A study revealed that men tend to have a higher intention of turnover compared to women. Women stay and endure longer, even in environments that are no longer healthy for them. Why is that? In this episode, Dr. Kevin Sansberry interviews Executive Coach and TEDx International Keynote Speaker Mitch Savoie Hill about why women stay in toxic situations and how they can make that “big shift” out of it. Mitch shares her own experience being under toxic leadership, revealing the ways women are made to feel small. She also shares how they can avoid burnout, especially as they continue to work through the challenges of their everyday lives. Join Mitch in this conversation and learn how to make that leap towards being the powerful woman that you are.
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Tactics For Women To Make Their “Big Shift” With Mitch Savoie Hill
This episode is with Mitch Savoie Hill. She’s a certified professional coach, international TEDx speaker and corporate trainer. She is a first-generation American born to Cuban exiled parents. She’s the CEO and Founder of SavHill Consulting, where she delivers inclusive leadership, coaching, corporate training and keynote speeches that help our audiences learn how to truly engage diverse clients and teams to achieve optimal productivity and success. Our conversation was awesome. We discussed how women in the workplace cope with toxic work environments and we looked at what we can learn as it relates to taking a risk and further making our big shift. Check out her book, VOLAR: How to Turn Roadblocks Into Runways to Success. Let’s get to it.
We have Mitch Savoie Hill. How are you?
Fantastic. Thank you.
One of the things I’m excited to talk to you about is your newly released book as of 2022. I want to talk about your experience related to why women stay in toxic situations. Lastly, figuring out how do we take that big leap? How do we make that big shift in our life, whether that’s career, relationships, whatever that might be? You seem like the person to talk to as it relates to making that big jump, so I’m happy to have you here.
I’m honored to be here. Thank you.
I want to introduce readers to you properly. Give us a bit about your background. Who are you and how did you start the work that you do?
I am an executive coach, TEDx international keynote speaker. I do corporate training and consulting for businesses. The majority of my executive coaching clients are women, in case people are wondering. Why are we talking to her about women and especially women in executive and leadership positions? Many of them are women in what we’d like to say, men populated, not men dominated.
Men populate fields like construction. I help them navigate the challenges that come with sometimes being the only woman in the room or the only woman or 1 of 4 in a whole national company and the expectations, and sometimes, unrealistic expectations that are placed on them. I have over 25 years of experience in leadership in various industries like hospitality, restaurant management, construction and property management.
Everything that I have learned along the way as a leader, as someone who has had great leaders and some terrible leaders, are what I apply to everything that I help my clients with in terms of these are the dos and don’ts and these are the best practices. If you want to engage your clients and engage your teams more importantly, this is how you do it. I have been in sales. Engaging is the most important thing. It’s the most important thing in life, how to engage those around you, engage your family and friends, and some of the things that I help with as a coach.
Your background includes your own experience as having leaders that are good and leaders that are maybe not so good. One of the things that I always want to illuminate is that not all leaders are as impactful as they think they are, and not all leaders are as impactful as they may seem. What is your experience when you think about that domain or that notion of toxic leadership? What is your experience in that area?
Being in a toxic situation is feeling like you weren’t supposed to be in that room, to begin with.
It is like a disease that some people don’t know they have. Yes, you are a toxic leader, but you don’t know it. I’m a first-generation American. My parents are Cuban, and sometimes I was the only brown person in the room, the only person who spoke Spanish. I had one boss who heard me speaking Spanish. I was managing and I was speaking Spanish to some staff members that English was not their first language, and we were in a very crucial situation in a very crucial time at the restaurant. I spoke to them in Spanish because I knew it was quicker and they would understand me and move quicker, and he stepped up to me and said, “No Spanish.”
He says, “I don’t want you to speak in Spanish to them. They will get lazy and not learn English.” I said, “They do know English. It’s my way to connect with them a little bit faster.” Maybe it hit me the wrong way, but for me, what he was saying is, “I don’t trust,” or, “I don’t feel comfortable with not knowing what you are talking about. I don’t understand what you are talking about, and so you might be talking about me.” It’s an insecurity. A lot of times, these types of toxic leaders are very insecure even though they come across or may come across as overbearing.
That insecurity manifested as an infringement of your cultural heritage or your background. That leader may not even recognize how that erasure could be damaging the people, but it’s grounded in their lack of self-esteem. That story is awesome because what that illustrates, what I did was back mapping. It’s like going back. Let’s look at the root cause.
