Web Summit 2022: Anna Liebel (Mindshifter)
Join João Tomé for Conversations at Web Summit 2022, one of the biggest tech conferences in the world — held November 2022, in Lisbon, Portugal.
In this interview, Anna Liebel, founder and mindshifter at her own company, Anna Liebel ehf, explains what a mindshifter is; how an Ukrainian girl ends up in Iceland; what type of tech leaders seek for a mindshifter; advices to those who lead teams; what would be a better Internet; Ukraine's First Lady message at Web Summit.
I'm Anna Liebel and my company is called Anna Liebel EHF, which is the form of the company.
And that is not because it's a cult of me and I love myself so much. It's just because I started two businesses at the same time, under the same registration, and I didn't want to put the direction of the business in the name.
But that's the name.
And I'm located in Iceland. I'm originally Ukrainian and I lived in Sweden in between these countries.
So I keep moving northwest every time.
And what I do, I call myself a mind shifter. And I work with male leaders in tech mainly to help them stop the overwhelm, get out of the firefighter mode that they can be so easily and become the proactive leaders that they want to be and how they want to leave their companies.
And so that they also get to enjoy the ride on this journey of building successful businesses.
So you could say that it's executive coaching, or leadership coaching.
And I have two types of customers.
One is the people who want to be better at leading others.
And they come to me because they feel like their team needs some better leader.
And they want to be the better leader, but they are missing some tools maybe or missing the time and space to practice with those tools.
The other group of my clients is those that are successful entrepreneurs and leaders and everything is working fine with them and their team interaction and so on.
But they're not happy in where they are.
So they have reached that success. And with time they have realized that this success is not what makes me enjoy anymore.
And they want to get this hope.
That's what I'm kind of selling, the hope of feeling the joy from your success and your journey again.
So in a sense, you can leave your company, you can stay your company, but it's putting things into perspective for you to take more of what you do.
Yeah, yeah. And that's why we're talking about mind shifting.
Because a lot of things that we do with my clients, it is about redefining things.
What is success for you? What is happiness? One of the examples I absolutely love is one of my clients used to believe that to be happy, you need to suffer.
And he's been choosing his whole career path and his company, what kind of company he started and so on, on that belief.
How can I suffer? And he's 47 and I was like, how much longer are you going to suffer before you deserve to be happy?
So it's a lot about shifting that mindset of having those definitions that really make you decide and choose the path for yourself in life.
And then once we have redefined that, it's much easier to work with the techniques and the tools and the practicalities of the process of leading yourself and others.
So I left Ukraine to study.
That's where I moved to Sweden. I wanted to study somewhere abroad.
It was curiosity that drove me there. And I did my master's there and I started working.
And I worked, I studied and I worked in project management in different big corporations, both as an employee and consultant.
And then we moved to Iceland for my husband's job.
We wanted to stay in the Nordics, very family friendly places.
We just wanted to explore that country. And when we moved there, I was first on maternity leave.
And then I decided that I do want to start building my own.
Because at some point before, while I was still living in Sweden, I started coaching friends of mine and colleagues of mine just because they were coming to me and saying, I like what you do.
I like how you think. I like how you react to stressful situations.
Can you teach me those things? And it was just a pro bono hobby thing.
And at some point, one of the friends told me, and I've been getting so much value out of this, these conversations, can I pay you?
And that started something in my mind that, hey, this can be my job.
I don't have to be a project manager to help people grow because that's what I was doing.
And I enjoyed most while working with the teams and projects.
So that was the move, the natural thing that I had to leave my company consultancy in Sweden because they didn't have any office in Iceland.
So I would need to find a new job anyways. And I decided that it was time to try this.
I do, I do.
In the beginning, it was more internationals because I was completely new in the country and I started officially business in January, 2020.
You know what comes next.
And it's difficult in that society. It's difficult to get in business relationships without getting to know each other.
And it was quite limited of how we could get to know each other and meet.
So at that moment, I focused on online business and mainly had customers from the Nordics, some from Germany and France.
Now I do have some in the North America. But at the moment, I think it's around half of them are in Iceland.
And with them, I, of course, meet in person, but with the others, we meet online.
I have been appreciating the ability to do that, to actually manage to grow my business while the pandemic was ongoing in the whole world.
It was quite easy. And I think that also made it easier for me to get clients to get their trust because they had to do everything, be it personal things or professional online through Zoom and so on.
So it lowered the threshold of this conversation of like, I want to meet my coach in person.
And they got a lot of acceptance or they had more trust or curiosity to try.
And also because it was so stressful to lead companies, to lead teams in the global pandemic times, they needed that support.
So it was easier to have the conversation.
I have been using some Icelandic startup that have created the solution for therapists to have encrypted safe sessions with their clients.
And then they have started offering that to other companies as well, not only therapists.
So I have been using that as well. And that was quite a smooth experience.
But at the moment, I do use Zoom, actually, back to that with my clients.
