In our uncertain economic environment, executives across financial services, technology and healthcare are asking themselves the question 'what’s next for me?' Many people are feeling stifled in their jobs, and many others are either unemployed or underemployed. In this episode of The Leaders' Perspective Podcast we chat with Kathy Boden Holland, a brilliant and inspiring leader who has worked in a variety of industries including financial services, education and consumer products - in roles ranging from strategy and private equity to business leadership to risk – and we learn how she leverages her network and her skills as a driver to own her unique career path.
Welcome back to the leaders perspective podcast where we engage with Triple Threat leaders to learn about their lives, careers and leadership philosophies, and chat with our guests about a hot topic in business or society. As a reminder, a Triple Threat leader is one who embodies the very best of leadership and who has strong IQ, EQ and DQ, intelligence quotient, emotional quotient, and decency quotient. executives across all industries are finding themselves in a unique position, following a period of growth and now uncertainty in the economy. While job growth is strong, we're finding that workers across tech, financial services, and even healthcare find their jobs at risk. Career reinvention is key to success. And this can be in through the form of formal education, online courses, and more often through applied experience and self created business opportunities. Knowing how to leverage one's skills is as important as having expertise in any one industry or career path. My guest today is the single strongest leader I've had the opportunity to work for in my career, and she is someone who truly embodies Triple Threat leadership. Kathy Boden Holland started her career as a consultant at Deloitte, who then made her way into the VC and PE worlds. She was a managing partner at Blue House capital, and later was executive vice president at Urban trust holdings. After the urban trust holdings, Kathy was president of RLJ financial investing in new products for underbanked consumers. Cathy was Executive Vice President of Corporate Development for think finance, and then Executive Vice President of bank products, Executive Vice President of Corporate Development, and chief risk officer for elevate credit. Cathy then shifted into healthcare and education as Group President of ad telehealth, a role where she oversaw nursing, medical and veterinary schools educating over 40,000 students across the US, UK and the Caribbean. Currently, Cathy is CEO of consumer safety technology, a company which offers products that deter impaired driving. She earned her BA from the University of Pennsylvania where she played women's basketball for four years, and earned her MBA from the UNC Kenan Flagler Business School. Kathy is an advisory board member of the UNC Center for Business of health, and resides in Denver, Colorado, with her husband and two children.Voiceover:
Welcome to the leaders perspective podcast where we talk to Triple Threat leaders about the people products, trends and experiences that influence business. I'm now pleased to introduce your host, Jason Goldberg.Jason Goldberg:
Welcome, Kathy to the leaders perspective podcast. So happy to have you on. Thank you, Jason. It's been a long time in the making. She you and I met talked to believe seven years ago now. That is hard to believe.Kathy Boden Holland:
That might actually be too low of a number. But yeah, so. Yeah. So yeah, you're at Elevate at the time andJason Goldberg:
I quickly jumped at the chance to to work with you there, which was a highlight of my career. So tell the listeners all about you who you are, what makes you tick.Kathy Boden Holland:
Ah, let's see. I am. I am a resident in the Colorado area. I have two teenagers, one husband, two dogs. And I always like to add we have one guinea pig and we've been here about 10 years we enjoy it. We are skiers, everybody always asked that question. Yes.Unknown:
What makes me tick is really depends on the topic, right? But what makes me tick, personally is enjoying time with family and friends and and getting around and actually having the opportunity to do that. I think I'm even more conscious of that. Post COVID, as many of us are. What makes me tick professionally is kind of jumping into the deep end and trying new things on a regular basis. And as I've gotten older, working with people that I enjoy working with, I think is probably even higher on my list of requirements to to jump in from a professional perspective. You're somebody who is think brings balance to the workplace. And by that I mean you know, no matter what's going on how frenzied the environment is how crazy the objectives you bring this level of clarity to the objective like you, you really distill it plus, you bring, you know, humor and compassion, structure all in one. So how do you do that? Well, thank you, I, there, there are plenty of days with teenagers where I don't feel like I bring any of that clarity or calmness to the table. So maybe I'm using it at the office. But I think I having a couple of things that really influenced me when I when I look back, like one is I was an athlete growing up, I enjoyed the competition. But equally, I enjoyed the process of putting a team or being on a team, I shouldn't say putting a team together but being on a team and getting better, kind of the grind of getting better. And I had the pleasure of working for some really good game coaches, who, you know, we're very good at recentering you on what's important