In this episode of Dominate Your Day, Dana Williams speaks with Liji Thomas about the power of utilizing strengths & working in your purpose.
Dominate Your Day Podcast
We are so excited to share the eighth episode of the Dominate Your Day Podcast! This podcast is for any professional or business owner who wants to live intentionally and dominate their day. Dana Williams and her guests will bring you practical advice about how to create a productive life through tools and experiences from guests who have designed the life they love.
At Dana Williams Consulting, we teach you everything you need to know about how to live intentionally and Dominate your Day based on your unique talents. We have also created some great tools like The Strengths Journal™, a daily companion guide to the CliftonStrengths assessment.
Episode 8 ft. Liji Thomas
Starting in January 2021, Liji leads the diversity, equity, and inclusion journey for Beautycounter, a high-growth company in the clean beauty space whose mission is to bring safer products into the hands of everyone. In her current role, Liji reports directly to the Founder and CEO and is charged with embedding DE&I into the fabric of the company, from mitigating bias in talent management systems to P&L responsibility in impacting greater revenue growth from multicultural markets and an increasingly diverse Customer base.
Liji is married and is the proud mom of two girls. In her spare time, Liji contributes to various charitable
and civic causes. She is a former Jesuit Volunteer and a 1998 graduate of Vanderbilt University. She has
an MBA in Finance, a Master’s degree in Accounting and a Master’s degree in Information Technology
Management and Consulting and holds CPA, CIA, CRMA, and SHRM-CP designations. She was chosen to
deliver her graduate school commencement address and is a graduate of the Leadership Dallas Class of
Liji’s top 5 strengths are Input, Learner, Strategic, Woo, and Positivity.
Below is a full transcript of the conversation, including timestamps. To subscribe to Dominate Your Day on Apple Podcasts, click here.
Narrator: [00:00:00] Welcome to Dominate Your Day where Dana Williams shares real conversations with leaders, coaches, and visionaries from all facets of life. She talks about all that goes into leading a life with intention and dominating your day. In this episode, she speaks with Liji Thomas, the Senior Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Beautycounter.
Dana Williams: [00:00:24] Welcome everybody to Dominate Your Day podcasts, and I couldn’t be more excited today to introduce you to one of my favorite people in the world, Liji Thomas. Liji is somebody, I guess we became friends, gosh, probably 10 years ago. I’m guessing maybe eight years ago, and watched her at Southwest Airlines, and I’ve watched her grow in her career and continue to grow and got the opportunity to be your coach.
But I wanted to bring her in today to really share with you how she has developed and been designing her life as a mom, as a wife, as a leader. She’s currently the Senior Vice President of Diversity Equity and Inclusion at one of my favorite brands, Beautycounter. So welcome Liji. We’re so excited to have you here today and just love hearing your stories from afar.
I think this year we’ve gone through COVID, fires, parenting- how to parent at home while running a business- leading diversity and inclusion for several corporations in California. Wow. What a year? Right? I mean, what a year, when you look back at last year, 2020, if you had to think about that year, what, what kind of stood out for you as a lesson learned, or as you
got into the year and managing all the people you had to manage in your home, and your girls with school and parents. And what, what kind of lessons did you learn through that time? Liji?
Liji Thomas: [00:01:58] Yeah. So, Dana, first and foremost, thank you for the warm welcome. It is always a personal and professional pleasure anytime I get to interact with you.
So, what did I learn, and I think so many of us learned over the unprecedented and unexpected. I mean, there was no way we could have predicted everything that would have happened. You know, just about a year ago from today. You know, there’s that saying Dana that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react. If there was anything that became clear last year,
so a couple of things, one you know, I think it’s, there’s an analogy for us as people about when, really, devastation happens or when unexpected terms personally, professionally, you know, it can alter the course of your life in very significant ways. And so, to be true to people’s experience,
last year was devastating for so many people. You saw six plus years of gender diversity progress in corporate America being rolled back. You saw so many gains that got erased women’s experience in the workplace, et cetera. So much of what I focus on as a leader in diversity, equity, inclusion, I will say, the flip side of that was an awakening that happened, which is the awakening of the disparate impacts of systems in our society and culture on people of color, on women.
Companies also had an awakening around the holistic nature of how we need to approach people and our employees, and that it’s a false dichotomy to just focus on one part of a person we’ve got to look holistically at the workplace experience. Companies went seemingly overnight to full-time work from home yet, considering questions of, are we still building connection?
Are we still creating workplaces of belonging? And how do we do that now in a virtual environment? And, you know, I think that companies have- you saw transformation in some of the best possible ways, considering health and wellbeing, which is so much a part of Beautycounter’s mission to bring safer products into the hands of everyone.