In terms of channels, you also have a podcast, right? Yeah, I do. What do you do there?
I talk about leadership. And it's both leadership of the others and of yourself.
Self-leadership is a big part of my work with my clients. Because if you can't lead yourself in a successful way, that projects onto your leadership style towards the others.
So it's both conversations with other people, interviews, but I started doing solo episodes at some point as well.
So now it's a mix of around 50-50.
And solo episodes are usually inspirations by the client conversations.
Or if I have three, four conversations on the same topic, I know the field, the environment needs it at the moment.
And I just take it and suggest some things, some tools, maybe mind shifts, some journaling prompts, whatever it is that can be valuable for the audience.
What are your three tips? Oh, you want the three difficult, like the three tips, like quick things.
Exactly, the quick ones.
I would say really focus on yourself first and foremost. Because if you suppress your own emotions, if you suppress or ignore your own problems, that spills over to the others.
And I really like this reframe that I've heard recently from Oprah.
She was talking about this filling your cup. She was saying it's not about filling your cup, then pouring into the others to empty your cup, and then you need to refill yours.
Your job as a leader and as a human in general is to continuously fill your cup so that it's always full and overflowing onto the others.
And I think this is, I will not even give you three tips. But if you're a leader, this is the one tip that I would give you.
Work on yourself, invest in yourself, because that will spill over to the others in a very positive way.
Were you surprised of some of the things you heard?
More difficulties as some people have more?
Surprised? Yeah, my clients surprise me quite often. But in the end of the day, we are all humans.
And it's just about different perspectives sometimes. Some kind of examples.
Well, the suffering versus happiness, that was a very interesting example.
But the other one, I recently recommended one of my clients to sit in silence and have his breakfast alone.
They have a bit of different schedules with his wife, so he usually sits alone.
But then he's very active, and he always does something.
And I said, phone aside, Max, what you're allowed to have is the pen and paper.
And he literally told me to F off. That was his reaction.
And it's okay, we've worked for more than a year together, so we know each other well, we have a very warm relationship.
But that was the reaction. And this is what I enjoy so much, to challenge very lovingly and caringly, challenge my clients, because I know that that will do good to them.
And he's on the challenge, he's doing it.
And he's actually putting a timer and reporting to me, like today it was nine minutes, 47 seconds.
That was literally the conversation we had yesterday.
He was like, I switched the timer on, and then I put it away so that I wouldn't see it.
I was like, okay, all right. It's a start. So it's surprising sometimes to get those reactions.
But I know if those reactions come, we are hitting the point that if I can press a bit longer there, if I can stay in the discomfort of having this conversation, we'll see the really amazing transformation on the other side.
I so wish that the algorithms would work differently.
Because we do have that big challenge now with the separation and the we and us and them camps and so on that are fed with this echo chambers of the feeds and algorithms.
And just today, Chris, whom you wanted to interview, he was talking in his speech in the central stage about that.
That is a big challenge. That is damaging the society.
And it's a risk for us as a society. But at the same time, I do see a lot of power in that.
And it's still the beauty of the Internet. As I mentioned in the beginning, I'm Ukrainian.
And this year, the Internet has done amazing things for us internally within Ukraine, how people were supporting each other when women would give birth in bomb shelters, or just the cellars of their own homes.
And they would have support of the medical personnel via telegram chats and those kinds of things.
And also, of course, all the support and us promoting or talking about the issues and trying to win this information award as well.
Internet is playing a crucial role there. So I think it's important for us to look at the challenges.
But we shouldn't only boo the Internet right now, but also see the power and beauty of it.
First of all, I'm very happy that Olena Zelenska is here.
And she has a very full schedule for these three days.
And I'm very grateful for that. Because we do need these voices.
She has a very powerful voice right now that we need to hear as the tech society globally.
We have the biggest Ukrainian, like the Ukrainian delegation here of startups is the biggest at this event, which also warms up my heart.
I've been at the stand, it's very busy. That is beautiful. Talking about the Internet cuts and those kinds of things.
It's tough, but it also showed me the amazing power of Ukrainians, how quickly the infrastructure has been rebuilt.
Well, they're still under the shelling. But they go and do their job to provide that to everyone.
My parents are in Kyiv, and I still think God had contact with them every single day.
That's unfortunately not the case in other parts, especially the occupied parts of Ukraine.
But everyone is doing their best. And that best is much higher than what I expected in the beginning of the war from Ukrainians.
And talking about the mental health and the Internet development, I see a lot of initiatives right now for founders mental health, for generally mental health awareness, different tools, different communities and platforms created for promoting, for raising the awareness about the challenges in the startup world, especially because that's a fairly new topic for us.
And that is, I'm very happy to see that.
And I'm collaborating with some of these platforms and tools and communities just to help them to provide support to the founders.
And that again, that's what we can do through the Internet.
And I'm supporting the founders internationally, I don't have to limit myself to Iceland or fly around the world to do that.
And that is that is the great thing that we need to keep developing.