Unlocking Trauma-Informed Leadership with Shani Magosky


In this episode, Shani takes center stage as the guest, sharing profound insights into the world of trauma-informed leadership. Shani and I delve into a wide range of topics, beginning with some highlights from the episode we recorded a few months ago for her podcast.. We explore the concept of trauma, shedding light on why individuals often exhibit specific behaviors as a result of their past experiences. Shani then opens up about her motivation for writing a leadership book and recounts a deeply personal story about a former employer who demonstrated a trauma-informed approach during a challenging period in her life.

Shani Magosky

Shani specializes in leadership and culture consulting, executive and team coaching, talent management, OD, HR strategy, operations, finance, communications, marketing, and PR. She really has a unifying approach to linking business strategy and culture in her organization, her company called the Leadership Project.

In addition to that, Shani is an adjunct instructor of the Leadership and Culture program,  for, 000 small businesses, which is sponsored by Goldman Sachs. She also is a guide for chief, a private membership network focused on connecting and supporting executive level female leaders. And last but not least, she’s the author of the better boss blueprint and host of the leader shifter show podcast.


Throughout the episode, we dissect various aspects of trauma-informed leadership, including the telltale behaviors that coincide with it. We pinpoint two crucial elements that define exceptional leaders: the ability to make others feel validated and connected, as opposed to feeling unseen and isolated. Shani leaves the audience with a powerful message related to connection and its integral role in trauma-informed leadership.

As the conversation progresses, the focus shifts to the topic of accountability within this leadership style and how it can be maintained Shani and I emphasize the transformative impact of treating employees with care and compassion, emphasizing that this approach ultimately leads to superior outcomes.

In the latter part of the episode, we address a common challenge faced by those aspiring to become compassionate leaders – the gap that often exists between intention and action. We stress the significance of continuous personal growth and self-improvement as essential components of becoming a truly empathetic and effective leader. Join us for this thought-provoking and enlightening discussion on leadership and the power of trauma-informed approaches.

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Just pay attention. Everyone can get so busy, right? We’ve got a zillion things on our to do list. We’ve got fire drills happening. You know, we say we care about our employees and it’s not like most people intentionally aren’t, but we just get so busy. We have blinders on. And so what I want to say is listen.

And my definition of listening is not just with your ears. You got to listen with your eyes. You got to listen with your heart. You got to. Listen with your intuition and your gut, like pay attention to what’s in between the lines for people energetically and just get curious about it. Like, again, you don’t have to ask for details, but even just checking in, is everything okay?

Carolyn: Today’s guest is Cheyney Magosky. Cheyney specializes in leadership and culture consulting, executive and team coaching, talent management, OD, HR strategy, operations, finance, communications, marketing, and PR. She really has a unifying approach to linking business strategy and culture in her organization, her company called the Leadership Project.

In addition to that, Shani is an adjunct instructor of the Leadership and Culture program, for, 000 small businesses, which is sponsored by Goldman Sachs. She also is a guide for chief, a private membership network focused on connecting and supporting executive level female leaders. And last but not least, she’s the author of the better boss blueprint and host of the leader shifter show podcast.

In today’s episode, we are going to take some examples from decades ago of leaders who were demonstrating and leading with a trauma informed approach, and my hope with this conversation is that it will demystify this big word and help You identify specific behaviors that contribute to trauma-informed leadership.

While this word might be new in the corporate world, it is not new to many leaders and through this podcast and through my book, I really am inviting people to explore it with curiosity and find some of those own behaviors that likely. Have been demonstrated by you at some point in your career, and if they haven’t, now you have some tangible examples to move forward with.

You’ll hear Shani and I share some specific insights and memories about our own stories that had a great deal of trauma involved, but we get into the details about how the leaders that we were surrounded by led with this approach of care. I hope you enjoy the show.

All right. Hello, Evolve listeners. Welcome to another episode. I’m really excited to be speaking with my guest today. And her name is Shanie Magosky. Hi, Shanie.

Shani: Hi.

Carolyn: So

Shani: here.

Carolyn: we are recording this in the summer. And I know Shanie, you are in a beautiful location. We won’t necessarily disclose it unless you want to.

Shani: Happy to.

Carolyn: Yeah. Where are you joining us from today? I

Shani: I am in Tenerife, which is in the Canary Islands. It’s part of Spain, but pretty far south of Spain. It’s off the coast of North Africa. So I, it’s a very quick flight if I were to want to take one. to Morocco, for example. It is absolutely beautiful. I don’t want to extol the benefits too much because I don’t want to let the secret too far out of the bag.

But it’s amazing here.

Carolyn: wow. Well, I’ll tell you, you mentioned Spain. I was at the Canadian Tennis Open last night and Spain’s finest, Carlos Alcaraz, was playing. So, yeah. It, it was, it wasn’t, I’d say, one of his best games. He struggled a fair amount, but man he managed to pull it out and and get that, get that win in the end.


Shani: Well, he’s my latest tennis crush. It used to be Roger Federer.

Carolyn: Yep. Well, you know, there’s there. It was just amazing to see in person. I’d never seen a tennis game in person. So, so if you’re all listening, you’re like, no, why, why are they talking about tennis and the Canary Island? So that was just a light little intro now that we’re doing the show on video. But here’s why I wanted to bring Shani onto the show.

First of all She has got her own podcast and is in this amazing space of, of culture and strategy and Shani, just your background and your experience is it’s just a wonderful combination that I think really helps. You’ve got the practical experience of being a business leader in a high performing, fast paced industry.

