In this episode we’re joined by Jessi Shuraleff, a passionate people-first leader and incredible storyteller. She spent 13 years at Google building effective sales and marketing teams, and has worked in partnership with some of the largest global brands in the world.
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Jessi strongly values maintaining authentic relationships that make space for vulnerability. These values have gotten her where she is today as a leader, podcaster, and mom. Today, Jessi will open up about her own personal journey of sharing her story, including how this transformed the way she emphasizes empathy and openness in the workplace.
On this episode of the Live. Love. Engage. podcast:
- What Jessi considers her leadership superpower.
- The thing that Jessi’s journey to motherhood helped her realize.
- The “aha” moment she had one morning during her commute.
- Why Jessi decided to get help, open up, and what she felt she needed to do.
- What sharing your story gives others permission to do.
- Ideas for where you can start in your own healing journey.
- The importance of emphasizing people-first leadership.
- The role empathy plays in the workplace.
- Real-life examples of responses to the empathetic approach at work.
- How to support those who struggle with vulnerability and opening up.
- How allowing yourself to be uncomfortable can help you grow.
- What Jessi’s podcast is about and why she started it.
- Why Jessi decided to leave Google and move on to something new.
- What Jessi is the most curious about right now.
- The role active listening plays in creating healthy spaces.
Connect with Jessi
Jessi’s website: www.jessishuraleff.com
Jessi’s podcast: This is My Truth
- Join the Live. Love. Engage. Community
- Intuitive Business Coaching
- The Live. Love. Engage. Book
- Support the Podcast with BuyMeACoffee.com
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You’re listening to the live love engage podcast. On today’s show, how vulnerability can empower you and others to succeed. Stay tuned. I am Gloria Grace Rand, founder of the love method and author of the number one, Amazon Best seller, Live. Love. Engage. how to stop doubting yourself and start being yourself. in this podcast We share practical advice from a. Perspective on how to live fully love, deeply and engage authentically. So you can create a life and business with more impact, influence, and income. Welcome to live love, engage.
Namaste and Welcome back to another addition of live love, engage. And today it’s one of my favorite days because I get to interview awesome people for the show.
And today is no exception. I’ve been learning about this woman and she is got quite the story to tell, which is also part of what her M-O is as well. So I wanna first, well, first of all, welcome Jesse Shuraleff to live love, engage. Gloria. Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to, to be here.
Yeah, I am delighted to see you, just what exactly where our conversation gonna go today, but I know it’s gonna be a good one. So let me share with those of you watching on YouTube and those of you listening just who Jesse is. She is an effective storyteller and passionate people first leader. she spent 13 and a half years at Google.
Effectively building and leading strong sales and marketing teams, partnering with some of the largest global brands in the world and creating, building and maintaining relationships is at the core of who she is and authenticity, vulnerability and storytelling have been the cornerstone of her skillset to get her where she is today as a leader.
A podcaster and a mom. And we’ll have to talk about your podcast a little bit later on as well. I’d love to hear a little bit more about that, but I know one of the things that we wanted to focus on today was empathy. And cause you say that empathy is your leadership superpower. So how did you come to discover that, cuz I think it has something to do with your, your personal journey to get to where you are today.
So can you share that with us? Yeah, of course. So I do believe empathy is, is one of our super powers that we all can possess and you know, whether we decide to lean into it or not is, is. You know, our, our choice and for me, it’s interesting. And the reason why I say it’s a choice is it’s something that, you know, I probably leaned into a lot, but unconsciously and as I started to, you know, go through moments of my life and my own sort of journey in life, It was a choice that I started to make more consciously.
And there’s so many stories and moments that I can point to. But one that I typically speak to is, I was somebody who I was born into an amazing family who was so supportive. And as the children of, of baby boomers was constantly told to, you know, get a good job, go to a good college, you know, stability, financially, get the house, right.
Like all of those things was. Taught to me at such a young age. And so I did all of that. I did what was expected. I got the good grades. I went to the good university. I got the job at Google and, and it was all wonderful. And, you know, I didn’t have a lot of big, hard things that had happened to me in my life until I…
Tried to become a mom. And it seems so silly to say sometimes, but I entered into my marriage, you know, we decided we were gonna wait to start our family. We wanted to explore the world. And then when it was time, I just assumed it would happen. Like everyone else around me, of course. And right. And it just, that just wasn’t our journey.
