Episode 147 – Coffee N5 – Caffeine and Conviction: Exploring Womanhood and Sincere Leadership with Shelley Zalis

Discover Shelley Zalis‘s incredible journey, learn how to build a business founded on women supporting each other, and delve into the world of conscious, heart-led leadership. This episode of Coffee N° 5 explores the art of running a business and growing your career with intention. Plus, uncover the power of Equality Lounges and find out how you can join this transformative movement. Explore the link between imposter syndrome, leadership, women, and training, and understand the significance of acknowledging people when they excel. Join Lara Schmoisman and Shelley Zalis for an enlightening conversation that’s bound to leave you inspired and empowered.

We’ll talk about:

  • The ups and downs of Shelley’s journey
  • Building a business based on women supporting each other
  • Conscious, heart-led leadership
  • How to run a business and grow your career with intention
  • Learn more about Equality Lounges and how to join
  • The link between imposter syndrome, leadership, women, and training
  • The importance of acknowledging your team’s positive contributions

For more information, visit The Female Quotient’s website.

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Also, follow our host Lara Schmoisman on social media:

Instagram: @laraschmoisman

Facebook: @LaraSchmoisman

LinkedIn: @laraschmoisman

Twitter: @LaraSchmoisman

Lara Schmoisman 0:05
This is Coffee Number Five. I’m your host, Lara Schmoisman. Hi, everyone. Welcome back to Coffee Number Five. And today I want thinking about global I know that everyone is tasked with and without going into politics, whatever is happening in the world. Now, news get really fast. Because we’re a global world and everything we it’s easier to get information at what’s going on in different parts of the world. But also, what is amazing about this is that we’re able to make a community with people that otherwise would have never know that they exist. And I’m so blessed because that this way, I was able to meet international people. But also I have a lot of my team that works from different countries. Not only that they are for origin from different countries, also that they are nomads, and they decided just to, to work around the world, which is okay by me. And actually, I think it’s amazing. But today, I want to bring someone special to you. Someone who is a world leader, and I don’t say this lightly, because create a community that have members all around the world and send us you heard me say many times, you don’t understand a culture and you understand what that culture laugh about. And it’s difficult to create a community that will address people’s needs from different cultures. So welcome, Shelley Zallis, thank you so much for being today here with me having coffee. Thank you so much for coming.

Shelley Zalis 1:46
Today. It’s such an honor to be here with you and I can already feel the warmth, the love and the connection that you bring to your audience because it’s it’s what you exude just even through the screen. So I am having my coffee with you. Cheers. Cheers to you. Let’s have coffee talk.

Lara Schmoisman 2:09
So shall we? Can you tell us a little bit your backstory? Because what we know about you is today who you are. Tell us how did you get here? Who was this girl? What did you want to be with when you grew up? Because I don’t think that this is a normal profession. What do you thought?

Shelley Zalis 2:26
Well, nothing about me is normal, which I think is what makes me unique and special. So my entire career or journey is a zigzag. You know, I think one other – I definitely zagged it’s how I got my name chief troublemaker. I’ve been very well known to break every rule that has made no sense for me and create the new ones. So I am definitely not a textbook girl. My career is not in a textbook, and I make everything up.

Lara Schmoisman 2:56
So which is a very, I mean, my career also is six saga been all over the place. And I was told many years ago, not so many years, I think 10 years ago when I was actually trying to look for a job. And I was told stay at home because you’re gonna make less money that your money. Your career doesn’t make sense.

