“Acting is not about putting things on, it’s about bringing things out” - Eda Roth
In this episode host Portia Mount talks to actress and consultant Eda Roth. Eda is a trained actress who works as a business coach and consultant, specializing in bringing theatre based skills to business communications. We go deep on a topic that is often talked about but rarely understood, executive presence. We discuss what it really means and how women can access the deepest parts of themselves to uncover their true voice. The future is female, let’s get started.
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Portia Mount 0:09
Eda Roth, it is so wonderful to be here with you today.
Eda Roth 0:14
Oh, it's great to see you.
Portia Mount 0:16
So Eda when you and I met earlier this year, and I read your bio, I was so fascinated. You're a trained actress who now works as a coach and consultant specializing in bringing theatre based skills to business communications. But I wonder if you can describe what it is that you actually do?
Eda Roth 0:41
Well, let me sort of backup a little, you know, acting is really not about putting things on, it's about bringing things out. So actors have to have the full range of their own expression, you know, and they have to be able to analyze texts, they have to be able to enter circumstances with a sense of believability. And in my experience, most people in business seem to suffer from what I call the deadness of professionalism. So there's a, there's a mask that people put on that, you know, rather than being the vibrant, wonderful people that they are with a skill set, and communicating through that. So what I really do is I help open up that range of expression, and put bring out what is real in people? And what is that fuller range. And there are two things that people told me I was really good at. One is when people are actually delivering a message or delivering a presentation, after about a minute and a half, I can net out what they're saying. And I seem to be able to feed it back to them in ways that are clear than what they've said. And then the subject matter experts. I don't know how I knew how to do that. And the other thing is, in a very short period of time, I can really identify what's going on with someone and what needs to open up to open up that range that's not there. So you know, for instance, if someone's talking really quietly, having them actually sometimes I've actually said to people, okay, you're talking to Congress, and you need to be that big. And then they think they're shouting, and everyone in the room says no, that's, that's absolutely, that's, that's perfect, that's great. So it again, it's about finding out what's real in people bringing that forth, and finding out where the gaps are in their own expression that need to be opened up so that they are more vital and real and alive. That's what I do.
Portia Mount 2:33
That is so powerful Eda, because, you know, we're talking so much about authenticity these days. But what that really means is, I don't think it’s always clear. And so when you talk about opening up the full range, that is just such a powerful concept.
Eda Roth 2:53
And I think you know that the word authenticity, it's so interesting, because sometimes people, I think, identify what they feel is authentic about them to what their habits are, and what their limitations are.
Portia Mount 3:08
Oh, wow yeah.
Eda Roth 3:09
So if I have people be really big, I was working with a vice president of an international company, and she was very quiet. And she's, you know, very knowledgeable, obviously. But I had her be very big. And then the question came up, but that doesn't feel like me. And somehow rather, in our conversation, I was able to have her understand it was her, it was just her being more effective in reaching that audience. It was her. And somehow whether she got it, and she you know, apparently it was really transformative for her. So that idea of authenticity is, this is who I am, I talk very quietly, and I say, Well, if your kid was running out in the street, I'm not sure you would have a quiet voice. Do you know I mean, so that in other parts of their lives, they're vibrant, alive, they yell at their kids soccer games, and all of a sudden, in professional situations, there is a sense of constriction. And by the way, I find that across the board, do you know that sense of quote, unquote, professionalism, that is really limiting and doesn't bring forth the vibrancy of who people are, and their real capacity to genuinely connect with other people.
Portia Mount 4:18
I think that that resonates so deeply for me, because I think we are we and I'm speaking of women, and I'm speaking of course, as a black woman. I think we're, we are socialized in some way to think that to be professional means to look and act and be a certain way. And when you see other women who are at certain levels in that company doing that you think, well, maybe I need to do that, too. Not realizing that we all are working off of some weird, ingrained pattern. That's not really real.
Eda Roth 4:59
Absolutely, absolutely, and one of the things I really love doing is I love working with people in groups. And oftentimes I'm brought into leadership programs. So there might be 12 people in a session, and everybody, you know, gets to do a little presentation, and then I coach them. And by the end, it's like this fabulous snowball dance where everybody is in a much more vibrant, alive and real place. And they get it when it's happening, when they hear someone all of a sudden become alive and say what it is, they really want to say, everybody knows when that aliveness, and when that truth is spoken. And so it's giving people the courage to have more of that norm. And then you know, sometimes when they go back to the actual environments, you know, they they, you know, maybe they don't do the full out thing that I had them do, but they carry that opening within them. You know, there's an exercise I do sometimes with women who are very kind of small, and don't take up a lot of space. And I always bring a shawl with me, and I have them be a diva. And it's a very quick and dirty way also to get women to open up their voices. So I have them do a kind of classic opera diva, and they throw the shawl over their shoulders and the opening line, I give them the optic line, which is my darlings. So it's low and slow. And I give them this instruction. And all of a sudden, these women just burst out and I never know what I'm going to get. But oftentimes, when they are given that freedom to quote unquote, not be who they are, there is this extraordinary sense of clarity and depth and freedom that comes through. So you know, when they go into an actual situation and throw a shawl over their shoulders and say, my darling, I hope not.
Portia Mount 6:42
Let's hope not, but I'm sure there's maybe one or two people out there who've done it.
Eda Roth 6:46
Well, what I say to them is, you know, obviously you're not going to do that. But if you bring in 50, sometimes the numbers vary, but I say, okay, just think 50% diva, and all of a sudden, they have this sense of size and expansiveness and freedom that they can incorporate. So it's quite amazing that in such a short period of time, I give people things that they can carry with them. I mean, they may be thinking very strange things, but they're being very successful in ways that they hadn't been before.
Portia Mount 7:14
I love that example of the diva, because automatically, I could see how that shawl changes your body language, it changes where your voice comes from. And so that viceral, that visceral change, I can imagine is pretty transformative in a short amount of time.
Eda Roth 7:36
Well, I'll give you an example. There was a woman that I coached, I think I worked with her for an hour, she had been in a leadership program, you know, so I had coached her for 15 minutes in that program. And then she asked for some individual coaching. I worked with her for one hour, she was up for being I think, a dean of a nursing school. And, you know, and then I saw her and I heard she got the job. And that was terrific. And I saw her at a meeting afterwards. And you know, she spoke a little bit, I said, Oh, well, you sound so good. And congratulations on the job. And she said, I went in there thinking about my feather boa and my six shooters. And she got the job.