And you also work with people in that space. So, that’s why I thought you’d be a really great fit for the show. And I was on your show. And so we’re just going to kind of pick up from that episode. So, 

Shani: such a great conversation.

Carolyn: We did. And for anybody listening, I’d encourage you, we’ll include the link in the show notes. But it did get published on Shanie’s podcast called The Leader Shifter Show.

We were episode 94 and it was published on June the 14th. So Shanie, again, we’ll just continue this conversation, won’t we?

Shani: Yeah, let’s do it.

Carolyn: So, why don’t we start off by what, what did we talk about on that show and why why did you have me on your show?

Shani: Leadership is so multidimensional and the skills needed today to be an effective leader are so much more evolved than they used to be. And I always, I have a variety of people on my show. It’s not just like, oh, I’m a corporate leader, and I’m gonna come on, I’m invited on Cheney’s show. Of course I have leaders, but they’re interesting leaders.

They’re leaders that are doing different things, interesting things, in fields that are untraditionally highlighted. And I also like to bring experts on in all sorts. of different sub specialties. And when I read about what you do in trauma informed leadership, I was like, Oh, that is so interesting. So relevant, not just because of COVID trauma, where, where leaders became at least many, not all more empathetic and more human in as people were coping with the pandemic and the impact.

On their families and on their own mental and physical health. And I, I don’t want that to end.

I want, I know I’m preaching to the choir, but I want that empathy, which of, of which being a trauma informed leader is an element to last in perpetuity. So that’s why I had you on my show.

Carolyn: Yeah. Well, and we had a fantastic discussion. I mean, like we could have kept talking. Although again, I say this, I feel like I say it on every episode. I could have talked for hours and my husband would tell you. Yeah, I do talk for hours. But like, what was, I know there were, there were A few moments where you’re like, Oh yeah.

Like, do you, do you recall from that episode? I know it was a while ago. Just sort of, or maybe reading the book, something that landed with you. Cause my whole goal with the book was just to get people to say, Oh, Oh, there is another way,

Shani: Yep. So there are a couple things that stand out to me from that episode. One is what it even means. What is a trauma that it’s not. I mean, it can be, but it doesn’t have to be some monumental, life changing thing, right? Trauma is relative. And contextual and can be different at one moment in time than another moment in time.

And so even as we were talking, I had light bulbs going off about, yeah, I did have a major trauma and we can talk about that today. And there are other things that I now in my own mind categorize as somewhat of a trauma that, you know, different impact. But I understand why I show up in certain ways.

As a derivative of that trauma, so we, it redefined trauma for me, which I think was really important. The other major element for me. Was what it means to be trauma informed and that it doesn’t mean you have to know what the trauma is. Right? So, part of being a trauma informed leader is not Carolyn. Tell me everything about your trauma.

Carolyn: Yeah.

Shani: right, you don’t even have to ask. You just have to know. That there’s something and be open minded and again, I’ll use the term probably a zillion times be empathetic and human and give people grace. Let them ask for what they need and be accommodating.

Carolyn: Yeah. It seems simple, and yet it’s not. Right? And, and I know I, I was really energized by our conversation because I felt like I was like, Oh, somebody who’s experienced it had a similar path. Now, I know our stories aren’t identical, but there’s definitely an intersection. And I’ll just share a little bit about my experience and why I thought it was important to write a book about being trauma informed.

I’m just going to say that high level, and then let’s talk about that intersection of our 

stories. So I went on this, and for those of you, if you’ve read the book you’ll read about it. But for many years of my life probably 47 of them, I’m 51 now. I didn’t think that trauma pertained to me.

I knew that I’d had adversity in my life. I also knew I came from a place of privilege. I always had a roof over my head. I had accessible accessible education. So I felt my, I felt very fortunate. And so I attributed all these challenges, and some of them were quite major to just having to tough it out.

What that did is that created A way of showing up in the world, and it really was a very different perception of what people had of me than what was going on inside. And once I understood the. History of what trauma means and the, the newest research coming out because there’s been tremendous advancements in this area.

It gave me a framework to better understand myself, and you and I both know leadership starts from the inside and goes out. So that’s what I felt so drawn to writing that book to say, okay. 

We just had a big experience globally, and even if you didn’t think you had trauma before, you will have had it now, and I really like to define of all the different definitions.

To me, the simplest to understand, and I don’t want to minimize it, but I’m trying to simplify it for us in the leadership space, is it’s an emotional wound, and we don’t need to know all the details about each other’s emotional wounds. But we do need to be aware of the fact that we have them. And how can we lead with more intention now?

Shani: Yep,

Carolyn: Knowing that that exists. And so, that’s just a little bit of the history. 

And so, I’d love for you to share, Shani, your experience that happened back with one of your employers. And how they led with a trauma informed approach. But we didn’t have those words back then in the corporate world. So, over to you.

Shani: Yep, thank you. Okay, so, get your tissues out, people. It’s, it, it, it’s a sad one. So, I moved to New York after I graduated from the University of Miami. And shortly thereafter, I met this wonderful man named Alan. He was in med school when we met. When he graduated med school and became a resident, he went to med school and did his residency at Mount Sinai and in New York, we moved in together when he started his residency and at age 27 out of the blue, he was diagnosed with colon cancer and we were living together.

We were engaged. We’re in no hurry to get married because he’s a surgery resident working a zillion hours a week. And I was an investment banker at Goldman Sachs working a zillion hours a week. So part of the benefit of living together was we actually got to see each other once in a blue moon, like two ships passing in the night.