Health and wellbeing of our people was front and center. And then looking at that through an equity lens and our all people are, all of our employees in a workplace, are they being best served? So, you know, as tough as the last year was from certainly a personal- so many people lost so much. There was also this great awakening that I hope best serves us all to create environments workplaces in a society and culture that best serves us all.
Dana Williams: [00:05:09] I love that. I like to ask that question first, before we talk about your strengths, because I love hearing your strengths in that. It was so evident, and I love some of the words you picked. So, can you share with the audience, your top five Clifton Strengths?
Liji Thomas: [00:05:25] Happy to. They are Input, Learner, Strategic, Woo, and Positivity.
Dana Williams: [00:05:33] So what strengths kind of did you lean on during uncertain times. What kind of fueled you because you have that Woo going, which is winning others over, right? And that’s hard when you probably got your energy, I’m guessing, from doing Zoom because you couldn’t get out and meet new people.
So how did you, how did you find that energy for your Woo, or what did you use to kind of get yourself energized?
Liji Thomas: [00:06:01] Yeah. You know Dana, I think our ultimate energy comes from being deeply tied to purpose. So, you know, I’ve been, as you know, Dana, cause you were a foundational part of the start of my journey in diversity and inclusion at Southwest Airlines.
You know, back then that was 10 plus years ago where the diversity equity and inclusion conversation in corporate America was nowhere near what it is today, especially with everything that happened last summer in the wake of the senseless murders of George Floyd and Brianna Taylor, unfortunately, so many others.
So, you know, I get out of bed every day thinking, thanks to you, intentionally about how do I use the gifts that I have to powerfully serve my purpose in the world. And I think about, and so, you know, are there days that are tough for all of us? Of course, but when your work is more than just a paycheck, it’s about creating a world,
and playing an instrumental role in fashioning a world that better serves a vision of what the world should be like, and that’s the ultimate energy for me. So, and then thinking through, well, what part of your question was what strength has best served that, and when I look at all those strengths,
so certainly woo, positivity, especially with everything that happened. But I would say Dana, it’s the strategic, it’s the ability to tie seemingly disparate parts of the employee, experience, health and wellness, diversity, equity, and inclusion, disparate impacts, health, Beautycounter’s mission. So, so many parts of that strategically into a holistic
whole that gives you the culture. So, I’ve often talked at Beautycounter about our north star is to build the most inclusive, equitable, socially conscious, and profitable brand on earth that aligns with our larger strategic mission of being the world’s most admired and trusted beauty brand. And so, to me, bringing those parts together, it gives me a lot of, despite the tough parts of this journey, gives me a lot of energy because you realize that you are uniquely positioned
to do that work and to not only influence change at Beautycounter, but to influence change for an entire industry. And for whether it’s a, Beautycounter is a B Corp, so whether it’s B Corp in general or for corporate America in general, and I get up every day thinking to huge responsibility, but it’s a huge privilege to get to do that as well.
Dana Williams: [00:09:05] Where is your Belief? Do you have, I think, I remember you having belief pretty high in one of your talents. I think it’s high. I hear it a lot in what you’re telling. And we, as you talk about purpose and mission, I know what your Positivity too. That’s probably driving that. But I love that you have this mission, that your mission of focus.
So, if I were to ask you 10 years ago, 15 years ago, Would you see yourself where you are right now? Is this something that you had even in your wildest dreams thought about kind of being this leader, this female leader in this diversity equity inclusion space with a major beauty brand right now, being able to help make that difference in people’s lives.
Liji Thomas: [00:09:55] Not at all Dana, I mean 10, 15 years ago. So, you know, before I ever took a foray into diversity equity inclusion, I had 15 plus years of working in Internal audit, compliance, risk management business strategy. And then was really blessed to be asked to build diversity and inclusion for Southwest Airlines, which is where I really got my start in this work.
As you know, Dana, I have the good fortune of having you as my personal strengths finder coach, embarking on the StrengthsFinder journey. And that has, you know, what I’ve discovered, Dana, is as you lean into your strengths, as you lean into your purpose in this world- and I believe it exists for all of us-
it’s just a matter of really figuring it out. Sometimes our purpose is like mine. It’s in corporate America. It’s to really think about transformational change. And sometimes our great purposes in our families or in our communities. So, I think it’s really, you know, I tend to love quotes.
