We had the good fortune of connecting with Heather Backstrom and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Heather, do you disagree with some advice that is more or less universally accepted?
People often say “fake it till you make it” but I think that’s counterproductive and can only stir up underlying thoughts that tell you you’re a fraud. And when you feel like you’re faking it then you can get caught up in the trap of second guessing yourself. Worse yet, the fear of being found out can surface, which only exacerbates the cycle and puts you in protection mode. Instead, look for the 10% that is true about you. So, maybe you haven’t given a presentation to the Board before, but you have spoken at staff meetings. Or perhaps you haven’t pitched an idea to a corporate client but you have to non-profits and community groups. Or maybe you haven’t managed a whole department but you have been a team leader. Focus on the great talents, experience and skills that you do have. Take that 10% and use it to your advantage. You don’t have to fake it because its true about you. Remind yourself that you indeed have experience to draw on. When you focus what’s true about you then you feel self-assured, authentic and confident.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
After many years of working in the confines of the corporate structure I broke away to become a full-time, self-employed executive coach, workshop facilitator and speaker. Today, my work is filled with incredible clients who are creating more productive and positive workplaces. They are becoming even more effective leaders themselves, and creating teams that are more collaborative, trusting and cohesive, while still being performance-driven.
I’m a life long learner, so I love to infuse all sorts of creative approaches in all aspects of my work – coaching, workshops and speaking. I believe that creativity is a tool that help us learn, so I’ll weave in exercises related to improv, mindfulness, contemplation and art into how I work with clients. I also have a great passion for cultivating empowered women leaders, particularly with a signature program called, Collaborative Confidence.
Getting to where I am has not been easy. I left my corporate job nearly 6 years ago without a single client lined up. I just quit. No clients, no prospects, no nothing. I truly started from scratch. But the pain of remaining the same was greater than the fear of changing. By then, working in corporate had become depleting and unfulfilling. But as I looked ahead to the rest of my life, I refused to lay on my death bed with the thought of, “I wish I had at least tried.” I knew I had to take the risk and at least try. So, I quit and started from scratch. There was power in the act of trying. I didn’t want the regret of not doing that. Trying and it not working out was better than not trying at all. Luckily, it has worked out!
A lesson from my story is to have faith in yourself. To listen to what is right and true for you. There is wisdom inside of you. If your mind and heart are drawing you in a certain direction, then listen to it. And, you don’t have to have everything buttoned-up to move forward! Just move forward. You can figure out the buttoning-up along the way. Or get the first button in place and use it as a launching point.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
There’s so much to do in Southern California! I love walking tours because it give you a personal, immersive experience into a particular neighborhood or community. The Los Angeles Conservancy and Pasadena Walking Tours are two great organizations . So, after a nice breakfast at Seed Bakery we’d head out for a walking tour. After that, a picnic at the Observatory is a great way to take in the view and get a rest. Then cap off the evening with a rooftop drink at Perch LA.
You gotta laugh, so a performance or two at Second City and The Groundlings is definitely a must.
I love taking the Metro when I can, so we’d hop on it one day and hop off to have lunch at Grand Central Market in DTLA. The vibe is fun and eclectic, while your taste buds tingle in anticipation of some great food. From there, a stroll to the Biltmore Hotel, No Mad Hotel and Hotel Figueroa to check out their beautiful lobbies is a terrific way to work off all of the delicious Grand Central Market food and experience the DTLA street scene.
A day trip – – or better yet an overnighter – – to Lake Arrowhead is refreshing and a great change of pace from city life. Walking around, going on a hike and just enjoying the beauty of nature just can’t be beat.
A train ride up to Santa Barbara is also a great way to spend the day or for a quick 1-night stay. The train is relaxing and reminds me of the small town where my grandparents once lived. And once you hop off in Santa Barbara it’s easy to get around on foot or Uber.
Another fun activity is taking a guided tour of the iconic Rose Bowl stadium. There’s so much history there and it’s located in a beautiful tree-lined area of Pasadena. Afterwards, I recommend taking a scenic and slightly windy drive to Wild Oak Cafe. It’s totally casual and the food is yummy. It’s a bit out of the way, making it feel secluded and relaxing. And while you’re in the area, you can swing by the Art Center College of Design where you can enjoy student art exhibitions.
Of course an outdoor concert is a must! The Hollywood Bowl and the Pasadena Pops have great programs. Even something simple, like a community concert at a local park is a great way to spend an evening.
Another great evening activity is taking in a play, particularly at a local, community theater. There’s so many to choose from including Glendale Centre Theatre, Garry Marshall Theatre, Pasadena Playhouse, Boston Pops and the Beverly Hills Playhouse. I also love the Ford Theatre. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have been blessed with the support of friends, colleagues and family members all along the way. And have been inspired by famous people whom I don’t even know. The names are too vast to call out any one particular person. And I’ve had the good fortune to build my professional skills and friendships through many organizations including Pepperdine University, International Coach Federation Los Angeles Chapter, the Fearless Organization, Liberating Structures, Applied Improv Network and Leadership Pasadena. I feel incredible gratitude to everyone!