That leader may not have wanted to come across as not inclusive. That probably wasn’t their first intention, but that was probably the impact that could have been the impact on people. What if somebody overheard that and I’m like, “John thinks this way about people who speak Spanish.” That could be the thing, but if you boil it back and go back, it’s like, “John has a low self-esteem and doesn’t trust people and thinks people are talking about him or whatever.”
That goes to the notion that I talk to people about. When we talk about these toxic leadership pieces, I try to stay away from calling people toxic and pivoting and saying people are exhibiting toxic behavior. If you boil it down, I don’t know that boss you are referencing. Let’s say that the boss got a coach, and then that boss realized, “I have self-esteem problems and how it shows up.” If people are vilifying that person, how are they going to have redemption? How will they ever be able to change as a leader because they are not supported or whatever?
The one caveat to that is that the leader has to be willing to be coached. He or she has to be coachable and some are. Some do change and I have seen that happen and it’s wonderful when it does. Even as a coach, I do an introductory coaching session at first to know if the person wants to take that client on because I can be choosy. I will know within a few minutes of this person is coachable or not. Some people, especially people with narcissistic characteristics, do not introspect, so they don’t think there’s anything wrong with what they are doing. If they have that type of personality, it’s difficult to help them change.
I did a study on narcissistic tendencies in a CEO behavior. In that study, one of the things that came up was the fact that there are many tendencies that those narcissistic personality traits on why they are selecting their roles on how it’s positive for them and sometimes the firm, but not other people.
To your point at the end of the day, behavior has never changed by some coaches’ magic words. I’m a coach too. We don’t have a secret. We are human like you are. We are not like Jedis. The person or the people that we work with have to be willing to change their own behavior. We are guides in helping that process happen. I want to be very clear and lift that up.
I have a few Jedi mind tricks up my sleeves.
Keep the telekinesis secret but related to changing behavior, the people whose behavior we are talking about need to be in the driver’s seat because that’s how it’s going to be sustainable in the first place. One of the things we talked about offline was your experience coaching women in male populated industries. I’m guessing that these are industries where there’s an over-representation of cisgender males compared to cisgender females.
As we think about that, one of the questions I have for you is in some of my research. I will bring up this study because this is important. In the study I did on narcissistic CEO behavior, we found that women were able to identify narcissistic tendencies quicker than men when you compare. That was one, but men had a higher intention of turnover. Meaning they are going to quit faster. Women stayed and endured longer. What are some of the reasons that women stay in toxic situations longer than they should?
There are many reasons. I will list some that I have observed as a coach and even maybe myself in some situations where I felt that I was in a bad or toxic situation. One is feeling like you weren’t supposed to be in that room, to begin with. It’s almost like you feel honored to be in the room because you are one of four women in the company or you are the only woman in leadership. You feel almost like you don’t fully deserve it or deserve it, but not everybody else sees that you deserve it, so you have to prove that you deserve to get there.
Quitting, it’s almost like, “I’m giving up. I’m losing. I’m quitting,” and that makes them right. There’s a little bit of ego and imposter syndrome. There’s also the tendency that some women have to nurture, care for, and want to help and save people that could be in relationships and that can be in job relationships where I can fix this. A lot of times, I feel like we can fix this or we can change things.
Yes, a lot of times we can, but there is a point in time where you have to draw the line and say, “I have done everything I can. I have used every tool available. I have paid for my own coach. I know that I’m doing everything in my power to be good at what I’m doing, and I’m still underpaid. I’m still being overloaded or still have unrealistic expectations.”
That’s a point that, even as a coach, it’s hard. I never pushed somebody to come to that decision, but once they come to that decision, then it’s time to make a specific plan and get them out of there. That’s some of the reasons why they feel like that. Some of my coaching clients feel like they are paving the way for other women, so they don’t want to give up because they feel like, “If I endure, then I’m paving the way for other women to have a role to step into.” There are a lot of things as you see.
A lot of that resonates with me. One of the things that are easier said than done is the fact of these are all mindsets that we have created. That’s not minimizing. I’m a coach. I’m illustrating it. That’s one of the things that we want to look up. If somebody has like, “You have the power to create that narrative, what other narratives exist also?” I don’t deserve this. I can get a higher-paying job or I can get a higher promotion or whatever. What else can be true? In my experience, folks who get into that position feel like they are the one and they are like, “If I leave, I’m not grateful for the opportunity that I was given.” You got that.
