Educating Entrepreneurs About Essential Capacities with Shawnette Rochelle

Oct 07, 2022

We’re going to be talking a lot about resilience today Shawnette Rochelle, the president of Excellence Unbounded and executive coach for entrepreneurs. There were yesterday’s tech issues and today’s lagging, which gave us some practice with resilience because we were determined to get this to you all. 


How did you get to the point where you are now an executive coach to entrepreneurs? What’s that backstory?


I was in the military for 20 years and I retired in Fall of 2018. After I retired, I decided to take that time to travel and get to know entrepreneurs on the ground. There’s head knowledge, theory and practice, and I knew that I wanted to get to know more on the ground level. From my time in the military, we learned to never do a mission without a ton of reconnaissance. We ground our theories and hypotheses with groundwork that allowed us to gain a better understanding of what we’re doing. 

I started in South Asia in Bangladesh meeting with microfinance institutions and actual borrowers, which allowed me to get a better understanding of their stories. Then I had the opportunity to meet with a fintech startup and another one that was working on providing Bangladeshi women who weren’t allowed to work outside of the home access to markets to sell their goods that they were making.   

I went to India for a couple of months and continued making my way East through Europe, North Africa, and South America. What I was really doing during that time was a lot of personal research in these places while immersing myself in a completely different way than if I were there on vacation with a specific end date. I had very few restrictions during my time there and a lot of time to speak with these entrepreneurs. I did the Georgetown leadership coach program in 2014 and did a lot of pro bono work for practice, so a lot of my conversations with these entrepreneurs in all these different countries started turning into coaching conversations. I was asking questions and they were starting to recognize things in their path, their decision making, and how they saw the world that had impacted whether or not they were making the impact they set out to make. 

Across these conversations, I found there were these four themes that kept coming up: Mindset, Courage, Resilience, and Innovation.  

When I got back from my travels in December of 2019, I spent a lot of time thinking about who I wanted to work with and what I could bring to the table to support them. The entrepreneurs that excite me the most are the ones who are wrestling with complex problems in their communities. That community could be the local community or global community. If Covid has taught us nothing, it has taught us that we are very connected and that there is a global community whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. 

Entrepreneurs who are trying to address income inequality, those who have solutions for climate change, or those who wish to address housing in communities. The more I sat back and thought about it, I recognized that if we want these entrepreneurs to be successful, then there are key aspects of development that can be supported and allowing them the space to develop in those four aforementioned areas will make the difference in terms of how they actually succeed in delivering their innovative and often very disruptive solutions.


What are some of the common things that really stop people from getting to the breakthrough point?


I think the biggest piece, that isn’t uncommon, is that we tend to focus outwards and seek solutions outside, when so many of the answers we need lie with the work that we do on the inside. Often, I think that there’s a focus cycle that follows the thinking of, “If I just had [Insert missing asset here], I’ll be successful.” It’s not to say that those things won’t contribute to your success, but what I’ve found is that the time that’s spent on mindset, which is a belief that helps you sort out what is happening or how to handle situations. 

We all have different beliefs. Some are conscious to us and many are unconscious to us and sit below the surface. Sometimes our behavior, emotions, or language will surface those underlying beliefs. What I’ve seen that makes a significant difference for entrepreneurs is when the work is done in the coaching sessions, which are really conversations that are dynamic and fluid. In that process, the questions that I ask entrepreneurs require them to be thoughtful and sit with those questions for a bit before they respond. 

When we understand what’s going on inside of us, there’s such a dramatic shift because now we have greater agency. When we’re aware of the different beliefs that are shaping what we’re capable of seeing, that puts us in an entirely different position because then we can stay on mission, while being able to recognize that there isn’t one specific path from A to Z and when we question our beliefs surrounding fixations on specific routes, we are then able to get to the root of stagnancy that hindered us from being courageous in our problem solving endeavors. 


If people learned to see themselves as abundant and understand that abundance is everywhere and that they can access it in a plethora of ways, maybe they wouldn’t get hung up on the capital or what you think you need in that setting, what are your thoughts on that?


I completely agree that some of it is what we’re able to see and that shift in what we’re able to see as possible happens through the inner work and getting a deeper understanding of who we are and how we’re showing up in the world and the power that we have to make those shifts through intentional actions. 

 One way that manifests for me by doing the inner work and that showing up in the outer world. If we think about an entrepreneur doing their normal routine there’s always tons of uncertainty. Within that uncertainty, it’s easy to take on the mindset that when things happen, you believe they’re happening to you and you just have to sit back and take it. However, being better able to observe your thoughts and what’s happening as you’re thinking these thoughts is important. Be intentional on how you navigate the situation so you can better navigate it and conversations that come from it. 