And this came out of nowhere. What? We thought was relatively healthy. 27 year old man gets diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. So long story short, it was only 7 months between when he was diagnosed and he passed away in our apartment. While I was there, while his mother and his brother and his oncologist happened to be there as well. Trauma to the nth degree. Not just the fact that he died the trauma and I was his primary caregiver. So the trauma of Watching someone you love Deteriorate cancer is so dehumanizing

Carolyn: Yeah.

Shani: Everything and in his case, of course, it was physical all the things you read about and It was mental and intellectual by the end.

He was having hallucinations and you know, it was It was, it, I still have some sort of PTSD from it because it was so profoundly sad and, and, and, and then, of course, there was the trauma afterwards of the anger and the, you know, about everything that was supposed to be that now. Couldn’t be, and I was so resentful, like, so stuck in the Kubler Ross early stages of grief.

But, to the, to the credit of my boss at Goldman Sachs, her name was Barbara Tartell, great lady, mother of three kids herself. I remember, I called her from Mount Sinai on a payphone. This was, it,

Carolyn: That was a while ago. You just 

Shani: This was a midnight. I didn’t have a cell phone yet. Called her on the trading floor at from Mount Sinai Hospital when we got the diagnosis.

I could hear that she was tearing up and instinctively, she said to me, we support you. Do what you gotta do. Be there for him. If you want to come to work to get away, of course, you’re welcome. If you need to be with him, it’s fine. Don’t come in. We’re not going to dock your salary or penalize you or count your days or whatever.

And, and it was so, such a relief to have that reaction from her right out of the gate. And I did, I was with him all the time, but some days I just needed to get out of the hospital or of the house and go feel normal for, for a little bit. Every one of my colleagues knew, everyone was understanding. Her boss, a guy named John Winklereed the same message and when, after he passed away, you know, they were very understanding.

It wasn’t like, okay, he’s dead. Get back to work. Like I had a, I had a, I on ramps back.

Carolyn: Back in.

Shani: So that’s to me, even before the, the term was coined, they displayed what I think you would define as trauma informed leadership.

Carolyn: Yeah. Well, and Shani, I can, you know, our stories have A lot of similarities. You know, I also too was married to somebody who passed away. He was 31 when he was diagnosed. We had two children or sorry, we ended up having two children because he was diagnosed when I was pregnant with the first child.

And like you said, like, you know, wait a sec, we don’t have like, this isn’t supposed to happen this way. I’m curious. 

One of my first questions before we dive into the leadership conversation, did you know at the time that what you were experiencing could have been referred to as trauma?

Shani: I did actually. Yes. Because to me, like back then, and even until our conversation, for me, trauma was, yeah, the loss of a loved one, especially before their time and not to minimize when people’s parents and grandparents pass away. But for me, there was a difference between when someone with their whole life ahead of them

Carolyn: Yep.

Shani: is taken too early versus an 80 year old or whatever.

I felt that it was, it was trauma at the time. Yes, I

Carolyn: Yeah. Yeah, I, I didn’t have that same insight. And I think, you know, one of the first. One of the things I hope people can learn about with trauma is it’s not an event. It can be an event. Absolutely. But it’s not only limited to that. And so when you’re dealing with such a a circumstance that we were both like that, that’s going to have a lot of deep emotions involved with it.

And so looking back, my gosh, of course, the situation I was in involved a lot of heavy, deep, sad and, and really you know, just, just trying to think of a, of a really good way to describe it, like really painful situations. So that’s the first thing just to realize trauma is unprocessed emotion.

Shani: Yes.

Carolyn: And here’s what I didn’t know is it goes into your body and it gets stored. So, And I think, yeah, it, I didn’t, I didn’t understand that I just, I was like, all I knew how to do was to be tough and push through. And I had 2 babies that I had to, I had to care for. So, so that’s 1, you know, 1 thing. And I did again. Lots of people ask asked, my husband was alive for six years with, with his, with his illness, which was five and a half years longer than what I thought would happen.

So I felt very fortunate, but also because I wasn’t processing deep enough what was going on, I burnt myself out.

Shani: Right.

Carolyn: So again, you know, if we don’t, if we don’t learn what’s going on and, and we’re sharing the story again as leaders to make sure you look after yourself and that you are processing and taking care of yourself you know, at the core of trauma informed leadership is this notion of care 

Shani: Mm hmm. 

Carolyn: based when a guest I had on called it care based leadership.

So it sounds like Shani, you, when we’re caring for yourself hopefully, you know, quite, Well, and also you had employers that were caring for you as well. What else, like 

when you went back to work, what are some of the behaviors or things that they did that you think connect to this concept of trauma informed leadership?

Even though we weren’t using that term in the corporate world before?

Shani: Well, let’s say even in the immediate aftermath of him passing away, I’m, I’m Jewish, and so was he, we said Shiva, and Every one of my colleagues came out to Long Island where his brother was hosting the Shiva checked in on me, you know, like they, they didn’t just tell me, I’m sorry, they slept out to Long Island to like, be there physically with me, which, which meant a lot.

And one of my colleagues, this guy, Matt, Who I’m still very close with today. He had lost his brother, his younger brother, to cancer not long before. So he really got it and I, that’s why we became so close. I had a confidant on the desk, on the trading desk that, you know, I could really go to when I was in a lot of pain.

I’m, it’s like coming up right now.

Carolyn: Yeah. It will. It, it, Shani, it sounds like that connection that, that you had with him. It goes, it goes really, it’s very meaningful, isn’t it? To have that connection and to be seen.

