The Language of Respect: Julie Pham’s Insights on Communication, Boundaries, and Authenticity

In this episode of The Fire Inside Her, join host Diane Schroeder and guest Julie Pham for a captivating discussion on the power of respect in relationships and organizational culture. Julie, a resilient refugee turned successful entrepreneur, delves into her ‘7 forms of respect’ model derived from her diverse experiences. With insights on communication, the ‘platinum rule,’ and the importance of curiosity in fostering authentic connections, this episode promises to challenge your perspectives and inspire you to create a culture of belonging in your own life and work. Don’t miss out on Julie’s invaluable lessons on saying no and managing energy for self-care, and hear her timeless advice to her 12-year-old self. Tune in for a thought-provoking and enriching conversation that will ignite your inner fire.

Julie Pham, PhD is a Vietnamese- born, American raised refugee, a Cambridge-trained social scientist, an organizational development leader, an award-winning cross-sector collaborator and community organizer, and an expert on respect.

Book mentioned: 7 Forms of Respect: A Guide to Transforming Your Communication and Relationships at Work by Julie Pham

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Diane Schroeder [00:00:00]:

Welcome to The Fire Inside Her, the podcast where we explore the incredible stories of individuals who have discovered their inner fire on their journey to authenticity. I'm your host, Diane Schroeder. And I am so grateful that you are here.

Diane Schroeder [00:00:23]:

To embark on a journey that spans continents and cultures from Vietnam to the United States and then to a decade of life and learning around the globe, our guest today, Dr. Julie Pham, has left no stone unturned in her pursuit of knowledge. And her thirst for curiosity led her not only to leave a fulfilling and successful job in a nonprofit, but to venture into starting her own business during the challenging times of the global pandemic. There is one lesson she has learned along the way and a profound truth that has shaped her path, boundaries. But what does Julie mean by that? Listen in as she talks about her rubber band rule. And as we dive in to the life of a true explorer. She has mastered the art of curiosity and even authored a book on the 7 forms of respect.

Diane Schroeder [00:01:30]:

Prepare to be inspired because this episode is your passport to a world of wonder and wisdom where boundaries become the unexpected yet profound teacher. I am looking so forward to this conversation with Dr. Julie Pham, who I asked, and she said I can go ahead and call her Julie today. And let's go ahead and just jump right in. And I want to know what your favorite grunge song or grunge band is.

Julie Pham [00:02:01]:

Oh, well, Pearl Jam for sure. Growing up. I mean, Jeremy, Alive, those are definitely my favorite songs and just, like, the whole era.

Diane Schroeder [00:02:15]:


Julie Pham [00:02:16]:

There's a growl. So,

Diane Schroeder [00:02:17]:

I'm sad to think of all the amazing artists who we lost from the grunge era through overdose and addiction. So, thank you for sharing. And like I said, I'm really, I have so many notes to talk about today. I probably took more notes prior to our interview than any interview I've done before, and I think I want to start with a pretty big question, but how do you honor and respect others while being authentic to ourselves?

Julie Pham [00:02:50]:

So, I'm going to share what I call the rubber band rule. Alright. And this is in relation to, usually, when we talk about respect, there's the golden rule. Treat people the way you want to be treated. The problem is, what if they don't want to be treated the way that you want to be treated? So, with the rubber band rule, and I'm going to take out a rubber band here, with the rubber band rule. This is me. Right? I'm a stretchy rubber band. Right? And Diane, she's like, oh, I know Diane likes this, so I'll stretch even though I'm kind of, like, ambivalent about it.

