Skip to main content


Lisa Zwikl and Natalie Kelly discuss the importance of a people-first mindset in the context of a service business. Highlighting how investing in employees and building a strong company culture is essential for success. Natalie shares her career journey, including her realization that employee satisfaction and culture improvements can positively impact business results. She also stresses the importance of self-awareness and knowing one’s limits as a leader.




Natalie Kelly | LinkedIn
An experienced agency leader focused on developing people, cultures, and strategic brands while utilizing a proactive, thoughtful approach.


Lisa Zwikl 0:00
Welcome to the agency balance podcast. I’m your co host, Lisa’s Zwikl. And today, I’m very excited to have Natalie Kelly with me as our guest. In her role as a senior director at SmartAcre, she lives agency balance every day in her work with our clients and our teams. And I’ll let her tell you a little bit more about herself. But she has a strong focus on people. And today we’re going to talk more about how to put your team first in a service business. So in brainstorming about this episode, there was only one person that kept coming to mind and it was the Natalie Kelly. So Natalie, can you introduce yourself to our listeners?

Natalie Kelly 0:40
Sure. Thank you, Lisa. I am an agency leader intentionally focused on developing people, cultures and strategic brands. I started out actually on the client side in the financial and nonprofit world, and then happened to join the agency about 14 years ago, and I haven’t looked back since.

Lisa Zwikl 1:01
Awesome, awesome. I am sure I’m going to learn a few things about you today too Natalie, which I’m so excited about. For those listening. Not only is Natalie my colleague, but she’s also one of my friends. So I’m really looking forward to talking about balance in a different way. So before we dig into all of that good stuff about lessons learned throughout your career, and leading through ups and downs, I wanted to give our listeners some context about our work together so far at SmartAcre, because you and I know leading through change.

Natalie Kelly 1:37
That’s the truth.

Lisa Zwikl 1:39
When you started at SmartAcre, just over two years ago, at this point, I personally was in the middle of a pretty big change, I was about to step away to have my second baby, which came pretty darn close to my first one. So it was a lot of change happening all at once. And you jumped in right away with about a month to go our clock was ticking. We had a timeline. But you never sweated it, you never seemed like you were at all concerned or worried or stressed out, you just came with all of these tools in your toolkit to help you jump in and set yourself up for success while preparing for a change. So I wanted to start there, I wanted to hear from you personally, how you balance change and how you really set yourself up for success when preparing for a change.

Natalie Kelly 2:34
You know, I’m an adamant believer in the fact that it does start with your thoughts, ultimately, how you show up, and the thoughts you’re thinking about any situation are extremely key. And so one of the things that I do each day when I start the day, but specifically during that time, especially, is to make sure to reserve a little bit of time before you’re quote going into the office to set yourself right, really check yourself and be ready for the day. Then also, it’s about being open to learning more in these new situations especially, especially since all you’re going to be doing is just absorbing and learning so much. But if you’re closed off to that, or if you come to it with an air of, I already know how to do this, or you know more about the situation than you are closed off to those opportunities of connecting with people but also with learning everything that you want to hear, which is the why or about the people you’re working with or the situation you’re in, or even what your clients are facing. So really getting right in that. I always like to make sure to also just breathe. So many times we’d hold our breath. And you can physically see it in conference rooms, in zoom calls, where people are just holding their breath almost or taking really shallow breaths. So you do also just want to breathe through it. Then be patient, give yourself grace, you’re not going to be 100% Perfect during this time, but you are going to 100% learn and grow during it. And then also finally, I use life coaches, I think and career coaches, I think that those are huge assets that we can have to keep us grounded. And if you can’t have that, then making sure to have that colleague or that peer who helps you stay grounded in it to really kind of keep you present and in that environment of watching your thoughts and of learning more.

