The Path To Leadership

Fostering Unity and Impactful Leadership Through Community with Alana Muller

March 25, 2024 Catalyst Development Season 1 Episode 27
Fostering Unity and Impactful Leadership Through Community with Alana Muller
The Path To Leadership
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The Path To Leadership
Fostering Unity and Impactful Leadership Through Community with Alana Muller
Mar 25, 2024 Season 1 Episode 27
Catalyst Development

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Embark on an enlightening exploration with Alana Muller of Coffee Lunch Coffee, who shares her masterful transition from corporate executive to networking guru. Discover the structured strategies she used to forge influential professional connections, as she lays down the groundwork for how intentional relationships can catalyze both personal and career growth. Alana's story is a vivid illustration of how the power of networking can help navigate challenges and carve a path to success, regardless of one's professional journey.

As we delve further, we shed light on the indispensable role of strategic leadership and meaningful mentorships. The chapter challenges entrepreneurship myths and uncovers the realities of its demanding nature while sharing insights on goal-setting and strategic foresight.

Leadership, learning from past errors, and the power of supportive networks come to the forefront, offering a source of inspiration and empowerment. Tune in for an episode that is not just a discussion, but an impassioned call to action for leadership, mentorship, and the transformative power of community and communication.

Seven Days:  https://sevendays.org/

American Public Square:  https://americanpublicsquare.org/

Website:  https://coffeelunchcoffee.com/

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/alanamuller/

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.

Embark on an enlightening exploration with Alana Muller of Coffee Lunch Coffee, who shares her masterful transition from corporate executive to networking guru. Discover the structured strategies she used to forge influential professional connections, as she lays down the groundwork for how intentional relationships can catalyze both personal and career growth. Alana's story is a vivid illustration of how the power of networking can help navigate challenges and carve a path to success, regardless of one's professional journey.

As we delve further, we shed light on the indispensable role of strategic leadership and meaningful mentorships. The chapter challenges entrepreneurship myths and uncovers the realities of its demanding nature while sharing insights on goal-setting and strategic foresight.

Leadership, learning from past errors, and the power of supportive networks come to the forefront, offering a source of inspiration and empowerment. Tune in for an episode that is not just a discussion, but an impassioned call to action for leadership, mentorship, and the transformative power of community and communication.

Seven Days:  https://sevendays.org/

American Public Square:  https://americanpublicsquare.org/

Website:  https://coffeelunchcoffee.com/

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/alanamuller/

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 the Path to Leadership. I am so excited for my guest today. I am sure many of you already know her, but I, just before I go down to a level of love for what you have done for me, whether you knew it or not, I wanted to say hello, how are you?

Alana Muller:

I'm doing great. Thank you so much for having me on, Katie. I love you and admire you, and I'm delighted to be here.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

My gosh. Well, I appreciate it. Can you introduce yourself to everybody? Yes, let them know who you are.

Alana Muller:

You got it. Hi everybody. My name is Alana Mueller. My company is called Coffee Lunch Coffee, depending on when you ask. What I would tell you is that I train people to build better, more meaningful professional relationships through networking, which I love. It is who I am, but I do many, many other things that I feel blessed and fortunate to get to get up and do each day. We can talk more about those things. They include things like strategic work facilitation, a lot of coaching, and then I work with several not-for-profits.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Well, and I love that. The first time I saw you was many, many years ago. I started to do the math and I'm like we probably shouldn't, but you were the keynote speaker for the American Royals leadership and you were talking about Coffee, lunch Coffee. I had heard of the book, but I had never really heard you speak or talk about anything. Can you share a little bit about your story, a little bit about your career?

Alana Muller:

journey? Sure, I would love to Thank you for asking. Without starting with I was born on a particular day, I'll say that my husband and I moved back to Kansas City. This is our hometown. We moved back gosh now about 26 years ago. We came back to. I had a job offer with Sprint. Our families were here and so it just made sense to move back to the Kansas City area, which we were delighted to do, and I was with Sprint for 10 years.

Alana Muller:

I loved my opportunity at Sprint. I got to do about 10 things in 10 years. I saw different parts of the business that I might not otherwise have been able to sample if I'd been at any other company or if I had to bounce around from company to company. But one thing that was going on with me is that once a year I had the privilege to attend a one-day leadership development type of activity back at the University of Chicago, which is my alma mater for my MBA, and I'll never forget.