Julie Pham [00:03:17]:

And so, we are all able to stretch because we want to be respectful. But you know what happens over time is and let's say we're in a group of people and they do this thing that we don't like, but we do it anyway because we want to fit in, and we keep stretching and stretching ourselves until then one day we snap and break like a rubber band. So, with the rubber band rule, it's about knowing what are my internal breaking points. What is going to make me snap? And so, this question of how do I be authentic to myself is I first have to understand what does that mean. Because what happens a lot with respect is we kind of think other people share the same definition as us. And so, that means if we're not getting what we want, they're intentionally disrespecting us. But we actually, most of the time, don't even take some time to think, what do I want? How do I want to be respected? Where does that come from? Where are my expectations based on? Who taught me that? And then once we actually are able to have those stories, then that authenticity is so much easier because we actually know rather than just having this feeling of respect, and it's this big blobby thing.

Diane Schroeder [00:04:29]:

Well, thank you for sharing that. And you have had such an incredible, unique, interesting journey. So, if you wouldn't mind sharing a little bit about your story and how you ended up starting your own business in the middle of a pandemic.

Julie Pham [00:04:46]:

So, really important part of my identity is that I came to the US as a 2-month-old boat person with my parents. So, we fled communist Vietnam. That was in 1979. My father had been in a communist reeducation camp for 3 years. And then my parents started the first privately owned Vietnamese language newspaper in the Pacific Northwest. So, I grew up, I think, in my parents as hustlers among hustlers. And so that entrepreneurial spirit, all the and most of our customers were Vietnamese business owners. Right? The pho shops, the nail salons, the doctors, the lawyers, the insurance agents, real estate agents.

Julie Pham [00:05:19]:

Like, all of those, I grew up with that. And there was a real sense of, my parents always taught me being a refugee is something we should be proud of. And I think sometimes people talk about refugees. It's like, oh, it's too bad. Like, my parents always tell me, no. We're resilient. Look at all that we've overcome. And so, that's been a really important part of just all the transformations because I think about my parents and the courage that they had to have to make the decisions that they made.

Julie Pham [00:05:46]:

And here's the thing, though. Even though I grew up with the newspaper, my parents we're just no. You are not working at the newspaper. You're not working at the newspaper. We did this because we needed to do this. And I think a lot of immigrants and refugees, it’s we do what we need to do to make the living, and yet they want their kids to have these professional careers where they get salaries, and then there's a lot more stability. Right? And so, I went to college thinking that I was going to be a lawyer, and then I ended up choosing history as a path and thinking I was going to become an academic, I'd still be salaried. And it wasn't until, actually, I'd spent most of my twenties getting my PhD in history, and then as I was writing up my dissertation, I realized I don't want to stay in academia.

Julie Pham [00:06:31]:

And Diane, I had done all the things academics are supposed to do. Right? Like, I taught. I researched. I published. I managed an academic journal, and instead, I was just like, okay. I'm looking inside and I'm not feeling it. And it's 2008. My brother who worked at the newspaper was like, can you come back and help? I was living in Hanoi at the time and I was like, yes.

Julie Pham [00:06:51]:

And I came back to the great recession. And it was like, what is this? And so, I actually came back to read my family's newspaper to be the manager. And also one of the reasons why I also decided to do that was I thought most people don't get to spend time with their parents as adults.

Diane Schroeder [00:07:07]:


Julie Pham [00:07:07]:

And their family because my brothers were working there too. It's like, well, if I do this, I've been away for 10 years because of school and stuff. If I do this, then I will never regret this time not having this time, and so that's what I did. I ran the newspaper for 3 years, got my real-life MBA, and then realized, I was, no. I didn't just realize it though. I was making no money. It was really hard. And I was seeing all my friends who had these great tech jobs in Seattle. And so, I joined that, and I'd I was in the tech industry for the next 9 years. But when I was at the newspaper, part of my real-life MBA was volunteering a lot. And I was doing a lot of community organizing, and so I kind of got called to doing that work again but in a different way.

Julie Pham [00:07:48]:

And at the last job I had, it was at a nonprofit that advocate on behalf of the tech industry, and I started doing a lot of cross sector facilitation, bringing together people from different sectors. And that's when I was like, oh, what's the thing that helps people thrive? It was curiosity. And I was just, oh, if I can help people who are volunteering collaborate. Imagine if I can help people who are paid to work together. Like, how do I apply this community building, community organizing approach to organizational development. So, that's when I started my own company. It was in the middle of the pandemic. I left the best job I ever had because, truly, the last job I was at, I was there for 6 years. It was truly the best job I ever had. And the only reason that I would do that is so I could be my own boss and have my own company and own my work. That was really important to me because I knew as long as I was an employee, I could not own my work. It could not be under my name.