Portia Mount 8:13
And she got the job.
Eda Roth 8:15
It was kind of you know, sassing her up, she was very quiet and you know, the wife of a minister and, and the six shooters, I'm sure we're about authority, bang, bang, you know, it's like that sense of authority. So she went in there thinking about a feather boat and six shooters and got the job. So there you go.
Portia Mount 8:32
That is phenomenal. So we're gonna dig more into this, because I think it's one of the really fascinating things that you do with corporate executives. But I want to ask one question, because you do work with actors. Actresses I know, sometimes actresses like to be called actors as well. What? So? What do you do with a, you've worked with Holly Hunter and Richard Dreyfus, these are all very well, these are both well known actors. What kind of work do you do with actors?
Eda Roth 9:04
With actors, what I'm usually hired to do is be the dialect coach. So if there's an accent that they need in a film, they call me and they ask me to, you know, do the dialect coaching. And I mean, it's very interesting, because I had done that when I taught in a drama school. And it's very easy, you know, that you get to say to students, okay, this is what you need to do, and you give them the sound changes. And by the way, that research is very interesting, because you don't...
Portia Mount 9:27
Eda Roth 9:27
On dialects, yeah. Because you have to, you know, figure out exactly what kind of accent they want. So I remember one time, I was asked to work with someone who needed a Serbo, Croatian accent of someone who had been in this country for 25 years. So of course, yeah, so of course, I found a couple of people with that, you know, that met that criteria. And, and then what you have to do is, decide, figure out what the sound changes are, and then help the actors to connect with that and a friend of mine who is a dialect coach talks about dialect coaching is like running between raindrops that actors, it's very easy with students, but with professional actors, you have to figure out exactly how they receive information, what their capacity is. If you're working on a film, it's when the director allows you on the set. So it's complicated. But it's always about, you know, that the genuine sounds that are needed, and yet a genuine connection to meaning. So, for instance, I was a dialect coach on this movie called 21. And the lead actor was British. And my job was to have him sound American. And it was set in Boston. But we decided that we really didn't want a heavy Boston accent, because we didn't want Good Will Hunting 2. So, you know, so we worked on having, you know, a kind of standard American kind of a neutral accent with just a couple of Boston sounds. And I monitored every sound that came out of his mouth on the set. So anytime he was speaking, you know, I would listen, I was sitting there with the producers, and I would listen. And then I would give them correction, give him a correction, if it needed to be done over again. And then I would have to mark down, you know, which take was the best one for sound. So it's about helping people again, it's always for me about genuine connection. But dialect coaching is about the particular what I call music of the language. So for instance, I was dialect coaching, a production of Dancing at Lunesta, an Irish play. And it takes place in Northern Ireland. And so the sounds go up at the end of the sentence. So they talk like this, and everything goes up like that. And I was brought in actually in the middle of a production, which is a terrible time for dialect coaching, to help actors do that. But ultimately, you know, once they got the hang of it, they could make things real, and in that dialect, in that accent. So that's what I work with actors on.
Portia Mount 10:05
That is fascinating, because, you know, you hear really good dialects. And oftentimes you hear dialects that are so, so terrible, or the actor is, let's just say British, and they're supposed to play an American southerner. And you can, you can hear the British accent creep back in.
Eda Roth 12:26
Some actors really have very limited capabilities in terms of dialects, you know, they just don't have an ear for it. So some of the terrible Boston accents I've heard in film. I mean, I'm from Boston and when I went to the theater to look at the film, it's like, people were laughing when they heard the accent, you know, because it was so terrible. So you know, some people just don't have a lot of ear for that I mean, I was working on a film and coaching Jeff Bridges. And, and I said something to him, you know about the sounds. And I looked at him and I said, You have no idea what I'm talking about, do you?
Portia Mount 13:00
Kind of like this geek, it is sort of geeky. But what's resonating for me is that your experience of the film is so reliant on an actor inhabiting that role. And if your dialect is off, then you're like, distracted.
Eda Roth 13:18
Yeah, no, absolutely. And when an actor can do it, well, like Holly Hunter, you know, has never lost her Southern accent. But she's very good at, and very hard working at, you know, taking things in, so she did well, you know, again, I think that was a Boston accent. The only thing I think that didn't come out well is Oh, she said something about Vietnam. And people in Boston Don't say that. But I think maybe John F. Kennedy did. So she was saying Vietnam and I would say let's really Vietnam, but okay, whatever. Do you mean? Oh, another funny story, I was working with Danny Aiello on a film, and I would get him to do a Boston accent. And then he would go off and kind of warm up and go back to the Bronx, you know, in his warm up, so. So this is about, you know, running between raindrops. But it's, I mean, I love it, because CUTI loved it, because it's all about the music of the language, and then helping people connect genuinely with that and still convey meaning.
Portia Mount 14:17
So I think that's a perfect segway to talk about sort of what you do with business leaders, because you coach a lot of leaders on communication, and I'm wondering, either from your point of view, what are some of the fundamentals of good business communication?
Eda Roth 14:36
Okay, so we talked about that mask of professionalism that we want to break through. But more even so that's, that's fundamental for me. Some of the other fundamentals are, it's about being connected to who you really are. It's about what are your values? What's your vision? And this isn't about what's on the wall. It could be, but it's about who you are. That's fundamental. And that's core for communication, you have to, you have to be that if you don't have that, then there's something that is inauthentic when you're coming across. And then it's also about how are you in this as part of vision. What kind of connections are you making with people? Do you know, how is that connected to your vision? So sometimes, and oftentimes, in business communications, people think I just say the words and that's enough. And it's not. There's a whole range of things about the voice about meaning about, you know, connection about what you care about. And so in acting, by the way, you start off, you say, okay, who is this person? You take a look at the script, what are the clues? What does this person want? So it's about building a character, and it starts with who are you, what's important to you? What do you want, and then in every scene, you know, that actor is sort of pursuing things that they are trying to achieve. And that metaphor for me, even unconsciously, is what I bring to business communications. It's like, you know, basically, who are you? What do you want? And how are all of your interactions genuine and coming from that? And again, I think one of the most important things is opening up that genuine sense of it for want of a better word caring about, you know, people you're talking to, what kind of an impact do you want to have in the people that you're leading in your organization? Do you know what I mean? And there's such a sense when people hear a leader who comes from that, that they get you, they get who you are, rather than there's this impersonal, I'm just giving you information. Do you know what I mean, that's not going to move people, that's not going to touch hearts and minds. That is not going to inspire people. Am I being clear? I feel like I'm rambling a little bit here.
