41. Ashley Herd, Manager Method — Use Your Voice: Communication, Delegation, and Strong Leadership

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An HR leader and lawyer with experience at world-class organizations like McKinsey, Modern Luxury, and Yum! brands, Ashley Herd provides upskill training and tools to help employees, managers, and enterprises reach their goals. CEO of Manager Method, Ashley, offers training that is accessible and engaging.

Today she shares with us how to be a more effective leader, how to ask for feedback, and how anyone can find their voice and become a more confident speaker.

What’s in This Episode

  • Who is Ashley Herd?
  • Why is communication essential for successful teams?
  • How is TikTok driving her business?
  • How can managers move away from micromanagement into delegation?
  • How can women be more confident speakers?
  • What can be done to help tap into parts of our voice that may have been hidden away?

Transcript

Ashley Herd:

There’s always this fear. Fear of, even if it’s not you failing, is often the people that are working for you, something going wrong and you getting the blame.

Sonya Palmer:

Upskilling allows us to become more confident leaders who trust the capabilities of our teams and ourselves.

Ashley Herd:

I’m enough. I’m going to do my best and I’m going to be excited when it works out and I’m going to be okay if it doesn’t.

Sonya Palmer:

In 2021, women made up over half of all summer associates for the fourth year in a row, yet equity partners and multi-tier law firms continue to be disproportionately white men. Only 22% of equity partners are women. We would like to see that change.
Hello and welcome to LawHER, a show where we celebrate the trailblazing attorneys and entrepreneurs who are changing the game for women in the legal field. Be inspired by their stories, learn from their mistakes, build a community, and look forward to the future they’re helping build for the next generation of women in law.
I am Sonya Palmer, your host and VP of Operations at Rankings, the SEO agency of choice for personal injury lawyers. This is LawHER.

Ashley Herd is the CEO of Manager Method. She offers upskill training and tools to help employees, managers, and enterprises reach their goals. An HR leader and lawyer with experience at world-class organizations like McKinsey and Yum! brands, she makes training accessible and engaging. Today, she shares with us how to be a more effective leader, how to ask for feedback, and how anyone can find their voice and become a more confident speaker. Let’s dive in.

Ashley Herd:

When I was little, I want to say nine or 10, I got this idea in my head and I was a child in the ’80s, so I say it must have been these ’80s high-powered Wall Street, the suits looked cool. I didn’t have guidance, and I didn’t have any lawyers in my family, but at the church we went to when I grew up, a woman there was a lawyer at a large law firm in Louisville where I lived, and I shadowed her for half a day. I got a notebook, and we went to the Bristol, which was my favorite restaurant in Louisville so I thought, “Absolutely.” So that was my path. And it’s funny because I came across her professionally probably about five years ago and I said, “I don’t know if you remember.” And she laughed. She said, “Of course I did.” And I said, “I remember you telling me that lawyers use math and you lied.” She said, “Oh yeah, your dad told me to say that.” But anyway, it was as a child, so it was more of the idea of it, but I latched onto it and always had it in my mind from there.

Sonya Palmer:

I love that. What an amazing experience for a kid. I think adults should cultivate more experiences like that when kids show interest in something like that to connect them with an adult that’s actually living it out. So, I love that.

Ashley Herd:

I laugh because as a lawyer I’ve been asked, “Can we have high school people come?” And there are all the liability things, but I think I showed up when I was 12 and I didn’t break anything. So, people can generally be trusted.

Sonya Palmer:

Yeah. So then, can you walk us through your career path and then how you came to found Manager Method?

Ashley Herd:

I went to college, a small liberal arts school. So, I always had it in my mind that I wanted to have some more experience before going to law school. Again, no idea exactly where I got that, but I moved to DC and worked in corporate sales. And so having a liberal arts background, I worked in sales, so I spent a year cold-calling of Fortune 1000 CFOs.
It was great preparation for the Socratic method or any of those things where you’re on the spot, you’re having to think through. And so, I did well at that, so I got promoted to a role where I went around the US and Canada meeting with heads of HR for HR products, so chief human resources officers. And I knew I wanted to go to law school, especially when I was getting ready to go, I ended up talking to them about it and all of them said, “You should go into employment law because you’ll never be at a loss. You wouldn’t believe the stories.”
And now I know all too well, people are people. And so, I went to law school, came to Atlanta, and went to law school at Emory. And the first year, fine, but starting your second year, you could really start to… You don’t have a major again, but you obviously… But you can take focus. So I took a lot of employment law classes and really loved them.
And so, I started out in a large boutique. Labor and employment are one of those that really kind of like IP where often it lends itself to a boutique environment, the rates are lower than corporate work, but all the knowledge… And so, I worked in a national labor and employment management side. So I did litigation, went to a smaller firm that had started, spun off from a big firm, still management side. And there I got to do a lot more counseling.
So working with companies like, “How do I handle this situation before it gets to litigation?” And I loved that, developing those relationships. So a client that I spent a lot of time working for had acquired another company. So I went in-house when I was about the fourth year, which was a pretty good time for me because I could take the pay cut at that point in time because it was going to be a pay cut. But also, I had a young child and so all of a sudden, I went from working long law firm hours to working 8:00 to 5:00. And loved what I did during the day. It was a media company, we had celebrities come through, Backstreet Boys, all of the staff-

