Knowing Yourself – Facing Challenges in Business and in Life
How do you come to “know yourself?” For over two thousand years, texts like Sun Tzu’s Art of War have expressed the value of this exercise in battle, in life, and in business. In episode 3 of “All the War They Want,” Jeff Engle and Carmen Brooks sit down to discuss self-discover and leadership with special guest Elizabeth Goodwin, Director of Project Management for CBRE.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Elizabeth grew up in Tennessee and fell in love with construction at a young age. She studied architecture, engineering, and construction at the University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt before climbing the corporate ladder at CBRE.
Today she leads a team of almost 30 people and has managed many notable projects, including Conquest’s own office in Nashville! She’s a successful businesswoman, a mother of two, and was recently named among Nashville’s Top 40 under 40.
Knowing where you came from
To understand where we’re headed, we must also know where we’ve come from.
Throughout her life around Nashville, Elizabeth has seen a lot of change and development. She grew up around many of the pivotal projects that transformed the city, and then in undergrad, she too got involved in projects like the incredible Music City Center.
What ignited her passion for pursuing this line of work? How did she get into the business of making dreams into ?
Elizabeth shares that she has always loved to draw, and she was captivated by drawings and blueprints her dad would on the dining room table. In college, she fell in love with construction. Working on the execution side of the business, she enjoys everything from demolition (“fire in the hole!”) to the vision finally become a reality.
“I do have that attachment to certain projects for sure, especially the ground–up projects where I’m really involved with the client too … I get to go to the grand opening. There’s music in the lobby, then I get this feeling, ‘I had something to do with that.’” – Elizabeth Goodwin
From his experience on the other side of the world, Jeff also resonates with this concept: the journey from vision to reality, the connectivity between an idea and the ability to execute it. Like raising children, it’s a unique experience to see something come to life that is almost an extension of yourself.
Defining oneself through adversity
In his new book, All the War they Want, Jeff speaks the importance of adversity. We learn a lot about ourselves (and other people) through unexpected challenges and failures.
Elizabeth’s career has been defined by many times of challenges and proving herself.
“There are certain moments where I’ve thought, why in the world are they putting me in charge of this? I’m 34, and I’m the youngest or the second youngest person on my team of almost 30 people … I’ve had moments where I’ve gone toe-to-toe with people, and it’s been . I’ve spent weeks working on something and then it doesn’t go the way that I wanted to go.” – Elizabeth Goodwin
Despite its challenges, she shares that being the only woman in the room can also have advantages. Sometimes her unique voice stands out, and a room full of men will pay attention differently.
Jeff commends Elizabeth for her ability to take ownership and her transparency to lead even when things don’t work out. People don’t need an example of perfection; they need an example of a human who can make mistakes and work through them.
“I believe down to my bones that it doesn’t matter what you it matters what you do because that’s what people see, and that’s what they’ll follow.” – Jeff Engle
What happens when Elizabeth faces unexpected challenges, and how does she respond with unconventional tactics of her own?
She shares that just a few weeks ago, she worked with a client who started sending snarky emails, chewing people out, and creating a very uncomfortable situation for Elizabeth’s team. It got so bad that she offered to handle the project directly. She immediately canceled all her afternoon meetings and personally went to the client’s office to confront him.
“As a woman, I’m sweating,” Elizabeth says. “I have to make sure my body language is on point, and every word I say is on point.”
His reaction was completely unexpected. She was expecting to get thrown out, but instead, she earned his respect. “I think it was me coming toe-to-toe with him, essentially.”
Throughout the remainder of the project, Elizabeth was there every day, and the client no longer felt a need to micromanage. He trusted that things would get done and that Elizabeth could handle it.
The power of positive affirmation
When she’s not going toe-to-toe with the naysayers in her life, Elizabeth is a mom and a very successful businesswoman. Recently, she’s been featured in Nashville’s 40 under 40. Just how did she get to where she is today?
Of course, she has put in more than her fair share of hard work, but she also credits the colleagues and supporters around her.
“It’s almost like you have to have a tribe of women saying, ‘Go, girl. We support you,’” she says.
There have also been several leaders (men and women) who have singled her out, affirmed her, and challenged her to tackle even bigger responsibilities. When she thought she was interviewing for a senior project manager job at CBRE, her boss pushed her to apply for the director job instead. He said, “I wouldn’t have you here if I didn’t think you could do it.”
“It was almost like him believing that I could do it made me believe that I could do it. I took the job, and that was probably the biggest shift because I became an owner as opposed to a provider.” – Elizabeth Goodwin
Jeff strives to create such an environment in his organization too. He has also noticed that men will often apply for a job when underqualified, but women will wait until they are overqualified. No matter who you are, he speaks the value of setting your goals high and striving for something greater.
“If you’re 100 percent sure you can do this job, you’re in the wrong job. You be constantly striving for something, or else what’s the point?” – Jeff Engle
Self-discovery and finding purpose
Despite her success, Elizabeth shares how she “had a little bit of self-discovery” after her second child.
“My life was very by–the–book,” she explains. “I had a goal in terms of how much I wanted to make and certain things that I wanted to achieve, awards that I wanted to have, and I had them all done by 30. I just had my second child — I was only going to have two kids — and so I was like, ‘well, what do I do now?’”
Part of Elizabeth’s renewed sense of purpose includes being the best person she can be, particularly for her two boys. That involves exercising (“I’m the one in the pool doing Old Lady Water aerobics”), yoga, meditation, reading, and setting aside time for continued self-discovery.
Elizabeth also aims to hone her professional skills by meeting with at least one hundred people a week, ten of those being new people. “It’s not just that I want to meet a bunch of people,” she says. “I’ve discovered I want to have meaningful conversations.”
Another part of Elizabeth’s journey has involved “finding her joy.” As a child, she was always extra joyful and didn’t care what other people thought of her. As an adult, she’s tried to reconnect with that joyful spirit. “It was finding my joy, being in my joy, living in my joy, but then also energetically bumping into other people to spread the joy … I want them to feel the joy as they go out into the world.”
Know yourself with “All the War They Want”
What motivates you? How do you respond to challenges? To failure?
In his new book All the War they Want, Jeff Engle writes that “sadly, most people go through their lives not really knowing who they are, thereby limiting their ability to reach their full potential.”
This week, take a moment to consider where you’ve come from and where you’re going. Consider your daily purpose and set your goals high. Be aware of those around seize opportunities to recognize others who need affirmation too.
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