Shelley Zalis 3:13
Yeah, you know, what’s a career it’s what, you know, I would say when you love what you do, it’s called passion when you don’t, it’s called stress. And so, you know, I have always followed my heart, your head tells you, you know, the rational what you’re supposed to do your heart, follow your heart leads you in the direction of where you’re pulled, you know, and so I’ve always been polled to, you know, what I feel and where I ended up belonging and, and so, you know, when I was a little girl, I always wanted to be a flight attendant. So, you know, I was thinking –

Lara Schmoisman 3:50
Global already

Shelley Zalis 3:52
Which makes a lot of sense I love traveling the globe, not because it’s about seeing things but it’s about feeling people I love people and you know, connecting people to one another. So I guess that makes a lot of sense. I am a 3 million miler on pretty much every airline. And I know when flight attendants get their hair cut, I’m like, nice haircut like, Oh, my husband didn’t even know or my partner didn’t even know. So I always wanted to be a flight attendant. And you know, I am. I have made up every business. So I’ve been a female first in pretty much everything I’ve ever done. My claim to fame in business is pioneering online research. Have you ever taken a survey on the internet? Yep. Okay, so I’m the mother of that invention. Sorry, not sorry. And so I started my career in the business of research, and now I’m in the business of equality. So both of those things did not exist until I created them. So that really was what I did. I pioneered online research. I migrated research from offline to online in a day and age were on The wealthiest men with broadband connections were on the internet. So that was 14 for modems. And then I was the only female CEO top 25 In my field. And then once I sold my company and stayed the five years I committed to I realized it was time to get back with generosity, what I wish I had rising the ranks as an only lonely and so I created it.

Lara Schmoisman 5:22
It is lonely, isn’t?

Shelley Zalis 5:25
You know, I was never really, quote-unquote, lonely. I always, you know, found my way and, you know, succeeded. But it is when you go to big industry conferences as sort of an only woman at the top, and you don’t like playing golf, and you know, want to get your nails done. And you know, the guys don’t really want to go with you. And you don’t want to just fit in to fit in, you know, I’ve always stood out. And I was always myself, I always acted like a woman. You know, I didn’t pretend to be a man Sarah Jessica Parker says it best trying to be a man is a waste of a woman. I always brought me to the table. Was that accepted? No, you know, I was always told there’s no room for motion in the boardroom. So you have two choices. Agree? Or do what I did give big speeches to 1000s Bring a motion to the boardroom. So I always brought me to the table. But I stood out like a sore thumb. You know. So it’s a lot more fun when there’s people like you that want to have fun with you. You know, I don’t like to drink scotch and bourbon, and, you know, gin and beer. And I don’t want to go to dumps you know, I like places. So,

Lara Schmoisman 6:50
I feel you I’m the same way. It’s like, the same thing. When I’m traveling. I don’t want to do my own bed. I don’t want to I don’t want to come to cook my breakfast because I am working or even if I’m on vacation. That’s my vacation.

Shelley Zalis 7:07
Yeah. And so, you know, it was that moment where I realized I’m going to create something called a girls lounge. And you know, to take on the boys club, the opposite of boys girl, the opposite club slash girls on. So that was like the heartbeat moment, which I call you know, following your heart. And when I left the corporate world to create the girls lounge and that was that, you know, moment where the female potion, you know, a mirage.

Lara Schmoisman 7:35
Let’s explain a little bit what the Girl’s Lounge is.

Shelley Zalis 7:39
Yeah. So it was, you know, I decided one day I wanted to go to CES, the Consumer Electronics Show, it was 150,000 people, I say less than 3% were women. And I was tired of going to these big industry trade shows that were, you know, an ocean of men and very few women. And I want to create a space for women to support other women. You know, I really was always the only women at these events. And I called Five girlfriends of mine. I said, Do you want to go with me to the Consumer Electronics Show and if you know other women invite them. 24 hours later, 50 women showed up. We walked the floor two remarkable things happened. One every single guys head turned like Where the heck did all you women come from? And that’s when I coined the phrase power of the pack. A woman alone has power collectively we have impact. And the second thing that happened was I was surrounded by women just like me. We talked about imposter syndrome. We talked about work-life balance. We all had power the purse money to invest in each other’s businesses. And it was just this incredible moment to be surrounded by girlfriends in business women supporting women. 50 women turned to 100 Women 100 Women to 300 women and 910 years later, we have 3 million women’s supporting other women across 100 countries across every industry women in cyber women in finance women in tech women in media, marketing, entertainment, music, construction, waste management, and sports. And once we had women supporting women, we then evolved from girls lounge to a quality lounge, bringing men and women conscious leaders C suite leaders together to talk about how we’re going to change the equation and close the gender gap together and that is all under the female quotient changing the equation closing the gender gap.