Diane Schroeder [00:08:46]:

Wow. Thank you for sharing your story. And I know that's, like, the cliff notes, you know, really quick view of it. There's a couple of things that you talked about that really resonated, and the first is being an immigrant refugee. Previous to starting my own company, I worked for the fire service, and I worked in a really big city that was one of the most diverse cities in the country, and we had a huge immigrant and refugee population. And I had the privilege of working with those community groups because of the role, I was in the fire department at that time. And I learned so much about what you said resilience and determination and grit because the groups that I was able to communicate and learn from it was like, hey. You've been in a refugee camp for 25 years. You don't even have running water. We're going to put you on an airplane, fly you to the United States, drop you off in a city, give you a few months to acclimate, and then you got to start paying for your flight back, pay us back for your flight, and get a job and figure it out.

Diane Schroeder [00:09:48]:

That to me is so terrifying to think about that and really learn very quickly how to appreciate the privileges that I've had in my life and just so much respect for people that start with literally nothing and have to acclimate to, you know, then you get thrust into the American culture, which is not the most welcoming, greatest, you know, culture to be part of at times. And my hats off to you and your parents for making that really brave and courageous decision. I have so much respect. And then I think about starting these big career changes and life changes in some really difficult challenging times globally. The 2008 recession, yes, that was super messy for a lot of reasons, and then the courage to say, I love what I do so much, and I want it to be mine, and I'm going to start my own business, and I think that's another really brave. So, you are an incredibly courageous, brave person, and I love curiosity so much.

Diane Schroeder [00:10:50]:

You know, I think there was a Ted Lasso episode. I think it was season 2 of Ted Lasso. I'm not sure if you watch that show. And there's this whole skit, and he talks about curiosity over judgment. And he does it in this beautiful, humorous way. But tell me, what inspired you to really create your 7 forms of respect.

Julie Pham [00:11:10]:

It was in this community building work where I'd see friction won't come up because people just have different expectations of how they want to be treated, and it was really hard to have a language to describe what we want. We just say, hey, Diane. I need you to respect me. And she's like, Julie, I am respecting you, and we go back and forth. And we think we mean the same thing by this word respect. Right? And but we don't. If we don't have trust in a relationship, then we end up harboring all this resentment and confusion and disappointment toward one another. Right? And the whole project's, work, it can stop because of those relationships and really because of communication. I mean, I remember that kind of epiphany moment, which was, I was speaking in a leadership panel, and someone said, hey. I really want my coworker to trust me. I'm doing all these things, and he's not trusting me, and I don't know what to do. And I have this, oh, well, it's kind of maybe how you think about trust is different from him. Maybe you're sharing all your personal stories, and he just wants you to be on time. And that's why you haven't built up trust. Right? And it was just, like, oh, and then it kind of I realized, oh, that's what's happening. And it made all my community building work make sense when I said that.

Julie Pham [00:12:20]:

And so, I went back and then I realized, oh, my lived experience has actually even led me to this too because growing up Vietnamese in the US, having lived in the UK, France, Germany, and Vietnam as an adult, seeing how we have different expectations and then doing all of this work around, not just different bringing together people of different ethnicities. When I was working at the newspaper, I did a lot of community organizing with different ethnic media, also different sectors. And so, that kind of all just led to so there's the community building, there was the lived experience, then I started to do research. And I started to do research and ask people how they want to be treated. And that's when, you know, we got to respect, and that's what led me to the seven forms of respect.

