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IAM1908 – Catalyst CEO Brings New Innovations to the World

Podcast Interview with Shannon Lucas

Why it was selected for “CBNation Architects”:

In this episode of IAMCEO podcast, Shannon Lucas, the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Catalyst Constellations, discusses over two decades' worth of experience in working with startups, launching her ventures, and driving innovation into the world’s largest companies.

Catalyst Constellations provides 360 degrees of support for “catalysts” – individuals or organizations pushing boundaries and driving change. Shannon, who previously served in leadership roles at Ericsson, Cisco's Hyperinnovation Living Lab, and Vodafone Global Enterprise, has been instrumental in guiding Fortune 500 businesses to become more agile, competitive, and sustainable by embracing new technologies and organizational structures.

The podcast touches on these key topics:

CEO Story: Shannon’s background as a “catalyst” began at Vodafone, where she built global innovations from scratch, leading to Catalyst Constellations' establishment.

Business Service: Catalyst Constellations offers coaching, learning, and development programs for catalysts across organizations.

Secret Sauce: Shannon attributes the success to a profound self-awareness and authenticity as catalysts, paired with a supportive approach to individuals.

CEO Hack: Bringing mindfulness into different life aspects, allowing better self-regulation, clarity, and supportive connections.

CEO Nugget: Shannon emphasizes the importance of self-compassion, especially when dealing with negative feedback, which can ultimately lead to healing and growth.

CEO Defined: She envisions a CEO as a “Chief Vision and Execution Officer” who values self-improvement, feedback, purpose-identification, and is unafraid of failure.

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Shannon Lucas Teaser 00:00

We don't say, and we're 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 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, startups, 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 IAMCEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:47

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the IAMCEO podcast and I appreciate you listening to this episode. If you've been listening this year, you know that we hit 1600 episodes at the beginning of this year. We're doing something a little bit different where we're repurposing our favorite episodes around certain categories, topics or as I like to call them business pillars that we think are going to be extremely impactful for CEOs, entrepreneurs, and business owners, or what I like to call CB nation architects who are looking to level up their organizations.

This month, we are focused on innovation, disruption, women entrepreneurship, DEI, gig economy, remote economy, even the cannabis industry. Think about these industries and these disruptive technologies that really sometimes aren't as disruptive, but there are people that are just paying attention to what the market needs, and they're providing that. So really think about the things that are quote and quote outside of the norm, but really help entrepreneurship to grow and fully develop.

I think it's extremely exciting time when we're talking about any type of innovation or disruption, because I think that there's so many opportunities and needs that aren't felt that are starting to be filled by different groups, different organizations, or even different industries. So what I want you to do is sit back and enjoy this special episode of the IAMCEO podcast.

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Gresh from the IAMCEO 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 02:11

Thanks for having me Gresh, happy to be here.

Gresham Harkless 02:13

Yes, super excited to have you on and super excited about all the awesome work that you're doing. Before we jump into that, I want to read a little bit more about Shannon so you can hear some of those awesome things.

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 Shit, Burnout, The Catalyst 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.

Her previous roles is 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 IAMCEO community?

Shannon Lucas 03:12

I'm absolutely ready. Thanks.

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Gresham Harkless 03:14

Awesome. 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 guys started. What I call your CEO story.

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Shannon Lucas 03:22

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 catalysts like yourself, Gresh. But the origin story about that work and how I came to be a CEO started when I was at Vodafone. And so the story there was I got the amazing opportunity to help build a global innovation program out from scratch. We started with eight sort of ragtag positive troublemakers around the world, we were like, yeah, these are our people. We knew we didn't want to create a sort of ivory tower of innovation. So we very intentionally started by identifying people who are meshed in the business and 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 and in your revenue. And by every success metric of an innovation program, we were successful. 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 all of them had to raise their hand and apply who were really leaning in who I was having to move really fast, remove the barriers for those people. It was like the 80-20 where I'd spend 20% helping them and 80% trying to get this other 90% 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. As an ethnographer, she could not find sort of the definition of the people that she loved working with. So she did 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 at the end of her research, one of the people that she interviewed. She got to share with me, who these people were. And I also 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. So, at the end of the conversation, I said, look, I have this group and a lot of them are catalysts. We've been thinking about doing a retreat. There's certain things that we, as catalysts need to support ourselves to enable our positive change making.