There’s a quote that says, “there are two most important days in our life: the day you were born and the day you figure out why.” So, figuring out that purpose, figuring out why we’re here, because I don’t believe it’s an accident and I believe everything, I know I can certainly testify to the fact that everything that has happened, including the times when I thought,
“Gosh, this is really a roadblock,” or it’s really fundamentally like just the rug gets swept up from under your feet, which it has happened to me. It’s almost the times when you’re being set up to do your best work in the world, and I believe that in my heart of hearts. So, this has definitely been a journey, but there was no way if you asked me 10 or 15 years ago, what do you think that you’d be doing?
I went from taking in time financial statements and the internal audit department at Southwest Airlines. No knock on that. It was really great work, and I have full appreciation as a recovering auditor for all my fellow auditors, but that was not really my purpose, but did every step of the journey
set me up for. And hey, I think the only time you fail is when you think the journey’s done, I’m still a work in progress. I still think about what more can I do? Not only Beautycounter, but to I mean, this is now a non-negotiable corporate conversation in corporate America. I’m always thinking about what more can I do for my team, for the people I serve and for work that I feel is really good work in the world.
So, so it, I don’t think this journey is done, but to answer your question 10, 15 years ago it would have seemed like a very distant dream that I would play the role that I’m playing today.
Dana Williams: [00:13:04] And I think you’ve probably been preparing your whole life for where you are right now. Like you said, just the journey, whether it being, understanding financial statements and understanding, auditing, and understanding customer experience, and then building a diversity inclusion department and then going to a major company and helping to broaden that a diversity inclusion, and now being asked to how bring it together for another company.
It’s- when I’ve watched you in this journey- it’s been great. And I think what I want to encourage those listening is that you always were out to improve yourself. You never stopped thinking about what you could do to grow and to learn and to change. And you didn’t wait on a leader or a person to do that.
You were always out there. I know you have high Learner. You learning was very important to you, and I think it served you because when the opportunity came, you were ready. And I think that’s such a great, a great statement I’ve tried to live by. It’s just be ready. Don’t be waiting on somebody else to teach you something or get what you, you know, you go out there and get it.
And I’ve seen you do that Liji. Over the last, you know, five or six years, watch you as you’ve gone into new companies help lead, how bring a team together. I still hear from your other team, and they miss you. You really brought them together. You taught them about strengths, but you taught them also about teamwork and how you valued each of them.
And I see you doing that now in this new role. So as you look at this opportunity where you are right now, as you look at influencers- I know right now you’re influencing probably a lot of young women in leadership roles- but who are the women, men, people in your life that have kind of mentored you all the way through as you’ve come across either a new obstacle, or a new opportunity,
or a new growth challenge, who were those people, and what did you learn from your mentors as you went on that journey?
Liji Thomas: [00:15:08] How much time do we have Dana?
Dana Williams: [00:15:11] Well, girl, we got as much time as you want.
Liji Thomas: [00:15:14] I have been really blessed enough to have a lot of people that have poured into me.
You often hear people talk about a personal board of directors if you will.
My board is really, really large. I have people that I can just pick up the phone and “Hey, I’m struggling with something at work,” so those people are invaluable, and there are people who you not only have a professional relationship with.
I do tend to really have deep and close relationships with people where they’re not only guiding me, but they’re also giving me the tough truth ways in which I am being complacent or ways in which… Sometimes I think we all need a nudge to move us to our place of discomfort when we get too comfortable because comfort and growth do not co-exist, that’s another thing that I believe in my heart of hearts.
Dana, I’d be remiss particularly on your podcast, if I didn’t talk about the role that you played. You had, as you know, you coached me for a year plus after we did the initial strengths assessment, you knew the Southwest Airlines environment, and you really helped me to understand, you know, kind of how I’m in my ceiling of, so those who are familiar with strengths will recognize this language,
where are you in your ceiling, where you in your basement, how you really show up? You know, so, so thinking, because it’s not, this work is not one and done. It is an ongoing journey of discovering how do I more powerfully own my strengths and, you know, really clarifying your vision and your purpose.
And those things walk hand in hand along this journey as life presents you opportunities. So Dana you probably don’t know it cause I’ve never formally communicated, but you’re part of that personal board of directors I have. I know I can call you or text you, as busy as you are,
and you are someone who deeply inspires me because you’re also someone that knows what your purpose is in this world. You took the leap of faith, like I did, to leave Southwest Airlines, a fabulous company in its own right, but you also know when your purpose is broader than, than just
one institution. So I, you know, the problem with naming your mentors is you’re inevitably gonna forget somebody. But there are so many, and I continue to add to, I mean, I think Greg Renfrew, the Founder and CEO of Beautycounter, an amazing story of entrepreneurship using commerce as an engine of change, understanding.
