Good leaders meet people wherever they’re at. One of their top qualities includes staying neutral – that is, accepting of all politics, religions, beliefs, cultures, and races. Joining today is Dr. Elena Pezzini, an executive coach and author who has achieved great success in business and in her personal life. Specializing in leadership development and life coaching, Dr. Pezzini outlines the qualities of a good leader and talks about resiliency, embracing obstacles, leadership in the new normal, and so much more.
Leadership In The New Normal With Dr. Elena Pezzini
Jeffrey Edwards: We have a special guest. This person is someone I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many years ago. This person is someone that when you meet her, she is full of life and energy. You’ll walk away feeling charged and refreshed knowing that you’ve had this moment with her. It’s people like this that you run into over the course of your career that inspires the idea behind what does a leader represent? What are some of the impacts and the memories that you leave behind with other people? How do they react when they hear your name or when they see you? I thought this was a person that I wanted to bring in here for you to get to know her and to hear her story. Also, what she has done and currently doing in the world is supporting leaders and their organizations, and helping them reach their level of ability and their highest level of achievement.
I’d like to introduce to you our guest, Dr. Elena Pezzini. She is a native of Italy and she immigrated to the States to pursue a PhD in Applied Organizational Industrial Psychology. From her experience, she has achieved great success in business and in her personal life, and achieving the elements of moving forward. Having that vision, clarity and discipline to look at how to overcome obstacles and reach that internal potential that takes you to the next step. She has led millions of individuals and groups through a variety of different organizations, through boot camps and her coaching. Dr. Elena has also been a consultant to Fortune 100 companies. She has coached leaders and CEOs at all levels across the globe. She’s also an author, if you can believe all that she’s done. She writes books and she’s a bestselling author at that. She has worked with some of the industry’s leaders, influencers and names that you’d be familiar with out there in the world. Here she is sharing her time with us. Please help me welcome our guest, Dr. Elena Pezzini. How are you?
Jeffrey, thank you so much for the beautiful welcome. I want to say thank you for that warm introduction that you inspire me as much or more as I inspire you. Please know that. I also want the audience to know that Jeffrey and I are colleagues. We are in the same niche and sector. We are no better than anyone else. We put ourselves out there and that is what makes us more approachable. We have gone through a lot of ups and downs. We’re not perfect and still during COVID, that’s what makes us better, being willing to recognize that if we go down a little bit, there’s going to be an up. We surround ourselves with like-minded and like-hearted individuals who always strive to improve themselves and help others.
That’s what life is all about. Talking about obstacles, there are obstacles every day but I don’t see them as obstacles. I see them as fun challenges. I welcome and embrace them. I love writing and we’ve been co-writing some courses together or at least parts of them. I just want to mention that my veterinarian cousin, Dr. Ferrari, would be writing books to help busy business owners who are also parents and pet parents understand their animals better. It’s called the Gli Amanti Del Cane in Italian. It’s number one bestseller on Amazon and the English version, Dog Lovers, is going to be released very soon.
I love how you integrate all of the experiences that the main people out there can relate to the whole experience. We think about the COVID experience where there’s a work element, a personal element and a family element to it. One subject that’s come to light that I’ve been reading about and I know you have a passion for is being a pet owner. Also, the implications of owning pets and what they’ve had to go through during this period, as well as how it all fits into the narrative around mental health and wellness, and how people have been able to adjust through this time. Through the work that you’ve done, what have you seen to be some of the themes in the work that you’ve been doing over this time?
During pre-COVID, it used to be that people struggled with time. They come to Jeffrey and me, normally because they want to make more money. All of them want to make more money, even if we don’t even need them. We already have a pretty good lifestyle, but we are somehow pushed to think that we need more money. We realized with our coaching that what they need is to be with their loved ones, smell the roses and enjoy life versus going without stopping and enjoying what life has to offer. We work a lot on that. One of the great upsides of COVID is that we were forced to slow down, although that doesn’t justify the deaths.
If anything, we save commuting time now because most of us are working from home. Normally I spend the summer with my family in Europe. I postponed that to protect them so I’m also saving flight time. I see now with COVID that a lot of our clients need help in creating new systems, new structures to work from home because all the kids are at home in most countries, states and counties. They are figuring out time management so that they can still have some fun and collaborate all together, maybe in different rooms, managing sounds and noises, managing the pets. They were also like, “I don’t understand what the heck is going on. Our owners are at home all the time.” They are confused too. They have a little bit of anxiety about it. They’re expressing themselves without understanding, so we need to reassure them too.
