Transcript of the No-Bullsh!t Vegan podcast, episode 158
Nancy Wehnert on how her approach to leadership coaching connects with veganism
Karina Inkster: Hey, welcome to the show. I'm Karina your go-to no BS vegan fitness and nutrition coach. I just got back from a trip to Ontario to visit my 97-year-old grandma, who by the way, swims daily in the summer and strength trains twice a week. And the day I got home, I came down with the world's worst cold. So I apologize for my sick voice. Now, if you're a new listener or a long-term listener, I would love to hear from you. Let me know what kind of topics you'd like to have me cover on the show. Any particular fitness or nutrition or vegan-related BS you'd like to have me bust or just drop me a line to say hi.
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Introducing my guest for today, Nancy Wehnert. Nancy is a leadership coach who works with leaders and their teams. After running her own company for 15 years and seeing her team members struggling with how to perform at their best, she became passionate about leadership and building cohesive, high-performing teams. She takes a different approach to leadership saying, “it's really more of a personal development journey that I take my clients on. They begin to let go of their conditioning and self-sabotaging behaviour, and once that happens, they're able to more naturally step into taking action that is the foundation for a good team. There's more collaboration, better communication, and much higher productivity. A beautiful side effect is that they're able to connect on a much deeper level with those at work and in their personal lives, and they operate from a much more authentic place.”
Nancy's favourite vegan meal is red lentils, brown rice, and steamed vegetables with walnuts and olive oil. Here's our conversation. Nancy, welcome to the show. Thanks so much for coming on and speaking with me today.
Nancy Wehnert: Hi. Thanks for having me. It's great to be here.
Karina Inkster: And it's been a while since we've caught up, so we worked together a while back and I can't remember how many months it's been, but it's been a while. How are things down under? What's going on in Nancy's world?
Nancy Wehnert: Yeah, I've been busy and I just have to say that your program is amazing and I recommend it to anyone who is looking to do something like that. And yeah, I have just been busy with my leadership coaching and also at the moment working on a framework around some trauma healing and healing unmet needs. So a bit of deep work going on over here.
Karina Inkster: Yes. Well, it's all important stuff and we're going to go a little more in-depth in some of these topics around leadership and coaching and what you do and all these things. But for now, whenever someone comes on the show who's in the plant-based world, which is most folks, but not everyone, I like to ask what your connection is to plant-based eating, to veganism, to that whole land of awesomeness and ethical choices. So was there a catalyst for you? Can you share with our listeners how you came to the concept of veganism?
Nancy Wehnert: Yeah, sure. I remember it was maybe 10-plus years ago, and there was, I don't know if everyone remembered, but in Australia, it was a really big deal. There was a boat of sheep that went across to the Middle East and I believe they got stuck or stranded or they were unable to unload them, and there was a lot of footage and a lot of suffering. And I finally connected all of that, what was going on with what was on my plate, and the vets were crying, the people were upset, and I thought, how are we doing this all the time?
And so yeah, I made that connection and I just realized I do not want to be a part of that system at all. And so from that point on, I decided to really look into being vegan. And from there, it was a journey. It wasn't easy at the start because it was over 10 years ago and I think it was still more brand new back then, and it felt at the time a bit like learning a new culture, a new way to eat, but that was what really got me into veganism and becoming vegan.
Karina Inkster: Right. Yes, that makes sense. It's interesting because a lot of folks have an experience like that or they watch something or something was on the news or they came across a book and it had this profound almost waking up experience like, oh, wait a second, I need to make a connection here and make a change after making that connection. So thanks for sharing that. That's pretty powerful.
Nancy Wehnert: Yeah, it was. And every time I thought, oh, can I do this? I just would remember what was really happening and that would get me straight back on track again.
