The Path To Leadership

Weaving Fulfillment into Your Career Tapestry with Mary Messner

February 19, 2024 Catalyst Development Season 1 Episode 22
Weaving Fulfillment into Your Career Tapestry with Mary Messner
The Path To Leadership
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The Path To Leadership
Weaving Fulfillment into Your Career Tapestry with Mary Messner
Feb 19, 2024 Season 1 Episode 22
Catalyst Development

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Every career is a tapestry of decisions, some woven by choice and others by circumstance. Our guest Mary Messner, a former healthcare executive and current creativity consultant, joins us to unravel the threads of her own story, illustrating the rich patterns that form when we pursue fulfillment over titles. From the heart of Kansas City, Mary's experiences at Cerner and her deliberate decision to put family first remind us that career progression isn't merely about climbing the ladder but also about aligning our work with our values.

Have you ever stood on the precipice of the entrepreneurial unknown, your heart thundering in your chest? That palpable mix of fear and excitement is what fuels today's conversation as we navigate the jolting transition from corporate safety to the thrill of starting a new venture. We delve into the importance of mentorship, the power of a robust support network, and the invaluable lessons from our stumbles and falls. For anyone branding their passion or seeking to redefine success, our discussion is a lighthouse guiding you through the turbulent waters of change.

We wrap this episode with a spotlight on the power of community and the transformative influence of empowering the next generation. Our exploration takes us from the public speaking workshops at UMKC to the inspiring corridors of the Madam President Camp, lighting the way for young girls to forge their leadership paths. We also share personal motivations that drive our contributions to heart disease awareness, highlighting the profound impact of individual experiences on our collective journey to improve the world. Join us for a conversation that's not just about professional growth, but about fanning the flames of passion for causes that touch us all.

Connect with Mary:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/marymessner/
https://www.linkedin.com/company/marymessnerspeaks/
https://www2.heart.org/site/TR/?team_id=836510&pg=team&fr_id=10600#loaded
https://www.madampresidentcamp.org/
https://www.shrmjc.org/events/EventDetails.aspx?id=1831184&group=
https://info.umkc.edu/centers/programs/presentation-connection-workshop/

Follow Catalyst Development on LinkedIn @catalystdevelopment, @drkatieervin, @jennascott, @emmablankenship

www.cdleaders.com

Theme music by Emma Jo https://emmajo.rocks/

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Every career is a tapestry of decisions, some woven by choice and others by circumstance. Our guest Mary Messner, a former healthcare executive and current creativity consultant, joins us to unravel the threads of her own story, illustrating the rich patterns that form when we pursue fulfillment over titles. From the heart of Kansas City, Mary's experiences at Cerner and her deliberate decision to put family first remind us that career progression isn't merely about climbing the ladder but also about aligning our work with our values.

Have you ever stood on the precipice of the entrepreneurial unknown, your heart thundering in your chest? That palpable mix of fear and excitement is what fuels today's conversation as we navigate the jolting transition from corporate safety to the thrill of starting a new venture. We delve into the importance of mentorship, the power of a robust support network, and the invaluable lessons from our stumbles and falls. For anyone branding their passion or seeking to redefine success, our discussion is a lighthouse guiding you through the turbulent waters of change.

We wrap this episode with a spotlight on the power of community and the transformative influence of empowering the next generation. Our exploration takes us from the public speaking workshops at UMKC to the inspiring corridors of the Madam President Camp, lighting the way for young girls to forge their leadership paths. We also share personal motivations that drive our contributions to heart disease awareness, highlighting the profound impact of individual experiences on our collective journey to improve the world. Join us for a conversation that's not just about professional growth, but about fanning the flames of passion for causes that touch us all.

Connect with Mary:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/marymessner/
https://www.linkedin.com/company/marymessnerspeaks/
https://www2.heart.org/site/TR/?team_id=836510&pg=team&fr_id=10600#loaded
https://www.madampresidentcamp.org/
https://www.shrmjc.org/events/EventDetails.aspx?id=1831184&group=
https://info.umkc.edu/centers/programs/presentation-connection-workshop/

Follow Catalyst Development on LinkedIn @catalystdevelopment, @drkatieervin, @jennascott, @emmablankenship

www.cdleaders.com

Theme music by Emma Jo https://emmajo.rocks/

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Hi everyone, Welcome back to Path to Leadership. I'm so excited for my guest today. Of course, I think I say that all the time, but that's because I love being able to talk to cool people around Kansas City. So with me today is my good friend, Mary Messner. Hey, Mary.

Mary Messner:

Hello, how are you?

Dr. Katie Ervin:

I am doing fantastic. How's everything going?

Mary Messner:

It's good. It's good we're in February and that feels a little surreal because January felt like a seven-week long month. So on one hand, it's shocking to think we're halfway through February and on the other hand, it's shocking to think how long it's felt like it's taken us to get here. January threw me for a loop.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah. It is crazy to think that we are halfway through February. And it's funny because spoiler for everyone we're recording this before the Super Bowl, but this will come out after the Super Bowl and hopefully we're celebrating our chief's victory. But it was funny. I got some stuff from Pittsburgh State and I was like, oh, when does football season start? And I had to remind myself it's February. We're not even close to the restart of football season. My calendar is so messed up in my head. Yeah Well, can you introduce yourself to everyone? Let everyone know who you are and what you do.