Shani: Yep, you know, because it’s like, Whenever I have a friend or client or anyone in my life who loses someone, for example, my one of my first cousins, his wife died out of the blue. She was 61 but healthy, vibrant, no health problems, died in her sleep on a five or six weeks ago. He woke up on a Sunday morning and she wasn’t breathing.

And she’s got two kids and they’ve got two kids in their twenties. And. And, and, and so those boys, I was talking to them at the, at the funeral and, and they just asked me for some advice. And I said, listen, almost no one knows what to say.

Carolyn: yeah.

Shani: Some people won’t say anything because they think it’s awkward.

Don’t take it personally. It doesn’t mean they don’t care. Some people are going to say the wrong things. They’re going to say stupid things. Don’t take it personally, right? It’s just it when people have not walked in your shoes. They just don’t know what to say and that’s okay. And then the other thing I told them was you’ve got a lot of support right now because it’s fresh and people are feeling bad.

It’s going to go away.

Carolyn: Goes away. Yep.

Shani: You know, it goes away sooner than you wanted to, and then you’re like, you know, no one’s bringing meals over anymore. No one’s calling you every day to see how you’re doing. And it goes away pretty quickly. And so the advice I gave them was reach out to the people you know you can depend on.

Even if they’re, you’re not hearing from them when you need it, reach out to them, like reach out to me. Take care of yourself. Don’t be, you know, don’t just bury your head. Your mom would want you to, to, to move on. That doesn’t mean you can’t be sad. So anyway, that was a bit of a tangent, but you know, just in terms of connection and relationships, I guess that’s where I had been going with that.

Carolyn: And, and that’s, that’s what I tried to do with my book was to. Really try and simplify because, you know, like when we deal with trauma and grief, like we’re getting into some grief topics, that’s heavy. And I wanted to make sure people realized you don’t need to carry all that heaviness with other people.

And quite often, as you alluded to, we, we sort of scooch around or skirt around what we might really want to say, because we’re feeling a little awkward and uncomfortable. And, and, and, and, hey, that’s normal. I certainly don’t always approach this topic with the same sort of openness. It definitely takes a bit of, a bit of work to you know, connect with others, but at the core of it, there are two elements that I think will help us as leaders is this notion of connection and recognizing and honoring the other person’s situation.

Shani: Mm hmm.

Carolyn: We don’t need to know all the details. We don’t even need to feel the exact same thing,

Shani: Mm hmm.

Carolyn: but connecting them and helping them be seen. 

Shani: Yeah. 

Carolyn: what would be, Shani, some examples of how, and let’s keep it like to maybe people that weren’t as close to you, because obviously we’re going to have some people that we can get really detailed with, but 

what Are ways that people you worked with after Alan passed away or even before when he was ill, how did you feel seen and heard and validated that allowed you to feel in connection with them versus silent, unseen and alone and isolated?

Shani: Right. Well, the first thing that comes to mind was when was this? I don’t know. It was maybe a year or more after Alan passed away. My coping mechanism was throwing myself into work because it, joyless.

Carolyn: Yeah, I hear ya. I hear ya.

Shani: Like I felt like that’s what I was supposed to do. Like I wasn’t supposed to laugh or smile or have fun. I mean, not that I never laughed or smiled at work, but you know what I’m saying? Like I didn’t think I was supposed to, you know, go enjoy myself or certainly didn’t think I was supposed to date. And, and so I really threw myself into work. During that time, I also got some new, some bigger, new clients. One of them was a real asshole. And, and that stressed me out a lot and, and, and I’m delicate, emotionally very delicate. I also, it was, I was still at an age where lots of people were getting married.

Carolyn: Mmm.

Shani: and baby showers. And every time I went to one, it would just wind me up and I would get bitter and angry, jealous.

And, you know, and so I was showing up at work like, yes, I was intense and I was working hard and I was doing a great job. But the energy I was giving off was that of anger, frustration, just like I mean, I was still, I was nice and I, I, I was collegial and professional, but you know, it was just this like intangible thing.

My boss’s boss is John, who I told you about noticed that there was just something off with me. So one day out of the blue, he pulls me off the trading floor into his office and he asks me one question, Cheney. What’s going on with you? Not in a accusatory way, like what the hell is going on with you?

But just like in this really, just very open question. What’s going on with you? You’re not yourself. And I said, do you really want to know? And he said, of course. And okay. I know we say you don’t have to know what the trauma is, but I spilled my guts.

Carolyn: but the point is, though, is that John went into that conversation and allowed you to take it where you wanted to.

Shani: Yes, and I unloaded and I was in tears and I’m not the kind of person who would ever have cried at work, especially at Goldman, but I felt it was a safe space to do so. And after I let it all out, he looked at me and said, when was the last time you took a vacation? And I was like, I don’t know, 2 years ago or 18 months ago, whatever it was.

And he said, okay, I don’t want you in this office next week. And I think it was a Wednesday. And I was like, what do you mean? He’s like, you’re officially ordered to go on vacation next week. He’s like, I don’t care what you do or where you go. He goes, but I know how much you get paid and you can afford to go take a nice vacation. He’s like, and if you show up here, I’m gonna have you escorted out of the building. So, this was back in the day when there were still travel agents.

So I went to a travel agency and I booked this last minute trip to Capri, Italy and the Amalfi coast. It was a spa. I had two or three spot appointments a day.