Karina Inkster: Right. Yeah, good call. Well, we're going to talk about leadership and we're going to talk about veganism, which is an interesting combination and interesting relationship. Now you're a leadership coach and one of your points, we have many interesting points to discuss, but one of them is that people right now are looking for something different when it comes to leadership. I think maybe just even generally in life. So you mentioned folks want to be seen, they want to be heard, they want to be acknowledged, they want to feel valued. And possibly because of what the world has gone through in recent years, a lot of folks are reassessing their priorities and questioning what they really want. So how do those concepts factor into what you do?
Nancy Wehnert: Yeah, that's exactly right. I've noticed that people are reassessing their priorities. And I guess it started when I had my company a few years ago and I had a workshop full of people and realized that there were sort of a younger generation, but they really wanted to be seen and heard, witnessed and acknowledged. And I feel like what's happened with the rest of the world is the same thing. People now are reassessing priorities and really want to be seen. And so I looked into our leadership styles in the workplace and I felt that they weren't really satisfying what people were wanting at the time. And so I went away and really tried to find what people are looking for in leadership today.
And it really comes down to connection. I think that the world, we're in a crisis of disconnection at the moment, and new leadership styles need to come in where we really focus on connection. Placing that real importance between people and each other. And that really starts with people reconnecting to themselves.
I think that we're starting to feel empty and people are really in the world feeling that there is something missing. And I guess the connection with vegan people is that vegan people really understand that critical aspect of connection. When you think about it, we can only do what we are doing to animals when we're completely disconnected from them. And there's no way that we could do this if we were truly connected to them. So I think that's why most people would never eat a dog, but they don't think twice about having a steak at night. And so yeah, that's how I connected leadership with veganism, is that leaders, we're looking to connect people more. The new style leadership really wants to connect with people, and vegan people are already starting to do that on their journey of being vegan.
Karina Inkster: Interesting, interesting. So you mentioned old leadership and new leadership, and I want to talk about the vegan piece in a little more detail as well, about connection and how that might factor into leadership styles. But what is an old style of leadership and what's the new style of leadership?
Nancy Wehnert: So the old style of leadership, it doesn't take into account the real, that complex array of human needs that are unique to each individual. So the old style is more about an exchange. You give me this and I'll give you that. And it really perpetuates that original core trauma wound that each of us have or most of us had that we're not recognized for who we are. And that leads to a disconnection. So when we're not recognized for who we are, we are sort of disconnected with the people around us.
And so new leadership will really take into account that uniqueness and will take into account the experiences of the individual and really place a focus on stripping away the old conditioning and survival behaviours that many of us have to get back to that authentic person. So new leadership really helps people perform as the best version of themselves and really just brings out the best in them. And I think that is what people are wanting. They want to go to work these days and feel like they're valued and the old style of leadership doesn't really take into account their unique needs.
Karina Inkster: So the old style of leadership, I mean, what did that come out of? Is this a corporate default setting that a lot of folks have and they just assume that that's the right way to do things?
Nancy Wehnert: And it came out of the industrial revolution where we started manufacturing and everyone went to work and was loyal at their jobs and just I guess had to show up just for their paycheque. And then they were committed to that, but they never really got to bring their true version. They sort of left themselves at the door and then went to work.
Karina Inkster: Interesting. And then so the new leadership is a little bit more holistic, would you say? Does it take more of an individual into account?
Nancy Wehnert: Yeah. So the new style of leadership really takes into account the wellbeing of people. And I think that leaders and organizations have started to know that for quite a while now, that we really want to bring in the wellbeing of people, but we don't really know how to do that. So we're in new territory at the moment and people know that they want something different, but they don't really know exactly what it is or how it looks like or how to get there.
And so it's really important for leaders and organizations to start looking at how we can really reconnect with people, how can we connect to their authentic self? Because when people get back to a place where they are the more real version of themselves, that's when innovation comes through. That's when more productivity comes through. That's where efficiency comes through, more efficiency comes through. And so yeah, that's sort of the way we need to be going for with organizations.
Karina Inkster: How does that factor into the work that you do with folks in the leadership realm? Are they coming to you because they have this idea of the skills that they want to learn and where they want to be as leaders, but they don't really know the steps?
