Background & Motivation for Supporting Inclusion in the Construction Industry

The construction industry has been historically male-dominated. However, recent years have seen a shift toward inclusion, with more women and people of color entering the field. Inclusion leads to better outcomes for projects in the construction industry, which is a good thing for the industry.

The construction industry has long been a male-dominated field. But in recent years, there has been a push to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in the construction industry. And for a good reason—studies have shown that companies with diverse teams are more innovative and perform better than those without.


What exactly is Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Construction Industry?


DE&I is the practice of inviting people of all backgrounds and experiences to participate in the construction process. This includes but is not limited to women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, people with disabilities, and veterans.

There are many reasons why DE&I is important for the construction industry. First and foremost, it allows for a wider range of perspectives during the construction process. When you have a team of people with different backgrounds and experiences, they will approach problems differently. Having diverse groups will result in innovative solutions that might not have been thought of otherwise.

When we talk about workplace culture, inclusion, and belonging, we must be sensitive to every employee feeling a sense of belonging. When we don’t recognize blind spots, employees become less engaged and don’t give their best work. By recognizing employee backgrounds, motivations, communication preferences, generational differences, and more, we allow our workplaces to be more inclusive and accepting of all walks of life.

Additionally, studies have shown that companies with diverse teams are more profitable than those without. So not only is DE&I the right thing to do, but it’s also good for business!

Inclusion in the construction industry

Why Is Diversity In Construction Important?

There are many reasons why diversity in construction is so important. For one, it helps to ensure that everyone has a fair chance at finding employment in the industry. Additionally, diversity helps to create a more well-rounded and skilled workforce, which can ultimately lead to better-quality construction projects. Finally, diversity also helps foster a sense of inclusion and understanding within the construction industry, which can help break down barriers and improve communication between different groups of people. In short, diversity is essential to the construction industry for both practical and social reasons. 

McKain’s Motivation for Supporting Inclusion in the Construction Industry

When everyone feels like they belong and are valued, they are more likely to do their best work. That’s why diversity and inclusion are so important in the construction industry. Diversity allows contractors to tap into a larger talent pool. They also find that their projects benefit from different perspectives and creativity.

Shannon has a background and history working in the A/E/C space. With over 250 speaking and consulting engagements under her belt, she has worked with audiences ranging from architects, engineers, general contractors, and even specific construction areas, including ready-mix, AGC, construction financial management associations, and more. She is well-versed in this industry and a strong supporter of the advancements being made to support diversity, inclusion, and belonging in the construction space. 

What Does Inclusion Mean in the Context of the Construction Industry 

Unfortunately, the construction industry still has a long way to go in terms of inclusion. Women make up less than 10% of the construction workforce, and people of color are even less represented. This lack of diversity can lead to problems on construction sites, such as discrimination and harassment. It can also lead to lower quality work because contractors are not benefiting from fresh perspectives.

How Can We Achieve Greater Inclusion in the Construction Industry


Contractors can do a few things to increase inclusion in construction. One is to provide training on diversity and inclusion for all employees. This training should cover topics such as unconscious bias and how it can impact decision making, how to create an inclusive work environment, and how to identify and report discriminatory behavior.

Another thing that contractors can do is audit their hiring practices. Are you only recruiting from a few schools or only advertising job openings in certain places? Widening your recruiting net will help you attract a more diverse pool of candidates. Once you have diversified your applicant pool, it’s important to create an interview process that assesses candidates fairly. Interviewer bias can play a significant role in who gets hired, so it’s important to be aware of it and take steps to avoid it. 

The Role of Government and Standards Organizations in Achieving Greater Inclusion

Leaders in the field of construction are working hard to advance inclusion and belonging in this industry. You might be familiar with the recent initiative of Construction Inclusion Week.

It’s only the second year for construction inclusion week, but it’s a step forward in the right direction. Especially since industry leaders, including Associated Builders and Contractors, Associated General Contractors of America, Culture of Care, and The National Association of Women in Construction, are all involved in creating this inclusion week. The more awareness we can generate towards these efforts, the better it will be for the construction industry as a whole.

