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The Introvert as Leader with Liz Higgins, Founder, Millennial Life Counseling

Leadership is not always about being center stage. It’s about being able to hold other people up, help them feel supported, and guide them to success.

In this episode of Executive Evolution, our host Craig Anderson sits down with Liz Higgins, the founder and therapist at Millennial Life Counseling, to dive into her journey as a leader. Liz dives into the importance of relationships, the impact of coaching and mentorship, and the significance of self-awareness in leadership.

Join us as Liz shares her wealth of leadership experience and how to navigate the challenging waters of leadership.

After You Listen:

Key Takeaways:

  • Know your “why” and root your confidence in a clear understanding of your purpose and vision for your business
  • Seek help and mentorship to develop your strengths. Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance and support
  • Understand your triggers and learn to distinguish knee-jerk reactions from your higher, calmer self

Things to listen for:

  • [01:59] Lightning round with Liz
  • [08:22] Leadership isn’t about being in spotlight
  • [10:05] It’s all about relationships
  • [14:08] Create and share the vision of the business
  • [19:50] Therapy can help a business excel
  • [22:21] What advice Liz would give to her younger self
  • [29:09] Craigs takeaways

Liz’s Transcript:

[00:00:00] Craig P. Anderson: And after all their work and effort, I looked at the team and said, This isn’t going to work for me. 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. In one of my early roles, leading a business, I had asked the team to help me develop our cultural values, the touch points under which we would run the business. And I thought that if I developed those in a group setting, and I pulled a lot of people in and let them do some of the work.

They would take greater ownership of the, how, of how we were going to run the business. But in delegating that, I realized they developed a set of cultural values that I didn’t agree with. And if they were not my values, there was no way they could be the company’s values because that has to come from the leader.

And then [00:01:00] that has to be propagated through the business. It was a really challenging time and it was a really difficult message to give the team, but I knew for this to work for the long haul, they had to come with me and I had to go back to the drawing board. On this episode of Executive Evolution. I’m going to be speaking with Liz Higgins, the founder and a therapist at Millennial Life Counseling. She’s going to share the story of her growth and development as a leader, both from her early days and into the practice she has so successfully built for herself.

Now let’s listen to the story of her Executive Evolution. Liz, welcome to the Executive Evolution podcast.

[00:01:39] Liz Higgins: Hi, Craig. Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here with you.

[00:01:43] Craig P. Anderson: wait to hear your story. We’ve talked a lot off and on over the years, but we’ve never really dove in with both feet into your leadership journey. So I’m excited to hear about it today.

[00:01:52] Liz Higgins: I know, and it feels like such a honor to walk through the story with you because I just really have admired what you have done

[00:01:59] Craig P. Anderson: [00:02:00] Thank you so much. Well, we always start Liz with the lightning round. So are you ready to go?

[00:02:05] Liz Higgins: I think so.

[00:02:06] Craig P. Anderson: What is the best leadership book you have ever read?

[00:02:10] Liz Higgins: I thought of a few different ones that stuck out. and interestingly, the one that really comes up for me is hero on a

mission. Have you read that one?

[00:02:18] Craig P. Anderson: I have.

[00:02:19] Liz Higgins: my friend introduced me to story brands like years ago, and it not only helped me refine and really scope out, where I wanted to go in life.

I think it is this particular book. Hero on a mission is so amazing and helping you not just as a leader, but like, as a human decide. What part of you, you want to lead yourself,

[00:02:39] Craig P. Anderson: Yeah. And has that been something that the principles are easy to apply to your life in a real way after you’ve read it?

[00:02:46] Liz Higgins: I believe so. Absolutely. And the book itself has some really cool, prompts throughout it. And in the back, I think one of them is write your obituary and some other exercises that just really gets you reflecting on how you want to be [00:03:00] remembered.

and just the mark that you want to leave, And so that stuff’s just really, hit the

target for

[00:03:05] Craig P. Anderson: that’s, those are big questions. All right. Next lightning round question. Who is your leadership crush?

