5 Questions with Jena Booher (Strategic Culture Consultant and Entrepreneur)

Jena Booher is a strategic culture consultant and entrepreneur. With eight years of experience as a sales-trader on Wall Street, an MS in Mental Health Counseling, and her current pursuit of a PhD in Psychology, Jena brings a unique combination of professional experience and academic background to her work. Using her expertise in work psychology and workplace well-being, Jena transforms the mental health of organizations and the employees who work in them. She also specializes in change management with a focus on guiding leadership through M&A events and other cultural change.

I had the pleasure of working with Jena at my current company as my coach and she's a freaking badass. You can find her on insta @jena.booher, more about her biz at jenabooher.com

1. What values and principles do you live by?

I am a student to the core - I love to learn. Outside of my academic track I improve my learning in two primary ways: listening and reading. People are a wealth of information. I don’t always succeed, but I try to do a lot more listening than talking. Listening also allows me to give my brain a break - I don’t have the pressure of coming up with the most brilliant thing to say if I am limiting my talking.

Reading wise - I aim to read 3ish books a month on topics that interest me: wellness, company culture, leadership, or entrepreneurship. The book I just finished (which was excellent) is Peter Bregman’s Leading with Emotional Courage and the one I have in my backpack now is You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero. 

Another way I learn is by taking on as many stretch assignments as I physically and mentally can handle. Stretch assignments include projects that I've never done before or initiatives that I am unsure if I can accomplish successfully. I love a good challenge and being able to learn along the way. 

2. What’s one area in your life you’re actively working on or looking to improve?

About a year ago I got really tired of not identifying as “physically strong.” I am naturally on the leaner side so I have gotten away with not prioritizing any type of strength training my entire life. However I had a really tough time both physically and mentally after having my daughter four years ago. I felt I made the progress I needed to on improving my mental health, but the physical pains especially in my lower back and core were left unresolved even several years after I gave birth.

I came to the decision last year I was no longer satisfied with being mentally resilient, but physically weak. I had to strengthen my body. I made a goal before the end of 2018 to do 5 forward grip pull-ups with each rep starting from a dead-hang. I hired a personal trainer and worked tirelessly to build back, shoulder, and core strength for over 9 months and by 12/31/18 I hit my goal of 5! It seemed like such a stupid, meat-heady goal to do pull-ups, but it meant a lot more to me. I never considered myself physically strong my whole life and now I do! My goal for 2019 is to do 10: will see if I can make it by the end of the year. 

3. What's one new positive habit you've started that has made a big impact on your life?

I started to develop a “leisure habit.” One of the important revelations I have come to for my work is I have to engage in a lot of creative thought. My line of work for better or worse doesn’t have a “playbook.” I have to come up with a lot of it on my own. Leisure time allows me to be creative. Robert Stebbins, a sociologist, has formulated a leisure perspective that I ascribe to. He explains three forms of leisure.

One is casual leisure, which is what most of us think of as leisure: it requires little in the way of special training to enjoy. Examples could be going for a walk, listening to music, folding laundry, or meditating. During moments of “casual leisure” I get my best ideas. This could affect the way I approach a specific patient on a treatment plan or my ability to figure out the source of an organization’s dysfunction.

I don’t come up with my best creative ideas when I am non-stop “go-go-go”. Like most people, I suffer from time scarcity as a full-time business owner, full-time student, and full-time mom. I have to be super intentional in creating these gaps in my week of “leisure time” so I can engage in creative thought.

Leisure time is also something I struggle with talking to others about because it’s an easy thing for people to judge me for. Why aren’t you using that time more productively? Can’t you take on another client during that time?... etc. Prioritizing leisure time is important to me and worth it. Not only has this habit made me more “sane”, but I am way better at my job. 

4. What is your biggest challenge when trying to be the best version of yourself, and what has helped you overcome it?

One of the things I have recently been not loving about myself is the need to assert my professional relevance. Before I started my business and enrolled in my PhD, I was a sales-trader at JPMorgan right out of undergrad for 8 years until I had my daughter. Once I had Siena, the professional landscape dramatically changed and I felt I had no option but to quit my finance job - a job that carried a lot of prestige and financial independence. I suffered a huge hit to my self-esteem after quitting and is still a phase I am healing from.

Once my business started to takeoff, coupled with enrolling in a PhD, I found myself always needing to tell people about my work and what I do. In short, I have developed a bad habit of needing professional validation. I recognized this about six months ago and decided I didn’t like it. Now when I meet people at cocktail parties, unless someone explicitly asks what I do, I don’t reveal it. I try to prioritize connecting with the person in front of me instead of making sure they think what I am doing at work is “cool” or “interesting.” As a result, I am a lot less tired. Not every social interaction is a performance. 

5. What products or resources do you recommend that have helped you get to this point?

I am a huge personal and professional advocate of mental health resources. I have had a litany of professionals help me in my life including acupuncturists, coaches, nutritionists, trainers, therapists, psychiatrists, and various other “healers.” I realized a long time ago I cannot expect to be equipped to do all my own healing. It’s ok and in fact it's a great idea to get help from professionals. Out of all the things I have spent money on, I spend the most on these individuals. More than buying clothes, going out to eat, etc. It’s the gift that gives back, so I find it entirely worth the investment. 

The other resource I enjoy and recommend to many clients of mine is the CBT Thought Record Diary app! The principles are rooted in cognitive behavioral therapy and the tool helps to both track and re-formulate negative self-talk. I find it especially helpful for those who are experiencing a tough time in their life at the moment, whether it’s at work or with a partner. It’s also just great to bring awareness to the things one is telling themselves (for better or worse). Give it a shot! 

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