Meet Deborah, a health and safety manager who’s changing the game in her field. As an inspirational leader, Deborah’s focus on human-centered design sets her apart from the rest. With a passion for making sure that people are always at the heart of everything she does, Deborah is a force to be reckoned with. But her journey to become the leader she is today hasn’t been an easy one.
In fact, Deborah’s experience in toxic workplaces inspired her to develop a more people-focused approach to leadership. By prioritizing the well-being of her team, Deborah has created a culture of safety that’s both effective and engaging. In this inspiring interview, we’ll sit down with Deborah to hear about her experiences in those toxic workplaces, and how they helped shape her approach to leadership.
We’ll also learn more about her innovative approach to health and safety, and the impact it’s had on her organization. Join us as we discover the power of human-centered design, growth mind-set and the role it plays in creating safer, healthier workplaces for everyone.
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We know that you cannot get enough of us! So we want to offer the awesomeness of behind-the-scenes footage, bloopers reels and more.
Oh yeah.Speaker 2: 53:32
All these different shirts. No, that was the other Brian. That was T-shirt Brian Oh.Speaker 1: 53:37
T-shirt Brian. Oh my God, yeah, brian with the insurgents was very funny.Speaker 2: 53:41
Yeah, um, we had the lady with four million jobs. Do you remember that one Mm? hmm, i know Where she had like what was it Like? 47.Speaker 1: 53:54
Like her first. Like her first line out of the box was like I’ve had 46 jobs in the past 30 years and we’re like what.Speaker 2: 54:05
We’ve got Amy, who talks to us about toxic positivity, which is pretty cool, and then we had Stu, who was our most recent recording, yeah, talking about leadership, which I’m pretty bloody excited about.Speaker 1: 54:20
And now so we’ll be doing some more interviews, but also sprinkling in some of the research episodes.Speaker 2: 54:25
Yeah, and then we’ll be doing some research episodes is going to like is our next kind of step right? That’s our evolution.Speaker 1: 54:33
And we’ll see what happens. We’ll see what you guys like more And if you have any comments, thoughts, reactions, just reach out to us.Speaker 2: 54:39
Yeah, We really appreciate everybody’s comments. Yeah, We’ve had. I just, I just get so excited when someone comments, So if you could comment like like subscribe, share follow all those good things. Come join us on LinkedIn. Come join us on.Speaker 3: 54:55
Instagram, yeah, yeah Find us a good place.Speaker 4: 54:57
We’d be happy to have you.Speaker 2: 54:59
And we’ll see you in season two. Couple weeks, yeah, yeah, a couple weeks. Thank you for joining us today. If you would like to share your story, we would love to hear from you.Speaker 1: 55:10
Also, leaving a review helps us create more content because it shows us there’s an interest in this topic.Speaker 2: 55:16
For those of our listeners who do better with reading, we have closed caption available on YouTube.Speaker 1: 55:20
See you next week, same time and same place.
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Gina [00:01:00] So hello Nicola, how are you?
Nicola [00:01:03] Gina What are you eating, babes? Describe it in detail. Is this how a similar episode we were like, You know.
Gina [00:01:10] I realized the last time we recorded my microphone was like, all the way over here and you can barely hear me. So I really need to make sure that I talk into the mic.
Nicola [00:01:20] In two, two, two, two, two. La, la la la la.
Gina [00:01:24] Okay.
Nicola [00:01:25] That was out. That was for our Asmar edit.
Gina [00:01:27] Yeah, I’m eating some high protein yogurt with mangoes.
Nicola [00:01:32] Please. You’re so healthy. It’s ridiculous. I’m chubby. Do, do, do, do, do.
Gina [00:01:38] You know, like, it’s not fun because, like, I want I want through my workout this morning and I was like, dragging ass and I was just like, so fucking hungry because I go to bed hungry, I wake up hungry. And of course I’m like, okay, so this means my body is losing weight. I’ve, like, plateaued at this current.
Nicola [00:01:54] Weight for the past week.
Gina [00:01:56] It’ll move, but it’s just so fucking annoying because you’re just like, I’m doing the most and I’m getting the least. You know what I mean? It’s just frustrating.
Nicola [00:02:04] I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. That sucks. Like, I can’t.
Gina [00:02:08] Even though as part of weight loss, you know? And then, of course, my also my other favorite is you’re like, doing everything right. And then you get on the scale one morning and it like, shoots up to some ridiculous number and you’re like.
Nicola [00:02:18] No, Then you just need to poop and then you’re good to go.
Gina [00:02:21] Bleach 400 grams of air chubby.
Nicola [00:02:24] Oh, my God, I’m going to stop that. It’s like my next theme. So, you know, face, we have had my other theme song. I’m going to start a new theme.
Gina [00:02:30] So if any song on the planet could be your theme song, what would it be? Inquiring minds want to know.
Nicola [00:02:36] Inquiring minds? Oh, that’s really tough. And like a theme song for my life.
Gina [00:02:40] Yeah, or just like that.
Nicola [00:02:42] Because I just can’t wait to be king. Nobody says do that. Nobody says Be there. Nobody says, Stop that. Yeah, I.
Gina [00:02:52] Think you didn’t ask me to tell.
Nicola [00:02:53] You. Oh, no, I’m. I’m curious to know. Inquiring minds must know.
Gina [00:02:57] I think there’s going to be old school. Michael Jackson Want to be starting something? Starting?
Nicola [00:03:02] So you want to stop it? Yeah.
Gina [00:03:06] I mean, it’s a good one. And also, I’m the type of bitch that likes to fuck around and find out, so I’m always starting something.
Nicola [00:03:13] Oh, yeah. Look. Hey, you know what? I’m going to give you some kudos this week. I am so proud of you for checking in on how you are writing your emails to others. Why we’re so proud of you because we spoke about it. It’s what these weeks are like bleeding.
Gina [00:03:31] I know because we’re doing.
Nicola [00:03:32] These episodes that like blending together, but we spoke about it.
Gina [00:03:36] In the What’s your name? Joanna, who I love.
Nicola [00:03:39] Oh, my God, I think I love Haiti. I’d like to be here when I grow up. But essentially you’re kind of like you’re you took that conversation on board. I love that you did that. Look, you’re reflecting on self.
Gina [00:03:51] I know.
Nicola [00:03:52] But kudos to you. Good. Five bonus point. Kudos to you.
