Your Biggest Vision Ep. 65- Lydia Fenet, Author of The Most Powerful Woman in the Room is You

Ever wondered why some women seem to have their career paths paved for them? They’re constantly getting raises and promotions, they have an extensive network, and their boss loves them. Meanwhile, it can feel like you must be missing something to have those same results?

 

Look no further for that secret sauce. The good news is anyone can do it. The real news is you have to have a strategy behind it. That’s what Lydia can teach you how to do.

 

Lydia Fenet started her now 20-year career at Christie’s Auction House, the most prestigious Auction House in the world, and has since raised nearly a billion dollars for charities in auctioning.

 

Tune into this episode to hear:

 

  • Lydia’s actionable advice on using storytelling to sell more in your business and life.

 

  • Case studies of multiple powerful women that came together for the messaging in this book.

 

  • The single mindset that has led to Lydia’s successful 20 years career, all while raising three children in the city that never sleeps!
Tune in to Episode 65 to hear author of The Most Powerful Woman in the Room is You, Lydia Fenet, speak about the crucial mindset that led her to success.
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Transcript of Episode

Leah Gervais: Hey visionaries, welcome back to the Your Biggest Vision show. I’m your host, Leah, and I’m very excited to share that we have Lydia Fenet here with us today. Hi Lydia. 

 

Lydia Fenet: Hi. Thank you so much for having me. I’m thrilled to be on the show. 

 

Leah Gervais: Thank you so much for being here. If you guys are listening to this, you won’t be able to see, but if you’re watching this, you can see that we’re about 30 blocks from each other. She lives on Rockefeller Center and I live on the Upper East side, so I’m in the street. Um, all right, I just want to introduce you and then we’re going to dive into your story. So Lydia is the managing director and global head of strategic partnerships at Christie’s. You guys, that’s like the best auction house in the world. She has raised more than half a billion dollars for nonprofits globally in her capacity as lead benefit auctioneer for the firm. She has raised nearly half a billion dollars. She lives in New York City with her husband, Chris and her three children Beatrice, Henry and Eloise. So thanks again. 

 

Lydia Fenet: That’s it. That’s the sum total.

 

Leah GervaisL That’s totally awesome. Well, Lydia is the author of the book, The Most Powerful Woman in the Room is You. And that is what really made me fall in love with her story and want to share it with you all. Um, you guys know that I’m always about women’s empowerment and what I found so incredible about her book, what I thought was different about it than a lot of the other similar books I’ve read about young professional females, was that it was applicable to women in any field. And she comes from a background in optioning and negotiating, but really, you know, that’s about self-advocacy and standing up for yourself and your own career. And so I highly recommend it to anyone out there, whether you’re an entrepreneur or not, although I guess if you’re listening to this, you probably are. Um, and that is what we’re going to talk about today. But firstly, yeah, I would love to just hear a little bit about your childhood and what you thought you were going to be when you grew up. 

 

Lydia Fenet: Well, my childhood was very different than the childhood I’m giving my children living in New York City. I grew up in a town called Lake Charles, Louisiana, which was a small town. My father had grown up there. I had three siblings we’re boy, girl, boy, girl. So I like to say I’m sort of the perfect case study for growing up with both boys and girls and having parents who were very much into the belief that we were going to learn from not only being siblings, but we were going to learn everything on an equal opportunity platform. So, you know, if my brothers wanted to try something, we were thrown into the mix. And I think it’s really given me the lifelong confidence that I’ve drawn back to time and time again, especially when I started working in a very heavily male environment and a very young age. I remember even frankly in school having sort of large classrooms and really, really guys always asking the questions and never feeling intimidated to raise my hand. And I think it was because of those early childhood years. I used to say that I feel like I grew up in a rock tumbler because we were like puppies just constantly barring with each other and you know, sort of almost ironing out the kinks of personalities and sort of throwing things against each other to see if they stuck. And so that was a large part of the way that I was raised. And frankly I think it’s been very helpful in my life. So I grew up in Louisiana. I went to boarding school in Connecticut, my mother’s British. So that should explain the boarding school thing. People can never figure out that part of the story. 

 

Leah Gervais: People are like why did you get shipped off? 

 

Lydia Fenet: Yeah, exactly. I know, especially in Louisiana where people did not go to boarding school. Um, but it was, it was a really formative thing for me. I gained a great amount of independence at a very young age and boarding school’s an interesting time because it’s high school. So you’re dealing with a lot of the issues that you would deal with if you are in a normal high school, but you’re on your own. And at that time we didn’t have cell phones. I mean really dating myself now. So there was a pay phone in the hall and that’s how your parents got in touch with you. So you could choose whether or not to pick up that call when they called. Um, and in my case, the beginning especially was always, and then as I got older, you know, things would happen like in the book I talk about not getting into an acapella singing group and I just remember being so devastated by it. 