Lisa Zwikl 4:36
Yes, very well said. And I just took a deep breath which was very refreshing. Great points. One of the next big changes we navigated together was during the time period of what many call the Great Resignation. We felt that as an agency and as a small agency that was particularly hard on us for a few different Reasons. As a leader, one of the things for me was just taking it a little bit personally, because we do pride ourselves on the lack of turnover that we have, we have a very strong culture of caring, we put our team first. But inevitably, there are some external factors that cause people to move on in their careers, which is great, we also support that for our team, we want to make sure that they have the opportunities to spread their wings and fly. But it can be quite challenging when you’re feeling like you’re up against a wall a little bit. So that was quite the learning experience for us. And something that we navigated together, tell me a little bit more about how you really focus on building a strong culture, being there for team members during a time of change, and helping them take those deep breaths, seize those opportunities and reframe their mindset. So they’re coming from a place of positivity.

Natalie Kelly 5:58
Yeah. So I do think it first starts with letting go of that sense of control, because things are going to change, change is constant. And so letting go of that sense of control, so that you can be a little bit more flexible, a little bit more malleable, during that time be open to the idea, you know, when people are leaving, it does generally mean that somebody, somebody different is going to come in into their place. And so having trust in that is really important. But then also, I say, you know, look at the forest and the trees. So one, you’ve got the forest, and we are looking at truly how culture impacts our goals. And it impacts who we are maintaining that sense of overall look, but then going into their employees, there are humans on the other side of that they are they make up this culture, and each of them need your attention in those times of change in those times of resignations, those types of things. So making sure that you’re balancing those items. Another one, and I firmly believe in this is to utilize your own self-awareness. Because of this sometimes you are going to feel frustrated, you are going to feel that you’re not at your best to be able to make a decision that day, having self-awareness, and really gut checking yourself on those in that time, right before you’re coming into the work Know your limits and your bounds. So then you’re building a team that’s helped support the culture with you, too, in those times, when you may be weak, someone else is, is exhibiting strength at that time and let them have that. Yes,

Lisa Zwikl 7:45
that’s, that’s so true. I, I get a lot of my inspiration from running on the treadmill. And I think I’ve even shared this with you. But I was doing this workout. And he was telling his personal story about how when he started running, and training together, he was feeling very frustrated. Because he every day, he wanted to be the best, he wanted to be the leader of the pack. And it wasn’t until he realized that this is the whole point of training together, you get to have days that you can be weak, and you can be in the back. But you’re still you’re still going you still have someone that’s motivating you and can help encourage you and help you even go out for that ride on a day that you’re feeling like, I’m not going to do this today. That’s such an important point of hat, maintaining that balance between a team and recognizing that, especially in an agency setting where you have a lot of really high achievers, that it’s totally fine to encourage your team to let someone else shine, we have your back in this situation, we’ve got you we’re better together.

Natalie Kelly 8:49
Well, and using that running story, I mean, just think about think about how your view changes when you’re not the one leading the pack. Because if you are always leading the pack, your views are pretty constant. And you’re only seeing one perspective. But if you can drop back a little bit, let some other people gain that momentum, then truly, you get one different view you could to learn more. And you get to kind of take check your pulse around the people that you’re with. So I do I love that analogy. But I also just really love that perspective when you’re applying it to running.

Lisa Zwikl 9:25
Yeah, and for those of you who don’t know, Natalie is the queen of analogies and explaining anything to clients or a team or just just whatever you need. She always has the perfect way of framing it up. I’m sure you’ll hear more of them throughout this podcast. But if you ever need a really simplified way of explaining something, find Natalie on LinkedIn, she will help you boil it down into a really simple analogy for you. Thank you. So let’s let’s back up what are some of those other moments in your career? or that have really helped you define your leadership style your people-first mindset, and really helping you hone in and build that strength in leading through change?

