This week on the Revivify Podcast, we’re joined by Leyah Valgardson, founder and CEO of Leader’s Voice. We had a fantastic talk on mentoring, lifting up women in the industry, and dealing with others’ biases.

Full Podcast Transcript

Grace Mase  00:04

Hello, and welcome to Revivify Podcast. I'm your host on Grace Mase, and today we're super excited to speak with Leyah Valgardson. She is the CEO of Leader’s Voice Welcome, Leyah.

Leyah Valgardson

Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Grace Mase

I love to be able to share with our audience of who you are and what you do. And I think what you've done is incredibly helpful for women in construction. So if you might share with us how you got started?

Leyah Valgardson  00:35

Yes, of course. So I actually have a pretty long history in homebuilding, if you will in construction. My dad is a general contractor, so I grew up on the jobsite, as a very young girl, he sent me out to pick up garbage. And then of course, as I grew and my skills grew, I ended up doing pretty much everything from roofing houses, to laying foundation forms, to framing. So I had a pretty good idea of how a home went together and what construction was all about. And after I finished my college education, I started working for large production home builders, and kicked off my career working for Pulte Homes in Las Vegas. And just continued to follow my career with different builders as well as with a company that does consulting for builders as well. So I was really in charge of the customer experience and was often out on the job site, and then I was able to do training and development for a company as well.

Grace Mase  01:33

So that's great. That's a pretty exciting path from picking up trash to now supporting women all over the country here. Did you receive any support from other women in the industry?

Leyah Valgardson  01:45

I did. Yes. That's such a great question, Grace, because it's clearly a very male dominated industry. I believe the last statistics that I saw a few months ago, it's still less than 10% of construction workers are women. However, I was really blessed. My first role, as I mentioned, I was with Pulte in Las Vegas, I had a manager who was a woman, and she was fantastic. She was just so great to help guide and to lead me through and navigate through those waters, you know, because what I didn't realize even though I have this extensive background in homebuilding, I didn't realize some of the struggles that I would have as a woman in this male dominated industry. Her name is Nicole Spriggs McClary, and she was just so great at being a wonderful leader who really leaned into her femininity, but stood her ground, and was able to climb and to rise in her career up into a vice president level, and was a really great mentor and helped to guide me as I was this young girl in my career. So I was really fortunate to have her.

Grace Mase  02:47

Now along the way, I assume you have faced many challenges, what were they, and how did you overcome them?

Leyah Valgardson  02:54

Ah, yes, several challenges. In fact, today, I often talk about them, and I joke about them, because I think it's good to laugh about things that happen that are funny. But there's this one story that I like to tell as I was climbing in my career, you know, I kept rising up and was eventually at a director status. And so I was the senior member on the job site and was out with all the guys, we just walked houses to make sure the quality level was up and that everything was on schedule, and went back into the job shack. I know everyone knows what I'm talking about, you can probably picture this scenario, right?

So we go into the job shack and I'm typing away on my computer, and some of my colleagues have their feet kind of up on the desk, if you will, just kind of kicking back after our walkthrough. And a trading partner comes in, and he swings the door open. And he looks around the trailer, zeroes in on me typing on my computer, tosses his papers down on my computer and says, “Hey, can you make me some copies?” He just assumed that I'm the secretary, which was kind of funny, and of course, I didn't make copies that day. I let him know that that wasn't my role, and that he could make his own copies if he wanted some, you know, just little things like that. They tend to happen quite often, and I don't think that this is exclusive to construction either. But it seems to happen more frequently, just because of the ratio of men to women.

Grace Mase  04:10

Right? Do you think over the years, the trend would tend to be less? Or what do you think?

Leyah Valgardson  04:18

I think there's a lot more awareness nowadays than there ever has been in the past. Which is a really, really great thing. I think most people, men and women, well, I'll start here, every one of us has biases, right? We can't get away from them. They just are inherent in who we are, and now the problem is unconscious biases. They're called unconscious because we're not aware of them, right? I believe most people do not intend harm on another person. That's pretty unusual, I believe, when someone is very intentional about being unkind in a bias. So what can happen is, when we have these biases, or when we are faced with a bias, it's our responsibility to help coach someone, instead of getting angry about it or, you know, having a fit or whatever the case may be, if we can help coach someone to show them where that bias is that they weren't aware of before, we're doing them a favor. We're actually helping to shift everything, we're helping to shift the culture within our company, we're helping to shift our industry, we're helping to shift the overall culture of the world. And I believe that is a responsibility that each of us has when we're faced with these biases is to help educate and to help coach in a positive way. And so I do see that happening more and more, and I didn't mention it, but I, you know, I left the homebuilding industry to start my own business where I work with women to help them rise in their careers. And oftentimes, I will speak and when I do, there's a mixed audience, and I have several men come up to me after and say, “I have daughters, and I want them to have just as many opportunities as my sons do. So, what can I do to help?” And that alone, I think, is proof of how things are shifting and how things are changing across the board, which is really fantastic. Especially when I believe men are getting involved, and they're seeing that there is a challenge and a problem and what they can do. I think that's a win for everyone.

