The Empathetic Heart: How The CHO of VaynerMedia Is Changing The Way We Work

A month after I had joined LinkedIn back in July of 2018 I sent Claude Silver a connection request and began following her content. One day she made a post saying “Ask and you shall receive, what can I do to help you today?”

I commented on that post asking for a 5 minute interview and to my surprise she agreed by asking me to send her a message (I was given a full hour). This was the first example of pure kindness I witnessed from Claude. For the past year I have been following her content and engaging with the individuals who have crossed her path.

Claude’s content drew me in  because of how emotionally real it was. If you’ve ever had to drag yourself out of bed, start your car mid-winter and drive to work holding onto an ice-cold steering wheel, just to be greeted by a boss that doesn’t value you… you’ll appreciate Claude’s work as much as I do.

The first message you see on Claude’s website is: People need people. People need people that listen and then do something.

That message spoke to me on an emotional level and I believe it will speak to you too. I wanted to know how she created such an amazing culture, what being a “culture carrier” meant, and how the employees at VaynerMedia had been changed by her work there.

A culture carrier in Claude’s own words is “someone who is aligned with our values, I can’t teach someone to be kind they have to already be kind. The process of developing a culture carrier takes about 6 months. It’s about bringing people together and having strong core values of kindness and empathy.”

Gary Vaynerchuk, co-founder of VaynerMedia, is often referred to as a combination of hustle and heart, with the hiring of Claude and the work she has accomplished within the company, it speaks to the level of empathy that can be felt throughout the entire operation. Although business can be a challenging, tough and often cut-throat terrain, by putting employees first and providing honest feedback the company has grown to include offices in New York, Chattanooga, Los Angeles and London, and continues to dominate the market.

So how exactly is the CHO of VaynerMedia changing the way we work?

  1. By being unafraid to share her own story

Claude has been an influential part of breaking the stigma surrounding vulnerability in the business arena. Not only does she openly share her own story but she sits down with employees to better understand their vulnerabilities and how to use characteristics that previously would have been considered weaknesses as strengths. When asked what her biggest adventure to date was she replied “Having Shalom (her daughter). I have had an amazing life, I moved, worked hard, landed an amazing job and fell in love but it didn’t come without it’s challenges”.

Claude is openly gay and is living proof it doesn’t matter your sexual orientation, nothing matters but your character, your track record and if you leave people a little better off than before you met them. From Claude, business  leaders, employees and entrepreneurs can learn to be more open both on social media and in person, allowing them to build more meaningful relationships and connect on a deeper level. A deeper connection can mean more leverage but it also means a more lasting impact on the world.

2.  Committing to a strong value system

VaynerMedia has some serious values for such a large company and those values are expected to be upheld by each and every employee and visitor. Values like kindness, empathy, honesty, hustle and the art of not complaining. With Claude holding the title of Chief Heart Officer she is the guiding light for others. When recruiting she says she “takes the time to evaluate an individuals talents but most importantly their own heart”.

Gary Vaynerchuk is quoted as saying:

“To me, there’s no debate that kindness is a strength. And it breaks my heart to know that so many people believe it’s a weakness. So many people are afraid that other people will take advantage of their kindness or make them feel “used.” But the truth is, those who take advantage of your kindness are weak on the inside. Feel bad for them, don’t let them make you feel bad about yourself”.  

Both Claude and Gary teach aspiring entrepreneurs that it is okay to live with an open heart and that having the strength to commit too and live with a strong value system will be a powerful tool during the hustle journey. It also allows you to go to bed at night actually liking the person that you are, nothing will kill a business faster than going to bed at night and hating yourself.

3.  Listening with action

As mentioned above Claude’s slogan is: People need people. People need people that listen and then do something.  As a woman who wears many hats she is also an Outward Bound Instructor, taking individuals on amazing adventures in the outdoors. Taking action on any given day can mean a number of different things but it speaks to her own character and driving force that she is able to not only guide people through the world of office politics but also through the serene, sometimes challenging wilderness.

Claude cultivates an environment of trust by first offering individuals her own trust. It is a huge and vulnerable action that leads to a relationship of love – heart – and productivity. Rich Cardona founder of Flybys Media and Host of Flashpoint shares the moment he connected with Claude, ” I will never forget when Claude said ‘I trust you’. It meant so much to me, for her to trust me and allow me to be a part of her journey”.  The two now share a deeply personal bond as Rich documents Claude’s process.