I really took care of myself and I spent a lot of the time. I was alone journaling. Mind blowing. I suddenly had some self awareness about. What was holding me back or what was weighing me down is was actually a better way to put it. And I thought, I can’t stay like this. I have to make some changes. And that was the impetus for many, many changes.

Even physically, I moved to Los Angeles the following year. That’s

Carolyn: Well, okay. Let’s like, shout out to John. John, I don’t know where you are, if you’re listening, but that is such a beautiful example of what it means to be trauma informed or shall we say like care informed. It didn’t sound like he pressed you for details or tried to validate or invalidate your feelings.

It was simply, I’m seeing you, I am honoring your experience. And here, like Holiday, take some space for yourself. That’s what it, what we mean when it comes to connection. When I talk about connection and being such an important part of this. I’m going to go to the second aspect of my book. But before I do that.

I just, I want to add in how instrumental two people were to me in, in a similar situation. I had six years with with the illness with my husband and I didn’t, I did very rarely felt seen and heard cause I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t open the door and let anybody in. Everything looked great. You know, it, it just, and it’s not like I was trying to block people out.

On purpose, I just didn’t know any other way. And that, that sort of links into the second element, which was I did not understand how my personality structure dealt with stress. And and I just kept going further, further inward and didn’t want to burden anybody else with what I was, what I was going through.

And it was an old boss of mine that took me out for lunch. And I was hanging on by a thread at this point. We were four year in four years into Paul’s illness, hanging on by a thread and I knew going into that lunch, I just needed her to give me permission to tell me it was okay to take some time off.

And she was coming into the, I found out later to the lunch thinking, Holy shit, we’ve got to get this woman. Off on a short term leave because she’s burnt out and we were like, I don’t know, five minutes into the conversation. It’s similar to you. Like, I just, the tears flowed and I walked over into my boss’s office right after that lunch and.

You know, Cheryl just looked at me and she said, I’ve been waiting for this. And she said, we’ve got you, you go and you look after yourself and we will look after everything. You don’t need to worry about anything. You need to go look after you. And that again, didn’t ask me for any details, didn’t like it, but I just felt seen and heard.

And such an important part of, of this 

what is one element of trauma informed leadership when it comes to connection that you would like to leave with the listeners here?

Shani: Yeah. Just pay attention. everyone can get so busy, right? We’ve got a zillion things on our to do list. We’ve got fire drills happening. You know, we say we care about our employees , and it’s not like most people intentionally aren’t, but we just get so busy. We have blinders on. And so what I want to say is listen, and my definition of listening, is not just with your ears.

You gotta listen with your eyes. You gotta listen with your heart. You gotta listen with your intuition and your gut. Like, pay attention to what’s in between the lines for people energetically. And just get curious about it. Like, again, you don’t have to ask for, for details, but even just checking in, is everything okay? 

Carolyn: And if somebody says no, they say no. Is there any, like a favorite question of mine is, is there anything I can do to support you? What does support look like for you?

Shani: yes, I love that. What does support look like for You Great. Question.

Carolyn: and that’s fine. Hey, nothing. Great. But at least, you know, you as a leader need to ask.

Shani: Yeah. And, and just by the nature of them asking, they get a check, right? It’s like, oh, they cared enough to even acknowledge that they noticed something might be askew.

Carolyn: Yep.

Shani: Yeah.

Carolyn: Yeah. It’s that simple and that hard.

What’s another element when you think back to those amazing leaders at that time? Is there another thing that they did or another behavior that you wanted to highlight?

Shani: You know, I, I think the, the other thing that I remember was while he was sick The Barbara communicated to the, we had team meetings every single day. And it’s not like she gave a Shaney and Allen report every morning, but you know, she, she kept everyone informed about what was going on and, and they all made sure that my clients were taken care of, like, like you said, we gotcha.

Don’t worry. So they divided up. My clients and and attended to to their needs, both incoming and and outgoing to make sure that the clients didn’t get neglected both for the client’s sake in the interim. And for my sake, when I came back, I didn’t want we didn’t want my clients to be disconnected from Goldman.

Carolyn: Yep. Yep. 

Shani: So 

Carolyn: sounds like, sorry, go ahead.

Shani: I was just say, so it was, you know, more of a business care. On top of the person care.

Carolyn: Yeah. Well, and I think this is a really important point because when we have this trauma informed approach, when we do show up with care and compassion, we still need to be accountable and want to be accountable to the business.

Shani: Sure.

Carolyn: So what I hear in that story is your, what was her name again, Barbara, a lot of compassion.

For you, for her, and for the team, and I presume the communication was with your, with, with your permission, but here’s, I think, a really important point is there was clearly something from a self awareness perspective that Barbara had that was able to honor your story in a way that you wanted it to be honored and also hold the team accountable but move them into action.

Thank you.

Shani: Yes.

Carolyn: and that is, I think Incr like that’s the crux of leadership that is really hard. It’s not a piece of paper, it’s not a program you go to. It’s learning to look inward and understand some of these patterns that might be unconsciously driving our actions. And when we don’t explore those, our self awareness goes right down, and then you’ve got situations like you were referring to earlier when managers don’t talk or people don’t ask you about it or they say, you know, silly things to you that really kind of make you feel like, what?

Did you even just hear what I had to say? So this is the second aspect that I think is really important is that. And if you are leading in an organization today, the best way through all the challenges, and I know this is hard, and I also know it does work, is to really look inward and understand yourself.