No, actually, it's really clear, because I can think of the CEO, for example of my own company, who is an incredible communicator. And I think it's because he is, first of all, he uses a lot of humor, but it's not mad cap. It's not sort of left field humor. He's relaxed, it's clear that he's super comfortable with who he is. And I, that's a little bit of what I'm hearing from you, as well as it's about knowing yourself, and being comfortable and accepting of who you are and letting that person come out versus the person you think people want you to be.
Absolutely. But let me give you an example. A few years ago, I did a program for AT&T, a Global Leadership Program. And so we were dealing with people from all over the world. And they had the company that brought me in to do this and create a little video of leaders. And most of them were older white men sitting behind the desk going "mumbling". And there was this one guy, I have never forgotten him. And he used to bring me alive every time I saw this film, his name was Ben Proviron. He was the head of Dutch telephone at the time. And he was just so free and open. And he said, Look, you know, you got to talk to people. He said, I have 30,000 people in my organization. And I've talked to every single one of them, you got to walk the floors, you got to find out what's important to people. He was such a breath of fresh air, because he was genuinely who he was, with a sense of vision, and values. Do you know what I mean? And that's sometimes I talk about, you know, the sense of being in the harmonics of your own life. Do you know what I mean? That you can sense it when somebody is that. And there was another woman that I coach, she was up for a very big job in her organization. And one of the issues I was coaching her for her interviews. And one of the questions was about making cuts because they have to make cuts in the organization. And so she's talking about that. And she said, this is really no big deal to me. I grew up in a family with six kids, sometimes we didn't have enough, enough money. We could only eat macaroni, but we were always okay. I'm fine with that. And I thought that was so great. And then somebody gave her this information about how she, you know, interviewed for, interviewing for this position. This is how you need to sound and she started sounding like someone who was trying to approximate a PhD. I thought, No, no, you have to be who you are. And you can when that is the core, you can then find ways to say that that might not be as direct or modify that in terms of your delivery, but that's who she is. And she got the job. Do you know what I mean? And the way she leads that organization is fabulous, because people get who she is. She is down to earth, you know, a caring person who also knows how to navigate an organization and make it run smoothly.
Portia Mount 19:59
That is such a powerful example Eda, and what I love about that example is that she's that executive who was clearly a strong woman. And I think that strong, outspoken women are often either directly or indirectly given the message that they need to stuff themselves into a box. And so I think what the result of that is, is they turn into sort of automatic robots, right? Like they, and it sometimes seems like it exacerbates like, it makes them seem like they have sharper edges than they really have. Because they can't be who they really are. So your example resonates a lot for me this idea of like, I grew up with six kids, we, sometimes ate macaroni, I didn't have every, like, I'm okay, I can I will be okay, being strong, but still being able to make genuine, genuine connections with people.
Eda Roth 21:01
And you know, it's interesting that what you just said about how women are given messages that it's there too much. And I was dealing with a drug company at one point, and there was an, literally with the top tier, and there was a woman there. And she stood, she expressed herself with a lot of passion. And some man turned to her and said, Why are you getting so emotional? And this was just...
Portia Mount 21:28
I'm tearing my hair out!
Eda Roth 21:29
Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, recently I was dealing with a group of people. And you know, there were men and women, but in this particular small group that I was coaching, it was only women. And it was so wonderful, because this one woman had this, she had this big aha, about how she's been given messages, and she can't be who she is. And so you know, that unlocking and giving people permission to have their voices to speak as they want to speak. And then say, Okay, now, what's the environment that you're in? How do you need to modify that? Do you need to modify that? What's important? And how can you, if you don't feel like you can be fully, how can you keep pushing the door open? How can you, you know, you may not fling it open. And, you know, you brought up women of color. And that's a whole thing that...
Portia Mount 22:21
It's a whole thing.
Eda Roth 22:22
It's a whole thing. And that I would say to women and men also because men sometimes experience that, you know, a tall, you know, African American male, you know, it's like, okay, you really, come across too strong.
Portia Mount 22:35
Oh, my Gosh. That's exactly right. That's exactly right.
Eda Roth 22:38
So I would say to them, I say, listen, you have to, what begins to happen is that shutdown begins to define them to themselves. So you know, they have lost touch with their own voices. And I say to them, Look, you need to have your voice. And now if you choose, you can be strategic, but you have to understand that that sense of shutting you down is not, don't identify with that. Don't let that define who you are, own your voice, and then decide how you want to be strategic to function in an organization, if that's your choice. If that makes sense.
Portia Mount 23:14
It's I think it's really powerful because I have a number of friends, black male executives, and, you know, we're both we we come at this thing as black professionals, but my experience as a woman, and their experience as a black man, and how they are viewed, especially by their white peers, or white colleagues is very different. And, you know, just in terms of how they're perceived and they're perceived in it, it's this idea again, it's like you have to make yourself smaller and less threatening, so that you can be received. And I think those direct and indirect messages. Subtle and unsettling messages, you start to internalize those Eda. So I can imagine by the time executives get to you, it's years of having to push down all of that into a box. Right. And undoing that is a big deal.
Eda Roth 24:13
Yeah, no, and I, you know, I would say to someone, you know, give them permission. So if we talk to your friends, how would you say this? And they said, you don't really want to hear that. I said, Oh, yes, I do. Oh, yes, I do. And, you know, that exposure that feels so threatening. And I totally understand that.
Portia Mount 24:30
That's right. The vulnerability. Well, first of all, you don't feel like you can be vulnerable to be totally honest.
Eda Roth 24:35
Right. No, absolutely. And, you know, I'm hoping with all the attention on diversity and inclusion, equity, diversity and inclusion, that that's beginning to open up spaces. I mean, I was brought into an organization to help women of color have their voices. And, it was so interesting because you can get them to do that. But then what they're talking into does not support that, you know, and I said this is an organizational...
Portia Mount 25:05
The culture doesn't accept that.