Those who adapt faster are the ones getting better results
Also, as business owners, entrepreneurs, executives, which is our target market, the key is not to be afraid to take risks, to adapt and to be creative. Even my friends who are restaurant owners, if all you can do is deliver, curbside, cater or build something outdoors with heat lamps if it’s too cold, then that’s what you’re going to have to do without wasting too much time. Even in our work that’s already virtual, we had to adapt to be able to serve our clients better, to change faster, to be reassured, to take advantage of different investments, maybe manage their money and their time a little differently. The key is not being afraid to adapt and adapt fast because I’m noticing that those who are adapting faster are getting better results. Those who are taking too long, that may be disastrous.
Back in the springtime, especially in April when everything was locked down, there was a big push. People went online and the social media was very hot and heavy. Everyone started to create new online businesses, eCommerce and they pushed. I even felt this personally. It felt like I was going fast, but all of a sudden, it felt like the world got faster. If I wasn’t going to keep up, then I will fall way behind. I can appreciate those who were going through that time and felt they were behind. That leads to a feeling of depression, or missing out on everything or, “I’ve lost my chance.” It’s a paradox. It’s part of that resiliency. How resilient can you be and develop that? At the same time, how do you protect yourself from putting yourself down or feeling that you’re not good enough in keeping that balance?
The way I see it, and that’s the way I live my life. I asked my clients and friends to do the same. Nobody’s got the crystal ball or magic wand. I wish there is. Who knows what’s going to happen? As long as we’re not afraid to make a decision and stay in action, then the path will unveil itself. Even if it was the “wrong decision,” we can “course” correct it. People who stay at home, get paralyzed, don’t do anything, maybe live off on savings or government help, in my opinion, they’re losing the flexibility, the momentum, their intelligence even, the creative muscle. It’s important not to be afraid. Choose one strategy, one new plan, one new regimen and go for it. As my grandma used to say, “All roads lead to Rome.” Rome is what you want. Go with your vision and the empire you want to build. There are infinite ways, paths and roads to get there. Choose a new one and you’ll find yourself on the path somewhere. You’ll still get there. Just go for it. There is no right or wrong.
I hear that and I hear people say that as well speaking with leaders, but yet there’s still that feeling of risk. The right and wrong can sometimes translate into, “Am I getting the results that I expect or that were expected of me, or what’s expected of me out there?” At the same time, I’m thinking of the people who are new to leadership or emerging into leadership. They used to feel that perfection. They can’t do anything wrong or it’s going to look bad on them. How do you balance your expectations with the expectations of others and sometimes they may be different?
Jeffrey and I are certified coaches and we surround ourselves with coaches. Not only do we coach others, but also, we are being coached at the same time. I have accountability buddies. I’m being coached. I have four coaches. I have one that helps me with my running. She’s a marathon coach. I have a couple that helped me with internet marketing. One for English speaking countries and one for Italian speaking countries. I have an overall head coach that looks at all my different areas of life to make sure I stay on track. I also belong to different masterminds and I even host my own quarterly. They’re free for now to help out. They’re global. We have people coming from all over the world, 100 different countries, 5 continents.
We always do it the first Wednesday of the month. We choose topics that people request. One topic was Difficult Conversations Made Easy. I had an expert coach come in and give us steps. He co-host it with me. You’ll find the replay for free on my website YouHaveGotThePower.com. I post it everywhere on my social media. I would love to do one with you. Let’s co-host one together, Jeffrey. It can be about leadership during COVID or a subject that our clients need right now that we can mastermind about. I surround myself with all of this. All of this is mental health but I also believe in physical health.
For me, what has been working out and it gives me a lot of energy more than I know what to do with plant-based nutrition that I’ve followed for more than half of my life. I do exercise daily. I’ve had to change it a little bit during COVID but when there is a will, there is a way. I figured out a new way to do it on Zoom or with a treadmill versus running at the park. For now, it works. I know it’s not ideal. I’d rather be out in nature but I’m trying to protect myself and others. I’m not going to compromise the healthy regimen that I know works for me just because of COVID. It keeps my energy and immune system high for myself, my beloved friends, my family and clients. I’ll figure out a new way.
It’s interesting when you were sharing your background and the coaches that you have in your life. If I were to share with other people saying, “I know someone. She’s an accomplished executive coach and consultant. She has a PhD in Industrial-Organizational Psychology and she has four coaches.” They’ll go, “Why does she need all these people?” Why do you have coaches in your life to help you do your day to day? Your level of success is well stated and you’ve helped people all around the world to regain themselves in order to help them in their business, their personal lives or relationships. Why do you need this? That would be the question I have.