Shani: Yep. So let me add something about Barbara and what I have always known about her. But I learned more about the personal side of her when this happened. She was a badass. She was a groundbreaking woman on Wall Street, like. And, and one of the few female leaders in fixed income at the time or anywhere in the firm, quite frankly, and her clients loved her.

She did a great job with them. She was an excellent representative of the firm. Very high achieving. And like a little tiny thing, like, I don’t even think she was 5 feet tall,

Carolyn: Wow.

Shani: but. emanated such presence, even, even though, you know, she was of diminutive size. And, and, and so a lot of people, that’s how they experienced her.

Oh, she’s a hard ass. Through this situation, I realized what a big heart she had. And I know what she tapped into in her, like I said, her instinctive reaction on the payphone that day. She’s a mother of three. and a mother’s worst effing nightmare, right? Is, is that something like that happens to her kids.

So I know immediately she put herself into Alan’s mother’s shoes and to my shoes as the significant other and was like, whoa. So she was as rabid about family, Taking care of her family as she was about taking care of her clients and her business.

Carolyn: You know what I love about that story, Cheyney, is it’s an incredible, that’s a very, very stressful job. Right? Like, I, I’ve never worked at Goldman but I, I know the industry from afar and it’s, it’s a pressure filled place. She took that connection, right? Cause I think, I think there’s, we all will have people or, you know, family members that we can relate to or, or dynamics that we can feel connected to, but not everybody can translate it into action. So here is this real powerhouse on the trading floor and in this like, you know, really powerful organization and seeing it’s a bit of a bad ass. So people might’ve been afraid of her, I’m guessing because she

Shani: Yes. Many people were afraid of her,

Carolyn: And, and others might’ve been like, Oh my gosh, like, Oh, shady, how are you going to deal with this? But that’s where this whole other side comes out. And I think it’s just so important to say, like, you don’t have to be the soft, mushy, like leader that like has the door open and come sit on my couch and tell me everything.

That’s not what trauma informed leadership’s about. I mean, Barbara and John they both sound like very good examples of what this can look like in reality. Yeah.

Shani: right? Well, they knew that treating me right would ultimately pay off in the long run, right? If they treated me like crap during this and didn’t support me, I probably wouldn’t have stayed a minute.

Carolyn: Right.

Shani: But I, I felt so, you know, seen, heard, appreciated, looked after that it created a loyalty. And I know it wouldn’t have happened with most other leaders at the firm.

Most other leaders at the firm would have been like, sorry to hear it sucks for you. See you tomorrow. You know, make, make money for the firm.

Carolyn: So, where’s that difference then, Cheney? Because I know, you know, you do a lot of work in, in the leadership and culture space and you’ve talked to lots of folks on your podcast. Do you believe that they were really, truly going to be the only two that could respond in that way?

Shani: No for sure. 

Carolyn: them?

What, what does stop? 

Because I believe that, that very few people get up and think are going to be an asshole today. And it’s, it’s performance at all costs. But yet the impact that we have doesn’t always match what our intention is. So I’m curious what, like, where might that gap be for people? When it comes to being able to act with this type of compassion that we saw in John and Barb?

Shani: Yeah, it’s, it’s a great question. I think it’s. Partially, two things come to mind, long term thinking and communication, and I’ll elaborate on each one. The long term thinking, I just gave the example of, you know, a valued employee, you know, let’s see the forest through the trees and stick with her during this tough time.

Carolyn: Cause you were performing leading up to that, obviously.

Shani: Absolutely. And that’s hard. So I think what gets people stuck there is Even outside of Wall Street, especially in any publicly traded firms, but still not limited to publicly traded companies is a, what have you done for me lately? Like this, this quarter. That’s all that matters. It doesn’t matter if you hit it out of the park last quarter.

This quarter isn’t great. You’re going to get penalized and and leaders are always being pressured. To maximize revenue, minimize costs, increase margin, like constantly. And so they’re getting barraged with that. And that bat maybe feels stronger than the compassion that they want to have. So I think that’s part of it is like, realize that.

that it will get better. And, and, and, and so that leads to the second thing, which is the communication. So you don’t have, the leaders necessarily have to make that decision. I mean, they can make the decision for themselves, but then they can socialize it so they get support and they have air cover, so to speak.

So Barbara talked to John like, and, and, and so in a situation for those who are listening, Let’s say you have someone on your team who’s been through a trauma, whatever that means, right? And you’re trying to be care supportive. Well, to the extent that that entails some special circumstances, like that go beyond just like, you know, little things that you can keep between yourselves, like, bring other people into the loop.

Like, hey, I’m… I’m authorizing Carolyn to have a two month leave of absence or an indefinite leave of absence or whatever it is. Here’s why, not because of the trauma, but you know, she’s going through something. She’s very valuable to the team. I want to support her. I want to retain her in the long run. So this isn’t just the right thing to do as human beings.

This is the right thing to do in the long run for a business. Have that conversation with whoever you need to have it with.

Carolyn: Yep. Yeah. And, and I think what gets in, in the way of that is when we don’t, when we don’t know ourselves and, and honor and value our own emotions and what is going on, you know, I think of, of a leader at the time who probably on. Paper didn’t have the best reputation of being a caring leader. She was really seen as somebody that just drove results and and sort of, you know, the feeling that everyone had about her was that she just didn’t care.

She was one of the very few people that would ask me what I needed and how I was doing. And I didn’t give her all the details, but man, every time, and there’s one time she could tell I was having a really hard day. It was at a sales meeting and she pulled me off to the side and she said, is everything like this is, this has to be really tough and you’re just really not yourself.