Alana Muller:

In 2007, there were two speakers. What happened is that all the women who had received a particular scholarship to go to school, we were all invited back each year for a reunion, and I loved going to this. It was the one professional development thing I would do for myself every year without fail. And in 2007, there were two speakers. One was a woman who I had gone to business school with, named Daphne, and Daphne got up and she was talking all about. Like me, she had gone to work for a big company, she went to work for craft foods and she learned everything there was to know about the dairy business. In fact, she had this very sexy job title she was the brand manager of cottage cheese.

Alana Muller:

And what she got to do is she learned literally how to get milk out of a cow all the way along a value chain and then ultimately to put a product on a grocery store shelf, and she quit her job so that she could start her own yogurt company. And what was meaningful about that for me is that I had a very cool job title I was the director of entertainment, which I always think sounds like so fabulous, and honestly, it was great. It was one of the most fun jobs I've ever had. But like Daphne, I said I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I wasn't doing that. I wasn't pursuing that. I was sitting behind a corporate chair corporate desk, and so I came home that night from Chicago and announced to my sleeping husband that I was going to quit my job and become the entrepreneur that I knew I could be, and he thought I'd lost it, let's face it. So after a very long conversation that night, he agreed that I should quit my job, but of course I couldn't walk in the next day and say I'm out. I had people relying on me. I loved Sprint. I loved my team members. I had 40 people on my team at that point.

Alana Muller:

But what I realized I needed to do was start networking. I needed to start building relationships outside of the four walls of my job. So I decided to structure my days around the days of people people like you, who I wanted to connect with so that I could build better, more meaningful professional relationships. And it worked. And so the way I structured my day was a morning meeting, a midday meeting and an afternoon meeting time slot. And so I would call and I'd say hey, katie, would you be open to having coffee or lunch with me? You would say yes, and we'd slot you into one of those times. And what was fascinating about it is that nearly everybody I asked said yes. And, by the way, I don't drink coffee. So this was not about the consumption right, this was not about the consumption. What this was about was structuring my day, being intentional, about connecting with other people and reaching out to invite them to get together. So that's the background, that's the story, and that's where. That's where the concept of coffee, lunch, coffee came from.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Well, and I love that so much and you know, I've always told people throughout my whole career you know, it's all about the people, it's all about the relationships. You know, when we get to know each other and when we can build meaningful relationships, we can make great things happen. And we can work through hard times and it becomes less about you know, I don't it's not that I don't like you, I don't like the behavior or I don't agree with this or or something like that. And coming up through the HR line, that was so important and then, as I moved over to more strategic roles, I think those relationships became even more important to really foster and grow.

Alana Muller:

Yeah, I think you're right and I mean you are the master of that in terms of you know, seeing through how a team can come together, how it can come together in a meaningful way and to break down some of those walls. And so you're right, you know you want to have those relationships before you need them, not at the moment that crisis hits. You want to know that there's a trusted, trusting connection that you can fall back on when things get tough.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah, and we were talking right before we came on, because I had someone recently ask me, like, who is your mentor, who's your mentors, and you shared a little bit about that. So can you talk about mentors and that network and why that's so important?

Alana Muller:

Yeah, you know, I think that, whether we know it or not, we all have mentors. We all have people in our lives that we surround ourselves with. I mean, gosh, you know Warren Buffett, who I'm a big, weird Warren Buffett junkie he always talks about you know, you are sort of your behavior is the five people you hang out with the most, so be mindful of those people. Right? And my great friend, marcia McMullen, has written a couple of books on mentoring and one of her books is about historical figures and time and their mentors and how they led these famous people to do incredible things. And then her second book is about more modern or more modern or contemporary example of that. And so when people ask, do you have a mentor? Who are your mentors?

Alana Muller:

I always think I have so many mentors, so many people in my life that I rely on, not necessarily in a formal way, but people who I know I can contact, reach out to talk about the things that are going great and the things that are going less great, and who will be there for me, who care about me. In fact, I'll tell you, when I first decided that I was going to leave Sprint, I had no idea what I was going to do. I didn't have money to spend, I didn't have an entrepreneurial idea Coffee lunch coffee was not intended to be a company, right, it was something I was doing for myself to figure out what I wanted to do next professionally. And so I reached out at that time to five people in the community, people I knew who were doing things I admired. They were all business professionals, but also good people, and, interestingly, all five said that they would meet with me.

