Be More is a weekly one-on-one podcast about how everyone can thrive in the new world of work, hosted by Workday’s Patrick Cournoyer. This week we’re joined by Laurie Ruettimann, founder at Punk Rock HR, to discuss the value of a mentoring relationship, the distinct difference between mentoring and coaching, and how important it is to be aspirational about who your mentor could be.
What’s more punk than taking a risk? Than putting your best foot forward, and having the confidence to back yourself when it comes down to the wire? Not much, according to Laurie Ruettimann. It’s hard to navigate the modern world of work, and even harder to take agency in any given situation, but doing so will lead you to some very rewarding working experiences.
Laurie is a passionate speaker, coach, podcaster, and mentor with a keen focus on inspiring people to put themselves first and take control of their careers. With this focus in mind, she authored a book titled “Betting on You,” a lesson in how everyone can better themselves, and get a better grip on the reins of their career. And while that means some serious self-evaluation, it also means knowing when to ask for some mentorship.
"We don’t get anything done in this world alone. I can’t be expected to navigate rough waters if I’ve never been in that body of water. If I don’t know the ship that I’m steering, maybe I’ll get across, but it’s much easier to find out what I’m facing through experts in the marketplace."Laurie Ruettimann
If you want to learn more about becoming your own best advocate, then tune in, check out the key takeaways, or read the transcript below.
Patrick Cournoyer: Welcome to Be More, a podcast by Peakon.
This season, we are focused on mentorship, from personal to professional, formal-informal peer to peer. We have a lot to dive into around this topic. Today we are kicking off the season with Laurie Ruettimann. Laurie is a passionate speaker, coach, podcaster, and mentor with a keen focus on inspiring people to put themselves first and to take control of their careers. She is so passionate about this, that she’s authored a book titled Betting on You, Laurie and I are going to discuss the true value of a mentoring relationship, the distinct difference between mentoring and coaching and how important it is to be aspirational about who could be your mentor as that can inspire so much more as we put ourselves first.
Laurie, thank you so much for joining the conversation today.
Laurie: I’m really happy to be here and excited to talk about all things nerdy, related to people, and leadership, and mentorship, and let’s do it.
Patrick: Excellent. I share that excitement with you. We’ve been looking forward to this for the past couple of weeks since we had the opportunity to first chat with you. First off I have to say, your website is amazing and we will link your website for the guests, but you did a great job with building your website. Let’s start out with the audience that does not know you. I’m sure a lot of the audience is very familiar with you because you have so many different aspects of influence and different ways of influencing but tell us a bit about you and a little bit about your journey.
Laurie: Thank you so much for the opportunity to talk about myself like a narcissist. I really appreciate that I am a writer, speaker, and entrepreneur, but at my core, I am a failed human resources lady. I did that job for many years and while I was good at certain aspects of it, I didn’t do a great job at establishing relationships inside of HR departments. I always struggled to make friends and influence the people around me within HR.
Instead of beating my head against a wall for another decade, I decided to go out on my own and still stay adjacent to the world of HR, but to do it a little bit differently through writing, speaking consulting, and just having an opinion. Thank goodness for social media, because here I am today, still having an opinion.
Patrick: You’ve worked with many, many organizations. You’ve worked with Fortune 500 companies. You’ve worked with big organizations, small organizations. What is the core of your work then over the past year since you stepped out of being an HR practitioner and moved into more, being able to help organizations around strategy and really how they think about people?
Laurie: I’m obsessed with companies and leaders who want to fix work. At the core, we know work is broken for so many individuals and there are a lot of different vectors, different ways to attack that. When a company or department comes to me and says, we have a problem, we would like to put workers at the centre of an experience. We’re really struggling to do that. I am open to helping in any way that I can. Whether that’s through consulting or coaching or leading people through exercises or just coming in and listening and hearing a story and sharing my own thoughts on it, if you are obsessed with fixing work, I want to know about it. That’s really the heart of my business.
