Posted on February 20, 2023
With great visionary leadership comes great challenges and opportunities. In this episode, Meghan Sandau shares her journey and process in guiding people to follow their hearts, lead with love, and make big movements in the world. She’s been the force behind the storm of several celebrities, authors, musicians, and others. Now, she’s using her skills, insights, and powers as a force for good. Meghan shares insights and strategies for developing a strong leadership mindset, building a supportive team, and creating a culture that fosters innovation and growth. She also discusses the importance of self-care and resilience in the face of challenges, and the role that vulnerability and authenticity play in effective leadership. Tune in and learn how to become an effective visionary leader.
Listen to the podcast here
Mission-Driven Leadership: Insights And Strategies On Empowering Visionary Leaders With Meghan Sandau
Our guest is Meghan Sandau. Often described as an unassuming and elegant fixer, Meghan has worked for more than 20 years in service to artists, authors, celebrities, CEOs, and dignitaries alike, delighting in bringing calm order and warmth to her clients. Now, with Considerate Ventures, she is exclusively offering her powers of organization, creativity, and intuition to those who use their platforms, power, and influence for good. Thank you so much for joining us, Meghan.
Thank you so much for having me. I’m so happy to be here.
I am happy you’re here. We’ve talked about getting you in for a while, and we’ve finally gotten our calendars and our lights to align, and we’re here. I’m so excited to hear about your journey beyond what I already know about you.
Thank you. I’m so excited to watch you do your magic here, too. It’s fun to watch you on this side.
It’s funny when you’re here, you get to see all my hand movements and everything. When you’re listening, you just hear the voices. Let’s start off, Meghan, with you telling us a little bit about your journey and your path to get to where you are now.
I had a non-traditional childhood. That’s a show for another time. I ended up dropping out of eighth grade. I don’t know if I’ve ever told you that. I have a very spicy, colorful background. I was a lost soul. Miraculously, I found a full-time job working in a jewelry supply store. I did lie about my age to Jerry, my former boss, who has since passed. At that time, I had a customer who would talk often about working backstage concerts. He was a security person on the side. I stayed in touch with him. Later, I did return to school. I graduated. I reached out to him when I was about 18, and I asked him if he knew of any jobs within the company he worked for.
It turned out that that day, the owner had just lost his assistant. She had walked out on him. It was this magical timing. He said, “If you can meet us tonight at this time, be there.” I did. I showed up and got the job, and it ended up being a beautiful fit for me. At a very young age, rather than having to work my way up slowly through the ranks, I was in a small office with a concert promoter who was very messy. He was great at what he did, but he was a nightmare with organization. His contact list consisted of a big stack of business cards with a rubber band, and he would just throw it in his 1980s briefcase and go on to the show that we were producing.
I was excited to help him organize. It was this magical playground for me. He was more than happy to let me try whatever I wanted to try. I started calling agents to book bands. I would learn how to run security meetings, sit in with the clients, just A to Z work with the bands, be backstage, and produce. I was able to learn everything you do for a concert over a number of years. The story goes on a little bit more.
I was awesome at it, quite frankly. I was made for it almost. In a way, I almost outgrew him because I was ambitious. I was like, “Let’s go talk to this company, and present our skills.” He was not a corporate guy. He was a cigarette-smoking guy that would show up in a muscle T-shirt and drop the F-bomb. I found an email preparing for this interview. I was 24, and I was pitching an idea to an executive of Miller Beer Company, for example. I was excited to grow, and I started talking to people, networking, and putting myself out there. I ended up picking up a contract job with a corporate events company when I was about 24.
For a while, I did both jobs, but I started getting into the corporate space, so producing large concerts and events for corporations and companies. That’s how I got to be involved with celebrities, authors, and that whole category. That role was helpful because the owner of that company was the opposite of my boss. She was perfectly manicured, well-spoken, and a very corporate-friendly woman. For her and with her, I learned how to come into a meeting, speak eloquently, organize, and managed clients. Anyway, that whole span of time was maybe ten years or so. I ended up heading out to Los Angeles and landed a dream job at Live Nation, the world’s largest concert promoter.