Alana Muller:

And so now I would tell you I have too many mentors to name. There are certain people in my life who are sort of fixtures. They're really important people that I know I can go back to, and I don't want to start naming them because I'll forget somebody embarrassingly and won't be able to forgive myself. But what I'll tell you is I think we all have these people, and one of the concepts that you and I have talked about and that I write about is this notion of a personal board of directors, and you don't ever have to gather that team in one setting. But again, it's sort of when you think of your personal advisory board, when you think of your own board of directors, who would you call on If I pressed you right now to tell me, give me five people who you would call today to help you address a challenge, to help you think through a new idea that you have, who would those five people be? And I think that's really important and it's important to let them know how much they mean to you.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah, you're so right and I love looking at it like that, because I've never had really a formal mentor in my career. I've had people that inspire me and that are wonderful and supportive, and you included in that. I mean, randomly, we were well, nothing is random Intentionally someone connected us when I was working on getting my book out and I was to your point. People show up and that's the cool part that you've done for me and other people have like, hey, I just want to grab coffee and have some conversation, and people show up and that's the really cool thing that I find. Kansas City is where I've built my company, so I really know that it's true in Kansas City and I appreciate that. Yeah.

Alana Muller:

Well, and it's interesting that you bring up Kansas City. Yes, kansas City, 100%. When I first began networking intentionally, in those first nine months I quit my job. I didn't know what I was going to do. I didn't have anything to do next all this stuff. During that time, I reached out to 205 people and of those 205 people, 200 said yes, and I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe that nearly 100% of the people said yes. I know the names of the other five people, which is kind of my own little personal inside joke, and they're so irrelevant. People often say why do you remember their names? Well, I remember their names because they hurt my feelings. Let's face it right. Yeah, but they're so irrelevant because, as I like to share, it was those 200 people who led to every new professional opportunity, every new community opportunity and every purely social opportunity. And I don't know, was that a big number or a small number? I don't know, it doesn't matter. It was my number and it was what launched me, what propelled me and what allowed me to accelerate my journey.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah, when you talk about that, I reached out to Eric Morgenstern.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

I had kind of known him through some connections and it was at the very beginning of me starting Catalyst and I just said, can we grab lunch? And he is so kind and of course, of course, Katie, he makes you feel like he's known you his whole life and you're so important. And we sat down and he was. I mean, he came with like agenda, Like let's talk about this, this, this Like OK, and he said something that I remind myself all the time is you cannot get hung up on the people that you thought would wave your flag. You need to connect with the people that will say your name when you're not in the room and that will scream your name from the rooftops, he said, and, quite frankly, you probably don't even know the majority of them as we sit here right now.

Alana Muller:

That is exactly right. And I'll tell you and he knows this Eric was one of my first five. Ok, so he was one of those first five people I reached out to. So much of my content, not just in my book but in my whole repertoire, is sort of I call it the direct descendant of Eric Morgenstern. So the legend, the man that met the legend. He is inspirational, he's one of my mentors and so I think what he said is exactly right.

Alana Muller:

Especially the people that you don't know are singing your praises, those are the ones that are just super important to you.

Alana Muller:

I'll mention one other thing about that, and I think you and I have discussed this before.

Alana Muller:

But there are a couple of people in my life, two in particular, and honestly, we've developed very close friendships, but before those friendships were solidified, in my opinion, they were my biggest champions.

Alana Muller:

I can tie so much of my revenue, so much of the work that I've done over the years, the work I'm so proud of, I can tie it back directly to two people and frankly, I don't think I did anything to earn their championship or to earn their endorsement, and yet it's those two people, and I've told them both, and they both looked shocked when I told them, and in different contexts. They don't know each other. They have their paths, have not crossed, but what I'll say is that I will be forever grateful to them and they are just very meaningful in my life because they made me realize that people believed in me and believed in the work that I was doing and so, and frankly, in all of the work so the strategy work, the networking work, the coaching work, the facilitation work I can look back at these two people and they've helped me get opportunities in every arena that I like to play in.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

That is so, so cool and powerful too. I mean, it just really shines that light on the importance of having that community and network around you and not dwelling on those. It's funny because I think sometimes when we are going through, people always say tell me about entrepreneurship, how is it? And I'm like well, there's peaks and valleys, and on the good weeks your valleys are not as deep and your peaks are a lot higher. But it's sometimes when we get into those valleys that we fall into the oh, should I do this and can I do this? And it's having those people that will remind you that you can, that are so important.

Alana Muller:

Yeah, 100%. You know, it's funny. I was at an event recently where I was talking with some young women who are sort of getting their careers launched and a couple of them said that they wanted to be entrepreneurs. They were interested in becoming entrepreneurs because they wanted to work less. And it's one of those things where, as an entrepreneur as you know and I can even see from your face you know that your company is like the child that never grows up. It needs constant care and nurturing. You do not work less, you work more, and that's perpetual. And so, especially in those moments that's, you definitely need your fan club around you.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah, I tell people all the time I've never had more pressure in my life, but I've also never slept better, like knowing that I'm in control, that I get to make the choices, that I get to do what I'm passionate about helps me sleep better. But yeah, the whole idea that it gets easier.