Gina [00:03:56] You get out because at my age do have to go back and even say like hi, so and so. Can I just take a side note? I was trying to eat that piece of mango and recently I got Botox in my upper lip.
Speaker 4 [00:04:06] So no, you fucking didn’t.
Gina [00:04:08] Yeah, they put it like, right here to, like, help with, like, you know, like the smoke or lines women’s get women get as you.
Nicola [00:04:14] Do you have smoke alliance.
Gina [00:04:16] No but I don’t know what else to call it. Like the fine lines that you get around your mouth as you age. So I.
Nicola [00:04:22] I you do have good lips, though.
Gina [00:04:24] I was like, what can I do about these these, like, little fine lines that I’m probably the only one who thinks I’m getting them. So my injector was like, well, just put a little tiny bit of Botox in it. So I was like, Sounds good. What I did not realize is that it like, I didn’t really think it through because it like paralyzes right here.
Nicola [00:04:41] So I’m like.
Gina [00:04:43] Yeah. So I’m like trying to chew up like a slightly large piece of mango and like, my lip is not cooperating, but I’m trying to like, rinse my mouth out with the mouthwash is like.
Nicola [00:04:54] The dumbest place to put Botox I’ve ever heard of. We’re pretty excited to be chatting with you today.
Gina [00:05:01] Yes. We were just discussing my Botox lips situation.
Nicola [00:05:06] I was like, who puts Botox in their lips because I got into a fucking bubble?
Gina [00:05:12] It’s at about it. Yeah. Bitch, please. Just, like, right above it.
Nicola [00:05:16] It’s like when you go to the dentist and then your face is like, well, and then you’re like, on it, but.
Gina [00:05:21] It’s, like, is only noticeable. Like when you when I’m, like, trying to drink from a straw or, like, rinse my mouth out. And then it’s like the everything. Everything’s just like. And I’m like, oh my gosh.
Nicola [00:05:32] I as I mentioned, I’m super excited to introduce DBS today. We have worked together and we actually work in the set or identical industries, which is quite entertaining and is how we mate is we mates at a workplace? DBS is absolutely one of my favorite leadership people in the industry because she’s really thoughtful and empathetic and she’s an amazing leader. And I think, you know, you and I were just chatting about this, but one of the other things, you know, that we want to ask her about because fun times is she also mentored the CEO over at the toxic place. You and I met at.
Gina [00:06:12] I don’t know if you could see that that very quick eyeroll. I just did. But that’s about what I’m going to say about that.
Nicola [00:06:19] Yeah. So I’m curious to know just the thoughts there. But David, would you like to introduce yourself? Tell us a little bit about you and where you’ve come from and kind of the industries you’ve worked in a little bit more about you, babe.
Deb [00:06:32] Thank you for the cool introduction. Feel honored to be on the call. Thanks for asking me. Yeah. My name is Deborah and I’ve worked globally in many different industries and mostly in health, safety, wellbeing, quality and environment. But I’ve had the opportunity to work with big corporate companies, family owned companies, and kind of got to see the difference between some real time workplaces and at workplaces workplaces that allow for people to thrive. So it’s been really interesting. My journey. I originally from South Africa, moved to New Zealand five years.
Gina [00:07:11] Ago, surrounded by South Africans. I swear, because my daughter’s nanny is also South Africa. Yeah, I lived at the South Africa.
Deb [00:07:19] All over the world. Did two degrees in South Africa, so one of them being banking and the other one Bachelor of Business Administration and then got into safety and really loved it, got the opportunity to manage and lead teams in Africa and in Europe, all over the world and now in New Zealand. So really exciting. I’m really passionate about that. If you ask me if I choose any other in any other career, I’d say no because I love what I do. And Nicola will tell you how passionate I am about it. I live and breathe safety. So yeah, it’s just something that I’ve really taken to. And again, just I’ve worked in environments where it’s been a lot of men and it is male dominated and it’s extremely hard. However, I’m happy that I’ve gone through my experiences of trying to prove myself because it’s really made me stronger and more resilient and understanding of different workplaces and and how to handle different environments. So yeah, that that’s me in a nutshell. I used to lived in England for a while and like all South Africans do, go over and have a gap year or years as it was for me. But I had the opportunity to work in various different environments, not only safety, but I got to experience lots of different aspects of business and kind of really my forte now is I’m back in banking and I’m really enjoying it, really getting the opportunity to use some human centered design and some design thinking, which is awesome. And to bring that into safety is is kind of revolutionary in our industry. Yeah, so that’s me.
Nicola [00:09:09] Dive into some of those really toxic workplaces that you have experience because I know there’s been a few and then I say we circle on back in to some of the really good workplaces that you’ve worked in and some of the suggestions you can give to people that might be listening to say, Hey, here’s an opportunity to do better. Here are some of the things that other people are doing. All right, so what what do you think is the most toxic workplace you’ve worked?
Deb [00:09:38] I think for me, coming to New Zealand and very naive as to kind of the work style and the workplace, it’s a bit different to South Africa. And so I started my career in New Zealand at a family owned business, a really well known family owned business and. It was really tough. So you can imagine being in transport and logistics is hard enough for a woman. But being surrounded by men all the time becomes quite a difficult situation. So my story really is about how I was in a really senior position and I was really enjoying it. I really had a really good time, really making my mark in the company, and I got to work with many different people. And one particular person that I worked with was a senior person, quite senior, and we formed a friendship. At first I thought he was a bit of an arrogant prick. We started to get on and I thought that, you know, he was a genuine person and he really cared about the company and and what it stood for at the time. But then it started to get more of a harassment kind of process. So, yeah, it started with Coles in the early hours of the morning and it started to get like I would have to go to his office all the time and there was no way out of it because I had to work with the operational people. Right. And eventually, to cut a long story short, it got so bad that I felt intimidated in board meetings and in senior leadership meetings to the fact that it kind of forced me to. I’m not saying that I’m all, you know, innocent in the in the whole situation. However, it did end up in me and my marriage breaking down. It was a difficult situation, put it that way. And all along, if I had been a man in that position, this would never have happened. And I felt that he used his power to create this toxic base where it kind of me down the wrong path, put it that way. And then I found out later that he had had many affairs with different people in his previous work and at that particular time. So for me, I think that having this kind of toxic person, it just it’s really intimidating. It just my my life spiraled out of control. So I can say that from my experiences and look it, it got to much worse where it really made me go into a real depression. If we can avoid those kind of situations in the future and help people to and to recognize those type of signs or people, then that can be avoided. And my my hope is that there will be people out there that this has happened to. It’s not the first time we know that there’s places all over the world that experience this type of harassment. And really I see it as a bit of a bullying tactic, to be honest, forcing someone to, you know, get close to them. Creating opportunities, every opportunities you can to intimidate them and to break you down.