Challenges to Achieving Greater Inclusion & Possible Solutions

With the pandemic, Quiet Quitting, and The Great Resignation, many of us have seen labor shortages and talent concerns these last few years. While there is no cure-all for the big picture, there are some ways the construction industry can combat these labor issues. Here are a few ideas: 

  • Get more buy-in from construction leaders for inclusion.
  • Work on diverse recruitment and hiring practices.
  • Bring in industry leaders and keynote speakers to discuss issues.
  • Review your company policies and manuals to ensure inclusion practices exist.

McKain’s Hopes for the Future of Inclusion in the Construction Industry 

Inclusion is vital for the construction industry because it improves project outcomes. Contractors who embrace diversity find that they have a wider pool of talent and that their projects benefit from different perspectives and creativity. Unfortunately, the construction industry still has a long way to go in terms of inclusion. Women make up less than 10% of the construction workforce, and people of color are even less represented. This lack of diversity can lead to problems on construction sites, such as discrimination and harassment. It can also lead to lower quality work because contractors are not benefitting from fresh perspectives. To increase inclusion in construction, contractors should provide training on diversity and inclusion for all employees, audit their hiring practices, and create an interview process that assesses candidates fairly. 

There’s no doubt that DE&I inclusion is critical for the construction industry. Inviting people of all backgrounds and experiences to participate in the construction process can create more innovative solutions and build a more profitable industry. 

If you need additional resources, feel free to reach out. Are you looking to book your next keynote speaker? Reach out to us on our contact us page.

Inclusion in the construction industry
Inclusion in the construction industry

Shannon McKain is a motivational keynote speaker and a business consultant based in Dallas, TX. She has worked in almost all 50 states with audiences ranging from corporate executives to student leaders.

A Milestone Birthday

Today, I turn the big 4-0.

I’ve thought about this day a lot. Is it a birthday? An anniversary? A milestone? Just another day? Is it something to be sad about or to celebrate? Am I where I am supposed to be in life? Have I accomplished all that I’ve wanted? If I died tomorrow, would I feel regret?

In reflection, I wrote down ten things I wish my 20-year-old self had known. It’s been a wild ride, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. Enjoy.

01. It goes quicker than you think.

I vividly remember my early 20s, singing Tiesto and Britney Spears til’ the wee hours of the morning. Laughing and dancing with my best friends, and thinking I had my whole life ahead of me. It went by quicker than I ever imagined. Today, I have weird pain in various body parts and my knees creak from time to time.

My tip: Don’t take a single day for granted. Eat the things, experience the trips, be responsible, but take risks. One day you’ll wake up wondering where it all went.

02. Spoiler alert: Life probably won’t work out the way you planned. And it’s okay.

I had an entire game plan for my life: earn a master’s degree, get married, have babies, coach cheerleading, bake cookies, and volunteer for 4-H. Instead, I have worked in almost all fifty states as a motivational speaker with a corporate consulting business, single and never bake cookies. Even though what I sketched on my vision board twenty years ago didn’t come to fruition, I’m still happy, healthy and feel incredibly lucky with the life I have!

My tip: It’s okay if life doesn’t shake out as you planned. As long as you enjoy every moment of the journey, that’s all that matters.

03. Don’t regret crashing that one wedding and becoming friends with a super-famous person.

Okay in all fairness, a bride doesn’t want to know that you crashed her big day. Maybe don’t make it a goal to pull a Vince Vaughn.

I’ve always had a yin and yang, a pension for wanting to give back, and a side for pushing the limits. It’s certainly gotten me in trouble over time, but it’s also given me some of the most amazing experiences.

My tip: Don’t be afraid of coloring outside the lines on occasion. You’ll know when you’ve pushed too far, but you’ll never regret the memories. (And while she and I were besties that entire weekend, I did have to sign an NDA the following week. #WorthIt).

04. Surround yourself with the right people.

In my 20 years of working professionally, it’s always come back to “who you know.” I see it time and time again in networking, business and life.

My tip: Keep asking questions, evaluating relationships, getting mentors and striving to get where you want to go. Having the right people in your life will elevate your path. 