Leadership Habits: Surround yourself with like-minded and like-hearted individuals who always strive to improve themselves and help others.
I make more mistakes than anybody else I know. There is still so much improvement that I want to have in this lifetime, and learn new skills and knowledge that I still don’t have. For me, I wouldn’t see life any other way. To me, that’s the purpose of living. Always push yourself a little higher. Otherwise, life will be too boring.
When you look at the state of companies and organizations in general, what would you say that they need right now? What type of leadership and what type of leaders do companies need to move their people and to either regain momentum or to plan for that next new normal as we hear out there?
I personally think that a good leader has to stay completely neutral. Apolitical or accepting of all politics or accepting of all religions, beliefs, cultures and races, so diversity. They should meet people wherever they’re at. I talked a little bit about veganism for me, but that works for me. I encourage others to find out what works for them in terms of faith, politics if that interests them, lifestyle and nutrition. Even now when most of us are working from home, you could technically leave the country or continent, have fun and work from somewhere else remotely. This is the time to explore new hobbies, passion, wants and desires. Sometimes it’s hard. I’ve had clients who are hunters and my hair goes up.
They’re not hunting for plants, I’m sure.
I don’t say anything. If that’s what’s important to them, I encourage them, even if it’s hard. That’s not what I would do. I encourage them to explore, get to the next level and whatever that means to them. Neutralize yourself and meet people wherever they’re at. Especially with this COVID, sometimes people are stressed out. They have anxiety and sometimes it’s borderline mental illness. We are not medical doctors so we cannot help with that. If we feel like clinical support is needed, then we encourage them, in addition to coaching, to also get a medical check and so on. It’s important not to judge, including from my parents. I went skydiving and I couldn’t tell them. They would have flown here and stopped me and have a heart attack along the way. That was important for me to push myself out of my comfort zone. It was great to share the video if you like. As a leader, it’s without an agenda, without judgment, with extreme confidentiality, see where people are at now in their own journey, which is different than anybody else and where they want to get to next.
As a follow up, it would seem that to help create that dialogue, it is creating that environment where people feel safe to share and to express without the judgment and feeling shame. To do that requires both parties to be open to being vulnerable as well.
Safety and vulnerability, that’s a must. It’s not easy to find a professional that embodies all these skills. Even for us, sometimes it’s hard. We’re humans too. We have feelings like everybody else, but we do our best. Practice makes perfect.
The purpose of living is to always push yourself a little higher; otherwise, life will be too boring.
Coming from a different country and re-establishing yourself as you did, describe the journey that you went through given you were coming from a whole different culture, a whole different language, and starting fresh in a brand new country. What were the learning points for you along your dream during that time?
There are so many. One day I’ll have to write a book for that or maybe do a movie. I have to change my name because I have always done kosher things along the way. I’ve always been a daredevil growing up. Back then, in a very all-white, all Catholic environment, I felt suffocated. I’ve always needed diversity. I’ve always needed something more. I knew that. Things have changed since then. I left Italy for the first time in ‘94. I was a rebel without a cause. Things have changed since then over there. Now it’s much more diverse, the European Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall, etc.
I’ve always been enamored with the United States since I was thirteen years old. It was something in my heart. I don’t even know how to explain it, but I made my family start hosting exchange students. We’ll get students from everywhere, Australia, America, and so on and so forth. Some behaved and some behaved a little less. I somehow loved getting into their mind and their culture that seemed so different than my little Italian culture. This is maybe a good lesson for parents. After that, I knew I wanted to come to the United States because back then, it seemed like this progressive, innovative, modern world and Italy seemed like this old-school, archaic country.
I was thirteen and I insisted that I wanted to come and do high school in the States. My very conservative, old-school Italian parents were like, “Forget it. You’re too young. You’re not going.” Repressing that desire eventually caused the opposite result. When I turned twenty, I had saved up some money and I needed to escape from the home. They threatened me in many ways, including disowning me and taking me off the inheritance. I took a risk. I went anyway without even knowing what I was going to get into and applied for university. Back then, there wasn’t the internet. I literally escaped from home, got on a train to Milan to the consulate and took the TOEFL test that measures your English. My English was horrible back then because in Italy they teach you Shakespearean English or at least at the time, which is useless.