Gina [00:13:09] Can you explain how I went from being friendly to feeling harassed? Because I feel like I need that gap to be bridged somehow?
Deb [00:13:17] Yeah, I think he created the opportunity for himself, for me to always be there. So he was in operations and I was in safety, right? So for my job, if there’s ever anything that I think that someone’s unsafe or they need to and they need my help, then I would be there. And he took advantage of that by creating environments where he needed me to be at all his meetings. He needed me to be after their after hours. And he and the whole time was the excuses were, Oh, I need you, I need you to help me with this safety problem or this safety issue that I have. And at first I thought that was genuine. That was what he needed me for. But then it became like he started paying me a lot of attention and he started creating opportunities for us to go out to lunch, for example, and things just started to escalate. He acted like he was really caring for me. He was very empathetic. He paid me a lot of compliments and just openly always being there for me. And so and it felt like he was supporting me, but he had an ulterior motive and an ulterior agenda. At the end of it. I wasn’t going through a really good time with my husband at the time, so I was kind of looking for that attention and he was just giving it to me and he wasn’t afraid to call me at two three in the morning to say, Oh, Deborah, I’ve got a problem here, or I need your help here. And then the conversation started to turn into personal conversations.
Gina [00:14:54] Because I’m like, so far I don’t like I don’t feel like, yes, the timing of the phone calls. Are probably fashionable. But, you know, if you’re working in logistics, things happen at 2:00 in them. Like, you know, I work I work in supply chain. So I get that. I mean, there could have legitimately been a reason. So once it started getting personal, I’m just going to ask, was it like sexual in nature? Did it get like that? Like right away? Like, did it ramp up?
Deb [00:15:21] Yes, it did ramp up. And then I was like, I need you to send me a picture of yourself or and you oblige. You send a.
Gina [00:15:29] Picture to my younger self. What about like, you? Okay, Like I learned my lesson many, many years ago, but I. I can’t like you. Pick shame anyone. I went to something.
Deb [00:15:42] I did. I did. Because I wanted the attention. Right? I did.
Gina [00:15:45] It. And you’re younger and you’re, like, trying to like you don’t.
Nicola [00:15:48] And you’re not. You’re not ever happy in the marriage and like.
Gina [00:15:52] You just need.
Nicola [00:15:52] Attention.
Gina [00:15:53] Navigate like the corporate landscape. So you’re like, he’s in my corner. Like, I get. I get it. I would have absolutely I would have been like, panties or no panties.
Deb [00:16:03] I.
Gina [00:16:03] Items. I was crazy when I was like, it didn’t. I think like in my thirties I started to really calm down, but like in my twenties I would’ve been like, Oh yeah, I have great boobs. Want to see them? Like, All right, so you sent the pictures now, now I’m here for this. So. But yeah, go ahead, tell us the story.
Deb [00:16:24] Yeah. So then it started because I traveled a lot and so did he write though? Eventually, you know, after a while. And I said to him, I’m leaving my husband and yet to make space for our relationship. And and it was a trying time. He used to find me all the time and he wasn’t in a good space. I honestly think he was on drugs, to be honest. And because his foods were kind of up and down all the time. And for me, I know that behavior because I’ve been there myself and and I just knew something was not right. And he would work late at night, wouldn’t sleep a lot. So to me, those it’s just that, yeah, it was.
Gina [00:17:08] Definitely something going on with drugs or mental health issues this.
Deb [00:17:13] Mentally health and mental health issue with calling me to say, Deborah, I need you to cover for me because I can’t make it up to work. I’m lying in my hotel room. Can you come and see me? I need you to come see me because I just can’t handle the situation. So putting the guilt trip on me as well. And to he would find me at times when I was with my husband and my children and, you know, I’d be having to hide the phone eventually. My husband did find the text messages because we were texting. Obviously, he want my husband wanted to try again with us, so I was willing to try again. And but these it continued the me sending photos and having to be there every when I felt like so anxious because I had to be there for his every beck and call. So it started to get like every hour he would call me, he would send me messages and I’ll be up and down one back day. He had need me. Next day he would tell me to fuck off. And so very erratic.
Nicola [00:18:12] Very narcissistic as well.
Gina [00:18:14] Very, very codependent kind of relationship that he set up. And and yet I’m not defending anyone or putting three and then one under the bus. But at that time in your life, you fed right into it. I did codependent right?
Deb [00:18:28] Yeah. And yeah, he was very controlling so you.
Nicola [00:18:32] Know that’s but you know okay so caveats this is not the first time I’ve heard the story but it feels right now it feels like the first time I’m hearing the story. Right. But now when I listen back to it, I might actually this is really predatory. Like, guess, you know, he’s using your vulnerability here to his, you know, and.
Gina [00:18:50] It.
Nicola [00:18:51] To his advantage and that’s really predatory.
Deb [00:18:54] Yeah it’s that it goes to me it’s that domestic violence piece around and control and coercion. So it’s really wanting to get the control of me. And once he had it, then he wanted he was okay with it. And then, you know, he would push me away. So it’d be constant pushing me closer and bringing me closer and then pushing me away constantly. And that was it. You know, to be honest, I lost 20 cages at the time when it happened. Now I left that workplace the and because I got another job and personally, I just couldn’t handle working with him. I just I just needed to get away.
Gina [00:19:34] And then I just ask a follow up question. You said you were you told him you were leaving your husband. Yeah. To make like part. I guess that was a bigger decision on both of your parts. But then you said, you know, to make room for our relationship. Did he go cold at that point? What happened? He did.
Deb [00:19:51] So he went help completely. He went cold. And he ended up he started dating one of the customer services girls. He was like. 19 years old. Of course, at the time.
Gina [00:20:02] Makes perfect sense.
Deb [00:20:04] Yeah. And then he got a job somewhere else. And outside of New Zealand. And she left her job as well. And they. They moved straight there to that country. I ended up calling him and with my best friend. And I said, Why did you do this to me? Why did I have to find this out by someone else? And you you couldn’t you didn’t even have the guts to tell me. And he was like, Oh, but I really love you. But I can’t be with you because of your husband and all of this stuff, right? Bullshit. But anyway.