Patrick: To tag onto that is that you’ve been recognized by CNN as one of the top five career advisers in the US that’s significant congratulations on that.
Laurie: Thank you. Thank you. It was now many years ago, but it’s like when you get the trophy for Miss Congeniality, you never let that go. I don’t let that go. I’ve been recognized by Forbes, but I’ve also just been recognized by my friends and colleagues as someone they can trust. I think that’s more important to me, actually, when you come to me with a problem that you’re trying to solve for your workers, boy, I want to be a part of that. I think it’s because I myself have recognized that I was an employee and I learned that we fix work by fixing it for ourselves first. Anybody who raises their hand and says, I’ve got a problem, and I want to attack this. I want to be better tomorrow. I want to do things differently. Boy, I’m really attracted to that.
Patrick: A couple of things in that, Laurie, you talk about trust and the importance of trust, and also the importance of people really taking control of the future of their experience. As you know, this season of the podcast, we’re talking about mentorship because we really feel and have experienced, and in conversations with so many people, there’s this significant need in many people’s career lives, and also personal lives, to have help guidance from somebody they can trust somebody that they depend on, especially because of the way how the world has unfolded over the past 18 months.
I think it’s become even more imperative that people have a sense of support in their careers and in their lives, and that is being realized in a lot of ways through the idea of mentorship. Mentoring and mentorship have evolved quite a bit, I think have evolved quite a bit over the past couple of years. Today we’re going to chat a little bit about that because you’re obviously very passionate about careers and people taking control of their careers. I’m curious about your perspective. This is why I’m so excited to have you on about how mentoring and mentorship plays into that or as a part of that equation. First off, do you have a mentor?
Laurie: Patrick, not only do I have one mentor, but I have many mentors because I live a multi-faceted life. As John Donne once said, “No man is an island”. No person is an island. We don’t get anything done in this world alone. I can’t be expected to navigate rough waters if I’ve never been in that body of water. If I don’t know the ship that I’m steering, maybe I’ll get across that water that can get to that landmass, but it’s much easier to find out what I’m facing through experts in the marketplace.
In my life, I’ve had formal mentors where I’ve gone out and sought the guidance of someone, but I’ve also had informal mentors, which I’m excited to talk about today. People who don’t even know they’re mentoring me, but I’ve watched from afar and learned from taking all the good stuff and just left the other stuff behind, but really followed in their footsteps and learn from their lessons in the marketplace.
Patrick: That’s a very interesting point because we just had a recent conversation in another episode in this season. We were talking about mentorship and we’re talking about formalized mentor programs, which are excellent, and they have a lot of value and benefit, but the guest was talking about how the informal, as you said, or the more peer to peer type mentoring is becoming more and more effective now because we learn from so many different interactions in our work experience. Let’s dig into that one a little bit as far as informal mentorship.
Tell us a bit more about that experience and may be an example of maybe a specific example of where you’re like, oh wow, this is very specifically was not a formal mentor relationship, but I saw this, I learned this, this helped me. As you said, maybe the person didn’t even know that they were providing mentorship too.
Laurie: Patrick, when people think about peer-to-peer mentorship, they still think there is a relationship that exists at the core. For example, my dear friend Jennifer McClure is my defacto peer-to-peer mentor. She’s also a podcaster. I learn from her all the time and I absolutely love her. But over the course of my career, I’ve also learned from people who don’t know I exist.
One example of that is a woman by the name of Suzy Welch. She’s a journalist, she was on CNBC for many years, married to Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE. I just love everything about Suzy Welch. I love the way she communicates. I love her storytelling skills.
Years ago, she did a story on the 10-10-10 rule, which was made popular by Warren Buffet. That is, if you have a problem, you think about how it’s going to affect you in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years. Then you emotionally regulate your response accordingly. Something’s going to be a problem in 10 minutes, of course, you’re going to tackle it right away, 10 years, you’re going to take a different approach to it. I love the 10-10-10 rule. I love Suzzy Welch.
