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An Interview With Motivational Facilitator At Woman of Substance & Spirit, Leslie Gray

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Below is our recent interview with Leslie Gray, Motivational Facilitator at Woman of Substance & Spirit:

Q: Could you provide our readers with a brief introduction to Woman of Substance & Spirit?

A: Women of Substance was borne out of my professional and personal experiences with how women relate to me and to one another over a near 30-year career. As I regularly interact with professional women in business, at various levels on the corporate ladder, I had grown tired of the consistent demonstration of insecurity,animosity and skepticism, in lieu of receptivity and partnership, when my goal as a consultant was to assist them and enhance their productivity, as I was hired to do. Too often, women are jealous and unsupportive of one another and rather than celebrate and embrace our differences, women isolate themselves and treat other women as the “enemy.”

Q: Leslie, can you tell us something more about your background? How did you get to where you are today?

A: I grew up in a small town in the Midwest, Munster, Indiana. I participated in sports for girls and having been in a “team” environment for most of my adolescence, I learned the benefits of collaboration and the value of the contribution that each individual makes to the bigger/better “whole.” I learned that I was unable to succeed individually in the way I wanted to, and surrounding myself with those who excelled helped me to model myself more strategically. I worked my way through my career, I “leveled up” to use a more relevant term, from answering a 26-line switchboard for a law firm in Pittsburgh, earning $9/hour, promoting to secretary to two partners, while going to night school, to receiving a paralegal education and supporting trial attorneys through deposition transcript analysis. It was at this point in my career that I was noticed by Adelaide Smith, she was affiliated with the local Allegheny County Bar Association in Pittsburgh. Ms. Smith introduced me to an attorney who was spinning off from Buchanan, Ingersoll, et. al. and needed an office administrator to assist him in starting a new law firm specializing in Health Care, Certificates of Need for Hospitals and Hospital/Physician Joint Ventures. Through my prior experience, I was able to help Stephen P. Nash get his firm completely leased, built out and hired his entire professional and support staff, a role that utilized every skill I had learned over the prior five years of “doing the work.”

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I moved to California in 1988 and while working one day, I was asked by a Partner in my law firm, “why are you here, why don’t you start your own business?” Again, it occurred to me that someone else saw in me what I hadn’t seen in myself….the ability to break out of the mold and it was that question that prompted me to actually think that I could be successful at running my own business. After all, each level of expertise we bring to the roles we serve in life, are essential business skills we all employ to grow and expand ourselves and make us employable for life. I’ve never looked back from that moment, forging ahead and co-founding Growth-Port Partners ( with my business partner and former Vice President of Human Resources to Carnation/Nestle, employment counsel, Tony Burnham, Esq.

While the foregoing all sounds promising, it was not without its pitfalls, minefields and challenges. I got married, had two children, and became a survivor of domestic violence, breast cancer and single-parenthood. I was also faced with raising a child with a chronic illness, Type 1 Diabetes, diagnosed at age 9 and growing a business in uncharted territory. What I soon learned was the need for perseverance out of which resilience is born. Fast forward to Women of Substance and Spirit. I engaged a life coach, Linda Rider, Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, and at the close of our sessions, Linda would say, “you are a woman of substance, and you are still standing.” That statement, that encouragement not only affirmed how I felt after having successfully navigated the foregoing path for over 15 years, but to have come through better and with such fortitude that I felt the obligation, the duty, if you will, to share how I did it with other women so that they TOO could find authentic living through the day to day struggles we all face. Further, that if we as women UNITE we could be so much stronger as a result, exercising POWER over what we once though was “competition” with one another, collaboration and support triumphs.

Q: What’s your experience from working with professional women in business all over the country?

A: Having worked with a variety of women from all walks of life, in positions ranging from small businesses, non-profits and large, publicly-traded companies, there seems to be a common underlying theme…women consistently comparing themselves and their lives with one another, wondering if they will truly ever be “enough.” Enough as a professional, a wife, a mother, a sister, daughter, volunteer, etc. Social media plays the “culprit” role in women competing with one another. Women have become SO quick to judge one another by their presence, the size or location of their home, their spouse and the position he holds, the cars they drive, where they vacation, where their children are schooled, their latest wardrobe addition, handbags and accessories, and sadly, what is often overlooked is the underlying struggle the women they envy are facing day to day. Most women never knew I was dealing with a troubled marriage, survived domestic violence, faced breast cancer as the single mother of two young sons and other health scares. This underlying struggle or something similar is faced by each of us in one way or another, so projecting a “perfect” life onto another woman based upon superficial information that is shared on social media is only viewing one facet of a diamond.

Q: Can you tell us something more about your workshops? What are the benefits of attending?

A: Beyond the message of my personal story which visibly resonates with women in the audience when I’m speaking, the Q&A that follows really permits the women to share with one another and demonstrates their willingness to step into vulnerability in a group of other women, as a STRENGTH. That there is no growth without divulging the hurt, the struggle, the pain and the NEED for support, there is NO SHAME in asking for help! No one understands women better than other women, and the moment women can begin to identify with the struggles of others, and SEE that their lives are the same, not always better, not always WORSE than what is depicted on social media, the playing field is leveled, the compassion and empathy is palpable and every woman leaves the workshops feeling as though they have a new network of women upon which they can call and rely to share and to do so without feeling judgment or criticism.

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Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: To remind women that each of us is as unique as our fingerprint, the cornerstone of our logo for Women of Substance and Spirit. To further expand my message to women all over the world, through seminars, workshops, future blogs and a book. In all forums, to include social media, addressing eight critical four-letter words that we as women permit to shape our lives, namely RISK, LOSS, PAIN, FEAR, LACK, WANT, DIET and TIME. As I share with my audiences, these words define how we love others and how we practice self-love and self-care and when we permit any of these words to paralyze us, we lose precious ground in our mission to live and be authentic human beings…as each of us bring special gifts that God has given to us to share with the world. None are greater or better than any others, they are all used in the proper timing and with the special delivery to propel each of us in our journey, which leads to the same high mountain among many, many paths.

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