Natalie Kelly 10:14
Yes. Oh, well, in my career. Honestly, employee satisfaction started, really selfishly, I wanted to work at a place where I wanted to work out, I knew I would be putting in a lot of hours. And I wanted to have some fun in it, I watched my parents grow up in organizations it was just the grind every day. And I knew that that just wasn’t something I was focused on, or that I wanted. Well, that then morphed into, I wanted to work with people who enjoyed what they did for who they did was leaders who were focused more on their team, then then I think we had experienced previously. And I’m very fortunate that I have worked for some of the best truly. But then, where culture and my career really took a shift was I worked at the first agency I worked at, we worked with financial institutions, namely credit unions. And they allowed us to really dive a little bit deeper into marketing giving us a little bit more carte blanche. And so whenever I would add culture things to my marketing strategies and plans, I noticed that there was a growth in revenue from each of those campaigns, every time that we could get the employees first excited about it, about the marketing that we were doing about the events that we were doing to support their culture, then we would exponentially start to see those ticks going up and up for revenue. So that’s where it kind of really brought it in for me, Well, about that time, because I do believe that marketing and culture go naturally together. And when paired together, they can truly amplify. About that time, I found Simon Sinek. And I remember a quote that I read in 2016. And he said, customers will never love a company until employees love it first. And it was like he was speaking my language that is firmly and very concisely, what I believed. And then a few more quotes that came out. But one specifically was happy employees ensure happy customers and happy customers ensure happy shareholders in that order. And so really being able to draw it into that focus of the culture and employees first, I knew that you could amplify the product itself. So that’s kind of how I started pairing marketing with culture. But then eventually, and looking back on my career, one of the main themes that I’ve seen through hard times like mergers and acquisitions, full leadership teams leaving mass exodus of employees, similar to the great resignation, is that culture and employee satisfaction is what gets in organizations, through the good through the bad, it elevates the good, and then it makes the bad or hard, tolerable, and even doable. So for me, it’s the constant. And those are some of the things that have really contributed to how to my leadership style as well as their strengths through change.

Lisa Zwikl 13:32
It makes perfect sense and part of the reason why I wanted to talk about this as a service business is because our people are our product. And it’s so important for I mean all organizations but especially for anyone in a service industry to really to get that if you’re just focused on the bottom line and profitability and even the first agency I worked at it was a bit churn and burn that was a little bit of their business model and it was a great experience I don’t look back with any negativity on it but I did definitely take some learnings away from that as then a future role I want to change that because the more that you invest in your product, the people you care for them you build that out, the more that you’re going to have those happy clients and ultimately drive the results that you want to get because you can’t fake passion no matter what you cannot fake passion.

Natalie Kelly 14:39
Yeah, and, and truly I think it can be clients who want to work with teams who enjoy each other with teams who work well together, that it’s almost as if that culture and that happiness begets the client satisfaction and success. So whenever you do have a kind of like a talk to about if the before that flow, then it does create an environment where good results come to play. Truly everyone can come together in that collaborative space and feel respected and trusted. But then also appreciated, because at the end of the day, ultimately, I do believe that that is what we are looking for us humans.

Lisa Zwikl 15:24
Agree. So throughout your experience, how have there been any tactics that you as a leader, you, as a manager, us, even just as a colleague, that you really look to implement to make sure that your team feels very supported? They feel engaged? What are some of your favorite tools in that regard?

Natalie Kelly 15:49
Yeah, so first, giving people an option to be heard. A lot of times what we’ve seen in failed cultures or organizations is that it truly was someone just leading from the top and pulling the employees with them. And instead, the more successful ones are the ones where employees are engaged, and they’re providing feedback, you hire smart people who use their brains as well to solve problems, you don’t have to solve everything. And so that is a for me, I think that that’s one of the number one things, then also allowing people to be in the space that they’re in, if you hired someone, for example, to be an HR, let them be an HR and do that job, that let them be let them shine, if you will, in that space. So I do think that’s really, really key, also, and something that I really learned at SmartAcre, and I just, it has changed, I think a lot of how I do things, personally and professionally, is one to have an organized system. So truly make sure that your process is down and that you have that identified. But then taking that process and adding in active listening, whether that’s to your clients, to your employees, to your leadership team, whatever you need to mix, those two, can truly elevate anything that you’re doing and also make everything a lot easier. Because when we are resisting, whether that be change, or anything that’s happening in within our workforce or in our home at that time, whenever we were resisting that, you’re spending so much energy on that, that you can’t truly show up and bring everything to the table.

