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Branding Room Only Interview with Michelle Banks: Building Community and Empowering Women Lawyers

Interview with Michelle Banks
Interview with Michelle Banks
Branding Room Only Interview with Michelle Banks: Building Community and Empowering Women Lawyers
Michelle Banks is a Senior Advisor and Executive Coach for BarkerGilmore, a boutique executive firm focusing on legal and compliance recruiting, executive search, coaching, and advising. As a former general counsel, she facilitates leadership development and support by coaching general counsels, delivering keynote speeches, and leading workshops. Michelle is a co-author of Women in Law: Discovering the True Meaning of Success and is a board member on several initiatives that support women in the legal profession.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • How Michelle developed and grew her network
  • Michelle’s experience as, and her continued dedication to women general counsels
  • Why networking is crucial for lawyers
  • The importance of building a personal brand both externally and internally

In this episode:

Building a community as a lawyer or business professional is an invaluable resource. While the fruits of your labor may not be visible initially, the long-term dividends are well worth the effort. If executed effectively, the people around you will reflect and amplify your personal brand.  As a coach working with women general counsels, Michelle Banks has cultivated an impactful brand. Her advice is to build a strong network organically and find like minded people who share your vision. She has used this approach to support and strengthen women practicing law. Learn her tips for those looking to create widespread, meaningful change.  In this episode of Branding Room Only, Paula Edgar talks with Michelle Banks, Senior Advisor and Executive Coach for BarkerGilmore, to discuss community building and inclusion for lawyers. They break down helpful tips, do’s and don’ts, and examples of how to build a personal brand and a strong professional relationships.

Resources mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode

This episode is brought to you by PGE Consulting Group LLC.

PGE Consulting Group LLC is dedicated to providing a practical hybrid of professional development training and diversity solutions. From speaking to consulting to programming and more, all services and resources are carefully tailored for each partner. Paula Edgar’s distinct expertise helps engage attendees and create lasting change for her clients.

To learn more about Paula and her services, go to or contact her at [email protected], and follow Paula Edgar and the PGE Consulting Group LLC on LinkedIn.

Paula Edgar: Welcome to the Branding Room Only podcast, where we share career stories, strategies, and lessons learned on how industry leaders and influencers have built their personal brands. Now let’s get started with the show.

Hello everyone. It’s Paula Edgar, the host of Branding Room Only, where I bring on industry leaders and influencers to learn how they’re using their skills, talents, and experiences to create and amplify their personal brands and to hear their observations and advice on personal branding. I’m so excited because today’s guest is Michelle Banks.

She’s the Senior Advisor at BarkerGilmore and she is everything. I have loved Michelle since the first time I met her, but let me tell you what she, let me give you the bio. Michelle is a former general counsel who now provides executive leadership coaching to women general counsel. She’s also a professional speaker and she serves on non profit boards, she writes, and she convenes women lawyers.

And, I have to just say, point of personal privilege, she’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my entire life. So, Michelle, welcome to the Branding Room.

Michelle Banks: Well, thank you for having me, Paula. Thank you for that compliment. I appreciate it.

Paula Edgar: Of course. So, our conversation is going to be, all things today, but I’m going to start with what I start with, with everyone, which is what does a personal brand mean to you? How do you define it?

Michelle Banks: Your personal brand is what you’re known for, what people trust you to do, and hopefully what you enjoy doing or best known for.

Paula Edgar: I love that. I love that. I love the trust piece because I think, if you have a personal brand that’s strong, it builds trust, right? It’s a part of that, how that kind of weaves itself into the whole thing. So, how do you describe yourself in either three words or short phrases?

Michelle Banks: I am a connector or community builder. I am a giver. I am authentic, direct, honest. Maybe too much so sometimes.

Paula Edgar: Yeah, you’re definitely… a connector and a community builder. And I love that. Those are, those strongly resonated in terms of how I know you and how other people describe you as well. So tell me, do you have a favorite quote or mantra that you sort of use to direct your life?