Diane Schroeder [00:13:06]:

It's a book, and I will be sure and put the link to the book in the show notes. I love that so much. I think when another several years ago, I had the opportunity to teach to the city that I worked for, and we would talk about the golden rule, and then we would be like, but you don't want the golden rule. You want the platinum rule, and that is treat people the way they want to be treated not the way you think.

Julie Pham [00:13:31]:

But Diane, actually, there is an issue with the platinum rule.

Diane Schroeder [00:13:35]:

Tell me.

Julie Pham [00:13:35]:

Yeah. So, the issue with the platinum rule is, so kids, the platinum rule is treat the people the way they want to be treated. So, here's the thing. What if they don't know? What if they're too embarrassed to tell you, right? It's like, I want acknowledgment. Took me a while to admit that. Right? And what if the way that they want you to treat them, you don't actually like? I mean, so for example, let's say, hey. I want you to give me really candid feedback here and then you're thinking, that feels rude to me. That's really unnatural for me. I don't want to do that.

Julie Pham [00:14:07]:

And so, that's the thing about the platinum rule. And so that's why with the rubber band rule, it kind of ties in that so much of it's this dynamic. If there's no hard and fast, no. Treat them the way they want to be treated because it's like, but that might come in conflict with the way that I want to just treat people. So, what do I do with that? Because going back to the authenticity and the self-respect is there's got to be this balance. There's not like a hard and fast rule. It is dynamic, and so we kind of, all the time have to weigh that.

Diane Schroeder [00:14:35]:

Well, that's what makes communication and relationships so challenging, I think, personally and professionally. So, then how do you get to the space in your life and at work, I mean, I'm assuming you have to create a safe place so that people feel comfortable sharing what they want and how they want to be treated, and some of that is an internal job based on the person. Like, some people may just never want to be curious as to how they want to be treated, and they're fine being a stretched-out rubber band. How do you when you work with organizations, where do you start?

Julie Pham [00:15:12]:

And so, going back to that, what you said, like, stretched out rubber band, I try to make people just appreciate, hey. Some people are going to be big, stretchy rubber bands, and other people are like, I'm a tight little rubber band. That's who I am. Don't make me stretch myself to breaking. Right? And it's really about understanding, and so I think of curiosity as a practice. So, how do we help team’s organizations? It's really thinking of curiosity as a practice. And what I mean by that is curiosity is a verb. It is something we do. We are all born curious. Let's just acknowledge that now because sometimes what we do is, like, some people are curious, some people aren't. You know what that means? I'm always curious. Other people aren't. Right? But if we basically all say, like, hey. We're all curious. Kind of like saying we all have good intentions. We just need to understand that there is a difference there.

Julie Pham [00:16:03]:

So, what I do when working with organizations is to help them understand. First, it actually starts with us because there are 3 elements to practicing curiosity, to thinking of it as a verb. The first is self-awareness. The second is relationship building, and the third is clear communication. So, let me go step by step here. Self-awareness means I have to be curious about myself. I have to ask myself some questions. I need to be able to answer them before I can even communicate with someone else. Right? I have to be able to say, what do I want? I actually do want something. Right? Whether, you know, I might be too embarrassed to admit it, but I do want something, and there are reasons for that. And then the second one is, how do I be curious about other people and let them be curious about me? Sometimes I hear people say it's not my job to educate you. And I think of that as, like, well, I don't want an education. I want a conversation. Right? So, in relationship building, we need to have reciprocity. Right? We need to be able to share. I can't just learn about you, Diane, and ask you all these questions, and then you don't share anything about me. We have to have this reciprocity, so that's relationship building.

Julie Pham [00:17:15]:

And the third is clear communication, and that is listening to understand, asking questions when we don't understand, and then sharing stories. And this one, I think, can be really hard because oftentimes, I'll say, why does punctuality matter to you in any of the forms, and people are just because it's respectful. Well, yes. But, you know, where does that come from? It's respectful. Right? Because that's what you need to do, because that's what you're supposed to do. Right? And so, the part of this process is to dig in and to understand people remember stories. People remember stories, which means I have to know what my story is. Right?