That’s another thing that’s been laid bare, and the pandemic is the absolute front and center nature of health and wellness for employees, and for people, and for society in general, mean if COVID has laid bare any- and, and also that DEI connection, diversity equity, inclusion, the disparate impacts of that.
And that it’s not the same for everybody. And so you know, so many day now that that continued inspire me, and I’m just deeply grateful for so many people, including yourself.
Dana Williams: [00:18:42] Well. Thank you. And I’m glad you brought up the personal board of directors. That’s kind of on my, one of my tip sheets for leaders and entrepreneurs is, you know, in order to lead an intentional life,
you’ve got to create that board of directors and people that you can go to to kind of represent those different areas of your life. Where you can call upon them at any point in time to guide you. That are always there for you, that are your cheerleaders, that are ready to kind of offer you that thing.
Cause we can’t be all things to all people. But when we get into situations where we’re growing in our career, those are the people that are kind of rooting us on and cheering us on and in right there for us. So, you know, it’s it’s, I love that analogy. I think strengths even brings that up. They encourage that, Gallup encourages that within their employee groups, that everybody has their own board of directors and they actually list those people out and draw them.
I’ve had people draw them around a table and put them on the table. And mine will change every so often, or I’ll add a new one depending on what I need. And one of my latest ones was my daughter. She became one of my board of directors because she can help me. We call it that reverse mentoring.
So that was the other thing is you’re mentoring to a lot of people, but you also have people mentoring to you. And, and I think that is really powerful to have both of those going at the same time as we’re, as we’re leading up and, and also serving, serving those around us. So I love that. So I know that you and I have talked a lot about strengths and a lot about as you’ve grown up,
do you recall a time when you were young, when one of those strengths popped out, you know, the positivity, the strategic, that learner I know you have several degrees in several distinctions, so I always think about your learner over that, but was there anything that popped through as you were a young child with your strengths?
Because our strengths are with us ever since we’re young. So I always like to kind of bring that up if there’s an opportunity that. You know, you think about there?
Liji Thomas: [00:20:46] Yeah, absolutely. Dana. So the learner. Yes. I think about that. I remember when I first did the assessment and got my report detailing my top five strengths.
It was as if someone opened up my head and looked at my inner most thoughts about how I approach people in situations. There was a line in my report. I think it’s tied to, you may know better than I do, Dana, I think it’s tied to Input where it said something like “as a child, you might have been a collector of things or information” and that’s absolutely spot on.
So, so I think that’s the input, the learner. Yes. Lifelong learner. I think you alluded to formal learning. So. Graduate degrees, I’m a CPA, certifications, et cetera. So, but there’s also the, you know, you talked about Dana your daughter be your mentor and that, that reverse mentoring. I have a 13 year old daughter,
Athena Joseph who just started her own crochet business. And she is on Instagram. And so as someone who is not, you know, trying to get better, but I’m not as social media savvy as she is, if you want to get real savvy about social media, just go ask a teenager. And so she’s been mentoring me in terms of learning and how to use social media and DMS and, and all of the, the lingo and the latest whether it’s, you know, whatever the latest social media platforms.
So, you know, I, yes, it’s been there since the beginning, but I think, unless you go through this journey or you start to think that the longest journey any of us will ever take is the journey. So while it was always with you, you never really understood it until you stopped to look. Internally at why, why do I show up the way I do,
to, why does certain work really resonate? And you look at the strengths and you can see and you know, you, and I both know day now, when you are operating in your strengths, it’s really when you have come alive. So.
Dana Williams: [00:23:14] And I love that. And I love how you’re talking about a Athena and how she’s- I’m going to tell you to watch out now because Whitney had a lemonade stand and then she had some other businesses-
so you’re growing a young entrepreneur right now. So
Liji Thomas: [00:23:27] Girls need more of young female entrepreneurship. So if you’ll indulge me on the diversity and inclusion, less than 5% of venture capital funding goes to female founded, and women of color entrepreneurial ventures. So yeah. So, and I think Dana, how many great ideas have we missed out on because of bias in who we fund in the voices we amplify.
It’s part of the passion for this work, because I want to create a world where there are no barriers to full human potential. So whether it’s Whitney or Athena or countless other women, people of color. Whatever the underrepresented category is, LGBTQ talent, who, because of bias or because of structural issues, their ideas don’t get funded or their voices don’t get amplified.
Let’s transform the world, literally, and let’s create a world where there are no barriers to full as human potential, whether they’re for our daughters or for countless other voices that don’t get heard because of structural issues or bias.