Alana Muller:

No, it doesn't do that.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Lovely idea and I know you do a lot of mentoring and coaching and talking about strategic leadership and it's so important for us to be strategic in the work we do. So how do you encourage that, like, how do you encourage that and foster that kind of strategic leadership?

Alana Muller:

I like to help people think through the words strategy and tactics, because people hate those words, and my great friend, robin Sternick, helped me think through it one time.

Alana Muller:

We were having a conversation about that and she said you know, when I hear you talk about strategy work, I hear you talking about the what and the how, and I loved that and I have glommed on to that for many, many years, over a decade and so when I work with clients, I talk about the importance of seeing the big picture, of seeing the path forward, of understanding where it is that you want to go.

Alana Muller:

I encourage people to think about what are the big things, what are what I call the strategic comparatives, what are those big things you want to address, say just over the next three to five years, as an example, and then think about from an objectives perspective, think about what it is you want to accomplish, not the how, but the what, and that, to me, that's the strategic part of strategic thinking. It's the what is it that I want to accomplish? And then the tactical part is how, how are you going to get it done? So that's the you know. Roll up your sleeves and actually do the work, if people can think of strategy work as the what versus the how. I think they can get there more quickly and more readily and more easily without sort of the resistance that they anticipate either having themselves or for other people having toward this project or this initiative they're undertaking. So that's one thing.

Alana Muller:

I also like to encourage people to go back and I'm sure you've seen this, but that old Simon Sinek TED Talk it's one of the oldest TED Talks, one of the most popular in history about what he calls the why inside getting to your why, and I mean worth the 18 minutes to watch this thing. But you know he talks about start with why, and so if you can start with a mission with a purpose and I think you and I are going to get into some purpose stuff here in a little while but if you can start with purpose, your strategy can unfold from there. So think, if you know what it is why you're doing what you're doing, the what and the how come much more easily.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah, I agree, and I feel like sometimes people are resistant to the word strategy because they think of the like 80s and 90s, you know, and probably early 2000s, where we sat in a room for three days. I'll never forget, you know, we sit in a room for three to five days and we do our big strategic plan and we, you know, rind over it and we can't, we're not going to be home for dinner because we still got work to do. And then we produce this binder with these halves and it sits on a shelf and it's like, well, that wasn't really strategic work, that was something else.

Alana Muller:

Now, that was what I call it. You know, creation of a really nice bookend. I mean, it makes a very pretty thing for your bookcase. I tell people I was classically trained to do strategic planning. That was my focus in school, with strategic planning. And yet you are not going to get a SWAT analysis out of me, right? If one of my clients wants a SWAT analysis, I tell them I'm probably the wrong guy, right? I'm not the one to produce that. I'm not going to produce a binder. They may ultimately have a binder with a bunch of little mini plans, but strategy work should be action forward. It should be something that we can not only do, we know it, we can internalize it and we use it every single day. I don't even call my strategic plans. I call them strategic agendas, because I think it sets the agenda for what it is that we want to accomplish, what it is that we are going for as a team, as an organization, and I think that it helps people to move forward rather than become paralyzed by a three-ring binder.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, I so agree with you. I am kind of, not kind of. I am totally obsessed with Patrick Lentioni. I love his work, I love how simple it is, and so he has people create rallying cries, and so what are we all working towards? And I think that's so important, Like, what are we doing and how are we doing it? And part of what we do at Catalyst and you've talked about this is the why. What are your values? What do you stand for? What is that driving guiding principles that you're doing?

Alana Muller:

Yes, totally, totally agree with that. I love that, and I think Lentioni's work is excellent. I know that you and your team do a lot of coaching around that, so I think that's fabulous.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah Well, let's get a little to your why and the amazing work that you do In particular. I know you do a lot of things around Kansas City, but in particular there's two that I want to talk about today. The first one is American Public Square, can you? I've never heard of that until I met you, so can you talk about that?

Alana Muller:

Yeah, before I do, let me back up and tell you that for many years I ran a company for the Kaufman Foundation that a lot of our listeners probably are familiar with, called Kaufman Fast Track, and one of the great opportunities I had was to go to Vale, colorado, where one of my clients was based, and I was there for a weekend retreat. And, frankly, I didn't want to go to this retreat. I love Vale and I love this client, but I didn't want to give up my weekend with my family, and I say it was, you know, the phase of the moon or the way the stars were aligned. But thank goodness I went to this thing because by the time the retreat was done, I had stated my life's purpose, which I didn't think was a possible thing. Right, I didn't think that was possible. But by the end of the weekend, the facilitator said I'm going to give you 30 minutes and in five words or fewer, I'd like you to state your life's purpose. And honestly, if she had told us on Friday that that was going to be the instruction, I probably would have left because I was like there's no way. But I was done before we even started that exercise.