Julie Pham [00:17:57]:

And so, if we just say, don't do this or do this or this is the thing to do, but we don't actually have stories around why, and this is for organizations. Organizations need to have stories around why too. Why does it matter to us that we inform each other that we have this really open communication style? Why is that what went wrong when that we didn't have that? When I actually survey organizations about what are reasons why, what can cause misalignment around respect, the highest-ranking answers actually tend to be differences and generational differences.

Diane Schroeder [00:18:31]:

That makes sense.

Julie Pham [00:18:33]:

And what's also high is lack of clarity from leadership. And you know what's actually what's always consistently the lowest? Working remotely. It is not a big issue. I think we put way too much emphasis on it, and what we don't put enough emphasis on is communication from leadership because they have to be clear about their stories. And if they are not clear, then people make up our own stories.

Diane Schroeder [00:18:55]:

Yes. What I've seen from my former industry is then not only do people make up stories, but it's leadership's way of, like, finding the easy solution and avoiding doing the hard work and having the hard conversations and really focusing on the culture of the organization.

Julie Pham [00:19:16]:

And making time.

Diane Schroeder [00:19:17]:

Yeah. Making time. And people don't feel valued. And I can only imagine that that leads to not feeling respected because they don't feel valued and it just becomes a mess. How does vulnerability play into being curious and being authentic? I would love to hear your take on that.

Julie Pham [00:19:37]:

It's really important because we have to be able to share our stories and they have to be specific. The other day, I was working with a client, and I said personal stories, and then I could hear them. But they were, like, personal work stories, and so then I had to go back, nonwork related stories. Right? Because it's just like who are we outside of work. And this doesn't mean sometimes people are just, what, you want me to, like, share all my stuff? It's like, no. But maybe you share what you do with your family. Maybe you have a family. That you have a life cycle.

Diane Schroeder [00:20:13]:

Right. Maybe you are not a robot and you're human.

Julie Pham [00:20:17]:

Right. Right. And so, what that means is if someone's not showing up the way that you expect them to rather than thinking, oh, they don't care. It's just, oh, I know that they're going through a hard time with their parents right now or with their kids, right? And to be able to say that because and I used to be, oh, they don't need to know that or, like, they don't care about knowing that, and yet, if we just have that little bit of additional information and, you know, it really does start with ourselves. And so, you asked how do we take people through this? It's just actually, we have to be clear with ourselves before we can do this as a team. And so, I think sometimes people jump straight to, let's just save time and, like, get to the part where we do it together as a team on our work goals because that's where we want to go. But if they don't know how to do it in their own individual lives, they will not be able to do it on a team, and it will be way stickier if they know how to do it together. Or, like, by themselves and then on a team.

Diane Schroeder [00:21:13]:

Mm-hmm. I say this frequently. You can't run from the work. You can't run from being self-aware. You can maybe bypass it for a while, but to get the most out of life, out of every experience, you have to look inward and do your stuff first.

Julie Pham [00:21:32]:

Well and also that second part, the relationship building, when we share with other people, we're going to hear things that they will help us understand. And so, I've seen that when we do our workshops and with this simple question, who in your life, what experiences have influenced how you think about respect? Such a simple yet connecting question. And then what happens is people see, oh, my ideas come from somewhere. And then people are asking me questions, and I even have a better idea because I just shared it, and they're just, oh, well, it's because of this and this. We can actually help each other with self-awareness because self-awareness doesn't happen in a vacuum. We can't just be, oh, let me ask myself questions, and now it's it. It's like, at some point, it's like, I can only get to here. I can only get to here, and now I need to share this so I can get some other feedback because otherwise, I'm tapped out.