Eda Roth 25:06
This is an organizational cultural issue that needs to be addressed. I mean, I can get them all gussied up and sounding great, but they keep getting pushed back. And then what these, what these women of color would say is, Why is it always up to us to have to identify the issue? So in very traditional cultures, that's a whole other thing. You know what I mean? It's not just about having your voice. It's like, what are you talking into? And what's pushing back on that? It's really hard.
Portia Mount 25:36
Say it again for the people in the cheap seats, Eda, like because you got to. You have to change like, you can change the person but the culture, the culture doesn't change.Then that person's just at risk, then right, then they're just even more vulnerable.
Eda Roth 26:21
So there was a whole body of work that I also sometimes deal with people on. And it's called status interactions, which has nothing to do with hierarchy, but has to do with behavior. So for instance, high status people take up a lot of space, you know, they talk to you directly, it was a lot of eye contact, physically, they take up space, there's no question, you know, that they're in charge. And low status people are very reluctant, you know, they cave in on themselves, they are hesitant when they speak, they may touch their faces, it's awkward. So those are just behavioral elements. So what I say to people is sometimes that you can, if you're dealing with a very high status, aggressive person, you sometimes will need to raise their status or lower yours in order to be effective to get through to them. So for instance, yeah, so again, it's strategic, you know, as opposed to, this is who you are. So I was dealing with a woman in an organization. And when I was training this, she said, You know, I have two bosses that I deal with who are like that, and I'm tired of having to lower my status. I said, I understand that. And so, you know, there's always the place of choices. Do you know what I mean? Is that where you want to stay? Is that where you want to be? Is that you know, what's important to you? Well, ultimately, one of the bosses left. And ultimately, she actually designed programs that brought a lot of money into the organization and so they started valuing her. And then unfortunately, she became one of the, you know, the people in the organization who was, you know, not necessarily supportive of other women do you know, in terms of financials and all of that, you know, what I mean? So, it's so complicated. It's so complicated.
Portia Mount 28:00
It is, and that's probably that's a whole other podcast Eda, about why women don't support other women. The perception anyway.
Eda Roth 28:08
And it's not even that conscious, you know, I mean, but anyway, but but and also, you know, women having their voices I mean, literally having their voices, when I hear women, and their voices are very high and very constricted, and they have tiny little voices, they have been cut off from the authority and power of their voice. And so you know, when I coach people, whether it's in groups or individuals, I will do some voice work with them to open up the voice. Because that's, you know, that sense of authority and power. And it's not like you want to force it, but I say to women, I say the lower register is a voice of authority. That's a voice of authority in women and when I you know, and I have another, you know, quick and dirty exercises I do like I have sometimes if I hear a woman with a very high voice, I'll have her take a sumo wrestler stance, and just let out the sound ho, ho, and then have her and then have her talk from that, from that place.
Portia Mount 28:20
I want the listener, I want our listeners to just do a sumo stance and go, ho,ho, find your lower register. It's an easy thing...
Eda Roth 29:21
Bend your knees, you're big.
Portia Mount 29:23
Don't do it in public. That's right. Don't do it in public. Do it in the privacy of your own room, but just give that a try.
Eda Roth 29:30
But it's, but it's so amazing. And then when they start talking in that right, that part of their voices opens up. People just go oh, wow.
Portia Mount 29:42
You change how you see that person all of a sudden.
Eda Roth 29:45
Oh, yeah you do.
Portia Mount 29:46
They go from sounding like this, you know, sounding like very girly and not and unserious.
Eda Roth 29:51
Portia Mount 29:52
Eda Roth 29:53
Right. And so you know, and ultimately, I think and I've sent people for you know, there was a woman she was from, she was Iranian. it was a cultural thing for her about, you know, a closed, a closed off voice. It was about how women were treated in her culture. And so I said, You know, you should do some voice work, and I'll find someone for you. And this was on the west coast. So two days later, she said, Have you found someone from me yet? So I put her together with someone, and it has just opened up her life, you know, she has so much more authority in her job, you know, and she's very good at what she does. So, you know, the perception that people have that they are not conscious of, they are forming impressions, they are forming impressions. And so it's not about putting things on and being fake. I mean, you know, when I was in drama school, it was a three year program, and the voice work opened up my life. Do you know, it was the opening. And so I know the value of that, you know, so it's not just that you sound good. That's not the point. It opens up the fullness of your own expression. So it's both giving permission, people permission in the moment that diva exercise I love you know, and sometimes it's, you know, talking to Congress, that hugeness, that hugeness.
Portia Mount 31:13
I love these examples, because they're so they're so visual and visceral in how they feel.
Eda Roth 31:18
Yeah, and by the way, I had no idea I knew how to do this. I mean, somebody decided that I'd be good at this. And, like I would just, you know, it's, I remember one time working with it with a group of executives, and there was someone, I can't remember what country he was from. But I said to him, can you do a Texas accent? And this is something it's, it's, again, the lower register, but it's more for men. And so it's like, okay, you just got off your horse. So this guy with some foreign accent is doing a Texas accent. It was hysterical.
Portia Mount 31:23
That must have been hysterical.
Eda Roth 31:53
But it was also fabulous because, first of all, it freed him up to get out of a sense of constriction. Do you know what I mean? So these ideas occur to me. And it's like, okay, you know, in, some of them repeat, and some of them are just in the spur of the moment. And it's just great to watch people open up and become more fully who they are. And then, you know, a lot of times the directness is not unprofessional, you know, of course, he wouldn't get off his horse and do that. But it opened up a sense of freedom and joy in him, which was not there. Or this, this one other guy that came to mind in one of those sessions. You know, he was talking about something that the organization needed to do. And he said, Look, we have really got to get better at this. Here's what happened. Here's what's happening. Here's how we're not serving people. That's when I gave him freedom to express how he wanted to as opposed to our numbers are really indicative that we are really not progressing. You know, all that kind of jargonease the professionaleas, the corporate speak.
Portia Mount 32:56
I'll do it. I know, I like I'm sure that I fall into it, I'm sure I do.