Lara Schmoisman 9:35
And so how any individual can join the pack today?

Shelley Zalis 9:37
It is easy, there’s no membership, there is no cost. It is all brought to you by Fortune 500 companies where we collaborate together so everyone works together to create these spaces at big industry conferences. And so you will see pop up a quality lounges at the biggest conferences around the world from CES to Cannes Lions to South by Southwest, to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland to most recently, we just came from the G 22. NBA All Star to, you know, wherever there’s a big industry conference, to RSA for cybersecurity, to next areas, automotive to wherever there’s big conferences that are predominantly male-dominated conferences, you will find an equality lounge. And so pre-COVID, we were doing upwards of 70 Lounges a year. The other area that we’re in is in the content space in the media space, we have over a million followers on Instagram, organic, we have over 350,000 followers on LinkedIn, we’re top voice for women in LinkedIn, we’re across every channel. And then we also provide research in this space. And then we advise fortune 500 CEOs on how to close the gender gap through an initiative called the flipping point, which is all around conscious mindset and intentional action for change.

Lara Schmoisman 11:05
I love about this about intentional actions, can we deep dive on that, because I think that a lot of people are, my dad always has a and I’m gonna try to translate it as good as I can in English, that he says that we measure the interest by how people action, the action of the people that if you’re interested in something even though you action, you’ll have an action for it. If you don’t you just sit down. If you’re interested, you go for it. But things that were used-

Shelley Zalis 11:40
Me gusta mucho su padre

Lara Schmoisman 11:42
Well, I’d like to say it in Spanish in today’s el – And so my father will be very proud of me, but the way that I’m portraying him anyway, I feel like there is a lack of intention many times as we grow as a CEO, or grown in our career, which has two things because that’s what I was supposed to do. I have an issue with the growth in your career that you I see a lot of people trying to grow into management because it’s the only way that they think that they can grow instead of growing by skills. To me, that’s a big, big issue that we have in our world. And I felt like we need to intentionally grow in what we know that is our, our best qualities of people.

Shelley Zalis 12:41
I really can’t stand when people make pledges. Pledges is, you say you’re gonna do something. Pledge, you know, you just do it, is there’s no such thing as trying. Yeah, we’re either gonna do it or you’re not. And, you know, the World Economic Forum says it’s gonna take 131 years to close the gender gap.

Lara Schmoisman 13:08
But that’s hard. That’s hard.

Shelley Zalis 13:11
It’s gonna be and why the – is a mindset gap. It is all we have the data, we created the internet and 25 years, we sent men to the moon and 10 should have been women if we faces and we created a vaccine in one year for COVID. How hard is it to pay Sally the same as Peter? It’s just women in leadership. This is all about conscious choice.

Lara Schmoisman 13:41
But also I think it’s our woman as woman’s, in this case on individuals, because I see that a lot of men are also suffering that they don’t know how to grow themselves.

Shelley Zalis 13:52
Yeah, this is not you know, and that’s why I said you know, this is not about men are bad. Women are good, we should not be taking power from men to give to women always is about creating a space, a work in the work environment that everyone can thrive, but everyone should have the equal opportunity to thrive.

Lara Schmoisman 14:14
I absolutely but also I think that depends on each individual that for example, my group in college, they were all men and me. I never felt a little different. But because I was and I perform as each one of them are better in some regards. I didn’t let anyone tell me and I was in my first degrees in screenwriting my second race in Production Direction of television, so you need to be had to be really mean you guys know my age. So back then being a woman, if you didn’t have that action? If you don’t show that you were able to do it, you will fail.