Mary Messner:

Sure, absolutely. So I'm Mary Messner. To repeat what Katie shared earlier, what I do, I'll explain it in a couple different ways. So the easiest way to say it is I'm a keynote speaker. I enjoy speaking with audiences, really with the goal of encouraging them to think differently Every time I step on stage.

Mary Messner:

It's never my goal to have a room of people agree with me 100%, because we're all different, unique. That would be nearly impossible. But I really want every audience member to walk away just thinking a little bit differently about their situation, their circumstances, what's happening around them professionally, and thinking differently about the actions they could take or the decisions they could make to create impact in whatever that way that is right for them. The second piece I'll say is I also have a consultancy, and the underpinning that ties both of those together is the notion of creativity in the workplace. So I tell people this is not arts and crafts creativity. This is that freedom and flexibility to think in unexpected ways, to think freely, think boldly, so that you can create something that you didn't see possible before. So my keynotes help people do that, and then also my consultancy focuses on companies in a variety of ways, helping them to do that same thing.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, it's so fantastic what you do and I want to talk about your career journey. But I have to mention you're one of the first people I met when I was thinking about going out on my own, and it's kind of the Cerner crew Shout out to Mike Allison, got to meet him and then he introduced me to Aaron Fajin and then I had the pleasure of meeting you and it's you know, as I was trying to figure out kind of my path, you all were such lights to help me get there and so now that I sit here and listen to your work and listen to your talk, it's like you do have such a profound impact on my journey and my trajectory. So I appreciate the stuff that you do.

Mary Messner:

Absolutely. That means a lot. Thank you for saying that.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah. I reflect back a lot of times on the conversations that I had with all of you at the very beginning and it's like I don't know what I'm doing and then we just fumble through and figure it out.

Mary Messner:

So none of us don't know what we're doing. That's the beauty of entrepreneurship is you just make the next right decision. Sometimes it's not the right decision, Sometimes you got to backpull a little bit, but that's how you navigate. It is trying something and seeing where it takes you.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah, I love that and I love when people say you know how's business and it's like well, it depends, what time is it Like some days it's great, some days it's tough. Some minutes it's fantastic, some minutes it's tough. So, and in that regard, can you talk a little bit about your career journey? You know the path that you've taken to get where you are.

Mary Messner:

Yeah, absolutely so. The starting point my background's in healthcare and I worked when I first started out of college at Research Medical Center it's an HCA hospital here in Kansas City and I immediately jumped into a leadership position. I was the director of Health Information Management, which you know at 24, I had a team. I didn't know what I was doing, but, similar to entrepreneurship, you just kind of take one step forward and you learn from the experience. When I was about 27, I went over to Cerner so you mentioned Cerner earlier huge company here in Kansas City. It is now Oracle I was at, but I'm going to call it Cerner because the transition to Oracle happened after I left. So I don't feel like I ever worked for Oracle. For me it was only ever Cerner. And I was at Cerner for 14 years and I did a couple, I'd say, kind of unique twists and turns in my career there. I did my best to climb as rapidly as I could and seek every promotion and growth opportunity and new adventure, which was cool because I got to travel the world and I met just some incredible people and had some interesting challenges. And then my oldest daughter was born, which threw me for a wild emotional loop that I never expected. I ended up going part-time. I quit my job and then they said, would you stick around part-time? And I said sure. So I was part-time while both my girls were very little and then, when my youngest was about a year old, I went back full-time. And when I went back full-time I made a really intentional decision to not grow my career. I want to be an individual contributor. I don't want to go down the executive path again. Part of it is I knew the time commitment of an executive path at Cerner and it's fun and it's also a lot and some sacrifices at home. And I just was not. I didn't want to do that. I wanted to create a lot of balance as I was going back full-time. But of course people leave opportunities present. Little by little, I'm slowly moving back up the ladder again.

Mary Messner:

Fourteen years into Surner, there were a couple of things that were very pivotal for me that caused me to leave. The first one was I had an opportunity to go back into an executive position. I remember the team asking me would you do this? And me saying make me a really good offer. I got to be wowed by this. If I'm even going to consider it. They made me a good offer and I still had no interest. It was such that mental moment of saying this is no longer the right path for me if growth and new challenges are no longer intriguing me.