Sonya Palmer:

Oh, what?

Ashley Herd:

There’s nothing like being like, I’m not only socially acceptable but told to go down and watch this performance by Kelly Clarkson. Like, “Okay, cool.”

Sonya Palmer:

Okay.

Ashley Herd:

And I love that stuff. So it was wonderful but so varied. We’ve moved around a bit geographically largely because when we were in Atlanta, we didn’t have immediate family here. So after a couple of years, I truly said I’d love my job, but we moved back to Louisville where I’m from to be close to family. So I worked for KFC, as I say sometimes…
Again, speaking of nothing like it being socially acceptable to eat your feelings in the workplace or try new marketing was right next to legal. And so, we got to try all these amazing new products and in that I really loved, and it was almost an all-female legal team. It was really interesting. So we can get into that a bit.
But so from there, we had an opportunity to go to Australia for my husband’s company. And so, went there and was able to rejoin a prior company, become a GC, ended up becoming a head of HR, came to Atlanta, and thought we might want to live abroad again. So I joined McKinsey consulting firm, their legal team, and was taking on an HR role for them when I really wanted to start Manager Method. I was talking to someone who was on the HR team there and I was saying I have the best people managers I’ve ever met who weren’t necessarily senior consulting partners, they were restaurant managers at KFC, and they could generate this. And I said, “I have this idea of having these scalable tools to take some of those principles and teach them to more corporate people that you don’t have that.” And someone said, “Why wouldn’t you do that?”
And there are a lot of answers to that, like why… There are a lot of reasons why you don’t want to leave a great corporate job. But I ended up starting, so then COVID happened. So I was very busy doing HR and legal for another company. So last year really earnest, I started Manager Method. And so, the whole principle is this idea of I’ve seen litigation, I’ve seen counseling, I know the lawyer Ashley, but a lot of that comes from HR Ashley, and the way you talk to people, the way you work, treating people with respect can not only avoid a lot of issues in the workplace, meaning litigation and all those costs in time, but it can have a positive effect on those employees, and their families, and their communities. And so, everything works from that north star. And so, I started it. I work with different companies, some I do employment law for others HR, then I started social media this year under Manager Method. So that’s who I am.

Sonya Palmer:

Amazing.

Ashley Herd:

We literally moved around the world, and so it caused these things but having these experiences has created this quilt. And here I am now, it’s been really unusual. But again, having worked to the alpha and omega, to the corporate ladder and realizing how important it is to treat people with respect. And so, it’s an unusual career, but I’m really happy to be where I am.

Sonya Palmer:

I feel like cold calling, kind of like exactly what you just said, and in addition to the service industry, retail, hospitality, and restaurants, there is a skill set that you learn there that is unique. And I do think that a lot of it is that you learn how to treat people, you learn how to treat people with respect, so-

Ashley Herd:

Maybe 100% I treat people with respect, get their attention, and the idea of earning that conversation. Also, my research and that we were calling CFOs and I realized somewhat, this is probably why I did okay in discovery and things litigation because I can remember I had one prospect, I won’t say the company, but I used to read the New York Times every Sunday. And so, the weddings, I saw that this prospect who I was trying to get a call with, his daughter got married.
And so, I cut the clipping out and sent it to his assistant and to his assistant. And I can’t remember how that ended up, but I did get an email back and that was not a cease-desist, and don’t be a creeper. So it’s hard, but I totally agree on cold calling. I tell people that all the time, cold calling. And even if people are looking to change industries, volunteering for a bank or any type of charity that you’re passionate about, it builds such a level of skills that can… It’s hard to do anywhere else.