Diane Schroeder [00:22:28]:

Well and I can imagine getting to here, I've lived it. It's really scary to get to the point in your life where you're like, alright. I need to start connecting and sharing my story so I can get out of this rut, and get through the messy middle. And you have to have community around you, whatever that community looks like whether it's of professional community or your personal community. We spend so much time at work. We spend so much time with our coworkers. What a great gift to give to everyone to be able to connect with them. And I can imagine that it spills over. Right? Because we can't separate work from personal life. We can try our best. But at the reality, it sounds like you're just creating this amazing foundation so people have stability in their lives in general, and they have the tools to be curious and connect and, you know, put language around what respect means. And that's such a great gift to give to organizations and to the people in the organizations, because that's what organizations are made up of is people. How do leaders that are struggling when you do your survey, how do they respond to this in general, or is that a pretty loaded question?

Julie Pham [00:23:38]:

Well, I mean, sometimes it is, sometimes they're surprised, like, what? Right? Me? Right? And we do real time polling too. So, like, they are in the room. They're in the room when this is happening because I'm facilitating the conversation or one of my colleagues is facilitating. They can't go straight to defensiveness. Right. And you have to think about this. You're not going to solve this here. We're just here to surface things for you.

Julie Pham [00:24:06]:

One of the other questions we like to ask people is this is when we do the team version is, what are the forms of respect that are being currently practiced on this team. And because the thing is, Diane, just to be clear, it's more like some forms of respect works more like 5 level languages, not like some habits of highly effective people.

Diane Schroeder [00:24:21]:


Julie Pham [00:24:21]:

More about knowing which ones. Right? And so then oftentimes, the leader is like, oh, look at the ones that are currently practiced are also my own. And it's like, do you think maybe why that could be? And then we get into a conversation about, well, what are the ones we need to prioritize versus what the leader likes, and then that makes it a bit more objective. And, actually, then the team can feel, oh, we're doing this because it's actually the best thing to do for the work, not because boss likes it. Right? And then what they can say is, like, even though I personally don't like it, I can get on board with what's best for the work. Maybe I can't get on board with, like, what's best for boss, but I can do it for the work because that's why I'm here. And they might also say, I don't want to do it, and maybe then it's like I'm in a snap and you should maybe leave. And that's okay.

Diane Schroeder [00:25:15]:

But that's a great gift too is you figure out what, you know, you're willing to give or not give, and maybe it's no longer in alignment with the organization. Tell me a little bit about pain and no and how that is also part of this journey of figuring out respect and everything being curious. How does no play into it? And I ask because I speak all the time about boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. They're so important to create self-care. Like, that's one of the foundational pieces of a self-care strategy. And you wrote an article in your Substack that just really kind of gave me a different shift on no and pain. So, could you please share that?

Julie Pham [00:26:03]:

Yes. And so, pain is a teacher, and I actually speak to this very painful public speaking experience where I just got publicly told, hey. This is a waste of my time. What you're talking about is a waste of my time. And at first, I was like, what? What? And after I could process the pain because it was very painful and just like and also, like, what did I learn from this? Because I think it's so easy when we're feeling disrespected to say they wronged me. And you know what? We're not asking ourselves. Right? Like, they disrespected me. What we're not saying is, why do I feel wronged and why do I feel disrespected? And, actually, side note, Diane, is, like, I actually differentiate between disrespect versus lack of respect in the forms that matter to you.

Julie Pham [00:26:48]:

Disrespect is intentional. They meant to do it, And the lack of respect is they didn't know.

Diane Schroeder [00:26:53]:

Oh, okay. I like that.

Julie Pham [00:26:55]:

And a lot of times, what we think is disrespect is actually lack of respect. And so, just kind of some clarity there. I think that hearing no, oftentimes that we can learn from the no’s. And I think that this is really relevant to businesses. Sometimes we're so afraid of the no's, and yet the no's can teach us so much. As an entrepreneur, if I am not hearing no, if I'm not hearing some no’s when I sell, I'm not asking enough. I actually had this realization in my 2nd year of business. My close rate like, my sell rate is way too high, and that's because I am not asking enough people. I'm afraid of the no. The other thing is if people aren't saying no to my ideas, that means I'm not pushing enough. Maybe I'm just being a little too generic here, right? It's too safe. I have to hear some people who say, I don't like what you're presenting. And I've learned actually to be okay with that. I mean, I heard from someone who'd went in on a proposal together, and they said, okay. We got feedback that your work is not far enough along. And I was like, okay. You know, I'm okay with that because I don't think of my work as linear.

