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Leading with Purpose and Impact with Ashley Monk

Giving feedback is often seen as a potential source of conflict and so the hope becomes the situation will magically change without intervention. That is rarely the case which is why sharing and receiving is so critical for leaders.

In this episode, Ashley Monk, Founder and CEO of Onya, with her wealth of experience in leadership and building a successful business, provides invaluable insights on how to give feedback effectively. She emphasizes the importance of personal development and self-awareness for leaders, addressing the personal bottlenecks that may hinder growth. Ashley’s biggest lesson is that leadership is about influence, not simply barking orders or relying on positional authority.

After You Listen:

Key Takeaways:

  • The ability to ask for help is a leadership strength, not a weakness
  • Build a culture of accountability by hiring the right people who are aligned with your company’s core values
  • Defining someone’s expected outcomes and regularly checking in on them helps you move towards your goal without being too hands on or off

Things to listen for:

  • [05:31] Influencing is leadership
  • [08:08] Growing into the role of a leader
  • [10:42] Learning to ask for help
  • [14:27] Balancing managerial and supportive leadership
  • [17:36] Giving fact-based feedback
  • [20:15] Ashley’s advice to her younger self
  • [21:50] Craig’s takeaways

Ashley’s Transcript:

[00:00:00] Craig: As my boss and I were waiting to go into a client appointment. He turned to me and started a sentence with Craig. something you did about six months ago I really want to give you some feedback on.

[00:00:15] Craig: Welcome to Executive Evolution. I’m Craig Anderson. After spending 25 plus years in corporate America, I learned a lot of leadership lessons the hard way. I created this podcast so you don’t have to. .A big struggle many leaders have is giving feedback. We coded as conflict. We coded as we hope it’ll change without our intervention. In my boss’s case, I’m not really sure why he struggled with it, but he did. He was concerned about something that, in retrospect, I’d done, which maybe wasn’t my best idea, but was still fairly minor, and he held onto it for six months before he could give me any feedback on it.

Honestly, I was disappointed. I was a little bit angry because why? If it was important, would you wait six months to tell me about it? in today’s episode of Executive Evolution, we talked to Ashley Monk, the c e o of Onya Corporation. Ashley has a lot of great stories about feedback she’s given and some great insights on effective ways to give feedback.

So let’s join Ashley and hear the story of her executive evolution.

Ashley, welcome to the Executive Evolution Podcast.

[00:01:26] Ashley Monk: Craig, thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here,

[00:01:30] Craig: I know I’m excited to have you. I remember the first time I met you, Ashley, I was like, man, this is a person who’s gonna build a successful business. And look at you today with

[00:01:38] Ashley Monk: thank you so much, Craig.

[00:01:40] Craig: No, it’s great. So I am so excited to have you on here to talk about your leadership journey, ’cause your business has grown so fast and I think it’s gonna be some great insights for our listeners. before we start, can you tell people a bit about Onya and the work that you guys are doing?

[00:01:55] Ashley Monk: Absolutely. So here at Onya, we are a strategic marketing agency really desire to help organizations reverse engineer their desired outcomes through actionable marketing, which is basically the way of saying, We really wanna make sure that organizations don’t have to sacrifice their mission for effective marketing. So we help reverse engineer what is going to be the best way to get to the outcome that you’ve desired without sacrificing your mission, vision, or values, and finding the most effective r o I driven tactics to get you there. So way that we exude that is through typically paid online advertising, social media, marketing and strategy, really being thought and niche experts in that area to help companies scale. you started the company how many years ago?

[00:02:36] Ashley Monk: so I started four years ago and then took it full time a month before lockdown during the pandemic. So it was a crazy crazy season for sure. Ended up paying off, but wow. It’s been quite a journey over the last several years.

Fantastic. Well, are you ready to jump into the lightning round?

[00:02:55] Ashley Monk: I’m excited. Let’s do it.

All right, well, we’ll start. First question, what is the best leadership book you have ever read?

