IAM1290- Catalyst CEO Brings New Innovations to the World

Podcast Interview with Shannon Lucas

Shannon Lucas, Co-Founder, and Co-CEO of Catalyst Constellations, has over twenty years of experience working with startups, launching her own ventures, and driving innovation into the world’s largest companies. Shannon is a best-selling author Move Fast, Break Shit, Burn Out; The Catalyst’s Guide to Working Well. She is a passionate thought leader about creating sustainable organizations in every sense of the word; for people, the planet, and profit.

In her previous roles, as EVP of Emerging Business at Ericsson, Senior Innovation Architect at Cisco’s Hyperinnovation Living Lab, and Director of Innovation at Vodafone Global Enterprise, Shannon empowered Fortune 500 businesses to stay agile, competitive, and sustainable through the adoption of new technologies and organizational structures.

  • CEO Story: Shannon is a catalyst. Started her opportunity at Vodafone where she builds new global innovations from scratch. Over four years her team was very successful for that world-class innovation program. As the journey goes by, she needed to hire a coach – who happens to be doing research about foundational research about a catalyst. And the two minds met with the same wavelength, and Catalyst Constellations was born.
  • Business Service: Providing 360 support for catalyst. Coaching, learning, and development program for the catalyst whether an individual or an organization
  • Secret Sauce: Deep self-awareness and the authenticity of being a catalyst. The mindfulness of supporting an individual bringing depths of experience.
  • CEO Hack: “The more we can bring mindfulness into all the different parts of our life, the better we can self-regulate. The better that we can connect the dots, the better we get to clarity and the better we get people along.”
  • CEO Nugget: Self-compassion – because it’s so easy to internalize those negative feedbacks. Mindfulness, self-compassion class brings healing to a catalyst.
  • CEO Defined: Chief vision and execution officer. Self-awareness and the commitment to self-improvement. Walking the talk, being open to feedback, being purpose-led, and being unafraid to fail.

Excerpt from Shannon’s book – Move Fast, Break Shit, Burn Out:

Foundational Elements of a Catalyst:

  1. Constantly seeking and taking in new information
  2. Connect all those dots and look for possibilities
  3. Vision – concrete vision of what it would manifest in the world
  4. Iteration – the scientific method, lean start-up, design thinking
  5. Execution – experimentation mindset
  6. Risk and Ambiguity – methodical research data

Website: catalystconstellations.com

Linkedin: shannonglucas

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Shannon Lucas Teaser 00:00

We don't say, and we are not sure that all catalysts can stop from burning out. But the question is, how can we minimize the amplitude and the frequency so that you know.

And we won't often make those changes in our lifestyle that we need to make until we connect it with and this is a terrible part because we should do it for ourselves. A burnt out catalyst creates no change at all.

Intro 00:20

Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, start ups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you're in search of. This is the I AM CEO Podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:47

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO Podcast. I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Shannon Lucas of Catalyst Constellation. Shannon, it's great to have you on the show.

Shannon Lucas 00:57

Thanks for having me, Gresh. Happy to be here.

Gresham Harkless 00:59

Yeah. Super excited to have you on and super excited about all the awesome work that you're doing.

And before we jump into that, I wanted to read a little bit more about Shannon so you could hear some of those awesome things.

And Shannon, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Catalyst Constellations, has over 20 years experience working with startups, launching her own ventures, and driving innovation into the world's largest companies.

Shannon is a best selling author, Move Fast, Break Shift, Burnout: The Catalyst’s Guide to Working Well. She is a passionate thought leader in creating sustainable organizations in every sense of the word for people, planet, and profit.

And her previous roles as EVP of Emerging Business at Ericsson, Senior Innovation Architect at Cisco's Hyper-innovation Living Lab, and Director of Innovation at Vodafone Global Enterprise. Shannon empowered Fortune 500 businesses to stay agile, competitive, and sustainable through the adoption of new technologies and organizational structures.

Shannon, super excited to have you on the show and all the awesome work that you're doing.

Are you ready to speak to the I AM CEO Community?

[restrict paid=”true”]

Shannon Lucas 01:58

I'm absolutely ready. Thanks.

Gresham Harkless 02:00

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Well, I know I touched on it a little bit when I read your bio.

So to kick everything off, I wanted to rewind the clock, hear a little bit more on how you got started, what I call your CEO story.

