Negotiate Your Career Growth

How to Turn Setbacks to Comebacks with Shira Miller

November 15, 2023 Jamie Lee, Shira Miller Episode 46
Negotiate Your Career Growth
How to Turn Setbacks to Comebacks with Shira Miller
Show Notes Transcript

This interview with Shira Miller will get you fired up and inspired to own your value and go for your goals. 

Shira is a multi-hyphenate: Chief Communications Officer at a multi-billion dollar company, as well as a coach, author and two time TEDx speaker. 

This is a MUST listen, if you

  • Want the REAL REAL secret to balancing your entrepreneurial dreams with a big career
  • Want the inside scoop on how to advocate for yourself and negotiate all the way to the C-Suite 
  • Or if you ever felt stuck under difficult circumstances (failing, going into debt, getting sick with an incurable disease, to name a few) and want to get yourself UNSTUCK 

You'll learn: 

  • The FIRST thing to prioritize in your day. (Hearing this from Shira finally got me doing something I'd been putting off for months with lame excuses like, "I don't have the time or energy.") 
  • WHAT to say so you don't let self-doubt diminish your value when building consensus with a team who don't see eye-to-eye 
  • The ally-ship that helped Shira close her gender wage gap as a high-performing director at a billion dollar company 
  • What reticular activation system (RAS) is and how you can use it to your negotiation advantage 
  • How to turn worst case scenarios to your source of confidence and power, so you become stronger and better than before 


As an executive coach for women, I'm super passionate about helping smart women who hate office politics get promoted and better paid. 

I do this through my unique combination of: 

  • Self-directed neuroplasticity tools backed by science 
  • Negotiation strategies proven to work for women by academic research 
  • Intersectional feminist lens that honors women’s real, lived experiences 

To learn about my 1:1 coaching series and to book your free hour-long consultation with me, click here:

Enjoy the show?

Connect with me

  • **You want to get promoted and better paid with best tools possible. That's what I offer inside my Executive Coaching Series, and you can learn all about it here: **
  • Connect with me on LinkedIn
  • Email me at

Jamie Lee  00:00
I'm so excited to have Shira Miller on the podcast. I think we will learn so much from you. And I'm really looking forward to be inspired by the stories you share with us and how we too can be free and clear is if you're watching the video of this podcast taping, you'll see that Shara has her book cover on her wall is free and clear and she helps leaders get unstuck. And from the little that I have gotten to interact with you, I've just been blown away by what you accomplish what you do. So tell us tell us about you. You're a multi hyphenate and you have a corporate day job. And you also have a thriving side hustle or you're you know what? I'm going to let you introduce yourself.

Shira Miller  00:54
Well, thank you. I'm delighted to be here. And as for the multi hyphenate part, I do have a day job as the chief communications officer at a company called National DCP. We are the $3 billion supply chain management company serving Duncan. Now that's what I do by day. It feels like I've got a superhero identity on the side, doesn't it? But when I'm not here, I'm also a certified co active coach that helps people get unstuck. I have done two TEDx talks. I'm a keynote speaker. And last year I published my first book free and clear, get unstuck and live the life you want.

Jamie Lee  01:38
Wow. How do you do it? That's my very first question. How do you manage you know, just one of those things, you know, writing a book, TEDx speaking coaching, I mean, I did one of those things. And so how do you do it all?