That’s a story that’s a little too long now, but it was an interesting environment because I was not set up to succeed. I was thrown into a very unfriendly environment. I did my best to prosper, but I could see it was not an environment that worked for me. The company as a whole has a lot of great things to offer, but this one particular spot I was in was too much. I started my own company out in Los Angeles, and then I started working with concert promoters and different public figures that I had met out there. That’s the space I’ve been in since 2009.
I was out there in that space. As part of coming out of my tough childhood, going back to that, I’ve always been a personal development seeker and always looking at how to learn and be better. At one point, early in my career, I had thought about going back to school. I did graduate from college with a degree in Marketing. I had thought about going back to school to study Psychology, but I was more interested in helping people move forward rather than diving into their past.
While doing all these events and concerts, I also did a year-long course for life coaching and added that to my toolbox. As I was producing concerts and events and other kinds of events for public figures, I was also adding a lot of my coaching whether it was directly with the client or their team members. I’ve been doing it ever since all the way to now.
How did you fold coaching into what you were already doing?
For a time, I kept it private, and I wouldn’t mix it in with my other business because the term life coach can be confronting for people. Some people think of it as an unofficial title that doesn’t mean anything. In some regards, I understand that. I worked with personal clients that didn’t mix with my other business. Once I became more confident and I started to share it with my clients, a lot of them expressed interest.
I had one CEO in particular who hired me to coach him for a number of years, and then I started also supporting him in other ways. As my confidence grew, I started expressly stating to people that I could do that. It’s a natural part of my life. No matter who I’m talking to, I’m encouraging them or wanting to get into their business and understand, “What is your dream? What are you trying to do?” It’s a natural part of who I am.If you’re someone who wants to achieve something, you have to understand what your dream is and what you are trying to do. Click To Tweet
You’ve worked with a number of different types of people like you described. What makes you so passionate about working specifically with people who are using their influence for good?
That’s a great question. It is reflective of my entire life journey because again, coming from a darker childhood, as a kid, when we suffer, it’s just sad and we don’t get it. We’re innocent kids. We just want it all to be rainbows and beautiful, and it’s so sad when it’s not. From a young age, I’ve always been seeking, “Where is the love here? Why is this not easier? Why are we not all being kind to each other?”
It was a huge sadness for me in my childhood. In the business world, I experienced that so often. I would see someone in a fabulous place of power, and they were just mean to people. They could kill the energy in a room. I would then see someone lovely that was just so generous with their time, presence, and energy, and it would just change everything.
Part of the advantage of what I have loved about my career is that because I’ve worked with so many different clients at such an intense speed, I get to know them deeply and very well. I know what it’s like behind the scenes for many corporations and public figures. On their face, someone might say, “They look so great. That company looks so lovely. Why are their employees so unhappy?”
It does come down to the people and people leading. If they’re not leading with kindness, care, and concern for others, they can’t create anything meaningful. In 2022, as I considered my career and what I wanted to be doing, I realized that it was no longer exciting for me just to go be around exciting people and do exciting things. I have no interest in that.
I realized what I am excited about is helping people who have a mission to serve and who are good people. I will say that I do know people who have a stated mission to serve, but they are not that kind to the people right in front of them. That’s of no interest to me either. I’m looking to surround myself with people just like me, who want to do good with their services and be good to each other and to themselves. That’s a very special person. That’s why I love you because you’re one of them. Those are the only people I want to be around. I don’t care about someone’s fame, money, or fortune. I only want to be around someone like that. In terms of business, I only want to be hired by people that resonate at that level.
What a wonderful place to be able to choose. However, throughout my career, I have determined that you’re always in a place to be able to choose. When you get your mindset stuck in a place of fear, you think you don’t have the ability to choose. Therefore, you take on, and you end up serving the people who you don’t want more because they’re harder to serve.