That’s the power of having a coach or having an accountability partner at your side to remind you of how great and awesome you are. That reminds me of a few situations that I have had to coach you as well. When it comes down to the fact of like, “I’m the pioneer. I’m the first vice president here, a cisgender woman. I’m the first one and I don’t want to let other women down,” how do you talk through that?
I want to clarify that it’s not cisgender women. It’s women on all the spectrum. It’s for the sake of being a woman, even an LGBTQ+ woman. For example, being on a construction site and being the only woman on that construction site, whatever your preference or wherever you lie your personal relationships professionally, you are still the only woman and they see you as the only woman. That brings a certain reaction from the people around you and a certain level of treatment.
It’s better to focus on one thing, get it done, then move on to the next.
What I tell the women that say, “If I leave or if I quit, then it’s like, I’m losing somehow,” is getting them to look at vision. I talk a lot about vision. Even with leaders, I always say, “Lead with the vision.” I get them to dig deep about what is their personal vision? Is this what you want your life to be? What is your ideal day in a life? What is your ideal scenario? Where would you like to see yourself? How would you like your relationships to look? What would they look like on a daily basis?
When they can see what their vision is, they can start to clearly define what an ideal professional role is for them or ideal job. It’s not this. They start to realize it’s not this. You can’t tell somebody, “You deserve more.” It goes with personal relationships too. You deserve more than this toxic relationship, but they might think, “This is all I have. This is all I can get. This is all I deserve, this partner.” I get them to dig deep and write out, write pen to paper because, as we know, it activates a different part of your brain. Write out what your vision is. What is your ideal? They then started to see the separation from the current reality to what their real ideal is and that’s powerful.
Before you get to that point or during that point, in that process, what are some signs that it’s time to make that exit plan? What are those signs? I’m curious about that.
I wrote a blog article on my website about this. What are the exit signs? I will tell you one of them, for me personally, was driving to work with that toxic boss. I will say that one was a toxic boss through and through. Driving to work and stopping at a red light and sobbing in my car at the thought of the next 11 to 12 hours because that’s what I would work as a restaurant manager, and feeling the tightness in my chest, and I am not someone who has struggled with anxiety.
That moment was what was my first panic attack. There was nothing scary about the job. I was good at my job. I was so miserable and that was a sign. Another sign is it can go both ways. It’s feeling that there’s no growth path. There’s feeling overwhelmed, but then there’s feeling too bored as well. Feeling you are bored. You are on automatic. There’s no growth path and they are not showing you a growth path, and you start to feel like you don’t care about what you are doing. Life’s too short. Why do something or spend all those hours on something that you are not passionate about or it doesn’t bring you energy and joy.
I like that you went that path of talking about it is. It could be the overactivity in a way, and then the under activity. It looks powerful there. That provides a clear distinction of someone sitting there. I think what happens in a lot of places is that under activity, when it gets overlooked. We think about, “I’m in despair. I’m crying in the shower. I’m crying on the way to work,” or whatever that might be, that boredom is also a sign too, but we overlook that.
We get complacent. We feel like, “I’m getting this paycheck. It’s almost like I don’t deserve to want more. Why am I complaining?” I will hear this sometimes. “I shouldn’t be complaining. My partner tells me I shouldn’t complain. I make a good income.” I said, “That’s great, but are you happy? Are you full of joy? Is there a growth path? Are you growing?” That’s the main part. If we are not growing as human beings, it’s like plants. If they are not growing, they are dying. You are either growing or you are staying stagnated. I think a lot more people put up with that for a long time. It’s really like, “I can’t take it anymore.”
We don’t see the stagnation as bad. A lot of people like they get comfortable with the boredom or what have you. They are missing out on skills they could have had or missing out on opportunities because they are like, “No. I don’t deserve it. I deserve what I’m getting. That’s all I could get.”
Fear of the unknown sometimes. I walked away from a six-figure income corporate job to start to focus on my business, SavHill Consulting, my coaching and speaking business, and that was scary. Some people didn’t think it was very prudent, but I knew what I needed to find joy in my life. I have never looked back. It was the most amazing and wonderful decision I ever made. Was it difficult? Is it difficult being an entrepreneur? Absolutely, but I love every minute of it. That’s the difference.
That time you get is invaluable. One of the things that we talk about is you hear a lot about burnout and knowing some of the work that you do. One of the things I’m curious about is the notion of women taking on more than they can comfortably handle instead of asking for help. Tell me about that manifestation and give me some ideas on what that looks like.