Michelle Banks: Well, it’s interesting because I was thinking about favorite quotes, and I’ve listened to a few of your podcast episodes, and I felt like people had such lofty quotes that they read. I’m very simple. And I actually realized that I don’t even know who originally said it, but our mutual friend, Michele Coleman Mayes says this a lot when she speaks publicly, and it’s: Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them. And as you know, Paula, so much of my career has focused around supporting women, building community with women and empowering women lawyers. And I’ve heard Michele say that quote, I don’t know, probably five times in different professional contexts. And it’s just – it’s very impactful to me. It makes me get goosebumps.

Paula Edgar: As you said it, I thought to myself, my edit to the end of it is something that I know that you do, and so does Michele, which is may we mentor them, right? And you definitely do that. Okay, so, since you’ve listened to the podcast, you know, the next one is about your hype song.

So when you are walking into a room and you want people to know that you mean business, what song is playing in your head or, and/or when you are having a down day and you need to pick yourself up, what song are you playing? It could be the same song or different songs.

Michelle Banks: The interesting thing is I almost never play this song, but it plays in my head, which is Queen’s “We Are the Champions”. When I’m trying to have a powerful moment or thinking about bringing a group together in a powerful way, “We Are the Champions” plays in my head. And it’s funny because I don’t know the whole song so there’s only a few phrases that play in my head, but I listened to the full song a while ago, and I realized that I think one of the reasons why maybe I like that song is because it’s actually not just a positive hype song.

It’s also about overcoming and perseverance. And so I think that’s part of why it’s really powerful to me besides just some of the words.

Paula Edgar: So, speaking of that, give me a little rundown of your story. Where are you from? We have your bio, but tell me about how, where you’re from and what you’ve done has evolved your personal brand.

Michelle Banks: Sure. Well, I mean, the most obvious way is I was a corporate lawyer and then I became a corporate executive and then I became a leadership coach. And those are really pretty different things and impacted my life in many ways, including the flexibility that I have now. You know, now that I have my own businesses, coaching and speaking similar to you, you know, I control my schedule.

I control my balance between my family life and my work life. For many years, I was very heads down billing hours as a lawyer. And then many years, you know, focused around solving global crises around the world pretty 24/7. So, a lot of things have evolved for me from what my practice is, to the people I spend time with, to the flexibility or control that I have now that I didn’t have before over sort of what I focus on and how I spend my time.

Paula Edgar: Yeah. Flexibility is so key when it comes to, I was just talking to someone earlier about entrepreneurship. And I said, the reason I wanted to be an entrepreneur was because I don’t want anybody to tell me what to do.

Michelle Banks: Well, and I didn’t even realize how much my life was controlled. My husband has always been an entrepreneur.

And he just used to look at my life and think I was incredibly crazy. In fact, he would say to me sometimes, what do you mean you never went outside today? You know, what do you mean you never got up today? You sat at your desk or in a meeting all day, and I never thought that was unusual. And now it’s probably the biggest shift for me is that I move.

I’m always moving. You know, I’m walking. I’m playing tennis. I’m skiing. I’m, you know, walking up and down the stairs. You know, I just I have embraced movement and I feel so much better because I have a ton of energy and it’s helpful when you can move with that energy, instead of being more confined in your work.

Paula Edgar: Yeah. You know, I’m taking that as a message from the universe because you’re the first, first person today, but third person in the last two days who has said it to me that they have walked and talked like they do, they do a lot of the work while they are moving, in order to make sure it gets done. And I think one of the legacies of the pandemic is we’ve gotten real used to sitting, sitting, sitting with the thing during the pandemic.

But, you know, I think it’s good to have that energy and be walking around and working it off and all that good stuff. So I’m going to take that as a challenge. Okay. So you have talked about the different roles that you have had, what kind of platforms have you used to build your brand?

Michelle Banks: I speak a lot, like you. I speak at least once a month, sometimes up to three times a month. Like this week is, this month is a whirlwind. I’m speaking every week. And that’s easier. You know, especially in the virtual world with podcasts like this or webinars, which my firm BarkerGilmore does. But I also go to a lot of in person events and I love that. I mean that’s been the most exciting post pandemic thing for me is getting back out engaging with people in person. I’m going to Atlanta this week.