Nicola [00:20:39] But he also spent some time, you know, kind of stalking you for a little while. Yes.
Deb [00:20:44] On after. Yeah. So this was after, right? So then he moved away with his girlfriend. And this was a year went by. I had a new job, and I was doing really well in my new job, and I was just getting on with my life. Then he started contacting me on social media, on LinkedIn. He started looking at my profile all the time, like every hour on the hour. And then he sent me an email and said, Debra, contact me. You need to I need to talk to you. So I called him and it all ramped up all over again. And by this time I was separated from my husband. And yeah, it was I was dating other people and getting on with my life and starting to, you know, really pick up the pieces living on my own. And yeah, basically had everything. And then he started ramping it up again. And then my life took another slump because, again, is that coercion and control. Tell me one day he wanted me the next day telling me to fuck off. And same thing over and over. And I fell for it, right? Because I thought that he was my person. I thought that he was the one for me. So really that wasn’t the case. He was just playing me. And then he ended up coming back into the country. And I went to I met him at his hotel room and that time we did have I felt nothing. I felt like I honestly didn’t feel anything. And I told him that I didn’t feel anything like it. It just felt shitty.
Gina [00:22:18] Like, was it formal dating while you guys were working together? But was it just kind of like. It was like. It was like a situation ship.
Deb [00:22:26] And he’s since met someone and he knows he. He knows exactly what I do and exactly who whom I am in a relationship with. And now I have an amazing partner who’s really, really awesome. And he knows my entire story and he knows the situation. And yeah, I just I’ve completely blocked that other person out of my life.
Gina [00:22:52] The right thing to do.
Deb [00:22:53] Yeah, because.
Gina [00:22:54] You even said it. You’re like, he came back in and then my life went to shit again.
Nicola [00:22:58] What are some of the others? Because I know you and I.
Gina [00:23:00] Want to hear some of the other. Yeah, we’ve like, maybe like industries.
Nicola [00:23:04] Especially male dominated industries.
Deb [00:23:07] Yeah. Again, it’s that and giving people. Sometimes people can’t handle being a leader because power kind of goes to their head and they don’t know how to handle the situation. So you give someone the opportunity to be a leader, right? But you have to equip that person to be a leader. You can’t you can’t just put someone in the position and expect them to thrive. Because if someone’s not a natural leader and they haven’t had the experience of being a leader, there’s no ways that they’re going to thrive because they’ll take it straight to the space of, I’ve got to micromanage my team. I need to make sure that I know what they’re doing it every time of the day. I don’t have the maturity to give them that or create the environment that makes them thrive.
Nicola [00:24:03] Which because that kind of leads us into that question that we had kind of lined up for you is you actually mentored the CEO or of the workplace that we that Gina and I made chats. Yeah.
Gina [00:24:16] She was a huge micromanager, huge decision.
Deb [00:24:21] Yes.
Nicola [00:24:23] So tell us a little bit about your experience mentoring the CEO.
Deb [00:24:27] I think for me, I found that there was not the maturity there. There was not the experience of being a leader. And again, I go back to you need to have the tools to equip a leader. You can’t just put them in a leader position and then expect them to run with it. Either you have the experience, which is over time and you’ve you’ve built up your tools, your tail, your toolkit, and you’ve managed big teams and small teams and you you can read people, you are empathetic. And if you’re not in that space, it’s. Very difficult for you to now manage a team because you automatically want to take control, right? Because you think that I always look at it at this. There’s a difference between a manager and a leader. Now, a manager loves to manage and loves to use the old school way of thinking, which is, you know, yeah, don’t trust my team. I need to have the glory for everything. And that’s the kind of reaction I got of that particular person. I don’t think that that person was equipped, first of all. So to do it, to be in that position.
Gina [00:25:39] They were like, I don’t mean to cut you off, but then they were 15 years younger than me walking into a role that they had. They had zero corporate experience.
Deb [00:25:51] And it was.
Gina [00:25:52] Hard for me to reconcile someone. And I think Nicola felt the same way. You know, I have almost 20 years of corporate experience and both the CEO and CEO are we’re both in the same boat. They had almost virtually no experience. For me to be like slapped on the wrist when I was too firm in an email really was a hard pill to swallow because it’s like I have to be firm because I actually know better because I’ve lived it 15 times in the past, you know, And it just it just ignites that frustration. And it brings me right back to that period where I would I literally had one of their journals and I was banging it on the desk because I was so fucking frustrated. So, yeah, I mean, do.
Deb [00:26:40] Do you think that and startups, for example, do you think that they’re ill equipped to as they grow, they don’t really think about that leadership pace and what it means to put the right people in the right position?
Gina [00:26:54] I think so. In this particular startup, they thought they were doing that. But when when you have someone in a hiring position like the CEO and CEO who have no experience actually hiring the right people, who don’t even know the actual role that they need to hire, it’s a whole shit show. That’s why you need to bring in a legitimate h.r. Or hiring manager who has done this before and have them take over. I could literally have a podcast just on how fucked up all of their procedures were. You know.
Nicola [00:27:30] That’s.
Gina [00:27:31] I’m like, 20. No, and, like, for, like, 25 weeks worth of just, like, talking about it. But, you know, I don’t want to nickel and I don’t want to give them that much attention that it’s not worth it. But but it really like it brings me right back to that frustration because you nailed it. It’s like there was lack of experience and lack of maturity.
Nicola [00:27:50] So can we just pause here for a second and remind people that if this podcast is something you enjoy, we would love to hear from you.
Gina [00:27:59] You can find us on Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube. Let’s break up toxic workplace stories.
Nicola [00:28:04] Sharing and subscribing really helps us feel validated.
Gina [00:28:07] Yeah. Anyway, carry on.
Deb [00:28:10] Definitely. And I think yeah, it’s it’s just someone trying to they’ve been put in that position and trying to take control and basically get all the glory for it because they think they, they doing the right thing but they’re actually not. So the, the advice that I had given that person was not taken on board and of.
Gina [00:28:34] Course it wasn’t.
Deb [00:28:35] That went straight back to and I always and I said to Nicola this before what I first I got the impression and I hate sugar sweet people where they so nice and behind your back they will tear you apart. And that’s the impression that I got for sure.
