Stand and Deliver: Elevate the Voices of Other Women with Laura Cox Kaplan
by Lisa Gable · 04 Dec 2022 · 13 min read
My Stand and Deliver series highlights women who lead through inspiration and aspiration. Today’s article is about the importance of elevating the voices of other women.
I chose to interview Laura Cox Kaplan, because she is a woman known for her generosity of spirit, her deep insight, and her execution for impact. Laura’s inspiring background includes over twenty-five years of experience as a corporate director, c-suite executive, and political savant. Laura is the creator of She Said / She Said, a multimedia platform for women who strive to live their best lives with intention and who are seeking insight and inspiration through thoughtful conversation and content focused on women.
Please introduce yourself. Tell us a little bit about your career and what excites you about your current stage of life.
First, Lisa, thank you for including me in this incredible series.
I’m Laura Cox Kaplan. I run a small media company focused on helping women build and sustain influence in their lives and careers. Influence isn’t a topic we often focus on as it relates to career and personal development and yet it’s essential, especially as we contemplate or plan for future career evolution and pivots—both those we know about and plan for and those that tend to surprise us or that take us off guard.
One part of my current work portfolio is a top-rated career development podcast I created called She Said/She Said. The podcast complements teaching, speaking and some consulting I do that focuses on how we can build and sustain influence in our lives and why that matters. (Lisa, I’m delighted you’ve joined me twice on the show!)
I’m also mom to two fabulous kiddos (a son who’s fourteen and a daughter who’s twelve) and an adorable dog, and wife to my wonderful husband, Joel.
What excites me at this current stage? Absolutely everything! The work I do brings me tremendous joy because I am able to contribute perspective from almost three decades working in communication and public policy positions— first on Capitol Hill as a press secretary, later in presidential administration working in legislative affairs, and later in more senior management and executive roles where I was responsible for setting strategy and overseeing teams focused on communications and legislative, regulatory, and policy functions. I was truly blessed to learn from some incredible mentors and from peers about how to build and use influence in ways that help create powerful connections and relationships, that build credibility, and that leverage the power of investments made in one’s self.
My work today is much more entrepreneurial and fuels my creative passion for building content that hopefully adds value to others by drawing directly from my growing audience, from women I interview on the podcast, as well as my own journey and experiences.
Many of the women (and a few men) listening to She said/She said are in the midst of rethinking their life and career and are considering big pivots. Other listeners are just launching careers. This content is designed to help provide perspective, actionable advice, and hopefully inspiration as they tackle their own unique set of challenges. I’m enormously gratified by the response to what I’ve built with the help of both my audience and guests alike and could not be more grateful for the opportunity to engage in this work.
Tell us about a major transition period in your life and what prompted the change.
I’ve experienced several big life pivots—including becoming a mom (my greatest joy), but honestly my biggest career transition thus far was leaving a full-time corporate career as the head of public policy strategy for PwC with a seat on the firm’s senior management team. The reason I consider that my biggest transition is because it was the job I thought I’d never leave, the one that I had aspired to and worked toward for many years. I was surprised when I outgrew it and needed more. That realization launched my search for something that would not only challenge me differently, but something where I could hopefully use what I had learned, along with the broad network I had built, to add value to others in a more direct way.
Leaving PwC—and facing my own insecurities and fears—continues to inform many of the conversations on She said/She said about career and life pivots and why influence—and making sure that you are investing in yourself in ways that help you build influence capital—can give you lots of options when you do decide to pivot or pursue something new, especially when that something is in a completely different line of work.
I couldn't have predicted that this is where I would be at this point in my life, but when I look back and connect the dots, it makes perfect sense. I’m grateful that my early career investments enabled me to lay important groundwork for the work I’m doing today.
I certainly don’t have it all figured out, but I love having a living platform that allows me to grow alongside my audience while crowdsourcing the best ways to build and sustain the influence needed to accomplish our goals.
What are the three top tips you have for a woman trying to assert her influence and ideas?
It’s difficult to boil it down to three, but if I had to pick, I would highlight these areas:
1. Curate and edit your own story. We often hear the advice to “know your value.” To me, that means digging into your story to understand the elements that are most differentiating and where your unique value most often emanates. It also requires that you potentially reframe elements of your story especially related to failure and setback so that you can see how much you’ve learned from them and how they can serve you even better going forward. This can also be helpful for understanding where the fear we may be experiencing comes from, especially as it relates to trying something new.
2. Invest in yourself in ways that foster lifelong learning. Make space in your life to make regular, smart investments in yourself. We are better equipped to invest in others when we’ve first devoted the time and energy into investing in understanding and fine-tuning our own talents. It’s like putting the airplane oxygen mask on first so that you have the strength needed to help others. It also means taking responsibility for your development and for working to figure out your biggest strengths and weaknesses and making conscious decisions about which things to double down on or fix. It also means proactively seeking those sources and challenges that teach and inspire you. Another powerful element of this is investing in connecting with others. Our relationships, and the investments we make in others, are such a critical part of any influence strategy!