You then do a disservice to the clients who make it easy, because you can just provide them with their service and be done. The difficult clients take all of your time, effort, light, and joy. They make you even more afraid. It perpetuates that circle and that cycle. What is your process in working with individuals? How do they find you? How do you get started? What’s your process?
I want to add on to what you just said. You’re exactly right. It is a true thing that the ones that exhaust us the most that take all of our time and energy are the very ones that we need to work very diligently to turn away from to the best of our ability. It’s not always easy for us to do it quickly, but I would say that we should look at culling our friends list and clients list, just anyone we interact with. If someone’s draining you, it is so important that you do everything you can to create the space and bring in more of the light to your point.The ones that exhaust us and take all of our time and energy the most are the very ones we need to turn away from to the best of our ability. Click To Tweet
In terms of my process, I’m fortunate that because I’ve been in the same industry for all of these years, my network is large, so it’s all word of mouth. With someone who’s never worked with me that’s been referred, I do have to prove myself to them, but it’s nice to know that I have a reputation that precedes me. I always like to have a call to just understand their vision and dream, and also to get a feel for them as a person.
At this stage in my career, I’m good about being authentic and honest about where I can provide excellence and where I cannot because the old former me would say, “Sure, I can do that. I understand that you want it that way, even if I don’t agree with it.” I would just do what they wanted me to do because I was more of a people pleaser.
Now, I look at it as if my time is valuable. The reason I want to work with wonderful people is that I want to see their mission go further because I’m here for service work. That’s my mission. I want to help people so their service can be furthered. My time is important to me. I’m just good about having an honest conversation and hearing their dreams and visions for what they need. I like to take 1 day or 2 to reflect on it and process it, and then I will email them back to say, “Here’s how I can help you. Here’s how I cannot.” Sometimes it’s, “I don’t think I’m a fit, but here’s a few people that you might talk to.”
Once you get started, is there a process or a journey that you begin with, or a particular cadence of conversation? What can people expect once you say, “I’m so excited. I love your mission. I love your energy and what you’re doing. Let’s work together?”
The first thing I like to do is interview them on a very deep level, however that needs to be, if it’s one long meeting or a couple of meetings. Everything for me is written because that’s my best form of communication. I like to write up an assessment, an analysis, my plan of action, how I plan to serve them in their mission going forward, and then just an ongoing list of questions. We then begin the project whatever it might be. Sometimes it’s less events at this current stage of my career, but it could be helping someone launch a brand or facilitate some private personal fundraising project, whatever it might be.
You could launch a book.
If there’s something messy, chaotic, and all over the place, I get excited to organize it. I love to help someone meet their vision. It’s me providing a plan, timelines, and action list, and then just staying on top of it, keeping it moving, and pulling in the resources that I need, because I don’t present myself as an everything person. I’m the secondhand person to that visionary. They can trust me to have eyes on everything, help make suggestions and recommendations, bring in the talent that we might need to get it done, and just keep moving along.
That’s beautiful. I love that process and the understanding. Being at this stage in your life where you are more understanding of where your strengths provide so much more value to your clients. I’ve been doing that same thing forever. Starting as an account manager at an agency, at the time, I thought I didn’t have actual talent, because I’m like, “You’re the right person for this.” Whether it’s inside the agency, contracting out, or I’m making suggestions and referrals, I thought that I was just this electrical cord that let everything flow through, which is true, and there’s so much value to that as we see when our electricity goes out.
The ability to know and make the choices, be clear and know where your value is, what insight to provide, and where your experience can guide them, and you being open to saying, “I respect your idea and your concept. Have you thought about it this way? Might I recommend something else that would get you further faster or get you in touch with different people?” It’s the value that you provide beyond saying yes. A lot of people think that saying yes is the best thing, and it’s sometimes the worst for yourself and for the client.