05. Be willing to fail.

Trust me. I’ve failed a LOT. One distinct failure was “winning” a highly coveted role early in my career. It was one of my biggest “wins” at that point. I couldn’t have been more ecstatic. But from the very beginning, something was off, and before I knew it, I got fired. But not just fired, brutally, publicly ambushed. I’ll never forget showing up to a “friends” party shortly after receiving the news, realizing they all were gossiping about me before my proverbial workplace door had even hit me on the way out. I often think back to that year and realize I could’ve let that early public (and personal) humiliation completely change my life course. But instead, I picked myself up and kept putting one foot in front of the other.

My tip: You will absolutely fail at some point (just hopefully not as publicly as me). Be ready for it, and then find a way to move past it.

06. You’ll experience more heartbreak than you ever imagined.

No matter how many plans you have in place, life will throw a ton of curveballs. They’ll hit you in the shoulder, the foot, and sometimes square in the jaw. You won’t see them coming. You’ll feel betrayed. But then you’ve gotta ask yourself, will you let the heartbreak define you, or will you rise above it?

My tip: Recognize that there will be difficult times and that life isn’t perfect. You will experience sadness and anxiety, just as you’ll experience joy and confidence. These are all human emotions and you should live each deeply, knowing that you’re not alone and that each is temporary. At your lowest lows, remember that it will get better.

07. People really do want to see you succeed.

I hope you know in all the life lessons that the best of humanity still wins. And people still truly, deep down in their souls, want the best for each other. I’ve felt it. I’ve breathed it. I’ve lived it.

My tip: Don’t let the naysayers get you down. Find your tribe and cheerleaders, and champion the positive synergies with the folks cheering you on.  

08. It’s easy to lose meaningful friendships. Don’t let it happen.

I do have a few regrets. It’s the friendships or relationships I let slip away. The people I loved more than anything. The ones I truly felt connected to. Don’t let it happen to you. No matter how much pride, anger or frustration, find a code word or secret shimmy handshake that supersedes erosion. It’s easy to let others drift off and before you know it, the divide is harder to repair.

My tip: Keep those you love close to you and keep working hard at it no matter what.

09. Spend time on you.

We get so busy making a “life” that we forget what it means to just be at peace with ourselves. It’s easy to get into the hustle and bustle. It’s harder to spend time with yourself alone, without any devices or distractions. Can you truly “be” by yourself? Are you fully happy with who you are? Are you comfortable in your own skin?

My tip: Unpopular opinion, but don’t be afraid to shut out the noise from the world and invest the time in yourself. Do the things that will make your soul be at ease. Meditate. Journal. Workout. Make sure you are right with your body and soul.

10. No matter what, never give up.

Through it all, this life can produce some incredible moments. No matter what happens, be steadfast that you will never give up on yourself, your dreams, and your path. I hope one day you look back and say, “Dang. I lived the best life.”

My tip: Never give up.

As I reflect on today, I have an abundance of gratitude for the last 40 years. The path wasn’t straight or perfect, but it was exactly what it was supposed to be. Wishing you the best day, wherever you are at in your journey. Cheers.

The Great Resignation

Recently Radio Host David Rancken from KRLD NewsRadio 1080 in Dallas contacted me about doing an interview on The Great Resignation. His questions and my answers follow.

David Rancken:

Hey, Shannon. First off, we have to define The Great Resignation. That name has been getting thrown around a lot lately. What is it?

Shannon McKain:

Thank you so much for having me on your show. The Great Resignation is a term coined at the beginning of the pandemic by a professor at Texas A&M. He predicted that this fallout was going to happen. The Great Resignation is simply saying that employees are quitting their jobs left and right.

David Rancken:

There is something to be said for the dynamic shifting some. It has gone from employers have all the control, to now the employees having a little bit more than they would have prior to the pandemic.

Shannon McKain:

Absolutely. It’s important to note that The Great Resignation is talking about employees voluntarily leaving their jobs. It’s not about unemployment or employees that are being let go. So, yes, in a sense, it all comes back to supply and demand. If employees aren’t willing to work under the restrictions or terms and conditions that an employer has, then they’re not going to work for them right now. So that’s the name of the game.

David Rancken:

So why would an employee decide to leave one company to go to another? Is there any guarantee that the other company’s going to be any better?