Shelley Zalis 14:53
Don’t give me a handout. I’m not asking for Hannah. I’m just asking for equal opportunity. And so you know, one of the biggest challenges in the workplace is caregiving. And caregiving is still predominantly a female issue. And so there are things that do you know, and by the way, one of the things that we do have to start doing is, you know, sharing responsibility home goes a long way to equal opportunity in the workplace. So a lot of it is with your partner, when it is at that stage, because we lose a lot of great women in the messy middle and middle management. So a lot of it starts at home, you know, if you both want to have dual income, then start having that conversation at home. But it also is, you know, if, if it’s long hours required and travel, and with maternity leave, and elective paternity leave, men tend to not take paternity leave, because they think it shows a sign of weakness. So

Lara Schmoisman 15:57
I said weakness, or is it fear that -?

Shelley Zalis 16:02
It doesn’t matter what it is. I don’t care what it is, it’s something. And what happens is the pay gap starts in two places, one at the first promotion, because men as for women don’t, and men negotiate better than women. So that has to stop. You know, why should companies not be just enforcing equal pay, or giving the promotions and not having the negotiation phase, because we know that women are not as great at negotiating than men. And the second is that the maternity leave place. So unless we are just going to give women the promotion knowing that men don’t take it. And it’s not mandatory for men and for women, that just give the women the promotion of when they take maternity leave so that we don’t miss that moment. So that we don’t have to keep catching up because we know that women never catch up.

Lara Schmoisman 17:01
So but there is there’s but there are also skills that last week I was touring a college with my son. And the tour was one more tour one more college, there was one thing that stood out for me in that program, everyone in this program, need to learn how to pitch. Yes. And I was wow. This is something that we should learn early on in our life, we should learn it in high school, we should learn how to pitch ourselves not only a project, because it’s like self brand awareness is not about a brand or a product. We are a brand we are as you are grown in a career. I don’t care who is your personal life I care about who are you as a professional, your career.

Shelley Zalis 17:48
I agree. But think about this. And you know, companies don’t even think about this imposter syndrome, which I keep saying are made up words, but you know, men and women have it. Men just in general tend to ignore women let the voice get louder. But think about leadership training in general, companies give leadership training to women. Yep. Not to men. Well, where do you think impostor syndrome starts, then? Men don’t think they need it. So they start acting with bravado. And women start subliminally feeling like they need it. So they start acting differently subliminally because they say I need the leadership training that he doesn’t.

Lara Schmoisman 18:34
Well, I think everyone needs needs leadership,

Shelley Zalis 18:37
but they’re not given it.

Lara Schmoisman 18:39
I mean, there’s any training everyone.

Shelley Zalis 18:45
Equally, yes. I’m gonna get it mentioned beginning it. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 18:46
Everyone has the same level of training.

Lara Schmoisman 18:52
Great, absolutely great. At least what you would need to have is the choice of like the same with paternity or maternity leave, you have to have know that pressure on you the same that choice because women, if they’re carrying the baby and they have a baby, it’s very different.

Shelley Zalis 19:06
Which I mean, women need the time, especially if they’re carrying the child. Yes. It was different.

Lara Schmoisman 19:18
Let me tell you, I had to take one day of maternity leave. I didn’t have any. Yes. I took one day when I was in the hospital and I was on the phone before I gave birth. They might have I’m turning 50 in January.

Shelley Zalis 19:33
Okay, so I’m 61. So if that was your day and age, imagine mine. We had zero maternity leave. Yeah. And breast pumps. I just wrote an article on this. In my day. We’re enormous, making tremendous sounds and there was no way we were doing that.

Lara Schmoisman 19:51
And yeah, absolutely. But my husband I have to say he had a boss who made me him feel horrible at the time. So he took also one day Yeah, won’t take any more because it will make him horrible. And he knew that he will affect his career. Yeah. 100%. And I know that times have changed. I know that we live somehow. But I think it’s more okay. And acceptable for men now to take that paternity leave. is more acceptable. But I think that the fear is still ingrained.