It’s so true. Maybe someone else won’t agree with me, but I believe that in every industry, there are maybe 10% A players and everyone else is B-minus or below. The A player is someone that is excellent at their skill, but also excellent at supporting the client and showing up with kindness, a real top-level person. I’m always looking for that and for resources I might bring in. I would say that you and I both in our business models are that person. We’re there to vet, find, and bring in the right people, and manage the process.
Whether it’s events, CEOs, or whatever the big project is at hand, I see one mistake, and that’s how I knew that my starting this solution to this problem was going to be successful. Most people with a lot on their plates might have five professionals or more hired, but they don’t have another them to make sure that those five professionals who have other clients and are doing 1 million other things are going to stay on point, stay on the timeline, and know how to handle things.
For me, with my clients on an org chart, they’re at the top and I’m a parallel line out to the side, like a loans executive because they can count on me to hold their vision and make sure it happens. As things come up, I’m able to quickly put out fires and handle things that otherwise could get backlogged. It serves the visionary at the top, but it also serves the people working with them because we all know what it’s like to have a boss or a decision-maker who is killing our chance of success.
I come in to help everything go more smoothly is another way of saying it. I would say the same for the way that you work because you and I have worked together. Steph did my brand. I’m excited about the work that you did. It’s weird talking about you when you’re right here. You and I work the same way. We come in. We don’t necessarily do the exact task that’s needed, but we will orchestrate, bring in, advise, and make sure it’s done right.
It’s a beautiful illustration of where you are on the org chart and the value that’s provided. Somebody said to me not too long ago, “That person’s a CEO. Why would they need a coach? They’re already there. They’re already where they want to be.” Sometimes, those are the people who need the coach the most. They don’t need to be told to work harder. They don’t need to be told to learn more things. Visionaries are so good at being visionaries. They’re constantly looking out and beyond that sometimes they don’t have the ability to look beside them, behind them, or give that support. Do you work with existing teams as well, help hire, or contract?
I’ve done all of it. I have clients that I’ll work with their whole in-house team, but then I’m also sometimes doing searches for other resources, whether it’s an actual full-time hire or a contractor, so I do quite a bit of that. Any visionary and successful powerful person would say the hardest thing is finding the good people. That’s so hard. That’s why I say that A-plus thing for every industry.
It’s a unique person that is going to care as much about the service, the person they’re serving, and the mission they’re serving as they do about their own world. I find that it’s not because people are necessarily bad, but a lot of people are only focused on their slice of the pie, and they’re not thinking about the big vision.
Do you work with existing teams or build new teams?
It is both. Sometimes I just had a conversation with a potential client. In that case, if we work together, I’ll have to bring on a team for him, but definitely both. Like you said about the conversation you had recently, someone who would look at a CEO and say, “What do they possibly need?” I’ve had that experience being with a high-profile person, and this person introduced me as their life coach and they laugh. They’re like, “You need a life coach from her. What?” They didn’t get it.
It’s understandable that most people don’t know what it’s like to be in their position. With my career having been behind the curtains so often, we’re all humans and we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Sadly, it’s very lonely at the top. Very rarely do people care as much as you do if you’re the one in charge of everything.Very rarely do people care as much as you do if you're the one in charge of everything. Click To Tweet
That’s where I come in. I’m about protecting them in many ways like their time and vision. Keeping them safe is important to me. It’s one more motivation for why I re-launched this brand because I do feel a lot of concern and sadness for the people that are trying to do something beautiful. Either they’re surrounded by inept people or people who want to take from them. It’s very sad to see, and I’ve seen it over and over again. I’ve seen it more often than I haven’t seen it. There’s someone trying to do something beautiful and because of somewhere in their team or some loss of support, it fails.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to see when you’re the leader or the visionary. You get close and connected to everyone. You think, “That person’s good at their skill. I’m not going to let them go because they’re good at their skill. They may not have the right personality for the job or vice versa.” You have somebody come in from the outside and see it as an organism perspective because every team isn’t a functioning organism.