I was in Chicago last week. I think I was in New York the week before. I’m in San Diego next week. Fall conference season is a little bit overwhelming, but it’s also super fun for me, too. So, I would say probably the number one way I’ve built my brand is by speaking publicly in a lot of different forms to diverse groups of people.

And then secondly, I would say LinkedIn. I’m on it almost every day, not necessarily posting every day, but, you know, reading other people’s information, engaging with people, meeting new people. I really enjoy it and it’s interesting to me to think that, when I retired as a general counsel, I think I had, you know, less than a thousand connections on LinkedIn.

I really used it as sort of a modern rolodex just to keep track of people I had met and I didn’t engage on it at all and slowly over time I’ve engaged on it more and more and been more open to connecting to new people and now I have this big network of, I think, I don’t know, 8000 people or something and I really get a lot of joy from it and I enjoy, the connecting with people, but I actually get a lot of business from it, too, which was not at all what I started engaging on it for, but it’s been interesting to me, that in both my speaking and my coaching businesses now, you know, it’s not most of my clients, but there’s a, you know, a significant group of people that reach out to me because they follow me on LinkedIn or because of something I have shared on LinkedIn.

Paula Edgar: I tell people all the time, like it’s the most powerful tool that you have for branding and relationship building, hands down, because everybody’s… It is like a big rolodex.

Michelle Banks: It is and it’s free!

Paula Edgar: Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. When you were talking just now, and I was thinking about how we got connected and, what we have in common is a love and passion for an organization called Ms. JD. We have a lot of other things in common, but that is what really brought us together. And, and when we were at Ms. JD last year, for all of you who are listening, I have had the honor of being one of the open keynote speakers at LaddHer Up, which is a conference that brings together women general counsel, and women associates at law firms for really in depth and thoughtful mentoring and connections with each other and professional development.

But Michelle, you made us, you went and looked at all of the followers all of us had, and you were like, you have X amount of followers. I was like, Oh my gosh. I had never really thought about the actual number and it was that it was on that day I was like, I’m going to get to 15, 000 followers and I just did.

Michelle Banks: Congratulations!

Paula Edgar: Thank you very much. I was like, I feel challenged because everybody knows I love talking about LinkedIn, but I hadn’t really had anybody say to me like, Hey, this is what you’re doing. What are you doing about that? So that was a good coaching moment for me. So thank you.

Let’s talk about Ms. JD a little bit and LaddHer Up. One of the things that I noticed about that event, and it’s really, really powerful for those of you who are general counsel who are listening, women general counsel, and who are law firm associates, you know, try to get there. And also, we want to see you there.

Like, it is just a powerful, powerful thing. But, what resonates for me, Michelle, is that the general counsel who come, they are like, I am friend of Michelle. It’s like, it’s like a sorority. It really is. And, and I think about your brand. It’s like people, I mean, not that anybody’s going to be like, you know, say bad things, but people say the best things about you and about how much you have impacted their careers and how they would do anything for you.

And I would just… what are the things that you have done to kind of build that cohort of Michelle’s peeps that will do all these things for you.

Michelle Banks: Well, you know, and it wasn’t necessarily intentional in the beginning. It’s interesting when you reflect on things, you see things that you didn’t see before.

So for example, last year I contributed to the book, Women in Law. And, we all reached out to our networks and asked people if they would support our book in some way, maybe posting about it, maybe hosting us to a book talk. You know, we asked a lot of different people and organizations if there was any way that they could help support Women in Law.

And, you know, immediately like 10 different organizations offered to host us and to help me and the co authors of the book were like, how, how did you do that? And I said, well, you know, it was really a moment for me to stop and reflect and think about and I said, Well, all those people owe me favors.

And it’s not like I did things for them. You know, some of it was years before it wasn’t necessarily like, I thought like, Oh, I’m going to do you a favor because I’m going to write a book and then you’re going to give me an opportunity to use your platform for a book talk. I mean, I just never even thought I would ever write a book or anything like that.

But, it was just that I do a lot of things to help other people. I enjoy it. It’s part of my nature to be giving and to do pro bono and to support other people. And then it comes back around and helps me build my brand and helps get women general counsel to come to Sonoma and mentor the women law firm associates.