Sonya Palmer:

Yes, I agree. Let’s talk a little bit more about Manager Method and finding your voice. The Manager Method helps upskill individuals and their career goals, managers into becoming leaders, and organizations and their enterprise-wide needs. Who does your program help and who are your ideal clients?

Ashley Herd:

So largely I work mostly for organizations, and they’ll say, “We don’t have any management training.” I say, “Okay, got it.” Because one, in-person manager training is really expensive, and if someone’s not there, someone starts the next week, it’s to put… Or a lot of video-based training is really boring. I’ve talked to people, and they’re like, “Oh, I’m going to call, I’m on training, camera off, Zoom off.” It’s totally a check-the-box exercise, which may get you through your legal compliance needs, but it’s not going to change anything. Or the training is all about the super egregious examples like don’t touch someone here in the corporate cafeteria. You’re like, “Right, but that’s not how it tends to present itself in the workplace.” If I do this manager 101 programs where I teach managers everything from a very high level, nobody needs to be an expert. That’s why I have HR legal.
But there are things you need to know, whether it’s the classification of contractors, things you say and don’t say, if someone comes to you and makes a complaint says, “Don’t tell anybody.” What do you do? And so, it’s all about those super high-level things and then for organizations, but I think it actually works better if they do a toolkit for an in-house HR employment lawyer, whoever, to run it with role plays so that managers can practice these scenarios in their own and get feedback before they have the conversations in their life. So oftentimes that’s what the organizations do, but I also have tools for individual employees, for managers that want to invest in their own careers as well.

Sonya Palmer:

Excellent. And then recently we have spoken to quite a few women who are just dominating TikTok. And it’s interesting because it changes the narrative around marketing, and it allows women to show up authentically as themselves. Your content is both engaging and informative. When did you know that content marketing on TikTok would be a driver for your business? When did you discover that?

Ashley Herd:

It really wasn’t that long ago, and I’d had a TikTok, but at the beginning of the year I thought, “Well, I could make some of these role plays and types of things.” And I started doing it with music and having these DIY captions and figuring all of that out. And I thought it would be fun, but when it started I would have three followers and if I got 25 or 50 views or something, I’d be like, “Oh, it’s amazing. Oh my god, it’s 50 people.”
And it was cruising along, and then in July, I changed it up a bit and started using my own voice as opposed to having music and captions. And I really did that because on TikTok, if you do these, where you add text in every few videos, one of them will get blown up really big and so it’s impossible to read. So you’d get comments and people would be like, “Don’t you know how to edit?” And other people be like, “No, it is. It’s just a quirk. It looks fine when you upload it.”
So partly, it was because of that. So I started doing these role plays pretending to talk to this bad boss, and I did that and it just kind of hit. So within that six weeks, it went from 12,000 followers to 100,000 followers. And I didn’t do anything markedly differently. Got a microphone, and a different camera, but it’s just sometimes, that’s how things happen.

Sonya Palmer:

Snowballs. Are you seeing traction in other channels?

Ashley Herd:

Time feels it’s hard to have the time to do all these things, and I do everything myself. But I’ve uploaded things on Instagram. And so, I think it went from 200 to 2,000 in a few days. I was like, “Oh, cool.” And then in the last two weeks I’ve gone from 2,000 to 22,000 and literally no idea, no ads, no nothing. I don’t know what’s what. And so, it’s just as like anything, it just hits and then I think it slows down. And so pretty much TikTok, Instagram, and then I post a lot of videos on LinkedIn, pretty much I’ll post one of my videos a day and add more commentary on LinkedIn.

Sonya Palmer:

Sure. And it’s just you; you don’t have a team helping you?

Ashley Herd:

Do not have a team. I do not have a team. My 11-year-old daughter, every once in a while will help me with things, but that’s-

Sonya Palmer:

Probably worth the whole team, 11-year-old, yeah.

Ashley Herd:

It is. Honestly, with her technology skills, she’s far better than my eight-year-old son and me. So yeah, it’s just me.

Sonya Palmer:

And then, who were you making the content for?

Ashley Herd:

When I started, it wasn’t even that strategic. It was more for me. I was like, “This is fun.” I’d been talking with my husband about some of these, “Okay, these are the six things I’m going to focus on.” And about 30 minutes later, I made a video comparing if summer associate law firm, summer associate life was Bridgerton. And he came, and he’s like, “What does that have to do with anything else you do?” I’m like, “I just got this wig on Amazon, and I thought it was fun.”
And so, a lot of it really is aimed, I’d say, at overall is this idea of either… Well, it wasn’t intended this, but a lot of HR people like, “Oh my god, I’ve had this conversation all the time.” And so, it is both horrifying and reaffirming that people have these conversations like I have many times.
But a lot of it really is for managers that don’t get training. I’ve learned plenty of things on TikTok and YouTube, and so a lot of it is just having some of that awareness to help people think differently. So when I get comments that will say, “Wow, I’m a manager and actually come to you because I think about things differently.” That’s the best kind of comment I can get because that’s what I want to do, whether I work with someone or it’s someone that’s just watching my TikToks; that’s the effect that I try to have is to help people think a bit more humanely, whether it’s policies or how they act with people.