that moment in time, like not getting worked up about things you can't control. The other part is having really started my career in consulting, I think you see, I had the luxury of seeing a lot of things not going well, that right, that's when you're oftentimes brought in. And really having the, again, luxury of working for people who were capable of thinking things through focusing on the things that matter, and, and keeping your eyes you know, quote, unquote, keeping your eye on the, on the end goal. And I think it just influenced me, I would say, you know, at my roots, so to speak. And then I think the other part, which is just a benefit from my perspective, I you know, I just grew up in a really great household where, you know, at home, it was just, it was easy. And so whatever else was happening in around the world was, was just less, not less important. But you could always get re centered. And I think that's something that all of us have to keep in mind that whatever we're doing very, very few of us are impacting. You know, everybody's gonna wake up the next morning, we may not be happy with the outcome, but everyone's gonna wake up the next morning. And that's probably the most important part. That's great. So you lead, you were CEO of your president of a educational institution, during COVID. Go this is this was an institution that had nursing schools, medical schools, veterinary, and in the US, like dozens of campuses in the US five countries, right? Yep. And you had to figure out how to educate healthcare professionals. At a time when health care professionals were like running away from their fields, and couldn't be present than there was high risk. Probably, I'm guessing probably the most high stakes moment of your career. Yeah, actually, you know, probably the only time it mattered about like, Was everybody going to wake up the next day type of my comment. So I had the luxury of working with exceptional academic leaders, right. So my role was really to make sure that we were running quality schools from my, you know, from a business and operational perspective, and that I had high quality academic leaders in roles and that they built the right faculty and the right content. But to be very clear, I was not an educator, I had the luxury of working with just some fabulous educators. And then in partnership, really, with people across our organization, who are all focused on the same thing. So yeah, we had 2028 campuses, five countries, 40,000 students. Anything that you could possibly imagine happened in those, you know, couple months, especially having people abroad. It was everything was everything was happening real time and we were all there, right. And not only was it different in different areas of the country, as it kind of flowed through back and forth across the country, but different parts of the world. And in that case, you were really managing students, their parents, our team Our faculty, and then a whole lot of regulatory bodies that were also figuring it out on a real time basis. So I think the key to success and I think really we did an exceptional job. And I think in looking back, there's no one decision where I would say, well, we blew that. I mean, I think we really took a very nice approach across the board, and I compliment the team. And my, my peers for that. So but at the same time, it's it's impossible to know, it's impossible to know where you had 45,000 eyes on you, right? You had you had all of the all of the students, their families, your employees looking at you saying, what do we do? And so clearly, you can't handle that all yourself. So you had to set tone and direction and then everyone had to make decisions. So how do you go about that? I think I think in any circumstance, you have to, especially one like that, like a test your test your approach, right, you have to be very clear that you don't actually have the answers, right, and that you kind of, you have to keep coming back to what's the what's the right thing to do. And in that environment, everybody has, everybody has a slightly different view of what's the right thing to do. But like, at the end of the day, it's you're trying to both make everyone safe. That was probably the first and foremost. But then as the, as the pandemic wore on, it's also of people have to get through their education. And you have to figure out how to do that in a way that's a quality experience for them. And for the school, and then for their ultimate employers. And that I think was actually a bigger challenge, because you don't really control what the what a accreditation society decides or whether or not they're going to start providing the MCAT again, or whether or not, you know, they're going to be able to take their the first series in order to get into the residency, so, or they're going to be able to get into like nursing students, or they're going to be able to actually have all their practicums that they need to have in order to graduate. Because hospitals can't have people in and out of them. So for me, and I wasn't the only one, right. I mean, I was one of a senior team, it was really around, hashing it out, but also being very clear that we don't, we don't have all the answers, this is how we got to this conclusion, or this decision. And this is what we're gonna watch to see if that's the right decision. So, you know, being as transparent as you possibly can to a broad group, you're gonna have lots of people who are not happy with it. But if they can at least understand the process, that were the conclusion. That's helpful. So one of the things we wanted to talk about today