You can see when there are diseases and toxicities that are holding things back. You may say that person is good at that task, but how much are they pulling everybody else from their task because of the feeling or the vibe that’s in the office? Even if you’re not in the same office together, how much are they pulling on Slack or moving forward in the direction of the vision and the mission?
It’s so true. Part of the challenge with humans is that most are not that great at dealing with other humans. It’s a rare person that can say, “I can see it’s about to hit the fan here if we don’t fix this.” A lot of people are on its face, they have this title and paycheck, and we have these deadlines, just get with it. We’re dealing with real humans here. They’re very complex. You have to have care and concern for your people and for each other for it to work. It has to start with that. Unfortunately, it’s quite absent from many work cultures. I’m happy to see us moving more toward love and kindness in our world. It’s missing and hindering us in so many ways.
It’s one of the things that I find and I’m curious to see if you’ve found this as well, in moving forward and working with mission-driven businesses. Breaking it down to simplicity, a couple of different businesses that gets businesses that get started. One, they see a particular problem that they want to fix or overcome. The other sees something that looks like it’s going to be profitable, and they want to grow it fast, sell it off, and make $1 billion. You and I are both interested in working with companies that say, “There’s a problem I want to solve.”
It’s not necessarily that every one of our clients needs to be solving world hunger. They are looking to do good in the world, and solve a problem and do it well. A new problem exists. Once they create the solution to the problem, they start working and moving forward. There are these spreadsheets that need to be answered to, boards of directors that need to be answered to, payroll, culture, and all these things that are pulling you in all these different directions.
It’s easy to lose sight of the original, not just the mission of, “We want to solve this problem,” but vision of, “We want it to feel a certain way.” That’s where someone like you also comes in of not just solving the individual problems, but helping to keep an eye on, “Let’s go back. Let’s look at this,” and the way that decisions are being made, does it line up?
That’s right, and then figuring out where we can fill in with the right solutions. I have a client who does a lot of work with equity firms. He’s very financially savvy. I don’t have that savviness, but I can help recruit people or solutions that I know would work well within his organization and have the right temperament. From a high level, talking it through, assessing it, and then figuring out, “What do we know that we don’t know?” It’s figuring out where the holes are, and then working to find the solution because it is about staying present and aware at all times, and not just sending it off and hoping for the best because it does take nurturing and care.
It’s like our daily lives. We’re all individual humans that we’re working with. Our organizations are built of humans. When we look at our organization as an organism and not as an asset, then we make different decisions. You have this assessment when you’re getting ready to work with someone. How do you know that they are working for good and doing not just a disservice, but what’s right in their organization and world?
Sometimes, the express mission is part of it, but then it’s also their character. I, fortunately, can say that after many years of having these conversations with many people, it’s very obvious to me where their heart is. I’ve been wrong on some occasions, and that’s probably why I’ve become better at it. I can feel it in the beginning. It’s very subtle in terms of, “How respectful are they of me? How caring and considerate are they? How authentic and comfortable in their own bodies are they?”
If I had a client reach out to me and they were very snippy or held themselves a certain way, you can tell that they have a lot going on that you don’t necessarily want to mess with. I’m looking for real people who have become self-realized in some way. They’ve done their own personal work. They don’t think they’re God’s gift to the world.
They can be talented, brilliant, and proud of that, and I’m all for that, but I need to see and feel that they’re kind, natural, and warm. No one is perfect, me included, but you can sense that from a person. If I did have a potential client who felt rather stiff, but I could feel the sweetness in them, I would work with it. It’s more of a gut thing for me. People reveal themselves pretty quickly if you give them enough time.
In all of my experience, I can tell pretty quickly. When somebody respects your time, that’s a big one, and their willingness to say thank you and I’m sorry. When I’m doing brand work, there’s a lot of iteration that goes back and forth. Some people will quickly say, “Change it,” without a, “This is a great first try,” or whatever it might be. There’s all these little clues, even when you’re in text and email to see if they’re just coming from an initial good place. I noticed a huge shift when I went from where I was working before to starting my own agency and being more mindful of those initial clients.