Gina [00:28:55] Meanwhile, I was fired because I told people exactly what I thought of them to their face and would then repeat it and say, Well, I already told so-and-so that I think our idea is bullshit and that’s why I got fired. Who would you rather on your team?
Deb [00:29:08] Oh, I’d rather someone be honest, to be honest.
Nicola [00:29:10] Yeah, I want us to be honest.
Gina [00:29:13] You know what? I would like someone to be like Junior being fucking annoying and micromanaging me. Please go away. And I’d be like, Yeah, okay. Fair.
Deb [00:29:20] Yeah. And that’s. That’s the thing I always remember when I worked with my team at a huge organization, and I always said to them as their leader, if I’m doing something wrong, you.
Gina [00:29:32] Have me.
Deb [00:29:34] Come into my office and tell me, talk to me about it. And they did. And I had to swallow sometimes swallow my pride and take it. But it made me a better person and it made me and the situations that they were being put in, for example, I was putting too much pressure in terms of workload or whatever that is, but it really created that open door policy where they could come. But tell me and I could go to them and we could be honest with one another. And it created the environment where our team really thrived. And it wasn’t just me being the leader. Yes, I was there to guide and provide my experience, but I let them get on with it. And even now, I do the same thing. And I’m not a micromanager. And people will tell you that I’m I’m a mentor that allows creativity for people to bring their own ideas and that creates for a thriving environment.
Nicola [00:30:30] I think it’s a ride. Like, you know, you and I have spoken about this so many times and we’ve spoken about what leadership should look like and what leadership is and what leadership, you know, how it should make people feel. And what is that like? Because you and I have spoken in-depth about toxic positivity, especially when I was working at that particular workplace, because I think I bitched about it multiple times because it’s not enough South African blood, right? This is rubbish. It’s like, why am I being reprimanded for telling you how I think your business should run? And, you know, I think I think all of these things have really provided a positive foundation for you and I to lead better, to be better managers, to be better leaders, to be better and know what we shouldn’t do because we’ve had these really bad examples.
Deb [00:31:29] And 2%, 100%. And, you know, you never stop growing as a leader, right? These things spikes that you make every day and these things that you learn from every day. And if you know, in safety, we call you or you fail safe, right? So do stuff where you can fail safe. So we have to make mistakes to be better leaders and we have to make mistakes to grow. And if you don’t have that growth mindset and then doesn’t. Yeah, and it doesn’t make for a good a good leader in the future. So again, it makes you make you a good manager, but there’s no space for managers anymore. People want leaders, people want.
Nicola [00:32:06] Change agents, people that can fire you up and get you excited about your work and plan your work in a way that makes you feel confident that you’re coming to work and not. I’m not saying a toxically positive environment, but you’re coming to work in a positive environment. You feel confident in the work that you’re doing and you’re happy with the space that you’re at.
Deb [00:32:28] 100%.
Nicola [00:32:29] Yeah. So, okay, circling all the way, I feel like that’s going to be my catch phrase.
Gina [00:32:33] And that’s like finding problematic.
Nicola [00:32:36] Yours is problematic. And mine’s like, okay, circling back, gorgeous. And God knows you’re going to shut up. You’re going to you and your botoxed lips so gorgeous that can’t.
Gina [00:32:48] Like, actually suck from a straw.
Deb [00:32:49] Oh, no.
Nicola [00:32:50] Oh, my God. They would be like, okay, I’m curious to know now how are you like giving blowjobs at this point? Because what’s this like? Well, you know.
Gina [00:32:58] And I was like, I was like, okay, so like, because when BoJack takes it a week and a half to, like, really set in so that, that muscles paralyzed so around like the week and a half mark, I really started like noticing that I couldn’t move it. So I was like, You got to tell me if this like, fucks with my technique. He’s like, No, you’re good. Because I guess it’s like you’re like a little like you’re not like puckering. When you’re giving a B, you’re kind of like, like I have to really concentrate to do it. So there’s there’s the answer.
Nicola [00:33:27] I steps back to you. What are some other kind of experiences you’ve had? Because I know you’ve had a fear. Oh, what are some other really crazy experiences you’ve had where you’re like, Oh my God, this is such a red flag? Or Oh my God, this should not be happening.
Deb [00:33:43] One of the examples would be working in Africa. And so, yeah, So I looked after nine African countries for health and safety, which means that I had to travel to many different places in Africa. And one particular place was very male dominated and it was in oil and gas. So and again, a very male dominated environment and having to deal with male issues. And it was quite an experience for me because I was really the only woman in that environment, environmental in the country that was working on this project. And I had to deal with situations that we had men living in the villa sex workers, and it was really a an eye opener for me.
Gina [00:34:38] And I consider it a no no having sex workers come in to like a company.
Nicola [00:34:43] It is.
Gina [00:34:45] I’m just I mean, here in America, I would say it would be frowned upon, but like, I don’t know, maybe culturally it’s different elsewhere. I don’t.
Deb [00:34:53] Know what kind.
Nicola [00:34:53] Of commission you’re working and you are you are camping in a working. Environments. Yes.
Gina [00:35:00] Right. So higher higher sex workers on your own time, not on work time. And not in work.
Nicola [00:35:05] Actually. And not at your work hotel, babe.
Gina [00:35:07] That’s what I’m saying. Like a not at the work hotel. Yeah. Yeah.
Deb [00:35:10] The thing was it was a villa, right? That the company hired for people.
Nicola [00:35:16] To like this. Sounds like oil and gas. Love Island.
Gina [00:35:20] Yeah, I was going to say it sounds like The Bachelor. Like The Bachelor.
Nicola [00:35:23] Yeah. Oil and gas. Love island in the villa.
Gina [00:35:27] You know, no handle fire and ice.
Deb [00:35:30] But there was some very hot in there, Right. And they raised the issue because their wives would call and they would all that be this activity going on and stuff happening so so.
Gina [00:35:43] It sound like a porn in the background?
Deb [00:35:45] Yeah.
Nicola [00:35:46] Oh yeah. It’s Love Island’s oil and gas. Well, okay.
Deb [00:35:50] Today’s episode so for me only woman tried to sort the situation out was was quite extreme and I luckily I didn’t I didn’t stay in the villa. I stayed in my own apartment. So it was it was a difficult situation. But imagine trying to now have a chat with these men who are older than you. And I was in my twenties and now trying to have a chat with these older men to tell them not to have the situation. You can imagine how that went down, right? So they like.