Shelley Zalis 20:26
Yeah, well, unless it was something that everyone did. Yeah. And, you know, why wouldn’t we make it just something that everyone does. And so we all follow the same pattern, which by the way, the best leaders today are caregivers. And we should be encouraging that the best caregivers empathetic, compassionate, passionate, collaborative, kind, generous, giving, thoughtful, like, Who wouldn’t want that? That’s what we should be putting on our resumes. Yeah. And that’s what we should be recruiting for and hiring for. And we should be getting rid of the assholes.

Lara Schmoisman 21:06
All right, yeah. No, I mean, personality is huge. And this is something I talked to my recurring theme in when they are interviewing on paper, people can be great. But personality, will loyalty and work ethics. That’s what I want in my team.

Shelley Zalis 21:24
I just want to say for all of your listeners, it’s not just those that have children, it could be caring for the elderly, caring for self, caring for pets. caring, caring, caring, be a caring kind, nice person, because that is the best way to develop culture. Absolute kind people, I say I hire for passion train for skill, unless to be a teacher. I mean, unless you would be an accountant, a lawyer or a doctor. Other than that, you know?

Lara Schmoisman 21:57
Yeah. Each one has, I mean, I respect everyone on their choices in life. And we need every person in this world, everyone has a role. And every role is important. But always care always heart. Yes. Be there for others. I mean, ask them, Are you okay? I mean, there’s so many times I can see, even my team is digitally, I can see that they’re off that something happened to them. So it’s okay to ask, are you okay?

Shelley Zalis 22:28
And would you like to add coffee with me?

Lara Schmoisman 22:30
Exactly. Let’s just take a break. Let’s take a pause. And it’s okay sometimes to ask about the day. I mean, I believe me, I’m the first one who wants performance in my team. But also it’s okay to take those little breaks and learn about the other about what’s going on in your life, because that alarming about your teammates will make you perform better. It’s so important. Amen. So let me ask you something, I know that we have little time left, that you have something else coming up today. But that role for leadership, for any individual is tough, the growth is tough. And I see a lot of the younger generations now that they’re trying to keep the learning curve, that they’re trying to go from having a degree to CEOs, I was actually given a conference at USC. And I was talking, I had a few of the students approaching me and asked me, okay, so I want to have my own agency. And I was, you’re still a student, you have so much to learn, what how do you recommend to do it, work for others learn what they do, right? And what they do wrong? And keep learning?

Shelley Zalis 23:49
Amen? I mean, we’re, we must be sisters from another mother. Because yeah, one told me the same thing and asked me this, and I said, you are not ready. And you will fail. If you don’t, you know, get the experience that you need. I mean, ever, they all want to be millionaires, you know, tomorrow, and they think starting their own companies is the solution. And I said, that is lazy, and you’re skipping the steps that you need. It’s called experience. And you know, you need the experience first. And the only way you’re gonna get that is by, you know, learning from others

Lara Schmoisman 24:23
I have to say, I am so glad that I made so many mistakes in other people –

Shelley Zalis 24:29
And I said, You have no idea. You just having a big idea is not the answer. You know, you need the wisdom and the experience and to learn from others. And it’s the same thing I tell, you know, everyone working in a silo in your homes is also not the answer, you know, working. The reason working in an office and around others is so important is social interaction. And you know, I’m not saying five days a week in an office is the answer. Sir, I said, But you young people do not understand the future looking back and social interaction with others and being around other people. It’s that water cooler moment that matters so much. And not just working people on your team day in and day out in this zoom screen, you know that that’s a good surrogate for not traveling all the time. But body language, and gentleman Gaga things that you pick up and jumping in and out of other people’s offices, and, and just listening and learning. That’s why I never had private offices. I always had open spaces so that you can learn from other people that are around you. And I would sometimes just pick up people say, Okay, move your desks, and sit next to people you haven’t sat next to, and just learn other things. And why I am the Jill of all trades, because at even as a CEO, I answered phones.