Dana Williams: [00:24:39] I love that. And I, I want to ask you, those are big shoes to fill that you’ve got to, that you’re putting right now, out there.
And you’re pioneering a lot of this work as you’re building out how that looks and that passion and that mission you have and you were created for this. And you have to approach in so many unique ways, right? As you’re building transparency, you’re building trust, you’re building education around it in a way.
What are you learning? How are you creating this great stage for others to be, whether it be female entrepreneurs to get funded, or those not recognized because of the race or color in whatever business they’re in. That’s a big, that’s a big deal , a big order.
So how do you manage that and how do you give yourself wins? Because not every day you’re going to have a win. Right. But how do you help guide yourself? I’m sure through your strategic and your positivity and your woo and all of your talents, but what keeps you kind of energized each day to keep going and to come up with another way in and another way to communicate that, have you found it’s?
I feel like you’ve found a rhythm and you’re, and you’re doing an amazing job, but for those out there who don’t even know where to begin in their corporations or their companies, maybe they don’t even have DEI yet. Maybe they are so small that they haven’t really talked about it yet. What is your wisdom, words of wisdom to them?
Liji Thomas: [00:26:18] So I don’t believe in a cookie cutter DEI approach. There’s, it’s not one size fits all. Every company institution has its own unique challenges. You know, at the end of the day, the best barometers or measures, if you will, of a company’s commitment to diversity equity inclusion or a culture belonging will always be the employees.
So so full disclosure, Dana I’m about three months into my role as a Senior Vice President of Diversity Equity Inclusion for Beautycounter. I was really intentional. Those first 90 days, not like, I’m not intentional about it now, but really intentional to, to listen. You know, what is the journey been like?
What is, what is people’s lived experience of the company of, are they proud to, to work for the company that I would say it’s fundamental to anybody who seeks to make transformational change. You’ve got to begin by listening to people and, and in an environment of trust, people will tell you what’s not quite working now.
You know, you ask a hundred people, you’re going to get a hundred different opinions. That’s just the reality of, of this work. That being said, if you have multiple data points, for the same pain point that gives you, cause it definitely, but you can’t boil the ocean, but if you go after the, you know, top three or four things and you hit the ball out of the park, you communicated about it,
well, you create a strategic plan. You tell people, this is what we’re going to do, and this is why. And then you go do it and then you solicit feedback and then you come back to them and say, how did we do you not only gain people’s trust and buy-in, you also focus your efforts on the greatest pain points, and you also invite people to be part of that journey with you.
And so, but that all starts with listening. And I think as a leader, the higher up you go. The more your charge to really listen, and you know, if you’re intentional about listening and listening while not just hearing, but listening, understanding what people are saying and why they’re saying what they are saying.
And listening with empathy, especially in the wake of everything that’s happened in COVID. If you really listen, people will tell you. And when they tell you a lot of times it is, it is not stuff you want to hear. It’s pointing to places you have fallen short, but if your desire to serve is greater than your ego, you take the nuggets of wisdom that people give you in feedback, and you go use it to fuel your purpose in the world.
And so, that’s what I would say to anybody who wants to make real change is listen, spend time with people. That builds trust and in a relationship of trust, take what they tell you, especially when there’s several data points pointing to the same pain point and then go do something about it and go report back.
And, let them hold you accountable to create a better institution, a better company, and people will do it. People are eager to partner. So my experience has been, if you give them the space, people will, will join hands with you to create transformational change.
Dana Williams: [00:30:11] I love that transformational change.
You’ve gone through that at least three times that I’ve known you in three different places. And what I want to talk about before we get into change is actually how you talked about listening, building trust and empathy, and those sound like very easy things to do, but you have to be so intentional with them.
And especially in building trust first, right. And creating that psychological safe space that your employees feel like they can really share what’s going on. How do you create those safe spaces in your environment? How do you create psychologically safe, trusted spaces? And I heard you say that you just spent some time listening.
And I think that was probably a big piece of it, but I’m just curious if you know your advice to other leaders of what you’ve learned, because you’ve had to go into new environments and get to know them and build that trust and then bring in new opportunities. So how have you done that?
Liji Thomas: [00:31:17] You said a word there,
Dana, that’s so key to all this and that’s the psychological safety. Interestingly enough Amy Edmondson, who’s a Harvard business school professor who’s really the thought leader behind a lot of how we think about and talk about psychological safety, particularly in the workplace, was one of her speakers of retraining event at Beautycounter that we did this past weekend.
But you know, psychological safety is where you know, people don’t have to worry about the negative consequences of saying something that’s potentially dangerous, or that reveals a blind spot for leader organization. And there are several leadership behaviors that we can demonstrate that create environments of psychological safety.