Gina [00:36:24] Were they like verbally abusive or were they just like, run along.
Nicola [00:36:27] Now? You’re such a cute little girl. Oh, my God. Like, I’m from I’m Bella.
Gina [00:36:32] I was like in my twenties and I’ve always looked, like, way younger than my age. And guys, like men would be like, Well, how old are you? And I’d be like, old enough to have this job. I’m like, Why does that matter? If I’m qualified, that job? I’m qualified to have the job like you run the same.
Deb [00:36:48] And that’s the thing is I’ve always looked young myself and I’ve always had to prove myself because people would automatically think and again, I’ve worked in male dominated environments my entire life, so people would always be thinking, Oh, what does that little girl know? Or, you know, what does she know about it? And and when I would I’ve been in meetings and things. Yeah. Then they, they kind of. Oh okay. She does know what she’s talking about. Yeah.
Gina [00:37:17] But it’s like a weird sense of satisfaction when I see that they, they’re like, they’re like, oh, she’s like, okay, she’s a lot smarter that like, you know.
Deb [00:37:28] Cause.
Nicola [00:37:28] They’re talking about this with someone the other day. And when you know me, like, on a personal level, guys know me on a personal level, right? And I’m super fun. And I don’t often talk about what is going on in my brain, right? So when it comes out, it shocks people because I’m like, oh, no, is she going to want it? But going on back there? And someone said to me the other day because they were like, Oh, you seem a little ditzy. And I was like, Really, bitch, please get the truck up.
Gina [00:37:58] Okay, we can I tell a Nicholas story real quick? So I’m one of the first and I don’t think you even know this because what you just said just reminded me of this. But like one of the first couple of times that I had interactions with Nicole, it was on these, like, leadership meetings. And we sometimes we would get I would get there before other people would get there. And the meeting actually started and she was always talking about otters. I’m like showing like otter stuffed animals. And I was like, What the fuck is like, what is even going on? So I kind of thought like maybe, yeah, there was like, but now that like after that period of time when and now we’ve reconnected because we were, we didn’t really work together all that much. I’m like constant like because so I did think you were kind of like a little, like out there ditzy. But then, but then now that I’m working with you, I’m always like, so surprised at how smart. Like, not really so surprised, but I’m like, you continually, like, make me happy by how smart you are. I’m like, Oh God. She’s like, Wow, that’s smart. Like, you know.
Nicola [00:39:01] Fun fact about baby otters.
Gina [00:39:04] Here we go. This is what I’m coming to. I like, log on. I’d be, like, miserable to be there. And this one would be prattling on about baby otters. And I’m like, Okay, give a fuck about it. Otter.
Nicola [00:39:14] Let me tell you, though, baby, is they’ve done a study on how baby orders lift your dopamine levels. And when you look at baby otters, they lift your dopamine. So I am 100% behind looking at more baby otters.
Gina [00:39:30] Look at I mean, I looked into it now, but like. But I think I was so fucking depressed in our workplace that nothing was going to do it. A baby otter, a baby teddy bear, whatever. I’m not going to do it.
Nicola [00:39:40] Debs and I secretly look at baby cows out there. They’re good Novatek the miniature ones. The miniature fluffy ones. I know. My God, we love them.
Gina [00:39:52] The ones that have, like, the reddish brown kind of face.
Deb [00:39:56] Those are the ones.
Gina [00:39:57] Yeah.
Nicola [00:39:59] That noise.
Gina [00:40:00] Oh, my God. They say that’s all.
Deb [00:40:03] They do is screw you.
Gina [00:40:05] Now I’m really on board.
Deb [00:40:07] Yeah. Like having a little doll? Yeah.
Gina [00:40:10] Like. Like those little mini ponies. Those are.
Nicola [00:40:12] Two. They have, like, health issues, though, right? Like, I’m worried that they have.
Deb [00:40:16] I think. I think they do. I think maybe we tried to find the the breeder in Wellingtons, but.
Nicola [00:40:22] We did try. We found her, though.
Deb [00:40:26] Yeah.
Gina [00:40:26] How do they breed them to be that tiny. I don’t know. Yeah. There’s got to be like it’s got to be slightly unethical. Right. Can we get back to, to Deb here and. Because aren’t they, like, away from their families for months at a time?
Deb [00:40:40] Yeah. Yeah. And they work, so they work like six weeks on. Six weeks off, right? Almost basically like 24 hours kind of working. And then you have, you know, a couple of hours sleep, etc.. So in actual fact, they’re all on on contract on in the work place, whether they in the villa or whether they’re they still at work at Nice.
Gina [00:41:01] So they’re sleeping there. So technically I work. Yeah. Yeah.
Deb [00:41:05] So there’s processes and policies around that which are not adhered to. They’re probably still not to this day, but yeah, I just think that yeah, the wives would be waiting back home and, and some would be completely faithful and those would be the ones that would complain and, and then some would be the majority would be like but stays stuck. What’s, what’s done in that country. Stays in that country. Like look eventually they had to because I took it further, I took it to senior leadership and and they had to abide by the rules and yeah, so it did get a good outcome. But I’m sure that it’s not 100% attitude anyway. Yeah. Other areas again, just having people. You know, have their own agendas and leaders that will take all your the work that you’ve done and take that and get the glory for themselves. There’s a lot of that around and people that have hidden agendas and I think that’s quite a is quite prevalent in the corporate world where everybody’s trying to climb the ladder. So they will try and do everything in their power to get there. If they have to step over here and look, I’m not 100%, I’ve probably done that myself in my career. But at the same time I’ve learned from that really, that doesn’t get you where you need to go. You need to be true to yourself. And being a leader means that you need to be someone that people can look up to, someone that you know, you stay true to yourself. You are a person that’s empathetic and you make sure that you can be vulnerable and that you can be honest. That honest pace gets a long way. If you’re going to be leading someone and you’re going to tell them what they want to hear, what’s nice to hear, then you’re not going to really help them to grow, right? So when you talk about being honest and telling people upfront what you know, what you think of them or what you think that they’re not doing right or what they are doing right, I think that’s really important. Don’t sugarcoat things. You need to be honest. Otherwise the person’s never going to grow. Your team members never going to grow, your team’s not going to grow. So you can take feedback, fine as a leader and you can create that environment where you you ask your people what they think of you to give you feedback, positive and negative feedback, but at the same time they need to be ready to take feedback too, and you’ve got to prepare them for that environment to say, if you don’t, we don’t have negative or positive feedback, you never going to grow and then you’re never going to be a good leader. So if we want to promote good leaders and what good leaders should look like, then we need all of those traits to be able to show people the way. In other words.