Since I don’t have that much money, the only college that accepted me happened to be in Kansas. I thought, “that’s not the United States.” Even Kansas was good for me for a year because there was nothing to do. I was a good student. I had straight A’s. There wasn’t anything else to do. Soon after, I thought, “I better escape from here.” I had another escape. I moved to the coast and I’m leaving a lot of details behind. That’s for another interview. When I graduated, it was 2000. I was in San Francisco. That’s when the market crashed. It was very hard to get a permit to stay in the country.
I moved to New York City because I thought I’d get a better chance there to get immigration papers. I went through 9/11. My roommate was killed in the towers. At some point, my visa expired. I was kicked out of the country. There was no shortage of adventures, good or bad, but I was determined to make it happen one way or another. I’m now a dual citizen. The journey has been rocky and the US has changed a lot from what I was fantasizing about as a little girl. Italy has also changed a lot for Europe, the place I grew up. Some changes are for the better, some changes are for the worse, but as we teach in coaching, we focus on the good part. It’s the glass half full versus half empty.
I can’t even imagine what that experience was like for you. The one question that stands out is what kept you going forward? I’m sure there are plenty of times when you might have been second-guessing yourself. There were doubts. There were obstacles because of language or because of where you’re from or how people perceived you. What was it that kept that progress moving in the right direction for you?
Jeffrey and I share some of the same great global mentors, international mentors that inspired us and were pivotal in our life. Some of them have taught us that no matter what, you finish what you started because otherwise, you’ll never know. Finishing something is a good leadership habit and a good overall success habit. I thought about quitting when it was so difficult, to go back to Europe and stay there. It would have been a very easy life because my parents had already lined up everything for me. I needed to discover it on my own and even in my PhD, many times, I wanted to kill my professor. I hope they’re not reading. I knew no matter what, I had to keep going and something good was going to come out of it despite the blood, sweat and tears.
Leadership Habits: The whole purpose in living is to leave this earth a little better than how we found it for the generations to come.
Your story writes itself as to what you did overcome and what you accomplished. In preparing for this, I was reading through and you’re talking about legacy. When you consider where you’re at right now and going forward, what is that legacy that you envision leaving behind?
That’s a great question for all of us to ask ourselves even during COVID. The answer may change. To me, the whole purpose in living is to leave this earth a little better than how we found it for the generations to come. The animals, I manage a nonprofit that rescues them. That cause is very dear to my heart. Also, the environment is a cause that’s very dear to my heart. One of the reasons why my headquarter right now is in Vegas is because I have solar panels. I grow a lot of the fruits and vegetables I eat. I have enough also for others in case there is ever a food shortage. They could come over.
I do my best to live a chemical-free life as much as possible and to leave this earth a little cleaner if possible, for the generations to come. I also volunteer with children as much as possible in different educational projects as well. I’ve worked with autistic kids as well. As a scientist I would push myself to do some more research, figuring out some new mental tools. I know, Jeffrey, you do the same. I do have a membership website and you can get a lot of free tools as well. Some are paid, but the prices are very affordable, especially right now during COVID. I was supposed to be doing a leadership retreat in Italy, in castles with a whole visualization, a yoga on the Lake, all this fun stuff, but COVID had other plans. I’m hoping to postpone it. It may be too soon depending on the vaccine and what happens and all that airlines. It will definitely happen in 2021 or 2022. I would love for you, Jeffrey, to be there as my guest. You can bring anybody you want, your lovely wife and your clients, whomever you like.
Thank you very much, Dr. Pezzini. We’ll put that on the calendar. I’m not too sure about the yoga thing. Yoga in a castle by the lake. That sounds good just to do that alone, I’ll definitely take consideration for that. Thank you so much. We’ve sat down for hours at a time having conversations like this. The one thing that always stands out for me is your passion for people and your passion for what you see in people, and the potential that you want them to harness, acknowledge and move forward. It’s beautiful to be around people who want to inspire others to be their best. This is a perfect example. Sharing yourself and your heart to people reading is more of a representation of the person you are and the quality of person you are. Thank you so much.
It’s my pleasure.
Dr. Pezzini mentioned her website and some mastermind information. We’ll have that available on our site where you can catch this episode, as well as some past episodes. Once again, thank you so much, Dr. Pezzini, for being here. I love it. If people ask for you to come back, would you be interested?
I would love to. Big hugs and best wishes through your wonderful audience.
Thank you for being a part of this episode and we look forward to having you back here next time. Until then, be good and lead well.