#WomenWorldwide : From Pivoting to Passions with Ariel Shivers-McGrew

Here at House of Coco, we are always blown away by the women that we meet along the way and love putting the spotlight on people that are disrupting the industry that they’re in and that is certainly the case for Ariel Shivers-McGrew.

Her career has been filled with ups and downs but she is a clear winner, here, she tells us about her story and rise to the top along with some really insightful lessons that she has learnt along the way. Ariel is the voice for so many.

We chat with Ariel Shivers-McGrew, Founder and CEO of Tactful Disruption LLC, a strategic resource at the intersection of mental health and career development related to diversity, equity and inclusion shortcomings to find out more…

Ariel, tell us about the journey that lead you to where you are today:

Where I am today is the result of an accumulation of experiences and things. 

The first part of the journey was becoming a published author and not knowing how to make the bestseller list (one day it will).  This led me to joining the Army. A lifechanging experience that really opened my eyes and many doors too. 

Fast-forward 9 years, I experienced incivility in my PhD program. I was overlooked for advancement in the organization I worked in, while in my personal life I was going through divorce proceedings and an unpredictable event that demanded more of me as a parent.  

It was like my identity was stolen and I felt ambitiously frustrated. There were things that deeply affected me and I could no longer tolerate. I therefore decided to take my talent elsewhere and find a new PhD program that would put me in a room of like-minded dynamic peers. 

I switched from Counselor Education and Supervision to Business Psychology.

In hindsight, 2017-2018 was a very trying time. The pivot came when I was diagnosed with lower lumbar spinal stenosis, ridiculopathy – right side and partial hamstring tendon tear.. I remember thinking that 33 was too young to live with managed pain. That’s what I had been doing for two years: managing things, people, situations that caused me deep pain. 

If it got on my nerves, made me uncomfortable, tapped danced on my conscience: the pain had to go! For weeks I mumbled to myself: “there’s nothing wrong with being tactfully disruptive.”

I had a lightbulb moment and I decided to bet on myself.  I took a trip to New York (my favorite place in the States) and put a whole plan together for Tactful Disruption just days before the New Year 2019.  What was “dope” about it:  I was getting a sneak peek of my future. 

When I flew back to Chicago on Jan 2nd, I was different. Activated. I haven’t looked back since.

What does self-care mean to you?

Self-care to me means healthy boundaries and accountability. I get the same 24 hours a day as everyone else but I want the maximum value each day.  If it means ignoring a phone call, text, or an unplanned meeting- that’s what I will do. 

If it drains me energetically, I block it. 

I also look after my relationship with my words. I have never been challenged when it comes to speaking up but now I savor my words. I prefer to speak life over things, and I look to maintain my peace. 

It’s refreshing to give yourself that level of attentive care because it makes interactions so much more dynamic and me more present in everyday tasks. 

Oh, and I believe in bi-weekly deep tissue massages and practicing regular “I am” affirmations!

Tell us more about Tactful Disruption, the company that you founded…

Through Tactful Disruption we help military, millennial and minorities seeking to elevate their distinctiveness and belonging in the workplace. We provide clinical career counseling, strategy and training, and diversity, equity and inclusion workshops.

I noticed a researcher-practitioner gap related to managing diversity above the line (within management) and an ill-fitted concept around what a Masters level clinician could do with an interest in career counseling. 

Diversity and inclusion programs often fail because the multicultural considerations have psychological underpinnings.  D&I is not about affirmative action but a series of intersections complicated by business level strategies that don’t necessarily factor in social dynamics.

Unconscious bias training is not going to solve an anxiety issue, a personality disorder or even temper an entrepreneurial thinker. Unfortunately, most of us have met the arrogantly ignorant, the histrionic toxic coworker, the healing abuse survivor. 

So, instead of speaking to behavior for compliance we speak to people about themselves.

What has been your career highlight so far?

One of our business highlights is a collaboration with Brancu & Associates.  We teamed up and produced a “Achieving Gender Diversity and Inclusivity Guide.” 

I love that in particular young women (especially those in the military) find this information helpful. It’s very rewarding when your reviews affirm you’re onto something that’s bigger than you.

You’re an Author, Counselor, Women Veterans Program Manager and Co-President at Veterans Leadership Council. You wear so many hats, which one of these gives you the most joy? 

Definitely, being a Counselor. I’m fascinated with people, thinking, and expression. It requires a great deal of creativity not to say the wrong thing, be honest but not rude, and listen with the intention to be helpful appropriately. 

Being an Author is also important to me but only a part of the bigger goal. I am very proud of my first book, and achieving “international bestseller” status would enhance the joy of the book-writing process. Writing can be very time-consuming and sometimes emotional. 

I enjoy being a Woman Veterans Program Manager although it can feel frustrating when ideas cannot be executed. It’s sometimes hard to implement epic stuff with basic systems. Life has taught me some folks are more comfortable with excuses than authentic experiences. It’s my first policy-related role so I’m excited about making an impact in this space. 

You’re a powerful woman that has had many successes, what has been your proudest moment to date? 

Thank you! My proudest moment to date? When I told an employer that I did not sign up to play “modern day black face”. As a result, they actually paid me to find another job. That was significant because I knew in that moment Tactful Disruption was about boldly editing workplace italics. Except the emphasis would be on individuals who wanted to take control of their story. 

Think about it, in most cases, 65% of your life is work. Your salary has to match your expectations, too. It makes no sense to commit to being around folks who sleep on you when you could be around folks who’ll stay up.

Thank you Ariel for creating such a positively impactful area of work. Now our readers would love to hear a bit more about you… They love to travel for example, what destination is at the top of your bucket list?

Greece! I am obsessed with Greek and Roman mythology, so I just have to go see this place.

What inspires you?

My daughter, Lennox inspires me. She’s a true gift. She’s my anchor.

What does 2020 look like for you?

For 2020? A new husband, money bags, new scholarships and a few of my dream client companies. The vision is to release one or two new products, but I’m afraid that’s all I can say for now…

To work with or stay updated about Tactful Disruption, and to connect with Ariel Shivers-McGrew, visit https://www.tactfuldisruption.co/

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