Shannon McKain:

I don’t know that there’s necessarily a guarantee, but it’s certainly an interesting shift that we’re seeing right now. And I think you just have to look at behaviors and psychology. This even goes prior to the pandemic and The Great Resignation. If you think about generationally, we’ve seen the most recent generations not as loyal as previous generations were to maybe one or two employers. And so, maybe this grass is greener mentality or just the advancement of technology and the opportunities that we have today that weren’t there 40, 50, 60 years ago that you have access to so many more types of jobs and types of employment. And so, therefore, employees can say, “Hey, we want to name the terms.”

David Rancken:

Previous generations would have seen on their resumes if they had multi jobs and multiple companies over a short period of time. They would be considered less hirable.

Shannon McKain:

Correct. Or considered what we would call job hoppers and somebody that wouldn’t stay with us. So therefore, we don’t really want to hire them. But, again, that mentality is shifting today.

David Rancken:

So what industries get hit at the hardest by the great resignation?

Shannon McKain:

We’re still looking at that data, but if you look at an overall whole of the information, we’re really seeing that food and service industry-related, also healthcare, and retail types of positions. Those are the three industries that we’re seeing have been hit the hardest over the last year, year and a half.

David Rancken:

If you’re on some kind of a career path, you know you want to be at a certain point at a certain period of your time. If you decide you’re going to leave at one company and then go to a different company, aren’t you starting out at the bottom, and doesn’t that hurt your path?

Shannon McKain:

It’s an interesting question you raise. But what I’m seeing right now with a lot of the employers that my team recruits for, and also looking at the trends and the data and analytics, is that because companies need employees so badly right now, companies are willing to offer new incentives or different types of incentives than we’ve seen before. So it’s not just like, “Oh, you’re now the new low man on the totem pole again, but now maybe we will raise other benefits that you maybe already had, and we’ll get in a raise to keep you, or to get you to come over to us.

David Rancken:

You bring it up that companies are now looking to hire people. Does that mean they have to lower their standards in the kinds of people that they’re going to take on because they need to fill quotas of just bodies?

Shannon McKain:

So that’s another interesting question. With the employers and the CEOs of companies that my team works with, they are not willing to settle just to put a body in a seat. In one sense, it creates a different stress on the current employees because there is a workload that still needs to be accomplished. However, I understand and respect the employers that I’m working with, that they say no: we don’t want to change our workplace culture solely to just go grab candidate A or candidate B. If they don’t fit, they don’t fit. And we’re willing to hold out until we find the right fit.

David Rancken:

How tough is it then for companies, employees that are already there? They’ve given their years. They’ve given their blood, sweat and tears to the particular job they have, to see their company going out and looking to recruit as much as possible. What’s in it for the people to stay where they are?

Shannon McKain:

Yeah. Well, I think in the circumstances that I’ve seen over the last year is that in most circumstances, it’s because the company is expanding. So these are new roles they’re looking to fill. It’s not necessarily because they’ve let somebody go or that they’re looking to let people go. So from that perspective, the psychology is great. Th current employees understand that, “Hey, things are going great here. We’re looking to add more team members to the table.” And I think it all comes back to, again, communication and psychology. If you’re communicating to your current staff, “Hey, this is what we’re trying to achieve here. And if you’ll just bear with us, it might take us a few more months to find the right person. But if you’ll just bear with us.” Then I think it just alludes itself to saying, “Hey, we all understand, and are in agreement about what we’re trying to achieve.”

David Rancken:

Is it a good thing to change companies every so often just to learn a different way of doing something that it could be better for you?

Shannon McKain:

Well, I’m a millennial and I probably come from the mindset that, yes, absolutely. I don’t think it hurts anything to maybe switch it up every three, four, maybe five years. From a recruiting standpoint, it’s an unofficial line where we say, if somebody’s with a company at about seven years, seven years is that marker of saying, we don’t think that that person’s really going to leave, or at least they’re not going to leave as readily as somebody who’s only been there a couple of years. So, from my standpoint, the advantages and the gain of maybe changing it up a little bit is not only monetarily, but as to your point that you can learn new skills and you can learn new perspectives.