[00:03:14] Liz Higgins: I’m a big proponent of having coaches and mentors. I’m working with 2 right now. I could name some books and authors and like, famous people out there that, inspire me, but.

Really, I would have to say it’s my current coach, Mike Rose. He is amazing. I met him through the entrepreneur organization that I’m I’m in the EO accelerator chapter and I’ve been working with him for a few months and, he’s all about leadership. And he’s developed a really strategic path with proven methods that has helped me a ton already, just in understanding how to develop a strong leadership team and to get myself in the right seat and to get myself in the right mindset.

and working with him, I’m just realizing more and more and more that [00:04:00] so much of this journey is about the transformation within myself. And it’s funny, because, you know, I’m a therapist, so right when I think I’ve done all the work I could possibly do on myself, the business, just bring back to more stuff that I have to figure out.

so I’ve really valued that relationship and I’m just learning a ton right now. So it feels very exciting and. Kind of refreshing in a new

[00:04:24] Craig P. Anderson: what I love so much of leadership is knowing who you are. Because that lets you have more clarity of vision. It lets you kind of say, well, this is who I am. This is how I want to show up when I lead. And this is how I want the organization to move forward. But if you don’t have that, you’re just flailing.

[00:04:40] Liz Higgins: 100 percent a lot of life has been happening for me and around me the last few years. But, when you stop and just really get clear with yourself on, like.

Yeah. Am I emulating like a direction here on where this is going and what the vision is for this business that I’ve created and I [00:05:00] realized in some ways, I really had stepped off, that front line and. Was not really clear. So, again, why I love coaching and mentorship so much.

It really puts the spotlight back on you and makes you look at things.

[00:05:12] Craig P. Anderson: already great. with all this, that you’ve kind of come together and leading this business over many years now, how do you define leadership in 10 words or less?

[00:05:22] Liz Higgins: I think for me, leadership is so much less this, like, role or responsibility and it’s a state of being And so I just think with each next step that I take with each action that I take, I’m trying to come from a solid place of, this part of me that I’m trying to cultivate the leader within, so to speak. Because like, you know, just like that, I can regress back into these other parts of myself that I’m very aware of, like a people pleasing part or an anxious ridden part.

And to me, that is not what I’m tapping into

[00:05:55] Craig P. Anderson: Yeah. The state of being and, when you think about that, if it’s just leadership for the [00:06:00] title, well, one, you’re not going to be very good and two, because you’re doing it for the wrong reasons and you’re not going to be very satisfied because that title brings with it a lot of responsibility, a lot of weight.

A lot of obligations, and if you’re not in the state of being in that flow to say, this is who I want to be, and I’m on a mission, and these are the things I want to accomplish, that is all the difference, right? I will accept your greater than 10 word answer, but we will also go back to it’s a state of being.

I love it. well, Liz, you have your business, Millennial Counseling, and I’m going to guess there’s some millennial work in that title there. but where did you start in leadership? What was the first time you really found yourself in a leadership role?

[00:06:43] Liz Higgins: honestly, when you ask that, the first thing that comes up in my mind is actually high school. it was being a section leader in the marching band. And as I think about that time, like I could feel the nerves in my body, flaring up right now because that gave me a lot of anxiety.

[00:07:00] Like I’m much more, I think of an introvert on a lot of levels, but I’ve always been one that is a relator, a connector. I can hold space for other people. So I guess those qualities were emulating in some ways back then.

And so it got voted into that role. And I just remember that was a super fun, fun time, fun community

[00:07:20] Craig P. Anderson: Yeah. And, and you talked about, all that anxiety that you were feeling, and I know that happens a lot to people wherever their first leadership role is high school band or first job or whatever it may be, you said? You’re an introvert. Maybe that was some of it. But what drove that anxiety for you?

What was making you so nervous about it?