Shannon Lucas 02:09

I think the origin story so, I mean, first of all, I identify as being a catalyst, and those are the people that we are dedicated to supporting around the world, building a global movement, in fact, to support catalyst like yourself Gresh.

But the origin story about that work and how I came to be a CEO, started and we started with eight sort of ragtag positive troublemakers around the world. We're like, yeah, these are our people. And we knew we didn't wanna create a sort of ivory tower of innovation. So we very intentionally started by identifying people who are meshed in the business in sort of four continents.

If you fast forward over the course of four years, we grew this sort of CEO sponsored, world class, able to track all of the metrics to tens of millions of dollars in year revenue. And by every success metric of an innovation program, we were successful.

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I was feeling like a failure. And the reason for that was because, as we created this Innovation Champion Program as we called it, it was like always, no matter how much we scaled up, it was always about 10% of the people who were all of them had to raise their hand and apply, who were really leaning in, who I was having to move really fast, to remove the barriers for those people.

And it was sort of like the 80/20 rule. I'd spend 20% helping them and 80% trying to get this other sort of 99% of the population engaged in the same way. So I did what a lot of executives do. I hired an executive coach, who's now my co-CEO, co-founder Tracy.

And interestingly, she was going through her own journey at that point, which was as a coach. She's an Ethnographer Researcher by background. She worked at Microsoft also doing innovation there. But when she became a coach, you're supposed to find your niche. So what is your niche? Female entrepreneurs, tech founders, like, whatever it is.

And as an Ethnographer, she could not find sort of the definition of the people that she loved working with. So she did sort of an ethnographic study of the people that she loved working with. She came up with six attributes, which is the foundational research to all of our work, which defines what it means to be a catalyst.

And so I was sort of at the end of her research, one of the people that she interviewed, and so she got to share with me, who these people were. And I also had happened to have created an external group, a support group of people that I thought would be doing the same work as me, and I'd seen the same thing happen in that group.

And so at the end of the conversation, I said, look, I have this group and a lot of them are catalyst. We've been thinking about doing a retreat. There's certain things that we as catalyst need to support ourselves to enable our positive change making. And I said, do you wanna do that with me.

And silently to herself, she's thinking, damn, that's exactly what's in the research. But she leaned in and said yes, and that was the beginning of Catalyst Constellations.

Gresham Harkless 04:56

Nice, I absolutely love that and I appreciate that. So I wanted to drill down a little bit more, hear a little bit more about the work that you all do, how you serve your clients, and of course, more about your book and everything that we can find there.

Shannon Lucas 05:08

Yeah. The work that we do now, we think about it, is providing sort of the 360 support for Catalyst. So one interesting thing about Catalyst, like, one of the words that I had latched on to before Tracy's thing was intrapreneur.

That was kind of an emerging word at that time, but it didn't really describe catalyst because catalyst, like myself, I started this side hustle with Tracy while I was still in the corporate world. But it's like, we're catalyst no matter where we go.

We could be entrepreneurs. We couldn't be NGOs. We go back into the corporate world. So what we offer is a 360 support from a coaching and individual learning and development perspective for that individual catalyst who come to work with us.

But increasingly, we're working with organizations who are starting to say, like, to your point, oh my god. Our business as usual went away two years ago. We have no idea how to adapt. Who are the people in our organization that we can connect together across the different silos and connect with the transformational strategic initiatives of large companies, and activate them to make organizations more resilient.

So that's what we do. And then on the side, we're sort of committed from a public service perspective to to grow this movement and bring catalyst together. So while we talked about with working with organizations to connect the catalyst within their organization, those catalysts are usually also really excited to connect with catalysts outside of their organization.

And we wrote the book basically for the personal operating manual we wished we had twenty years ago, right? The other thing I wanna say about the book is people often ask us, are you advocating for Moving Fast, Breaking Shit and Burning Out? And the answer is no.

This is our default position if we don't come in with the self awareness, etcetera. And so just by developing some of the tools, we slowed down just a little bit in order to go faster and be more successful in the end.

When we break stuff, it's with intentionality and not sort of like being the bull in the China shop and being frustrated and arrogant and pissing people off. Alright. And then the burnout piece is, like, to your point, the connection alone is so regenerative. Just that energy of, like, it's frictionless when catalyst get together, and their energy just, like, soars.