Sonya Palmer:

Yeah, I love that. You’re able to build a community, teach and train, but then it sounds like it’s also a little bit of a creative outlet for you.

Ashley Herd:

If I hadn’t gone to law school, I would’ve loved to have been a playwriter, and screenwriter, loved it. And so, I used those skills, I used my interests in that way, and I just put things on there for myself sometimes.

Sonya Palmer:

Delegation is a win-win for managers and employees. Managers can focus on higher-value activities, and employees can take creative ownership of completing tasks. In her book, Ultimate Manager’s Guide, Ashley discusses how to sidestep micromanaging by addressing fear.

Ashley Herd:

But one of the biggest things you see is when people become a manager, and I say this, if it’s a first-time manager or if you’re an experienced CEO, there’s always this fear, fear of… Even if it’s not you failing, is often the people that are working for you, something going wrong, and you getting the blame. People are so afraid of that or that you’re looking badly. And I don’t think it’s just ego, I think it’s a real feel fear because things go wrong and people say, “Who’s to blame?”
And so, managers have this issue where they want people to do something because they don’t have enough time to do it, but they just can’t trust them, or they think this person can’t do it as I can. So I need to be there every step of the way. And they may think it’s necessary, they may think it’s helpful, but it really isn’t.
So because when you’re on the other receiving end, and you can tell when someone doesn’t trust you or when you’re like… A lot of people are like, “Okay.” The first time I do something, sure, I want a lot of feedback, but I want at least some opportunity to try it myself. And so, the delegation idea is, as they call it, no more doing it myself. So it’s talking about somebody.
And one of the biggest steps, I think, a manager can take when you’re talking to someone is to talk through what it is. Ask how does this work with your other workload? Because oftentimes no one talks about that, and they go back, and they’re like, “Oh my God, I can’t get everything done.” And they stress. So, how does this work within your priorities? How are you going to prioritize this? And then asking the person, “Okay. In your words, tell me what this is, what the deadlines are, what you’re going to do?” And I want to make sure what I said to you made sense and that I communicated it.
And so, having someone repeat that and then agreeing on different checkpoints, “Okay, let’s talk about it when you do this draft, and I won’t just send you red lines, we’ll talk through it. But so those are ways that you can get to the same point by showing someone you want this to turn out well, but to give them that trust and give them some breathing room, so you’re not breathing down their neck.

Sonya Palmer:

Yeah, I think delegation is often pitched as a benefit to the person that’s delegating, right? We’re going to get this stuff off your plate, you don’t have enough time, this is beneath you. When really it’s just as beneficial for the employee and then the business as a whole, which I think people forget, it’s not just about taking stuff off of your plate, this is how you grow a business, this is how you grow an employee.

Ashley Herd:

Absolutely. And it’s so important because people stay in their role, or you don’t get those, and that’s why also part of that is failing. So, someone, they do their first draft, and it’s terrible. You know what? That’s going to happen. It’s like you come to a fork in the road; which path are you going to take? Are you going to take this person? Are you not going to say anything? Because you’re, “Oh, God, I don’t want to hurt their feelings.” This is the first time I’ve worked on something not helpful. Are you going to get frustrated at them and be like, “How could you… I told you exactly what to do.” Again, not helpful. But if you can say, “Okay.” And revisit, “How did we talk about things? Let’s reframe it.” Get in close with them. But again, give them that opportunity to go back. And so, anytime you’re giving someone a first project, build in those cushions rather than having someone under the gun the whole time. So if they mess up, it’s like an epic disaster. Build that in. And also to tell other stakeholders, that’s one thing I think that leaders need to do more to each other is tell the people to say, “Oh, this is going to be an opportunity for someone on my team.” As you may remember, when you first worked on something, there are a lot of feelings that come up. We don’t need to treat anybody with kid gloves, but we do need to do is remember they’re trying. And so, if things aren’t perfect, let’s talk about it and think about how to give that constructive feedback because I think it’s especially important as someone begins to work on something.