Shira Miller  01:57
Okay, so I'm gonna give you the real real here. And on it, you got it. So first of all, I've had to go really slow. A lot of my peers wrote a book and a year and a half, two years. It took me four years to conduct all the interviews to edit it multiple times to get it ready for publication, because I have a day job and because the I've got a happy marriage, and I have friends and I want to take care of myself, so I figured out realistically, I have time for one other thing besides what gives me my paycheck at this time, and my personal life. So I've had to go slow and prioritize for a couple of years that was interviewing people writing the book. Now it's all about motivational speaking, and writing articles on topics that I'm passionate about like culture of optimism, which I interviewed you about and your expertise. So the first is I go slow. The second is my top priority is self care. And when you're an overachiever, which I know so describes your audience. You can be so driven to go go go you're probably skimping on sleep. Maybe you're not making time to exercise or take care of yourself, and you're doing yourself a disservice. I'll tell you later about an experience that I had where I really got completely burnout, because I wasn't taking good care of myself. And in order to have the energy and clarity I need. I start almost every day with a workout. In fact, 30 years ago, I lost 50 pounds. I was very unhealthy at the time, and just now everything starts with a workout. It's more important to me honestly than my job or speech. It is my mental state and taking care of my well being. And the final thought there one that I really struggled with until I realized how important this is, is you've got to be compassionate to yourself. We all have an inner critic in our head, who might be saying you're not going fast enough. Look what everybody else is doing. You're behind the eight ball. That is not your friend. In fact, you need to talk to yourself like you would have asked for and and if she or he was talking to you about why they haven't done an offer or why they might be crap. You're not going to sit there and agree with them. You're going to give them balance, reflect on what you've done. So you really have to go easy on yourself. I'll tell you right now I only slept four hours last night. That's not enough for me at this time in my life. So I realized I'm probably going to be at 20% of my intelligence level today. And I looked at my calendar and I said, Okay, what do I need my smarts for? It was for a couple of meetings and the chance to talk to you Jamie and I am cutting myself slack for anything else I need to do today because I know nothing particularly brilliant is going to happen probably right after this call.

Jamie Lee  04:57
Thank you so much for the real honest answer. And I think what's really astonishing about what you just shared is that you didn't quit. It's a long game. It's a very long game that you are playing. And when I work with my clients, sometimes I coach them on you know, those specific challenges that you talked about the urge to check work email very first thing in the morning right to go go go and not being able to slow down, but then that impacts your performance and if your performance impacted now your leadership and your negotiation confidence is impacted, and then you sort of lose sight or you lose faith that the long game the big picture goal can be achieved but I love that you didn't quit because for I'm sure there are many, many people out there who set out to write a book or give a TEDx talk or become a C suite executive. And then a year in three years and even like four years in sometimes they're like, Oh, it's too hard. I'm going to turn around. So

Shira Miller  06:00
I think it's important to give yourself breaks when you need it. We all sometimes want what I call a head over the blanket stay where you stay in bed and maybe you know you Netflix and chill on your own or you read a book or whatever. That's fine. Give yourself that when you need it, but then get back on track. And that's so I never quit. Sometimes I just go slower,

Jamie Lee  06:24
So good. Thank you for the honest answer. And I watched one of your two TEDx talks. Stop the apology speak which was geared specifically for ambitious women. It was a TEDx for women. And I would love to hear from you. Why do you think it's important for women professionals, women managers to stop apologizing? When we haven't done anything wrong?

Shira Miller  06:55
So often, we've been socialized from a young age to make ourselves less intimidating. We might make self deprecating comments, say things like in my humble opinion, or I don't know much about that, but what's astonishing is how many women I know at the C suite level who continue to do that. And especially when you are an emerging leader, you really can't afford to engage in casting self doubt on yourself before you even make the thought or the contribution to a meeting. Because what it does is it diminishes the value of your ideas and accomplishments. You might have the most brilliant idea in the room. But if you start out by putting yourself subtly down in that way, you're automatically losing respect and that is only going to undermine you. And not only your professional life, but your personal life as well.

Jamie Lee  07:52
Thank you for sharing that. And I think it's really important to make the distinction that there is a difference between putting yourself down discounting yourself apologizing. Oh, sorry, you know, this is probably not all that important, right in that way. And also not being too what's the right word? How do I say this? What I'm talking about is there are women, you know, my clients for example, who are at that leadership level, and the backlash for being as assertive as they can be, is real, right. If they are assertive with their opinions, if they are, you know, very quick to express their frustrations because their direct reports are not meeting up to their expectations. Right? They, they feel like Oh, I'm going to be branded as difficult or unlikable, or, you know, yeah, something negative. And that is that is something that a lot of women leaders do experience but I think what you're saying is something very different, right? You're what you're saying. What you're saying is, don't cut yourself down when you don't have to.