And in part, it’s because they see me doing it and see that it’s fun and it’s impactful. And in part, maybe they owe me a favor.

Paula Edgar: It is, it is truly, truly impactful. What you and Danielle and all the team and the folks and, Megan, everybody who’s put in towards it, you know, I feel honored every year to be a part of it.

And oftentimes when I go to speak, I’m like, okay, this is what I’m giving, but this event is always like, I’m also going to get because it’s just a wonderful reminder of the power of when you convene women, right? Like it’s…

Michelle Banks: Well, and you’re being humble because you are the opening speaker every year and you always start us off with incredible inspiration and energy.

And I really appreciate that. You know, this is a passion project for myself, Jan Kang, who was my co founder and Megan Belcher, who is now taking it over for me. Thank goodness. Six years in, I’m sort of losing some of that energy that I normally have. So, you know, it’s a great event and everyone tells me what you just said.

Every single woman general counsel, whether they’re a friend, a client, a mentee, however, I’ve gotten them there. They always tell me afterwards or write me afterwards and say, I came to give, I came to mentor, but I got as much out of it as I gave, because it’s just really a powerful community of women lawyers who are there for nothing other than supporting each other.

Paula Edgar: Yeah. Yeah, it is. It is powerful. I want to go back a little bit to the things that you have done and you have been general counsel for some pretty big brands and, for those of you who will go and read her bio, I’m just gonna pull out two, because I think when I think about, pivoting from one to the other.

I really want to know what you were thinking and how you might have had to shift or maybe not, when you went from one brand to the other. So I’m thinking of you being a GC for Golden State Warriors, then going to The Gap. Like, how was that for you? I’m just thinking to myself, basketball… it’s clothes.

Was the actual work similar? Or, you know what I mean? I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Michelle Banks: Nothing about it was similar. But first of all, I wasn’t the general counsel of the Warriors. I was the legal counsel. So I was the number two person. There were two of us that worked at the Warriors in the law department and that’s a good description of what the difference is, right?

So Gap is this huge global company with 150,000 employees and a law department of over 100 people. The Golden State Warriors is a small NBA team, and there was myself and the general counsel and the general counsel was actually a law firm partner who only worked part time about one day a week at the Warriors.

I was the only full time lawyer there, so very different organizations, very different environments. Very different brands as you brought up. You know, the NBA is one of the ultimate powerful brands. And from a brand perspective, it’s interesting because when you’re a team lawyer, you don’t do that much of like the intellectual property work and the so called branding work, because that’s very much controlled by the sports league association.

And then at Gap, it was different because, you know, it’s a private company. But it’s also a public company. So, you’re always balancing the different interests of your stakeholders, your shareholders, your employees, your customers. And Gap is also a lot more than Gap. You know, Gap has the Old Navy brand, the Banana Republic brand, the Athleta brand.

So a lot of well known brands. And the brands have slightly different identities and customers. But yes, I think after working at both the Warriors and The Gap, branding comes very natural to me. So, you know, personal branding, for example, wasn’t something I had to learn. It was something that just came very naturally having worked at two very consumer focused, branding focused companies. And actually clothes is more of my natural fit than basketball.

Paula Edgar: I see what you did there, ha ha, clothes are a natural fit. I got it. You know, I’m glad that you, you kind of got to where I was trying to get. So, with the question, which is, when you are aligned, when you are your own brand and then you’re aligning with a brand, sometimes it meshes really well and other times it doesn’t.

And it, you know, it sort of depends on, whether you kind of get it. ‘Cause I also, I always think that, you know, people will say to me, well, Paula, you know, I’m my own person. And of course you are your own person. Everybody’s their own person. But when you work with someone or work with an organization, you do align with their brand, whether or not you want to or not, because they are part of your brand now, because you work there, right?

Like it’s, it kind of overlaps, on it. And I just thought when it’s a big, big brand. Understanding that piece. And I talked about this with LaTanya, how do you navigate that and then your own brand in that at the same time, but being going towards the same goal. So you kind of hit it right out of the park, what I wanted you to pull out.