is the notion of reinvention. And as I mentioned, during the intro, you started your career in consulting and healthcare, consulting, and then made your way to the VC, pe world, and then corporate development into financial products somehow, which was probably a big mistake. And then, and even within that it was corporate development, product and portfolio leadership, that you had partnerships, you had your chief risk officer at one point, definitely, that's how, that's how we knew you really lost your mind. And, and then from there, made the hop into for profit, Medical Edge medical, medical education, and now consumer products. So what's fascinating, and as you like to tell it, there, there is a story behind the madness. You have, you must have leveraged core skills. Because it's not necessarily industry knowledge that you've taken from from place to place. So talk to us about that journey, and how you've leveraged those skills to reinvent yourself over time. Yeah, so yeah, like I said, I can give it a voiceover and I actually had somebody tell me one time wow, that's a great story. And I was like, Well, only if you hear me, only hear me tie it all together. It's not really a great story on paper. I mean, it's a hard it's hard to follow the dots but a little bit goes back to what I said, what makes me tick, right? I like to jump into the deep end of things and figure them out. And what I've come to realize as I again as I've gotten older is it's not always about figuring them out but also making sure you have the right teammates around you and and maybe not always having the best solution but having the right dialogue to see if you can get there. So I think you start to build Old won a little bit of a reputation of being capable of quote unquote figuring it out, which really kind of at its core starts in consulting, right, that's how you learn, and presenting it, and being able to communicate, but also in being able to formulate a logic to how you're going to get from point A to point B. And maybe better now than earlier in my career a little bit more humbleness to say, when you've got it wrong, and that you're going to reevaluate your logic and and start over. So I think it's I'm not sure there's any one core skill other than really continually improving, but also building I think, I would say a lot of them go back to building your leadership capabilities. I mean, when I think about what how I got into some of the roles I got into where I was offered the opportunity to jump into the deep end, as you said, You're absolutely right. It wasn't because I, I knew that space really well, but because I think I had demonstrated either real time because I'd work with folks before, or I had been pointed out to somebody else, because I had demonstrated an ability to both pull the team together, and move down, move down a path and apply some logic. And then the reality is, is people work better when they enjoy working? Right. And I think, you know, I like to enjoy working, I like to, that's a lost art. It is a lost art. It's a lost art. And I think I have maintained a level of humor throughout, you know, I mean, you can be you can be doing hard things and still realize how absurd they are. And you can laugh at yourself for failures. And you can also complement people and hold people accountable all in an environment where they still want to come to the office the next day, virtually or otherwise. And I think I've really over time. It's it's leadership and team building that has made me more more successful than any other skill on that, on that bucket of skills you could have. So what what would your recommendation be? So there, you know that this is a weird market? Right? We just saw that jobs grew by, you know, a few 100,000 jobs this month, which is fantastic. But that is not necessarily within all within, you know, financial services, consumer products or, or health care. And it's not definitely not at the executive levels. Yep. So where, you know, with a lot of people facing still facing uncertainty? What would you recommend? Like, how should they if they're thinking of that they're in the market thinking about their next opportunity? How can they either think about harnessing those skills to reinvent themselves for their next role? Or is it something else? Is it networking? Well, I mean, you know, networking never hurts, right? But I think networking for the sake of accumulating contacts is not necessarily valuable. I'm a, I'm a, I'm a big believer in stepping back and thinking about what you really want to do. I think it's you have to be real careful, especially if you're in an environment where you're worried about losing your job, or you have that you don't move so quickly, that you actually land someplace, it's not going to make you very happy. So really thinking about what makes you tick, like to your question, are you directing that comment? No, not at all, I think. And then thinking about how you can solve for what it said another way. I think it's just like, setting up partnership deals or selling the next opportunity, right? It's not about what you can get out of it. It's about what your you can, what problem you can solve for the folks you're talking to. And yes, you have to get into the conversation to be able to solve the problem. But I think and what I've done in the in the past as you tie all those things, random things together is packaging and thinking about what you've done and how it applies to that new opportunity in such a way that is true and believable, and then shows a Have your own personal strengths off, right. And, again, I think doing it in a way