Lisa Zwikl 17:37
So I want to ask you a little bit more about how you keep that optimistic mindset, that opportunistic mindset, and how you also help your team understand that it, it’s great. But it’s also, it’s easier to say than to do I know that it requires a ton of action and caring and even a continued focus on it. Because sometimes when change occurs, whether it’s a merger, or an acquisition, or leadership change, or even sometimes employees leaving, people can get behind it pretty quickly and feel excited. And then when a month goes by or two months go by, and it’s not really aligned to their expectations, perhaps or there’s a lot of work on on the table to get done. Sometimes the reality of maintaining that positive mindset can be challenging. And as leaders, sometimes we don’t always recognize that it downward spiral, I guess you’ll call it is happening until it feels like it’s too late. So twofold. Question one, how do you stay ahead of that? And also, how do you make sure that you can really carry that concept of opportunity, that theme of positivity into your interactions with the team and employee engagement?

Natalie Kelly 19:03
Sure, okay. So, you know, 2016 version of myself wasn’t who you’re seeing today. And that’s because I hadn’t necessarily flex those muscles and focused in on it as much as I do today. You know, with, what is it Malcolm Gladwell, the 10,000 hours, I’ve had a lot of hours to really think about this and focus on it. And so one of those things that I really just want to make sure to get across is that sometimes it is an exercise. It’s no different than trying to be the world’s greatest basketball player. You’ve got to throw a lot of free throws in order to make this happen. So for that, I do want that caveat for everybody. But then to make it a reality in your workforce, one of the things is, I don’t really necessarily call it positivity, because it’s Some people have really bad associations with that term where they can think that you’re being overly optimistic, and then they tune you out instead, but rather being a reality or using a reality mindset of, okay, this is the situation that we have, this is the solution that we’re going to provide when somebody is necessarily being overly negative, or sharing negative thoughts, making sure that you’re having conversations with them about how what they say, impacts other people, and impacts, most importantly, their own thoughts. I believe it was Jay Pryor who really talked to us about how the content you consume, you have to think about that, as a leader. And as a leader, and somebody who is in charge of a lot of people or an initiative, you do have to be truly mindful of the kind of content that is in your life. Another way, if so how you can remain optimistic is to have a trust, have your employees and yourself a mutual situation of trust, believe in the process that you’ve set, as well as in any research any data that you’re pulling in, if you’re all running willy nilly, then you’re not going to be able to build that trust. So making sure that you do truly have that built within. That is one way that in my opinion, helps calm nerves. And you can get that you can get a sense of those nerves truly by capturing a pulse within your organization. I know here at Smart Aker, you can start to watch our internal communications or people’s certain people’s behavior patterns. If you really, especially as a leader, pay attention to the habits and trends of your employees, you can start to see when they’re going to be experiencing a downward spiral, for example, or a stressed out moment, or even better when you can apply some gas because they are having a moment. And it’s time to trampoline them and truly move them up with their efficiencies with their work output. But you have to be in tune and paying attention going back to Active Listening, paying attention to your employees.

Lisa Zwikl 22:16
Yeah, I think that’s a great point, it really makes me think about the word balance in general, because I never think of balance as a 50. It’s never perfect. But I do think of it as a way that you can feel if something is out of whack, right. And that applies to you. If you notice that trend with someone that you’re working with, it applies to even engagements with clients, if you’re feeling Hmm, that that status call didn’t go like how they usually do or I haven’t talked to them in a while or we haven’t shared data with them in a while, let’s back up the work that we’re doing to really highlight the good things happening. And even personally, I know that that’s an indicator I try to check in on is just am I feeling a little less motivated? Am I feeling a little less passionate, something must be out of whack a little bit off balance. So it’s I love what you said about just paying attention to those trends, keeping a pulse on it. And you don’t have to necessarily react in a huge way. But just a quick check-in of everything. Okay, anything you want to talk about anything I can help you do to get back on track, those little mini-moments go a long way.