As I was writing my book Betting on You. I thought I want to include the story of how I’ve learned from Suzy all these years. I want to include the 10-10-10 rule. I should probably reach out to her and just thank her, Patrick, for her mentorship. I took a chance. I went on LinkedIn, like every other Joe out there and sent her a note and introduce myself and I thought, if she doesn’t respond, it’s no big deal. It’s just benign neglect. She must get a million inbound inquiries. Not only did she respond, but she asked for a copy of my book and offered to endorse it.
What I’m telling you is that these mentorship relationships don’t have to be formalized. They don’t even have to be with someone and you never know where they’re going to take you. I’m incredibly grateful for Suzy Welch, just being a leader out there all those years and for impacting my life and actually responding. It also taught me, Patrick, and I don’t know about you, to take those inbound LinkedIn messages a little bit more seriously.
Patrick: That is an amazing story and we recently also talked and did an episode around the importance of building your network and understanding how important you may be or a connection may be for you in many ways, not even just from a job perspective or from a potential future role perspective. This was about you. We live in such an amazing technology world now where we can be connected with so many people and gain knowledge and inspiration and guidance in ways that we never had the opportunity to before. I fully agree with that. That is an amazing story by the way about Suzy.
It’s funny, you mentioned Jennifer McClure. She was also a guest on the podcast and as you know just did was amazing. It’s like, again, this connection point of how we get to be introduced to people, how we get to learn from people. I do absolutely do feel that that is mentorship. In a way that maybe even two years ago, or three years ago, we would not have thought about the term or the word mentorship. We classically have thought about it as a very formalized relationship.
Now, I think that there is something very beneficial in that as well. We’ll talk about that in a minute, but I like that we’re starting out the conversation with a bit of the unexpected mentorship side, which is finding it in ways sometimes that is not always intended, which I think is really, is a very, very good place to start. How about you as a mentor and people either reaching out to you or mentor-mentee relationships that you may have in your life? Do you have any formal mentor-mentee relationships, and if so, can you tell us a bit about them? Like how they started, how long they’ve been, just put some context around it.
Laurie: Sure. I learned to be a mentor by being mentored. I think that’s really important to say you just can’t mentor somebody without having been on the other side of the experience as well. My mentor is a businessman by the name of Jesse Itzler. I’ve been working with him for a few years, an amazing human being Intrepid entrepreneur, and someone who pushes himself physically, emotionally, financially, and really gets the best out of all experiences and he’s not just one thing. He’s a dad, he’s a husband, he’s a partner, he’s a businessman, he’s living a multi-faceted life. In working with him, I learned that that’s who I want to be.
When someone approaches me to mentor them, it’s helpful that I know who I am and what I stand for and what I don’t stand for, what I believe in and what I absolutely cannot offer. I only learned that through my experiences, working with Jesse Itzler. I think that’s really important. You need to know who you are before you offer yourself up as a mentor. That comes through deep interpersonal development work.
When I work with someone as a mentor, though, I have to be real careful because I am a paid coach and paid coaching is where you look at specific goals. You work on plans, you’re really involved in the weeds and mentorship is more philosophical. In my opinion, it’s more listening, understanding, demonstrating empathy, clearing a path for someone to find their own way, but coaching is so much more active. Mentoring is so much more, I think, deep and personal and quiet.
As a mentor, that is my challenge to make sure that I’m not going one way or the other, depending on the relationship that I have with the person. It’s very clear at the onset, whether I’m mentoring or coaching to understand what the person wants, what they need, what I can offer and whether or not it’s a paid relationship, because mentoring is never paid.
Patrick: That was incredibly well said because you bring up a very important point. I think a lot of organizations struggle with this today, which is coaching relationships and mentoring relationships. There’s, as you said, a very clear difference between the two.
I feel a lot of businesses and organizations today are really thinking about how they’re planning the future of their business to be very employee-centric because we know the past 18 months have definitely shown us that our employees are our most important assets. I think the best companies moving forward are going to be employee-led and the ones that are focused on having employees be a part of the building of the future and decisions.