So thank you. Okay. All right. So we’ve already kind of gotten to this a little bit, but I wanted to pivot specifically about how leadership and volunteerism has helped you with building your brand. And you know, you’re involved with nonprofits, and you have been a leader. How do those things in specific help with you building your brand?

Michelle Banks: Well, I think that people can see you when you do pro bono work. Especially when you do group work like boards or committees or, groups of some form, people see you in action and you build your reputation with people. People start to trust you. We were talking about trust earlier. So actually, when I first started my coaching business, it was really interesting to me.

I did just a little back of the envelope analysis after my first year, where did my business come from? And a lot of it, I think it was a third of it came from people who I had served on boards with, because, you know, you just, you get to know people, you get to trust them, you get to see what their skills are when you volunteer with them and when you have common bonds because you know, you’re usually if you’re on the board of an organization or volunteering for a committee or some kind of group, you usually have some passion around it. So you, you know, you, you create bonds quicker.

Paula Edgar: I love that. And that’s how I’ve done that same thing with leadership and bar associations. You know, you, you, you know who the type A’s are, you know, who the workers are, you know, all of that. And, and I do think it is a driver of a lot of things that folks don’t necessarily put a connection to. And also when you don’t do it well, it also is a driver of your brand in a different way too. So yeah. Yeah. Okay. You know, I’m going to skip that one. What mistakes have you seen people make when it comes to networking and building their brand?

Michelle Banks: Well, a couple of things. First of all, not doing it.

You know, I think there are a lot of people, lawyers in particular, which is my community, who are so focused on the quality of the work or the amount of work they do – and there’s some natural reasons in that profession why there’s a lot of drive to hours, for example. But I think it’s really important to realize that brand building and networking are super important, and you have to think long term, even if they’re not important in your daily life today, they will be important in your trajectory and long term of your career, and you need to build them before you need them.

You know, I mean, we’ve all seen with the economic downturn and some of the struggles that companies have had, at least being in California where I am, there’s a lot of layoffs, for example, this year. And that means that people needed a brand and people needed a network and hopefully they’re not deciding this year to build their brand and build their network, because it works a lot better when you build it before you need it.

Paula Edgar: That … I’ll be sharing that, that clip just right there is going to be what I’m pushing and we’ll go viral because it is so true. It really saddens me when I hear from somebody that I haven’t heard from, from 10 years who’s like, Hey, Paula, good to see you again. I’m looking for a job. And I’m like, who are you again?

I’m like, I haven’t seen you. We haven’t connected. And again, that doesn’t mean that I can’t help, but it does mean that it’s harder to flip an ask because you haven’t made the investment in the way that other people who you know have, could. So I love that you pulled that out as it’s so important to invest in yourself.

Always. And so that you don’t have to worry about it later on. Okay. And I’m going to ask this from two perspectives. One, what advice do you have for people trying to build their brand? And I want you to think of this from the perspective of coaching folks. What do you see people maybe struggle with? And then what advice do you have for them, in general, building their brands? And then I’ll ask you the second part after.

Michelle Banks: I think it’s, take some risks. I am a really big believer in smart risk-taking, and I think that sometimes people hold themselves back and they just won’t put themselves out there. Whether it’s they won’t make the connection. They won’t make the ask. They won’t stand up.

They won’t speak. I just think the best thing you can do to build your brand is to take some risks and experiment with what works. And I think the best brand builders have done that.

Paula Edgar: Make the ask. It is, it is wild how even people who have really, really in depth and deep and big networks don’t ask.

Who don’t say I need XYZ, because really, in particular, I think when, when we bring women together, that’s a powerful piece, right? Because we want to help each other. And when you can leverage and ask on top of that, it’s much more powerful than sort of just doing it in an abstract or in a vacuum, because there’s a momentum to it.

And, I was just at a conference a few weeks ago where they deliberately said, turn around and ask somebody for something. And it was like oh…

Michelle Banks: That’s a great exercise. I like that.

Paula Edgar: Yeah, but so much, so much came out of it because we were pushed into our discomfort, but magic happened right after that. So, yeah, we should incorporate that next year. It was just great.

Michelle Banks: Yeah, I like that.