David Rancken:

So what happens when an employee says, “That’s it. I’m done. I’m going to another company.” And then they find out that company is worse. Will they go walking back to the old place with their tail between their legs, and will that old place take them back?

Shannon McKain:

Well, again, I can’t speak for others, but what I’ve seen over the last year is that companies know what the market looks like right now. And they know that it’s so much harder right now to be able to find somebody if they have to replace someone. So they’re doing anything and everything they can to keep their current employees. Just to give you a couple of examples, I’ve never seen so many companies so aggressive with increasing pay. Now, this gets into a double-edged sword here because, at the end of the day, human beings are not motivated by money. They’re really not. There are so many other motivating factors that go into why somebody gets up every day, performs the job that they do, goes in and selects the type of work that they want to do and or who they want to work for.

We have a misconception that people are going to be satisfied with an increase in pay. I’ll get to that in a second, but it is happening. And I think employees are “chasing the shiny object syndrome” right now because we are seeing such an inflation in people’s pay and salaries. So again, it’s a double-edged sword. People are getting thrown money at them left and right to either stay or to be recruited to another company. And then, ultimately, at the end of the day, I think we all need to asking ourselves, really, what’s going to make us most happy, most productive, and want to be able to give 110% in our careers?

David Rancken:

Are employees getting smarter about what to ask for from a company?

Shannon McKain:

I think as a culture, we are all getting smarter about what we want out of our lives. The American way or the Western way is that you live to work. You are supposed to work 60, 70, 80 hours a week and not say anything about it. And I think that we’re just getting smarter as humans saying, “Hey, that’s not realistic anymore.”

David Rancken:

Is it the whole concept because the phrase work-life balance has become so popular in the last couple years, especially during the pandemic?

Shannon McKain:


David Rancken:

We worry more about making sure we have a balance in our lives.

Shannon McKain:

Yeah, absolutely. #WorkLife balance. Look, at the end of the day, human beings are complex individuals. We have so many different interests. We have so many different pieces of our lives that pull us in different directions. And so, really trying to find that balance and what works. I think also too, the one size fits all mentality, it’s just not applicable anymore. Again, humans are complex creatures, and we need to really understand those intrinsic values and motivations.

David Rancken:

One last question. How long does The Great Resignation last?

Shannon McKain:

Oh, my goodness gracious. I think we were really surprised with the data that just came out from November. We kept seeing this trend of increasing resignations from month, to month, to month, and then it dipped in October. And we thought maybe this is the end of it. But then November, we just saw a record high of 4.5 million resignations. Golly. I think we’ve still got a few months ahead of us here.

David Rancken:

. A follow-up to that one. In another survey you found, almost 30% of people are willing to leave their jobs even if they don’t have another job lined up. They must be really confident they’re going to find something quick.

Shannon McKain:

The psychology behind that, I personally don’t understand. I personally would never put myself in a situation like that. But I guess if the rhetoric that you’re hearing on a daily basis is that there’s all these openings, then maybe yeah. Maybe it is affecting people’s thought process and how they handle that.

David Rancken:

People looking more at jobs versus career. I mean, looking to do, I’m going to do something like this right now, five years from now, maybe doing something different.

Shannon McKain:

I don’t know if the trajectory is still the same as it was 20, 30, 40 plus years ago. We were conditioned to believe that you go to primary school, then college, and then you enter the workforce at the bottom and then you work your way up to management, middle management. And again, I just don’t know if that’s the mindset people have anymore. Again, going back to the idea that we really are honing in on this idea of work-life balance, and mental health, and really trying to take care of ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally, that a job is a job, and it pays the bills, and it’s not the same as building a career.

Fake Job Posts: Have You Been Hacked?

Employers, have you ever used a job board to recruit top talent? If so, keep reading!

You might not be aware that cybercriminals are scamming companies and job seekers via job boards. These nefarious individuals are savvy in their approach, creating vulnerabilities from several angles. I’ve put together some safety tips and tricks for employers to know while creating job board listings.

Hackers are logging into your job board accounts and creating listings under your company profile.