Diane Schroeder [00:28:01]:


Julie Pham [00:28:03]:

Right? I think of it as cyclical. And so, if they're saying we're not far enough along, that's okay. That just means, like, we have different expectations. And I actually really do try to get someone to criticize me at least once a month because it's like if they're not, if they're not, then that means I'm not pushing enough. So, I've learned to actually, like, welcome the no’s because it means that I'm pushing my boundaries too. Not that I'm just setting boundaries, but I'm also pushing boundaries.

Diane Schroeder [00:28:30]:

Thank you for sharing that perspective because it really is a complete mindset shift of there is medicine. I agree. There's medicine in the no’s, and it's that self-reflection as to why. I think that's really important to do. And, also, it's they're not aligned with me or you or whomever, and that's okay. It's okay because then it saves the stress and drama or whatever down the road that could potentially happen if you stretch and stretch and stretch to try to accommodate because they say no, and you give, well, how can I make you say yes? Instead of focusing on how you can make someone say yes. It's more like, okay. Thank you for the lesson, the medicine, and go on your way and find someone that's more aligned with you, and that's okay.

Julie Pham [00:29:14]:

Yeah. It's not just about recovering from the no because it definitely, yes. We learn things from pain and from failure. There's also sealing those opportunities where someone's going to say, no. I got to take those risks. It's okay.

Diane Schroeder [00:29:28]:

As I just took a risk in my business and it didn't go well. I'm learning that, you know, the sun still came up the last 2 days, and I still have an incredible podcast, and I still have myself, my health. You know, like, it just makes me grateful, and I can go back and retool it. I'm not down and out. It's just an opportunity. So, I think it's important for people to hear that even if they're not in their own business. You know? If you're going for a promotion, if you're trying to, you know, change careers, like, anything that pushes your boundaries and edges, it's never guaranteed, but life isn't guaranteed. And it's just such a short trip that we have here, and it's the cliche. Right? You regret a 100% of the things you didn't do, not the things you failed at. So, I thank you for sharing that. How do you feel that opening your own business, and really focusing on curiosity and the seven forms of respect, how has that helped you on your journey to authenticity? Feel more aligned with all the career iterations and journey that you've had so far.

Julie Pham [00:30:34]:

So, I, Diane, I feel like I'm living my best life right now, this is I feel like I didn't know. I had no idea that I would be doing this. And I can actually I think maybe it was 6 or 7 years ago, I remember telling a friend who's in HR about my work and bringing people together and what I was learning. And she said, oh, yeah. Well, this is and she mentioned the acronym OD. And I was like, what is OD? She's like, its organizational development, and that's what you do. Like, oh. Right? And someone else had told me once, like, part of this is you don't know what you don't know.

Julie Pham [00:31:09]:

And so, I never thought I would be doing this work. And so, I think in the beginning of any business or any learning phase, it's about saying yes. And then at some point, it's like, oh, and this is what I'm going to say no to. And then that refinement of that actually really helps me get to that authentic me. And so that first year of business, I said yes to everything. And then the 2nd year, actually, it was a colleague of mine who really helped me recognize this because we have this one client where, contract wise, it was a big important client for us. The hours we put into this was a lot, though. So, the profit margins were pretty low, and we were gearing up for the next year, and there was a total expectation where we will renew the contract.

Julie Pham [00:31:50]:

And then she just said because she was doing a lot of the work. She said, so who's going to do this work? And it was like, oh, you don't want to do the work, and I don't want to do the work, which means we actually have to say no to this client. And really and it was a reminder of, like, why did I start this company? So I can work on these very specific things, building out the 7 forms of respect, building out our other modules, not doing custom work. Do not want to do custom work and change ourselves for what clients need. And so, that has really helped so much in terms of saying no and being okay with no's too. Just like, oh, you’re saying no to us because what we have to offer doesn't fit with what you need. That's okay.