Eda Roth 33:00
Yeah. And, and so you know, there was one guy I was dealing with, and he was doing a project. And I'm really good at understanding what people are talking about, even if I don't know their industry, and I can net it out. And this guy was incomprehensible. And he was incomprehensible to his peers. And so as an exercise, I had him come in and say, Okay, everybody, listen up, here's the deal, you know, just cut to cut to the chase. And all of a sudden, he got so clear and direct. And his mentor was in the room. And his mentor said that this was the first time after a year of working with him, he really understood the project. And I thought, well, why did you let that go for so long, but that was another whole issue. But, you know, cutting through all of that, you know, that verbiage, you know that that does not express what it is. And in going back to what I originally said about cutting through to how would you say this? How would you want to say this, then we can actually say, Okay, do you want to say it that directly? Or how can we frame it so that it meets people where they are? Do you know what I mean, then you can work from there. But if you don't have the ownership of your own point of view of what is clear of what is direct, and people are astounded, you know, when they see it. And I thought, well, why haven't you been doing this? You know, so it's that breaking through into something that is more real and more direct. So.
Portia Mount 34:20
I think that's so powerful. And it's a perfect segway to talking about executive presence, right? Or what it is and what it's not. I bring it up Eda because so many leaders are told, you need to have better executive presence or you will never, if you want to get to the C-suite, you need to have executive presence. And oftentimes we think it's about how we dress, we definitely think it's about how we sound, do we sound smart enough? Do we sound put together enough and I know that you have sort of challenged conventional thoughts about executive presence. I wonder if you could just talk a little bit about, what do you think it is?
Eda Roth 35:06
Okay, let me let me start with the examples that you brought up about people being told that they don't have enough presence. I'm going to start with particulars, and then I'll go to a broader sense. So in the particulars, if someone says they don't have enough presence, oftentimes, that means that they are not conveying a sense of authority taking up space. Do you know what I mean? And sometimes people are talking really quickly, they're, they, they're too small, you know. So oftentimes, if you need to work on your presence, that is often the indicator, that's what people are asking for. So you know, to have someone just take up space. I mean, first of all, it's like, you know, it's like reaching, okay? There are 50 people in the room, you need to reach them, okay? Now, there are 200, it's so good what you're saying, 200 people have come, you have to reach those people. So sometimes it's really as simple as that making a behavioral change, that lets people extend what they're saying in space. And by the way, for people who are uncomfortable with being the center of attention, I have good news for them. You're not, it's what you're saying. It's what you're bringing, that's what people are interested in, they're really not interested in you is what I oftentimes say to people, do you know what you mean to free them up, but that sense of presence that fills space with your good ideas. That's what that is. Okay. Now, let me go, let me go back to what is executive presence. And again, those building blocks of being who you are, being able to meet the moment with a sense of reality, and a sense of, I want to say size because most people if they don't have, you know, executive presence, for a lot of people, it's about size. But for some people, it's about breaking through to being that real person, and then being effective in the circumstance, which may mean size obviously, there's a skill set, there's, you know, what's the need of the moment that you're addressing? Do you know what I mean? So it's that capacity to be responsive and effective in a given set of circumstances, based on who you are. And then whatever needs to be broken through so that you're not playing to your limitations, but extending your sense of strength. Does that make sense?
Portia Mount 37:25
It makes a lot of sense. And I think I feel like listening to you. Most of us have been getting it all wrong. It's what I think is like, we're all we're getting this all wrong. And we're teaching a generation, we're teaching subsequent generations of leaders about presence. And I think you're right, that presence is, when you say that, I think, Oh, that makes so much sense. Are you taking up space? Are you talking to the 150 people in the room? And how are your words? How are your words landing? And I think for the introverts, I will say, for our introverted listeners, they will be relieved to hear that it's not about you specifically, but it's really about those words, right?
Eda Roth 38:15
And for people who say to me, Well, I'm an introvert, I say, well, that's fine. But you still got to engage people. You don't have to do that all the time. But it's a behavioral adaptation for the circumstance for the moment. And you know, and again, going back to when people say, well, that's not who I am, I say, well, it's who you need to be in this circumstance. So you know, and introverts who like to say, Well, I'm an introvert, I said, well, that's how you recharge. But in this instance, you have got to communicate with people, you've got to reach them. So you have to be bigger for the moment. And again, most people, you know, they can't gauge themselves, what is appropriate. So, you know, when people say, when I have to be big or be louder, and they say, I feel like I'm shouting, and everybody in the room says, No, no, no, that was that was really good. I say you just have to remember that visceral experience, be able to identify that and tap into that in circumstances in which you need to. Do you know what I mean? So we're not changing people. We're just making them effective, helping them be effective in a given set of circumstances. And I think the other thing, one of the other things, and we're sort of touching on this, but not specifically, is this self knowledge is really important, not only you know, the positive and what you do well, and what your values are, but what gets in the way, what are the limitations, you know, what are the habits, the old fears, whatever it is, and then how do you address those so that you can be freer to be that fullest expression of the good that you're bringing to people? I mean, that's really the deal. Do you know?
Portia Mount 39:49
I love that Eda because when you and I have spoken in some of our sessions, I know I think I share with you one of my insights was I speak really fast and you asked me, Well, why? And I said, I think it's because unconsciously I've known I'm always the only woman of color. The only black woman where I am. It's been that way my entire career. And I always felt like I had to say what I needed to say really quickly, and then get off stage.
Eda Roth 40:22
Yeah. And again, you know, it's so funny because I say to people, you know, you're not going to have to go into therapy. I mean, you can if you want to, but we can make some behavioral changes that are, you know, better, faster and cheaper. Do you know what I mean? Yeah, so I once was working with a group of physicians, and I had someone doing something and I said something about being faster and cheaper than therapy and it turned out he was a psychiatrist, and I went, Oh.
Portia Mount 40:55
Well, in that case, if he was a psychiatrist, in that case, it would be faster and cheaper than drugs.
Eda Roth 41:02
Right, whatever is necessary.
Portia Mount 41:07
Eda Roth 41:08
I'll get you there.
Portia Mount 41:09
And no, no drugs. But what I also...So two things I'm hearing one is inviting people to really dig deep and think about who they are and how to bring that out in a very consistent way. I also hear you inviting people to think about what are those things that get in the way of my being the best version of myself. And so I think about, I work around a lot of really smart people, engineers, and not all but many engineers tend to be very, they tend to be very data driven, and very introverted. And so I see people hiding behind their piles of data. And trying to get through these really dense pieces of data in presentations, where like, you can see literally, all the lights flipping off in people's heads as they're talking. And it's like, oh, my gosh, but this person has, when you speak to them socially, they have so much to say they're so interesting, and then they start presenting and you're like, what are you doing?