Nicola [00:44:15] What are some of you know, what are some of the best workplaces you’ve seen? What are some of the things that have really shone out for you as not toxic workplaces?
Deb [00:44:26] And I think for me right now, I’m in a really good space and I have a really positive leader and a leader that creates environments for me to thrive and for the team to thrive. But in some in saying that, some people. They find it difficult to act? I think so. Some people are not born leaders, put it that way. So within the teams, what I see sometimes is that you may have a leader that creates environments for you to thrive. But then you also have people within your team that want to be told what to do, that want to have direction, that want to not play in that ambiguous space. Now, Nikola, you and me, we can play in that space because we’re quite autonomous with it, the way that we work and leave us to solve a problem. We’ll find the solution, right? And we’ll go about it in a way that will bring stakeholders along the journey. We’re quite engaged and quite collaborative. Now they are some people that aren’t in that space, and it’s very difficult for them to.
Nicola [00:45:32] Learn to be in that space. I feel like and this is not like this is no affront on those people, but sometimes you’ve got like that natural intuition to be a collaborative stakeholder, engager, and sometimes you just don’t. And that’s okay, because if that is not what you have in your toolbox or your natural skillset, better at it, you can push yourself into that space or find yourself something that’s a little bit more. And like in our industry, for example, a little bit more policy or compliance based where you’re not engaging necessarily with those communities.
Deb [00:46:09] Yeah, look, I mean, choose the right career for your personality and your strength. Yes, exactly. But I also say that you can learn things, right? You may not have the ability to network or engage or be collaborative. However, there’s no reason why you can’t learn to do that. You have to be bold and brave to put yourself into that situation to grow. I didn’t start out being I was very compliant, See, I mean, coming from banking and I started my career in banking. And as you can imagine, finance, it’s it’s quite structured, it’s risk based, and you’re not really communicating in the old days with lots and lots of people. Right. And going and learning about different things in your life. For example, in my career, I took a step back to go into that innovation and design thinking space, but I’m so glad that I did. And even though they were ups and downs in my experiences, as you know, and I think and we said this to each other the other day, we’re actually glad that we did that right, because it really made us more resilient and it made us go outside of our comfort zone. At the time, it wasn’t very nice. We didn’t enjoy a try and we were pushed and we were challenged to the brink of breaking point. However, now looking back on it, how awesome to be able to take those tools that we’ve learned and put them into a space that we say yes and we can teach. That is right. So again, I say that it’s not impossible. If that’s not your forte, it doesn’t mean that you can’t try new things and you can’t put yourself you have to put yourself into vulnerable situations to be able to grow. Because if you don’t do that, then you’re never going to expand. As a leader, we grow every single day. There’s new things I learned all the time in my my position, and I’m fortunate enough to be given these opportunities because I have a willingness. My mindset is that growth mindset. I have a willingness and people see that. They will see that you are keen to learn, that you are you are keen to give your opinion, even if it’s wrong. Who cares? At least you’re having a say, right? What’s the worst that can happen? Someone can shut you down. So what? At least you’ve tried. At least you’ve. You’ve put your idea forward. So I think you have to build up that resilience to take bad feedback. And to take good feedback too.
Gina [00:48:43] Yeah. I had someone on my team who made up bad feedback that I said in a team meeting, and I was like, I never said that. Have you ever come across anything like that?
Deb [00:48:54] Yep. Yeah, a few times. I think for me, again, it’s it’s standing strong and true to who you are. And it’s it’s guiding that person. And I’ve worked with some people who don’t like my leadership style, which is to create environments where people can thrive and bring in their own ideas. Lots of time I will throw they’ll come to me and say, David, what should I do in this situation? And I’ll be what would you what do you do? What are some of the things that Yeah, I kind of throwing it back.
Nicola [00:49:24] What’s funny is we have a very similar yeah, similar leadership style and we, we will bounce it off each other.
Deb [00:49:32] But it puts people in a spot, right, Because they’re coming here because you’re the leader. They are expecting you to give them the answer, but they never going to grow if you’re going to give them the answer. Okay, look, it’s it’s good to be there to guide and to say. But the first protocol is what are you going to do? And you have to teach people to stop coming forward with their own ideas. And for them, it’s exactly if they if they’re used to a leader. And I’ve been in the situation where the leader, my predecessor in many situations has been a very controlled leader. So they haven’t provided an opportunity for their team to grow. All they’ve seen said, this is what we’re doing and I need you to go and do this. And so the team gets lazy. They get used to someone telling them what to do all the time and they get comfortable with that. And then comes a leader like myself or Nicola or Gina, and we’re different. We want to have people to be part of the solution. We want people to contribute. We want people to collaborate. We want people to go out and find out things. And that’s not always easy for them, right? And it puts them in that ambiguous situation where they think, Oh shit, I don’t like this leader because she’s not helping in terms of giving me the answers. But that’s not what a leader does. That’s what a manager does, but that’s not what a leader does.
Gina [00:50:49] I’ve had situations where people underneath me think that they’re being like autonomous and able to like work in that ambiguous space, but they’re really not and then they’re not actually open to feedback. And I feel like that creates its own little web of toxicity. Yeah, Or then I’ve had other situations where they were mistakenly thinking that they were the leader of the group when they’re not. And then the actual leader in this case myself comes in and kind of says, okay, right now we’re all going to be answering to me for like the next 90 days just to get some shit together. Effect change management. And that created like a shitstorm. I don’t know. I just feel like that goes back to like the C-suite leaders who are not doing their jobs effectively. It’s like a trickle down theory, you know? It’s like if the if the owners or CEO CEO can’t figure it out and don’t know how to not micromanage, it’s just going to be a fucking mess underneath it is.
Deb [00:51:55] And I guess that comes from experience and maturity, right? But it also needs to be their willingness to change because if they are not willing to change, then it’s almost like it’s a lost cause. It’s almost like they need someone and completely like an independent to come in and say, Right, the way that you’re leading is damaging your business. It’s detrimental to your profits, it’s detriment to your product. That’s what I.