Is there anything I can do to support you? And this was from somebody who had a reputation of being a really shitty leader.

Shani: you

Carolyn: So, The more we get to know ourselves internally, I guess it’s just another call, another cry for, Hey, if you’re leading people, please do your work, get to know yourself.

Shani: know, it, it, this makes me think of Brene Brown’s work, that vulnerability and transparency is actually not weakness. It’s one of the highest forms of strength. And so if you are a badass leader, be, you know, having empathy and being vulnerable. And not being afraid to have awkward conversation that makes you strong.

It’s not the strength isn’t just about the business and it’s a weak leader. Is that how you do anything is how you do everything right? So a weak leader is going to be weak and driving business and the weak leader is going to be weak in, in, you know, aspects of, of people management as, as

Carolyn: Yeah. Do you know how I’ve come to expand my understanding of vulnerability? Is that if I’m being vulnerable, I am willing to go through a bit of discomfort of not knowing everything.

Shani: well.

Carolyn: And I’m not going to offload my discomfort onto you.

Shani: Yeah,

Carolyn: Yep. So, and that’s again, easier said than done, easier said than done.

Shani: That’s right. That’s right.

Carolyn: Oh, Shanie, this is like, I don’t know if you thought this is where we were going to go, but Ooh, yeah, like, thank you so much for sharing your story and just the, the, the depth and the emotion that came with it. 

Is there anything else that would feel good for you to close off this conversation before I do the official wrap up?

Shani: Sure. Well, I would say that in the long term, I made some lemonade out of those lemons. Marinating on that experience after, you know, years of therapy and personal development work and, you know, all the things, there was a lot of learning, right? Get to know yourself. It’s one of the most pivotal long term experiences in my life that informed the back end of well I guess it’s not the back end, in, in, it, it, the next phase of my career.

Carolyn: Right.

Shani: In doing what I do, because I realize how important it is to have good leaders. And so I took that experience and used it to partially define what I view as good leadership. It was the impetus for the book. I wrote the better boss blueprint. My entire preface introduction, whatever tells that story and even more detail.

And it’s also what led me, among other circumstances, to seek executive coaching certification because I also had some coaches along the way who not, they didn’t coach me about the Alan situation specifically, but around some career decisions that, you know, had some ties back to it. Let’s just say, and I saw how helpful that was.

So it, it, it’s continued to impact me and not all negatively.

Carolyn: Yeah. Yeah. And what I’m hearing there too is you didn’t try and figure it out all on your own.

Shani: No, and you can’t, and you can’t figure it out. Like, okay, there’s a deadline. I have a year to figure this shit

Carolyn: Exactly. Yeah.

Shani: It’s like a journey.

Carolyn: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. Well, Shaini, thank you so much for sharing your story and this 

conversation. Where can listeners find you? Your book? We’ll make sure to include these in the show notes as well, but where can they find you?

Shani: Sure. My website is the leader shift. S. H. I. F. T. Deliberate play on the word leadership. And to the extent I like to find humor and irreverence and almost everything. My informal tagline is I help leaders, teams and organizations get their shift together. And 1 of the most important shifts I work with people on are those.

Mindset shifts to bring about self-awareness. And so the website is the leader shift project.com. My email is shay at the leader shift project.com. I’m on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, which is now X. As, as well as YouTube. My podcast, as you so kindly mentioned earlier, is the Leader Shifter Show, and you can find that anywhere you listen to podcast.

Carolyn: Beautiful, beautiful. And Shadey, to end off the show, I always ask guests three questions. Are you ready to answer them? 

Shani: Bring them on. 

Carolyn: All right. 

So the first question is around self awareness. I know we talked about that today, but is there an anecdote or insight you want to share with the group about a time when you learned a lot about yourself that maybe wasn’t the easiest to hear?

Shani: So I did a 10 month leadership program in 2015 and 16. And I was a participant and, and I teach this stuff, but I’m always trying to expand my experiences and, and learn different approaches so that I can always add value. And this was a very different leadership program than, you know, the typical corporate leadership program.

It was 10 intense months with a cohort of 24 people from all different walks of leadership, not just corporate. And we had three, sorry, four off sites for five nights. Throughout the 10 months in a very rustic location in North Carolina, and in between all those sessions, we had lots of assignments, reading, we had pods, and we’d have calls every week, we had projects, like very, very intense.

And when we were in person together, the activities were, I’ll just use the word again, intense, and unlike anything I had ever experienced.

Carolyn: Hmm.

Shani: There was this one after we get to know each other a little bit better, and it was more appropriate to do this. We had a night where every single person had to sit in the hot seat in front of everybody and get feedback, candid feedback from everybody, both positive and constructive and sort of unanimously, And it’s hard to be up there in, in, in that seat. And it’s hard to give the feedback a lot of times. So, a pretty unanimous piece of feedback I got was that I lead with my head, which I’ve always known. Straight A student. Even though I’ve got a big personality and I’m extroverted. I’m an ENT ENTJ. Like, I still, lead now past tense with my head and they all said, we know you have a big heart.

We want to see your heart. You’re so much more compelling when you’re vulnerable, when you get out of your head, when you don’t rush ahead because people don’t move and think as fast as you do like Bring people along with you like leading isn’t just like, Oh, I have the best idea. Let’s go. Leading is okay.

I have a vision like bring us along with you. We want to follow you.

Carolyn: And that was after, right, that was after the whole experience with Alan.

Shani: years later.