Paula Edgar: Yeah. Okay, so now I’m asking you the question from the perspective of, from the book, Women in Law Discovering the True Meaning of Success. What do you think was some of the deliverables or takeaways about building your brand from the book?

Michelle Banks: Sure. I think one of the things that really hit me, there’s three themes to the book, but the one that hit me the most is your brand can change.

You’re not stuck with your brand. You can evolve your brand over time and probably you should evolve your brand over time as your interests change, as your life changes, as the environment changes. So, I think the most successful people reinvent themselves.

Paula Edgar: Yes. Yes. And everybody, I’m going to put the link to how to get the book in the show notes, so, you’ll be able to grab that. But I think that it’s so powerful, right? Because if you think this is who I am and you’re never going to iterate, you’re never going to, that sort of I’m stuck here, but I want to be stuck here for me, I’m like, what, then what? You gotta, you know, switch it up and you have to, I think, want to always be learning and growing.

And that’s a part of brand building too. Even if you stay in the same role, you can always invest and do better. One of the questions that I get asked the most about branding from people who are in-house is why do I need to build my brand if I’m in-house? And you already hit on one piece, which is, you know, the economy is not necessarily, one that is going to say that you’re going to be someplace forever.

But are there other things that you’ve seen, in terms of success stories or, or your own that specifically focus on brand building when you’re in-house helped for success in that space?

Michelle Banks: Well, I think some of the things that people don’t think about if they make that kind of a statement are that you need to build your brand internally, too.

You know, you’re not just building your brand for an external audience. You’re building your brand internally as well. And I think that, you know, what I used to tell people is you need to build your brand within the legal team outside of your own function. You then need to build your brand within the company outside of the law department.

And then hopefully you build your brand in the community of other in-house lawyers. And I don’t think that I did that enough early in my career. I think it came more naturally to build my brand within legal and even within the company. I didn’t have to be pushed very hard to do that, but I had to really be pushed and almost forced into building a network of lawyers that are in-house, but outside my company.

And I mean, I just can’t tell you how valuable it was once I did it. The benchmarking, the support, you know, the referral sources. I got so much out of becoming a part of different communities, but I really didn’t do it until I started the compliance function at Gap, and I really didn’t have a choice because I didn’t really know what I was doing, and I needed to learn what other companies were doing and tap into resources and learnings and, you know, grow and share with other people. And then I realized, why didn’t I do this before? Like, this is very helpful. This is, you know, and so I went from really not being a part of many communities outside of my company to leading the National Retail Federation General Counsel Forum because I really came to realize that the time that I spent with my peers would really help me and help my team and help the company. And it was a valuable use of my time.

Paula Edgar: So I just heard about that conference. It’s happening next week, and I was like, it looks like the best thing ever. But I’d never heard of it before, and then all of a sudden I keep hearing about it. I’m like, look at that. It just keeps happening again. I was like, I like clothes. I don’t. But I made a joke.

Michelle Banks: Well that’s actually a different one. Interestingly, there are two retail associations.

There’s the National Retail Federation, which was what I was referring to and then there’s the Retail Industry Leaders Association. They’re both fantastic associations. And I have the privilege of having been a part of both because Gap participates in both. One, NRF is more focused around smaller retailers, specialty retail and very apparel focused.

And RILA is the big retailers and it’s, you know, Targets of the world. And so we were lucky because we were big and because we were specialty apparel, we were in both. And so I’m actually going to RILA, that’s why I’m going to Atlanta next week.

Paula Edgar: Love it. Love it. Love it. Okay, so let’s get to, well, I’ll ask the question directly. What advice, if you haven’t already given it, do you have for people who are trying to build their brand?

Michelle Banks: Get on LinkedIn, and use it as much as you’re comfortable with. And I think people should stage it. So if you don’t have a profile, of course create one – but now it’s hard to imagine, it’s the most trusted social media, and it’s, you know, millions and hundreds of millions of people, so probably everybody at least has a profile.

