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Be Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable with Jennifer Denney

Leadership can be an extremely humbling experience.Be Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable with Jennifer Denney

Being put in charge does not mean that people will automatically follow. You have to put in the work to inspire your team to do so. This was a lesson Jennifer Denney, Founder of Elevated Marketing Solutions, learned early on in her career. In this episode, she shares how she leans into empathy and understanding in order to find out what motivates her people on an individual basis. Listen in to learn what it takes to influence people and buy-in to your vision.


After You Listen:

Key Takeaways:

  • Lean into empathy and understanding to find out what motivates each person on your team
  • You can’t ask of others something you aren’t willing to do yourself
  • Live in the future so you can see what changes are coming and know where to adjust

Things to listen for:

[01:46] Lightning round with Jennifer

[03:39] Putting the wrong people in charge

[05:49] Taking an individual leadership approach

[08:37] Jennifer’s two leadership roles

[10:01] Don’t put too many irons in the fire

[12:07] Shaking things up to fuel team energy

[14:37] Advice Jennifer would give to her younger self

[17:05] Craig’s takeaways

Jennifer’s Transcript

[00:00:00] Craig: My guest today is Jennifer Denny. She is the founder of Elevated Marketing Solutions. Welcome Jennifer. Thanks for being on the podcast.

[00:00:09] Jennifer Denney: Awesome. Thanks for having me. Always enjoy talking with you.

just before we dive in, could you tell us a bit about what you do at Elevated Marketing Solutions?

[00:00:18] Jennifer Denney: Sure. We’re a digital marketing agency at. I’m based in Indianapolis, but we handle clients all over the world. we do all kinds of different types of digital marketing, like seo, Google ads, Facebook ads, content marketing, email marketing, just about everything online.

[00:00:36] Craig: Very good. Very good. And uh, yeah, you guys have been doing this for quite a while, so I’m sure you have some great experiences as a leader as we dive into this. But before we get there, we like to get things going on an exciting note. So let’s kick off with the lightning round. Are you ready to go on the lightning round,

[00:00:55] Jennifer Denney: I’m ready.

[00:00:56] Craig: All right. Question number one. What is the best leadership book you have ever?

[00:01:03] Jennifer Denney: Oh boy. gosh, I hate to say start with a why, cuz that’s like, you know, one, that’s a pretty common one, but. It’s just impactful in the fact that like no matter what you do, like why am I doing this? is a good way to start any kind of leadership. does this make sense or am I just doing it?

[00:01:23] Craig: Perfect. And you are the first person to mention it, so.

[00:01:25] Jennifer Denney: There you go.

[00:01:27] Craig: You’re fine. So we’ve already had a duplicate of another book, but you’re fine. So question number two, who is your leadership crush?

[00:01:36] Jennifer Denney: Ooh.

I don’t know. I, I take a variety of things from everybody. I like to kind of take the mentality that there’s something you can learn from anybody, even if you feel like they’re a bad leader, there’s something to learn there, just as well as a good leader. So I wouldn’t say I have a crush on anybody, per se.

[00:01:54] Craig: Okay. We’ll allow it. All right. And the final question, in 10 words or less, how would you define leadership?

the ability to influence someone to do something that you want them to do?

[00:02:09] Craig: Perfect. No, that’s good. And that’s, and it’s so much harder than you think it is.

[00:02:14] Jennifer Denney: Oh, yeah. Oh yeah, for sure.

[00:02:17] Craig: Yeah. So,

[00:02:18] Jennifer Denney: they don’t just do it because you have the title

[00:02:22] Craig: No, that, that was always, that was one of my first lessons in leadership is they’re not gonna just do stuff cuz I tell ’em to, or at least they won’t do it well. Right.

[00:02:30] Jennifer Denney: yeah. Mm-hmm. . Yeah, for sure.

[00:02:33] Craig: leadership can be very humbling if you have the wrong expectations going in.

I think.

[00:02:37] Jennifer Denney: Correct.

[00:02:39] Craig: All right. So what we like to do here on the Accident of Leader Podcast is start off talking about your first leadership role. It could be high school class president, it could be your first leadership role in a company, whatever it is. But tell us, what was your first leadership role that you had?