Mary Messner:

The second thing that happened was an opportunity out in DC, so flew out to DC. It was the first time that I was reconnecting with my Surner team and my client counterpart since COVID. So this was in summer of late summer 2021. The same thing that should have excited me an opportunity to reconnect in person. I walked in and an hour into this meeting I thought I want to go home. So those two things combined were just very clear that I'm no longer putting my energy into something that's giving me energy back. That's when I made the decision to leave. I put in about six weeks because I wasn't leaving to go to anything compelling or urgent or time sensitive. I was leaving to go do my own thing. So in the fall of 2021, I left and I started my own business, which is part two of my career journey. But I'll pause there in case there's anything else you want to throw in into this part, or I'm happy to keep it.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

It's like hearing you talk. It's funny because so often in our career we're not just women but we're driving, driving, driving like what's next, what's next, what's next. And then there's a point in our career where it's like, oh, this doesn't drive me or excite me, or I don't want to do this anymore. And then it's just making me think. I'm having a lot of conversation with my 19 year old daughter where and I'm sure this is going to resonate and it'll kind of roll into the next step in your journey is, she said to me the other day I don't want to be seen as a failure if I don't follow through. And I thought, oh gosh, okay, let's take a hundred steps back and define what failure looks like and what it is. And so I wonder, as you made this pivot to do your own thing, it feels like you were at peace with that. So can you kind of talk about that transition and how you felt in that transition?

Mary Messner:

Yeah Well, first kudos to your 19 year old to just having that introspective awareness, to think through what that means, and I love your response that failure could mean a lot of different things and really, if we learn from something, then it might feel like failure in the moment but it could actually be considered a success in the future, which is what I would say, the last three year journey has kind of felt like you mentioned Mike Allison earlier.

Mary Messner:

So for those of you that are listening, who, in some strange event, you don't know who Mike Allison is, because chances are you do Mike was instrumental in helping me get the confidence to start my own business. Mike was one of my colleagues on my last teams at Surner, and that team was a group of us that would stand in front of a classroom and we would deliver education on how to use data and analytics to improve patient outcomes for our veteran population. And as part of that this this faculty team that stood in front of the room we made sure we were the best of the best in education and training. We've spent hours critiquing the heck out of each other, everything from how quickly our eyes were moving around the room to our hand gestures, our pace, our tone, all the obvious stuff that a speaker needs, but also things like how do you handle objections when someone throws a curveball question at you. How do you respond to that, both in where you're standing and in relation to that person and through the words that you use. So I learned so much, and Mike made a comment to me once and he said you are one of the best I've ever seen. And he said when you are ready, you have a career in doing this and speaking in front of the groups. So when you're ready, I will help you do that. And I thought, well, it's a really nice compliment. But also that sounds scary and I wouldn't even know where to begin and all the reasons that we tell ourselves of why we potentially can't go take on a next big challenge. And I was like I kind of was getting that feeling of not getting the energy that I was interested or that I wanted to get from my career. I said to Mike all right, what you got for me, let's, let's see what this could, what this could look like. So he connected me with a couple clients in Kansas City. Mike did a lot of work on the side some keynote speaking engagement, some training and he referred one of those to me and I delivered a couple, a couple training sessions and I thought, well, that was fun, I think I did a good job. I made some money. Yeah, okay, this could be, this could be a business.

Mary Messner:

So that when I left CERNR, I launched my business and I named it Highline Creative Group, which is still my LLC name and it's still the name of my my consultancy business. You talk about failures and potentially learning from those. This was one of those moments for me, so I named it Highline Creative Group, with the idea of we're all on a high line, we're moving from point A to point B and if we can use a little bit of creativity in that process, we can get there more effectively. It all made sense to me, it all made sense in my mind and everybody that I talked to it didn't make sense to them and they said so. You're an ad agency, you're a graphic design firm. I didn't realize. When you throw the word creative into a business name, it causes people to think something related to advertising or design. So I spent that whole first year with no, no, highline Creative Group, you know, using creativity, and I eventually felt like I wasn't. That name was distracting from what I was trying to do.

Mary Messner:

So throughout that first year, aside from the name, I said yes to a lot of things. I took on coaching. I took on speaking. I did some unique engagements with clients that weren't necessarily related to speaking but were related to things like change management, which I'd had experience with at Cerner. I partnered. You mentioned Aaron Fajin. I partnered with Aaron on a lot of really cool opportunities. We have fun working together. So when we have opportunity to collaborate we do it.

Mary Messner:

But that first year aside from that potential failure of picking the wrong name for my business, which I'll come back to, it was just saying yes to a lot and experimenting and seeing what worked, what didn't work. As I moved into year two of my business, I narrowed my niche and I know we'll talk about, madam President Camp later, so I'll put a pin in that but I'd been spending out of time working with a organization for young girls and I thought you know, this is a passion area of mine these young girls and these female leaders and helping them to be as successful as possible. So I narrowed my focus to speaking largely to women's groups and I rebranded as Mary Messner so LLC still Highline Creative Group, but I started leaning in with just me being my brand, which felt a lot more authentic and I could have a lot more fun with it because it is just me and I can decide what I want to present myself as. That day, as I was getting through year two, I felt like there was still something missing and some audience that I could be impacting that I wasn't doing. So I still speak to women's groups.