[00:03:02] Ashley Monk: I am gonna go with the Big Leap by Gay Hendricks, and here’s why

The book is not traditionally about leadership, but what I love and appreciate about the book, and it was recommended to me by my mentor and coach

[00:03:14] Ashley Monk: is that it really focuses on the personal bottlenecks that are keeping you from getting from A to B. And I believe as leaders that ultimately to lead people effectively, we have to be at our best. We have to be constantly evolving, that at the end of the day, our teams and organizations will hit a cap where we fail to grow and develop personally. And so what the Big Leap is all about. And why I love the book is it talks about this concept of upper limits. How we all, as soon as we start to reach this threshold of new heights and new success, that oftentimes we can self-sabotage or self-correct. And I think that’s a tendency in a lot of leaders that we can have in imposter syndrome or become insecure or be nervous to go to that next level. I love that the book really addresses. Trying to figure out what are those things in your life that you really need to look in the mirror and get clear on so that you can help effectively lead others.

[00:04:06] Craig: Wow. And what I like about that, and you’re the first person to mention that book, is the idea of leader. Self-awareness is so crucial because if we don’t have self-awareness about where we’re at and where our blocks are and where we’re starting to hit our upper limit, as you said, the whole company is just gonna struggle to succeed if we can’t see where we are realistically. All right, question number two, who is your leadership crush?

[00:04:31] Ashley Monk: It has been the same for many, many years, but it’s John Maxwell,

I love John Maxwell. I remember even being a young girl and riding in the car with my dad. He used to have all of John Maxwell’s tapes we would listen to anytime we were going on Long car ride. So I think while most kids were, maybe they had their portable D V D player or whatever it was back then in the car, we were listening to John Maxwell and sometimes Tony Robbins. So I’ve been a big fan of, Have you continued that tradition with,your children? my daughter is only two,

[00:05:05] Ashley Monk: almost three. She does have to listen to me when we’re not listening to Paw Patrol songs in the car. I will put on a lot of leadership development podcasts. John Maxwell’s podcast too to listen to, but, in the car by myself certainly, and in a few more years, maybe I’ll be able to get her digging into that as well.

[00:05:21] Craig: All right. Last question in the lightning round.

What is your definition of leadership in 10 words or less?

I’m gonna steal it from John Maxwell and I’ll give you one word and it’s influence. If we are not able to influence other people, we can’t lead them effectively. And I think that influence comes from building relationships, really establishing trust and coming from a place of service to those around us.

[00:05:45] Ashley Monk: And so at the end of the day, um, is not a dictatorship. It’s not going and commanding and barking orders at people. It is becoming someone worth following. And that’s why I think influence is the best and closest word that I could attribute to leadership.

[00:05:58] Craig: No, and that’s such a great way to look at it. think a lot of young leaders think, well, I have the title, so now people will do what I say. And positional authority only gets you so far over time, and where you start building that influence and relationship is how you become more effective as a leader.

[00:06:13] Ashley Monk: I couldn’t agree more.

Okay, so Ashley, now. We always like to talk about our first leadership role and we go back to high school sometimes,

[00:06:21] Craig: wherever we wanna go. So what was your first real leadership role? we’re gonna

[00:06:26] Ashley Monk: go. back to high school. Craig, I’m excited about this because there are some stories

with this leadership role. Let me tell you. So I don’t know if it was my first, but it’s one of the first prominent and core memories that I have of a leadership role, that was back in high school when I was 16 or 17. I did Christian camp worship ministry. So what that would look like is over a summer I toured with a band and we would go play at these different camps and conferences, sometimes open for different Christian artists. And we would go with a band we would play and we would be on the road with all the gear, packing up all the set lists, all the production elements, and be gone for about eight weeks at a time. And so I think age 15 or 16 is when I started with this group. And then at age 17, when we started breaking up and having multiple bands go out, I ended up being one of the band leaders, and this was incredibly significant, Craig, because most of the people I was leading at that time were my peers that went from being a peer to being the leader

in addition to sometimes other people older than me, which was intimidating when they were in their thirties and forties.

And here I am in high school, so. There were so many stories and failures and really fun experiences too that that came outta that period, but it definitely set me up in all the best ways for life now.

[00:07:47] Craig: So tell me, because that’s something I think happens a lot to leaders in their early leadership roles as they’re promoted from within their peer group, and suddenly those people who were their peers are still maybe their friends, but they’re also their employees or their team members.

How did you face that transition?