 

And probably the first year I called my parents and the second year I was kind of like, well, I’ve already been through this once, so I know how to deal with it and I can process it and move forward even with disappointment and rejection. And so I think boarding school was amazing because then I went to college and I remember people crying as they were saying goodbye to their parents. My parents and I were like high fiving and it was like bye, I love you, see you at some point, you know. Um, and it’s been great. Like that’s really been my relationship with my parents. They’re very much a sounding board, but they are not on top of me sort of influencing the decisions that I make on a daily basis. 

 

I go to them for just comfort and sort of to discuss things. But really the decisions that I make truly are things that I make on my own. 

 

Leah Gervais: So do you think maybe you didn’t have the awareness of it at the time because you were probably like 14, but do you think you got better at listening to your intuition at a younger age? And do you think that that’s something that has still led you to where you are now? 

 

Lydia Fenet: I think so. Without a question. And I’ve actually had this conversation with other people who went to boarding school at an early age. I don’t think it’s for everyone. Certainly. Yeah. For me it was, it was something that I was very sad not to be at home, but I also saw this incredible network of people. I mean my roommate my freshman year was from Hong Kong. You know, she spoke English, but not that well. And you know, I didn’t know anything about China. The handover from Hong Kong happened two years from Britain to China hand. It happened two years into our time at Taft and I didn’t know anything about it. And all of a sudden I was getting this education and the geopolitical landscape and things that you know, never would have occurred to me or had been part of my daily life in Louisiana, in Lake Charles, suddenly became a part of my everyday life and a part of an education that’s continued ever since then. 

 

Leah Gervais: Right. That’s amazing. So growing up though in Louisiana, and did you picture yourself one moving to New York City before you went to boarding school and to being a working mom? Because I might be stereotyping a little bit here. I’m not from the south, but I feel like it’s a little bit more unusual than it is in New York for women to keep working while they have three kids. 

 

Lydia Fenet: Yeah. So the first part, I think I had been to New York once. Um, I think I was probably in like fourth or fifth grade. And the minute I walked into New York City I was like, oh, this is the place I’m supposed to be. What am I doing in Louisiana. Yeah. Because really this is, this is my home. Um, it’s still very much feels like that. I’ve always loved the energy of New York. I love the pace. I love just the people and I love everything about it. Frankly. It’s kind of a crazy place, but it feeds me and feeds my little certainly. Um, and yeah, I think I definitely believed that I was gonna work for a couple of years maybe. And then, you know, I’d get married and have kids and I would stop working. And I met my husband when I was 25, but he went to business school for two years. And so we sort of, I like to say we really did it for about two and a half years. He would say five, but I feel like the two year long distance for us was, you know, we were still together, but it wasn’t, it wasn’t like we were moving forward in a relationship. So for me it was really when he moved, when he came back here, I was already 30 or 31 and at that point I’d been working for 10 years. And I remember people saying, we’d only been dating for six months when he got into business school, are you going to move down to business school? And I was like, what are you talking about? You know, I have a career, but where I’m from, like that doesn’t mean, that doesn’t mean that you don’t move to Charleston. You just give up your career. 

 

And I think probably if I met him when I was 22 I, I would’ve thought the same thing. But at that point I felt like I had already proven myself and I had, you know, a name out there. I was a charity auctioneer. I loved what I was doing. I was moving up at work and it just never really occurred to me that I would leave and go to Charlottesville for two years and come back. So they’ve worked out well in that respect because he came back and I feel like we were in a good place to move forward in our relationship and start a family. And so from that moment on, it never really occurred to me I wouldn’t have a career. 

 

Leah Gervais: Awesome. It just was so clear to you at that point. So going off a little more of your southern background, one of the things I love that you talk about in your book that you really relate with public speaking and auctioning is the importance of storytelling and human connection, which at the end of the day is not that complex of a thing, but something I feel like we as a society missed the mark on a lot and don’t talk about enough. And I work with entrepreneurs in my business and I have found time and time again that the best branding tool you can have is not good photography or a beautiful website. It’s telling your story and talking about yourself so that people can relate to you. Um, and I know that you feel like this might’ve come a little more naturally to you because you grew up in the south where people are more storytellers. So I’m wondering if you can help my listeners because one of the biggest pieces of resistance I get is people saying, I hear you that storytelling is useful. I don’t feel like I have a good enough story to tell or, um, I don’t feel like I have anything people would be interested in. And I think where this might come from is how crazy the news is and how, if the stories that you see on the news are so dramatic and people are starting to undervalue their own stories. So have you ever come across that with the people you work with in our engineering and what advice you have for people taking out their own? 