But build your profile. They have the thing on LinkedIn called All-Star Profile, and so I think that should be everyone’s goal, is to fill it up enough to get to All-Star status and make sure it reflects who you are. One thing that surprises me about lawyers in particular, which again is sort of my community, is that they’ll spend endless hours, days, months working on their resume, and then so little of it is reflected in their LinkedIn profile. And nowadays people don’t really focus on resumes. It’s interesting. Even when you have someone’s resume, you still look them up on LinkedIn. So I think, what I advise people to do is build your profile and then start engaging with other people’s content. Start by liking stuff, then eventually commenting on stuff and then eventually maybe contributing and, you know, do what you’re comfortable doing.

But, I think that LinkedIn is really, really powerful and it’s an incredible way, and a free way, and an easy way to control how people perceive you and your brand.

Paula Edgar: You know I love LinkedIn. So yes, everything you just said, everything you just said. Okay. So tell me about the fun stuff. What do you do for fun when you’re not working?

Michelle Banks: When I’m not working, I’m usually doing something with my family. I come from a very close Italian immigrant family where, you know, I’m having dinner with my mother and two of my sisters and my son and my husband tonight. And I have dinner with my husband most of the time, but you would be surprised at how much time I spend with my parents, my siblings.

We are a very big, close family that I love spending time with and that’s really my joy. And my son is temporarily back home living with us, having just graduated from college and searching for his first job. And that’s a real special treat for me to have him in the house. And, hopefully we will be launching him soon into his career, and I look forward to watching that and seeing what he does, too.

Paula Edgar: Yes, it’s a powerful thing to see your kid move from stage to stage. My daughter’s a freshman in college now and it’s only three months in and I’m like, you’re totally different than you were when you left home.

Michelle Banks: Congratulations.

Paula Edgar: Thank you.

Thank you. Okay. So there’s two points that I always include in all of my podcasts, which is two moments. One, it’s Stand By Your Brand. So what is an aspect of your brand that you will never compromise on.

Michelle Banks: My commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. It’s such a passion. It’s so important to me. It’s something that I became committed to in 1992 when I lived in Japan for a year and experienced being an other and an outsider for the first time.

It’s the first time I fully understood the need for not just diversity, but inclusion and belonging. And, so it’s a very important passion to me, as you know, cause we see each other at MCCA and lots of other events like that.

Paula Edgar: Yes. Yes. Okay. And then the next one is your Branding Room Only moment. So Branding Room Only is a playoff of standing room only, where essentially, you know, you’re in a space where everybody wants to see what’s going on. So you can’t sit down. So what is the skill, magic about you that folks would fill up a room and there’ll be standing room only for.

Michelle Banks: That’s a hard one. I guess I would say authenticity, maybe. I, like I said, when you asked me to describe myself, I’m very direct and very honest, I’m very authentic. And I think that makes people comfortable, because I’m kind of always me in whatever setting it is. And I think that, hopefully I make people comfortable.

Paula Edgar: I agree. And I’m just going to go ahead and throw my own edit in there about what I think your Branding Room Only moment is, because I’ve been in the rooms where the room is full and they’re all looking at you, which is that you’re authentic, but you’re also empathetic and you read rooms and you read people really well. And, and it makes you a really good interviewer because of that. And so, I would say it’s all of those things, and especially that, some people can be really rehearsed and kind of robotic, but you are who you are all the time and you reflect how the other person is when you are connecting.

So I think that that’s your Branding Room Only in addition to what you said.

Michelle Banks: Well, thank you, because that is important. As a coach, I teach a lot about emotional intelligence, and empathy in particular is the one that I focus on. So, I’m glad that comes across. I’m doing my job then.

Paula Edgar: You are doing your job.

Michelle, it’s been wonderful to talk about everything with you today. Is there anything else that you want to share with folks before we go? How to connect with you?

Michelle Banks: I was going to say, just people should feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. I accept anyone who is a lawyer or a coach or anyone who says they heard me speak, I will always accept their invitations and I look forward to growing my network and helping people.

Paula Edgar: Fantastic. I appreciate the time you took to chat with me today and everybody. I know that you enjoyed the episode, because you probably hear me smiling right now. Tell a friend, subscribe, like the podcast, and I’ll see you next time in the branding room.

Bye everyone.