We don't say and we are not sure that all catalyst can stop from burning out. I myself still go through those cycles, and we've all been experiencing this in the last two years, right?

But the question is, how can we minimize the amplitude and the frequency so that and we won't often make those changes in our lifestyle that we need to make until we connect it with and this is a terrible part because we should do it for ourselves. A burnt out catalyst creates no change at all.

Gresham Harkless 07:34

You might have already touched on this, but I wanted to ask you for what I call your secret sauce. It could be from the organization, the book, yourself personally, or a combination of both, but what do you feel sets you apart and makes you unique?

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Shannon Lucas 07:45

Yeah. You know, I thought about this. The first one, obviously, is just that I get to identify as a catalyst and own that. And so being able to sort of help the whole world understand what that is unique because we didn't have the language before this to talk about it.

But if you take a click down underneath that, some of the things that I was doing as a catalyst that even predated that, the deep self awareness and the authenticity that it's like I don't change depending that much on the environment.

And another click under that is I've brought mindfulness into my work for decades. And you don't need to call it mindfulness and you don't need to scare people off, but sort of bringing that depth of experience and supporting whole people, whether it's in the work environment or at home.

I love the transformation that enables both on the individual level, the team, and the organizational level.

Gresham Harkless 08:36

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. So I wanted to switch gears a little bit, and I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO hack.

So this could be a little bit more of an app, a book, or a habit that you have, what's something that can make you more effective and efficient?

Shannon Lucas 08:49

I'm gonna continue with the theme of mindfulness because we bring that into everything that we do. So, during work meetings, I would just start off and it was as much for me to self regulate because especially as a catalyst, I can move so fast. It's like, okay. I need to be really present, and deeply listening to what's going on with my team around me.

But then you think about in the Zoom world. It's like Zoom call after Zoom call, and it's like the gift of just starting with, like a couple minutes of like, let's just arrive, but whatever else is out, set an intention for our time together.

And it's funny because, like, I always get back these I was so skeptical. We just had Meg Levy, she's a ordained zen priest, and she did a talk at our catalyst empowerment summit this week. And I had a couple people reach out. They're like, that was the session I was the most skeptical, and it totally transformed my day.

And so I think the more we can bring mindfulness into all the different parts of our lives, the better we can self regulate, the better that we can connect the dots going back to the across the silos piece, the better we get to clarity and the better we bring people along.

Gresham Harkless 09:57

Yeah, absolutely. So I wanted to ask you for what I call now a CEO nugget. So this is a little bit more of a word of wisdom or a piece of advice. It could be something from your book or something you would tell your favorite client or potentially, if you jumped into a time machine, you might tell your younger business self.

Shannon Lucas 10:12

I love that you articulated all of those different ways to think about it because my answer is totally the same. And so, when people ask me, like, if there's one takeaway from the book, what would you want that to be?

And for me, that's self compassion. It's so easy as an entrepreneur and a catalyst. And because also we've gotten that feedback our whole lives, you're too fast, you're too this, you're too much, you're a disruptor, you're a troublemaker, and it's really easy to internalize those narratives.

Also as a Catalyst/CEO, we often have these lists of things that we are holding ourselves accountable to that there's no humanly, heavenly way possible to get them all done. And so we'll hold ourselves accountable to these, like, phantom goals that we we're not even able to track, and then we'll have this terrible talk track about how we didn't get them all done.

And that can be, especially as a CEO and an entrepreneur, tied to our sense of identity and self worth. And so I've actually gone through the mindfulness self compassion class twice. It's something that we bring into the work that we do. And I think that's the really healing part of going through this process with us.

So the goal and intention of the book is, like, yes, here's some new tools, but don't beat yourself up for what you didn't know last time. Bring that self compassion, and then you can also ask in a different way now for the types of support that you need.

And if you can't get it, there is this sort of, like, elephant in the room because there's so many places where it's almost impossible to be a successful catalyst. So then it's like, how do you find the place that's really going to serve and support your change making as well?

Gresham Harkless 11:45

Yeah. I love that and I appreciate you breaking that down. So wanted to ask you now my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO, and we're hoping to have different CEOs on this stuff.

So, Shannon, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Shannon Lucas 11:58

This is a fun question. And, Tracy and I have sort of different versions of our CEO that we don't share publicly. But so mine is the Chief Vision and Execution Officer. What that means to me is starting with the self awareness because everything else in my mind is dependent on that.