Natalie Kelly 23:31
And you know, as as agencies, I think one thing that can also foster that environment, is that within your onboarding, or maybe it’s your onboarding 2.0. So it’s not right when they’re starting, but it’s six months to a year in making sure to teach employees about self, how to be self-aware, but also how to trust themselves. Because a lot of times, whenever, whenever we’re not trusting ourselves or listening to our gut, we always look back on it and say, Oh, I wish I would have because you do know those things are inherently within you. We just have to make sure to tell teach people how to turn that on and accelerate it.

Lisa Zwikl 24:15
Where do you make your best decisions from right there in your gut? Right? Absolutely. So you talked a little bit about the tools in your toolbox for leading through change, managing change, just setting yourself up for success. Is there anything that you really keep in mind for maintaining your balance in working in an agency environment, finding that balance between doing good work for our clients, but also as a leader, I there’s a level of energy that is so important to bring to your team that sometimes it’s just it gets a little bit harder and harder to do and it’s not something that you can fake. So how do you make sure that you fill up your cup so that you can lead by example lead from a place of authenticity and of energy?

Natalie Kelly 25:12
Yes, so this one, I had to learn the hard way, I’m sure most people listening have learned a lot of things the hard way. I used to not have boundaries around my working time, around my personal time, around just in general my energy. And so I could do a job, but I wasn’t giving my full my full potential. And so now, especially a smart acre, one of the things that I am able to do is to be able to have those boundaries, I know that if I don’t sign off at no later than 730, I’m not going to get good sleep, which means I’m not going to be a great team member first thing in the morning when I need to be especially at that time. I also make sure I remember, I used to work long weekends, honestly. And now I truly save those weekends for my own personal time. Even if I’m doing nothing, but watching my favorite episode of Ted Lasso, or something of that nature. I turn it off because it also I find that in that turning off in that rejuvenation period, that is where I find some of my best ideas, but where it also allows me to subconsciously be mindful of team members, there are so many times when you can be watching an episode of TV and you hear something and it just inspires you to do for that next team meeting or something of that nature. So truly setting those boundaries. Because without those boundaries, we just we become work cogs in a machine. And that’s not what we’re here to do to produce the best work.

Lisa Zwikl 26:51
Yeah, that’s such a great point. I think so often we think about balances, I need to need to turn my brain off. But for me, it’s it’s usually the opposite. I need to turn my computer off. So I can turn my brain on and have that time where I can. Freeform thought or if if you the example that you gave before, have you just noticed a trend with someone that you’re working with to have a moment where I can actually think about that think about it from a different context of what’s going on with their life? Or if I don’t know the answer to that question. Wonder why I don’t know the answer to that question. When was the last time I had a conversation with them? When was the last time I had a chance to engage with them and work on a project together? But during the day, when you’re moving from client to meeting to the other thing that you’re working on to finding time to go grab some water. Sometimes that thinking time is not always there. So finding that balance, for me is really, really important. So I can not worry about turning my brain off, but actually getting to let it just do its thing.

Natalie Kelly 27:58
Yeah, I think that sometimes I will just schedule time on my calendar, as Mike call it GSD time. But instead, what I’m doing is it’s turning that computer off. And for me, it’s just getting in a car and driving it listening to podcasts, being able to set my brain off or take it off of like emails and chat. And instead, just let it kind of be within nature and with expansive views. And I can find that time to be able to create and think that’s where some of my best I think strategic work can come from or even making it where if you know, your favorite coffee shop or your favorite bookstore, I mentioned those because those are my favorites here. Setting time that you’re like, I’m going to work on this task that I really like in a place I really like it just seems to amplify the results even more.