Grace Mase  06:12

Absolutely. Now, I love how you talk about awareness. And the conversations are ongoing, and people are much more cognizant of their behavior, and hopefully we'll see one day soon that we will treat gender equality as something to no longer discuss as a topic that we want to talk about anymore.

Leyah Valgardson  06:31

Yes, I would love I would love it if we didn't have to say the first female president or I would love it. If we didn't have to have women's clubs and women's employee resources, resource groups, it would be just great to have everyone you know.

Grace Mase  06:44

So that's actually a good segue. What advice would you give for young women, young ladies, who are interested in this profession and want to start the path and construction or design whatnot?

Leyah Valgardson  06:58

Okay, that's a great question. Grace, thank you so much. A couple of things come to mind, as I'm working with women. And as I'm coaching them, I find that confidence seems to be the number one thing that keeps women from moving forward in their career and their lives, quite frankly. And we're all one person, right? We like to think that we can compartmentalize our lives, from work, to school, to personal life to whatever, but it's not possible, we're all one. And so if we're struggling in one area, it's going to flow over into another and confidence seems to be a big barrier for women. And rightfully so because you know, we are, we're still trying to navigate through this when we don't have as many female leaders to look up to because the ratio is just not there yet. So the first thing I would say is, let's find a way for you to increase your confidence, and I believe many, there's many ways to do that. And I think that's very individualized, but one way we can do that is for every one of us to have a mentor, and a sponsor. Now, many people don't even know what the differences between those two or have never even heard the term sponsor. So I really want to share this, I think it's so important, especially for those who are young in their career, a mentor, all of us have heard that term. This is someone who's going to show you how to do your job very well, they often can a peer or someone just barely above you as far as seniority in your position, but they're going to show you how to do your job very, very well. Now a sponsor on the other hand, is someone who has the authority, and the ability, and quite frankly, the respect to be able to pave the way for your career. So these are people who are in those board meetings, these are people who are sitting around leadership tables, and these are people who can actually make decisions to affect you, and in a positive way. So this is not going to be someone sitting next to in the similar position and role. It needs to be someone in a higher position, who when they're talking about a stretch project, or when they're talking about a promotion, they can say, “hey, Grace's ready for this. I know, she's only been on the job for two years. But I have seen her do X, Y, and Z, and she can do this.” Now that is incredibly important because they are the ones who are going to push you forward in your career. Many times people want to know why someone would sponsor you. It seems pretty one sided, right? But it actually benefits both because for a sponsor to have a sponsoree, I don't know if that's the correct term or not. But to have that person perform really well, it makes the sponsor look pretty darn fantastic. So it actually benefits their career as well. And additionally, people like to help people, it gives them more purpose and more meaning in their career. So that is really, really great advice for anyone in any stage of their career, but most especially if you're just starting out is to make sure you have a mentor, and make sure you find a sponsor. And it may be the same person but you definitely want to have both of those because that's going to help you really perform well in your job and your career and then to move you forward in your career.

Grace Mase  09:52

Thank you. That's extremely valuable. I remember sitting in the audience, listening to you talk about a sponsor and then for a longest time, I only thought there's just a mentor, and I didn't understand the concept of a sponsor till you started to explain it to us. Thank you. This is, if nothing in life, this is probably one of the things that we all need to learn to take this very thoughtfully of having someone who's mentoring us at the same time finding someone sponsoring us, and help us to continue to grow as individuals and also in company wide.

Leyah Valgardson10:25

Yes, absolutely.

Grace Mase  10:26

Well, Leyah, you’ve been such a great coach, and also a mentor for many of us as sponsoring in some way. So being here for us is extremely valuable. And we can't, I can't thank you enough for helping us and lifting up the community, and all of us to elevate together in this industry.

Leyah Valgardson 10:49

It is my pleasure. Thank you so much for allowing me to do so.

Grace Mase  10:52

So how would our audience get in touch with you?

Leyah Valgardson  10:56

You can just go to my website, which is LeadersVoice.co, just want to clarify that it is .co not .com. And in fact, one of the things that I talk a lot about is having a voice and using your unique leadership voice. And if you go to my homepage, you can actually take a quiz that will help you to identify what your unique leader voice style is, so that's always a fun thing to identify. And then of course, you can connect with me on there or on social media sites, and please do just reach out. I'm pretty easy to get a hold of and I will always respond.

Grace Mase  11:26

Excellent. Well, thank you so much, Leyah. This is Leyah Valgardson, founder and CEO of Leader’s Voice, and thanks again for listening and we'll see you next time.