I feel like I’ve always been put in charge. So this is a tough question, , because no matter what it is, like y’all put her in charge But, I would say my first, like, where I was kind of given that job title would’ve been like in a retail position where I, I was, you know, a department manager and all of a sudden, at 19 years old, I, I was in charge of, five other individuals.

[00:03:21] Jennifer Denney: I think that’s probably my first experience of, okay, you’re in charge,

And so when that happened, sounds like one, you were a bit surprised by it, but what surprised you about that leadership role and being in charge?

at the time at that place, I felt like who they put in charge was typically whoever was really good at sales. so there was like kind of this sales goal that everybody would have and. It just felt like the people who were in charge weren’t necessarily leaders, but they were really good at sales.

[00:03:55] Jennifer Denney: And I, I felt like that was kind of a, a misstep. were not the right people were put in charge

[00:04:01] Craig: Right. what kind of leadership training did you receive in that role?

[00:04:06] Jennifer Denney: zero There were no leadership training or courses or anything. So I think, I just started gravitating towards leadership books and trying to read as many as I could to figure out, okay, well how do I get people to do what I would like them to do? and I’m not going to get it just because I have this title.

I learned that pretty quickly. and here I was at 19 years old and some people I was in charge of were you. Five, 10 years older than me and it’s like, why am I gonna listen to this kid

what was the the hardest leadership lesson you learned from that experience?

you know that to really manage people individually. you couldn’t just kind of make this rule across the board and just expect that everybody was going to follow it and you really needed to understand who people were as individuals and what makes them tick and manage everybody kind of accordingly to, get what you would like to get.

try to lead them in a certain direction, but it wasn’t going to just be across the board that I could treat everybody the same and kind of get the same.

[00:05:23] Craig: What, what helped you start to learn about people that way? What tricks did you have to teach yourself?

I think empathy is probably one of the biggest ones. Just trying to understand where people are coming from and what their drivers or motivators are. cuz some people it might be money and some people it might just be, you know, pats on the back so everybody’s kind of motivated by something different.

[00:05:50] Jennifer Denney: So really learning to be empathetic to different people’s situations is what I think really helped.

[00:05:58] Craig: Wow. So, so that takes a lot of time

[00:06:00] Jennifer Denney: Yeah. Well, it goes back to, I think if you really wanna be a good leader, uh, you have to listen more than you talk. And if you’re doing a lot of talking, then, you’re not really understanding why you’re not gonna get that buy-in, trying to maybe implement something new. if you don’t figure out whether or not why they think it’s going to work and kind of why they don’t think it’s gonna work, then you’re not gonna get them to do it.

you’re not gonna get them to follow.

Yeah. And that is so interesting when you’re younger, you have such a perceived power differential when you take on these, this older group of people and to really get, you know, how much respect came into it, did you have to work to get that respect? how important was that?

[00:06:50] Jennifer Denney: Oh yeah. I feel like. Respect is not something given, but it’s definitely something earned. And, I feel like that comes from, I’ve, I’ve always tried to take this, not really trying to tell somebody to do something that I wouldn’t be willing to do myself.

[00:07:08] Craig: Mm-hmm.

and so I would work just as hard, you know, my, my goal as a, a leader is to show them that I know what it’s like to be at this level or that level and, and really just help people get to where they wanna be.

so that was the very first leadership experience at 19. So kudos to you having that at 19. So let’s move forward to today. What is your leadership role? E Compass today as the founder of Elevated Marketing Solutions.

I think there’s two different types of leadership roles. there’s the role of just taking, a personal brand or a leader in marketing. in our industry it’s constantly. Changing. And so I have to be that leader that kind of runs out in front and figures out, well, this is the latest and greatest type of marketing, that I, I think is going to help our clients.

[00:08:00] Jennifer Denney: And so I have to be willing to, be fear, fearless, per se, and bring it back to the team and be like, okay, here’s what I think we should do. and you know, I think that’s one aspect. And then, the other aspect, Obviously I, I’m the owner of the company and so I’m in charge . So I, I have to lead my team into different directions, that I, I think we should go as a team.

and, you know, just trying to get them to learn as much as we can about marketing and how to get better at it.