Nancy Wehnert: It's interesting. I have the people that come to me that don't really know what they're going to get because it is a new style of leadership that I offer and it is almost like a journey of self-development. And so a lot of the old style leadership focuses on what you need to do and how you need to be doing it versus transforming the person to become somebody who can do that automatically. So it's a real deep dive into their individual personalities and we uncover a lot of their self-sabotaging behaviour. We undo a lot of the conditioning that they have.
And so what emerges when you remove all of that is a really just a beautiful leader or a beautiful team member who can more authentically show up at work. So a few of my clients have just been very surprised with the results that they get and have said that it's just a very, very different form of leadership style or leadership coaching.
Karina Inkster: We mentioned earlier a little bit about the connection or the similarity or some relationship between veganism and this new type of leadership that folks are looking for in the world. You mentioned that the connection is easier for vegans to see, for example, the connection between what we're eating and what happens to animals. Can we go into a little more detail around this? You mentioned vegans might be early adopters of this new style, but why is that?
Nancy Wehnert: It occurred to me as I was developing this new style of leadership that I really feel the world needs and is looking for now, that there were a lot of similarities to vegan people. And this desire, this idea that the world is in a bit of a state at the moment, and we are in such desperate need of good leadership and leadership, what people are wanting is to connect. And I'm not sure if everybody realizes that, but as I said, we've been so disconnected from ourselves and from the world and the outer, the external environment is a reflection of our internal environment, which is disconnection. And so I really noticed as sort of to recognize that vegans really are those early adopters of the change that the world is seeking. So people know they want something different, they have an idea, but the vegans, they really take it to that next level.
They understand that there is a gross disconnection from the animals and the planets where we're really disconnected from animals and from nature. And so I noticed that they're perhaps aware sooner than a lot of people that this could be a really important first step to take in order for us to start reconnecting to ourselves. And starting with the animals and the planet is such a key place. So it's a good reflection of the direction that the world needs to take. And so with the leadership style, it parallels with the new style of leadership that we need to bring into the world, which is really all about connection.
Karina Inkster: Interesting. I like this concept. So the idea of veganism or the ethical basis of veganism parallels this style is what you're saying that folks are wanting more of in the world?
Nancy Wehnert: And I really believe that for vegans, the message that I'd like to send to them is that this isn't just about saving the animals or saving the planet. This really is the shift and part of the transformation that the entire world needs and is so wanting to take and just not sure how to take those steps, perhaps those first steps. And I really believe that vegan people are some of the first to be doing that.
Karina Inkster: Interesting. Okay. So we're talking about some pretty broad constructs like connection, and I'm not 100% sure what that looks like in practice. So if you're working with a client on this new style of leadership and they may or may not know that connection is an important piece of this, what does that actually look like? You mentioned connection to the self, but I assume it's also connection to other humans and our world, but what are the logistics around working with someone on a construct like connection? What do you actually work on with them?
Nancy Wehnert: Yeah, great question. So one part of my program is where we identify self-sabotaging behaviour. And self-sabotaging behaviour, we all have it. We might not want to realize it, but we do. It's an original survival strategy that we created to survive in the world. And once you identify your self-sabotaging behaviour, you realize and recognize that it really impacts how you connect and how you communicate with other people. So for example, some people may jump to frustration very quickly and that will determine how they communicate with others. And they might be frustrated because they have controlling tendencies or perhaps they're a very hyper-vigilant person or perhaps they're even an avoided.
So some of these self-sabotaging behaviours like controlling and avoiding and being hyper-vigilant will really impact the communication style. So once we start to reduce those tendencies, people begin to have real genuine, authentic conversations. They start asking for what they need, they start listening, they judge less. And that then impacts the other person that they're speaking with because that will then bring out the better version of the other person.
So the essence of it really is that communication improves. And when your communication improves, you begin to connect with people at a different level. You have conversations that you never thought you'd be having before. You listen, you stop the judging. And then feeling strong enough to be able to have those conversations. So a lot of my clients, their biggest concern is to be able to communicate better in difficult situations. And so as they go through this process and they reconnect to themselves and to the original version of who they were before all the self-sabotaging behaviour came in. Once they do that, they're able to have those different conversations with people and have difficult conversations, but in a very non-judgmental, but firm way that takes into account the other person's situation.