And so through, you know, several years of trying, unsuccessfully and then going through numerous infertility treatments, such as IUI and ultimately IVF, we eventually became pregnant and I was pregnant with twins and, you know, it was just such an amazing day when we got that phone call saying that like my blood test was positive and I will never remember, forget where I was.
We were driving actually from Chicago to Cape Cod. We were right by Notre Dame. And so we actually stopped there and walked around as I was calling the doctor back. And it was just, you know, all of the feelings. And then I didn’t have the easiest pregnancy. I had morning sickness all day, every day.
And what I learned was that, you know, when you, someone going through infertility, they don’t prepare you for when you become pregnant. And I sort of went into my pregnancy, assuming like I’d had such a hard go of becoming pregnant, why would anything ever be, you know, not okay during my pregnancy. And that wasn’t the case for us.
Our son was, was very, very sick and ultimately we had to make, what was the hardest decision that I’ve ever made in my life, in order to save the life of my daughter and my own life and it just was this experience where, I went inward. I really shoved things down. I didn’t deal with it. In fact, I was actually on a plane for work three days after my procedure.
And it just was this moment in my life where I realize how hard it was. And how often people are not talking about their, their own experiences, their own moments, where they felt alone or isolated. And I will never forget this moment. I was riding the subway in Chicago, they call it the L and I was staring at my reflection and I was looking around at all of my fellow commuters.
It was a Monday morning and I looked around and I was like, no one would know, no one would know that I just went through years of infertility of sticking my bodies with needles, getting womb massages. That’s legitimately a thing you need to Google it, all of this stuff. And, and then ultimately had to make this decision.
And it was my moment of Aha. Like we all have these masks that we all wear and put on each day. And how many of my other fellow commuters that morning had their own stories, their own journeys. And as I started to share a little bit more about my journey, so many people told me, me too. and that was surprising to me because it wasn’t that.
So, you know, everyone, I talked to also had, you know, experienced infertility or lost a child, but there was always a common theme or a common thread that someone could pull through. And so that was my aha. You know, as, as we’re leaning into empathy and understanding that we only see the tip of the iceberg, how do we actually create a more inclusive space for each other in conversations, both at work and at home?
Well, first off my condolences on and such, such a loss and congratulations so you have, you do have a, a lovely, Oh, I’m sure she’s not a baby anymore. How, how old is your daughter now? She’s not, my oldest is six and then we have another IVF baby. Who’s she’s not baby. She’s four too. oh, wow. well, that’s, those are lovely ages.
Oh, you should be enjoy this time because they grow up much too fast. You too. And I’m just really appreciate you sharing that. Well, number one, sharing the story with us and can you then I guess go, go continue a little bit because then obviously, I guess you, and, and just reading up a little bit about you, you decided to be able to, to that you wanted to be able to tell this story and, and, and you suggested it a little bit that you started talking with people, but you were even doing it more.
What’s the word I’m looking for? I guess more out there my brain is going blank today, so, okay. You know what I mean? So, so, so what happened next? Tell me that. Yeah, so, you know, again, I think of it another moment. So what actually started to spur me to talk about my, my experience was what I call my six oh three moment.
So there was a moment where I was standing in our master bathroom, in our house in Chicago. And I had my electric toothbrush in my hand and my husband looked at me and just asked me a question that he’s asked me thousands of times. We’ve been married almost 10 years, but together 14, he just simply asked me, are you happy?
And for some reason that morning, I just blurted out the truth, which was no. And. It’s that answer scared him. It scared me. And I remember glancing at, we had this little clock in our bathroom. I remember glancing at the clock to buy time because so was 6:03. I like will never forget that. And it was that moment where I realized.
I, I had the choice to make, I could backtrack and say, haha, just kidding. I like I’m so happy or I could be honest with myself and with him for the first time in probably years where while I had. You know, was so grateful for the life that I built. Right. I had this amazing career. I had this amazing house in the city of Chicago.