3. Engage with “intentional persistence.” When you know in your heart you are meant to do something—even if you don’t know exactly all the parameters of what the endgame may be—aim for “doing” over just thinking and use the process to fine-tune your idea and to learn, over and over and over again. The most important part of this advice is making sure that you are willing to evolve your idea by learning from each iteration, persisting, and asking for input and feedback along the way. By the way, just because you receive feedback doesn’t mean you need to accept it at face value. Just consider it. It’s an input, not necessarily the path. Sometimes it’s both what someone doesn’t say as well as what they do say that can inform your process.
How do you help unleash leadership at all levels?
My hope for She Said/She Said is that it will provide sparks of inspiration to meet a listener where she is in her journey. Maybe she’ll hear something that inspires her to tackle a new challenge, create something, re-engage in her job, discover a new path, or build the courage needed to leave a job she’s evolved beyond. Maybe it will give her a new way to think about and use “fear” to her advantage. Most of all, I hope I can provide my listener with a weekly pause in her day that reminds her of the importance of investing in herself and in her growth. When we invest and lean into our gifts, that’s when both our true influence and leadership tends to grow.
Tell our readers about a passion project of yours, why it's unique or special, and what attracted you to it.
Right now, She Said/She Said Media and She Said/She Said podcast are my passion projects because I still see lots of opportunities to grow, expand, and evolve our content and the platform in ways that help us reach more people and engage with my listener even more directly. I’m also really passionate about the lightning-fast changes occurring in technology that continue to create more opportunities to connect, engage, and inspire each other in meaningful ways. So much more to come!
Who inspires you today and why?
I’m so glad you asked this question, because it’s long been a focus of the podcast. There are so many people and ideas that inspire me. I’m inspired by the women who join me on the podcast and who share their stories and their actionable advice with my audience each week. I’m inspired by my listener who shares her story and feedback. I’m inspired by people I hear about who are finding new and creative ways to solve problems and have a positive impact on others while at the same time creating businesses and economic opportunities for others. I’m inspired by art and innovation of all types,but most specifically the creative process. One of my favorite things is learning about how an artist, creative genius, or problem solver was inspired and how that spark of inspiration led to some amazing (often unexpected) work that in turn inspired or helped so many others. I’m also fascinated by how those creative geniuses compete with their own past success. This was a theme in one of my favorite books on the topic Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.
For me, inspiration is about always seeking—looking for opportunities to be inspired and always asking questions. I’m always looking, and hopefully that search will continue to yield value for my She Said / She Said audience.
What is a future aspiration?
Right now my primary focus is twofold: continuing to grow and meet the needs of the incredible audience who joins me each week for my She Said / She Said Podcast, while simultaneously raising thoughtful, engaged, empathetic, and independent children (who despite the fact that both are almost teens will still tolerate spending time with both of their parents).
I think of the work I’m doing now as investing both in myself and in others in ways that hopefully will help them solve problems and will give them a spark of inspiration, some ammunition needed to tackle a challenge, or the nugget of a new idea that they can use to positively impact others.
At some point, this content and these incredible She Said/She Said podcast conversations and takeaways might become a book, but for now I’m still deep in the learning phase. I’m excited to see where it will lead!
My Key Takeaways:
What strikes me the most about Laura is her masterful approach to helping women build and sustain influence in their lives and careers. Laura has correctly identified influence as an essential ingredient for successful women leaders.
Because of this trait, my favorite quote from Laura's interview is:
"Leaving PwC—and facing my own insecurities and fears—continues to inform many of the conversations on She Said / She Said about career and life pivots and why influence—and making sure that you are investing in yourself in ways that help you build influence capital—can give you lots of options when you do decide to pivot or pursue something new, especially when that something is in a completely different line of work.”
Once you identify the narrative that defines how you want to be known, remember you can’t do it all on your own. Sometimes you need others to “sing your song” for you. This requires creating your personal professional team of trusted allies and being an ally on whom others can rely.
Laura and I are part of a group of friends, made up of association and nonprofit CEOs, who graciously introduce their peers to personal attorneys, public relations gurus, digital profile experts, and compensation professionals. There is no formality to what we do but as a woman advances to a CEO, board, or influencer role, she does so with a playbook and a reliable turnkey infrastructure that strengthens her position.
The world requires us to check certain boxes to be taken seriously in our careers. Help each other do so not just once but a few times. Your influence will grow as you reach back and create the chain of interconnections to help the next generation of women leaders.
What lessons did you learn from Laura’s interview? Let me know what inspired you by connecting with me on Instagram or LinkedIn. You can also sign up for my newsletter and buy my book, Turnaround: How to Change Course When Things Are Going South, at www.lisagable.com.