Carolyn: So what I find fascinating there, and it’s just, it’s a good reminder, just because we have, we might have our own experiences, and we’ve had great interactions, we will still go back to patterns and routines that are familiar to us, which for you was living in your head, and not allowing the heart to come out.

Shani: Yep.



Carolyn: so great piece of insight then that you received.

Shani: Yeah, it and, and I, I pun intended. I really took it to heart.

Carolyn: Yeah.

Shani: And it is not easy. And I don’t always do it, but I do it so much more and especially with that group where it was safe going forward and it’s just reinforced the power of that and I do it with a lot of my clients and in my workshops and, and, and, and so forth. So that big time, big time self awareness journey.


Carolyn: Now, second question has to do with a ritual or practice that you really look to, to keep you in a calm state or to return you as best as possible into a calm state.

Shani: Sure. Well, I’ve, I’ve been practicing yoga for, oh my God, like more years than I’ve wanted, like since the, since after Alan died, it was one of the many coping,

Carolyn: trauma processing, getting that out of your body. Yeah.

Shani: exactly. And, and to the point where I loved it so much, I became a certified yoga edification, you know, my brain needed a certification.

Carolyn: Yep. Yep.

Shani: You know, so I, I stretch, I breathe you know, yoga isn’t just the poses, right? But, so I developed a tool that I use and then I’ve been teaching it to my clients. It’s called the Daily Gain, G A I N, and it’s an acronym as well as gain is a nod to that you gain benefit from doing the daily gain.

Carolyn: Right.

Shani: And I, I try to do this every morning and you don’t have to sit and write it down. You do it in the shower when you’re eating, drinking coffee, G stands for gratitude. What’s one thing you’re grateful for? It doesn’t have to be major. It can be like, Oh, like my cat’s sitting there and he’s so cute. I’m grateful for my cat or you know, the, the, my, my omelet turned out really well this morning.

Carolyn: Yeah.

Shani: Affirmation, like what’s one thing, you know, to be true about yourself, like give yourself that pat on the back. I am good at my job. I am a good parent. I, you know, whatever it is. The next one is intention. So this is more about how you want to show up. So what’s my intention for the day? My impatient wow, that was a Freudian slip.

Carolyn: Well, some people might want to be impatient when there are days where I do want to be impatient, Shani.

Shani: Well, what I was, what I was going to say is my intention is to be patient because that’s a, you know, sometimes a challenge for me. My intention is, is to be composed because I know it’s a busy day, you know, whatever it is. And, and then the N stands for non negotiable. Okay. What are the one or two. doing things, not being things that I have to do today because as we alluded to earlier, we have to take care of business too.

Like we have to get done and and people love it.

Carolyn: That is, it’s really, I’m going to think of that in the morning, gain. I’m just going to do my gain moment. 

Shani: Yeah. 

Carolyn: Thank you.

 Now the last question is about our connection to things that are bigger than ourself. And I like to approach that through the genre of music. So is there a song or genre of music that makes you feel connected to something bigger than yourself?

Shani: Yes. And this is, I would 10 years because as a younger person, I Not that I didn’t like classical music. I just didn’t, it wasn’t my thing. I listened to pop and nineties hip hop and country, right? There’s an event organizer that’s all over the world called fever.

Carolyn: Okay.

Shani: And one of the things that they do exclusively is they put on these candlelight, open air string quartet.

Concerts that are tributes. Have you seen them?

Carolyn: I see those. I haven’t been to one, but I’ve seen them advertised.

Shani: Yeah, because they do them in Toronto. I have been to like, I don’t know, 15 of these things and and they’ll take famous artists and they do string quartet performances. So everything, of course, I’ve seen Bach and Tchaikovsky and you know, things like that, but also ABBA, Ed Sheeran, Cold Play, the Rolling Stones, like I can’t even begin, like I’m blanking on some of the other ones and it is so profound.

I sit there mostly with my eyes closed and, and then I, I just go to another place. It’s, it’s almost like a drug, how my mind just starts to relax and, and my whole body is hearing and, and seeing and. Just calming and, and so that, that kind of music makes me feel connected to, to not just to the, to the world or, or, you know, the universe, but it makes me feel connected to all of my senses.

Carolyn: We’re just going to end on that, Shani. What a beautiful way to bring all of this home. Because I think ultimately when we look at leaders of today and tomorrow, the best leaders are going to be the ones who are connected to their body and all of their senses. And that will give them the information they need to lead in the most compassionate and accountable way.

Shani: Yes, amen. Amen.

Carolyn: we’re going to end it on that. Thank you everybody for tuning into another episode. And Shani, thank you so much for joining us on

Shani: Oh, my pleasure. Thank you for having me. Another thoroughly enjoyable. Awesome conversation. I just love you.

Carolyn: I love you too, Shani.

Wow. So many memories came up for me in that conversation with Shanie about my own past experience and how I’ve shown up as a leader, also as a contributor to organizations. And I think the thing that’s really top of mind for me right now is regardless of our experiences, we all are going to have times in our life that are going to be more challenging emotionally.

And we do get through it and we live in sort of hills and valleys. And so perhaps when we are through it, we might find ourself returning back to patterns or behaviors that maybe might seem a little bit contradictory to what we’ve learned. You know, Shani shared an example of, you know, finding that feedback to come back into her heart.

Life is a journey, my friends, whether you are officially leading people, but you’re always officially leading yourself. And so I hope that you found a bit of space for compassion for yourself and recognize these hills and valleys are going to occur for all of us. Thanks again for listening and we’ll see you on our next episode soon. 

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