Tissa Richards is a keynote speaker, executive coach, and facilitator who works with Fortune 1000 and hyperscale organizations. She guides clients to create blueprints for individual and organizational success, developing high-performance cultures and diversifying C-suites and corporate boards. Clients trust Tissa to guide their most senior leaders on their value proposition, executive gravitas, and communication, and guide them in building high-performance teams and navigating change.
As a repeat software founder and CEO, Tissa sits at the intersection of entrepreneurship, fundraising, and executive leadership. She’s raised millions of dollars for her companies, won awards for her innovation and products (including the Dell Founders 50 Award), was the first partner technology featured on Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s x86 mission-critical servers, and holds multiple patents for complex cyber security software.
Two things. I help leaders cut through the noise about themselves to answer “So, what?” I help them drill down to their specific value so they become extremely compelling and memorable as a leader. That is what gets results. When you can answer the “so what?” about your work, people understand “why you.” They understand why to hire you for a role, why to select you for a corporate board, why to compensate you at a certain level, why to listen to you, why to respect you – and a whole lot more. I’ve seen this play out countless times just this year as I helped women significantly increase their compensation, gain public board seats, and more.
Second, I help leaders believe in themselves. That is the other thing that gets results. When you internalize your value and develop an unshakable sense of self, you are much more effective when networking, when asking for opportunities, when negotiating – when doing anything. You show up as confident; you show up as an equal – as though that role, that compensation, that board seat, should be yours. That shift is transformative.
Value propositions are pivotal. Without one, you are generic. You’re one of many women who are on the same or similar journey. However, you will stand out by taking the time to be very intentional and deliberate about what you bring to the table – and why someone should notice you or consider you. People will remember you when they meet you and they’ll think of you for important introductions. You will stand out and come to mind for opportunities. If you don’t do the work to figure out your value proposition – what you specifically bring to the table and why it matters – you’re just going to spend a lot of time treading water.
I have learned everything I know in the trenches. My approach to coaching is completely grounded in reality, backed by many thousands of hours of experience. I have a huge degree of empathy for the leaders I work with because I’ve been in their shoes. In fact, in many ways, I am still in their shoes. I’m always growing my business and I’m growing my own board portfolio, too, as a board director. So when I tell someone, “I understand the journey you are on, and I’m on it with you,” there’s a real connection.
For me, none of the work I do is theoretical. The passion I have for helping leaders is because I have lived it and I am still living it. I’m extremely invested in the outcome. It is my mission and my purpose in life to help leaders succeed.
I’m very actionable and pragmatic. I feel my client’s experiences at a cellular level. I am connected to clients long after each session. I remember all the details of our sessions, and I remember what is happening for people on any given day. Who is having an interview; who is having a hard conversation; who is resigning? I know exactly who I need to check in with, every day. It’s very typical for me to send clients a text or email about these specific topics or just to check-in and let them know I am thinking of them. You’ve got this. I care, deeply.
I tend to go deep with my clients to help them dig into their why. This is how we get to the “so what” and the “why you.” Most women focus on what they do or how they do it. That’s understandable – we spend so much of our time doing things. But I am particularly good at helping them surface the much more valuable narrative of why it matters.
Here’s a secret: The answer is never what you think it is. It’s never the surface answer. You may think, “My job is to delight customers and drive the customer experience,” or “my job is to deliver digital transformation.” We need to dig in and understand what that delivers to the business. What’s really happening beneath that surface response, beneath what you do – and how you do it – on a daily basis? Why are you being paid to do what you do? When you delight customers and drive customer experience, you are driving recurring revenue, higher margins, and positively impacting your company valuation. When you deliver digital transformation, you likely doing that in service of getting products to market faster, more securely, and with more innovation.
I encourage my clients to front-load with those messages. When we uncover those “why” answers and confidently communicate them, we move women up the value chain. It’s easier to internalize your value when you understand how you add immense value to your organization. You’ll speak and interview in a much more compelling way. You will have more swagger and be much more confident. It’s a transformational shift in how you perceive and present yourself.
All the clients I work with are leaders – men and women – at the senior level. They tend to be leaders who are at an inflection point. They know they can do great things, and now they are positioning themselves for what is next, figuring out how to level up and push themselves to the next level. That could be a stretch role, a board seat, or pursuing a role on the executive leadership team or in the C-suite. Or maybe they need support shaping their team and turning them into a high-performance engine. But regardless of their goals, the leaders I work with are ready for change and committed to doing the work. They are poised to make it happen – and they need a sounding board and coach to encourage them and ignite action.
Before 10 am today, I wrote a dozen emails to connect clients to other people in my network. I connect people to others who can support them, guide them, open doors for them – that’s something I naturally do. It’s instinctual and I do it daily.
I believe that making the right connections can have big, long-tail positive effects on your career and your life. And, I have a knack for connecting the right people at the right time. Looking back, it’s led to a lot of success, it’s opened doors, it’s delivered the right guidance just when someone needs it most. And I’ve created a certain level of trust in my connections, meaning that people know my introductions will be of value and that they are worth exploring.
When I send connection emails and ask someone to take a call, people tend to respond right away. Every single time. They always take the call; they always give their time. I’ve noticed that pattern over the years, and I’ve been told it’s because of the thoughtfulness and the value of the connection. I never waste anyone’s time – I’m intentional, thoughtful, and strategic. Leaders who are on the receiving end of this see this and they experience it. It builds trust and value over time.
Networking is starting to feel like an overused, artificial term. When people are “just” networking – especially with the wrong intention or insincerity – it shows. It feels cheap and transactional, like a burden.
But connections with the right people change that feeling entirely. It’s the best time you can spend investing in yourself and your career. It feels equal; each party has equal respect for the other.
This is why you need to take the time to identify your value proposition. It is much easier for your contacts to introduce you and scale you through their extended networks when you are easily describable and memorable. There are no downsides to being able to describe “why you” in two short, impactful sentences.
I have a lot on the horizon, especially in the second half of this year! This includes numerous high-profile speaking engagements, corporate workshops, and online cohorts of leaders coming together to workshop specific topics. I’ve also been seeing a demand among my client base for retreats and in-person connections, so I’m exploring where that may take me. My hope is that conferences and retreats will be an extension of my gift of connecting people. I have an urge to bring people together, and this may be the way I do it in 2022.
Athena Alliance is the proven executive development community for women leaders. Athena provides coaching, live and on-demand learning, networking, and access to career opportunities for the world’s top women leaders. Every membership includes two hours of coaching with experts like Tissa, helping you understand your value, position yourself for your next opportunity, and reach the C-suite or boardroom.
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