Sonya Palmer:

Yes, Brene Brown in Atlas of the Heart talks about painting it done. And I have found that to be useful if I’m being given something, but then to give it to my team. So instead of I need you to do this, this, this, this, this, this, and this, it has to be this way, da, da, da, da, da.
This is what it looks like in my head when it’s done; this is the goal. And I have found that it has been so useful. And then they’ll maybe set aside what they thought would matter and then pick up, “Oh, okay, I hadn’t even considered that.” So it was a cool concept when I read that.

Ashley Herd:

I love Brene Brown; she has a perfect way of saying things. But I do think… Because you think sometimes, people will tell you, or they’ll get so caught up on a PowerPoint slide, and like, “How do these dots… Should I have dots? Should I have squares? Should they be filled?
And if you do that and show what it is and even say to someone like, “If you’re getting caught up in them, I know she has stopped. Because that’s not what matters, and that’s not what people are going to be focused on.” And that’s when you have to tell other leaders, “Please don’t focus on whether it’s about Earth is square.” Because there are people that focus on that.

Sonya Palmer:

Oh, yeah.

Ashley Herd:

But having that can loosen it up because otherwise, it can end up being a spiral. And so, I think that can be incredibly free and bring that creativity to that role.

Sonya Palmer:

Yes. So you mentioned new managers or people who have been managing for a while; how can they self-assess and see if they’re coming from a point of delegation?

Ashley Herd:

One is for self-reflection is a thing to yourself. As I’m working and thinking about projects that went well or things that didn’t go well, and what happened, what was my role in that? And to think, if I’ve had these conversations, have I had the person repeat things to me? And I think a big part of that as a manager really is that’s where the humility has to take, and it’s really hard, and so, you have to acknowledge it.
But the non-defensiveness and the humility to think I could have done something better rather than having the fear and the blame creep in. But to say okay, really having that reflection, even with that reflection, it can be hard. So talking to your team takes a lot of trust if you’re a total jerk and then you ask your team, what have I been doing? What could I do better? You’re like, I’m not going to tell you anything. I don’t trust you. And so, you have to plan a flag and say we talked day to day. It’s important to me that I reflect. I realize I’ve never asked you all. Are there situations where you feel like when I delegate and give you something, I am giving you the support you need? Is there more support that you’d like? Am I canceling the one-on-one calls that we would’ve talked about it? So you’re getting resources elsewhere. And to say to people, I’m not going to take this defensively and say even if there are things I like, oh I have to think about, I may have to go think on that, and we’ll come back and talk.
But I think having that self-reflection and asking your team and being open to it, again, can be really challenging, especially if you’re in that bucket of having been a manager for a while. But you can change those relationships, and it’s not too late. It can take time, but it can again really grow the team, and that’s what matters. I tell people it’s your manager. It’s not your gold stars; it’s your teams.

Sonya Palmer:

Yes, I agree. It’s a very brave thing to do too, even though you might be boss leader, to go to your team and be like, how am I doing? And I think what some people miss sometimes is that if you can have those candid conversations and they’re authentic, it makes things so much easier.

Ashley Herd:

Totally. It makes everyone’s life easier.

Sonya Palmer:

Yeah. That 15-20 minutes of being uncomfortable can make the whole thing run so much better.

Finding her voice in a professional setting can feel intimidating. And her new employee guidebook,  Ashley explains why female employees need to establish themselves early on.

Ashley Herd:

It is incredibly important; it’s important for both males and females. But I think having been a female, especially depending on your industry, if there’s a lot of men around, some of it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy and shows on tv, you watch Netflix, and you see this happen. And so I’ve been in situations where I’m like, I shouldn’t say anything because I’ve seen this show. And you’re like, but that’s a show. This isn’t real life. So a lot of times, you may be the only female in a team, and you worry, you have this worry, am I going to be bossy? Am I going to have these labels put on me? What do I say? And so, you can get very caught up and nervous.
But when you’re starting your career, there are certain things I think you can have… Having a placeholder, what do you say when someone’s asking you for your opinion on the fly? Sometimes you’re not going to be able to give it.
How do you tell someone, “You know what? I need to think about it. We have that credibility.” And so, I have this toolkit, so it’s a new employee guidebook I have, but finding your voice is a lot about thinking through different situations where you felt uncomfortable or you didn’t know what to say or think about other leaders you hear, and you’re like, “Wow, they have it all. They always know what to say.”
And so, how to think through and give ideas for placeholders on what to say to collect your thoughts and how to speak up. And so, it’s both suggestions and also a tool to find what makes you personally comfortable. Because I do think it’s very important to establish that credibility and have it and use it intentionally. So not just speaking up for the sake of speaking up, but to add your viewpoint when it matters.