[00:08:35] Craig: Yeah, so you really have two things there in the leadership role that that are important. One is that need to live in the future.

[00:08:44] Jennifer Denney: Mm-hmm.

[00:08:44] Craig: see what’s coming so you know where to adjust. And then the second is you have to create a vision for that of where that’s gonna lead the company and get your people to buy in.

So what’s that balance like and what’s effective in getting that team to have that buy-in?

the balance is hard, , because I tend to. Get really excited about a lot of different types of marketing and I have to kinda balance that with, I learn things really quickly and my team might not learn things as quickly as I do. and so I have to be careful to not put too many, fires. In the iron

[00:09:26] Craig: Mm-hmm.

[00:09:28] Jennifer Denney: Recently I attended a conference where, was, you know, a bunch of other agency owners and I walked away from there with a ton of ideas, but I know if I came back and tried to implement all of those ideas, they would all fail. So it was more of like, okay, let’s just pick one or two that we wanna accomplish maybe in the first quarter, and then, move forward and see if that works or doesn’t work.

So, trial and error,

[00:09:57] Craig: Yeah, we’ve all had that boss who tries to throw a hundred new ideas into the ring all the time and you struggle so,

I remember having that boss and like, You know, he was a leader, but he was a leader of me, and I’d have to disemminate it down to the team, and it was like Jekyll and Hyde, like, can we just like focus here, , like we’re trying to go all these different directions and every time you get on the phone, let’s do this, let’s do that.

[00:10:25] Jennifer Denney: It’s like, well, they’re not even doing this yet and we’re already trying to move over to this

[00:10:31] Craig: Yeah. Yeah. it’s a little bit of what you talked about before of empathy for people and getting to know people differently is realizing that everybody takes a change at a different speed.

[00:10:40] Jennifer Denney: Yeah. I love change, actually. I get bored when things are. Just going smoothly. as a leader, I’m like, wait a second. What am I missing? Things are going way too smoothly. , we need some more chaos. which is not necessarily a good thing.

Yeah. But from that same standpoint, shaking things up, how does that benefit the team when you do shake things up from time to time?

[00:11:07] Jennifer Denney: I think it gives some energy. I think if you are kind of monotonous and doing the same thing over and over, I don’t think you’re really pushing yourself to be a better at your job. and you constantly need that challenge to get better. So I always. when I’m hiring or, or talking with people for a position like this, like we’re in digital marketing, like it changed yesterday.

If you don’t like, like the constant, like updating and things changing, you probably would not like to do this job . it’s not gonna be a good fit for you, . And I was thinking that as you were explaining, the change is just, your industry is one where things are moving every day. Somebody changes an algorithm. How you need to, the different spaces that are hot, So for you as the leader, is that learn and grow environment an important piece?

Yeah, for sure. Like there’s constant training and picking and choosing of what do we wanna focus on? And each different client has. A lot of strategy involved and a lot of, you know, so teaching people how to think through the strategy of, what do we do for this client versus that client it’s not like working at a factory where you’re doing the same job over and over. It’s like every day is a different day and you might be doing something that you’ve never done before, and sometimes you’re learning things and doing things I’ve never done before, but that’s our.

[00:12:33] Craig: Mm-hmm.

[00:12:33] Jennifer Denney: gotta be comfortable with being uncomfortable is what I like to say.

it comes with the territory.

[00:12:40] Craig: It does. Yeah. Very good. So Jennifer, when you think back to that first leadership role in some of the lessons you’ve learned or in your early leadership roles, how do those lessons impact how you lead today?

I just. Again, just try to, lead with individuals and not try to take a a, fell swoop across the board. That everybody is different. Everybody learns different. some people need to see it visually. Some people need to hear it, some people need to watch it. I have some people on my team.

[00:13:15] Jennifer Denney: I, I can give ’em a task and they’ll go figure it out. Other people need a little bit more guidance. and so, you know, treating people to their strengths and weaknesses doesn’t make them any different. It, you just have to treat ’em different.