I had two little girls who had fought so hard to have, but yet I wasn’t happy. And so I stuck to the truth. And it’s that moment where I realized that I had, you know, lost my voice. I was living all of these things for other people, but, you know, if someone had asked me like, who is Jessi as not as a mom, not as a corporate Google leader, but like, who are you?
I don’t know if I could have answered them in that moment. And so. I got help. I, I started going back to therapy. I found a coach and it was in all of those things where I realized that I had to unpack a lot of the things that I hadn’t been dealing with. So my journey to becoming a mom, being a big part of that.
And so to be honest, it started by sharing with myself first and foremost. For someone who had spent years shoving down her emotions, years, shoving down, things that, you know, I didn’t wanna deal with. It started by being really honest with myself. And then I would, you know, share it with one person and then two people, and then it ended up, I was on a stage in Detroit in February 2020.
One of my last trips that I, that I was able to take. Right. And I was sharing my story in front of a group of, of almost 200 women. And, and so I share that because it’s, you know, so, so often people ask me, like, you just like woke up one day and you decided to like, air all your dirty laundry and, and it was not the case.
And so what I realized though, in these experiences, cause I also started to share at work too, was. By sharing my story. It allowed me to take off my mask and allowed the person that I was talking to, or the people I was talking to, to take off their mask for a second too. And it was just such a privilege and an honor, and.
It allowed for this really safe space and this really safe space, both at work too. And I, and I really do credit those moments as you know, for who I am today, as like you said, in the, in our introduction, like as a leader, as a mom, as a podcaster, because it was those moments where I was able to, just be me and allow other people to be themselves where.
Some of the best collaborations and the best brainstorming and the best, you know, being able to be who you are, the good, the bad, and the ugly, you know, thrived from. What’s, what’s coming up for me is, and, and I know that, I know my journey too, that I’ve had to learn how to be able to really share my voice too, because I hid it for a very long time.
And I’m thinking if someone out there is listening and going, well, sure. That sounds great for you, but how the heck am I gonna be able to do it? What would you say to them? What would you advise them? Yeah. So first and foremost, I hear you. I was you. I was, that person was like, nice for you, but like I’ve got years of stuff that I don’t wanna touch.
And so I just wanna acknowledge that and just say, I see you and I hear you. And I, I was you and. And so again, I go back to, for me, my journey was a lot of writing. It was really healing. And so I created a framework for myself where I, so I call them moments that you’ve probably heard me refer to them a few times, but I have these moments in my life.
And for me, a moment is a memory or a scent or like this, this image that I cannot get outta my head. It could have happened five minutes ago. It could have happened thirty plus years ago and I keep a running list of them. Like now I actually think in moments sometimes I’m like, oh, I have to like write this down.
But I put myself back in that moment and I ask myself some questions and then I write about it and I just get it all out, and to, to steal from Brene brown. Like the, the, I don’t wanna curse on your show, but like the, the S first draft and, and so, you know, to me, it’s just, it’s about getting it out there.
And just for me, writing has been really healing and journaling, within that framework. And then it allows me to actually use that framework to, to, to share with others. And I’ve run lots of facilitations, both within corporate and, you know, at events where I’ve run people through this workshop. And then we actually do breakout groups and people share their stories and without fail, you know, I obviously, ask people, you know, how do you feel before you’re sharing your story and then how do you feel after, and without fail people always say, I was so nervous.
I would love, like, I, I like wanted to leave the room. Some people do leave the room. Yeah. Right. And, but without fail for those who, who are, who are brave, very empowered, confident, you know, a shared experience, like all of. All of those things. And so for the people out there listening or watching it, and they’re like, I could never do this.
My advice is you is just start with yourself, like whatever medium that looks like for you, whether it’s writing, whether it’s speaking, just, just start to share your, your own experiences, unpack them for yourself and see where that takes you. Yeah. And one of the things I’ve, I’ve done when I’ve talked with clients and people who are like afraid to like do even Facebook lives, I always say.
You don’t have to share it with anybody at first, you can just do it private or only me, I think, is the setting. And that way you get to be able to practice. And, and so I love how you’re advising people. Well, yeah, just start with yourself and, and I can imagine also I would think, or at least, I think for me too, sometimes you just feel a lot lighter when you’ve been able to do that.