Sonya Palmer:

Is that part of the self-review that looking back?

Ashley Herd:

Yes.

Sonya Palmer:

Can you expound on that?

Ashley Herd:

So let’s talk about different situations and especially if you’re in a cross-functional meeting and you’re the subject matter representative for something. People say, “Okay, what do you do here?” And I found, especially having been in legal in HR, those are two fields where people often that you’re working with think of you as a wizard like you are all-encompassing, all-knowing. If you’re a doctor, you are an ENT; I’m not going to ask you. They probably will ask you like, “Can you look at this thing on my shoulder?” But you’re expected to speak on this spot.
So to think back to situations where you felt like, “Oh, I blew it or I stammered.” And so, the idea of these tools to think very specifically about those and then think about, like I said, the other individuals, and can you set up even? And I often suggest setting up a time if you think someone is super confident, finding a way to talk to that person.
But oftentimes, people are more willing to give you help, especially if you… You don’t have to butter someone up. But to be honest and say, “When you talk to people, you seem to have this confidence. I’m so curious about how you build it. Because that’s something, in particular, I’m working on, and I’d love to buy you a cup of coffee for 15 minutes and talk through that.” It’s a simple tool. Could I have to think through some of that and how you can develop your own authentic voice with some other props for placeholders till you get more confident?

Sonya Palmer:

It’s not unlike shadowing someone.

Ashley Herd:

Yeah.

Sonya Palmer:

Throwing it back to your original story. How do you work? I’d like to ask some questions about it.

Ashley Herd:

Exactly. I’d like to see it. I’ll take notes. And I tell people like, “If you see someone doing something, you think it sounds good, try it.” Over time, you’ll develop your own thing and don’t become a mini-me 100%. But if you can weave things and they go, “This person says this.” Okay.
I remember when I did cold calling, this person sat behind me, Andrew; he used to talk on the phone, and he would say, “Sure, sure.” And I would stand up at the thing, and I’d be like, “Sure, sure.” And he was laughing because now he’s done very well in America. He messaged the other day about some of these things he would have back and forth and adopting each other’s phrases. Now, we still think about those from when we were 20, or 23 years old. So words can stick with you, but try to find your own ones.

Sonya Palmer:

For sure. And I want to talk a little more about finding your voice and not just working, but this can be a whole-person issue. How can women help uncover the parts of themselves that they may have hidden away?

Ashley Herd:

I mean, talk about a self-reflection-type exercise. I mean, I think that is done away from a computer with a journal, but thinking through, and sometimes it’s on the fly as you’re going through life, what are experiences like? Is it you go and do something? You go out with girlfriends, and you realize we haven’t done this. What does that look like? I haven’t done this; I haven’t had this experience. When you do it, you’re like, “Oh, I can’t get enough of this.” I picked up a month’s worth of guitar lessons when I was 13 years old and stopped because of luck of a draw; I got the old man guitar teacher who wanted me to learn whatever as opposed to next door, I could hear the one with an electric guitar. And I was like, “That’s what I want to do-”

Sonya Palmer:

That’s my voice.

Ashley Herd:

.And totally ignoring that it takes… Exactly, that’s your voice. Totally ignore that it takes a long time to play like that, but I like, “Ugh.” So I picked it up about a year ago, and so I played guitar, and it’s a part of my life. It’s soothing, and I love it. It’s this creativity, thinking back to what are those things you like. Even if it’s as a child, even if you’re like, “Oh, I thought that was silly.” What are things that you can do to bring back that energy? Because I do think so many of us have these little pilot lights inside of us, and we just haven’t turned it up.

Sonya Palmer:

I love that. I think if people approach stuff like that, there’s value in this, even if it doesn’t do what I think it’s going to.

Ashley Herd:

I agree. One of the books I read this year that’s changed my mindset is Atomic Habits by James Clear. And a lot of it is all about that point. It’s not about doing something just for a goal like I’m going to lose 20 pounds or I’m going to work, yeah. I’m going to have this movie on Netflix. There are multiple things I cannot do to control that. But the goal is, I’m going to get up every day, and I’m going to write for 30 minutes, or I’m going to put on my running shoes today, and then I’m probably going to go work out. But to make those little decisions based on things you do, and it can change your life and have ripple effects on all other… That book probably has changed my mind more than any book I’ve read.