[00:13:30] Craig: Yeah.So now the last piece, and this is always my favorite piece cuz I’m a big sci-fi geek. If you, I could put you in a time machine and you go back in time to that 19 year old Jennifer, maybe it wasn’t Denny then, but back to 19 year old Jennifer who’s stressed out from everything going on trying to figure out how to lead all these people.

What’s the one piece of advice. Knowing what you know now that you would share with her.

[00:13:59] Jennifer Denney: Don’t be so hard on yourself. You know, like hard work pays off and you know, if you keep working at it then you’re just, it’s okay to fail. I think in my younger years I was very worried about when I would fail or something wouldn’t go my way, and now I’m more of like, how fast can I fail so that I can learn quick? I wanna fail. I mean, I don’t wanna fail, but if I fail, it’s okay. It’s like, all right, well that’s all right. That didn’t work out and let’s try something else. , I’m more confident about it. And I think that just comes from experience. when you’re younger, you’re like, oh my gosh, I messed up.

nobody’s gonna ever trust me again. It’s like, man, that’s not . Nobody’s perfect

[00:14:45] Craig: Yeah. Often what we learn from those early mistakes is how we deal with them is way more important than the mistake that we made in the

[00:14:52] Jennifer Denney: Correct, correct. I try to teach that here that it’s okay to fail. I would rather you make a decision and fail than to never make the decision. I want to give them that power that it’s okay to mess up.

[00:15:06] Craig: Yeah. Great. And that’s a perfect note for us to conclude. Thank you, Jennifer. It is okay to mess up and that’s an important lesson for our teams and for young leaders, you know, the hope here is that they can learn from our hard lessons so that they don’t have to go through the pain. So, Thank you so much for being on the podcast today.

For anyone who’d like to learn more about you or elevated marketing solutions, what’s the best places for people to follow you?

[00:15:33] Jennifer Denney: All right, so we definitely are all over, but Elevator is our website. We also have a podcast, elevate Marketing dot podcast, and Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, you know, , we have channels for them all. So whatever your poison is, you can find us,

[00:15:53] Craig: You can find it on any all social media channels. Jennifer, thank you for taking the time to share your experiences today and we look forward to speaking with you again someday. Thanks so

[00:16:03] Jennifer Denney: All right, take care.

As always on the Accidental Leader Podcast, I like to give you three takeaways so you can start making changes in the way you’re approaching your leadership. I like to put these in the frame of. Confidence. Confidence and calm, which are three crucial characteristics for effective leadership. So as I think about our interview with Jennifer today, there’s really three big takeaways in those areas that I want to touch on for you.

One, in the area of confidence, Jennifer talked about the importance of not being afraid to fail. That’s such a crucial thing, and especially for early leaders or people new to their leadership roles. Everything comes at you very fast and you’ve never gone through it before. So it seems very intense when it happens, but failure is not the end of the world.

It’s how you react to it that matters. And Jennifer really helped us to understand that today. In the area of competence as a leader, I really appreciated what Jennifer had to say about getting to know your people effectively, understanding what motivates and doesn’t motivate different people on your team, and having the awareness.

That people are different and you need to approach everyone on the team differently to maximize their potential and to really help them help you succeed in your business. So it’s an important area of confidence. And then the last one in the area of calm, the importance of building perspective. I touched on this a little bit under confidence.

But as you build and gain experience as a leader, you start to gain more perspective and you can take a longer view. And those crises that are hitting you are now in the perspective of other challenges that you face. And you know you have succeeded in moving through those challenges. So really building that perspective and knowing that over time you’re going to gain additional perspective is going to help you go through the rough times, especially the first time you faced some challenging.

So great interview today. I hope you all enjoyed it. are you an accidental leader looking to level up? Well, one area for you to start is to start having effective team meetings. And if you really want to maximize and make effective your leadership team meetings, go out to clear path meetings to download my 10 rules for better meetings.

Your team will thank you for having meetings that are not dragging. I know how that can be. I have sat through many really bad meetings that didn’t even need to happen in my day. So again, clear path meetings. And thank you again for listening. And remember, leaders aren’t born, they’re made.

You can go from the accidental leader to the greatest leader that you aspire to be. It just takes building out that confidence, confidence, and calm. We’ll see you next time on The Accidental Leader Podcast.