[00:08:05] Ashley Monk: It was incredibly challenging because I don’t think I knew enough about leadership. Then I probably felt really insecure Like not in an ego boosting type of way, but in a oh man, I need to do well in this role because it’s been entrusted to me. So in order to be an effective leader, I need to tell everyone what they need to do, when they need to do it, and like get them to follow me. So, ironically, everybody that was older than me, I felt like was willing to,

kind of go along and they were a part of it. I think they had so much grace with me in trying to figure out, but to your point, it The leader that came before me was very spontaneous, very like, oh, let’s do this, or let’s try this. And I’ve always kind of had a more structured approach to trying to do things in a high standard of excellence. So it was really hard. And I think looking back, what I did and what I failed at was, failed to keep the culture the same as it was. So I came in and assumed, okay, leadership means

coming in with my style and. we’re gonna have rehearsals at this time and we’re gonna have this meeting at this time, and creating structure when there didn’t need to be one, because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do. So was failure

number one. Failure number two was, I think not getting help. From my peers. I think if I would’ve delegated or even just empowered other people to help be a part of that, I think it would’ve been a lot better because I another mindset that I had to be an effective leader at that time was. I am just going to do it all myself because it’s my job to bear this burden for everyone. I will take ownership of all of it. And I think that backfired because it felt like I was just calling all the shots, which I was doing it with good intentions, but I can see now that failed miserably. And then finally,

[00:09:50] Craig: my last mistake

[00:09:51] Ashley Monk: was just doing such a poor job instead of meeting people where they were at.

Just imposing too much accountability to that situation. So when someone didn’t show up, instituting a consequence like, all right, I guess then you’re not gonna play tonight. Like, I can tell you a ton of lessons that I came from, and they were all due to failures that I had at that age to be able to figure out how to do it really well.

[00:10:15] Craig: I, empathize. My first big leadership role was in that same timeframe in my life. And I would come up with the most draconian measures and punishments if people didn’t do the right thing. And I look back and I’m just like, why was I like that? what did it say about me? ’cause I did not have that self-awareness. We were talking about,

[00:10:33] Ashley Monk: Me either, that’s for sure.

[00:10:35] Craig: one thing I wanna ask, because I was thinking about this as you were telling that story is right, so you were put into this leadership role, you were entrusted with this leadership role and a lot of times I see new leaders coming into those positions like that and they don’t know what to do or they struggle, but they feel like people who they respect care for, they don’t wanna let ’em down.

So they don’t want to go ask for help. because then it’s a failure. how did you face that? Did you struggle with that?

[00:10:59] Ashley Monk: I really did. I don’t think I asked for help

until finally like It did come to a head where somebody was so mad at me, which I understand why, because at the time, I thought I handled it exactly I was supposed to, but I can see why the person said, I was like, okay, you’re just not gonna play. I can see why that. Was not received well and he reacted as I think any other 16 year old that was told that would react and it wasn’t great So I think that was the time where I finally realized, up until that point, I had tried to like, oh yeah, everything’s, and it was going fine. think. It definitely could have gone better, and I don’t think that I was well liked by everybody during that period for again, good reason. but at that point when he left, we didn’t have like an instrumentalist because he was upset, which I knew, I’m like, oh, I didn’t handle as well. Now somebody’s gone. I think that was the cry that I needed to ask for help. But you’re exactly right. I was scared to, I didn’t wanna let that person that entrusted that to me down. I really did think that that was gonna be a failure if I ask for help. at that point I knew that I needed to.

Wow. Yeah. so many lessons to come out of that. From those failures, you faced so now you’re in a leadership role, you’ve started your own business, it’s been growing I guess you said it was just before the pandemic, so four years on, five years on in the business. How has your leadership role or your leadership style evolved

[00:12:26] Craig: since that early fun time with leadership at 16?

[00:12:29] Ashley Monk: So, I think initially I went way too far in the opposite direction, I think that I was trying to do during that period when I was 16 was I was trying to be a good manager, but I had no idea how to lead, and I think over time, My skills as a leader evolved, but I was confusing the difference between effective leadership and good management, especially when I first started the business. And so I think early on,almost went too far in the other direction to call people up, to encourage them to cast vision. But early on in the business, I lacked the structure and accountability needed to manage well.

And so that was very evident to where I would almost very early on the first year over delegate and trust people with things like, you can figure it out, here’s the end goal.

