct leader but I felt confident enough to be reaching out to people and saying, you know, this is my trajectory. This is where I want to get to, I would love to be able to learn from you. And so I kept on asking people to be mentors in that way. And then ended up having some amazing, amazing bosses for my next two or three bosses, who, to kind of put it, I’ll wrap it all up– when I got to my last boss, before I became an entrepreneur four and a half years ago, when we were having the conversation, he said, “you know, Kristin, it’s been such an honor to work with you,” you know, “I admire you so much and it’s been so great, but I can wear my boss hat and we’re really sorry to see you go. But as your friend, you are so ready to soar and I can’t wait to see what you do and what you create next.” And that’s the difference, right? So now I just kept on being surrounded by people who not only encouraged me, but sometimes even saw potential in myself that I might not be able to see. And really encouraged me to, to take leaps to, to think bigger to be really thinking in a limitless way. And so I feel like I was I was lucky in that I was surrounded by some great people. But I also wanted to take some credit as well. I asked, I went out there and asked for people and said, “Can you can you mentor me, I would love to learn from you.” And they were very happy to take on that role. They were actually excited to be asked to be a mentor!
(11:38) Dr. Doreen Downing:
What a great message you just offered there about the asking. And I remember finding a mentor for myself. And I took her out to lunch one day and told her I wanted her to be my mentor. And she put her hand across the table took mine and said, “I’ll teach you everything I know.” And I imitated her. I even wore the same perfume and I went and got my colors done. And so, there was a way of following in her footsteps that helped me I think, find mys—or, bring out more of the me that I saw in her because actually I guess I must have seen myself in her and it wasn’t so much I want to be her it’s just there was that draw to a certain kind of mentor. So I like what you just said about the “asking” because the asking seems like it has some kind of what, information in it?Llike you’re, you’re drawn to this person, this mentor. So, there’s something magical or magnetic about that, I guess I’d say. So thank you for pointing out to people to make sure and look around, ask, and don’t stay stuck in bad relationships. So, so a little bit more about your journey to finding your voice.
(13:04) Kristen Harcourt
Yes. So that journey has been interesting and it’s ever evolving. And I believe never done. I can, I will continue to find even more ways, I’m sure, that I can be showing up even more powerfully in the world. But what I did in order to be able to feel more comfortable is– it’s funny, I say “comfortable,” but actually it was the opposite. I kept doing things to put myself outside of my comfort zone. And through that a lot of growth. So, from a speaking perspective, continuously going to training and being around different people who bring different aspects to, to speaking. As an example, I know you and I both have a passion for improv. And improv is so great because it for me, it really encourages me to be playful and have fun and not be a perfectionist and just let things happen as they go. And I realized through doing improv, that it actually comes quite naturally to me. And so, the more I allow myself to trust, that it’s beautiful what I create. So even for myself as a speaker, if I look at who I was as a speaker 15 years ago, and who I am today, 15 years ago, I still like to plan. I like to be the expert. I like to go out there and make sure I know all the answers. Now, I don’t, and I welcome and I love when questions come in that I don’t know the answer to or not maybe that I don’t know the answer, but I don’t need to be prepared ahead of time to know what are the questions that are going to come up. It’s actually fun in that moment to see what comes up and see what answers are there for me in that moment. And I like to describe it as a “co-creation” and an answer I might have one day could be completely different the next day or a week from then. It’s what was coming up through me in that moment. So, one of the things I’ve really noticed in terms of speaking when I feel like my most authentic itself and really feel in flow is when there’s a, there’s a level of trust, there’s a level of letting go, there’s a level of surrendering. And I want to be clear, it’s not like I’m not doing any preparation ahead of time. Of course, I know my topic, I know what I’m speaking about. But I’m not so married to my content that it has to look exactly like that. Because in that moment, as I’m co-creating with a group, something might show up for me based on the questions or based on what I’m noticing, and I allow that to emerge. And so, for me– and I know, people who have seen me speak have said the same thing– it just feels like this presence, that you’re just fully connecting with the people around you in your audience. And, and to me, that is what it is. Because I’m just allowing myself to be fully present in that moment. And not, needing to have it all figured out. And that’s, that’s something I continue to grow that muscle. But the more I do it, the happier I am, the more joy-filled I am. Because to me, that’s when I’m really, really connected to my most authentic self.
(16:11) Dr. Doreen Downing:
The muscle you just talked about is the “inner presence muscle”, isn’t it? That’s what I call it too, the inner presence muscle. And also, just watching you and listening to you, I feel like you know how to, we’ll call, “dance in the moment.” Right? Yeah, so that means with all elements, and we are partnering with whatever comes up and not denying it. And that’s one of the improv “yes-and”, you know, instructions, just take what is there and add to it, as opposed to block it? And oh, I shouldn’t… it’s yes-and. Wonderful. So, with this beautiful transformation over a lifetime, it feels like now being this particular kind of coach that you talk about. Tell us more about what you actually do with leadership coaching and your business.