Eda Roth 42:18
You know, there's, there's, you brought up something that's really important, it's about people who are subject matter experts. And they feel like they have to give everybody all of the information...
Portia Mount 42:28
All the information, we don't want that.
Eda Roth 42:30
I'll say to people, right? They don't need your PhD, you're not training for a PhD, you need to net out, you know, some clear ideas. And one of the things I...
Portia Mount 42:37
Give me the headline, just give me the headline and the key points.
Eda Roth 42:40
And sometimes what I do with people like that, as I say, okay, you're going to explain this to eight to 12 year olds. And it is so fascinating, because their language has to change, it has to simplify, and sometimes it's much clearer, you know, what I mean? So there are all kinds of ways because sometimes saying to people, you know, just net out the clear ideas, it's just not in their, you know, in their makeup to do it.
Portia Mount 43:04
Or they think they're being clear, and they're not being clear. But when you say look, explain it to me, like I'm six, then all of a sudden, they're like, it changes, you're like, Yeah, no, I get what you're talking about.
Eda Roth 43:14
And that's the other thing about presence is Who are you talking to? And how do they need to? What do they need to know? What do they need to hear? How do they need to hear it? Do you know? So here are the three key things, here's what this will do for you, this will do X, Y, and Z, you know, as opposed to let me explain to you how this works that you know, in the data dump, and people have their eyes over the back of their head. Do you know what I mean? So helping people make those connections with people that they're talking to. This one example comes to mind, it's a little it must relate in some way. But it relates to what's in the way is there was a woman and she was having a very difficult time with the people in her organization. And she was kind of butting heads with them. And I said to her, I said what's important to them? And it's, you know, it was I think it was some kind of healthcare organization. And, she talked about their mission. And I said, we'll talk to them about the mission and talk to them about how this relates to the mission. And all of a sudden, not only did she achieve what she wanted, but it was such a big aha for her in terms of her own behavior. Do you know what I mean? And what she, how she needed to relate to people. So sometimes that shift, do you know, in terms of recognizing the audience, whether one or 500. Do you know what I mean? What do they need to know? How do they need to hear it? what's important to them? Do you know and making those connections so that they can really be, you know, strategic and strategic is not manipulative. You know, I mean, people sometimes think I really hate the kind of, I'm going to get what I want, and I'm going to make it happen. Do you know what I mean? As opposed to how are we creating an environment in which we're all connected? Anyway, I don't know why that came. But that was a thought in my head.
Well, I think what's powerful for me about that, again is and I think this is one of the questions I wanted to ask you, which is what are some of the things that you see executives get wrong, and I think you've touched on a couple of those things. One is not knowing your audience, like not adjusting how you're connecting, you can still be yourself and connect, what I'm hearing you say is you can still be yourself, you can still be the fullest of who you are, and know your audience and find ways to connect with them. That's one thing, that's one thing I heard, the second thing I heard is, don't let your expertise get in the way of you being a human being and connect, you're still a human being connecting to another human being.
Eda Roth 46:13
So I remember years ago dealing with and, you know, dealing with an executive, and there was a major downturn, and it was downsizing. And so initially, he came in in very self protective mode, you know, saying this is what's happening. And this is what's going to be. So I said to him, I said, you have kids? And he said, Yes. And I said, you know, they weren't, they were young. I said, Okay, your kid is in the room, your kid is 21, this is your kid's first job. He's included in the downsizing. And all of a sudden, there was this, there was this beautiful sense of caring, this beautiful sense of caring, that was not personal, but was included. Do you know what I mean? So tapping into that.
Portia Mount 46:59
And it was empathetic.
Eda Roth 47:01
And all of a sudden, and all of a sudden, the way that people receive the message was so different, because they felt cared about and valued. Do you know what I mean? And it was so beautiful. And that was a, that was a shift on a dime, you know, by just giving, giving this guy a thought to include that he could adapt to circumstance.
Portia Mount 47:20
I love that so much. I recently interviewed CEO Jen Garaghty of Landor and Fitch, the global CEO, and she talked about empathy. I think one of the questions I asked her was about, you know, what's different for leaders right now. And she talked about the importance of transparency, and empathy, and also being able to say, here's what I know and here's what I don't know. I really appreciated that. So that resonates for me, Eda.
Eda Roth 47:55
Let me give you an example of that. I did this global leadership program that I do with AT&T. And in a major, there was a plant in, in Massachusetts, north of Boston, and they were having a major downsizing. And during that downsizing, they achieve the highest scores in respect, company wise. That...
Portia Mount 48:18
Eda Roth 48:19
And it was because they felt like their leadership was transparent with them, they were honest with them, and they felt cared about. So even though they were losing their jobs, they had the highest scores in respect company wide worldwide at AT&T. So speaking to that.
Portia Mount 48:37
I can absolutely believe it. I know in our company, and I'm not divulging anything secret here. We did like many companies last year, furloughs and one of the things our CEO talked about was, the feedback, the letters, the emails he'd gotten from employees saying, Thank you, for being honest with us. And while this is not anything I want to do, I appreciate that the company's being straightforward about this, and sharing all of the alternatives that you thought through and, and I just think it's a great lesson, right? Have a we and we have to, unfortunately, we learned it over and over again, which is people like you can treat people with respect and still tell them difficult things.
Eda Roth 49:20
Absolutely. And by the way, you know, when I talk about this is also how you create how you create more productive environments. You know, you unleash, people feel valued, and they want to contribute. Do you know, I mean, they feel cared about. So, you know, when it's always about the bottom line, you know, that's not any place a lot of people would want to work.
Portia Mount 49:41
Well, andI think, people don't get excited by quarterly results. And I mean, it's an, I mean, yeah, obviously important. Those of us who work in public companies get that and more often than not, it's that people, it's the mission is the people, it's the culture, those are the things that motivate people. I want to ask you, maybe a couple more questions, which are around, you know, we talked about the fullness, stepping into the fullness of who you are, and opening up one's voice. And I really appreciate the very vivid examples you've given because I think they are easy, easy for listeners to wrap their heads around. And I'm wondering when a leader comes to you, and they say, I want to be more authentic. There's that word again. And how I and how I show up. How do you help them do that? So we talked about the diva exercise with the shawl, you've given a couple examples, but I'm wondering, how what would you say to our listener, we there's a young woman who's out there who says, I really want to discover, I've listened to Eda, I really want to tap into my own voice. How do I do that? What would you advise her?