And I gave them too much leeway without a structure to be able to set them up for success. So was the first extreme. And then now I think it’s just shifted. And again, still Still have a lot to learn and continue to evolve and become the best and most effective leader that I can. But I think I’ve got a much better balance now on here’s the vision, but here are the outcomes that we’re driving.

Here are the behaviors that are going to be the most effective to drive those outcomes. And I That I try to do a better job of creating structure, accountability metrics weekly check-ins to meet people at all phases of the journey. Because at first, I think I was walking with people back when I was 16 just like the coach, if they’re trying to run right in their face, like Run faster, run faster, then I think when I started the business it was like, okay, I’m going to hang out at the 5-mile mark and you’re going to start and I’m just going to wait until you get here to see how you get there. I think I’ve got a little bit of a better balance now. To where I’m checking in along the way, maybe at a quarter of a mile where I’m not hovering too much,

but I’m also not all the way completely removed to just let them figure it out.

and it’s very real for you as a small business with, you know, you’re, in touch with all pieces of the business at this point, right? From customers to delivery to vendors and all the pieces. there’s a difficult part of, we have this of current view of leadership that we need to be the encouragers and the vision casters and get out of people’s way.

[00:14:34] Craig: But at the same time, we also have to build a culture of accountability because if we wait at the five mile marker for three days and they’re still not there, where are we? So how have you found the best way to strike that balance from that kind managerial Ashley, then you had the very supportive do it your way, Ashley, and now you’ve kind of had to find a middle ground. What was that journey like for you?

[00:14:58] Ashley Monk: It was hard. I mean, it wasn’t easy. I’m trying to even think of how we got from there. I mean, I think it came again with a lot of failure. Like we had high turnover early on, and

So I think we defined our core values, but what does it actually look like for our team? To live according to our core values and execute those behaviors. how do I, when I am looking and recruiting for talent, when we’re connecting with vendors and partners, and even clients too, what is the manifestation of those core values look like so that we can have the right people in the right seats.

That was the number one lesson that I think that I’ve had to learn and evolve over the last few years is how do we define those values and what it looks like. I think the next piece was again, creating some of those structural components. we’ve used a version of e o s I think since started, and that’s been very helpful to have scorecard and accountability metrics.

[00:15:49] Ashley Monk: But,

One piece that I think was missing was just helping cast vision of what each person’s core outcomes are in a given role, and helping an ascension plan, which as a small business owner, you don’t really think about an ascension plan for your employees like most large companies do. It’s like, what’s your career path?

Like lot of that designer now, because with a bigger organization, there is that structure, but for smaller business owners, you. I don’t quite know what that trajectory is going to look like ’cause it’s still relatively early on. And so I think that was the next piece that I really tried to incorporate was, okay, the end of the day, sure these are the behaviors right now that are the most effective of our team, but what are those results that not only for our sake and for the company to be successful, what did they need to be doing to feel personal pride and accomplishment, in their role?

So I think defining that was really important. And then finally, I think having a formal evaluation structure to do that to where you’re checking in to use the word evaluation, because that sounds so harsh, but I think I realized our team needs that and they want to know how they’re doing. I mean, we. Strive ourselves in trying to be in a high performance, competitive culture in our industry too. mean, this industry and digital marketing you will evolve or you will die.

ultimately I think. That structure to be able to check in and meet people where they’re at and connect with them regularly in addition to showing them the way with neutral metrics that are gonna help them get there. Those event things that we’ve tried to put in place to helpknow how they’re doing, but also provide checks and balances for me.

what’s so interesting to me in all that is what you said about like neutral metrics, because that’s facts, right? facts make the evaluation process so much easier because here’s the data and now I can give you the feedback.

[00:17:35] Craig: And you’re right, people want to know how they’re doing. Probably a lot of times they just wanna hear that they’re doing great. But the data gives you the ability to say, here’s where you’re doing great and here’s where you have an opportunity to be better. Did that make it easier for you to give feedback when you were kind of working off a fact-based system?

[00:17:53] Ashley Monk: Oh so much because I’ve always heard it said this concept of identity-role theory,

and so. As a person and as people, we are all amazing. We are all a 10 out of 10, but in a given role, based on whether it is just having to acumen to get up to speed in a given role, whether we had a bad day, or maybe we had a personal circumstance.