Alana Muller:

And she's explaining it. I'm writing. She looks at me when she's done and she says OK, hotshot, I can see you're done before we've started. What's your life's purpose? And I said my life's purpose is to connect, inspire and empower community. And she said, yes, it is. You can get your stuff and go. And I burst into tears, and for me, what that meant is that I knew what it was that I wanted to pursue. And for anybody who's ever been able to come up with their own personal mission statement or purpose statement, once they have their why, once you have your why, you want to get on about the business of doing that. And what I find is that, by having a mission statement, my tactical things that I do might look different in terms of how that mission manifests itself in my life, but I can lean on it to make sure that I'm doing the things that I ought to be doing. And so when you ask about something like American Public Square, that is a perfect example of my why coming to fruition.

Alana Muller:

So American Public Square is an organization that was founded here in Kansas City by former US Ambassador to Portugal, alan Katz, who, frankly, is one of my closest friends, and Alan is from St Louis, originally went to school here at UMKC and then spent the bulk of his professional career in Tallahassee, florida, as an attorney and really working in Democratic politics, and so he was very involved and then candidate for Barack Obama's presidential campaign. And so when, when President Obama was became went into office, he asked Alan to join him somehow in his administration. So he became the Ambassador to Portugal. But one of the things that was always sort of in his mind and on his heart was the fact that, from a political perspective, neighbors neighbors in small communities seem to to get very spun up about topics based on opinions, based on perspective. And yet these were neighbors. And so, while he was still in Tallahassee, he created an organization called the Village Square, which brought together people from various sides of any given tough issue, and what he found is that if they broke bread together, that they they stopped fighting, they stopped fighting, they were just neighbors having a meal together, and then they could talk about their differences of opinion. And so when he came to Kansas City, he wanted to create a similar organization, and so American Public Square was born.

Alana Muller:

And so what this organization does, it's a not for profit. Its academic home is William Jewel College, and what it does is it? It convenes non like minded people to improve the tone and quality of civil discourse and find actionable paths toward common ground, which we have many topics to cover on the long those lines. These days it's so horrible but true. So, whether it's political or social, you know American Public Square addresses topics that cover five areas, so community, civic engagement, education, faith or religion, and health and wellness, and I find that frequently those topics overlap. I think that we all are feeling a little bit exhausted and scarred by the political climate right now, whether we're involved in politics or not. And so what I love about this organization is it really it tries to every day honor its own mission to convene these non-likeminded people so that we can seek understanding of one another, not to change minds, but frankly, to disagree better, to disagree with more respect, to seek to understand one another's perspectives and, frankly, I believe, to help to solidify our own understanding of our own perspectives. Why do we think the things that we think? Why do we get so spun up about certain topics? And so it's been a privilege I'm a contractor to the organization, but they treat me like a full-fledged member of the team.

Alana Muller:

American Public Square is actually entering its 10th season right now.

Alana Muller:

I've been with them for I don't know eight or nine of those seasons, so I'm one of the old-timers, so to speak.

Alana Muller:

I'm sort of the longest-running member of the team, aside from Alan, who actually recently has stepped back. He's no longer involved in daily operations. He's the board chair and remains actively involved as an advocate, a champion and a fundraiser, and Claire Bishop, who is leading that organization as the executive director, does a phenomenal job of bringing people together. We've become part of what's called the KC Media Collective, which is an organization we helped to found with support from the Kaufman Foundation, and this is a collection of six organizations, five journalistic organizations, which include Kansas City PBS, kcur, the Kansas City Beacon, missouri News, business Alert and then Startland News, as well as American Public Square, and so what's wonderful about this is that together, as partners, we can convene, we can host events, we can write about it, we can talk about it on the airwaves, on television, and what it does is it really expands the pie here in Kansas City in terms of what people get access to in terms of their news and information.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

That is I just as you're talking about all that, I'm thinking it's so unfortunate that we need this so badly right now, and not just Kansas City, but nationally and internationally, like there's just so much going on and I love that you talk about. You know, it's not about changing people's ideas, it's about respect and understanding. I think that's. I think sometimes we forget that when we get so passionate about our side whether it be politics or religion, or I mean just quite frankly, work or parenting, like just because we do it one way doesn't mean it's the right or perfect way and we can respect it when it's differences.