And I said, do you want to 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 06:04

Nice. I absolutely love that and 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 06:16

Yeah, the work that we do now, we think about it as providing sort of the 360 support for Catalyst. So one interesting thing about Catalyst, like one of the words that I had latched onto before Tracy's thing was intrapreneur. That was 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 we're a 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 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 committed from a public service perspective to grow this movement and bring catalysts together.

So, while we talked about 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 20 years ago. The other thing I want to 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, etc. 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 like being the bull in the china shop and being frustrated and arrogant and pissing people off.

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Then the burnout piece is to your point, the connection alone is so regenerative. Just that energy. It's frictionless when catalysts get together and their energy just soars. We don't say and we are not sure that all catalysts can stop from burning out. I myself still go through those cycles and we've all been experiencing this in the last 2 years. But the question is, how can we minimize the amplitude in the frequency so that 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 burned out catalyst creates no change at all.

Gresham Harkless 08:35

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?

Shannon Lucas 08:46

Yeah, we 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 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 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.

You don't need to call it mindfulness and you don't need to scare people off, but 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 of the team and the organizational level.

Gresham Harkless 09:33

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. I wanted to switch gears a little bit and 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, but what's something that can make you more effective and efficient?

Shannon Lucas 09:45

I'm going to 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 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 the zoom world, it's zoom call after zoom call, and it's like, the gift of just starting with a couple minutes of let's just arrive. But whatever else is out set an intention for our time together.

And it's funny because I was so skeptical. We just had Meg Levie, who's an ordained Zen priest. And she did a talk at our Catalyst Empowerment Summit this week. And I had a couple of people reach out there 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 across the silos piece. The better we get to clarity and the better we bring people along.

Gresham Harkless 10:49

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

Shannon Lucas 11:03

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 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 slash 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.

So we'll hold ourselves accountable to these phantom goals that 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. 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 yes, here are 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 are 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?

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Gresham Harkless 12:33

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

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

Shannon Lucas 12:46

This is a fun question and Tracy and I have different versions of our CEO that we don't share publicly. But 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 the high trust, high psychological safety, growth environment that organizations really need to be cultivating right now.

And so, in that Tracy, and I have a commitment to 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 you know, when you're first starting out, you throw some spaghetti at the wall and 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, you're not likely to maximize your impact.

Gresham Harkless 13:50

That makes perfect sense. Perfect. What are the six things that you talk about in your book that kind of define in our foundational elements for catalysts?

Shannon Lucas 13:57

The first one is that we are constantly seeing information and possibilities emerge, 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 connect all of those dots, and then we start to distill them into a vision. 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 connector.

After we've done the seeking, 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. 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.

Scientific method, main startup, 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 have all these data sources. They may be non-traditional data sources, but for us, by the time that we got to vision. It's risky for you to not execute on this vision, right? But other people, because they don't understand that, it feels risky to them.

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 she's a little bit more methodical in how she does it. So, I go by the moniker ultra catalyst. But that's not necessarily a better or good thing. It's just, what my risk profile is.

Gresham Harkless 15:50

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 ahold of you, get a copy of the book, find out about all the things you and Tracy are working on.

Shannon Lucas 16:05

Yeah, thanks for the invitation. 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 16:14

Awesome. 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 y'all phenomenal rest of the day.

Outro 16:21

Thank you for listening to the IAMCEO podcast powered by CB Nation and Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at iamceo.co. IAMCEO is not just a phrase, it's a community. Check out the latest and greatest apps books and habits to level up your business as 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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