Mary Messner:

I still love it, but last year I began bringing creativity back into the conversation and, instead of trying to over explain the name of Highline Creative Group, I simply say I enjoy bringing creativity into the workplace so that we can create better businesses, ideas, more engaged teams, more innovative thoughts, more innovative solutions, and it feels good to say those words. It's fun for me to consider what the impact that that can make if we can get a whole company or a whole team of people on board with this idea of free thinking and not seeing the limitations that are in front of us, but pushing those aside and allowing for that creative process to take hold. So that's what I'm doing now. Most of my speaking engagements are centered on the idea of creativity and I'm leaning back into the name and letting that be the anchor point, for my speaking engagements are through Mary Messner and my consultancy is through Highline Creative Group, and I think I just took you on my career journey, mostly completely Sure. I left a few things out along the way.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

I love that because the point of this podcast is to talk about the paths. The paths are these windy roads, whether we're entrepreneurs or whether we're in the corporate world. It's not this. We either graduate high school or graduate college, or we go into our career journey and we think this is the straight path that we're going to be on. If we don't take this exact path, then have we reached success? That's what I want to highlight. Is we get to where we're supposed to be? Some of these kind of side roads or these different little potentially detours, or experimenting? Hey, let's take this kind of long route up through the mountains and see the beauty of it all, but then get back down to the roots of who we are and what we all want to be. I love that you shared all that. I appreciate it.

Mary Messner:

I think getting back down to the roots of who you are and who you want to be can change. I think about who I was before I had kids. Who I was after I had kids. Who I am now as a business owner, even just those stages in life of the flexibility that life circumstances present for you to redefine who you are. But you're spot on. It is that path to leadership is not straight. I think you talk about your 19-year-old daughter. It's a beautiful thing to share with her that she's going to pick a path At 19,. You got to pick a path.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Whatever?

Mary Messner:

it is, you got to at least get one foot going in front of the other, but that path can then send you in so many directions and you can learn so much, and you can reinvent yourself in ways that we don't even think are possible today.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah. Being open to that, I think, is so important. That's why I love I've heard you speak so many times. I'm so fortunate that when I came to you and said we're going to launch the Catalyst Leaders Institute, I would love for you to be a speaker in it. Here's my outline, here's what I'm thinking. You're like, sure, yeah, I'll jump right in, which I appreciate the grace and everything you gave me as I, behind the scenes, fumbled through the first year. I appreciate that. Can you talk a little bit about your keynotes? Hearing your story, I'd not heard that story before. It's like no wonder I mean your stage presence and when you speak it is so intentional and powerful and meaningful. Can you talk a little bit about that, the message you hope people walk away with, and then some of the speaking stuff you have coming up.

Mary Messner:

Sure, I will say there are. There's two main topics that I enjoy talking about. But you mentioned I came and spoke for Catalyst Leaders Institute and I'm coming back again this year. What I spoke to you guys about was not these two topics. I will say sometimes you just get an idea and someone says can you try something out? You say yeah, that sounds fun. I did a lot more of some emotional intelligence type of content for you and I actually am hitting the road tomorrow and driving to St Louis to do it for a group out in St Louis. Sometimes unique opportunities present. It's fun to say yes to those.

Mary Messner:

My two main areas of focus I mentioned women's group and I really do. I enjoy speaking to women. I enjoy encouraging women to think about their circumstances differently. The topic of confidence is a huge topic for women's groups. For women in general, that's a data-driven topic. That confidence begins to drop around the age of eight and self-rated confidence doesn't equal that of men until about the age of 40. You have this 30-year gap in there where we have to be very honest with each other, that there is a perception that we are, I'll say, not as qualified or not as deserving or whatever the story is that we're telling ourselves. It's not real. It's a story that we're telling ourselves To help women start to think about that a little bit differently, to redefine that topic of confidence and then discuss how we create I call this keynote culture of women, but how we create a culture where, as women, we are supporting each other through those phases. I think we have to always be working on lifting each other up. That is one of my keynotes that I love to deliver.

Mary Messner:

The other one that was in response to what I went through last year when I started thinking about leaning back into creativity, is create the unexpected. That's the title of that keynote. I've delivered it in support of an employee engagement type of model. I've delivered it in support of encouraging individuals to use a growth mindset. It's got a lot of flexibility in it, which is fun. I have a three-part framework that I built. The framework is called Dream, feel, do Each of those steps.

Mary Messner:

I walk audiences through on how they could dream about, what the potential could be and if they could lean into that idea of creativity in the workplace. What are all the dreams that could come to fruition. We go through some modeling on how to do that. It's a workshop style keynote, because I really think it's so important for people just not to listen but to have an opportunity to do some application real time. The second part of that framework is Feel.

Mary Messner:

We as humans are feeling individuals. 80% of our decisions are made using our emotions, not data or logic, which sounds shocking. But then when you walk around for a day and think about how often you're using your feelings to make decisions, you're like all right, yep, I get, it makes sense to me that appreciate the internet. That's actually the foundation for someone thinking about, consider their dreams and then, if those could come to fruition or a dream for a company, if it could come to fruition, what is the feeling that you would want it to inspire for everyone that interacts with that idea or that company or that solution or that new challenge? And then the final piece is do and you got to create action around something. You can have all this wild creativity. You can be really clear on the feeling you want to inspire, but if you don't create action behind it, it's gonna fall flat. But the position that I take on that is that if we create one path this is back to the point that your daughter made If we simply create one path, one thing that we are gonna go do, and that fails, then we feel like we have to go all the way back to the beginning. But instead, if we can identify a few paths, so if one path doesn't work out exactly how we want it to work, what if we take two steps to the left and we go on a slightly different path that still reaches that end result, that still focuses on the feeling but gives us the freedom to not feel stuck? Then we can continue moving forward. So that is the very brief description of a much longer keynote on encouraging individuals and companies to create the unexpected.