Alana Muller:

Yeah, that's exactly right. That's exactly right. And you know, it's interesting as I think back on the hundreds of American Public Square events I attend. So American Public Square holds events, most of which are free and open to the public. They simulcast most of their events, so most of their events are available, even online, so people across the country and around the world can watch either live or on demand.

Alana Muller:

But as I think back over the years that I've been involved, I will tell you I feel like I have clarity about some issues. I feel like I understand my own perspective better and, frankly, I have changed my mind about a couple of things, some things that are really even very painful to talk about. Where I was very, you know, steadfast in my beliefs about a particular topic and without even knowing the impact that they had on me, there would be certain panelists who would say something that would just make me sit up and, you know, take notice of issues that I hadn't I really just hadn't had a different perspective or different input on. That really made me change my mind. So I'm grateful to the organization and I hope that I hope our listeners today will check it out. Americanpublicsquareorg is the website and, as I said, they offer memberships, they encourage, you know, grants and donations, but really what they do is they make things free and open to the public so that the public square can come together to have these conversations.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah, that is so important. I will make sure that I put the website in the show notes so people can fabulous go and check it out, check out the events, because, like you said, there's local conversations that you were having, but then there's also some bigger national conversations you all are having. And then let's let's pivot just a little bit to another area that you're very passionate about. Another organization is Seven Days, so can you talk about that and what that is?

Alana Muller:

Yes, many of our listeners have either heard of Seven Days, participated in our events. We are also entering our 10th year. What many of your listeners may recall, if they are not familiar with Seven Days, is they'll likely recall the shootings that took place at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom in Overland Park in 2014. And on that day, I was in my kitchen cooking my families, preparing my family's Passover Seder meal. My husband and son were not home On that day. I was also on the boards of both the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom, and I'll never forget. My aunt called me and she said where are you? And I said I'm in my kitchen. Where are you Thinking? She was being funny? And she said some people have just been shot at the Jewish Community Center.

Alana Muller:

And when I tell you the story, katie, you'll remember that it wasn't commonplace then for there to be shootings every single day in our little hamlets that we thought were so safe and serene. And I still have. I call it my own version of PTSD from that day. All I know is I know what I was wearing. I can still smell it. It's very palpable to me.

Alana Muller:

The first thing I knew I needed to do was find my family, because on any other given day, any other Sunday, we would have been at the Jewish Community Center. So I found my husband and son they were safe found my family, my parents, my brother, my in-laws, everybody. And then I just cried. And then the next thing I found out were the names of the victims, and I'll never forget that the last name of one of the victims was Corporan, and my good friend, mindy Corporan is one of those people that I have been professional friends with for many, many, many years. Mindy and I met one another through the Hillsborough Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program and had gotten together and talked about our families, all this stuff. So I thought of us as professional friends and so I remember I'm a little embarrassed to tell you I remember I texted her asking if she knew who the victim was. Well, she did. It turned out that the victims at the Jewish Community Center were her father and her son. So her father, dr William Corporan, and her beautiful, wonderful son, reed Underwood. And another victim, terry Lamano, was shot at Village Shalom.

Alana Muller:

And I'm sorry I get emotional when I talk about this, but Mindy and the way that she worked through her grief, I call her Otherworldly and she knows that I refer to her that way, but one of the actions that she took is she started this incredible, beautiful organization called Seven Days, and what Seven Days seeks to do is to overcome hatred by promoting kindness and understanding through education and dialogue. Not unlike American Public Square, by the way, and those two organizations have done some work together as well, but Mindy, for all these years, has organized events, also making them free and open to the public, making sure that children in particular, especially high school children and now even younger, are given access to information about promoting kindness, about the power of kindness. And the thing is, while that may sound somewhat polyana-ish in nature, we have to start with children. We have to start with children. We have to. It is not okay for children to think that it's normal to have active shooter drills in their schools.

Alana Muller:

You and I didn't have those Right. We got under our desks for tornado drills, I remember right.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

That was going to save us. Put a book over our head.

Alana Muller:

Yeah, put a book over your head and sit under your desk, I mean. And now the fact that this is so normalized that mass shootings even in Kansas City, even as recently as this past Valentine's Day, when we had the Chief's Victory Parade what a beautiful, wonderful day for our city that was just destroyed. Destroyed in a very public place, in a very public way, in a place that you and I both frequent, you know, if not weekly, at least monthly. We're both there all the time, and so it breaks my heart. But what I feel inspired by is the work of seven days. So I've been involved from the beginning. I've helped to organize events, I've been the co-chair of seven days, I now have the privilege to sit on the seven days board and it's just something that's in my heart. And you know, mindy knows that she's one of my sisters. Even though we're not blood related, we are very connected to each other and I think we always will be, and I just respect and admire her and love her so much and I'm grateful that she has made something positive out of a tragedy that you know just demolished her family and yet she found a way to rise through those ashes and to save her family and to sort of honor the spirit and the soul of her family, of her wonderful father and son, and of Terry Lamano, through the work that she does.