[00:07:38] Liz Higgins: Yeah, it’s interesting because I do have a history. as a musician, I am a performer. I don’t like being on stage. I don’t like being in the center. now my dad’s a different story. He was in a rock band and they did all sorts of cool things. He opened for ZZ Top back in the day.

But me, I had the talent and then I had the intro version. So it was [00:08:00] like, I’m good at this and I love doing it. I’m creative and artistic and right brained. but it was like, the performative aspects of it. The people watching you part the, attention that comes with being front and center with a lot of these things.

[00:08:13] Craig P. Anderson: how did that actually work for you in that leadership role? How were you able to tap into that a little bit to take the rest of the, section along?

[00:08:22] Liz Higgins: Yeah, that’s interesting and interesting question. I mean,

again, like, I was also a peer helper in high school. Like, I can just remember the ways that I. Would get like invited and selected into these helper roles, supportive roles for other people.

And at the end of the day, I think when you’re really grounded in what leadership truly is, it’s not always about being center stage and having all the attention on you, it’s actually being able to like. Hold other people up and help people, feel supported in their roles around you and really to help guide them to success.

So I have come to learn that great [00:09:00] leaders can absolutely be behind the scenes, quote, unquote, you know. I do know that people felt like they could come to me and talk to me. And maybe that does come with being, a little more of an introverted person in the sense that, like.

I wasn’t taking up all the space and that I’d be able to hold that space for

[00:09:17] Craig P. Anderson: Yeah. And that’s, really it. There’s definitely no benefit. Or naturalness to say you have to be an extrovert to be a leader, that quiet leader who builds some confidence for people, because if you’re calm, they’re calm when they can come to you, because you’re not always the one trying to be the center of attention.

That’s really the kind of leader who’s just getting things out of the way. You were a peer helper, right? So I’m clearing the way for people. That’s such an important leadership trait.

[00:09:43] Liz Higgins: Yeah, and it kind of comes full circle, Craig to, like, the hero on a mission thing. Like, I think that is Donald Miller’s whole thing is that, I’m not supposed to be the hero for everybody. I can be the guide.

I’m supposed to be the guide that helps empower them and excite them around what our purpose and [00:10:00] vision and mission is. But I help them go inside of themselves, to, cultivate their best

[00:10:05] Craig P. Anderson: Yeah, that was And there’s a part of that with that guide piece is you know I’m the one who kind of taps you on the shoulder and says here’s how you can do this You have the capacity you just need to plan and I know enough about Donald Miller’s work That’s a big part of it.

The guide is so crucial Especially in the leadership capacity.

So taking from that first blush leadership experience for you, what was your big takeaway from that time in your life?

[00:10:28] Liz Higgins: just feeds in with what I do in life now and what millennial life counseling is all about. It’s relationship. I remember even in the program, both of us were in together, Craig. It’s like, they talked a lot about how relationships are the most valuable. Modern currency there’s just nothing that’s more important than being able to connect with people. Listen to people care for people. but when it boils down to like the high school experiences, college experiences, like the best moments for me revolve around relationship [00:11:00] and just experiences that I was having and cultivating and sharing

[00:11:04] Craig P. Anderson: Yeah. So it is an important part because people have to be able to relate to you and when you can focus on that relationship, I just an episode of the podcast that went live earlier today and that’s what we were talking about is building those relationships, individuals, not treating everybody the same way.

So when you do deepen those relationships and build them, that helps your team feel valued and that helps them feel real.

[00:11:27] Liz Higgins: and that’s something I, I appreciate so much about my coach, Mike. I mean, from the outside looking in, he is older experience. he grew a massive company, sold a company, all these things. And I’m just like, oh my gosh, that will never be my story. But when you actually sit and talk with him, he is the most relatable person.

and I’m like, wow, that’s a language. I know how to speak.

[00:11:48] Craig P. Anderson: Oh, yeah. and that’s actually a great segue as we talk about, you know, your current leadership role as the founder of millennial life counseling. And I’m so interested in it because one, you’re kind of in this counseling world, so [00:12:00] that’s a certain kind of person who’s going to lead that.