 

Lydia Fenet: Absolutely. One of the first things that I do when I’m trying people out to be charity auctioneers is tell them, tell me a story, because I want to see how they tell a story because it’s such an interesting vision into someone’s soul. And also it’s interesting when you watch them from a public speaking standpoint to watch people literally fall apart as they try to tell a story that they would have told you five minutes ago with no problem, if you’d been seated in a chair next to them. I think storytelling is one of those things they’ve done well. You create the story, right? So even if the story is mundane, you start it, you put a nice story arc on it and then there is a finish and it doesn’t matter what that is, but it’s about how you tell it. If you read the book, you know the most powerful woman in the room is you. 

 

People always think of like, how did you know how to write this book? I’ve been a reader my whole life, and reading is all about the story arc, right? So in every chapter there’s a story arc. I start in the chapter, I talk about rejection, the small, the acapella singing group that I didn’t get into. And then I lead to the large getting rejected on stage in front of 6,000 people with Bruce Springsteen in the wings. And that story is what makes it interesting. And so I would encourage your listeners to think about their life story and to think about what has differentiated them from other people because that’s what’s interesting to people. You know, the fact that I grew up in Louisiana and went to a boarding school in Connecticut is not necessarily the most interesting thing in the world. But when I add the color of my mother’s British, I have siblings who are boys and that’s why I felt comfortable in a classroom. All of a sudden you’re understanding more about me and my personality and why I might be where I am today. And everybody has that story in some, in some regard, you know, your mom worked, your dad didn’t, your dad worked, your mom didn’t. What makes your story unique? And that I think draws people in and makes them feel invested in you. And frankly, that’s what makes people successful when you are creating a network of people who value you and believe in you and support you because they feel like they’re in part of your story. 

 

Leah Gervais: I love all of that, and I also just want to piggyback on it by saying that you know, you sharing your story of your mom being British and you growing up in Louisiana and going to boarding school, no, maybe it’s not new though, newsworthy, but that’s what people can relate to. If everyone out there had this story that should be on the news, no one would really feel like they could relate to that because it can be so outlandish. So I think it’s another important thing to remember. Have you ever been scared to tell parts of your story or felt overly vulnerable? I know in the book you share some pretty vulnerable things. Has that ever been hard? 

 

Lydia Fenet: Yeah, absolutely. My editor when I first started in the book said to me, I want you to think when you’re writing this, you work for Christie’s. So you work for the 1% of the 1% in a way. Like it’s a brand that most people probably will never have heard of others than just see a newsflash every sort of couple of years where someone sells something for hundreds of millions of dollars and I work here, I’m not the person behind things are hundreds of billions of dollars. So to be clear, but I think that the important thing to note from that, she was like, take us back to Louisiana. How did you get to be the person who’s sitting there talking to someone who’s buying something for $100 million? Cause that’s the story. And so for me felt vulnerable to go back to that because I think in New York it’s all about who you are and where you came from. And you know, I mean, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met over the course of my career who are affecting a life that isn’t theirs at all. And it felt so great in a way to share the story of who I am because I am so proud of the fact that I’m here despite the fact that we weren’t art collectors. I had a lovely life and I’m not in any way or shape or form discounting that, but not the kind of lifestyle that I see of the people who buy through our company. 

 

You know? But that doesn’t mean that I can’t be excited to work here. And you know, I often say to people, um, especially younger women, like if you ever have the opportunity to travel in your job and you work in an industry where people are much wealthier than you are, frankly, might ever be in your life. Go in and like open up a travel and leisure, open up a town and country and, or just go online and figure out what the top hotels and restaurants are. Just go in and look. Because frankly, sometimes it’s just the association of having seen something so that you can relate on a different level that puts you in the same sphere. It doesn’t mean that you had dinner there. It doesn’t mean that you stayed there and then it means that you saw it with your eyes and can judge it for yourself. So that’s just sort of a work hack that I learned in my twenties and I was traveling constantly for work and we just stopped by these places and sometimes have a glass of water and some nuts from the bar. Well, I went to the bar, I just didn’t really have anything except for free peanuts. 

 

Leah Gervais: No, I think that that’s such a powerful practice though that I don’t think, I think it’s hard to take it seriously until you actually start doing it and realize that you can shift yourself into a different arena just by slowly but surely including it into your life. And I think that especially New York is an intimidating place. And then you come here when you’re young, like you did, like I did. You can be like, how am I ever going to break into the, the world that it is? And you can just be done slowly by those little things. Um, I want to go back a little bit too. You just mentioned the chapter about rejection and overcoming rejection and um, I think, yeah, it’s amazing how you share the stories of, you know, all the way from not getting into your acapella group when you were in high school, which I think we all can have. 