Shira Miller  09:09
Exactly there's no, first of all, if you've done something wrong, if you took credit for somebody else's work if you were a jerk and a meeting, yeah, then you've got something to apologize for. But saying, I'm sorry for expressing an opinion or being assertive, or just stating what is a fact that's when it diminishes the value of your accomplishments. And if I could even backtrack just a bit, you said something that I found so intriguing. There's, as we all have to find our leadership voices in the world. I found that the best way for me to succeed in corporate America was to use humor and to use compassion. I am kind to people that doesn't mean I'm overly nice or that it's toxic positivity. But I try to meet people where they are to put myself in their shoes and understand what's going on. I am direct, but I do it in a in a compassionate manner, especially when I have to have difficult conversations with peers, with bosses with people that report to me. So in the case of apology, speak, its apologizing for having an opinion or speaking in a contrary way to the rest of the group because what you've got to stand in your own power. And you also have to recognize when you're not going to win a battle. To know when to okay, if the rest of the team thinks this way. I've stated my opinion. You stand firm in what you believe. But then you'll get behind the group when you need to get behind the group to and I see this particularly at the C-level, when we will debate different policies that are going to impact the company or employees. I tend to have a more extreme employee engagement perspective. That's I'm very passionate about culture. And when we debate it as a group and we come to a consensus then you know I need to accept that in tow the party line.

Jamie Lee  11:08
So good. So it's not saying I'm sorry, I have this opinion. It's more like I hear you have a different perspective. And here's another way to look at it or here are my thoughts. Yeah. So good. Thank you. for that. And tell us about free and clear your book free and clear is about getting unstuck and I'm genuinely curious because, you know, we see very inspiring women and it's it's easy to sort of confuse, their shiny outside and assume oh, it's always been that way for them. They probably never struggled. They don't have a day where they feel like crap and don't feel like getting out of bed. Right? But I don't think free and clear is about that. Right? I want to hear from you. You know, tell us when have you gotten stuck and how how did you get free and clear?

Shira Miller  12:05
Great questions. I am really passionate about helping others get unstuck because I have been stuck and cut myself unstuck so many times in my life Jamie if I look back over the past 30 years, I went through a major health transformation when I lost the weight and got healthy. I've been through a couple of divorces before I found the love of my life at age 42. I went through a business failure and I'll definitely share more about that with you that I used to be over the a student nothing bad happens here and then that really shook my confidence. I got Crohn's disease there were numerous times where I felt completely stuck and almost lost hope. And then I figured out what helps me get unstuck and I became so curious. I started doing research and I've interviewed 100 People who had been stuck in some way and gotten unstuck, and I found patterns. I found seven things that tended to characterize how people got stuck. And so I wrote the book that is a step by step process for how you can get unstuck if you're stuck in your career. If you're stuck financially if you're stuck in your personal life. You can apply this to get unstuck and then maintain that trajectory long term,

Jamie Lee  13:26
So good. So what I'm hearing it's not really about never getting unstuck. I mean never never getting stuck. It is about finding the resilience to get unstuck.

Shira Miller  13:37
So true, because we're all gonna get stuck. You know, I'm if you told me 30 years ago, you're going to be Chief Communications Officer at a big company. I would have been thrilled but you know, none of my problems were different. It's, I get stuck, I get frustrated. I've got a very nice title and I'm very grateful for it, but there's still going to be challenges and in different aspects. Of your career and your life. So it's realizing that we're all going to get stuck. And what do we do when we get stuck? We don't want to sit in it for too long. We can take a breath, we can be compassionate, but then gather yourself up and start having forward momentum to getting unstuck and you have to sort through the overwhelm because frequently, people are stuck in multiple ways. I do have a quiz on my website so you can figure out what kind of stuckness most describes you. Some people might be what I call a Debbie Downer where if you've got the choice between positive and negative, you're gonna have your negative while others, they don't do you and that's not being authentic. Maybe your early career role models acted a certain way. They were super aggressive. No apologies take all prisoners. And that style doesn't work for you now or maybe ever so you got to figure out who are you now and how do you want to be as a leader?

Jamie Lee  15:03
Excellent questions. So this podcast negotiate your career growth is geared towards women who want to continue to advocate and advance their careers without burning out without burning bridges and so I'm really curious for you, how has advocating or negotiating for yourself helps you get unstuck because some people listening to this, you know, are feeling stuck on advocating for the promotion or the raise they want.