Listening as an action is something that has the power to change an entire organization from an unproductive, toxic environment to one that promotes creativity, passion, inclusion and positivity.

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To get the truest sense of how Claude was changing the way people work I asked her co-workers to tell me what working alongside Claude has done for them. These are the answers I received:

“During my time working alongside Claude, I’ve really come to appreciate her example of being a good listener. As a society, we tend to praise the power of speaking. But Claude demonstrates on a daily basis that the most important thing everybody wants is to be heard.” – Steve Babcock, Chief Creative Officer VaynerMedia

“If I could say one thing about Claude that I think is a little under the radar, it’s that I admire her relationship with our CEO. I have a great one with Gary as well, but she is intrinsically wired to him. I think every person at every company should want to have a relationship with their CEO, and I think their relationship is there for all to see and emulate. I suppose in a lot of ways, you couldn’t have a Chief Heart Officer, without that person being deeply connected to the CEO.” – Joe Quattrone, Senior Vice President VaynerMedia

“Work is life; your passion should eventually become your profession to achieve true fulfillment.” – James Orsini, President at The Sasha Group

 

I tried looking for images of Claude on her website…and I think it speaks to how focused she is on holding space for others, because I couldn’t find a single full sized image of her to use. I googled. Writing this piece has opened me up to evaluate my own values and the way I connect with people in my daily life. From this piece it is my own hope that entrepreneurs come to the understanding that although tenacity and true grit are really important, the whole of what Claude represents is something to strive towards and to truly impact an entire organization the “soft” skills are humongous strengths.

“Holding space for others is something I enjoy, it is where I feel I am most living in my purpose. Gary and I see people as hearts, we don’t see people as resources.” – Claude Silver.

 

Carlee Lloyd

 

F*ck What You Thought Was A Yoga Body

Shocker, another yoga post. Although, I suppose this piece could also be titled “summer body” or “perfect” body.

The truth is I wasted way too many years not attending a yoga class because of the way I thought I had to look before stepping through the doors. I thought I didnt belong because I had love handles and I had been loved myself with good food, which meant I had gained weight.

It was at the most crucial time in my life, when I really could have used yoga the most, that I felt too self-concious to walk through the door.

Also, I want to just stop here and say that I’m not hating on anyone for having a beautiful fit body, all I’m saying is that having one isn’t a prerequisite to attending yoga or even becoming an experienced yogi.

If you want better health that’s amazing. My favourite way to achieve that is holistically, by eating well, moving, and doing something for the mind. Meditation and yoga both have been scientifically proven to help depression, anxiety and mood stability.

If you do or don’t look like an Instagram model theres nothing wrong with that. Social media and society have both told us if we look different there must be something wrong.

Like Elizabeth says in Eat Pray Love “Let me ask you something, in all the years you’ve undressed in front of a man has he ever asked you to leave? Has he ever gotten up and walked out? No! Because he doesn’t care, he’s with a naked woman. He just won the lottery.”

Again here, not saying your perception of yourself should be based on what anyone else thinks of you whether they are a man or a woman.

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Back to the yoga. The practice of yoga is for you, for how you feel during and after, for the things it allows you to work through. Yoga is a way of life, a way of love – forgiveness – peace – non-judgement.. and acceptance. Mostly acceptance that we are human.

So with of of our human-ness we must just let go of whatever we thought was the yoga body and come to realize every body is a yoga body.

Don’t let anything stop you from trying something, from seeking inner peace, from practicing self-care. It’s not about flexibility…it’s about the experience.

The only way to transcend suffering is together.

Love,

Carlee.

Remember: You are Loved. You are Worthy. You are Blessed.

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Why I Started A Yoga Studio At The Worst Possible Time.

I couldn’t think of a great title for this piece, hopefully you, the reader, isn’t a “judge a blog piece by the title” kind of person. I guess I’m thinning out the herd.

I recently embarked on a grand adventure. I started a yoga/movement studio and I have never been more scared, energized and happier. I had wanted to have a space to offer “self-care” type activities for quite a long time. Looking back in my journal I had written about opening a boutique training studio three years ago.

So, you ask… do I believe in manifesting your own reality? That’s a hard yes. 