I have the exact pretty much story planning of when I didn’t get on the dance team one year I’m like, Yup, I remember that. But now rejection feels a lot, you know, the stakes are a lot higher. I’m not in high school, didn’t cares about the dance team. Now it’s a lot more about, you know, business money, future, family thinks that you’ve worked really hard for. And I think that you did a great job showing both ends of the spectrum. But my question is, with your example, like the acapella group, you know, that’s a pretty, pretty clear, you tried, it didn’t work out. That sucks, but you tried. And that’s what matters. Nowadays, do you ever have rejections or failures where you get confused about whether or not it’s like a sign that you’re not meant to do it or it’s like, how do you differentiate between I tried and I failed, I’m going to try again. Versus I tried, maybe that just wasn’t for me and I’m going to walk away because I think it can be a hard balance when you’re trying to find yourself. 

 

Lydia Fenet: Yeah, that’s a great question. I definitely think that I try to look at rejection not as a hard, no. I look at it as part of a larger story. You know, I always say when I’m on stage taking an auction, there’s always an under bitter. And oftentimes, you know, if there’s a gentleman on my left who stops at $2,000 and there’s someone who’s going to win it at $3,000 at the end, you’ll hear me say something like going once to the gentleman on my right for $3,000 going twice. And I turned to the underbidder and I say, well, the good news is we now know that you have $2,000 burning a hole in your pocket, sir. So I’ll be back to you later. And so I often say this in negotiation or anytime I’m meeting with someone, if something doesn’t go my way, I’m like, well maybe, maybe you didn’t work this time, so let’s touch base in three months and maybe you’ll be the CEO and you can make the decision and you can work with us or something like that. 

 

So you know, I’m not closing the door, I’m leaving it open. And then frankly at that point, if nothing ever happens, at least it doesn’t feel like a hard no. And it doesn’t make me feel like I haven’t done what I’m supposed to do. But I also think that there are times when you know, if you hear the word no 75 times, sometimes you need to really be thoughtful about whether or not that is supposed to be a yes ever. I also think that people oftentimes don’t want feedback, which is really an interesting because what you need if you are hearing no time and time again, it’s to go back to the person to be like, listen, I understand I didn’t get the job fully appreciate that. Or I understand that this didn’t work out. I fully appreciate that. Could you give me some guidance on what went wrong and what I could do to improve? Because then again, someone feels invested in your story and even if at that point they don’t tell you they don’t give you what you want or the job, which ultimately is probably not going to happen, they can at least help explain to you what the issues were and maybe the next time you go in you can change things to ensure that you had the result that you want. 

 

Leah Gervais: That’s such great advice. Instead of leaving it up to your own potentially feelings to decide whether or not something is something that’s worth pursuing, just ask people and you’ll figure it out. You know, if they’d be give you feedback and they’re like, well like you could have done this better, then you can either internalize that and fix it or you can say, I didn’t want to do it that way. This was never going to work in the first place and now you know it’s not on your shoulders anymore. It is hard to get feedback some of the time when you feel like you are being rejected and then just go back and be like, just twist the knife even further.

Lydia Fenet: Just because you really did not want me, can I make sure I know now why you do not want the pressure? Great. Just really nailed it. Nailed that shut for me. But I do honestly believe that there is a part of all of us that that has to understand that life is about rejection in many different ways. Um, and once you realize that and you work through that and you aren’t scared of it, you’re just a much stronger person. I had a woman at a Q & A say to me, Oh, she’s like rejection. Let me tell you about rejection. Uh, I worked at a call center for five years and I was rejected over 10,000 times. She’s like, I’m bulletproof. And I remember thinking, God, what an incredible thing. I mean, when you just hear no all the time, no becomes normal. And then once it’s normal, then you really can do, right. 

 

Leah Gervais: Yeah. One of my friends who’s also an entrepreneur where she kept got into entrepreneurship after she was, she graduated from NYU and you know, she was an actress and then she ended up, she’s like, no, it is my middle name. 

 

Lydia Fenet: It’s so true. 

 

Leah Gervais: [Unable to transcribe] good entrepreneur when you know you’re used to being in the acting world where knows like all about something I necessarily want for myself. Um, one of my favorite parts of your book, and I put this on my Instagram, I have twisted it a little bit to fit what I wanted to hear, but you shared that one of the best pieces of advice you ever got was someone saying that if you’re asking salary doesn’t make your boss wince, then it’s too low. And I who said that? 

 

Lydia Fenet: Gemma Burgas. She’s a, she’s actually a screenwriter. So she did all the time. 