It’s a certain kind of person who’s going to be a part of that and your objectives for success are so. help focused as we go back to your peer helper. So talk to me about what’s life like today for you as a leader of, counseling. Business.

[00:12:19] Liz Higgins: yeah, that’s so interesting on a lot of different levels and I’m just trying to focus on this practice and clients that we serve, the niche that we have here, but, you do need to be mindful of those things going on in your industry.

And so. I still feel I am a leader that has some levels of anxiety around that kind of stuff. but I think that growth is like the big word for me, because, , millennial life is still young. I mean, we’re younger than 10 years old. I’ve been a therapist since 2014, but I started the practice 2016, the group practice and by golly, who I am [00:13:00] today in the leadership role is very, very different.

Then the person I was when I started this, I literally told people when I started this thing, I’m not your boss. Don’t call me boss. We don’t use those words here, but I was so like, unsure of what acquiring that kind of responsibility would mean for me. I knew I wanted to grow. I was very focused, not so much on like the team part and like.

People management, but the mission of helping couples, I believe so passionately in what we do. And I believe that the work we do like help save people’s lives because we are taking people deep into relational pains, which is at the core of a lot of terrible things that go on in our lives and in our world.

So the work we’re doing is incredibly meaningful to me. So, I knew I wanted to make it bigger and make it bigger and help as many people as we could. there comes a point when you have to sit down and look in the mirror and be [00:14:00] like, there’s like a team here and they need guidance and they need to know, like, where this whole thing is headed and what they’re a part of.

[00:14:07] Craig P. Anderson: Yeah. And say more about?

that because that is like you come in and you say, well, I’m not a boss. Don’t call me boss. But then at the end of the day, they’re all looking to you to say, what’s the direction? And you were just touching on that. So when you started creating the vision for the business to get them behind, how did that start to come up for you?

[00:14:26] Liz Higgins: well, the financials are going to start screaming at you pretty fast if you don’t have things in a healthy order, you know? And so a few years in, it was a little bit harder than I anticipated it would be and had some great people on the team. But I mentioned the people pleaser in me before.

And I think in a lot of ways, I started some things leading with What’s going to make the people that come here feel the most happy compared to like any other practice they could go be at. and for me, and it probably has a lot to do with my own money story. I just assumed that’s going to be money.

That’s going to be paying them [00:15:00] a high amount and like showing that value through, the compensation model, which I don’t think is Inaccurate, but I do believe that there’s a lot of ways people feel valued and, happy, at their workplace. And I think I just made some assumptions about things that I ultimately had to face and restructure.

And I mean, that included lots of different things from. Starting out the practice with a 1099 contract arrangement to, oh, wow, I really, I really need and want to be able to say, , where the direction of this place is going and how we need to train to, like, best serve our clients. so then having to, uproot everything and change it to a W2 model.

different things like that that I really had to just get clear on learn about, Definitely didn’t do that stuff alone, like had some great mentors and coaching communities that helped me,

[00:15:53] Craig P. Anderson: and that’s really so interesting because the business we think we’re building up front may not be the business we have. Eight [00:16:00] years later, you have to have some flexibility. So now that you have kind of this, W2 workforce, which nobody wants W2s, right? It seems like every small business wants 10 99s, but you’ve made that leap and that commitment.

how does that impact how you lead the team every day? I mean, I know you’re probably not. , helicoptering over everybody during their, counseling sessions. But how do you lead the team every day to kind of keep this ship moving forward?

[00:16:25] Liz Higgins: do think I’m more of a quiet leader, so to speak, like I’m readily available and super excited to talk to anybody on my team that wants to sit and just talk about how our practice is doing, like where things are going and stuff like that.

yeah, I mean, I think I’m still authentic to the type of person I am, which again, yeah, I’m not in everybody’s faces like rah, rah, MLC all the time. I’m more of a quiet, sturdy leader.