Diane Schroeder [00:32:34]:

Mm-hmm. The shoe doesn't fit for everyone. Has it given more space for yeses. By saying no to what you're not aligned with, does that open up the door for more yeses?

Julie Pham [00:32:44]:

Yes. Mm-hmm. And I think what it is also has done is people know what I'm about. That clarity of the message, it's so much easier, and I think it's a lot easier for my team too because they also feel the right to say no. Like, oh, we're going to say no to this. Like, no, it doesn't fit. And it's just like because we'll ask ourselves kind of going back to, we're supporting the work, not just Julie. We're supporting the work. Right? Like, does this make sense for what we want to build in the world. And if it doesn't, then it's okay to say no, and it's okay to remind me that we should say no. Right? Because sometimes, like, well, should we do this? No. Like, oh, yeah. You're right. Okay.

Diane Schroeder [00:33:23]:

Well and I appreciate that as a business owner and leader of your own company, you have to walk the walk and talk the talk with everyone else. So, what a great culture that you're creating internally for your business. And how do you take care of yourself? What do you do for your self-care in your downtime if you have any downtime?

Julie Pham [00:33:44]:

I actually have lots of downtime, and I will say this. I think one of the things I learned as an entrepreneur, there's a difference between managing my time and managing my energy.

Diane Schroeder [00:33:52]:

I love that. I say that all the time. Okay. Keep going.

Julie Pham [00:33:56]:

Right. Right. So, a lot of the way that I make sure I have self-care is by just, okay. These are the things I'm going to outsource. These are the things I can delegate so I can actually focus on the parts of the work that I really like. Because I do think as an entrepreneur that align between personal and professional, very thin. And so, what I do, do though in terms of things that are not work related, I read a lot of fiction. I love reading novels. The library card truly is my passport to the world. It's not a cheesy. I love, I love reading fiction. Every quarter, we take the whole team takes what we call a curiosity break, which is about rest. Rest is different from vacation. We don't talk to one another. We tell people this is our time. We're not available during this time, and it's this time to just rest our brains. And I also love spending a lot of time with friends. So, I do have a lot of quality time, do lots of 1-on-1 time with friends.

Diane Schroeder [00:34:49]:

That sounds fantastic. And the freedom that you have to do that when you have your own business is, it's inspiring. I can't wait to someday get to that point personally and professionally in my life to where I can be like, yes. This is why I started a business, so I could be the leader and create a culture that makes everyone happy and meets the needs and serves a greater good. So, thank you so much, Julie. My last question is if you could go back and tell your 12-year-old self any advice, what would you give yourself?

Julie Pham [00:35:22]:

It will be okay. It will be okay. And so, I think sometimes, it would just be, oh my gosh. This is the end of the world. Oh my gosh. They're thinking this, and I've really messed up, and I'll never get forgiven. And so just now, it's just like, this happened. It'll be okay, and I just wish I learned that earlier.

Diane Schroeder [00:35:47]:

Yeah. That's timeless advice. That's advice I could give myself yesterday too. You're right. That is timeless advice. Well, Julie, thank you so much for taking time to chat with me today, and I will put all of your information in the show notes. And I just wish you the best of luck. And I'm so inspired by what you're doing, and I think you're truly creating true culture change and just a sense of belonging, and psychological safety in organizations, and that's just really beautiful.

Julie Pham [00:36:16]:

Thank you, Diane, so much for this conversation. I really enjoyed it.

Diane Schroeder [00:36:19]:

Thank you.

Diane Schroeder [00:36:21]:

Another great conversation. Thank you for giving the valuable gift of your time and listening to The Fire Inside Her podcast. Speaking of value, one of the most common potholes we fall into on the journey to authenticity is not recognizing our value. So, I created a workbook. It's all about value. Head on over to to get your free workbook that will help you remember your value. Until next time, my friend.