Gina [00:52:21] Think Nicola and I were doing that in this in our regular thing. But I and I think this is like a very interesting phenomena. They did not want to hear it. Yeah. So it became I’m the problem Nicole is the problem. But then it’s like, okay, I’m and especially me, I was completely objective. I had no idea this company even existed. And I stepped in and I was like, Whoa, you guys aren’t using any kind of retail buying calendar like this is how are you getting anything done? How are you getting anything done properly? And I was just told I was like basically a condescending [Unrecognized] and I didn’t that’s that’s essentially what it boils down to, that I was being a condescending [Unrecognized] who came from too much of a competitive background. And I’m like, Oh, yes, I’m I’m competing with the people underneath me who’ve never had another job and the people above me who’ve never had another job in their entire life except for this one. So yes, I am being so competitive.
Deb [00:53:19] So the thing is, with them, it sounded like they want they wanted change to happen, but they weren’t ready for it. Right. They weren’t ready for the the the real truth, To be honest, it sounds to me that, yes, they wanted to expand. Yes. They wanted to have new people with new ideas coming in, but they weren’t ready for the truth. They weren’t ready for someone to come in and say, look, if we’re going to really be successful, we need to do it this way. So I would say that they weren’t ready for change. And no matter whether it was you, whether it was Nicola, whether it was anyone.
Gina [00:53:55] Else, like an expert coming in, they said they just wanted everyone to drink the Kool-Aid. Yeah, essentially. Yeah, yeah.
Deb [00:54:02] Yeah.
Gina [00:54:03] So have you ever been in any workplaces that are similar to what?
Deb [00:54:06] Oh, 100%? Yeah. Family owned business, for example. Didn’t listen to the directors, didn’t listen. So they employed directors into the company who had a wealth of experience, and all the directors basically resigned because the company was not the family was not prepared to listen to what they were saying and what happened. The company lost all their money and they basically resigned because the family just didn’t listen to them and the complacent pursuit and. I tried to make change there and the CEO tried to make change. The CFO tried to make change, and the family just didn’t want to listen. They didn’t want to listen.
Gina [00:54:52] So they see going out of business.
Deb [00:54:54] And they didn’t. They sold their business. They sold it. It was just a classic example of they they wanted change. They wanted to understand why their business was not making money. So they got all these the right people in the right places. And when the people in the right places started telling them that they need to change their business model, need to do this, need to try this, they wouldn’t listen because they thought they were right and they were not prepared to. Their own egos took over and they were not prepared to listen to anyone else to the detriment tried. So in safety, we always talk about don’t be afraid of the rate, because in the old way of thinking, when you brought up anything that was a risk and you didn’t have the right controls in place, they were.
Nicola [00:55:42] Naughty. Naughty.
Deb [00:55:43] Yes. Your senior leaders would think, Oh my God, what the hell? Why? Why is this in the paper? Take it out. We don’t want to hear what’s wrong. So it’s a similar situation, right? It’s actually good to know that you’re in the red because it helps you to improve and it helps you to grow if you’re not going to. If everything looks rosy and fine on paper, I would be worried.
Gina [00:56:04] It takes some it takes a big person to be like, okay, let’s like I remember I was in debt, like personally in debt, and I just didn’t want to look at the amount. Like I had an idea of how much it was. Like I was like, I have probably like 10,000 in debt. And obviously once I finally was ready to face up to it, it was a lot more, but it was the same kind of mentality. It’s like, okay, I think I know what’s going on, but if I really put it on a piece of paper, it’s going to like be a sucker punch and I’m going to be like flipping out. So there’s probably like a lot of that too. And especially if it’s like your baby, Like if this company is your baby, you don’t want you don’t want to point out the flaws. I get it. But it doesn’t make it right and it doesn’t make it okay for your employees to live in denial when all the employees have to fucking deal with the fallout of that.
Nicola [00:56:51] Were there times where you think that you were a toxic person? Is this your favorite question?
Gina [00:56:58] I’m here for it, I think.
Deb [00:56:59] Yes. I think when I when I was much younger, I work an environment in England where there was lots of different diverse people and one particular person mistook me for being cold. And again, that comes from our culture. We’re quite forthcoming and quite straight up. South Africans are very straight up and we’ll tell it like it is. And that person didn’t like that and ended up putting a grievance against me. But it’s just I think they didn’t have an understanding of different and they’ve been sheltered their entire life, put it that way. And they hadn’t been exposed to different cultures and and took took my and I suppose abruptness as you can say as being intimidating and that I was not including them in our social life at work all of that which was not actually the case. And it was quite difficult for me to accept that this person had taken me in that way because I’m genuinely the kind of person who likes to get on with everyone. And yeah, I just I found it quite difficult. But at the same time I was open enough to say, okay, maybe I was coming across that way and maybe I do need to change the way that I approach situation first. I b I was quite defensive and quiet like, What the hell’s wrong with this person? Why is this person treating me like this? Why are they saying that I’m I’m being a horrible person. I do get impatient. I know what good looks like and I know what can be done. But then we’ve got all these hundreds and thousands of reasons as to why it can’t be done. That irritates the shit out of me. I just find a way and get it done. Do?
Nicola [00:59:01] Yeah. Do you want to add anything? No.
Deb [00:59:04] I think I’m just. Perhaps some advice for leaders on their way up is be open to feedback. Really be open to growing and creating opportunities for improvement, learning from others and just being true to yourself. I think that’s really important. Speak a truth. Just, you know, don’t be afraid of what someone else is going to say or what somehow someone else is going to react. If you really want to grow are the people you need to be true. So yeah, that’s it for me.
Nicola [00:59:33] We really appreciate you joining us today. It was been it’s been a fantastic chat. I think we’ve had some good stories and we’ve had some. Opportunities to learn and positive ways that we can do things differently. And I think it’s really important for us to keep in mind that a growth mindset is what sets you apart as a leader, and especially in a positive or a toxic workplace.
Deb [00:59:58] Keep adding things to your toolkit that may not might be out of your comfort zone. But yeah, I’d say learn as much as you can. Never stop learning for sure.
Nicola [01:00:08] Thank you. Thank you for joining us today. If you would like to share your story, we would love to hear from you.
Gina [01:00:16] Also, leaving a review helps us create more content because it shows us there is an interest in this topic.
Nicola [01:00:22] For those of our listeners who do better with reading, we have closed captioning available on YouTube.
Gina [01:00:27] Next week, same time, same place.