I mean, even the way that we show up in meetings or the way that oftentimes, for example, if there’s a decision that’s made or people are coalescing around a certain way to go around a business problem, et cetera inviting constructive dissent. You know, asking, you know, what might be wrong here?
What are we not seeing? What are our blind spots? You know, Dana I have asked that of my team and you know, had the good fortune of bringing you in to do Strengths Finder Assessment as well as coach, and have a team session with my former team at Southern California Edison. And one of the things I did with that team is actually ask them,
and, you know, I kind of concretized, I mean, I asked them, you know, what are my blind spots as a leader? And then Dana and I left the room and I have them write. So, therefore there was no penalty whatsoever. And I invited the constructive dissent. I will tell you, I came back into the room, and I looked at some of the, some of it was just, it was almost like it was humbling because particularly one of the comments that was made
was completely opposite. From how I thought I was showing up and who I wanted to be as leader, but that’s such a gift, but to create an environment where people and you invite that, and then you, what that does is it gives people the permission. And I would even say incentivize the descent, incentivize people who will tell it, because I do think too, you know, the higher up you go,
they say, that it’s lonely at the top. So I guess we’d have to talk to a CEO to find out if that’s really true. I’ve heard that several times. I would say it’s also lonely the higher up you go in leadership in corporate America, because people expect you to know all the answers. But, you know, in a VUCA world, volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous.
People reveal the power of diversity and diversity of thought and having different perspectives is that people help you see parts of a problem or a potential solution that you may not have yourself. And, and the team is way more powerful than any one person; the team is collectively more intelligent than any one person.
But in order to realize that collective intelligence, you’ve got to create collective intelligence, you’ve got to create that environment where people there are no inhibitions or barriers to sharing people’s truth. And if you can do that, it is transformational to creating dynamic workplaces.
And we have only scratched the surface on really realizing that.
Dana Williams: [00:35:01] One of the things that I think that people did not hear you say, and that, that I think is pretty powerful is vulnerability. You asked and you left the room and they wrote down in the, you said you were able to hear things you didn’t know
and then that started the dialogue. And one of the things I love working with leaders on is opening up that psychological space to be vulnerable. And we’ve had case study after case study of a leader that share when they opened up and said, “man, I’ve really had a bad day to day. How about you or how, you know, this is how I’m feeling,” then all of a sudden that becomes contagious and then the rest of the team can open up and say, “you know what?
I’m feeling the same way too.” And just by you saying, “tell me what, you know, I need to know, tell me what my blind spots are and, and let me understand those so that I can work on those.” That’s huge. And that’s that vulnerability that we all strive for because it creates a lot of that safe space as well.
And I saw you create that even after you left. And I talked to some of your teammates and they were missing you, just the fact that you were able to show them how to do that together without you, and be strong as a team. And I’m sure as you’re building this new team, the same thing will happen. So Liji, we talked about transformational change,
you’ve gone through several changes- change is inevitable. Our careers constantly change. We’ve got to manage change all the time. How do you manage change? I know you’ve got several strengths that can help you with that, but you know, just, I heard a lot about listening heard a lot about just seeking to understand it change, even if it’s the change that you’re dealing with- your family and homeschool and your daughters.
You know, change in, I remember talking to you when the fires came, and you guys had to evacuate and you know, just was just a constant year of change, but we’ll continue to have that and you’ll continue to have change. That’s change unexpected. And then there’s the change that’s the transformational
change that you’re working on with your employees, with your partners, and how you manage that. So I don’t, you know, I don’t know if there’s a thought on that, but change, I always have this saying that change is our friends because we do have to deal with change all the time. And so how do you, how do you manage change?
Liji Thomas: [00:37:28] So I, I agree Dana, that that change is, it’s both inevitable as well as it’s, it can often be a gift. You know, I, in the face of transformational change, whether that’s a job situation or certainly so many of the changes that happen in our pandemic world. I often think that it is so useful to be reflective and
contemplative. So sometimes I think there’s an immediate reaction or when a change occurs trying to pivot to action while in some situations, a bias for action is good and necessary. I think for, for huge changes in our lives, either personal or professional, you’ve got to take the time to think
through, you know, what are the implications of that change? What does it mean? You know, I also, I self identify as a person of faith. And so, you know, I think personally, like just, you know thinking through, okay, this change has occurred. How does this align with who I am, who I want to be in the world?
And unless you take the time to intentionally reflect, it’s almost like that you retreat to advance if you will. So, so you, you take time and, and it’s, it’s the toughest, it’s a discipline because in our go go go world. And when our calendars are full you know, from seven to six seven o’clock at night, you’re almost in this go-go and we live in a world that really rewards action, which is great.
