DCF: Who Are You?
Maria Moss, Owner & Principal Consultant at Phoenix Leadership Solutions, LLC. Our goal is to work with companies to help support employee development through leadership and employee training sessions. We focus on building the workforce through strengthening the interpersonal and intrapersonal skills of all employees.
DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
MM: I love what I do because it is in line with my personal mission of servitude AND I get to do it on my terms! I have been a fan of training and development since my earliest days and was literally a training groupie; attending any and every employee development course offered at my company. Years later the student became the teacher, as I later moved into a training role for several years and then in 2015 started my own consulting company doing exactly what I love everyday on on my own terms. It was not easy taking that leap into entrepreneurship, yet it has been the best decision I have ever made. I walk into a client site and I am usually working with people who are hungry for self-development, ready to learn new skills and improve their careers and lives. I get to not only teach them, but at the same time I get to learn about challenges facing employees in all different types of companies from federal government to non-profit…and everything in between!
DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
MM: My first mentor was my first manager when I moved into a training role, Deidre “DeeDee” Williams. It was initially very informal as I looked at her as just my “boss.” Very early on, however, I realized that the talks in her office, the stretch assignments, chats about my future and occasional “blessing out” were all a part of a very valuable mentoring relationship that lasted until she left the company for a VP role in another organization. (DCF: It’s an amazing blessing when people just take you under their wing with no hesitation.) Dee Dee would be the first person I would go to when I was frustrated or excited at work. She would ask the right questions to help me find my own answers and provide lessons by sharing stories about her journey. Once she left we stayed in touch and when I was thinking of starting my consulting business, she was one of my first calls to talk it out and get advice.
DCF: What’s your happy place?
MM: My happy place would be in a room full of learners who are sharing and learning from each other! I don’t mind if I am the student or the teacher, just being in a group of energized minds is my happy place. (DCF: It’s amazing how interchangeable those roles are!)
DCF: Where do you get your energy?
MM: My daughters! My husband and I have four super star girls who are my motivation and my inspiration for everything I do. I had our oldest at the age of 18, my senior year of high school. There were so many people counted me out being a teen mom, and that was also my biggest motivation (DCF: So glad you ignored all the haters!). I wanted to make her life one of ease and to be able to say “in your face” to everyone that counted us out. Mission accomplished 🙂 Now, their support, excitement and encouragement keeps me going. A couple months ago my 3rd grader had entrepreneur as a vocabulary word. She used it in a sentence and said “My mom is an entrepreneur, she has her own business where she is the boss.” I cried real tears because she came home so excited to tell me she used me and that she is also going to be an entrepreneur. That is my fuel on a cold day! (DCF: This is also a great example of why representation matters!)
DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
MM: Balance to me means having a designated time and place for what I need to be focused on. I realize that when I’m giving 100%, it will not necessarily be evenly distributed 50/50. Sometimes I’m back to back with clients and travel at about 90%, and I can only be a “Facetime mom”which to me is about 10%. I accept that and also know that there will be times where I am home, doing my room mom thing and volunteering at the school at 99% and may only glance over my business emails and plan a time to answer them at a later date which is about 1%. This to me is balance. Knowing that I can be successful at work AND at home life, be amazing at both…just not always at the same time.
DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
MM: I would say the biggest sacrifice for me was comfort. I was used to that 9-5 guaranteed paycheck life for so many years. When I made the leap to entrepreneurship, it was after twice losing a job. In college, I was fired from the job I thought I would work at forever for insubordination, by a manager I did not get along with. It was 8 weeks before college graduation and 2 weeks before I gave birth to our second daughter. It was a big shake up because I knew I could not run out and get a job at 9 months pregnant, and yet it gave me the space to mourn that job, celebrate my daughter’s birth, graduate from college and move into the industry I actually was studying for in college. Twelve years later, I was 5 years into my dream job as a Senior Leadership Development Specialist at a Fortune 500 Company traveling the world and leading our training department team, who served all the leadership training needs in a company of 10k employees. I walked in to a staff meeting in Oct 2015 to news that my position, along with several others, were being eliminated as a part of a company wide re-organization. I had the option to apply for other jobs in the company, yet none of them would be doing what I absolutely loved…training and development. In that moment, I again faced what I had come to feel was the myth of job security and comfort. I thought back to 2003 and all that I had accomplished since being fired, and reflected on the risks I would not have taken had that never happened. In that moment, I decided to forgo comfort and step out into my dream with the realization that the worst thing that could happen is I would have to go and get a job. Three years later, I am so glad that I sacrificed comfort for my dream.
DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
MM: My industry is consulting and it was historically dominated by middle aged men, who moved into consulting roles after years of corporate work, and are often retired from at least one career. I’m coming in to consulting as a 30-something female who doesn’t have 20 plus years at an organization to fall back on as the basis for my expertise. I also tend to work a lot with manufacturing organizations, some of which provide military contracting and manufacturing work on planes, submarines and ships. This makes for interesting interactions as I have routinely held training sessions for as many as 50 people, where I was the only female in the room. In these instances, I do quickly work to build a connection and usually within the first two hours things are flowing smoothly. I often feel that I have to work against the misconception that I am not qualified to consult at some of the high levels, such as those of the C-suite, because I am younger and less career experienced than a lot of my peers. Several times I have had to tell that little voice to “shut it” and focus on showing up like I was supposed to be there. I am constantly learning to stay abreast of new business trends, working on my own professional development and I have gone back to school for my MBA with a concentration in International Business in order to stay competitive.
DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
MM: Some early advice that I wish I had listened to would be from my English teacher the late Mrs. Lula Bass. She always told me I was smarter and better than I thought I was. She never let me slack and she pushed me like no other. I think had I left my AP English class with Mrs. Bass’ firmly words firmly planted in my mind, I would have gone a lot further a lot quicker than I did. It goes back to what was comfortable and every time I got comfortable, I think I was also limiting myself.
DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
MM: My greatest failure I would say was getting fired from that insurance job in 2003. I think from it, I learned that I needed to better temper myself towards the outcome I wanted. As much as my manager and I did not get along, had I had better emotional intelligence I could have navigated that situation better and possibly left on my terms which is what I was planning for after the birth of my daughter and graduation. From that failure I also learned that I can survive and bounce back from ANYTHING! That was a huge lesson as I really hit a low during that short period of about 8 weeks, both personally and professionally (lost job, baby on the way, partner arrested and sent away for 8 months, good friend died unexpectedly.) I was able to keep pushing and come through on the other side better than ever. In hindsight I am so thankful because that whole situation taught me resilience!
DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
MM: My proudest moment to date was when I was starting my consulting business and after coming up for air, realizing that my daughters (ages 12, 10 and 6 at the time) had been watching me and had started some businesses in the neighborhood at the same time (babysitting and dog-walking). It was the realization that they watch me even when I am not thinking they are, and I am their model in every form. When I worked at the Fortune 500 company, they said that was where they were going to work when they grew up. When I decided to start a business, it expanded for them their version of what was real and possible. Now they talk about businesses and entrepreneurship all the time as a new option. I was so proud because despite the awards I’ve won, travel I have done, magazines I have been in….my legacy is the most important thing to me and seeing that entrepreneurship spark in my girls so early let me know I was on the right path to raising some truly amazing game changers.
DCF: What are you Currently Conquering?
MM: I am currently working on developing a Business Training Program for high school students. Having had the opportunity to work with some pretty amazing organizations both domestic and abroad, I want to help students develop some of the skills they may not be taught at home to help them be successful. Right after college I went into working with troubled juveniles and noticed that a lot of the challenges they faced were not necessary around intelligence but more around life and relationship skills. (DCF: There are multiple types of intelligence, troubled kids are often very smart, just underexposed). Things like how to communicate their frustrations effectively, business etiquette, interpersonal communication, emotional intelligence or even simple things like how to shake hands and or dress for an interview. These are invaluable life and business skills that a lot of schools near me are asking for, so this year I will be running my first pilot at Beach High in Savannah, GA with the support of several staff members and we hope to grow it from there.
My other passion is travel and so I am also working on travel goods and services targeted at the “Girl’s Trip” travelers! To launch in the Spring of 2018, GirlzTrippin will initially provide recommendations and assistance with booking excursions, later moving into travel goods and full service travel booking.