It’s one of the biggest challenges some of my clients face. Some of my clients are project managers, for example, in construction or leaders in a construction role, and they have other project managers around them. Some of which are men and they are making more money than they are making and they have less on their plate.
They start to feel overwhelmed and they say, “Joe and Jen over there, they have 30 projects less than me, and yet they are making $30,000 more.” I will say, “Why don’t you have that conversation with your boss? What would that look like?” “No. I don’t want to sound like I’m whining.” That’s what I hear a lot. “There’s no crying in construction,” for example. This is that ego versus imposter syndrome and a little bit of both mixed in sometimes. If I say that I need help, I look less able.
I’m not as much of a rock star as I think I am if I tell them that I can’t handle it, even though they’re unrealistic expectations and their plate is truly overloaded. There’s that. It’s a little bit of like, “I’m the only girl in the room and I want to outshine the other men, and the only way I will do that is by taking on more than I have on my plate to the detriment of my own health, my family time, my weight and my mental sanity.”
It’s wild, but that’s one of the difficult things to help as a coach. You said earlier, “It’s because it’s mindset.” You can teach them tactics. I can give them efficiency that can show them ways to batch their emails better, but at the end of the day, they have to say to themselves, “I deserve more.” We are talking a lot about deserving value, but that is what it is. It’s about valuing your time, family time, and your work.
The common theme between our conversation is how people can see through the fog and see their value. In a lot of times, the environment’s not going to show your value. The environment’s going to take and take from you. You are going to be triple the workload and going to work harder because you don’t want to confirm the biases you think people have and they may have them. At the end of the day, your mindset is driving you to overwork, overeat, to not sleep and not work out.
It’s like, “I don’t want to prove them wrong. I don’t want to let X person’s down,” but that’s the mindset driving all of that. It’s like I want people to be proud of me for being mentally well. I want people to be proud of me for setting boundaries. When can I be at the top of the mountain? I want that to be a thing.
It’s a cultural shift. The cultural shift has to happen. I think it is. I’m excited about the new generation coming up. Even some of the kids in school, I see that there’s more openness. I see that there’s awareness. There’s more awareness about these things. I think that there is a cultural shift happening, especially after the great resignation or in the midst of the great resignation. Now companies are struggling to attract clients and team members. How diverse and inclusive are they? Work-life balance is a big word and theme now. All of that has value now, yet they are still my clients who feel like they cannot ask for help. They won’t ask for help, which is one of the toughest things that I sometimes navigate with my clients.
On the flip side to organizations and individuals in power, it’s important for these folks not to cast judgment on, “I’m going to set boundaries. I don’t work on a weekend. I’m not going to answer this call. If there’s a deadline, that’s different. I’m not answering emails on Saturdays and Sundays. That’s my norm. I want to spend time with family or I will do whatever I want because it’s the weekend.”
You can’t erect the building without blueprints.
We still have a little bit of that, “The work, it’s not a right to have a good workplace. It’s not a right to have equitable pay.” I have heard people say that directly to me. “In order to be promoted, you’ve got to work weekends and 80 hours a week. You’ve got to do all of that.” That is not sustainable. To be honest, if the payoff is so I could look good, I will let my skills talk to somebody else.
It’s also more predominant in the marginalized. An immigrant or marginalized people. I came from Cuban exiles. They came to America and they worked to survive, to provide a better future for my parents and then for us. It’s also a cultural thing. When my parents or grandparents hear me complaining about work-life balance, they are like, “Ungrateful first-generation Americans. What is that? Who cares about that? Be happy to have a job.” A lot of us come from also poorer backgrounds, which I do. It’s in your family culture even that you don’t complain. You be lucky to have a job and you don’t complain.
The lesson learned is that there are going to be signals pushing you to say, “You are wrong. You are the wrong. You are in the wrong.” Both at home and at work, It’s important for us to listen to our bodies, our brains, and be attentive to our needs. These pressures that exist are generational curses that need to be broken because we don’t want to perpetuate that to our children, and we don’t want to perpetuate that to the next generation. We want it to be able to perpetuate flexibility and equity, fairness, all that stuff. Thanks for lifting that up. I need to think about it like that.
Here’s another one. As you are talking, it came to mind. Another thing that is more of my generation and the generation maybe before mine. I was born in 1974. There you go. That’ll give you an idea. The myth of having high value or placing a high value on multitasking which we have learned now is not good for the brain and it’s not good for your productivity. It’s better to focus on one thing, get it done, then move on to the next. That was also a generational myth that was, “I’m a great multi-tasker.” It was something good to say in a job interview. Now I say, “No. It’s not good.”