The employee proposition within an organization has become so much more relevant and that’s incredibly inspiring. With that, so many companies right now are figuring out, “Okay, how do I look at the programs that I’ve had in the past that may be worked for me?” Even as recent as two years ago. “Now, how do I look at changing that or evolving that for a future that may be different than when we originally set up a program?”
Coming back to this idea of between, which is very important as you brought up, coaching and mentoring. Definite value in both, definite value in for- not only for the employee but also for whoever the coach or mentor may be. Do you see one being more difficult than the other? Do you think it is harder for somebody to identify a mentor or to identify a coach?
Laurie: I think it’s harder to identify a mentor.
Patrick: I agree.
Laurie: A mentor is someone that you speak to three or four times a year, and you’re talking about the big broad issues in your life. You’re trying to glean a little bit of wisdom from them. Whereas a coach, is someone who’s more active, more agile, you’re seeing them more regularly. They’re not necessarily making things up on the fly, but they’ve created this program for you and it’s very bespoke. As your day in day out interactions change, your weekly schedules change. You’re figuring it out together. You’re partners. Whereas a mentor is someone who is a figurehead. Getting the time and the attention of a figurehead is very difficult. Getting them to care about you is even more difficult.
You know mentoring, I believe lasts a good 12 to 18 months, maybe 24 months. If you do mentor right, what it becomes is a casual friendship. It’s funny how so many people I have mentored over the years after about 24 months, I start to recognize that I’m learning from them as well. It’s this mutually beneficial relationship. Whereas a coaching experience is very much time-bound, goal-centric, really mapped out according to MBOs and KPIs and all the buzzwords. Then when it’s over, it is a contained unit, whereas a good mentoring relationship, boy, that changes and evolves, and it can go beyond that initial relationship and lasts for years.
I think mentoring is definitely harder to establish, but frankly, Patrick, much more meaningful in my own life. I don’t know about you.
Patrick: Absolutely. My mentors, as you said, they have been- Two of them were my leaders and we had great relationships as a manager-employee relationship. They both really invested in future my career development. This is 15 years ago. I had a lot of career advancement in working with them over many years, seven years. One of my mentors, her name is Deb McCuiston. She was my leader for about seven years. As you said, we have a very strong friendship, but we also have a mentoring relationship that started very much as her being a mentor for me.
As our relationship has evolved and grown, and as our careers have grown, we haven’t worked together for many years, but we have grown into this mutual mentorship relationship. She can call me and say, Hey, I need advice on this. What do you think? What would you do? I do the same thing with her, but you are, I think, spot-on about the fact that while we don’t really call it so much a mentoring relationship anymore, it definitely was born from her being a very specific mentor for me, but it was hard to find as well.
I think that you bring up another very good point there. That relationship happened and it was just perfect in a lot of ways. We got along very well, we think the same, we think differently, which is very good and a mentor relationship as well, we’re very honest with each other, but it’s not like that happens every day. Those relationships don’t happen every day.
One of the things that I’m trying to help the audience because the audience for the podcast is a very big mix. We have executive CEOs that are listening to this, we have frontline employees that are young in their careers. I try to help with giving some advice on like, how do you find a mentor? What is the best mentor for you?
I’m curious, from your perspective, did you seek out your mentor? Were you introduced and it was like, “Oh, I just feel like this is going to, I aspire to be like him in ways of how he grabs life in so many different ways,”? I’m just curious, how did you approach a mentor, do have any suggestions on people out there that are saying, “I don’t even know where to start to look for a mentor?”
Laurie: Well, I think a mentor is someone you admire greatly. There may be a benefit in doing an exercise where you start to compile a list. Don’t worry about the hierarchy. Don’t worry about whether they live in Hollywood, or Budapest, or wherever just make that list and recognize that in today’s digital economy, you can talk to anybody at any time. Don’t let that be a barrier, but that list of people you admire, it’s just a really great place to start, because it also reflects who you want to be in the future, what your values are, what interests you.