Alana Muller:

With seven days and in fact seven days 2024 is coming up. We will launch with our kindness breakfast on April 10th of 2024. And we're actually this year, instead of having a walk, we're going to have a community celebration. So I hope people will join us so that they can participate in that. The breakfast, as I said, is Wednesday April 10th. It's going to be at Resurrection, the United Methodist Church in Leewood, and then the Community Kindness Festival we're calling it is going to be Sunday April 14th at the Jewish Community Center.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, and I will make sure to put the link in the show notes as well. It's as I was preparing for this, I thought, you know, I went in and I was checking out the website and I am familiar with the organization and, unfortunately, that tragic day but the shock for me was that it was 10 years ago, like there's sometimes where it feels like it was like 30 years ago and there's other times that it feels so more recent, but it's like 10 years and while I was not connected at all to it and now I have a lot of friends that I know were connected to it, it just it. Anytime you see something like that, it causes this pause in your heart, to skip a beat. And yeah, we won't get on a political soapbox, but we got, we got to do something. I mean it's something that's exactly right.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

You mentioned the chief's parade, and in full disclosure. We were supposed to record this that day and I was in a meeting with networking with Dr Michelle Robbins, who I had never met before and so, thankfully for my heart, I was with her during that and I didn't even know it. It happened. And then you know, again full disclosure, we're recording this and it'll come out in a couple of weeks. But just last night there was a shooting at a high school basketball game here in the Northland and we do know people that were there and it's like this cannot be normal, this cannot be normal.

Alana Muller:

I cannot, I cannot, and you know the thing is, I just refuse to believe that those shooters love their children any less. Right, they just can't. Possibly we just have. We have to stop this this. We cannot be in this culture where it's okay or where our young people find this to be normal, because it's not normal.

Alana Muller:

And yet here, it is all around us, and so you know, I hope that I hope people will think twice before, you know, taking their firearms with them to public spaces and then, secondly, before pulling those triggers. We have to stop this. We have to love each other a little bit more.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah. And the last thing, and then I'll pull us out of this sadness, but I think what breaks my heart in the two most recent ones that are wildly public in Kansas City is they were both young kids, I mean, that were involved, that you know, especially at the chiefs that were shot, but then also that had the guns and the were involved and we don't know the full details of what just happened at the local high school, but again, juveniles were, were involved and it's like as parents, as mothers you know, as as community members, you know. Going back to the American public square, you know we don't have to agree but we can be respectful and work to understand each other.

Alana Muller:

Yeah, 100%. Rob Whitten, who's the executive director of the Children's Service Fund of Jackson County. You know he posted something that day and he basically said you know, save your thoughts, save your prayers and save our children. The fact that you know for him his office looks out over both Union Station and Children's Mercy Hospital, where 11 of the victims 11 victims children were hospitalized. And you know, I just, I just hope that things like seven days can remind us that we can do better.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah, I agree, I agree, and I think you know one of the things that you and I have bonded over so much is you know how proud we are to be mothers and and being able to be strong women and raising strong kids, and I have not shared this with you, but the last time we met in person, my daughter was home and she my daughter. I adore her. She's so cool and I'm like I'm going and having coffee and Abby's like all right, I'm coming and she just loved meeting you and how kind you.

Alana Muller:

I loved meeting her. She's an amazing woman herself.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, she's pretty good. I always tell her I aspire to be. You know who, who she is, who she is at 20. Gosh, so wise. But it's because she's surrounded by amazing women and she's open and willing to sit in the room and just listen and and and learn from others, which is pretty neat, I love that I love it.

Alana Muller:

I love it. Tell her I said hello.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

I will, I will. She'll be so excited. So, okay, well, and to wrap up every show, I asked this exact same question of everybody, and the reason why I really asked this question is the point of the podcast is to share our stories and to share experiences, but also to celebrate that the path to leadership is not this clean, straight, shiny, social media filtered path. So, to the level you're comfortable sharing what's your biggest leadership or career misstep you've taken?

Alana Muller:

Oh my gosh, how much time do we have?

Dr. Katie Ervin:

I just love when that's the answer that people say, because it's like see, it's true.