Perhaps you created an account with a job board years ago and haven’t logged in since. Or maybe you are using an easy password so that multiple people inside your company can log in. Regardless, it’s important to note that you must keep all of your online accounts secure. Otherwise, they are vulnerable to hackers stealing your company data, posing as you, and stealing applicants’ information. Here are some tips to mitigate this issue:

  1. Make sure to monitor all of your accounts, whether you are actively using them or not. Do a periodic checkup of all of your accounts and make sure you know exactly who has access to them. Perhaps you need to change user permissions or access.
  2. Update your passwords. Make it a habit. While it’s frustrating to keep remembering new passwords, it will also safeguard you from unwanted drama. By periodically changing your login information, you can proactively get ahead of hackers.
  3. Always check your credit cards for bogus charges. Hackers are using the data in your account to create new job listings to attract candidates. These extra charges will show up on your credit card statements alerting you that your company profile on a job board might’ve been hacked.

Hackers are creating fake profiles on job boards posing as your company.

Seems like a lot of work, right? But, it’s the latest way hackers are trying to scam folks. Perhaps your job board accounts are secure. But, what you might not realize is that online scammers are creating fake profiles that appear as your company. While this may not directly impact your business, it can create confusion within your community, reduce confidence in your organization, and hurt potential employees.

  1. Take a few minutes today to cross-reference and check that everything on your job board listed is active and credible. This is a super easy step that can be done periodically and quickly.
  2. Do a quick google search and make sure nothing false or shady appears. Try searching different keywords and phrases to see what comes up. This is also great practice for brand awareness too!

If you DO have an active job opening, take these precautions while interacting with potential employees.

Hackers are incredibly savvy in gaining insights, data, and knowledge into your organization. They go at it from every angle.  Additionally, something as simple as a link on a resume can take down your entire computer system. Here are some best practices to mitigate any company-wide damage.

  1. Always double-check the email address you are receiving information from. Hackers can pose as individuals applying to your company, but if the email address seems fishy, it could very well be.
  2. Avoid receiving or opening word documents from any applicant. Encourage applicants to send you PDF copies of their materials. This will cut down on any unwanted malware or clickbait.
  3. Do not click any links that candidates send you without 100% confidence.

Have other tips or advice? Feel free to leave us a comment below. While we are busy helping organizations create world-class teams, we also stay on top of the latest news and data impacting our clients.

Fake job posts: have your company job postings been hacked?

What Is Your Mountain?

In competition, how do you know who has the upper hand? Does it depend on size or skill level, or maybe strategy? Perhaps it’s something else. Recently, I faced off against a 14,000 ft. mountain alone and discovered where the upper hand truly lies.

Preparing to climb a 14,000 ft. Mountain

A few years ago, I decided to climb another fourteener, otherwise known as a mountain of that same minimum elevation. However, I struggled to find anyone who would go with me. So, about a year ago, I finally decided that the next time a Colorado speaking engagement came across my desk, I was going to climb with or without anyone. Climbing/hiking has always been a hobby of mine. I had even completed two similar climbs over ten years ago with groups. Taking on this mountain was different. I was going solo.

There are 96 fourteeners in the United States. Fifty-three of those are in Colorado. I live in flat ol’ Dallas.

Trailhead sign marker
Beginning of the hike
1/3 of the way up

Was something like this even possible at this point? After living just above sea level, I began to doubt myself with so much time between climbs. Anxiety set in, thinking about accomplishing this solo, knowing something could potentially go wrong.

One thing I’ve learned recently is that self-reliance yields results. With that, I began daily training with the top of this mountain in sight. I used my phone to log training progress on the stair stepper with a weighted backpack, mini cardio challenges to increase my endurance, and weight lifting reps to build muscle strength. I developed plans, backup plans, and contingency plans.

After three months of diligence, it was time to climb

I boarded a flight to Colorado on a Friday morning for my speaking engagement later that day. It was nice to be doing something familiar like engaging with an audience before something borderline terrifying. I mentioned the next day’s climbing plans to the group, who asked to be kept apprised of my journey to the top. Knowing that my new friends were rooting for me engulfed me with even more determination.