And there's a commitment to that constant I can't help myself, but the commitment to the constant self improvement, I think those two things as an attribute of a leader, are foundational to creating then the high trust, high psychological safety growth environment that organizations really need to be cultivating right now.

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And so in that, Tracy and I have a commitment to, like, walking the talk, being open to the feedback, soliciting it, being purpose led, being unafraid to fail. Like, we've tried a bunch of things that when you're first starting out, you throw some spaghetti at the wall and sees what's see what sticks.

And some of them you're really wedded to, but you just have to let them go because it wasn't in service of the community or the customer. So I think there's also just a fearlessness that has to be part of.

If you can't take risks as you owe you're not likely to maximize your impact.

Gresham Harkless 13:02

That makes perfect sense. Well, perfect. I truly appreciate that. One other thing I wanted to ask you too is I heard you mentioned the six things.

So for people that, like me, probably heard like, hey, this might resonate with me. I think I might be a cast. What are the six things that you talk about in your book that define in our foundational elements for catalyst?

Shannon Lucas 13:22

Yeah. Thanks for asking. The first one is that we are constantly seeking and taking in new information and seeing possibilities emerge. We you know, dot connector is one of the ways that we often describe ourselves.

So, we'll watch a TED Talk. We'll read a McKinsey report. We'll read a business book. We'll have some conversations. And from that, we're starting to, yeah, connect all of those dots. And then we start to distill them into a vision. Well, we start to see lots of possibilities. Let me see. So there may be, like, five different ways your organization could go.

So we get that clarity from the dot connecting after we've done the seeking, and then we build a vision. So number three is we build this, like, concrete vision of what we're going to manifest in the world.

When I say concrete, one of the big places that we fail as catalyst is it feels concrete and understandable to us, but often we haven't been able to clearly explain it enough to the people that need to get on board at some point, right?

If we just stopped there, we would call ourselves visionaries. As we move into action, because the things that we're doing are generally net new, we're very comfortable with an experimentation mindset.

So scientific method, main start up, design thinking, those are all modalities that feel very comfortable to us because we move from vision, action, and iteration super fast because we're constantly testing.

The last one is really more about how people describe us than how we necessarily would describe ourselves, and that is that we're comfortable with risk and ambiguity. Now the first point that I said is we're we have all these data sources. They may be nontraditional data sources, but for us, by the time that we got to vision, we're like, it's risky for you to not execute on this vision, right?

But other people, because they don't understand that, they it feels risky to them, and we don't have the McKinsey report justifying why we need to do that. A final point is there is a scale of catalyticness in that risk thing. So my risk appetite is pretty big. I'm an adrenaline junkie. Like, I don't mind jumping off the big things to take the leap.

Tracy's a researcher and likes the data, so she's a little bit more methodical in how she does it. She still moves lightning fast compared to most of the world. So, I go by the moniker UltraCatalyst, but that's not necessarily a better or good thing. It's just, what my risk profile is.

Gresham Harkless 15:33

Truly appreciate you for breaking that down. Of course, appreciate your time even more.

What I want to do now is pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional that you can let our readers and listeners know and, of course, how best they can get a hold of you, get a copy of the book, find out about all y'all's things you and Tracy look at.

Shannon Lucas 15:48

Yeah. Thanks for the invitation. So if you think you are a catalyst, please reach out. We have a global catalyst community to support you. If you're listening and you're not a catalyst, but you're leading an organization, find those catalysts in your organization.

They will help you future proof your organization. You have to find them. And if you're interested in finding out more, you can download the first two chapters of our book for free at catalystconstellations.com.

Gresham Harkless 16:12

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Well, to make it even easier, we'll have the links and information in the show notes as well too.

Thank you so much for the work you do, time you spent today, and I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Shannon Lucas 16:20

Thanks Gresh, and thanks for all the great work you do. It was a lovely conversation.

Outro 16:23

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO Podcast powered by CBNation and Blue16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at iamceo.co. I AM CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community.

Check out the latest and greatest apps, books, and habits to level up your business at CEOhacks.co. This has been the I AM CEO Podcast with Gresham Harkless, Jr. Thank you for listening.


Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(CEOBlogNation.com), podcasts, (CEOPodcasts.com) and videos (CBNation.tv). CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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