I have pulled together, Amazing leadership team and they’re amazing because [00:17:00] they are both inherently awesome people, but we just work really well together and have cultivated. I would define as like, really secure level of communication with each other. a part of that transition I mentioned of like, going 1099 to W2, like it brought up a lot of big changes.

I absolutely had people that left the practice and just didn’t appreciate the change it felt wrong for them and had to kind of respect that. But through that had one of our team members stay on and she’s our clinical director our relationship just catapulted and like really flourished after that.

it’s just been, like, the coolest thing because she’s been a huge part of helping to grow and develop the team.

again, just to the question you’re asking, I think I’m not doing any of it alone and I just love that acronym team is, like, together, everybody accomplishes more like,

[00:17:53] Craig P. Anderson: yeah, you cast the vision. you got the people around you to handle the piece of the business You’re not great at, you don’t drive a lot and [00:18:00] really probably aren’t your greatest areas of contribution to the business. it’s knowing that, and that’s always so scary early on in leadership is to say, what can’t I do and where do I need to find

help? And, you know, as you’ve talked about your story and, you know, I always like to talk about like confidence, confidence, and calm for successful leadership. It sounds like you’ve really leaned heavily into, to build your confidence and competence, coaching and programs and ongoing education. Has that moved you faster? How has that helped you to get to where you want to be faster?

[00:18:32] Liz Higgins: I don’t know, I like to think of myself as A fairly healthy individual, I’m proud of the level of development I’ve done on myself and, , being in lots of different communities of other business owners and stuff, it’s evident that not all people are really taking care of themselves through the journey and I just knew for me, a few things were pretty clear, like being a therapist.

Dating back to grad school, I wanted to [00:19:00] implement the things I was learning. I wanted to, like, give my future family and leave a future legacy showing what it looks like to truly take care of yourself and be healthy, be, your most optimal state. And I think that’s kind of what my focus is personally. proud to say that I, feel like health and, you know, hopefully that goes without saying that it is not meaning just physical. It’s the emotional, the mental, the intellectual, health of me, is going to emulate and like help.

The business that I’m trying to grow and operate be healthy as well.

[00:19:36] Craig P. Anderson: what’s one or two big things you would recommend? That a business owner who’s feeling it all piling on how can they get back maybe not to center?

But how can they de escalate their own brain in the most effective way?

[00:19:50] Liz Higgins: Well, that’s a great question. And yes, agree. Like, I think I kind of have this. Awesome upper hand here

with, being a therapist, that really works out for me [00:20:00] sometimes because it helps you with communication and things like that. But it helps with self awareness and yeah, taking agency over your own internal experiences.

I am a certified relational life therapist. And I’m a developmental and relational trauma therapist as well. And in those areas, of my training and stuff, a lot of what we talk about is the somatic experience that we have, like what we truly feel and experience in our bodies and allowing our, bodily sensations, physiological experiences going on, like be a part of the story for us. so I’m mindful of that. And we talk a lot about knowing the difference between a knee jerk reaction and what that part of you feels like, and then shifting into the higher self. Maybe that leadership part of yourself, where that’s a very different, part of you that functions in a different kind of way.

I told you I have a smaller caseload these days, but most of my clients are, entrepreneurs [00:21:00] or just kind of high level business people and stuff like that. And so it’s, really been effective to sit with them and take them deeper to like, Okay, so that knee jerk part of you, how young do you actually think that part of you might be?

I learned to do that when I was eight. just getting to know yourself on a deeper level like that I think, helps you

[00:21:20] Craig P. Anderson: yeah

[00:21:21] Liz Higgins: leader.

[00:21:22] Craig P. Anderson: Yeah And those things that are disturbing your calm where you can name them and you can go back to them and say oh this Part of me that’s reacting is not me today. It’s me then And how do I come around that

[00:21:32] Liz Higgins: Yeah.