We’re not giving it our best. It’s so much easier to assign numbers or statistics, and it creates a really nice jumping-off point to be able to provide that feedback for others. that was a game changer because then it’s no longer about the person. It’s, Hey, I noticed this, and your performance and your behavior.

This isn’t like you. then it becomes a coaching conversation of how can we get from here to here? what are maybe the bottlenecks or the pieces in the process. We can kind of assess then from a performance perspective of where,where did they get lost?

Is there something missing in the structure? Is this just not alignment of that person’s strengths in this role? We’ve got that data, it’s kind of like a paper trail to where we can kind of look backwards and see where they may have gotten stuck along the way. So not only does it make it easier to give that feedback from this perspective of separating the person from their role. It makes it easier to go back and look at maybe other pieces in structure that might have been missing to incorporate to help. we’ve all, probably at this point, everyone listening has had to fire people. Makes it really clear and easier. I’ve never been fired, but I feel like, at least from my lens, it feels harder to fire people than it would be to be fired. I don’t know what it’s like to be on the other side of that, but, it can take the emotion out of that too, because it becomes, Hey, we’ve got this accountability put in place.

This is what the role’s needed. We’ve had all this time to work toward these things. it’s been x amount of time and we haven’t, and.

[00:19:41] Craig: Yeah, and I’d imagine when you have this kind of data-based culture, the fast-paced nature, and you’re communicating that culture to people at the time of hiring, When it comes to having these conversations, everything is kind ofcontinuous because we set the expectation, now we’re executing on the expectation.

[00:19:59] Ashley Monk: I.

[00:19:59] Craig: Ashley, what we like to do before we close is give you the opportunity to jump into a time machine, anytime Machine. You want to pick from Star Trek back to the future, whichever one you like. You’re gonna go back in time to 16 year old Ashley who just found out she’s gonna be leading those teams. What’s the one piece of advice you would give to her that would help her the most in her first leadership role?

[00:20:23] Ashley Monk: Ooh, we’re gonna go back to the future all the way, first and

foremost, and then when we go back, I think that one piece of advice would be, Ashley, it is far more important that you listen to everybody before you talk, and if you can just listen to the feedback that’s being given for you. You’ll have all the answers that you need.

[00:20:44] Craig: I love it. Yeah. Listen is so important, especially when you’re just coming into leadership. Ashley, this was fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing the story of your executive evolution. If people wanna learn more about you or Onya, how can they find you?

[00:20:57] Ashley Monk: Thank you. Much Craig, it’s been so fun to be here. if you wanna connect with me, best places to find me, Ashley Monk on LinkedIn. And then if you’re wanting to learn more about Onya, our website is Onya our tagline, Onya Mark Set Grill.

[00:21:11] Craig: Excellent, and we will drop all those links in the show notes so it’s easy

for everybody to reach out. Ashley, thank you so much for being on. I really appreciate you making the time today.

[00:21:19] Ashley Monk: thanks again. It’s great to be here. I really appreciate Ashley’s insights. She’s been leading her own company for four years, but has certainly grown tremendously in that time. As always, I like to characterize our discussions and give you some feedback along the areas of confidence, competence, and calm, some key leadership characteristics for us to consider in all of our leadership careers.

[00:21:44] Craig: When Ashley was discussing influences her definition of leadership, becoming someone worth following. That takes confidence and when you can become someone worth following, you believe inside that you have the strength to be a leader. That is where your confidence flows from because you set the example, you set the tone as a leader, and that allows you to provide legitimate influence and be someone that your team looks to, to follow your example

[00:22:10] Craig: In the area of competence, Ashley talked about the strong ability she developed to reinforce her culture, and really the area of competence here was learning that she had to hire for her culture when she began to clearly communicate her cultural values hire people who will fit the culture of her company.

That is a sign of competence as a leader. And then finally, in the area of calm, where she talked about identity, role theory. The idea that we’re not talking about the person, we’re talking about the performance. It’s really hard to give feedback to somebody when you feel like you’re hurting their feelings.

But when you stick to facts and you have factual data about people’s performance, because you pay attention and you deal with it immediately, as opposed to mild boss waiting six months, that really gives you a sense of calm in the feedback process. So again, Ashley, thank you for sharing the story of your executive evolution.

And as always, remember you can go from being an accidental leader to the greatest of all time leader. All it takes is developing your competence, confidence, and calm. We’ll see you next time in Executive Evolution.