 

Leah Gervais: Yeah, I love that. And the way I twisted it was that for entrepreneurs, if your price is not making your customers wince a little, then you’re undervaluing yourself. So I’d love to hear a little bit more just about your case studies in general, how you got these amazing women to share, you know, all the lessons that you’ve learned and how they’ve learned it in their own way. And then if you want to piggyback on any more at that particular quote, I love it so much. 

 

Lydia Fenet: I know. So the interesting thing about the case studies, cause we were talking about rejection is I actually had a list of 60 women that I was going after. And as you can tell, they’re 33 in the book. So that should explain to you about rejection. And I remember the first one was a woman who I really wanted, she’s very well known and I’d met her a couple of times and I sent her an email kind of out of the blue asking and I didn’t hear back for a couple of days. And then finally she emailed me back and she said, I’m sorry, I’m contractually not allowed to do it because of my job. She works in media. And I remember thinking to myself, okay, well that didn’t feel good, but now I know what it feels like, so when I get the next reduction it won’t be as bad. And it really, by the end it kind of felt like, well that no, well I’ve got some yeses. And so that’s ultimately how I sort of sorted through. But the women in the case studies, I wanted to be everyone from, you know, a friend of mine who started a baby food company that’s done well, but it’s not by any stretch of the imagination, you know, it’s not like honest or something like that. She’s done well, but then all the way up to Martha Stewart, so you have someone that you can relate to all the way up to someone who’s really broken every barrier and has just continued to rise and rise and rise again. And I felt like the important thing that the case studies was that I wasn’t influencing them at all. So I would only send them the title of the chapter. The most powerful woman in the room, um, knows you are what you negotiate. 

 

Could you please give me 150 words on this? And so I just got this incredible group of 150 word case studies from women explaining what that meant over the course of their career. And I loved them. The meeting Gemma’s make them make them wince. So I thought it was so good. I got another friend who’s an artist named Kate shelter, who under a most powerful woman in the room, draws a roadmap and follows through Kate wrote I created Kate Shelter LLC. I drew up the plans. There was something just so amazing about, she just, it was sort of this conscious thought where she talks about how she created her company, how she created who she is because she knew what she wanted and she went after it. And how she does that with everything. It’s just like pencil to paper, you know, writing it all down. And I just thought that was so powerful. Like you can manifest what you want and be want to be. So I just loved the case studies. I still love looking through them because you know, I’ll read one and then go back and read another one and forget about it and then go back and read it and see something else that I didn’t even see the first time, which was so fun. 

 

Leah Gervais: Yeah. Yeah. And sometimes you’re like, I’m reading my own advice. I don’t believe myself right now. 

 

Lydia Fenet: I’ll read a case studies instead. 

 

Leah Gervais: You’ll go listen to someone else.

 

Lydia Fenet: Someone said to me, they were like, when did you, when did you become the most powerful woman in the room? I was like, well, when I wrote a hot pink book with the most powerful woman in the room is you on the cover. I kind of had to become that person. So any doubt that I had at that point just had to be wiped away. 

 

Leah Gervais: Right. Well that’s a representation of what you just said about Katie shelter, which is like you wrote like you wanted to be and how you were going to convey it and then you became it. And I think that’s how all action taking is you have to have the belief even if you don’t necessarily see it yet, that it’s there and then take action on behalf of that. Um, on that chapter about negotiation, that was one of my favorite stories in your whole book was when you talked about I could just, because it’s so relatable being in New York, being in your 20s and being at brunch and realizing someone else is making way more money than you and you just sort of being like, what in the world went wrong? And I thought we were all working our butts off since college. Like how is this happening? And how you handled it was just amazing. I mean, I’m sure that it’s probably one of the proudest moments of your career to date. It sounds like you’re really awoken something within you. But what I’m curious about, having been an intern and Christie’s and now managing people at Christie’s, and I’m sure you’ve managed several interns and people in their young twenties is how, how do I ask this? How to define quote when you’ve worked hard enough to ask for a raise? Because I feel like, you know, I work for myself now, but I worked in several jobs when I was in my early twenties here and I think women can play this little game with themselves where they are like, I work hard but then I could always be working harder and so therefore I’m still not eligible to ask for a raise. And then on the flip side, you have these people that are there, you know from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM even though it’s a nine to five job. 

 

And for them it does look like they’re going above and beyond. But in my eyes they’re also sort of diluting their own pay and making other people look bad for not going as above and beyond as their job is not even requiring them to do. Mothers can’t work those times. Neither can anyone who has a side hustle. So how do you balance being fair, staying in integrity but still showing up? I know this is kind of an all over the place question, but I would just love to hear your thoughts. Having managed so many people. 

