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Life and Work with Brooke Ozlem Erol

Today we’d like to introduce you to Brooke Ozlem Erol.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was born in Istanbul, Turkey. I followed the traditional path given to me; work hard, get good grades at school, go to the best college, get a good job at a big company and live happily ever after. I did well within this path until I started questioning the meaning of my life and my work while working at IBM in my 20s. I wanted to make sure what I did matter on a daily basis and have a positive impact on others. I created my own “purpose” statement for my own good since nobody talked about purpose at the time. I was like the alien if I ever questioned my amazing “job on paper”. I had a good life, making good money at one of the Fortune 100 companies. What more do I want?
My inner voice did not stop though. I wanted to enjoy what I do every day instead of living for weekends and retirement only.

One of my dreams was to live in US because I always wanted to live somewhere where people accepted each other as they are and did not care about where they come from, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, etc. I had a great experience when I was 20 in Italy at a youth camp with people from 66 different countries and I wanted to recreate that forever in my life. My husband, my son and I got lucky to win the green card lottery. So we left everything behind, including our good jobs and started this adventure.

I had to work so I still kept working professionally still seeking my purpose in life. When a coach helped me figure this out and took me through an amazing process, I loved it. I wanted to do it for others: asking deep questions, finding your passion, strengths, purpose made so much sense to me. So my first business I started in 2003 is called YourBestLife helping people like me who struggle to find the right and meaningful work that is aligned with who they are. People who looked at jobs like something more than a paycheck. That is so rewarding still to this day; to see the spark in people’s eyes when they finally figure out what they really want to do and overcome some of their limiting beliefs.

After working with many people who are hard-working, who have a lot of potential but suffer at work, I realized one more time there is something wrong in the workplace once again. So in 2012 I started my second business, Purposeful Business where I focus more now. I help leaders create thriving environments to grow their organizations without sacrificing the well-being of their people. I deliver leadership trainings because leadership means something totally different now than it did a decade ago. We have very different circumstances now and the conventional way of “managing” people, hierarchies, command-control do not work anymore. At the fast paced world we live in, you cannot move your organization as fast as possible when you have so much bureaucracy. A lot of institutions like US Roundtable CEOs, biggest asset management company like Blackrock, UN has understood the crucial place of “Purpose” in the workplace. I call it “purpose beyond profit”. The short-sighted, myopic understanding of making shareholders is not enough anymore. I love what I do and this is my purpose in life. Both of my businesses is to make sure more people are happier at work and studies show when people find more meaning at work, they get to be more fulfilled for sure.

I am an international speaker, author as well. I have a book called Create a Life You Love and another one I co-authored called From Hierarchy to High Performance that became a best seller at Amazon in 2018. I belong to amazing global networks like #HumanFirst #GreatWorkCultures #ReinventWork #HackingHR.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Of course there are always some struggles on this path. One was for me to change my whole environment by moving to another country. Lost all my support system and stability and everything familiar. I started from scratch and it was humbling. I realized I gained a lot of identities that stroke my ego like graduating from one of the top colleges in my country, being an IBMer, coming from an intellectual family. None of them meant anything when I moved to the US. I had to do a lot of self-development. I recommend looking into who we are without our titles and belongings. It teaches you to be your true self. You feel like you can be anywhere and anytime and you will be fine no matter what happens.

The other big roller coaster is to be an entrepreneur. You need to believe in yourself 100% when you start. There will be so many nay sayers especially if you are unconventional and many people don’t even understand what you do. You have to close your ears and trust your gut. Believing in yourself and your own why is everything. Again as an entrepreneur even if you sell services like me, you will need capital. Do not assume you need no money since you do not have any tangible products and you don’t need stock or storage. Do not put your business expenses on credit cards either get a business loan with better interest rates. Overall pay attention to your finances before you start. Be realistic but also take risks too. After you start be patient if you don’t see results right away. Stop your self-doubting thoughts. Even if they are there, do not listen to them. Even the most successful people you admire had self-doubt. It is not starting your business with the lack of it but despite it.

Please tell us about Purposeful Business.
I am in the leadership space. Which means helping leaders understand the new mindset that is required now to be a leader. This is done by either coaching or training or both.

I also go in as a consultant to assess the current situation of the company in terms of their engagement rates (there is an amazing tool that I use for this), look at their turnover rates, and give advice on how to fix these.

I do “purpose” workshops where to get together with senior leadership and people from all departments to come up with an authentic purpose statement for the company which becomes the foundation of their business strategy (instead of a framed statement on the wall that nobody knows about).

I speak and write all the time to increase awareness around future of work, purposeful leadership, leadership of the future at conferences around the world including college campuses.

What sets me apart from others is first that this is my purpose in life. Even if I had a billion dollars now I would be doing exactly this work. People see my passion and my dedication to these topics.

I bring a good blend of experience from the corporate world, nonprofit and the entrepreneurship understanding the dynamics of leadership in these different environments.

I am an avid learner. I am just curious by nature. All of this means I am reading all the time, attending conferences, trying to stay ahead of the curve to teach what I learn.

Do you think there are structural or other barriers impeding the emergence of more female leaders?
First and foremost our lack of confidence in our own abilities. We have so many limiting beliefs that hinders us from doing the things we love to do. We have accepted to be second class at work (even in life) and never even question the number of men who ran our offices.

We do not understand how our natural capabilities of combining our hearts and minds, using our right-brain skills, our emotional intelligence can contribute to the workplace.

We do not demand a lot at work. There are many studies that show women do not even apply to jobs if they do not meet 90-100% of the requirements while men do with only 50%. Again women are horrible about asking for more money or any raise. We are obviously getting better but we have a long ways to go.

Most women do not voice their opinions as much. We had to fit in a man dominated world for so long that we accepted not to say anything.

Many girls are still raised as princesses instead of strong individuals who deserve the best of everything like boys do.

A lot of responsibility also falls into the parents consciously paying attention to treating girls and boys fairly. We take what we learned in the house into families we form.

Although we have faced so many unfairness at the workplace until now, it is our job to fix it. And that requires bravery and self-confidence.

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