Karina Inkster: Got you. Okay. So this is kind of different from being your authoritarian leader style who basically just tells folks what to do. This is more about what is everyone experiencing? Where's everyone at? Are you listening actively? Are you communicating properly? Am I getting that right?
Nancy Wehnert: Exactly. That's right. And I think people know now that this is the type of leadership that we need. The part that I feel is missing is that it's difficult to do that until you've got an element of self-mastery within yourself. So we understand that these are the qualities of a good leader. Unless that leader has been able to connect with themselves and communicate with themselves at a deep level, it's difficult to take that into the workplace and into the team environment.
Karina Inkster: Right. Interesting. So what does that look like then when you work with someone on this individual level, because that's not even looking at how they operate necessarily in a leadership position or as part of a team? This is on a very individual basis. So what kind of things are you looking at in that sphere?
Nancy Wehnert: So one of the big ones is judgment. And we work a lot on judgment of self. So once you realize, and my clients didn't realize before how much judgment was coming into their lives. So we judge other people, we judge ourselves, and we judge other things. And once you become aware of how much you're judging, you see that it is everywhere. And we really work on reducing the judgment of self. And what happens then is that you start to develop that more beautiful relationship with yourself. Most of the time we have some sort of judgment about ourselves.
And so that is how connecting with yourself becomes stronger because you're not judging yourself as much. And so that frees you up to be more innovative, to be able to reach out to other people, to connect more and have those different conversations. So it really impacts people on all levels of their lives. It's not just in the leadership or the team space or the going to work. It really is a deep profound internal transformation that happens within each individual person.
Karina Inkster: Interesting. Okay. See, this is intriguing to me because the judgment piece, I mean, I don't know what I was expecting out of your answer, but working on our own judgment of other people, ourselves, other things, that's super intriguing because I see it a lot. And you know what? I see it a lot in the vegan world, specifically. Judgment of other vegans, judgment of meat eaters, judgment of who knows what, ourselves as vegans probably. So I mean it's rampant everywhere, but maybe it's because I live in the vegan sphere, I see judgment a lot, not just of ourselves, but of everything to do with veganism.
Nancy Wehnert: Yeah, absolutely. You're right, it is everywhere. It's something that is been part of who we are because it's a protective mechanism. So we protect ourselves through judging and impact all people. And this is part of the work of the new style of leadership, is to reduce that judgment within ourselves and for other people become more accepting of who we are and who others are. And through doing that, we connect to that more truer version of ourselves. And that true version of ourselves really generally wants the best that is possible for everyone. But there's so much judgment that gets in the way of that. You're right.
Karina Inkster: Yeah, it's one of those things. I've never heard it described as a survival mechanism or something that's innate. It makes sense as a social construct, but that's not sure I've heard it put that way before.
Nancy Wehnert: So early on as infants, we really needed our first caregivers around to survive. There was no other option. We needed our caregivers to pay attention to us, to see us and to survive. And we have realized early on that in order for the best success, we may have needed to change ourselves in order to get that attention. And so this is where we first became disconnected from ourselves and our authenticity was, I guess, we had to sort of squash our authenticity because we needed to fit into the tribe or fit into the group. And with that comes judgment. So we are judging our situation and we start judging ourselves. Am I good enough? Do I fit in here? What are the other people doing?
And so it really is that survival mechanism that we developed. And for some people it's a lot stronger than others, but we've got to remember first of all that it was a survival mechanism. So it was useful at one point. But fast-forward years and decades on, and it's no longer useful for us, but we have stayed with this conditioning of judgment. And that is one of the first things that we work on, is reducing that judgment so that you get to reconnect back to who you are. And then that is what helps us reconnect to other people as well. It's almost impossible to have good discourse between people when there's high judgment around. So it's a really important aspect of this new style of leadership.