that's true and believable is extremely important because you have to believe it, you have to believe it yourself. But it doesn't have to be because you've had, you know, you've got these five boxes ticked in that industry or even in that role that they're looking for. Right, but that you can translate that experience prior experience, and skill set or competencies or, and highlight for them maybe what they're not even thinking about. Yeah. Cell advisors, expert consultants, or all veteran operators to bring real solutions to your business challenges, contact us at info at a cell dash advisors.com To reach our experts today. Yeah, one of the so I think that's an awesome point. Because one of the things I've seen in my career, and certainly in consulting is I've sold across industries, I remember the first time I was brought in, to pitch to a retail client. And my background really was all financial services. And I really needed to take a step back and think about, you know, where does financial services and credit card industry shine? And where does retail perhaps fall short? And how could I highlight those experiences as something that we could use to move across and you can benefit from my experiences, we use data all the time to analyze customer behaviors, and here's how we can do that, and help you and individuals should do the same thing. Yep, completely agree. And even in talking through, and then when you then when you land, that new opportunity, and you really start to look at it, there's, there's always comfort and saying, like I've done this before, but in many, many times, you have just a different way of looking at the same problem, right, turning it on its side a little bit, which I think can actually create a lot of value for the company, you know, in that new role. It's not that you've done it before, it's that you've done enough of it in, in other situations to know where some of those opportunities and potential pitfalls are. But you know, I've, I've said this to other folks who are in leadership roles, that you don't have to be the best at what you do. You have to be willing to hire the best on your team, and let them do what they do really well. And but you'll still give them insights and guidance that they hadn't thought about because you just come from a different seat, you just come from a different perspective. Well, that's your that's your athlete coming back to the table as well. Right. That's the coach mentality. Right? Making sure they're they're running the right, the right plays, and they know where to be. But not getting in the way of their skills necessary. Right. I mean, even I don't I don't want to get in dangerous territory. Right. But I mean, even Michael Jordan was is it needs to be coached. Right? And so sure, you want to i, i, it took me, I think you you get you have to get further in your in your career to realize that if you can actually hire five Michael Jordan's to work for you. They're going to make you Michael Jordan, even if you can't dribble. Right? I mean, that's it's absolutely. But I also agree with you like the everyone needs to take a step back and realize where they are from a maturity standpoint, because you probably don't realize the need for coaching until you're a little bit older. Yes. Yeah, I think that's true. I think that's very true. You know, I can I can say for sure. In my early days, I did not think I was, you know, I was not easily coachable. Don't think any of us are Yes. And yeah. Or what? Or took you a while, right? I mean, now I can now I think I can split. I can sit in a discussion and take in more. Yep. Then, you know, before that it was I could think about it overnight. Before that, maybe it took me a week before that it may have taken me months to really understand what was being shared with me. And I think it's important to learn from both, you know, you find these people in your career, who you've worked with, or worked for who are very strong leaders, strong coaches, and you definitely you learn a lot from them. But you also have to be insightful to realize, okay, I'm working for these other people who are really, really terrible leaders and crappy coaches. And I need to learn more from that as well. Yeah. And what do I not want to do in the future? Yep, totally agree with you. I had somebody asked me one time like, you know, where did you get your leadership style? And I was like, Well, I think it's informed by what how you want to be led, which oftentimes you learn from working For leaders that don't actually inspire you sometimes, right? And yeah, I completely agree, I completely agree, there's just a lot to be. There's a lot to be pulled out of a career, and an experience that can really inform both how you behave, but then also how you can help other team members grow in that process. But you have to be thoughtful. One of the things I like to ask all of my guests is if can you tell us one or maybe two, tell us about one or maybe two leaders who you learn from who inspired you. So, um, I've had a lot of great I've had, I've been very fortunate, I've had a lot of great leaders in my personal and professional career, I think that the one I, the one I always like to start with is my father, who was extremely thoughtful. He was a leader through behavior rather than through command. Although, you know, when I was a teenager, there were a few more commands, then there were, I wasn't paying attention as closely as premium as I should have. So there was a little more command. But he was also extremely humble, and was really excited about the success of people around him. And I think I learned I