So, so how does that translate into the workplace and, and, and being able to be empathetic. What, how does that, what does that look like for you? What do you. Yeah. So, I mean, I, I will also, you know, own the fact that I was super fortunate to work at a company and then work for people who really did believe in people first leadership.
And, you know, I think there’s a lot of companies out there that talk about diversity, equity and inclusion, and then don’t necessarily, you know, when push comes to shove, like practice that, and I’ve reported into people that are those people, but I’ve also reported into people who do genuinely, you know, embody those and, and create that.
And so I think for me, whenever I’ve thought about the culture that I’m creating on my team, it’s. You know, how do we actually create an environment where people do feel to use a overused corporate term, but it is an important term, like psychological safety, like how do we create a culture where people do feel like they can bring their viewpoints to the table knowing that not everyone’s going to agree, but how do we set norms where we are creating situations where, you know, counter viewpoints can be brought up and talked about in a productive way.
I have sat through thousands of meetings in my life. Like that’s not even an exaggeration – thousands where I have gritted my teeth. Like I, so I have TMJ. And like part of it was, is sitting in meetings and like grinding my teeth, clenching my jaw, like wanting to speak up and not being able to, and I’m sure people out there can relate to that feeling.
And so as I stepped into people leadership or people management, I thought about that, I was like, how do I create a space where people aren’t clenching their jaw, where they can have conversations and are not always going to agree. Right. Like I didn’t go in eyes like, like, you know, I went in eyes wide open of, of course everyone’s going to bring different perspectives and new…
I hired people specifically. For that. And so how do I create that space? And so for me, that looked like, you know, setting norms. So making sure that everyone, you know, we started every meeting with, with certain norms of making sure that people felt like, they understood, you know, where we could agree.
and to the point where, you know, it got to the point where it was getting personal and we pulled back and, you know, restarted the conversation at a, at a different time. You know, I, again, would share stories. I was of one of those leaders who I, I should believe in taking off my mask, that other people on my team could do the same.
And so I was really fortunate to have an amazing team of individuals who truly could bring their full self to work and share stories around things that were going on with them in life. You know, I had someone come to me in a meeting and say, I’m just, someone’s not normally quiet. And they’re like, I’m going through something right now.
I’m going to be more quiet in this meeting. I wanna just give you some of that context, cuz again, like you only see the iceberg and I think that’s true more than ever and, and is in. You know, the 2D life that we’re all living in, in zoom and right. DC world. And so, you know, being able to create those spaces and really, provide empathy and leadership.
I think that sometimes in the corporate world, especially in the B2B or more finance are more industries that are male dominated, empathy is often viewed as a weakness. And I think you can be an empathetic leader and still hold boundaries. Still ensure that your team is pro, producing the materials that they need or producing the results that they need to, but you can do it in a way where everyone is still feeling seen and heard.
And you’re seeing the full picture of what everyone’s bringing to the table. Yeah, that’s really good information that you’re sharing and, and, and. You, I don’t know, wouldn’t say, say you’re necessarily lucky, but fortunate, I guess that you did have a good team, that you were able to be able to have that, type of environment flourish.
So what, what if someone has, you know, people that they’re, that are working for them that are really like, eh, I don’t like this idea. I don’t wanna go there. How can you. You know, sort of still be able to bring them along, get sort of, you know, get them to drink from the Kool-Aid as they say?. Yeah.
So, I mean, it’s a really, really good question because I mean, not everybody is going to be on board and to be honest, not everyone was on board, you know, as, as I started this. Right. And so I think that’s part of the norms that you set. Right. So we would have, what we call D and I conversations, ranging from topics to current event.
To, you know, we, we once had a whole conversation as a team around, like the monuments, right? Monuments of, of historical leaders. Like, do we keep them, do we not right. Not at all work related, but we really tried to, to bring in conversations. And so I share that because not everybody is willing to share their, their, perspective, or are still forming their perspective.