It was the absolute wrong time in my life for many reasons. I was really developing a good writing career when all of my electronics either broke or malfunctioned a few months prior which meant I had lost all of the amazing interviews I had just done. The ceiling in my apartment was leaking, and my landlord wasn’t fixing it until it was flooding my bathroom…he then just tore the ceiling down and left a gapping hole. I was looking to move to a better apartment, I had only a part-time job, my mother had just suffered a stroke and my grandmother was needing help after leaving the hospital from open heart surgery.

There was a LOT going on. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was crumbling around me, but I had a strange sense that there would NEVER be a “right” time and that perhaps…surrounded by the chaos it was actually the perfect time. So, like in some kind of freakish twilight zone I searched for an affordable space and opened within 2 months of deciding to go for it.

I used a lot of my savings and created a space that would be inclusive of everyone, this meant having a sliding scale for pricing so that individuals on social assistance, ODSP, or in recovery could afford to take regular classes. It honestly felt good and made me feel alive to be doing something productive. It took 2 weeks to paint the entire studio, get the equipment needed and put some workshops together for the first week.

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We are now going into our third week open, so still very new. We already have a lot of regular people coming in to enjoy the classes and it has been so wonderful to see a tribe forming before my eyes of supportive, enthusiastic people wanting to experience yoga and movement to heal themselves AND live those practices off the mat as well.

We now have Zumba, Kickboxing, Euphoric and Bootcamp.

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My manifested dream is unfolding before my eyes… and today I really thought about how the timing was COMPLETELY off. How sometimes you just need to take one of the biggest risks of your life amongst the chaos, because if you’re not willing to take a risk then…when will you be?

My mom has made a full recovery, my grandmother is getting stronger and stronger each day, I still don’t own a laptop or voice recorder again yet but eventually I will and I will continue to write, AND I’m moving in June to a better apartment.

The struggle is here still as I juggle running a business with working a job, and running a business means trying to earn an actual income in the first year.

Honestly though, I have never felt more free or more focused…or more living in my “purpose” as I do when I help others feel good… and then of course write about it.

 

I hope you follow along on this journey with me because I will be sharing my take on entrepreneurship, yoga and self-care.

 

Remember: you are loved, you are worthy, you are blessed.

 

Carlee. xo 

 

You Gotta Teach Em’ How To Love You

My entire life I have witnessed women not exercising their own self-worth in relationships and being treated poorly. I myself am one of those women, I vowed to myself that I wouldn’t become one…but as the saying goes “history always repeats itself” and sometimes you become the thing you’re trying so desperately hard to run away from.

It can happen in any relationship – straight – gay – whatever. This isn’t a cheap shot at men, this is a post about what I’ve learned nearing three decades.

You don’t have to scream your insecurities from your mouth and tell the world with words that you don’t feel worthy of love. The world can see it in the way you look down at your shoes or shy away from any intimate conversation. They way you apologize literally 100 times a day and put everyone first before yourself – risking your own health to do so.

It took me my entire life up until now to even realize that the way you treat yourself is a direct indication to others about how to treat you.

It took me up until now to realize you have to teach people how to love you right.

You can’t teach them to be kind, or thoughtful or funny…that comes from themselves, that comes from God or the universe or whatever higher power you believe in. But you can teach them the way you want to be loved.

You have show them how to communicate by communicating in that exact way to them. You have to tell them…I like flowers and hugs and sunny Sunday’s with fresh coffee and a good book.

How could they possible know otherwise?

On the flip side you have to love them in the way they need to be loved. Listen and truly care. That’s the kicker…in order to love someone right you’ve got to care enough to actually do it.

Life is too magical and whimsical and precious to waste it with someone who doesn’t care enough to listen.

You gotta teach em’ how to love you right. And when your done teaching, if they don’t learn… well you’ve got some decisions to make.

 

Carlee.

 

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How To Get Sh*t Done With Depression – Procrastination and Waves of Self-Doubt

Honestly, I’ve been sitting at the computer for half an hour wondering what the title for this piece should be. I finally figured I’d just write it out, you could read it, and hopefully the title that I finally chose would be appropriate.

What I REALLY want to talk about is a mixture of things…but mostly how to still get shit done when you’re dealing with depression – procrastination  and self-doubt.