know, I learned a lot through him, whether he said it out loud, or just showed showed it over time. Another leader who I I really enjoyed having the opportunity to work for was Bob Johnson, who founded the e. T. Long successful entrepreneurial career. But the thing I and I learned a lot from Bob, but the thing I learned from Bob is every conversation ends with a definite maybe write he was very good at not taking no. And he was also very good at asking the question that quite frankly. You thought you knew the answer to and you didn't get the you you didn't get the answer you thought you would a lot of times I just it just really crystallized for me that the worst? The worst answer you get, or the worst thing that happens is they do say no, but oftentimes, they'll say yes to something that maybe you didn't expect. And there's, there's that's there's opportunity there. And the third one I would put on that list, I believe has been one of your guests can Reese was, is still are a friend and a mentor. From my perspective, he's brilliant individual who is also really self reflective. And I think that has made him very successful. He's the first to tell you what he's done wrong. And he's a serial entrepreneur who can each time have really learned from the prior from the positive and the negative. But as also, through my observation, I've learned I learned from him that if you have a vision of where you think you should go, you know, come hell or high water go make that happen. And not everybody's going to agree with you. But that doesn't mean you're on the wrong the wrong path in that process. So I really I love I love working for Ken for a lot of reasons. But I was really very, I took a lot from that experience. And he'd be the first one to say like, Well, yeah, you learn how not to do it. But I learned I learned a heck of a lot more about how to do it than the other way around. Yeah. So it's a wild ride. But yeah, but yeah, I totally agree. I totally agree with that. special people. Definitely. That's awesome. So what you know, one, one last thing before we before we park, you balance your role as a CEO, board member, spouse, and mom. to teenagers. It's not easy. How do you balance everything? I think I'm in a perpetual state of not feeling that I'm really balancing them is the honest answer. There's there's no such thing as perfect. And I'm a I don't like that as an answer. I spend more time reflecting on things I think I did poorly than things I did well, but But at the same time, I may not go back to the comment I made before and nothing that I do outside of being a parent is going to really change anybody's ever he's going to wake up tomorrow. And so I try and remember that too. I think there's a certain compulsion in me and maybe in others who were like, you just always want to be doing better and doing more, maybe not more or doing better. And maybe that makes me a little bit better at balancing all that, but also probably a little more critical at that. That's great. I think I have to be real careful. On who on what I put first on any one day. And that's sometimes hard to hard to know. But you know, you do the best you can you give yourself the same grace that you hopefully give the folks that are around you. And, and get a little bit better at it all the time. If you don't look to your teenagers for feedback wouldn't be one. And I had a I had a friend told me the other day, he's in an executive role. And he said, Yeah, I learned with my teenagers, I can't treat them like they're my employees. I said, I don't know if that's good or bad for your employees or your kids. Right? I'm not sure what other than I would agree. But yes. Yeah, they're the I work for them. I think you're their general perspective, and certainly not the perspective of me or my husband. But you know, at the same time, it's kind of like I don't know, maybe we got started a little later. Like, we're older parents. And so maybe we're maybe we have a little more to bring to the table for them. But maybe we maybe they would be better off if we were like, a little more malleable than that, then? I don't know. I don't know. But the balance is hard. And I think we all have to just be easy on each other. I would go a little bit back to like in the work world. I tried to be very clear, I think it's actually one of the things. One of the good things that came out of COVID. And they're not a lot of a lot of them. But we think about how life has changed. I think it was really healthy for my team to see that my they weren't both teenagers then but that they would walk into my office in the middle of a call just like their kids did. Right and asked me totally ridiculous questions, because it seemed important to them at the time. Yep. It's the human I really tried to at the office to be very clear about, yeah, I'm dealing with the same human things that everybody else is. That's great. So I want to thank you for for joining us. As I mentioned earlier, you were an inspiring leader to me. And I think you have a lot to share and a lot to teach to teach others. So thank you so much. Well, thank you, Jason. I made time for this because I have the same level of respect for you and always enjoyed working with you but more importantly, staying connected and continuing to learn. So I appreciate the opportunity. Thank you. Thanks again. All right, thank you. Thanks for listening to the leaders perspective podcast brought to you by a cell advisors. Visit a cell dash advisors.com For more information about our growth turnaround, optimization, risk in HR Advisory Services LLC, and is available on YouTube, Apple and Spotify.