 

Lydia Fenet: Well I definitely don’t feel like if you’d been at a job for two months, quite time to ask for a raise. I have seen that happened before. I only, I often say to people like you want to be realistic about what is going on at your, you have a job description in front of you. When you start a job, look at that job description and see if you are checking the boxes. You were checking the boxes. Then you are getting paid for checking the boxes. When you start to create additional things that become part of that job description and your innovating, that’s when I’m thinking to myself like that person is angling for a raise. That person is angling for a next step. So I say to people very early on in their careers, come to me with what you want to do and if you don’t know, let’s figure it out together because you need to have a roadmap for where you’re headed. The problem that we run into a lot of times I think is women as we just put our head down and think that we’re going to get rewarded for sitting at our desk and doing our job day in and day out. 

 

When in fact like no one rewards you. No one gives you a gold star for coming into the office. Just like you should know that you don’t get a gold star for coming to work. You get a paycheck for coming to work. So just know that going into it, but invest, get your boss invested in your career. Make sure that they understand where you are, what you’re doing, even if you don’t want to be in their office every day being, you know, sort of in front of them every single five minutes talking to them about your career, but set time aside over the course of the year and say to them, you know, this is what I was hired to do. I’m really enjoying this part of my job. I feel like I could be helpful in doing this. This is something I see as something that could be additive to our department because that’s the kind of worker that has a boss you love because they’re thinking about things that maybe aren’t your skill set or something that you don’t see. 

 

Like I’ve been in a company, I’ve been in a company for 20 years. There are a lot of things that I don’t know that take place outside of the four walls of the auction world. So I typically hire people external because they bring a different skill set. So I always say to them like, I can take you through the ropes of auction. I can tell you anything you need to know, I can auction you off, I can do anything you need. But when it’s like an integrated marketing plan that a lot of our tech, the technology companies are using right now, I’m not 100% familiar. So educate me and let’s do this together and we can create these programs and partnerships with these additions that you have seen in your own role. So that to me is someone who in my mind would be up for the next position in the coming years. 

 

And also I think you should ask, when you start working at a company, what is the, what is the expectation for promotions and raises? Because there are places where there’s two roles underneath the head role and they’re both taken. And until people leave, you don’t get them. So be realistic about where you’re working and what that looks like. But in terms of a salary, like, you know, I always believe that you have to ask, even if you don’t get the raise that year, let your boss know what you want in the coming years and have that person to be realistic about whether or not that’s ever gonna happen for you. You know, I had a woman who worked on my team a couple of years ago who came in and said, you know, I really, I see myself as a director of this department. And it was a very hard conversation because I really, really liked her as a person, but I never saw her in that director role. She just didn’t have the skill set. 

 

And so we had a long conversation and I was very upfront with her about that. And I said, listen, I don’t see that as a role for you here. So if you want to work in this role for another couple of years, that’s great, but let’s find the next step for you. And ultimately she found a job that’s much better for her outside of the company and she’s very happy and we stay in touch. And I think that’s also part of being a mentor and a boss is being like about the fact that sometimes you get someone internally who’s not going to fill the role that in the way that you need them to be filled. So you need to help grow them into their next role. 

 

Leah Gervais: Well, it sounds like you are definitely just as much, if not more of a mentor than a boss. So I’m sure anyone who works for you is really lucky to do so because I don’t think, you know, you don’t always have that in New York. I’ve, I’ve worked at my share of law firms and they’re not really be all that nice, but that’s really, really great advice. And I think it is important to remember both that you don’t get a gold star for going to work. You get paid and you’re not going to get a pay raise if for the most part, you know, unless you really ask for it and you need, um, quick question. Do you talk, do you encourage women to talk more about money now? 

 

Lydia Fenet: Yes. Yes. I, I just don’t, I really don’t understand why their secrecy around it. I really don’t. I think it’s so important. I mean, I had a conversation with a friend of mine who’s been at a company and this as long as I’ve been here, and when she told me how much she got paid, I was like, I’m going to tell you how much I get paid so that you understand that you are not getting paid enough and you need to work somewhere else because there’s no way you could be living on the salary that you’re living on in New York City. And she, she was flabbergasted. But I think she’s never had that conversation before because certainly people who’ve worked in companies, as long as I’ve worked in and don’t have those conversations because we weren’t taught to have those conversations. So I encourage it amongst peers, like you don’t have to put it on your face page or Instagram page. But definitely like have those conversations because that is what is going to help you understand what your worth on the open marketplace so that you don’t end up just spinning your wheels in a job that isn’t paying you for many, many years. We’re asking for the right salary within a company that could, could afford to pay you if you’d asked. 

