In this episode, I interview my friend and colleague Ashley Cox of Ashley Cox Co and SproutHR. Ashley is passionate about showing women how to leverage their natural strengths to overcome their insecurities and doubts. Together, she and I discuss what it means to show up as a leader in your business and how to let your intuition inform your leadership style and your decision-making process.
Ashley Cox is a leadership mentor for professional women and female founders. She helps those who are tired of trying to fit inside a box that doesn’t work for them. She helps entrepreneurs tap into and leverage their natural strengths in a way that feels authentic. By using these strengths, business owners and female professionals can get incredible results without trying to be someone they’re not.
Ashley started a career as a manager many years ago, and her first experience in leadership wasn’t so enjoyable. At 22 years old, Ashley was a manager in a multi-million-dollar business, overseeing 350 employees. Her supervisor kept telling to lead in a way that didn’t jive with her personality, so even though she was getting results, it was in a way that made her feel completely out of alignment with her values and her personality. Her leadership told her that being too empathetic, getting too personal, or getting too close to employees would lead to a lack of respect. And while leaders should have boundaries, Ashley found that she was stuffing down parts of her personality that should instead have been a part of her leadership style.
When she finally tapped into her own strengths and abilities – that empathetic, positive, compassionate connector – everything turned around, and she became a better leader. It felt in alignment with who she was while still creating growth in the company.
Ashley also worked in HR after her stint as a manager. Four years ago, she started her current business to help women discover their strengths and become the leaders they were meant to be. She’s on a mission to help female entrepreneurs find what’s missing from leadership.
Ashley is revolutionizing the concept of business leadership. This idea that we have to conform to old-school leader traditions prevents us from connecting with our people and leading them effectively. I love how Ashley embraces a newer version of leadership that revolves around personal strengths and compassion.
“I’m Not Cut Out for This.”
A few minutes into the podcast, I ask Ashley how she responds to women who come to her saying they should move up to a leadership role, or perhaps start their own business, but they just don’t feel like they’re capable.
Ashley told me she usually hears this fear framed as “I’m not cut out for this.” And she challenges her clients (and my listeners) to recognize that most of us are already leaders in some way. Maybe we lead a volunteer committee, we manage home finances, or we manage our kids’ schedules and appointments. You may not be associating those experiences with your professional life, but we should acknowledge this parallel.
Saying we’re “not cut out for this” is unfair to ourselves: you have been a leader and will continue to be. Take some time to examine how you’re currently using your strengths to manage your personal and family life, and how can you implement those strengths in your professional leadership roles. How might you lead a team of people using these same strengths?
I absolutely loved what Ashley said here about looking at our own personal leadership tendencies to find what might help us lead in our businesses.
In Ashley’s view, spiritual entrepreneurship is largely about being self-aware. It’s about being mindful of how we’re showing up in the world. It’s about looking at ourselves objectively, finding where we have strengths and where we can improve.
But it’s also about tapping into intuition – the voice in our head – and listening to what it’s telling us to do. Ashley believes that women have a kind of sixth sense, and we shouldn’t be afraid to lean into that. Too often, women are told to stifle our intuition in the corporate world. We are told to make decisions based on data and facts. But our intuition should be the guiding light that helps us make decisions in our business.
Intuition vs. Data
In the past, intuition has often been viewed as a liability. We tend to believe that if we can’t see something or prove it using facts and data, it can’t be true. Instead, Ashley suggests that intuition is our superpower, helping us move our businesses and our lives forward.
In her time as a recruiter, Ashley was told to look for facts and data. When she ignored her instincts about hiring someone, she got burned. When she learned to look at the data and relied on her gut instinct, she often made better decisions. She’s found the same in her own business. By relying more on her intuition, Ashely built a business that is in line with who she is and where she wants to be in life, both personally and professionally.
I’ve had plenty of times like this: times when I didn’t listen to my intuition, and it came back to bite me. I asked Ashley why she believes we ignore our gut feelings. She responded that we have been conditioned to avoid our intuition in favor of data and logic. Spiritual entrepreneurs can’t explain why we believe something is the right (or wrong) decision; we just have a strong intuition or gut feeling. We make ourselves vulnerable when we give those gut feelings a voice.