Eda Roth 51:06
Okay, let me let me start with a more specific thing in terms of the way I work with people and then get to that question. So, when people come to me, and they say that I actually begin working with them on situations in their own experience. So what are some of the challenging situations in your own experience? You know, so that they, and then and then it's like, okay, where's the gap? And what do we need to identify? So for some people, it's opening up the warmth. For some people, it's, you know, it's the size, whatever it is. So that's, that's how I work with people. And then more, more generally, you know, how do I find my own voice? It's like, you know, in situations, sometimes I say to people, okay, what would you really like to say? What would you really if you could say anything? What would you really like to say? So that they access that genuine voice of theirs. And then, okay, well, what's the situation? And is that the way people are going to hear it? Or do we need to just massage it a little bit? Do you know what I mean? So it's, but it's, it's so important to know what it is that you would really like to say. I mean, I cannot tell you the times in sessions of groups of people, we're giving them permission to do that has opened up not only the realness but the clarity. Do you know what I mean? So for this, how I fit in, and by the way, for young women, sometimes there's a you know, okay, you're gonna you're figuring out how you're going to fit in, but still maintain your own identity. Do you know what I mean? I mean, for people who are older, you know, sometimes it's like, Okay, what do I have to lose? I don't have a lot of fear, you know, I'm gonna...
Portia Mount 52:40
Eda Roth 52:42
Yeah, exactly, exactly. But it is, it's about okay, what would I really like to say? How would I really like to say this, I mean, I remember, there was a woman, and she was black, and she was African American. And she worked in and this was a group of academics. And she was talking about what they needed to do to serve the community. And the first go round was like, it was so vague, you know what I mean, we need to be more attentive to when our commitment has been. And then the second round was so direct, we have committed, this is what we say we do, this is where we are. And this is what we need to do in order to actually follow through on what we said we were about. And it was like, so fabulous. Do you know what I mean?
Portia Mount 53:24
A 180 degrees different than the first time.
Eda Roth 53:26
It was and it was so clear. The first time, you know, as I say to people, we don't want to wander in and out of your messages. Do you know what I mean? It's like, you're saying things, and I can be thinking about what am I going to make for dinner? Do you know, as opposed to what is compelling? And what is direct? So I'm not sure there is a one shot answer to that. But that sense of owning your own voice. What would I really like to say? And also what's really important to me? Or how do I really see that this change is going to be beneficial for this company? And then, you know, once you own that, then you can even figure out ways to do it. Do I need to build alliances? Do I need to, you know, what do I need to do? Who do I need to talk to? Am I the best messenger? But you've got to own yourself, I think is what I'm saying. And the way you say things.
Portia Mount 54:20
When you say Eda, what is it that I really want to say that resonates so deeply for me because I think so often as women, we are taught to edit ourselves so that we don't sound pushy or aggressive or we worry about sounding stupid. So we might add more words than what we intend to say. So that to me, like it sort of cuts away the bullshit, right? And you say, hey, what is it that I really want to say and by the way, men do that all the time and no one ever clutching their pearls when they say I don't understand what you're talking about. Or you know, we've gone over this point seven times, keep moving. I hear men talk that way all the time, that is women, we have put so many constraints on ourselves.
Eda Roth 55:09
And the other thing with that, I'm not sure that we want to emulate bad behavior that we see in men. Do you know what I mean? We don't want to do that, like, I remember....
Portia Mount 55:19
Eda Roth 55:20
There was a guy, there was a guy at AT&T and he actually had such a horrible reputation. If somebody was doing a presentation, and he thought it was bad, he would go up and grab it and throw it out the window. Literally, literally. So, you know, in terms of the directness, you know, we don't want to be those people who are cutting people off. And that's another thing having to do with values and vision, and still being who we are, do you know what I mean, what's the kind of environment that we want to create? How do we want people to be treated? How are we seeing people? Because we don't want to emulate just aggressive behavior.
Portia Mount 55:56
It's just bad behavior.
Eda Roth 55:58
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And, and sometimes, and it's so funny, because I, you know, I remember people saying that sometimes, you know, because men are always interrupting, but, you know, in meetings, and, and, and so rather than rather than the person who's being interrupted, saying, excuse me, I'd like to finish my thought, which I actually think is great. What she would do is she would have somebody else in the room say, excuse me, I would like to hear, finish hear what Portia has been saying and I'd like to hear her thoughts. Do you know I mean? So there's all kinds of okay...
Portia Mount 56:03
That's nice, I would call that showing good allyship in a meeting in terms of amplifying somebody else's message, because nothing makes me go like batshit crazier than watching somebody cut off another person in a meeting. And then like, you're like, wait a second. You know, I want to, I want to hear what Eda was saying. You know. I'm also the person who would say, I'm not finished saying, I'm not finished with what I was saying.
Eda Roth 56:33
Portia Mount 56:34
I'm definitely that person.
Eda Roth 56:48
Right, or Kamala Harris turning to Mike Pence and saying I'm speaking.
Portia Mount 57:01
I'm speaking. I'm speaking. Yes. Like it's...
Eda Roth 57:04
It was fabulous.
Portia Mount 57:05
It was brilliant. And it's become a total meme. But I think the reason it became a meme, a meme is because there is not a woman on the face of the planet. No, no, in the universe who hasn't been interrupted that way. And it's just, it's, it's infuriating.
Eda Roth 57:22
And what's really great is, you know, options. Do you know what I mean? Like you and I would be people say, Excuse me, I'd like to finish my thought. And if someone's not comfortable, or the culture is going to be, you know, come down at them. Well, okay, well, what else can we do to make that happen? You know, I wanted to say something, there was something about confidence that I wanted to talk about. And I was watching one of those singing shows, whatever it was, and there was a young woman who had like, she had a really pretty voice, but she was kind of, you know, lacking in confidence. And so they gussied her up, and all this colorful stuff, and these chunky heels, and it was like, and she still was not confident. So you can't gussy it up, you know, but so it comes from within. And within this also, I really think is when you are confident in what you know what you have to say, and remind yourself of that. That's where the confidence comes from, you know, it's not like, Okay, I'm going to be confident and you put on this suit called an armor of confidence. Do you know what I mean, it has to be connected to you, to who you are, and to what you know, that you have and what you have to contribute.