Lisa Zwikl 28:56
Yeah, it’s so important. I think, especially for younger listeners who are, you know, just starting out your careers and enjoying the grind of agency life, it’s really important to understand and challenge yourself to think about when your best thoughts happen. Where does that best energy come from? There are so many tools out there, I’m sure Natalie, you have some that you could share with our listeners just around how to find that flow state in your brains. But it’s one of the the areas that we try to really promote for our team is just finding that flex time finding the times where you work best being able to leverage that because going back to the conversation around running and having the leader of the pack sometimes you need to recharge your own batteries and let others shine so you can come back even stronger.

Natalie Kelly 29:48
Yes, and take and take the time off to you know, that’s I think that that’s incredibly important. And I like to see that now more people are starting to you know, use their vacation time, more companies are offering unlimited PTO, those kinds of things. So that people can not have the negative stigma around taking time off and really separating themselves to recharge and to refocus to. I think that that’s one of the best tools is truly to take the time off, that you need to telling people be where you are and true. So when you’re on vacation, be on vacation, when you’re at work, be at work.

Lisa Zwikl 30:33
I was literally just going to say one of the phrases that stands out to me every time I get pulled out of work early for kids stuff, or if I’m hoping to hop online a little bit later and bedtimes just taking too long. The phrase that you’ve instilled in our entire smart, eager team of be where you are just comes to mind because those moments are fleeting vacation time is fleeting, even the workday is fleeting, so use it to your advantage be where you are. And if you can’t be where you are in that moment, then think what do I need to do so I can bring my back my brain back to the here and now and get refocused? It’s one of my favorite Natalie phrases.

Natalie Kelly 31:16
Well, thank you. And, and I love that we get to live that value or live that thought when we need to. And every day.

Lisa Zwikl 31:27
The other one that comes to my mind, and it’s been a theme of this entire conversation is your words become your world or your words are your world. Tell us a little bit more about that, and especially into the whole theme of leaning into change and seeing that opportunity.

Natalie Kelly 31:45
So I’ve heard this phrase before, it’s not mine, I’ve just heard it. But it’s that worrying is like praying for something you don’t want to happen. And that also, so that’s worrying, you know, in your mind, but also the words that you’re speaking to, as you start to bring those out into fruition are you asking for the things that you don’t want, through your vocabulary, through your through anything that you’re saying or doing. And so, for me, I do try to stay, I think it’s impeccable with your words is another way of saying it. But it’s just so that one, you’re being mindful and intentional of what you’re saying. But then to that you’re building a character, for those who know you for what they can trust, what they can know about you and who you are, which I do believe also is a leadership skill that has helped me in the past and that I’ve exhibited from some of the best leaders I’ve worked for. And then making sure that what you’re what you’re saying is of worth, if you’re somebody who just talks all the time, with nothing really to say, people will stop listening to you, and especially when you need them to them, you need them to listen the most. So I do believe that that is those are three, three attributes for leaders that I either admire or tried to even mirror.

Lisa Zwikl 33:15
Yeah, it’s so important for especially how we talk to our team, I think a lot about what I do as a leader in the context of parenting because my words get so simplified and talking to a three-year-old. And, you know, even thinking of things like you’re being such a bad boy, no, you’re, you’re a really, really good boy that’s doing some naughty things right now. So let’s make sure we can keep being a really good boy. And that applies to leadership as well of how we talk to our team. That was a stupid mistake. No, you are super smart. Let’s talk about what led us to this decision. Let’s figure it out together, reframing that context, making sure that we’re coming from a place of positivity and not planting seeds in our brain that lead us to a place of negativity because of Listen, no one needs any extra negativity in their lives.

Natalie Kelly 34:13
That’s the true and you know that one thought that one simple thought can become such a snowball in employees minds, that one thing of they they did something wrong, they are wrong, you know, they did something wrong translates to they are wrong translates to I can’t do anything, right. And it just keeps growing to the point where you have a very dynamic, very intelligent employee who now no longer believes in them and no longer has that confidence in order to execute even the simplest task. And so making sure that we’re very clear, very concise, and kind you know, that’s the other thing is just remembering. There is a person on the other side of your words whether that’s you Whether that’s your employee, your teammate, your spouse, anyone of that nature, there’s still someone else on the other side who deserves a level of kindness that and that they deserve. Honestly.