All this talk about cultivating our intuition has me thinking back to Episode 3, where I talk in great detail about our inner wisdom and how we can let it lead our decision-making. (If you missed that episode, click here to listen!)
Even when she doesn’t overtly discuss intuition with her clients, Ashley builds it into the conversation. When a client faces a challenge, Ashley says, “okay, without thinking about it, what do you think is the right thing to do, right here and now?” Often, it’s the right answer. As spiritual entrepreneurs, we typically have the answers already. We just need someone to reflect those answers back to us. As Ashley says, “I’m my clients’ mirror.”
Once clients understand they have the strengths to build a successful business and make good decisions, Ashley helps them build on that knowledge, learning to navigate decision-making from both an intuitive side and a logical side.
How Spirituality Affects Ashley’s Decision-Making Process
Ashley relied heavily on data and information to start her business, as all entrepreneurs should. She researched licensing and tax laws, figuring out the practical side of entrepreneurship. Once it came to crafting services and working with clients, she relied more heavily on her inner wisdom, letting her interactions and intuition chart her course.
In 2018, she began to feel unsettled. Even though her business was successful, it didn’t feel fulfilling. A business coach asked Ashley, “why are you doing all these things in your business that aren’t giving you joy?” That’s when it clicked: entrepreneurs can do work that aligns with our goals; work that fills us up emotionally. That’s when she took a hard look and her values and her goals. She pinpointed what gave clients the most success and gave her the most joy, and landed on being a mentor to professional women. She used data and information along the way, but she relies heavily on her intuition.
As entrepreneurs, we feel called to do work that serves and changes the world in some way. We also want to improve ourselves and show up as the extraordinary human beings we are. Of course, we want to be profitable along the way – and we are allowed to be successful – but it’s so much deeper than that.
Vulnerability in Authenticity
There’s a lot of risk in showing up and being authentic. It can be very vulnerable and scary, and Ashley admitted to being afraid to trust herself. Even after she decided what she wanted to do, it took her six months to go out and do it. Her logical side wasn’t letting intuition have room to move her business forward. She feared what a change would do for her business, and what people would think about her as a person and an entrepreneur.
Transition is always a little rocky. Ashley’s insecurity came from fighting her intuition. When she gave into her inner wisdom, she saw a significant shift in her business.
I think that’s important for all entrepreneurs to note: our lives are an evolution. Over time, even intuition-based decisions can become a safety blanket if we never move forward. We should never stay static because that’s when fear takes hold. Getting past the fear is what leads to growth.
“Give Yourself a Promotion”
In her corporate job, Ashley was ready for a promotion every 18 months to two years. Why when we have our own businesses do we not allow ourselves to have a shift, and to take on a new role? Think of changes as a “self-promotion,” allowing us to move into new experiences in our business journey. We need to let go of that pressure to keep our businesses and ourselves the same forever and ever.
Personally, I love this idea of “self-promotion” because this podcast feels like an example of that thought. It has allowed me to expand and promote my business and move into a new role.
Misconceptions About Spiritual Entrepreneurship
Towards the end of the podcast, Ashley and I discuss common misconceptions about spiritual entrepreneurship and the kind of work we do. Let me tell you: criticism abounds in this business. As Ashley points out, there are plenty of people who see us as idealistic, flaky, or that we don’t have anything concrete to offer. But she has worked with plenty of female entrepreneurs who have built businesses based on a deep knowing, an intuition that told them to start a business to change lives. When people find concepts that resonate with them, suddenly the “woo” seems to make more sense. Tapping into the “woo” makes people blossom and transition into something new.
It’s been a pleasure talking with Ashley Cox today. Be sure to follow her on Instagram at @ashleycox.co!
If you’re looking for more practical steps from this episode, sign up for my email list to receive the weekly “Deeper Dive.” You can also find more resources at the FREE Wisdom Library on the Work Your Inner Wisdom website.