 

Leah Gervais: Right, right. I um, I think it’s so important as well. I know when I was starting my business, I started sharing how much money I was making from it, which was very uncomfortable at first. But what I had to remember and what I saw when I opened it up and what I think probably happens for you, what you just sent to your friend is you are showing other people a possibility that they might not even see. And so if they don’t even understand that that’s possible, how are they ever going to take action toward making it happen for themselves? And that can be the powerful part. Sometimes it might feel weird to share, you know, your income or how much you make or talk about it with friends. But I think it can be in service to others if you’re opening their eyes to a place that they haven’t seen before. One of the things I think is very clear in this book and what you just talked about, which is why I’m thinking of it, is that you though you’ve worked for Christie’s for 20 years, you are very entrepreneurial within your company and I think you do a really great job in this book of giving actionable tips on how anyone can sort of see their own personal brand within their company, which is, you know, the day we’re living in. But on a more personal note, how did you then decide to write a book and you know you are an entrepreneur as well, your role at Christie’s. So what did that look like? 

 

Leah Gervais: So I’d been talking about writing a book forever and had done nothing about it. I just endlessly talked about how I was going to ride this bike. Like, I feel that, yeah. I was like, I’m writing a book. Everyone’s like, that’s great. How’s the book going? I’m like, great, you know, having done nothing. Um, and then I finally painted myself into a corner where I told the New York Times that I was writing a book when they did a profile Day in the Life piece where they followed me in my day job. And then my night job as a charity auctioneer and I told the reporter that I was writing a book. I’d written essentially a chapter of the book and I’d sent it to my best friend’s agent and she was like, you have a book in you. It’s just not this book. So, um, it was, you know, I had, was I writing a book? Kind of. I had an idea for a book, but I think when I knew that that was going in the New York Times, it really prompted me to get my proposal pulled together. So I got the proposal pulled together and then the date, the article hit, my best friend’s agent put on her social media that she was representing this author writing a book called The Most Powerful Woman in the Room is You. And timing is an incredible thing because this was two weeks after the me too article point out in the New York Times. So sudden a conversation that had been dormant for years, if it had ever really been had was all all over the front page of everything. And a woman writing a book called The Most Powerful Woman in the Room is You who’s worked in a company for 20 years, all of a sudden became pater. And so like four of the major publishing houses reached out. We had four meetings in a row and then on the fifth day I sold the book and a preempt to send it to start, which is in the same building I’ve worked in for 20 years, which is crazy. I do a keynote speech and I always say at the beginning of it, I’d like to say that I’ve been sitting on top of my dreams for the past 20 years of my life until I started to believe in myself that anything actually happened. So that really, that’s how it all started. And then, you know, once I started writing, I mean I wrote the whole book in three months, which was incredibly stressful. I didn’t really realize what writing a book entailed, but once I started writing the themes became very obvious to me. 

 

And so it really became about creating that story arc and coming back to the points of my life that put me into a place where I was able to understand and comprehend that message and how I learned that message. And that’s really what the book is about. It’s just supposed to be a story for people to read about. You know, someone who grew up in a town that is like a town that any personal listening on this podcast are living in the world, lives in, aside from probably in New York City. Um, and really sort of fumbling her way through it and hopefully giving you guys some hacks and tips so that you don’t fumble your way through it too. And you can actually sort of sit down and road map what you want and take, take the time to figure that out on your own before you go to other people and let them figure it out for you. 

 

Leah Gervais: Absolutely. I think really any career in our modern day, you’d have to be in the driver’s seat, which means being proactive and really going at it. And you know, everything from your case study with mercy, Martha sewer to your story of eventually how you raised half a billion dollars for charity to even, I loved your small tip about having your email password be your most recent goal right now. Sell Books 2019, what is yeah, seven books. 2019. Exactly. Um, it’s just amazing. So, I guess my last question is, I love the chapter where you really lay out your, your roadmapping strategy because it sounds like that easier to kind of go to answer for when people ask you how you quote do it all, how you have your kids and you work full time and you live in New York and blah, Blah Blah and everything’s spinning and you are an auctioneer at night, which I can’t even, so it blows my mind. Um, but I guess my question in the same vein would be from a mindset perspective, do you feel like there’s anything you’ve either learned over time or you have like a goto motto or philosophy that just keeps you not as stressed as you could be given things that you have going on? 

 

Lydia Fenet: I think the, why I have been successful in life and I truly believe this is because I don’t go to the negative. I try, and again, this is not 100% of the time, but it’s gotta be at least 85% of the time when things are going wrong. I really do not. I do not let myself go down a negative hole. And that starts at the beginning of the day because we’ve all had those days where you know you’re running for the subway and you slip and you rip your hose and then all of a sudden your shoe breaks and you get to work in your late and no one’s there. You know, there are just so many things that can come at you over the course of the day. When I feel myself going into that hole where I’m like, you know, I get on the subway, I’m angry and I’m upset about this and this person’s doing this and this person’s doing that. 