Lisa Zwikl 35:13
Yep, great point. And as a service business, I think that that’s just has a whole nother layer to when you think about from the client side of things, I do have had conversations with team members just reminding them. Listen, I know this is a big meeting. But that’s just a it’s just another person. So let’s think about how a way that we can frame this up that’s conversational, that you get to showcase all the work that went behind this, make sure that they understand your perspective and your thoughts. But also from the service side of things, it’s totally acceptable to in conversations where someone is not so kind to find that boundary to draw a line in the sand and say, Hey, listen, this is a person that you’re talking to, we know we’re here doing work for you. But we’re, we’re still human. So let’s not be rude to each other. Come on, let’s just have an adult conversation.

Natalie Kelly 36:07
Oh, yes. And, and I think that that is just also really important. Because if we are treating our clients with kindness, and also staying curious about why did that person say blow up? Or have a moment that is not typical for them? Why are they having that moment and extending some grace to but then having a very frank conversation if it continues, or if it needs to be addressed of what’s going on? You know, because sometimes we all just need to be reminded of, Oh, you did something that was maybe out of the ordinary or unnecessary. So

Lisa Zwikl 36:48
yeah, my time and agency life, I’ve had to develop a thick skin. And it’s not necessarily a thick skin to avoid feeling hurt in situations like that. But it’s, just like you said, reframing that context, understanding, someone’s taking this out on me, because I’m really close to it. And they probably have someone taking something else out on them. So let’s just learn a little bit more about that. So we can all understand where each other is coming from and find a good answer, find a way to move things forward. And if you let clients know that they are supported, and you have their back there, they’re going to feel that they are going to feel that and understand that you care about them. And opportunities, right leading through change, I’ve learned that when you have those tough moments where you have those sometimes not-so-perfect meetings, it only makes the relationship stronger, if you can approach it from a place of caring.

Natalie Kelly 37:46
Yes, and I think even starting the relationship with that expectation, I love it, when I can see that that is exhibited, even in the sales process, where it’s said that, you know, we’re going to be supportive of you, this is who we are. And you know, in that sales process, you’re teaching them, you’re telling them who you are, and teaching them how to treat you. And then even going into the onboarding, and in the delivery, accepting when a mistake happens, but also celebrating when a win happens to so that way, you’re really feeling like you’re a part of their team. Again, using your words, listening well, and watching for those trends, they’ll always come into a situation where you can use those. And I do think that clients even they give you more information when you are there to listen. And I think that it can truly help to support. You know, we talked we’re talking about agency culture, but it’s also the culture of the relationship between the agency and their clients too. So whenever that can just continue to transfer through the process. It just, it creates that trust and that known you can you know what to expect.

Lisa Zwikl 39:02
So our listeners had a chance to hear more about your background, your experience, the tools in your toolkit, even some great analogies and phrases that they can keep with them. Is there anything else that you want to make sure you have a moment to share while you’re in your debut on the Agency Balance podcast?

Natalie Kelly 39:21
Oh, gosh, um, you know, I think sometimes I think of this more as, okay, if I was going to tell my younger self something, or if I was going to tell other agency team members something is what I’ve seen a lot in team members is they can be comparing themselves to say, somebody who’s been there five years longer or somebody who has 10 years more experience. And I do see that that can sometimes deteriorate on a culture whenever too many employees are doing that. So I think also reminding yourself as well as the team, that we are all here for a reason. then you are hired to be you not to be some clone of somebody who’s been here for five years, not to be as experienced as a person who’s been in the in the industry for 10. Because if you’re always trying to chase those things, then you will not shine your brightest, and you will not give the agency and your clients who you are, which is pretty special. I mean, that’s why that’s why that person was selected. It’s not like we’re doing a batch hire and checking some boxes and saying, okay, Amazon sent me these five employees. So what you’re doing it all you’re, you’re investing, and you’re spending a lot of time with these people. So just a reminder of that be who you are and who you are meant to be at this agency. And that will reap benefits for both the client and for the agency and for the employee.