This exercise is just beneficial from a self-discovery standpoint anyway. Once you create that list, you can start to go through and say, “Well, I admire Barack Obama, is there any way that Barack Obama’s ever going to mentor me? Maybe I don’t know, do you have anybody in common? Do you know him? Did you have the same kindergarten teacher?” Whatever, what are the connections there? You can start to explore. I like this idea of having an aspirational list because that’s who your mentor is, is someone who is aspirational, someone who’s doing great things, and can lead you to the path of you doing amazing things as well.
In my situation, I was kind of floating in the ether of my career, even though it was going well, it just wasn’t going great. I wasn’t lighting the world on fire. I knew I wanted to write a book, I knew I wanted to expand my speaking business. Someone happened to give me a book by Jesse Itzler, that was so funny and so amazing. It’s called, I’m going to botch the title of it, like 30 Days of Working or Hiring a SEAL. He basically hired a Navy SEAL to live with them and change his life. This book is hysterical.
I thought, “Oh, my God, I just need to need him. I just need to hear from him. I need to know about him.” I reached out and from there just started a very light correspondence, and asked, “Can I be a mentee at some point? Do you have anything to share with me? Can I steal five minutes of your time? I have questions.” This is the important thing. You need to show up prepared and that was a responsibility I took very seriously, what did I want to know from Jesse Itzler? What did I want to learn? How did I want to grow my career and what did I think he could teach me? I showed up with that list and from there, a relationship was born.
Jesse does these crazy things where he tries to coach at scale, he has these great programs, but I knew I didn’t want that. I also knew that I had to have some skin in the game. If you’re interested in somebody, and they have a product or service to sell, the best way to get their attention, and this is something I learned from Jesse, is to buy something from them, because then you’ve got an immediate relationship.
You’re taking them seriously. Once Jesse saw that I was invested in him, he was invested in me. I’m so pleased to be able to offer that as an example because I think it’s certainly a story of determination. It’s the story of really not being intimidated by somebody’s title, or their wealth or their standing but it also shows a commitment that I’m making in my mentor to make sure he’s successful as well.
Patrick: You have a common theme, and in this conversation, and I want to talk a bit about the book. You’ve written this amazing book called Betting on You and it’s all about taking control of your career, putting yourself first, tell us a bit about what inspired you to write a book about this specifically because you talked a little bit about it at the start of the conversation, but there’s so much in it.
Everything that we’re talking about today, I feel like it’s all coming back in such a good way, it’s all coming back to the fact that we have responsibility for ourselves and we have so much opportunity if we show up for ourselves, those are my words, but I’m just [laughs] I’m not putting those words in your mouth. Tell us a bit about the book and what inspired you for it.
Laurie: Well, I mentioned earlier in the conversation, Patrick, that there were times in my own career when I was a little lost and a little forlorn. I would wait for an organization to solve my problem, I would wait for my own HR department to swoop in, I would wait for that cavalry to come and nobody ever came. I realized at my lowest professional moments, that I could only fix work for other people. If I fixed it for myself first and that meant really taking ownership of my experience, so, often in HR we talk about the employee experience as if it’s something we can configure or manipulate.
While we can offer great benefits, services, opportunities, learning opportunities, ultimately, workers need to make the decision, are they in or are they out? They need to step from a place of learned helplessness into a space of action. I recognize it’s so hard to do that on your own, if you’ve been hit by COVID or financial difficulties, or you had student loans before COVID, where are you today? I wanted to offer an example, worse than all of someone who did it, and did it well. That’s what motivated me to write the book now.
I could have written a book about organizational philosophy, and self-determination and all of that but as my editor said, “That’s boring, and nobody would read it.” I tried to tell stories in Betting on You of both myself and other individuals, who were really at a place of confusion or a loss and put themselves first. They took a risk, they leaned into something I explain as self-leadership, this art and science of individual accountability, and came out on the other side more successful.