Shira Miller  15:33
You've got to start by believing in yourself and what I mean is maybe even creating the evidence that let's take the example of a promotion and then I'll give you a real world example about that. You have worked your butt off, you've generated great results for the company. When you want to create an ask for a promotion. You need to present it as evidence, but that's also for yourself. You need to be fully convinced that you deserve the promotion. And then you create your ask. And I think back to the end of 2017 2018 When I joined this company nine years ago my title was EVP of corporate communications. And I knew that I was performing at the chief communications officer level. I'd met all the other metrics there. And I would bring it up periodically to the CEO who was my boss, and he'd say, Okay, well at some point in the future, so I put a case together. And I said, this is the work I've been doing. This is the salary I should be having. And it's so funny when I brought everything in, I got tired of waiting for him. We often wait for others to notice some reward, where we really need to be advocating and asking for it ourselves. And if we don't get it the first time try again. Right there's you're not losing anything unless you're in a situation where you're like, Okay, I'm done. I can get this somewhere else, then, you know, it's time to move on. But, you know, I remember putting everything together. And when I came back, he said yes, of course. I've been waiting for you to ask again. So, it's, you've got to put yourself out there, people aren't necessarily going to sit there and unless you have the best boss in the world, they're not going to necessarily be saying oh, well so and so deserves to be promoted and they deserve these new assignments or rewards. You've got to be your own advocate. And I've seen it when I've asked for raises at different companies in the past. I do research on salary surveys. Usually I've got a friend in HR, I can ask some questions to have them look at information. And then when I present it I'm almost always gotten a yes. And I'll get a nice salary increase. I had to do this three or four times in my career, but I always enlist the help of HR beyond the research that I conduct on my own.

Jamie Lee  17:51
And how do you do that? What what kind of questions do you ask HR or how have you enlisted HR colleague as your ally?

Shira Miller  18:01
I'm going to go back to an example when I was a director at a billion dollar company and this is just over 20 years ago. And I found out inadvertently that I was the lowest paid director in the company now. I was probably the youngest director in the company. And I knew that when I joined the company, but I went to the HR director and I made an appointment to talk to him and I said, I started out by why I really was grateful to have the job. And what I liked, I didn't do it in a threatening matter. I talked about why I was happy to be there. But then I didn't feel I was being compensated. And I would like their help in looking at different options. And in that case, this is before salary surveys were easily available online. And so I remember Samuel pulled the information for me and we looked at it and he said yes, there's a $20,000 difference, which was expecially, big 20 years ago, and what you need to ask for. And so I remember asking for his help. I said, I'm going to put together a memo can I get out, get your input, and he gave it to me I already had a good relationship with Him. We work together on different projects. So communications and HR tend to work closely together. So he became my advocate in looking at that and when I presented it to actually I was reporting to a CEO at the time, he was receptive and I got the raise. I would not have if I hadn't had that information and the guidance from HR on the best way to ask for it asking without emotion is key. Rely on the facts. And that's important in a business environment. You can respond with emotion later, if you don't get what you feel like you deserve. You got a couple of options. If you're not given that, okay, we can look at this again in six months or a year. And you particularly kind of done with the culture, okay, yeah, then you can get pissed off, not to them, but you know, it's time to move on. That gives you a clue about what the roadmap is going to be there.

Jamie Lee  19:56
This is brilliant, and I love that you use HR as your ally, knowing that HR is not the decision decision maker but a key stakeholder to enlist. And in your case, leverage. Yes, well done. And I'm curious for you. This is another thing that I often talk to my clients about is how important was the role of painting a vision of future vision? You know, I like to think about it as like, when you are negotiating, advocating for yourself you're painting a mutual vision of success, right in this bigger capacity in this role. Here's how I'm going to help the company knock it out of the park, but I'm curious what that was like for you.