Portia Mount 58:26
These are, so I'm raising my praise hands. These are my praise, these my praise hands, because I do think for women especially we don't, we don't own enough of our own confidence and expertise, right. Like we, we assume somebody else knows better than we do. I mean, and I certainly know that I throughout my career, you know, earlier in my career, I would be like, Oh, well, I couldn't possibly know as much as this person and then then I'm sitting in a meeting going, like, what the hell this person doesn't know what they're talking about.
Eda Roth 58:56
Right. Finally, you start to wake up and you say, you know, I think I have something good. You know, it's right. I actually do know.
Portia Mount 59:03
Actually, I am a PhD. I'm not a PhD, but it's like, actually, I am an expert.
Eda Roth 59:08
Right, and actually boring through that, you know, to get to wait a minute, I do know something. Do you know what I mean? And I think that's how we find our voices and our confidence. It's like, we have to go through those layers of submission, that we have been taught to be nice and subservient to be that it's okay, wait a minute, and it's not ego, it's so that the real what we have to contribute comes through, you know.
Portia Mount 59:31
So, there's a funny, it's what's become a meme and you know, women talk about being mansplaining all the time having men, you know, explain to them what they already know. So this woman who is a scientist was she recounted this on Twitter that she was giving a talk and a man came up and basically told her why a particular data point was wrong, and then cited a study and she said, I wrote that study, that's me, the study that you're citing, I'm the first person in that. And you're just, it was, I mean, it was hysterical. And it's gotten a ton of traction. That's also like, so many women wrote in and said, Oh, my God, you are speaking my truth here of constantly being challenged And you know, and I think the real point, which is something you've been making, too, is like, that then starts to color, who how you feel about who you are, and how you express yourself. That's kind of the point right?
Eda Roth 1:00:42
Yes, it loads on us. And then we'd have to say, wait a minute, wait a minute, what do I know? And what do I believe? And, you know, and listen, this isn't a one shot deal. We all have to keep working at that, you know what I mean, I find in my own experience that comes up, and it's like, Okay, wait a minute. Let me do what I train other people to do, you know, to speak my truth. You know.
Portia Mount 1:01:03
Well Eda. I always like to wrap up this is I have, I'm so energized as always, when I talk to you, I always have to wrap up with a few questions that are that our listeners love which is. So one, so one question is, do you have a motto or favorite saying that you live by?
Eda Roth 1:01:28
I think it's really not about you. It's about what you have to give to others. That's something that takes me out of the equation, and lets me focus on the gifts and the talents that I have. And know that there's nothing that can stop those. You know?
Portia Mount 1:01:44
And that's come out so clearly in our conversation here today. And is there a book you find yourself recommending or gifting repeatedly and you can slide a podcast in there if it's not a book.
Eda Roth 1:01:57
No, I give pottery. I give pottery and I give, you know, handmade things. I love things like that. So those are always my little gifts to people.
Portia Mount 1:02:09
It's very much a piece of who you are.
Eda Roth 1:02:14
It is who I am. Yes, I like, you got to show up with who you are. I show up as who I am.
Portia Mount 1:02:20
I love that. Is there? Is there a new habit or belief that you've adapted that has made a positive impact on your life?
Eda Roth 1:02:34
Yeah, I think it's about you know, this is gonna sound strange, but it's letting go of all the striving and trusting that everything that I need will be there.
Oh, yeah. That kind of hit that sort of hits me right in my gut. That's powerful.
Yeah. And, you know, based on a lot of experience, but you know, trusting that what I have, what I need will be there. And I think that's a pandemic, especially a pandemic thing. It's like, wait a minute, I've always been provided for.Yes. I don't have to strive, strive, strive, trusting it will be there and just do the next moments. Yeah.
Portia Mount 1:03:13
Yeah, it's sort of there's a saying, like, what is for you will be for you. Right?
Eda Roth 1:03:18
Portia Mount 1:03:19
It allows you to sort of let go of the climbing.
Eda Roth 1:03:23
Right, and then and then, you know, that's, I mean, to get biblical. That's sort of like not my will, but my will be done. You know, I mean, it's like, excuse me, but I think I want that life. Well, oh, this is the life I'm supposed to. Oh, okay. Do you know what I mean? So it's that, but in that the stream of life.
Portia Mount 1:03:37
The universe delivers.
Eda Roth 1:03:38
The universe delivers, just get in the stream and be carried, and open to the good. I mean, it took me 15 years of doing this, to realize why I didn't get to just be an actress that I have these other talents and abilities. You know, I kept doing it, but it was like, I was like, aha, now I get it. Do you know what I mean?
Portia Mount 1:03:56
That, that is deep. Best investment of $100 you've made recently?
Eda Roth 1:04:02
There are a couple of things, food banks. You know, I mean, I send money to people in, you know, in my local area, and then when San Antonio was having that trouble, I mean, it gives me great joy to do that. And then and then the other thing was, you know, I get these little investment things and, and I really looked at there was a company, it was a small company, and they were actually working on cybersecurity, and I thought, I like the sense of this company. I like this, and it's been a good investment. So.
Portia Mount 1:04:36
So are you telling me now that you're like, are you a billionaire now?
Eda Roth 1:04:40
Portia Mount 1:04:41
This is not by the way for our listeners, this is not investment advice (muffled).
Eda Roth 1:04:53
But I think what, you know, I guess what I'm saying about that is that it's looking for where the good is that I can support. Do you know what I mean? That, that really is that really is what it is. It's looking for the good that I can support. Do you know? So I liked it was a small company. I liked the sense of them. Do you know what I mean? So it's supporting what I see good out there. It's not about okay, how much money can I make? Do you know what I mean? And that's what I really love, you know, so. And then and then, of course, you know, I always send money to theaters. Do you know what I mean? Because I mean, the Public Theater. I so rarely go to New York, but I love the Public Theater. So that's another $100.
Portia Mount 1:05:33
I think these are all very worthy investments and what a perfect way to end our conversation today. Eda Roth, thank you what a gift.
Eda Roth 1:05:43
Oh, Portia, great talking to you.
Portia Mount 1:05:45
It's been so lovely talking to you.
Eda Roth 1:05:47
Okay, great talking to you. Portia, thank you so much. Go forth. Use your voice, do good. Be who you are.
Portia Mount 1:05:53
Do good, be who you are. That is the message to listeners today, and the world will be a better place for us.