[00:21:32] Craig P. Anderson: great way to think about it

[00:21:34] Liz Higgins: Yeah. And, you know, with the hero on a mission thing, he talks about, the 4 different people within, the hero, the villain, the guide. And somebody else, but that, goes hand in hand. Well, with this therapy model it’s gaining huge popularity.

It’s been around for a while, but internal family systems. It’s a type of therapy that really tunes into this idea that we are multifaceted that we’re not just a. Single self, but [00:22:00] we actually kind of have multiple personalities going on inside of us and there’s younger parts, teenager parts, older parts, protective parts.

so I really liked that and it resonates with people so much, that you can kind of lean into all those different parts of you without judgment and discern, like, who you really want to

[00:22:21] Craig P. Anderson: Yeah,

perfect. Well, Liz, I always like to wrap up the interview with the big question. If you could go back and take the knowledge and wisdom that you have today, back to your younger self, maybe at the beginning when you launched this practice, maybe back to you in high school, what is the one piece of advice you would go back in time that would help you the most?

[00:22:42] Liz Higgins: can I do 2

[00:22:43] Craig P. Anderson: I try to be strict, but I like you, so I’m going to let you do too, Liz.

[00:22:47] Liz Higgins: the two things that come to mind. I would want to tell myself, Hey, creatives can be great leaders too. for a long time, I thought Oh my gosh, I’m too creative, I’m too artsy and up in the clouds and like chaotic in my [00:23:00] head. And with some discipline, you can be a great leader.

And I think the other piece is really honing in on the notion that I, deserve to have this life I’m trying to build, I think for so many business owners, this journey could be something that just keeps them stuck in this cycle of like experiences and situations that keep reiterating this notion that they’re never going to be able to have a great life or be successful or make it.

And yes, I’m a therapist. I think this stuff can often go back to our childhoods and like much deeper things. so for me, I’d want to, tell that girl, like you deserve to have this life

that you’re trying to build.

[00:23:41] Craig P. Anderson: Well, Liz, if people enjoyed this conversation, they want to hear more from you, learn more about you, where are the best places for them to find you?

[00:23:49] Liz Higgins: Well, if anybody is in Texas, um, millennial life counseling can serve you in therapy. at this point we are just limited to Texas, good old Texas, but you can also [00:24:00] find me on any podcast, channel. At the millennial life podcast and over there, I’m talking with. clinicians on our team, people in the community, you should be on the podcast, Craig, but we’re talking with all sorts of people, just about creating an epic life and relationship.

[00:24:18] Craig P. Anderson: Excellent. Well, we will drop links to all that in the show notes list. Thank you so much for coming on today and sharing the story of your Executive Evolution. I appreciate it.

[00:24:27] Liz Higgins: Thank you.

[00:24:31] Craig P. Anderson: as always, at the conclusion of our Executive Evolution interviews, I like to come back to the key leadership areas of confidence, competence, and calm in our discussion with Liz, she talked about how her confidence. Comes from really knowing her why and that why that she has identified in herself, the why she is growing the business and how she wants that business to be allows her to become really rooted in her own confidence because she knows where she wants the business to head.

And that really helps her to feel good about [00:25:00] the decisions she’s making because they’re so rooted. In the area of competence, what I really appreciate about Liz is she realized there were some areas that she needed to develop her strengths and she reached out to a coach to help her build those aspects of both herself and her business so she could be more successful when you want to develop your confidence, reach out for help.

And then in the areas of calm, I think she has a great deal of self awareness and that self awareness not only allowed her to reach out to a coach, But also allowed her to bring people onto her team to compliment her weaknesses with their strengths to build more well roundedness.

She didn’t have to do things that she wasn’t good at. She brought people in who could do those things for her. And that allows her to stay calm and reduce her anxiety about the business. So again, thank you, Liz, for sharing the story of your Executive Evolution. As always remember, you can go from being an accidental leader to the greatest leader of all time. All it takes is developing your confidence, [00:26:00] competence, and calm. See you next time.