Shira Miller  20:43
That is so key. I have a whole chapter I have an exercise in my book on how to create a vision board and how to go through visualization. You really have to see it in order to achieve it. I happen to be a very visual person. I'm actually going to bring something into the screen. You're like, Oh, sure. It's got arts and crafts. I create a vision board every year. Nice is my vision board about what I want to create next, because we all have different goals and dreams at different times. Yeah, you've got to paint the picture. I happen to deal with words. So I might write it out. And that's how I add resonance. What does it look like? What does it feel like when I come to work each day? Or if you're really visual, you might want to create a vision board and I have a physical board that I had printed but it could be on your phone or or your laptop or you know however you want to present that. I think it's key because energetically it gives you something to focus on. Have you ever heard of the reticular activating system RAS?

Jamie Lee  21:45
I have heard of it. Yes. Maybe you can remind me because my memory is a little bit fuzzy on that right now.

Shira Miller  21:52
I'm just excited. I'm bringing some science in. Okay, this is one of the few science factoids that stuck with me, Jamie. So your brain will focus on what ever whatever you focus on is what your brain is going to activate. Let's say that you buy a new car and it's a blue car and you're very excited. All of a sudden you drive around and you notice everybody else has a blue car. It's what you focus on, you start to notice. So when you visualize what you want, you energetically start to bring it into life. And I'm a big believer in that and it's it's funny because I sound a little bit of science a little bit of new age. But it's true that when you start focusing on, okay, I want to be a director and a $2 billion company. And here's how I'd like it to take shape and form. And here's what I'd like to do in a day. Here's the kind of impact I want to have. And here's how I'd like to be described for my impact by everybody else. When you start bringing that to life. You're going to start noticing how everything responds. You might be given more opportunities. You might see opportunities and volunteer to do new things at work that advance your goals and vision. It might embolden you to speak up more in meetings. And

Jamie Lee  23:06
it might embolden you to ask for the promotion to directorship.

Shira Miller  23:11
Yes, yes. Which is ultimately the goal. Yeah,

Jamie Lee  23:14
I totally hear you because I heard in an audio book, I think it was suggestible you by Eric Vance. I could be wrong, but it's a book about how our brain functions and how memory functions. And he talks about how our eyes are the outposts of the brain. Or maybe it was, was a different psychologist, but in any case, are our eyes are the optic nerves that are most attached closest to the brain. Right? And so when we expose our optic nerves to the things that we want to see, it shapes what we perceive to be our reality because reality is really stitched together in the brain by the different modalities of how we perceive information. So I totally This is really cool. And so besides that particular you said it was the RAS tool Reticular Activating

Shira Miller  24:14
reticular activating system, it's just it's a that's something that I learned from the psychologists that I interviewed for my book. Excellent.

Jamie Lee  24:21
And are there any other tools that helped you advocate for yourself if three, four times that you did negotiate for those leadership positions? What helps you advocate for yourself from a position of strength?

Shira Miller  24:35
There's a tool that I've created, it's in the book. Anyone can do this. I call it a reverse bucket list. So you know what a bucket list is. It's an aspirational list of things you want to do before you kick the bucket before you die. And this case a reverse bucket list. You list everything you've already done. And I mean, anything that you're proud of. It might have been that you put yourself through school. Maybe you broke a cycle where you weren't raised by great parents, but you happen to be a good parent now because of choices. When you look at your career. List out everything that you have done. It could be you know, increasing sales by 10% or becoming a really good manager of people and hearing what they have to say on annual reviews about you too or or during a 360 So I asked people list it out. I do this myself, you know, everything you can think of. And then after a while, I go back and read the list, and I let myself feel everything on it like the surge of wow, I got healthy or oh my gosh, I came back from a business failure to do even more. And then I feel such a sense of possibility and personal power. From that place. I can get unstuck and see what's possible, and that's where I tend to make my most powerful asks.

Jamie Lee  26:03
I love that. So this is a lot similar to what I talked about when I talk about taking stock of your contributions taking stock of your wins. And sometimes I advise my clients almost on a daily basis, just jot down three things that you got done even if it is as small as I made myself drink a green smoothie today, or I made myself workout first thing in the morning even though all they wanted to do was scroll on Instagram, right? Like giving ourselves the validation first before we seek it outside of us or think about okay, where else how else do I take this confidence to ask for the things that I want or to go for the goals that I want to achieve? So reverse bucket list. I love that because it kind of makes you think about your life from a retrospective right from from like 30,000 foot view how rich is my life? How much have I already accomplished? So good. So tell us about turning setbacks into comebacks. I understand you know this is a key theme. I want to hear more about it because first of all it's catchy. I love it turning setbacks to come backs. I mean this is sort of like how do we get unstuck? Tell me Tell me more.