(17:11) Kristen Harcourt:
Thank you, thank you for asking Doreen. So, I always like to talk about my big mission. And my big mission out there in the world is to raise consciousness globally by humanizing the workplace and transforming leaders. And that’s my “why” It gets me really excited to wake up every day. And that’s a big why, right? So that why is something that I’m always asking myself questions, how can I think bigger, play bigger, do more things in the world to do that. And so, for me, right now, what that looks like, is doing a lot of coaching one on one with leaders. And the work that I love to do with leaders is, is take them on an internal journey and really transform from the inside out. And I tend to work with a lot of high performers, high potentials. And a lot of times what can happen is, they, they’re out there, they know their job, they do everything really, really well. But there can be some limiting beliefs that are holding them back. And those can be things like not having any balance in work life integration, because they feel like they need to always be on not holding boundaries, getting burnt out. Things like that. But it’s also a little bit what you’re we’re talking about today, too, is allowing them to be more authentic and show up as themselves and work and bringing their whole person. So, a lot of times what I like to say Doreen is I’m taking them– the head’s a beautiful thing, it’s not going anywhere, but I’m also dropping them down to their hearts so that they can lead with both head and heart. And so that’s the, where it’s really marrying the self-awareness, the emotional intelligence and the mindfulness, which is also linked to the mindset, and, and going on a journey where they just really recognize like, “Who am I and how do I want to lead? And what is that impact I want to make and my legacy? And where do I have the most meaning in my work? How can I build other leaders around me and be able to coach them in these ways as well?” And so, helping them to get outside of their comfort zone. So doing that with one-on-one coaching, doing that with organizations with doing a lot of leadership training and facilitating, and then doing keynoting where I’m really getting that message out into the world as much as I can. Last, a couple of weeks ago, it was speaking to an organization that had offices in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan. So you know, the whole world is where I want to get this message.
(19:36) Dr. Doreen Downing:
I get it. And I hope today is part of that mission of getting your message out to the whole world. And with those limiting beliefs I wanted to just speak about that just for a second here is, you know, both the awareness of well what, “how am I limiting myself” I think that’s the messages and that goes back to some of what I am working about, working on, which is the early childhood, through life, having developed a certain kind of insecurity or like what you did is, oh, it’s not okay to be a certain way. So those limiting beliefs, I think it’s so important to first check those out and to list them to confront them. And I think people don’t even realize that they are implanted early in life often and they, they need to be challenged now. And the other part of what you said I love is this inner kind of brilliance that you go for inside of people and see and, like what we were talking about earlier, mirror back to them, like a mentor. Oh, wonderful. Thank you. Well, anything more you want to say about the business that you’re doing? Or specifically, is there a way that people can contact you, is there something you want to offer the listeners?
(21:04) Kristen Harcourt:
Yeah, thanks, Doreen. So, I would just let people know if come on over to my website, I have a podcast called Inspirational Leadership that I started, my goodness, I think almost 19 months getting close to two years ago, really started off as a passion project. But it really, it’s talking about this right? What does it look like to create workplaces where leaders can show up with both their head and heart? And then what does it look like to humanize the workplace and we go into all sorts of different areas, whether that’s diversity equity and inclusion, whether that’s LGBTQ communities, whether that’s around we’re all leaders and leadership is a title and it doesn’t mean that you’re not a leader because you don’t have that title, so shifting any of that mindset, just amazing guests from all over the world. So, check out Inspirational Leadership and I would also encourage anyone if you have additional questions want to have a conversation, I’m very active on social media. And the extrovert in me always loves to have a conversation.
(22:04) Dr. Doreen Downing:
So again, with that be Kristen, K-R-I-S-T-E-N and Harcourt, H-A-R-C-O-U-R-T. Do you have a website then that would be, what, what is your…?
(22:17) Kristen Harcourt:
Yes, you spelled it out perfectly! It’s KristinHarcourt.com so not too hard to find.
(22:20) Dr. Doreen Downing:
Wonderful. Well, what’s a last word to us today?
(22:22) Kristen Harcourt:
You know, what’s showing up for me right now, and especially I’ve noticed this in the pandemic over the last, my gosh, almost getting to a year and a half now. I just encourage everyone to have some self-compassion and grace. Because I see leader after leader being super super hard on themselves. So, I encourage you to speak to yourself the way that you would speak to other people that you love.
(22:50) Dr. Doreen Downing:
Hmm, that’s beautiful. Yeah. Grace under pressure. Yeah, thank you very much, Kristen.
(22:57) Kristen Harcourt:
Thank you, Doreen.
Also listen on…
Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.
Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.