And so I go back to the norms, like one of the norms that we had on our team was, you know, during these conversations, we’re all going to like, make sure all of our other tabs are closed. We are going to be off mute, but if we are not able to participate, that is okay. Like the expectation is not everyone speaks up, but that we are at least all engaged in listening and learning so that other perspectives, right?
Like it could spark an idea and be like, oh, I never thought about that. And then, you know, it, it sits and ruminates and you think about it a little bit more. And so that’s why I think norms are really important as you are creating a space because. You know, especially for, D and I conversations and this doesn’t, it doesn’t have to be around D and I like, but, you know, the research has proved you can’t force somebody to have an uncomfortable conversation.
so if they don’t wanna have you actually do more damage than, than good in that, in that form. And so, you know, that’s one thing that I think is really important as you think about it from a team environment, again, really creating those norms and making sure everyone is on the same page and are aware of like the roles that they can play.
I also think, you know, having conversations one on one with the individual and just getting a better sense of, you know, where are their boundaries, right. I, I think that goes back to empathy and really understanding who the person is as an individual within work and without of work and where their comforts fly and understanding, you know, where.
Where their comfort zone is and like where you can kind of push them outside of their uncomfortable. Right. So like, if you think about like comfort zone and then like right around that is like uncomfortable. And then around that, right. Is like, sort of like your, your brain is on fire. Right. And so you wanna sort of live in the.
The uncomfortable zone, that’s where the best brainstorming that’s where the best, you know, results. That’s where you can challenge yourself and, and others, but there’s, that line is different for everybody. And so to me, that, again goes back to people first leadership and, and empathy around like, well, do you know where that line is for each of the individuals on your team?
And, and then how do you use that to sort of bring somebody along. Yeah. Excellent advice. I, I love how you, it is saying that it is important to be able to ultimately then talk to people one on one. I wanted to just clarify something just for those listening, who may not have understood, and frankly, I’m not quite sure what it means either.
So I’m gonna ask you, you mentioned like D and I conversation. So what does the D and I stand for D E and I, yeah. Diversity, equity, and inclusion conversations. Sorry. Yes. That. Okay. Thank you. I try so hard not to use acronyms and I failed on that one. That’s okay. It happens. Well this has been awesome.
I love it. But, but I did wanna go back real quick, cuz I mentioned at the beginning that I wanted to ask you about, so you’re a podcaster. So tell us a little bit about how, what the podcast is all about and, and why you decided to, to do that. Yeah. So, right after that, that event in Detroit that I was telling you about earlier, where I was sharing my story, that was, you know, one of those light bulb moments where I realized that we all have moments where we felt alone or isolated, and yet, so often we’re not talking about them.
And so in March, 2020, Ironically as, as, as the world is shutting down, I, I launched my podcast and the podcast is called, this is my truth. And my mission is really to create community and connection through sharing personal stories because I have seen what that has done for myself and my community.
And, I just loved. I love being able to create those safe spaces for women and men to, to share those moments where, you know, they have felt alone and all of our experiences are uniquely our own yet I’ve never had a conversation where I haven’t been like, oh, I can relate to that. Like, my experience is not the same, but I can relate because I, at the end of the day, we’re all humans and we all wanna be seen and heard and understood.
And so that is the impetus of, of the podcast. I love that. And you know, I started this podcast in November 2019, so shortly before as well. And, and. It turned out beautifully because I, I wound up being able to talk to so many interesting people during that year. So if you, if you haven’t listened, if you’re a new subscriber, go back and check some of those older episodes.
My interview style might not be as good, but trust me, the people on are really good. So what. What have you found? And cuz I know for me, what, what’s your favorite thing about doing the podcast? Is it just, just hearing those stories or what do you think? Yeah, it’s actually, just what you said there, there are so many amazing humans out there who are willing to share their story.
And I had an amazing career at Google. Obviously. I never would’ve stayed as long as I had if I, I didn’t enjoy it, but I was working with very large global well known brands and they were amazing and I did amazing things and they did amazing things. But as I started to get into the podcasting world, I was like, there are these
Amazing humans who are really making an impact in lots of different ways. And I just wasn’t getting exposed to them. And so that was a big thing for me, like the exposure and, and opening my own horizons. And so, ultimately one of the reasons why I decided to leave Google, not the only reason, but one of them was right.