 

I think about something that my boss said to me years ago, which was if you have a fight with one person over the course of the day, it’s 50/50 if you have a fight with two people, you should probably take a look in the mirror and I think that that can also be very, very, very applied to any day of your life. If things start going wrong, everybody’s against you. Just stop for a second. Think about what you can do to turn your attitude around because the bottom line is not everything’s happening to you. You are causing some of that. And look, I mean, again, 2% or 3% of the time, that’s not the case, but most of the time it is. So for me, sometimes it’s just like putting on good music on the subway or just saying to myself like, stop and take a breath. 

 

Just stop, stop and start over. And that sometimes we just need to do that because otherwise like you can just battle your way through the days and then it just piles on and there’s negativity everywhere. And frankly you can find it anywhere you’re looking for it. So if you want to hate everyone in your office, there’s always someone to go to. If you want to be angry with everyone in the subway, they’re 50 other people who were feeling the same way. So I just try not to get myself like into that hole because once you’re in that hole, it’s hard to get out of it. So just try to stay positive, try to see the good in what you’re doing. Try to thank whoever it is. And in my case, it’s like thanking God for, you know, I slipped on the subway, but guess what? I had two legs and I was running because I’m a healthy person and that’s why that happened. So just try to stay on the positive side of things and it’s a good life mantra and it helps keep everything in perspective as well. 

 

Leah Gervais: It is an amazing Manantra and it, you know, fully circles back to your book. The most powerful one in the room is you. Because when you do take full responsibility for your own attitude, even if someone spilled coffee on you on the subway, and technically that’s their fault, but when you can start to see that you are in the position where you’re on the subway because you live in New York City, the best city in the world, uh, you are so much more powerful because otherwise you’re giving your mood over to some person that you’re never gonna see again, who probably feels bad that they stopped coffee.

 

Lydia Fenet: Absolutely, you know, it’s so true. 

 

Leah Gervais: And I think that that’s where positivity comes in and I think, you know, we’re all human and on the days where it feels like, no, I’m just really pissed off and I want to be mad at other people, you know, share. Sometimes you get it, but for the most part you are giving your power away when you do that. And I got our in the room, woman in the room keeps her, she doesn’t give her power away. It’s her power. Awesome. Well, you have been so inspiring to talk to. I’ve loved hearing more of your story from the book that I really loved and recommend. I did few speed questions for you. Are you ready? 

 

Lydia Fenet: Yes, go. 

 

Leah Gervais: Okay. So if you’re having a really, really bad day, what’s your go to?

 

Lydia Fenet: Coffee.

 

Leah Gervais: What would you say you’re most proud of in pursuing your vision so far? Whatever that means to you. Writing the book for me was huge. I mean the fact that there’s a book with my name on it, being such a reader that has been a life goal and I’m so excited. Even though it may be stressful, graduations you, do you have a and inspirational podcasts or book that you recommend? 

 

Lydia Fenet: I’m loving the Goop podcast right now. That’s what I’m, I’m used to. But in terms of inspirational books, I mean I really don’t read inspirational books, which is weird because I wrote one, but um, but I do, I enjoyed listening to podcast and I also just enjoy sort of seeing snippets on Instagram of like a positive quote here and there that I can think about throughout the day. 

 

Leah Gervais: Awesome. I love the positive spin on social media. Instagram doesn’t have to be all bad, you guys, 

 

Lydia Fenet: Not at all. It’s just about who you follow. Right? 

 

Leah Gervais: Exactly. You can choose. Is there something we can look out from you for next?

 

Lydia Fenet: Yes. So I think the next book is going to be The Most Powerful Girl in the Room is You for the younger set. So any moms or grandmothers out there who want a book for the younger generation, this will be it. So we’ll start them young. 

 

Leah Gervais: How exciting. Congratulations. Thank you. And where can people find out more about you and your book? 

 

Lydia Fenet: LydiaFenet.com I have a website that tells a little bit more about the book and all about speaking and auctions. And then in addition to that, I’m all over Instagram as LydiaFenet. 

 

Leah Gervais: Awesome. Well thank you so much Lydia. It was a joy to talk to you. This was so value packed and we’re so grateful for you. 

 

Lydia Fenet: Well thank you so much. I’ve had such a great time. 

 

Leah Gervais: Oh, I love it. I’ll talk to you soon. Thank you visionaries for tuning in. I hope you love this as much as I did, and here’s to your biggest vision.




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