And I’m all about action. At the same time, you can almost do more harm than good in the face of change. If you don’t take the time with yourself to reflect on what are the repercussions of this change, what does it mean for myself personally, for whatever institution that I work in or the people I care about.
And, and that I, I tried now I will say Dana, as much as I believe that that elusive goal for me sometimes, because I am, I think we’re all getting to go, go, go, but there’s a real power. And this was many years ago, right out of college. I was a Jesuit volunteer which is a service program that combines a faith element.
And we used to call ourselves contemplative in action. And so the idea that. Yes, you go and pursue your purpose and align your strengths with the work that you have in the world, but that you take time to think about all of those things that at the end of the day really matter, and they are about purpose and they are about your legacy and what you want to be known for.
And does this change, how will I react? So coming full circle to how we started the conversation, life is 10% what happens, 90% how you react. Being very intentional about how you react is key to ensuring that change has a beneficial outcome for you and the people you want to serve.
Dana Williams: [00:40:46] I love that. So as you think about your advice to your listeners, to the listeners today, what would be your advice as they work on their own personal purpose or mission statement and the legacy they want to leave?
And we heard some great thoughts from you about the legacy that you want to leave and giving people the opportunity to be who they are and, and no barriers no biases. What, what is your advice to those right now that haven’t even sat down to even think about that, and they’re kind of just going through life and working and volunteering, whatever, but they’re not sure what they’re here to do.
What kind of advice do you give you or your young daughters? What would be that, be that advice?
Liji Thomas: [00:41:30] Get clarity about who you are, what your values are, what your purpose is. Dana, I’m not just saying this cause this is your podcast, but discovering my strengths was transformational for me as a person and as a professional. I would encourage anyone to do strengths finder, go through that assessment and continue to push yourself
outside your comfort. The only way that growth occurs is outside your comfort zone. And I would also say that the things we regret in life nine times out of 10, at least from a professional perspective, are the things we didn’t do, the risks we didn’t take. And I’m not talking about foolish risks, I’m talking about risks that are strategically and intentionally and thoughtfully aligned with our purpose in the world.
I’ve never regretted any one of those risks. Have I disappointed some people have I perhaps, but there’s no greater disappointment than I’m coming to the end of our lives, I think, whenever that might be and having a tremendous amount of untapped potential I don’t think that there is an area you talk to or read those interviews of people on their deathbeds and the things they talk about, the regrets or about the risks they didn’t take, or the family and friends they didn’t invest in, or
spending too much time on tasks and work or, and not really thinking about the things that give us joy or the things that that really speak to our purpose. And there’s such an alignment I believe, and I’ve seen it in my own life between your God-given strengths, your purpose, the work you’re doing, and the people who are influencing you.
And if you can continue to pay attention to those things, the events that happen in your life, the people that come into your life, I don’t believe those things are accidents. And so, if you can pay attention to those, it will increasingly lead to a more fulfilling life where we align our talents and our strengths with the work we’re meant to do in the world.
Dana Williams: [00:44:00] I love that. And Liji, when I think of you, I think of a courageous leader and I think of a leader that knows how to go in and have the conversation and have the tough conversation, but also with a huge heart. And I think that is such a big piece of you being called to this work right now that you can come in and have that empathy and understand, and you can listen, but you also can be so courageous
as you’re stepping out in new territory. And I think about when I think about you stepping out is kind of like have you heard of the Great Wallendas, it’s the family that, they are tight rope walkers, and they do this amazing, and they said life is being on the wire. Everything else is just waiting.
And I love that. I mean, that’s so you Liji, I mean, you’re just out there and you’re making a difference and you’re helping people and you’re pointing to the common good and, and helping people along the way. So, I have to ask you, we get two questions before we close down. Just two more.
Liji Thomas: [00:45:08] Can I say one thing, Dana, in response to that, I love that quote, by the way, it also reminds me of, I think it’s that Mary Oliver quote, “what will you do with this one wild and precious life.”
Dana Williams: [00:45:21] Absolutely. And that’s what we’re here. That’s why we’re here. It’s like, don’t let anybody else tell you what you’re doing.
You figure that inside. It’s the resources inside you. And that is why the talents, knowing your talents is just the beginning of, of growing that and building that. So, and that is getting out there every day and dominant. We love the saying dominate your day because you can do that. Once, you know what your purpose is and you figure out what your strengths are, and you’ve got your, your board of directors around you and you’ve got amazing people to help cheer you on.