Intentionally, when I created my website, at first, it was all just about the brand, but I said a lot of things about heart, nature, and all these things. At first, I’m like, “This is going to turn away some CEOs.” That’s okay. It’s okay to turn people away. You want to turn people away just as much as you are bringing people in because you want to make sure you have the right fit as long as you’re coming from a place of love. You’re not turning them away because you’re saying bad things about them. You’re turning them away because you want them to align with who you are. You’re being authentic in your own self.
I noticed that even just the people who would call me, or once they were referred, continued through, were the people who were much more likely to align with all of my values. I didn’t have to do much discovery to determine if they were the right emotional fit because that has already come out there. Even so then every communication from there, “My kids are sick,” that’s fine as opposed to me having to hide the fact that I’m a mother and try to pretend life doesn’t happen.
You get to be a human. The way you phrased it is perfect. That’s why I rebranded with this direct focus on those types of clients, and it’s also why I chose the award considerate, Considerate Ventures. It is about consideration. I want to be around humans all the time who have consideration for every single person in front of them. It’s so important to me. The person that would be mad at you for canceling because your kid is sick is not the person that is considerate.
I’m looking for humility and care at all times across the board. I want to see someone who is nice to all people because we’re all humans and we are all the same. We are all trying to survive. None of us are going to make it in the end. We’re just trying to do what we can here, and so it’s hard being human. For anyone to behave like it’s their job to keep tabs on anyone else’s expression of their humanity, it’s not a person that I want to be around.We are all trying to survive. None of us are going to make it in the end. We're just trying to do what we can here. Click To Tweet
In this conversation, it goes to, “If you’re loving and kind to everyone, you’re a doormat.” The balance is you’re good to yourself. You hold true to your authenticity. You keep great boundaries. You can be kind to someone from across the room. You don’t have to get close in their space. There’s a way to just be a good person all the time. If you make a mistake, you apologize. That to me is what a high-caliber person looks like.
I don’t care about anything more than that. That’s the starting place for me. I am such a happier person because of it. There’s just no reason for us not to. I do a lot of mentoring and coaching younger people and friends, and it saddens me to see people stuck in professions where they’re so mistreated because they don’t understand that it could be a better way.
You don’t have to put somebody else down to bring yourself up. What would you do personally to keep yourself in the right mind space? You’re generally a kind and loving person. Being human is hard and life happens. Sometimes we need to reflect and redirect ourselves. Do you have practices that you do on a regular basis to keep you where you want to be?
One of the biggest things for me is that I’m always willing to learn something about myself. If it’s revealed to me in some way or some experience that I have something to work on. For example, I’m very aware that I am horrible about confrontation, and I need to fix that because it doesn’t work very well. I’m the person that will be sideways about communicating my upset to someone, and that’s not healthy. When I start to see things about myself like that, I go to work on it to the best of my ability, whether it’s reading or talking to mentors or friends.
In my whole entire lifetime, I’ve been a very eager student, and that’s been hugely helpful. I just have a real connection to love. Some people call it God. Some people call it Love. The name doesn’t matter to me. To me, it’s all the same thing. I feel very connected to a much deeper Higher Power if we want to call it that. I’m guided by that all of the time. I feel connected to it deeply.
I’m inspired by it when I’m rested. When I’m not rested, not so much. I do a lot of reading and journaling. I do exercise as an important way to stay balanced. I’m uber-intense about doing my very best to protect my time, which is I know hard for every human, but I try to be very mindful about my time because I am a giver. I’ve been through many lifetimes in this lifetime giving away way too much and trying to manage that.
Thank you so much. Thank you for sharing with us and thank you for reading. If you liked it, tell your friends and follow us on Instagram or LinkedIn. The mission of this show is to dig deep into the lives of true leaders so that others can follow, knowing that the path isn’t always easy, but the journey is worth it. Enjoy the day and live with passion.