Mary Messner:

I do have a couple speaking engagements coming up. So the first one, as Katie mentioned, we're recording this. In early February I do have a speaking engagement with the Kansas City Toastmasters group. It's a keynote there, february event. It's a quick 10 to 15 minute keynote.

Mary Messner:

I'm telling you now because when you're listening, it either already happened. If the chief's lost or if the chief's won, it's most likely being rescheduled to March. So we're all gonna hope that this is being rescheduled to March. It currently falls on the day that the chief's parade will be occurring if we win. So I'm telling you now, because I'm putting it out into the universe, that it's just gonna have to be rescheduled. So I'll see you all on March.

Mary Messner:

I am speaking to the Johnson County SHRM group that is also in March. And then Aaron Fajin, who I mentioned earlier. We are partnering on a presentation workshop for the UMKC Executive Education Program and Aaron and I have a lot of fun doing this workshop. I bring my keynote speaking experience. She's a master facilitator and so she brings that piece into the workshop and the goal is to really not just teach you how to present effectively, it's to teach you how to connect effectively with your audience, which is really at the heart of any presentation that you do. Katie, I know you're gonna post the links to those three if anybody wants to enroll.

Mary Messner:

I'd love to see you there.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, I am gonna post them and they're all fantastic. I really wanna attend your second keynote, the one you talked about like the model. That's the first time I've heard you talk about it and I'm like it needs to be a book, like that is so cool. I'm excited to watch that grow and to see that keynote. I mean I'm just in here like just that description. I'm thinking, oh, I need to sit in and hear that. But then the UMKC one as well. I mean that is wide open. I think of people who say all the time like I'm not comfortable presenting at work or, you know, sitting in front of the crowd or it makes me nervous to talk in public, and I think that is going to be a really powerful workshop for people to attend.

Mary Messner:

Well. So there's two things you mentioned there that I'll throw up on One. You are right, it should be a book. So I have three books in me right now, all that I'm wanting to write. But you're an author and you know this probably felt a little uncomfortable in the beginning. You carry through, you put out a beautiful book. It's been fun watching you on that journey. So I have three books. The first one, I'm gonna start, small. I'm gonna start with the introduction to the idea of creativity in the workplace. But book number two is Dreamfield Do. I feel very strongly that you are right, it does need to be a book. I'm glad to hear you say that, because in my mind I can say this needs to be a book, but to hear somebody else say that sometimes those are those little things that give you the confidence to do it. And the third book is it will be more geared to a woman's audience. So one of them will be out this year. So y'all heard it first. It's now out there.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

There's a book called. Call you to it. Yeah. Yeah, I was just as I was listening to you talk. I was like, oh, I need that book for my coaching clients and for women in particular that I speak with. It's like, okay, go read this book. And I'm always assigning books and part of the podcast we're always assigning homework and it's like that is so perfect. So I'm excited to hear that you are leaning into is terrifying. It is a journey of self-doubt and confidence challenges. But once it comes out and I think we're so fortunate in Kansas City because we have amazing local authors with Mackie Musavi, who's phenomenal, and Alana Mueller, and then our connection friend, corey Shear just came out with a book Like there's so many great authors in Kansas Harry Campbell we go on and on and on, yes, yes, so good and I think they are so good at inspiring us to do the scary and write the book because it's so worth it.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

So I can't wait to read it when it comes out this year.

Mary Messner:

Yeah, yeah, well, and I think that you mentioned all those authors. The really cool part about this Kansas City community is I could call up any one of them and say, what do I do next, can you help me? And I'm confident they'll say yes, and that alone makes me know I can do this. And when I feel like I've hit a roadblock, somebody else has hit that roadblock and will be there to offer support. So you'd also mentioned the connection workshop at UMKC and I'll give kind of a second plug there for that presentation workshop, I should say.

Mary Messner:

But the connection component of it comes to mind because I think there's a recipe for how you be a keynote speaker and don't say the word, the basic things of, don't the filler words. You all have heard me say a few times here today and part of that is because if we get too prescriptive we stop showing up as human and if we can focus simply on saying I'm gonna create connection and I'm still gonna embrace my awkwardness and the joke that I told that fell flat, or the filler word that I can't seem to stop saying right now, or I'm not gonna stand perfectly or I'm gonna have to hold on to the podium because I'm not comfortable standing on my own and I'm pacing too much. If we can allow people to refine some of those but still show up as their authentic selves when they're either on stage or in a small room or even delivering an important message around a meeting room table.