And even if you have some people that aren’t as hard, easy to cheer you on, you’ve got to pull that from within. So, what, how do you dominate your day? What’s the secret for you?
Liji Thomas: [00:46:05] You know, every day is going to get a little bit tactical, but hopefully it helps anyone listening, I, every week I’ll plan like the top priorities
for that week. And then every day now I have the two or three things I absolutely have to accomplish that day. I’ll also block out time. And if, if, you know, as fast paced as the world we’re living in, or as many demands on our time, if we don’t block, I will block out time on my calendar to do the things that I know have to get done.
And it’s a way of just prioritizing, dominating your day. And those things are aligned with purpose or, or, you know, strategically in the, in the role I play for the company where we need to take the company or this work. And so, I think having a way to bring your passion and your strengths and aligning it to the work you’re doing, but then having a day to day
way that keeps you accountable. And Dana, I know you just came out with The Strengths Journal, which is a great tool to do that too, is just to be accountable to what are the things that will help you because as we live our days is how we live our life. And so, if you don’t have a way that, that accountability and that purpose is really drilled down to your day to day, then you know, the time can escape us.
And so really being clear on. So, I, I mean, I, if you look at my planner and all that, there are priorities for the week. And then there are the two to three things I’m going to get done every day and not spending time with Dana Williams will start dominating my day today.
Dana Williams: [00:47:57] I got energy just knowing you were on the calendar today and we were going to be together. So, it’s great. Is there anything, as we close out that you would love to share with the audience that you didn’t get to say, or I didn’t ask you today? Any last thought as you leave this group today?
Liji Thomas: [00:48:14] I think we talked about a lot of great things.
Dana the one thing I don’t think we talked about that I would want people to know is I’m going to steal a line from Rushma Sajani the CEO of Girls Who Code, “you need only be brave, not perfect.” There’s such a need, you’ve talked about courage, Dana, courage isn’t not being afraid. I am afraid several times a week or a month.
But but it’s being brave. Having the conviction that you are exactly where you’re meant to be. And we do the world a disservice when we don’t lean into who we are and why we’re here. And don’t let insecurities, don’t let, sure be open to constructive descent, but powerfully and boldly step into who you are supposed to be and why you’re here.
And you know, the theme of the Beautycounter virtual training this past weekend was the future favors the bolt, and we need to be bold in service. I know for me, the only way to create the world as it should be is to boldly lean forward in partnership with so many people who care deeply about creating a more inclusive and equitable world.
And sometimes I think the hurdles we put are self-imposed. And so, be brave, not perfect. Because a lot of people are waiting for us to, to realize this work in the world.
Dana Williams: [00:50:00] I love that Liji. Thank you so much. What a great quote to leave us with. Be brave, not perfect. Okay. So, if people want to reach you, how can they reach you?
What’s the best way.
Liji Thomas: [00:50:13] Yes. I’m on LinkedIn. I’m on Instagram @liji.mary.thomas. I’m on Twitter. I would welcome the opportunity, Dana, for anyone listening to connect with me. I thank you, Dana, for the opportunity to, you know, really thank you for saying yes to being my personal StrengthsFinder.
Thank you for saying yes to every time I’ve engaged with you. Every time I’ve led a new team. And thank you above all for being a woman in her own right of passion and purpose who is also trying to create transformational change. I think that’s so sure we can have a glass of wine and a great meal and talk about life and our children and all that kind of stuff.
But we’re, I, I see you as part of my personal board of directors as also a woman who wants to create transformational change in the world and you know, at the end of the day, everything is truly a gift, even the things that don’t quite seem like it at the time. So, I’m just deeply grateful for all the gifts, including your Dana.
So, thank you for having me.
Dana Williams: [00:51:20] Well, thank you, Liji and you guys to reach out to Liji, amazing speaker, amazing friend, amazing wealth of knowledge, a courageous leader, a great mom and wife, daughter, a friend, and a great role model to so many of us as she is out there courageously walking on the wire and leading all of us watching her.
So, thank you guys again for joining us. Dominate Your Day with Liji Thomas, and please follow us anywhere you watch podcasts. We’re on apple podcasts and please take a listen and then also, as Liji said, we have the strengths journal at thestrengthsjournal.com would love for you guys. If you haven’t defined your purpose and you’re ready to get that going and your values and live intentionally each day, we’re here to help you.
We have a lot of coaching every month, coaches, to help you. So, we’re here for you and we get to the honor of being with people, like Liji and it is just an honor. So, thank you for all the difference you’re making in the world. Go make it a great day. And thank you for being here.
Liji Thomas: [00:52:22] Thank you, Dana.