How would you apply something like what you’re doing in spaces that are heavily bureaucratic and regulated like healthcare? How do you begin to get to innovation in those spaces?


The model starts with mindset for a reason because I think we can always spend more time exploring our own thinking. The role that statistics and information plays in what we perceive as possible is incredibly fertile ground to begin with. A lot of facts and statistics are the root cause of why people refuse to wrangle with or disrupt certain systems. They begin to question whether their approach is the best way or they look at ways to incrementally make an impact, which doesn’t diminish the value of the changes being made. It may not be the delivery of the future that true innovation sets out to beat. 


You said, 'The delivery of the future', which is innovation to you. Can you break that down some more?


When I was reading and doing some research surrounding innovation, I saw that this word is so often saddled with conditions that many people don’t set out to innovate because they feel their work doesn't meet a criteria. 

The term future delivered refers to innovation and it removes a lot of the preconditions and it opens a space for people to step into. In the grand scheme of things, if we’re trying to interrupt the status quo, and ensure the world that the mission that we envision comes to fruition, then we need to make more space for people to try different things and present different solutions. 

If we can really understand our beliefs and how they’re shaping what we’re capable of receiving, that completely shifts our ability to be courageous enough to venture forth even though we know we’re going to face adverse circumstances. We have to know that from the time we conceive an idea to the time we are able to deliver the future is never a straight line.

We have to build people’s ability to iterate back through from no innovation to resilience because things may not work out exactly how you planned. In the end, you have courage that you’re able to draw on and because you're developing these capacities together, you’re able to go back to the mindset stage  and examine how you’re thinking about a situation. 


What’s the relationship between us influencing and changing the process and the process changing us in turn?

The work that’s done in the sessions that I have with my clients is intentional work. The process is always changing us and that’s what bubbled up so much in conversations I was having with entrepreneurs across the globe. So many conversations revealed that because they were in the process, and they didn’t necessarily have a specific space where they were being intentional about going within and noticing what was happening within themselves, and juxtaposing that with what was happening around them, some ended up with a product that served people, but not the original group they set out to impact.


Coming back to the idea of the future delivered, how clear do you need to be on what future you want to deliver and for whom? How does that shape the start of the journey?


This is where nuance plays a role, in a sense that the clarity needs to be there in terms of what the overall objective is. If it’s to resolve or lower the Black maternal mortality rate or even broader, to create beautiful Black birthing experiences, having clarity around that opens up a whole new world of innovation. 

For the entrepreneur that only sees one or two paths, it’s a very uncomfortable journey and their process and shifts in mindset make the destination of a fulfilled vision very far away. However, for the entrepreneur who has that vision and is engaging in the inner work to build themselves in those four aforementioned capacities, fulfillment of that vision is right around the corner. There are endless possibilities and the real limitation to those possibilities lies with where the entrepreneur is in regards to the inner work and where their team is with their inner work as well. 


I’m not in a recession, I’m actually expanding. I think these moments of chaos and imbalance are actually massive opportunities to gain exponentially. I’m not just talking about finances either. That mindset for me questions how we go into expansion mode in a time where there’s more uncertainty and chaos. It forces me to ask, “How can I serve and meet people in a way that gives them some peace?”


You just gave a beautiful example of the relationship between mindset and resilience. In times of uncertainty, people tend to take a hunker down mentality, but instead, you all thought about how to build and grow, which is adapting well in the face of significant difficulty, trauma, fear. All of these states often cause us to shrink back and go into a cocoon like form. Your beliefs about what this moment might represent made you all resilient, whereas others may not have been thinking about expansion opportunities, but merely preservation. 

What I like to talk to people about a lot when I talk about resilience is the fact that we tend to think about it as something that is to be acquired and how to do that. We’re in spaces where listicles are very popular because it basically tells you what you’re supposed to do. What I like to put emphasis on, is that when we’re thinking about resilience, there’s an earlier point of intervention that is so often overlooked and that is the work that is done in Mindset because that directs the person’s ability to be resilient. 

The time getting clear, self examining and other contemplative practices directly correlates to the ability to be resilient. You can reduce your own creation for the need to be resilient. What do I mean by this? By becoming aware of your own thinking you can then better self regulate, change the way you’re thinking, change the decisions that you’re making through that self regulation and not create a situation that then requires you to need to be resilient. 


How do people get in touch with you?


You can reach me on my website which goes to my belief that in each person, there is a potential for unbounded excellence and the work that I engage in is designed to help entrepreneurs unlock that. You can schedule time there for conversation via a link. You can also find me on LinkedIn or Instagram.

If you’re in Durham, I would love to grab a coffee or chat and connect with you! 


Click the link below to watch the full interview!

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