Mary Messner:

If we can encourage people to refine some of their skills, but also give them permission to make the mistakes and be authentic in how they present themselves, then they can still create connection, which is ultimately the most important thing. So you can tell, I love that workshop. We've done it a few times independently, with open enrollment, and we also do it. We have a couple of client partners that we come in and do that for their staff.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

So that's a fun one. That is so great. So many benefits I can see from that. So let's pivot just a little bit. You do so much work in the community around nonprofits and I love the work you're doing, and we're gonna talk about us being in competition here in a minute, yeah, but before we do that, for the first time I met you. You shared with me your heart for Madam President and the work around that. So can you talk a little bit about what, madam President, is the important work that you know it's done through the Madam President camp and how people can support the work?

Mary Messner:

Yeah, absolutely. Madam President, camp is an organization for middle school age girls. So those are girls going into sixth, seventh and eighth grade, or 11, 12 or 13. And I mentioned a statistic earlier about how confidence begins to drop at the age of 18 and it plummets pretty dramatically for girls through the age of 14. It plummets a little bit for boys, or I should say it's slowly declines for boys. It plummets for girls. Huge difference in how that shows up.

Mary Messner:

Our whole goal with engaging with this age group through, madam President, camp is to provide them in the education, the tools, the resources, the confidence to know that they can be really impactful leaders. But they can be leaders in a way that's authentic to them, whether that means they're introverted or extroverted, they're comfortable standing up in front of peers. They prefer to be the quiet, supportive voice. All of those are leadership qualities that are really important. That if we can encourage and celebrate those in middle school, think about how we can impact that dip that continues until the age of 40. What if we could shorten that a little bit? Think about not just impacting that young girl's life but impacting the lives of the people that she now interacts with. And the other half of it is. We have a big emphasis through this program on civic engagement, and that's important because we don't just want the girls to see themselves as leaders. We want them to know that their leadership skills and ideas can be put into practice to create change in their immediate communities and in the world beyond. Throughout the program they learn about civic engagement, which is when an 11 year old girl is like cool leadership and civic engagement top of my list to learn about. We make it a lot of fun, but they begin dreaming up something that they would want to go impact, and what I think is really fascinating about this is when they pick an area of activism that they want to go work on.

Mary Messner:

The things they come up with are things like the dress code or access to period products in their school, or things that in gym class, the sports that they're encouraged to go do, versus the ones that the boys are told to go do. So we think sometimes, as educators or parents or just individuals interacting with these young girls, that we put rules in place that they just, you know, go along with. They are very aware at that young age that there are rules in place that are specific to girls that boys don't have to follow. And that is where that message begins that as a young girl, I have to show up differently in this world. And the dress code's a great example. They've brought in copies of the dress code, this five page dress code for girls, and compared it to the one page dress code for boys. And it's that message of I have to change who I am because of the boys and I have to make decisions for myself because of the boys. And I know I'm getting off topic here, but I do think as a society we just have to be really mindful of that. If we want to encourage young girls to be confident, we have to stop limiting who they can be.

Mary Messner:

Every single camp there is a group of girls that focuses on the dress code. So I mentioned that as an example because it is front and center on our line. But to get back to the organization itself, today we're structured as a summer camp, a five day summer camp. We have locations all around the city where we offer the camp and it's open to every middle school girl in the city. We're expanding some of our programming to see how we could do more engagement throughout the school year and also how we can better engage parents and support staff in that process so that what they learn at camp can be reinforced at home or at school, among their friends, their peers, so that it becomes more of an ecosystem that surrounds that young girl. And I'm excited to think about gosh five years down the road. If we continue with that focus, we now have a group of young adult girls entering into college or secondary education or starting their careers that now have had this foundation of leadership.

Mary Messner:

So it gets me excited to think about, which is why I can go on a tangent talking about, madam President, camp all day In terms of supporting our camp registration for the summer is open, so we are open enrollment for anyone that would like to join. One of the things that's really important to us is that any girl who wants to attend we want to invite her into camp, regardless of her ability to cover the cost of camp. So we are building our scholarship bucket of dollars right now so that if girl applies and she requests a scholarship, we're able to grant her one. So, from a community standpoint, enrolling, reach out if you want to volunteer, but if you're interested in contributing to supporting that scholarship fund, head to the website. There's a donate button that has all the information there too.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

I love it and we'll put that in the show description as well. And yeah, just listening to you talk and we've talked about Madam President Camp a couple of times and I think what is strong foundation that these young women are going to be starting with, that, I think, is so important. And when we think about our own daughters and they hear us talking all the time about the work we're doing and so that's a leg up that they get, that is a wild privilege that they have, even if they don't always appreciate when we're giving them the advice, yeah, but to be able to equip all of these young girls with all of this, I think is really powerful. So I love. Honestly. I wish I would have known this existed when Abby was in middle school, because it's one thing to hear it from your mom or your aunt or your neighbor that you admire, but it's another thing to be surrounded by other girls going through the same process. I think there's great power in that.