It’s part motivation, part self-help, grounded in theory, but no bullet points, no two-by-two quadrants because nobody wants to read that, come on. It’s boring. Yes, I’m really pleased that you hear this idea of self-determination as a theme because it’s something I absolutely believe in.
Patrick: I do too. I feel that now is a great opportunity for people to take this opportunity for themselves and find ways of being able to put themselves first. I think that creating space to learn and take a minute and say, “You know what, my mentorship, investing in a relationship that is going to benefit me, benefit the person that’s mentoring me,” because I would think that I think it’s safe to say that the high majority of mentors get so much reward out of the role of being a mentor, I am now a mentor for people.
I find it as to be one of the most rewarding things that I do is to be able, like you said, to help people, maybe clear a path or just think about things in a different way and have them come to their own conclusions, not tell them what they need to do, but have them help to guide their thought process and come to conclusions for themselves. It’s their journey, it’s their life, and being able to help with that is incredibly rewarding as a mentor.
That’s why I really like this idea about self-determination, being putting yourself first and saying, “It’s okay to take some time to figure out who a mentor could be for me, how it could impact and influence me in a positive way and especially at a time when we maybe have not been able to put ourselves first in a lot of different ways.” I think the time is now for people to be doing that, which is why we’re doing this whole season on mentorship. I really like your perspective and your statements around finally putting yourself first and finally taking control of your own career because individually, we have a big part to play in that.
Laurie: Thank you. I am so excited to be able to talk to people about really seeing themselves at the centre of their own stories. Everybody puts together a resume, we prep for an interview, but we forget that what we’re doing is telling the stories of our lives. I don’t know about you, Patrick, but I didn’t survive a pandemic to be mediocre. I didn’t survive a pandemic to prioritize a business over my individual needs.
Now, I could love work, I could love my job. I can have a passion for my organization but I personally have recognized in this journey that I’m no good to anybody. If I’m not focused on my own development. That’s not selfish. That’s smart. By the way, that’s what CEOs and leaders have been doing for millennia. It’s about time we start living our lives. Is it for the CEOs of our own experience? That’s what this is all about.
Patrick: Well said it’s honestly like, that’s brilliant. That is really, really excellent. Laurie, we’re coming close to the end. We could talk for a few more hours. We share very similar passions, but okay. First off, how can people find out more about you specifically?
Laurie: I am all over the internet and the best way to find me is to go to punkrockhr.com. You will fall into my ecosystem. You’ll find the podcast and all the amazing people that I get to talk to. I’m so pleased to be able to just share stories about fixing work. I don’t know if you like it feel free to subscribe.
Patrick: It’s a great podcast. Definitely check it out. Also, the book, Betting on You. How can people find the book and read these stories?
Laurie: The book is available everywhere books are sold. It’s also an audiobook. I did my own narration. I’m really excited to be able to advocate for small businesses, locally-owned bookstores, diverse-owned bookstores. While there are easy ways to get this online and certainly on my website, go visit your local bookstore, or better yet it’s in the library system in all English speaking countries. Go visit your local librarian. They’ve missed you. It’s time. Let’s go back to Library.
Patrick: Good. I love it. That’s excellent. Well, Laurie, first off, thank you for your passion and for your direct speak. I think that is so important right now. I know the audience is definitely going to enjoy your perspective. I have for sure. Thank you for writing a book that truly does inspire through the story. I think you’re spot on there and inspiring people. As you said, I love that statement being the CEO of your own life and if there’s any time for us to do it, definitely now is the time.
A very heartfelt thank you, Laurie, for spending time and being part of the conversation today. Thank you for your personal stories around mentorship, being a mentor, being a mentee for many people and for sharing some very specific guidance around how people can look for mentors and what potentially a good aspirational mentor could be for somebody. I very much appreciate you spending time with us. Thank you.
Laurie: Thank you.