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A vortex of compromising traits that make it highly probable that the next 24 hours will be wasted. The past 30 days have been proof, if to no-one else but myself, of the fact that you can still accomplish a hell of a lot and feel good most of the time.

So, let’s say you lay in bed until 11am… most entrepreneur “gurus” online would say that is HORRIBLE  and you’re  never going to accomplish your goals by laying in bed on a Saturday morning. Maybe that’s true, but maybe you also get these strange waves of self-doubt and it takes you a while to kick your own ass into gear. Maybe though, you can make up for it in the remaining hours of the day by connecting with people or working on your projects or simply taking a day to yourself because we all need to recharge.

And maybe your body just honestly needed the rest, and your mind will thank you for it.

How then can you be successful with depression – procrastination – and waves of self-doubt?

Personally, I’m on this journey myself. It takes some trial and error and lots of forgiveness but it is possible to succeed. It takes huge amounts of self-care and self-awareness. You need to be able to recognize when you’re actually tired or if it is your unwelcome friend depression coming to say hello.

Procrastination is the real kicker, especially when you run a business that other people depend on. I used to tell myself and sometimes still find myself saying “I work best under pressure”. This may feel true…but I’m not fully convinced. What truly saved me was Mel Robbins 5 second rule.  You basically trick your brain into action and stop the thinking process. You count down 5-4-3-2-1 and then without thinking immediately just get up and do what you are supposed to be doing. It works, it really does, even if I have to take 15 seconds and count down 3 times before I get up… it works.

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Now for self-doubt. This guy likes to come around whenever I don’t get a sale the first time around or share a post on social media that doesn’t get as much feedback as I had hoped for. The trick of the whole thing is not to care about what other people think and to just produce content and move from one sale to the next, but when you are alone your mind can sometimes play tricks on you… and try to tell you that you’re worse at your job than you really are. Self-doubt has never been effectively managed for me by anything else other than three things: yoga – good people – and inspiration.

^^ It can look more like: self -care, relationships – mindfulness.

You will find as you go along your journey, your life will fill up with different – wonderful things and when times like this arise, when things get a little bit hard and these three try to creep back in… you will have created a safety net within yourself. You will have learned that you are better, worthy, beautiful, intelligent and able to conquer the gnawing thought of wasting the day.

It takes practice, as does anything in life.

And my dear, I’m here to tell you, I’ve been practicing for quite some time. You’re not alone.

 

Love always,

Carlee

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An Open Letter To Claude Silver

Dear Claude,

I hope you don’t mind the transparent nature of this letter but you have, in no small way, changed the way I look at life. If one person here on this blog or any other platform reads this and it gets straight to the heart of them, then perhaps our vulnerability will be worth it.

You Claude, are an infectious masterpiece. Through osmosis your energy commands those around you to be truer to themselves, perhaps more so than they have been in the entirety of the past decade of their lives.

You have taken risk upon risk and found yourself, with every credit to who you are at your core, stronger than before. You are as Tom Bilyeu so magically talked about in his keynote, anti-fragile. At first I thought you might have seen me, the real me… which would have been quite an incredible thing over the phone don’t you think? Now I know it was more like a mirror. Now I know we all have the capability to be mirrors.

By simply being yourself and living your life you shine so brightly that other people are able to see their true reflections, and I believe moments, epiphanies as some might call them, happen serendipitously for reasons unknown, but when used correctly have the power to change the course of one’s destiny.

Because of you I have become an overzealous fan of giving for the sake of giving, and building others up with the simple reward of seeing them smile. I read Brene Brown’s book on vulnerability, but never have I seen it displayed so openly in one single human being. You have cemented in me the unwavering belief that vulnerability builds real connection and that it is the catalyst for change we all are so desperately seeking. Vulnerability, kindness, empathy… that is the future.

As I write this over a borrowed laptop, coffee in hand, I know that from Canada to the United States you have made a friend in me. Social media has allowed me many truly real connections, and I wonder if the people who are so against it have ever really connected with someone using a platform, or had the chance to speak with someone they greatly admire because of it.

Your content and your message give me hope for the future of work, people and communities because if there are more people like you, which I believe there are, this world has a fighting chance at happiness, and that is a beautiful thing. Here’s to you the optimist, the nature lover, the light that offers reflection, may you forever shine as brightly and as true to yourself as you can. For all you have taught me and all I have yet to learn.

 

Carlee.

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