Alana Muller:

Yeah, I will tell you. I got a few stories, but there are a couple that I'll tell you about and I won't share what organizations these were with. But I'll tell you. I once made a horrible hiring decision, a horrible, horrible hiring decision. Actually, that's not true. Twice, I've made really bad hiring decisions, and what's interesting about bad hiring decisions is that you almost always know immediately. And yet you've spent months putting out the job, rec gathering, gathering the resumes, bringing in the candidates, conducting the interviews, and that's all time. We do not get back, we do not get that time back. And then we make the offer and it's accepted, and then they start, and you almost always know immediately. And there's an old adage about hire slowly and fire fast, and that is so true. And I will tell you, in both of these situations I failed. I did not do that. I hired slowly but I did not fire fast and Thankfully I was able to find my way out of the paper bag in both situations. But boy, those were hard, those were really hard. Not only does it reflect poorly on me, but worse, it reflects poorly on the company and frankly, I don't think that we're doing anybody any favors by keeping them on if they're the right person for the team. So that's one example of a failure.

Alana Muller:

I do have one other one I'll share, and that is that I have a wonderful marriage. Mark my husband, mark, is an amazing person. I have a true partner in life, and so I never knew what it was like to feel like an abused spouse or somebody who is relegated to the corner. I never knew what that felt like, except the one time that I had a really abusive boss. A really abusive boss and I think you and I have discussed this before. I had a very abusive boss who made me feel very much less than you know. That's an incapable and I don't know. Are we allowed to curse on the show?

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah, I say asshole all the time. Okay, good.

Alana Muller:

Okay, so just to drop a quick F-bomb. So I was reporting to this guy and he was a very mean-spirited person, and one of the things that he said about me in a meeting were several other people who were friends and advocates of mine. He said you know, lana's a nice person, but she doesn't know a fucking thing about business. And people reported that back to me. So I know it's true, because several people told me. And so, a the fact that he said it, not nice, b the fact that several people were in the room when he said it and he felt free to do that, it makes you feel very diminished, is all I can say.

Alana Muller:

And you know, what I am grateful for is that people told me, and in fact, one person told me into his office and said listen, this guy is not, he's on a mission to sabotage what you're doing and, frankly, if you don't get your arms around this, not only will you be fired, but the company will go away.

Alana Muller:

And frankly, it made me mad. It made me mad. It didn't make me cry, nothing like that. What it did is I was going to show him that he was wrong, and so you know, the good news is that I was able to emerge as the victor in that, if there had to be one, and to sort of course, correct. But that's one of those situations where you know when you when, when somebody is really sabotaging your work and you need to find a way forward. You have to become your own best self advocate and, all the way back to the beginning of our conversation today, find those mentors, find those champions, find your advocates who you can surround yourself with, your advisors who can give you the right advice so that you can get back on track.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah yeah, you've told me that story before and even still hearing it again Like I just a heat of anger in my body. That anyone thinks that's okay is just what are we doing?

Alana Muller:

Nice, yeah, nice.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, not nice. So what's funny? In the middle of your story, abby calls me like she never calls me all of a sudden. So, she, she must have felt that we were talking about herself. Sorry about that. Well, and so you do so many great things. You have the books and speaking and you do a podcast with enterprise bank, which I love listening to. So how can people get in touch with you, stay up to date on your work, reach out to connect all that stuff?

Alana Muller:

Thank you for that. Well, I hope people will visit me at coffeelunchcoffeecom. There you can also sign up for my blog. I write usually about weekly. Sometimes I miss a week or two, but I usually write weekly and then during the month of November I write every day, by tradition. We can talk about that another time, but, yeah, visit me at coffeelunchcoffeecom. So I you know I'd love to connect with people that way. They can also find me on LinkedIn at Alana Mueller, and I hope that people will check out AmericanPublicSquareorg and 7daysorg. If people are interested in the podcast, which is called Enterprising it's the word enterprise I'll spelled out dot ing, enterprising, and what we talk about on enterprising is we talk to the leaders, entrepreneurs, business owners about their leadership journeys, about their entrepreneurial journeys and about building better, more meaningful professional relationships and how that has manifested itself for them. I just love doing the podcast and I've met so many incredible people, as I know you have through your podcast, katie, so I hope people will join me.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yeah, it's so much fun doing the podcast, hearing people's stories, so I totally recognize that. Well, thank you so much for your time. More importantly, thank you for the work that you do and your willingness to show up for me anytime you get a random call from me. I appreciate it.

Alana Muller:

Likewise, very much likewise. It's a mutual, mutual affection.

Dr. Katie Ervin:

Yes, yes. Well, thank you everyone for joining us. Have a great day and we'll see you next time on the path to leadership. Bye, everyone.

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