I started to surround myself with these amazing humans that, you know, inspired me and, impacted me in a way that I wanted to continue to grow and learn and be the best version of myself because I was, I was inspired by them quite frankly. That’s awesome. Yeah. It’s it’s. It is amazing that we’re so many, we’re all unique for one thing.
And yet we’re also all the same in a lot of different ways as well. And so it is easy to be able to a, as you say, you know, you, you might have different experiences and yet there’s still something about it that you can relate to. And, and that you can empathize with, as, as we talked about. What are you curious about right now?
Ooh, I love that question. So I love that you actually use curious too. So what I’m most curious about right now is, is what makes people like, what makes people tick and like what makes them themselves? And so I’ve been, you know, I think that I personally feel we live in a really polarized world right now.
There’s very little gray and, you know, going back to how we started the conversation around like uncomfortable conversations, right? Like gritting your teeth, like. I have become so much more comfortable, you know, speaking my truth, especially in situations that historically have made me uncomfortable or not wanting to, to, to speak up.
And so how do we actually create the bridge, bridge yhe gap of people with maybe polarizing viewpoints or different beliefs. And how do we actually create space for people to, you know, recognize that at the end of the day, we’re all human, just like we were saying. And so that’s actually, you know, the genuine curiosity, how do we actually.
Have that be a skill that we all lean into on a, a daily basis instead of, you know, throwing up the armor, putting on our mask, creating judgements of others, listen, like we all do it. Yeah. I, I still do it. I like I’m human after all. Yeah. But how do I actually have curiosity be sort of one of the superpowers that I lean on the most and most often I think is so important.
Well, perhaps as people continue to listen to your show, maybe that’ll help them to be able to start. You know, when they hear other people sharing their truth, they might be more inclined to do that and to ask other people questions. Cuz I think that’s, that’s ultimately what we need to do is we’ve gotta start being able to ask questions and then listen, really listen and not be focused on how we’re gonna react.
But listen, which is it’s, it’s a skill it’s and it’s something you’ve gotta practice at. And it it’s something I’m continuing to work on. Cuz I still have a habit that occasionally I just wanna like, oh, oh, I, I need to jump in. And, and it’s like, no, no, stop, stop. relax. Relax. I, I, I do it. And I, I credit a career in sales as one of the.
You know, being able to build that active listening skill set because so, right. Like we all do it. We all are like, oh, like, I’m that remind me of this? So I’m gonna bring it back to this. And so really how do you actually, you know, create the space for yourself where you are actively listening, not listening to respond, but actually just listening, reading, you know, the body cues, reading what they’re saying.
And, it’s a skill and, and it can be taught and it can be, you know, practiced and, and it can eventually come more naturally. Yeah. Well, if someone listening to you today wants to know more about you, wants to tune into the podcast, or where is the best place for people to reach out to you to learn more?
Yeah, so I absolutely love working with female leaders and helping them reclaim their voice both from a work perspective, but also personally as well, because I, I don’t believe that those are, you know, we’re, we’re all who we are regardless of where we are. And, so you can find out more about that on my website, which is www dot Jessishuraleff.com.
You can also check out my podcast, which is, this is my truth. It’s available on all major platforms. And then I hang out a lot on LinkedIn and you can find me at Jess Shuraleff. I really need to like update that to more of my brand. And, I’m also on Instagram at This is my truth podcast.
All right. Awesome. Well, I will be sure to have all those links in the show notes. So if you’re listening somewhere and you don’t have a pen handy, don’t worry. Go to live love engage podcast.com and look for this episode again, and you’ll be able to get all that information. So it has been a pleasure getting to know you and your story and the work that you’re doing in the world.
And I. Yeah, really enjoyed our conversation today. And I thank you so much for being here, Jessi, Gloria, this is so much fun. Thank you so much for having me. Oh, and I wanna thank all of you who’ve been watching and listening and I encourage you that if you got a lot of value out of today’s episode to don’t be shy, share it with a friend and let them know about it too. And until next time as always, I encourage you to go out today and every day and live fully, love deeply and engage authentically.
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