Mary Messner:

Yeah, yeah, and it has been around for about 11 years, but it was really small. We had one camp for the first seven years Going through. Covid gave the organization an opportunity to pause and reevaluate, which is where the growth really began after that year. I'm currently in the role of board chair and also I'll designate myself as the official spokesperson because clearly I enjoy talking about it. So if anybody's interested in learning more, let me know. I'd be happy to chat about it all day.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah, it's so fantastic. One another topic about women that we're both really passionate about and, as I said, we're currently in a competition which I very probably say, like the friends that I have in the community that are serving leadership in Kansas City, I never see any of us as competitors Like. We all have our different flow and feel and topics and passions and things that we do. However, we are in fierce competition right now because until April 4th, we are both so fortunate and I think I can boldly speak for both of us Honored to be sort of the 2024 Women of Impact class for the American Heart Association. So do you wanna talk a little bit about that?

Mary Messner:

I'm sure it is funny you say so for the listeners that this is new for them are. Each of us have been challenged to pull a team together and raise as much money as possible for the American Heart Associations Go Red for Women movement, and I don't know how much Katie's raised. She doesn't know how much I have raised, so it's a blind competition. I know how much and my team knows how much, but we are not allowed to share that number publicly, which is so funny because you just it's a constant guessing game, but it's a motivation to be like well, I don't know, I gotta keep going. So you all have probably either it's been Katie or me or one of the other three wonderful women that are up for this nomination. One of us has probably reached out to you and if we haven't, I will say on behalf of Katie or I, both of us would love your support. In terms of it being a competition, it's such a funny thing to think about, because I know, katie, I'm competitive and you probably are too, so I want to win, but I don't want to win to be Katie. I want to win because if I win it means I raise the most money, so it's a competition to raise money, and yet if Katie wins, it's because she raised the most money, so I can absolutely support her winning. So it's a funny way to think about a competition. It's probably the best type of competition to be in, because the end result is for a greater good and greater purpose, beyond either of us and beyond the other women that are running.

Mary Messner:

I got the email that said I was nominated and I thought, oh my, okay, what's? This is a work effort, and it is a work effort. It's probably more of a work effort than I realized it would be, but I'm doing so willingly. And there were a few things that came to mind, and so I do think oftentimes the women that are nominated and Katie, you're one of these have been really deep personal connection to heart disease and the impact that it's had on their family. And my first thought was well, I don't have a big impact of heart disease on my family, so I'm not the right person to do this.

Mary Messner:

And there were two things that came to light as I thought about that more, and the first one was I don't have to have a personal connection to still create impact for all the other women that do have a personal connection, and so for me to say yes to this, I don't have to say yes for myself, I can say yes for all the women that are impacted by heart disease, and that alone made me think well gosh, that's reason enough to say yes for all of them. And then the other piece was my mom. It's so funny and it feels like I had shut this kind of experience with my mom out, and that was that in 2019, she had heart surgery for a myproval failure and went through the whole experience heart lung machine. It was a. I remember the recovery from that was emotionally for me very hard to watch. But she's doing beautifully now and that's why I think I don't dwell on the significance of it, because she's doing so well.

Mary Messner:

But the reason that she's doing so well is because of the early diagnosis. Her doctor was very consistent with her checkups, getting her in, getting her working with a heart doctor just because of her age, and they identified something that caused them to think that something was wrong and immediately went down the place of providing care, went down the path of providing care. In the absence of that quick diagnosis and that quick response, it would have been probably a 30 to 60 day window before she physically was. It was hard for her to even do anything. Again, it feels funny that that didn't immediately come to me when I got the nomination, but it is because she's doing so well. But she's doing so well thanks to the services that are out there to support women with heart disease. So there's my number two reason that this has become more personal, and that's to do this for my mom, so that other women can be in her same position now, where their daughters can just forget that they had a major diagnosis and a major surgery.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, it's funny because my story is somewhat similar in that when Morgan shout out to Morgan with the Heart Association reached out the first time and I was like this is women's health and it's the number one.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Heart disease is the number one killer of women, it's like, okay, yes, it's very important. Then, as I was sitting here talking to her, I'm like, oh, my husband had AFib, but I don't think about it because he's doing so well. Then, as we got to talking more and she was telling me about one of the candidates has POTS disease I'm like, oh, my goodness, we are currently in this road with my daughter who has POTS disease and I never associated it with the heart, but I mean, her heart rate will skyrocket. It terrifies me that her heart is going to explode. That's not how it works. But as a mom who doesn't know what she doesn't know, and so it was the same thing I never associated. When I think about heart disease, you think heart attack, stroke, yeah, it's so much bigger than that. And so, yeah, I'm thankful for the work that we get to do, not just during our campaign through April 4th, but the stories that this reminds us to share with people, that we need to be talking about it.

Mary Messner:

Yes, yes, and I love that you say that, because it really does create a connection amongst all of us. Yes, we do think heart attack, stroke. We think about the big, obvious ones, but these are the kind of stories that help bring to life that there are so many little instances of how heart health impacts us, impacts the people that we love. And what I will applaud about how the American Heart Association is running this campaign is, yes, you and I are here to raise funds and support, but we're also here to raise awareness. We're also here to have these types of conversation. We're here to share opportunities for education, and that is a bigger impact than just talking about the financial component of it, and I just applaud how they've talked about weaving all of those pieces in and that we get to be a platform for doing that.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah, it's really cool and I will also in the show notes. So, in all of the shows that before April 4th, my donation link and information link is in the show notes, but I will also make sure that Mary's is in there. So if you're listening to this, thank you so much. If you're not familiar with the podcast, but because Mary's on it, you're listening. I'll make sure that her donation link is in there as well, because at the end of the day, yes, we do want to win this, but the beauty is, everybody wins when we raise all of this money and awareness, no matter who's the one sitting on the stage. Who quote unquote wins the woman of impact. We all really win through this campaign.