Sonya Palmer:

Absolutely. James Clear also does a fantastic email newsletter.

Ashley Herd:

Yes, he sure does.

Sonya Palmer:

Quick, and sometimes I’m like, “Wow, that was good.” Yeah. And it’s like, “Do you tweet this?” I’m like, “Yes, I want to tweet it.”

Ashley Herd:

Yes, I want to tweet this.

Sonya Palmer:

Yes, yes. It’s fantastic. And then, in one of your TikToks, you mentioned that part of finding your voice is acceptance, particularly that things will not always go the way that you want or as planned. How are those two related?

Ashley Herd:

I think it’s being a realist and preparing, and a lot of it is thinking about the things you can control. So you can do everything up until that point. And then whatever in the universe, whatever person is going to do something different or people won’t like that, and someone might love it, someone might hate it. I can do a video, and I can get people that like, “Oh, this is great.” I can get people that are like, “You are evil, don’t trust her. She’s HR too old for TikTok.” I can’t control those things. And so, if I do it to have that effect on me, you’re never going to be able to continue on, and it’s going to be a spiral. But to accept and say, “Okay, anything I do, sometimes it’s going to work out, sometimes it’s not.” But if I do enough, enough things will work out; then I’ll be happy. And I think it’s stealing yourself because if you expect things to consistently work out, you can lay yourself to be so disappointed.
That being said, if you expect nothing’s ever going to work out, this is awful, I suck, blah, blah, blah, then that negative self-talk will come to reality. And so, I think instead of saying, “You know what? I’m enough, I’m going to do my best, and I’m going to be excited when it works out, and I’m going to be okay if it doesn’t.” And I’m going to surround myself with other things, whether it’s the people around me or books and tools, so that I have something, and I’m going to have enough irons in the fire that something… Isn’t it? It’s okay. And so, I think that’s something I try to work on in life and parenting and work-type situations because I tell… The biggest one you see is a job search, and I’ve seen loved ones go through it; I’ve gone through it where it’s just crushing, and you tell people it is a numbers game, and you have to steal yourself because in any… If you look at any given position, 300 to 700 people are applying for it; you’re going to have 299 to 699 unhappy people or at least people that don’t get the job.
So that’s why you control what you can control, and you do the things you do, and you have to remember those things. But oftentimes, in the HR-type world, it can feel really personal. So that’s why I think it’s important to have that kind of acceptance and focus more on the things that go right.

Sonya Palmer:

100%. Very well said. What are some bright points that you are optimistic about?

Ashley Herd:

I’d love that saying that people say when things go wrong… I think it’s Mr. Rogers; when things go wrong, look for the helpers. And I used to use that because I think I saw it on Facebook. And we’re like, “What do you tell your kids when something awful happens? Then they’ll go, I’ll tell you that. But then you think to yourself, and it is so true. And so, there’s so much conflict in the world, and you see people. You’ll see Ukrainian flags as you go down the street. Right now, you see things with antisemitism, and you see people that have no virtually no connection to the Jewish religion posting and saying, “I support.” And so, I’m optimistic about people using your voice. And as much as social media can have all sorts of impacts, what it can have is to amplify that voice of people saying, “You are a human being, and I care about you even if my day-to-day it has nothing to do with it.”And so, that encourages me a lot. I think the whole quitting trend and all the things about that. But what I see in that is this recognition that for years and years and years, I think there’s a way of working my parents and before generation where you work, you get it done. But that being said, they did have a luxury, and they didn’t have electronics. So while some people have to go into that, you physically had to be placed. It was really hard to work outside of work. So you go on vacation, you can be present, maybe you call and check your messages, but generally, people are present. Technology, it has created this 24/7 culture, and people feel like they need to respond and lack it. And it infiltrates every aspect of your time, mind, and life. And I do feel like there’s this pushback on it that is a lot about boundaries, about we need to figure this out. And I think you’re seeing this recognition that people have to have time to recharge. And so I am optimistic about organizations and individual managers learning that not only is it the right thing to do, and I don’t think this is one of my big things, I say it’s not just the right thing to do. I’m a realist. And I know that oftentimes businesses are like, “What does it mean on the bottom line?” It makes better business if you treat people well. And so, I think I am encouraged about organizations moving towards that. And I know it can be a slow path as well.

Sonya Palmer:

Yes, I agree. I don’t think the conversation around quitting is complete. I feel like all that dialogue, all of that conversation, is still… No one’s decided exactly what that means because I agree; I look for my team to push back. You tell me when you need a break; I’ll give you whatever you need. But at the same time, I want to reward hustlers, the people who are helpful, and the people who are willing to go above and beyond. So I guess I’m paying close attention to that entire conversation and what’s being said from every angle.