We’ve got to question those. It’s been great to talk to you. As we leave readers, I’m wondering what words of wisdom do you want to leave us with and do you want to share?
To be clear, my clients are not all women. I work with men as well. One of the main tools that I use to help my clients is leaders, companies, or somebody trying to hit a big goal or make a big shift, a big transition. What happens when you know the exit signs are and you are wondering, “How do I make that shift? It’s difficult, daunting and scary.”
We talked about my book VOLAR. It’s called volar, which is the Spanish word for the act of flying, to soar. VOLAR: How to Turn Roadblocks Into Runways to Success. VOLAR is also an acronym for the formula that I used myself personally and to help my clients. It’s just you walk through the steps in order to get to a huge goal or a big transition despite adversity.
The V is for Vision. You have to clarify your vision. We talked about it before, knowing what your ideal is, so you know when you have departed from that ideal. Where do you want to go? You can’t erect the building without blueprints. That’s your blueprint step. The O is for Opportunities. Often, we don’t raise our hands to opportunities and say, “Yes, please.” The O is where we learn how to say, “Yes, please,” to opportunities and overcome our fears.
The L is for Lean on your resources. A lot of times, my clients come to me with a very limited idea of what a resource is, so they think, “I don’t have any resources.” When I clarify what a resource is and get them to stretch their horizons and dig deeper, they see there’s an abundance of resources. They weren’t leaning on them or they weren’t recognizing them.
A is for Actualize a plan and actualize in first action. Doing something. Some people get too lost in the weeds with their planning. They get a very convoluted plan. I say, “Three things in three months. What are three things you are going to focus on in the next three months? They are the most important things or the things that are going to get you the most forward motion and work from there.”
You’ve got the vision. You’ve got your three things in three months. The R is for Recalibrate when necessary, because sometimes, as we learned, shift happens and you’ve got to be able to flow with that shift. Sometimes you’ve got to change the plan midway and that’s okay. Sometimes you’ve got to throw the plan out altogether and start from scratch. That’s okay. You go back up to the vision step and work right down through the formula again. It’s simple and it’s powerful.
Thank you for sharing that. A lot of people could walk away with that tactic and toy around with it in their lives. I appreciate you sharing it. Definitely read the book.
The book has exercises that you can apply as a coach and things like that.
How can people get to the book? How can people learn more about you? Tell us how we can reach you.
The book is on sale. You can go to VolarNow.com. It will get you to my website. You’ll have the page where you can buy the book, but also, you can learn a little bit more about what I do as a coach and as a speaker. There’s also my blog, so you can read a lot of articles that I have on different things like time management or how to make an exit plan. Even things like how not to clutter your fellow’s email box. Email efficiencies and things that are crazy. That’s SavHillConsulting.com.
I appreciate being able to cross paths with you and share this space with you. I look forward to hearing more about your work so we can help everybody volar.
I’m honored to be here and this has been fun.
Thank you all for reading the show. I’m signing off.
About Mitch Savoie Hill
Mitch Savoie Hill is a Certified Professional Coach, International TEDx Speaker and Corporate Trainer with over 25 years of hospitality and leadership experience. She started in the hospitality industry as a singing waitress in New York City when she was 18 years old, and later went on to manage teams for international companies in the restaurant, hotel, property management and construction industries.
Mitch is a first-generation American, born of Cuban exile parents, who survived a myriad of adventures and her fair share of discrimination and adversity. She now dedicates herself to coaching individuals and teams on how to overcome their roadblocks to success and has authored an inspiring and instructional book on the subject. As the CEO and founder of SavHill Consulting LLC, she delivers inclusive leadership coaching, corporate training and keynote speeches that help her audiences learn how to truly engage their diverse clients and teams to achieve optimum productivity and success.
Working in high-stress, fast-paced environments in unique markets, such as Miami, New York, Atlanta and LA, Mitch Savoie Hill developed best practices for dealing with different personalities and inspiring cooperation among diverse teams. Mitch uses her charismatic personality and her contagious laugh to captivate her audiences and enlighten them on important topics such as conflict management, how to inspire cooperation, and embracing Diversity Equity & Inclusion. She serves on the DE&I Committees for the National Association of Women In Construction (NAWIC) and Meeting Professionals International (MPI). Mitch Savoie Hill is energized by helping leaders clarify their visions, map out actionable strategies and stretch their horizons!