Lara Schmoisman 25:57
Oh, yeah. whoever listens to us from other mothers because I do the same, even –

Shelley Zalis 26:04
I talked to him. I would I am. Curiosity is so is one of the most important ingredients of being successful. In my opinion

Lara Schmoisman 26:15
One of the clients when I used to teach one of the classes that I used to do was sitting on in a hallway.

Shelley Zalis 26:20
Oh, yeah. Best thing ever.

Lara Schmoisman 26:23
Best thing ever. We had the best class ever. It was a brainstorming class. We were all sitting with the harvest screen within her phones, because we were all in the hallway talking. And was best class ever. And we all androids getting out of the normal space. Make you open your mind. I don’t know if it happens to but every time that I travel, I can see things from different perspective. I love watching people.

Shelley Zalis 26:47
And you know, you just give me an idea because I’ve 28 employees and FQ I’ve just decided I am going to do that. I have done that in a really long time. I’m going to shuffle. I’m going to call it the FQ shuffle. And I’m going to shuffle my teams around for the day, where they’re all going to go immerse themselves in someone in someone else’s shoes. I’m going to oh, that’s what I’m going to call it y’all heard here. I’m going to call it the FQ shoe shuffle. I love it. It put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

Lara Schmoisman 27:19
Yeah. Something I started doing a month ago. I N I love it. You know, my model in my agency is two things, we break the rules, we raise the bar. So we break the rules because of what we do for our clients and had the relationship we have with our clients. We’ve raised the bar because we always raising the bar, but we raised the bar internally. So we started we have a monthly challenge that everyone anyone can win, and they win pizza. But the other thing that I started is people can nominate other people for pricing the bar this month, during the month, and they get a monetary gift. And at the end of the month, we all in our happy hour. We all vote for it. And I love that. And it was such a such a powerful moment when someone nominate someone else for something that they did. It’s not even about who wins or who loses. It’s about feeling that someone else – that.

Shelley Zalis 28:26
I love that. Gosh, I learned so much from you. This is so fun. I’m going to do that. Yeah

Lara Schmoisman 28:31
Well, tell me how it goes. Because I mean, I love to hear people nominated here, other people to acknowledge because I noticed that we always acknowledging people when they do something wrong, why we cannot acknowledge people for doing something right. It’s time that we start acknowledging people for doing the right things. And before we go, I gotta ask you the same question that I asked absolutely everyone. That mistake, I believe that from mistakes, we learn that lesson that we will never learn any other way. What mistake is the what that mistake that teach you the best lesson?

Shelley Zalis 29:12
Okay, I make mistakes all the time. And I mean, I would say my favorite failures or my greatest successes, but I’m going to tell you one that I’ve made at TFQ and I have never shared this. But I think it was a mistake. And my mistake was I don’t believe in titles. That’s why I’m Chief troublemaker, because I think they’re hierarchical. And I hate them. And I let my team talk me into keeping titles because they told me that this young generation loves titles. And I allowed them to keep titles and I should not have I should have followed my heart and not allowed titles in this company. I hate them. And so that’s a mistake.

Lara Schmoisman 30:01
I agree with you with the titles because what is one title one company in the other company needs?

Shelley Zalis 30:07
– What is an EVP, but they said they need them for LinkedIn. Yes. And I’ve broken every rule. And it’s the one rule, I should have broken because I start new trends. And everyone to me as a chief, a chief blank officer, and because everyone is important to me, and they all have the same value, so I should have let them make up their own titles. And I didn’t, and I should have followed my heart on that. And I feel it was a mistake.

Lara Schmoisman 30:39
Well, maybe it’s time to change it. Yeah. Well, thank you so much for being here today. And thank you for taking the break and have coffee with me. I’ve really, really enjoyed this conversation.

Shelley Zalis
And thank you for teaching me so much today –

Lara Schmoisman
– And to you guys. We’ll see you next week with more Coffee Number Five. Find everything you need at LaraSchmoisman.com Or in the Episode Notes right below. Don’t forget to subscribe. It was so good to have you here today. See you next time. Catch you on the flip side. Ciao ciao.


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