Ashley Herd:

Yeah, I think it’s true. And I think to the female as well; there’s recognition that it can be harder for women, people of color to be able… Quiet quitting can be easier if you are a white male in the workplace, and it can be harder. That being said, as… When I became a mom, I was like, “Oh my God, I had become more…” It was a productivity tool; I became more, “Okay, I got to figure these things out.”
But one thing I think I’m encouraged about is I see with younger generations, with my daughter, she goes to the doctor’s office, or she sees me as a lawyer, as a business owner, and she doesn’t see… I still see plenty of people having… You think of a CEO as a male, but in my daughter’s generation, I see more of these assumptions breaking down. And so, they see that women can move into all of these different fields, or women now are becoming the majority in some of these more technical classes. In business schools, historically, women were still lagging. And as far as enrollment, they are far behind men. Things are catching up, and it’s becoming much more equal in the workplace. There’s still plenty of work to be done in all of these areas and keeping people in the workplace and rewarding them. But I am encouraged by that trajectory. I think that movement’s been going on thanks to a lot of work by people that have worked hard to do that, so I appreciate that.

Sonya Palmer:

Yes, yes, exactly. And then what is next for you and Manager Method?

Ashley Herd:

So my manager one-on-one course can be a lot. It’s a comprehensive program, but to meet people more individually, I’m breaking a lot of that in part to do these mini-courses. So it’s hiring. So that should be launched within the next… Well, by the time the podcast comes out. So I’m just getting ready to have all of that. And so, that’s cool. And then adding some more of these tools. So as I work with different organizations, I have tailored these things. So tools for organizations to run themselves and exercise on looking through their values, and how are they meshing how you work? Do you need to revisit your values? What are the working norms? And so, a lot of these ways to work better and again, for organizations to do it themselves rather than paying tens of thousands of dollars to have someone come in. And so, those are some of the things I’m doing, again, all within this vein of helping people to work better. That’s cool. I’ve started to do some talks around the country, so that’s cool-

Sonya Palmer:

Nice, very cool.

Ashley Herd:

… I’m enjoying it.

Sonya Palmer:

Maybe we’ll run into each other.

Ashley Herd:

I was going to say I would love that.

Sonya Palmer:

Yeah. And then you mentioned James Clear, Atomic Habits. Fantastic book. Are you reading anything right now?

Ashley Herd:

So I’m reading Just Work by Kim Scott. So I’d write in a while, got a memory reading it, and I love her; radical candor is fantastic. I tell people all the time, a wonderful thing to do for your organization. I get it. Budgets right now are funky, but one of the best things you can do, especially if you have a team, is get radical candor, get it for everybody on your team and go to her website; she has a free resource for a book club.
I ran a book club at my prior company, and we did it with finance, HR, and legal, and it’s very cost-effective. And so, I love doing that. And then I’m rereading my favorite book of all time, a separate peace by John Knowles, which is about boarding school. I read when I was a teenager, 25 years. I’ve said I wanted to write a screenplay based on this, but a lot of what I do when my kids get books at school, I get it as well to read it along with them so we can talk about it. And it’s been cool to revisit things. So I got a separate piece. My daughter has not read that yet, but I read it when I was in high school, and it just really spoke to me. So I also read this book recently, The Watsons Go to Birmingham, and I finished that book at the kitchen table and was like convulsing with tea… It was a beautiful book, and it was a lot about the civil rights movement, and I can’t recommend that one enough.

Sonya Palmer:

Delegation allows teams to implement tasks creatively and managers to focus on larger-scale visions. To avoid micromanaging, the fear of failure must be addressed and put to rest. Managers who wish to be better leaders should be open to feedback, are on the trust of their teams and set aside time to listen.
Attorneys are expected to be knowledgeable and speak confidently in nearly all situations. Avoid stammering and replace ums and uhs with linguistic placeholders to sound more credible.
A huge thank you to Ashley for sharing her story and unbelievable insights with us today. You have been listening to LawHER with me, Sonya Palmer. If you found this content insightful, inspiring, or just made you smile, please share this episode with the trailblazer in your life. For more about Ashley, check out our show notes. And while you’re there, please leave us a review or a five-star rating. It goes a long way for others to discover the show. And I will see you next week on LawHER, where we’ll shed on how another of the brightest and boldest women in the legal industry climbed to the top of her field.

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