Karina Inkster: Right. Absolutely. All of these things put together working on folks individually, working on how they connect with other humans - is that what your programs are offering? I know you have a leadership program, self-mastery for leaders and teams, you do one-on-one work with folks. Maybe you could tell me a little bit about those workpieces.
Nancy Wehnert: I work one-to-one with the leaders, and we really dive deep into their conditioning. And it's done in a very gentle way so that it's not too confronting, but we uncover everything that's holding them back from being the best version of them as a leader. I also work with their teams either one-to-one or in groups. And when you get a group of people all doing this work together, it is such a powerful change, a very powerful change, and it happens quite quickly. So the program is not usually what people expect, but it's super powerful. And really one of the side effects of this leadership program is that it impacts every area of their life as well. And they're noticing their relationships at home are better, relationships with family are better, they're feeling better within themselves. They're doing things that they would never have thought that they would be able to do before. So it's a very self-developmental program in the guise of a leadership program.
Karina Inkster: I like that. And then, is that what you mean by your program? It's group kind of thing, but you also have the one-to-one work?
Nancy Wehnert: Yeah, so I do one-to-one with the leader, and I can also do one-to-one with the teams, or I could do a group team. But I always take the leader through one-to-one because it's important for them to have the extra support as they're going through this transformation. And they really need that sort of one-to-one time where they can understand this process.
Karina Inkster: That makes sense. Well, before we finish up, Nancy, I wouldn't mind putting in a quick plug for the work that we did together in the fitness realm, if you're cool with that. We worked on a little bit of nutrition. I think there was some movement there in maybe how you viewed vegan foods and things like that, but I would love to have you speak to that. How was it for you and what did you get out of it?
Nancy Wehnert: Yeah, it was fantastic. So I, as you know, being vegan for over 10 years often tried to increase my exercise and get more toned or get more fit. I'd find that I'd get a bit tired and then I would end up stopping and going back and forth sort of seesawing. It occurred to me that perhaps I needed to get some more outside help because maybe I hadn't read about or educated myself well enough. And so that's when I decided to sign up with you and your team. And you just were able to help me understand my nutritional requirements and at the same time, give me the workout and the exercises that I needed to achieve my goal of getting more toned and more fit. And it was such a beautiful combination and support of having both of those needs met. I loved the chance that we could talk and I can message whenever I needed to.
And I think that your program is so key for the world and for vegans to really get the education that they need because being that there's so much information for the meat eaters, it's really critical that we have somebody that can help the plant-eaters. But I think because there's not enough information out there for us, and so coming to you and your team, it would just encompass all of that. And yeah, I was able to keep my energy up and tone, and that was so important to me. So it was the first time I was able to do that, which was fantastic.
Karina Inkster: That's super exciting. Well, thank you for that, much appreciated. And also, I do know, obviously because we worked together that you're the one who put in all the work. I mean, these things don't happen automatically, so you got to be consistent. And yes, we work with folks to create a plan that's reasonable and works with their schedule and all that. But we can't show up to your house and force you to work out. You're making that decision for yourself. You're food prepping for yourself, you're doing all these things. Forming new habits and deciding what to do with your day. So kudos to you for the work that you put in.
And we're both coaches of different types. We realize coaches have coaches all the time. We have lots of clients who are fitness coaches specifically, and they just want programming and accountability and all the reasons I have coaches of my own. So I think there's value to looking to folks who are doing things that you want to be doing and just immersing yourself in that world. And I assume that's what your clients are doing, where they see you as a leader, you have skills that you can help them with. They can change how they're operating, not just in the world, but at work with other team members. And I think that's really cool. I think that's what coaching is all about, and that's why I'm super excited we got to chat.
Nancy Wehnert: Absolutely. Yeah, that was great. Thank you so much for having me.
Karina Inkster: Thanks so much for coming on the show, Nancy.
Nancy, thanks again for speaking with me. Make sure you check out our show notes at nobullshitvegan.com/158 to connect with Nancy. And thank you for tuning in.