Mary Messner:

Yep, absolutely, and I think if anybody's inclined to donate to me, you should also donate to Katie and vice versa. So just double the impact. There's my call to action for you Go, double your impact today by donating to both of our campaigns.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, I agree. Great, great call to action. So the final question that I ask everyone on every show and it goes back to what I talked about the career path, and it is this windy road, and so often in social media we only not we, I think you and I try to do a really good job of sharing, but so often people are afraid to kind of give that peak behind the curtain and so when we look at some people's social media, we may think that everything is sunshine and roses all the time, and it's not so. That's the purpose of this question that I ask everyone, to the level of your comfortable, that, to the level you're comfortable sharing what's the biggest leadership challenge or career misstep that you've you've had?

Mary Messner:

I will probably speak to it in some generalities, just for you know, confidentiality sake. But this is I wouldn't say this is isolated, and I would say this is something that I learned early on, and that learning is what stuck with me, and that is to not share away from the hard conversation, and I'll explain what I mean by that. We all have had, whether it's a challenging employee or a tough interaction with a co-worker or with a boss, and you know, I mean heck with a spouse, with a kid, I mean the list goes on and on, but it's it's those moments where you think I really need to say something about this. I really I really need to let somebody know either what they did wrong from maybe an HR standpoint, we got, we got to get ahead of this, or this is how this made me feel. Or even you know you could really do a better job if you focused on these few things, and when I was earlier in my career, I probably, I know, acting like this didn't happen.

Mary Messner:

I know of times where I let something go on longer than it should have and you hope that it'll go away and you hope that it'll be a one time issue, or that performance concern. They'll figure it out. It happened that one time, but it's not going to happen again. And spoiler it always happens again because if we don't let somebody know that something happened that they shouldn't have done, or that they have an opportunity to be better if they can tweak these few things, and we don't tell someone that early on, then we're actually not. We're making it easier on us to not have the hard conversation. We're making it harder on them because we're allowing a behavior or an action or an approach to work, to continue that shouldn't continue.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yes.

Mary Messner:

I'll just say I know I've made that mistake of letting something go longer than it should have, and that's something that it's a lesson for me that I carry forward now where I lean into the hard conversations they're always hard, they suck.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

They don't feel good. They don't feel good for you.

Mary Messner:

They don't feel good for the other person. But if you can do them with the intention of making the other person better and sometimes you got to dig hard to think about what that is to make them feel better Sometimes it's saying you can't be as successful as you want to in this work environment it is time for you to move on. That's hard, it doesn't feel good but at the end of the day, hopefully gives them the space to go find an opportunity that they can be better. I know you hear the adage feedback is a gift and it is, and so in essence, that's what I'm saying. But I think we have to be very honest that it's incredibly hard to do, and that's also OK that it's hard to do, but you got to do it.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

So it's general.

Mary Messner:

I know, katie, I didn't know it's perfect. I didn't know a lot of specifics there, but I think that's something that's always stuck with me.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, I think it's perfect and I think it's so applicable. I mean, even when people have difficult conversations all the time, it doesn't mean it gets easier, but I yeah, it's funny, I literally wrote a book about it because it's not easy to give that feedback but when we go in with the, the heart of caring and the you know, the mindset of growth, it doesn't make it easier but it makes it more impactful and important. So I appreciate you sharing that, because that's a I think that's one that we hear all the time from people that they struggle having those difficult conversations.

Mary Messner:

Yeah, and I love that you make the connection to your book. I promise this wasn't a plug for it, but that's. This had come to mind, but it does tie in very nicely that you don't know what you don't know unless someone is willing to step forward and help you through it. And I think it's something that we can all we can all probably get better at, but we all have to also be willing to do it.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah. Well, thank you so much for your time today. We could talk for, like, I think, eight hours. I'm sitting here like OK, well, we got to have you back because we got to talk about more about confidence and we got to talk more about, you know, women and and we got to talk about your book at the end of the year, when we're getting ready to release it and all of that. So we will absolutely have to continue this conversation and you know, we got to celebrate both of our impact with women, of impact. So just thank you for everything. We will make sure we put everything in the show notes. If you've not seen Mary speak, what are you even doing? Like, come on, get in your car, drive to Kansas City, check out all of the opportunities that she has coming up. And, yeah, just thank you so much for everything you're doing, mary. I appreciate it.

Mary Messner:

Thank you, katie, this is a lot of fun.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Very good. Thank you everyone. We will see you again next time on the Path to Leadership. Bye everyone.

Career Journey and Finding Fulfillment
Transitioning to Entrepreneurship
Navigating Career Paths and Embracing Creativity
Community Support and Empowering Girls' Leadership
Heart Disease and Leadership Lessons

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