Lisa Zwikl 40:54
I love that. And it’s a beautiful reminder for your younger version of yourself. But even for all of us, you know, just really leaning into our own personal strengths, to see those moments of challenge as opportunities and continue to just trust your gut to do what you know that you’re meant to do.

Natalie Kelly 41:16
If we were we were all Smurfs, we wouldn’t get to experience Carebear. Right?

Lisa Zwikl 41:21
Right. All right. Well, we are going to wrap up here with what I’m calling this Wickel sizzle, Dave has his top five or whatever he calls it. But I have three hot seat questions that I want to ask you. The first one is, what is one mantra you love to live by?

Natalie Kelly 41:39
Yep, what you focus on gets bigger. That’s truly I believe it in all fashions. And that can be positive or negative. So making sure whatever you’re focusing on, it is going to expand. So what do you want to expand?

Lisa Zwikl 41:54
Love it. If you had a personal board of directors who was one person that would be on it? Oh,

Natalie Kelly 42:02
that one is a hard one. I know a lot of amazing people. The first person who comes to mind Mickie Lara, she is somebody who I worked for previously. You can look her up on LinkedIn. She is a friend. She is a she’s been my coach before. She is definitely a mentor. And she is just somebody who it’s magnificent because she can ask you a question. And it’s just a question. But it can change your entire perspective. I used to say whenever we work together, that somebody would start a conversation with her and they would be so mad. And by the end of it, she would have them thanking themselves for having that feeling. And also they would have gotten to a solution and there would be no sign of anger. But she just knows how to ask the right questions. And I think if I had a board of directors, I’d want someone who could ask the right questions.

Lisa Zwikl 42:59
The plus one to that she is a magical human for sure. We both love listening to podcasts. You’ve shared many with me that have been come on my favorites list. So let’s share some podcast love what is one podcast or even specific episode that you’ve really, really valued?

Natalie Kelly 43:18
It’s like asking me to pick my favorite child. I do love some podcasts. But I would say here. Craig Groeschel leadership podcast is one that I listened to regularly and I find value in every single episode. And more specifically, he has an episode with sent Marshall who is the CEO of the Dallas Mavericks. It’s really resonating with me right now. Her approach to leadership and culture is beyond inspiring. It’s actionable. It’s empowering. And honestly, I just want to grow up and be like her. She’s it’s pretty amazing. So that’s my that’s the episode I check out.

Lisa Zwikl 43:59
Love it. I am. I’m going to be checking that out. And I have one final bonus question because you mentioned it during our conversation so far. So Ted Lasso, favorite scene? Let me What’s one thing that comes to mind, I know you love so many things about that show. And as leaders, everyone should watch it. There’s so many wonderful nuggets. But one thing, one favorite part.

Natalie Kelly 44:23
Yep. I mean, I love all of them. But I will say you can see here I have this little goldfish picture. And truly I think it’s in the first season. I think it’s actually the first episode where he tells his players to be a goldfish and tell Sam very specifically, and to not dwell on a mistake made just think about it for 10 seconds and move forward because to me that was what took the show from just a comedy to being okay, you can see that this is going to be inspiring. This is going to be more than just a show I want it’s going to be something where I learned.

Lisa Zwikl 45:05
Awesome, awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time today Natalie, the world needs more of you and I’m so glad that everyone will get to enjoy this 45 minutes ish of time. Thank you so much for sharing your story, your thoughts, your insights, but if anyone wants to reach out to you or find you what’s the best way for our listeners to connect?

Natalie Kelly 45:28
Yes on LinkedIn @ndgkelly or you can find me at SmartAcre.

Lisa Zwikl 45:36
Awesome. Thank you so much for your time. This was really fun. Let’s do it again.

Natalie Kelly 45:41
It was thank you so much. I really enjoyed this.