Shira Miller  27:23
Setacks when things don't go the way you want or worse, make you more resilient. They can make you smarter. You can realize it tests you in many ways. And I've alluded to this several times in the conversation back in 2009. During the Great Recession. I used to own a public relations firm won a lot of awards. We run a fancy office tower. I had a half dozen people on my team and I did not see the great recession coming. And that year 200,000 small businesses failed. And mine was one of them. And when I say failed, I kept going but I had to I was in $100,000 worth of business debt. I had to let wonderful people go and do all of the work myself for four years to pay off all that debt. That was a hell of a setback. And I ended up at the tail end of it, you know, sick with Crohn's disease and all of that. But what I realized, if I can get through that, I can do anything. It's like your worst scenario comes true and you realize I'm still standing not only am I standing, but in some ways I'm thriving and it gives you the confidence to ask for more. And also for me, I'm really passionate about helping other people get unstuck. And I realized that the more I talked about my setbacks, and the more authentic I was that I could really help other people. There are so many people in the C suite that feel like we've got to be all polished and perfect. And that's BS. We're all just people who've done dumb things and have been scared and sometimes don't want to get out of bed and I don't care if you're the CEO of a $20 billion company, you've got a day where you don't want to get out of bed in the morning. You might not want to admit that to investors, but it's true. So all of those setbacks have made me realize talk about it. I can help so many other people and I can come back stronger which is what I did. I reinvented myself I went back into corporate now I'm a multi hyphenate who I enjoy my corporate job but I'm speaking and trying to motivate others and eventually the speaking and writing will be my my full time gig at some point in the future.

Jamie Lee  29:38
I really appreciate this because you know what you bring to this is real, authentic compassion. Thank you. Yeah. And when you really been through, you know what you have been through and you come back from it. You it just, yeah, again, it just feels so authentic and real. And also, I really appreciate you letting us know the worst thing that can happen can happen. But it can also turn out to be something you bounce back from something you look back on and you realize, oh that helped me achieve new or different heights. That I didn't even know that I didn't even anticipate. 

Shira Miller  29:38
I have a much more fulfilling life now than I did. 15 years ago, when I had the glossy firm and won awards and very big clients. This is the life I'm leading now is who I am and I'm really happy and grateful for it. Yeah,

Jamie Lee  30:39
thank you for that. So where can folks go to learn more about you, as well as the book free and clear.

Shira Miller  30:49
They can go to my website which is Shira: You can take a quiz on my website to find out how you might be stuck. You can learn about the book. I've got over 100 free articles that can help people thrive in their career. It's about authentic leadership getting unstuck in your personal and professional life. And that's probably the best place to go.

Jamie Lee  31:12
Excellent. Is there anything else that I haven't yet asked? That you want to make sure we talk about or address.

Shira Miller  31:21
There is one thing considering your audience that I feel really strongly about and I'm a 50 Something woman don't feel like you have to wait to get your voice. Something happens when you get your 40s and 50s where you just don't give a crap and you start becoming more open about things. I would love it if 28, 30 to 34 year old women out there, hear this and realize you don't have to apologize you can go for what you want. Figure out what gives you meaning and fulfillment. Don't apologize and go for it.

Jamie Lee  31:55
And also the takeaway for me is don't be afraid of failure. Right? 

Shira Miller  32:02
Right. Oh my gosh, I you know, I think about growing up. I was so scared of failure. And then when it happens, you're like, I got through that and look, somehow I'm even more successful, or I take more chances. Everybody has failed. Albert Einstein, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, and it came they came back stronger and better.

Jamie Lee  32:26
 Yes. One of my mentors said success is built on a pile of failures.

Shira Miller  32:31
Yes. Smart mentor. Yes. Well,

Jamie Lee  32:35
this has been just purely delightful. I have really enjoyed learning from you Shira and about your journey, your experiences. Thank you very much for your time.

Shira Miller  32:47
Thank you. It's been a pleasure speaking with you.