On the long, beautifully scenic drive to the mountains, I learned that the snow conditions on the mountain were slightly worse than anticipated. This was the first wrench in the plan. This wouldn’t be the safest option for a group, let alone, well, being alone. I had never climbed in snow before and needed the least amount of issues as possible.

After arriving into town, I began some research that led to a different peak that wasn’t covered in as much snow. This peak, however, was much farther away.  Thankfully, another hotel was available just an hour from where I stood, so I set off.

I was in bed by midnight. Sleeping was difficult, between weighing the “what if’s” and being too tired to actually fall asleep. I faded slowly…

And then I woke up late! I packed up and scrambled the new trailhead as I thought to myself, “great start, Shannon.” I ended up on Mt. Belford, a Class 2 mountain, which was more difficult than what I was expecting, but I sucked it up and prepared myself mentally for the challenge (in hindsight, I’m still not certain if it was the smartest move).

There I was at 7:30 a.m., late but ready to rock with my gear loaded, boots strapped, and hydropack filled. My spirits screamed “let’s GO,” but then slowly began to realize that cell service was absolutely non-existent and nobody else was around. Most hikers start well before 6 a.m. To make matters worse, Mt. Belford was very much off the beaten path from civilization.

It would have been so easy to just panic but instead, I strategized. Anybody I encountered, ascending or descending, I would keep track of to reference my position on this mountain.

Originally, I had budgeted five hours to ascend and three hours to come back down; gravity and whatnot. But about an hour in, I was already exhausted and seriously wondering if I could do this. It’s well known that to be successful on the mountains, it’s best to reach the summit by noon. Otherwise, you may have to deal with unplanned, sporadic thunderstorms. If you’re on the peak while an afternoon thunderstorm rolls in… good luck.

As I contemplated my exit strategy for bad weather, I remembered that I flew all the way to the middle of Colorado to do this one thing — I can’t quit. That’s when I began to set mini goals, or checkpoints, for myself as I did with my initial training.

“Make it one more hour and then you can take another snack break”

“Count your steps and see how many you can consecutively get before stopping to take another sip of water”

“You may not make it to the top, but let’s see how far you can get in the five hours you committed”

Tiny goals, tiny progress, but everything adds up. Slowly, with each stride and each breath, I knew I would conquer this hill.

As noon drew closer, I began to see other climbers, those who arrived on time, making their descent. “Is anyone still up there,” I would ask. Each person knew the importance of this answer and confirmed that some people were still up at the top.

12:30 p.m. rolled in with the clouds as I continued my way up the mountain. At this point, all other options were gone. I had to hustle to make sure I reached the summit and hope that somebody, anybody was still up there. In no way, could I be up there by myself so late in the day.

The weight of this situation crashed down on every nerve. I could feel the cold air get thinner. I could taste my water supply starting to deplete. I could also see the inevitable clouds begin to swirl ahead. I had to pick up the pace.

I passed the first false summit. 1:00 p.m.

I passed the second false summit. 1:30 p.m.

“Hello?” I yelled a few times to empty terrain. I wasn’t there yet. With part haste and part anxiety, I began to jog. Moments later, around the last switchback, I see shadowy figures up ahead. The last group was making their descent.

“Please! Please! I’ve made it this far. Will you please wait for me to summit?” I shouted.

“It’s right there. We’ll wait, but HURRY!” somebody shouted back.

I continued to run; faster, harder until I finally reached the top.

Finally, I had made it. I stood there, holding back tears. Any sense of urgency to descend was pushed to the side for just a second as I panned across what seemed like the entire rest of the world underneath me in that moment — quiet, still, empty. I pulled out my phone and took one photo before noticing the clouds getting a darker shade of angry. Something was about to happen.

(If you zoom in on the upper left, you can see me in all black climbing to the summit while these folks waited. Also, note the ominous clouds.)
Reaching the summit of Mt. Belford 14,197 ft elevation.

Holding a Mt. Belford sign with the elevation on it.

The climb down

I jumped off the top rock and sprinted toward the nice folks, praying they hadn’t left yet. They were slowly making their way back to the trail. As we joined together, the thunder rumbled. This was our first warning.

We FLEW. Nothing but hiking boots but faster than skis as we zigzagged through the switchbacks. And then the ominous clouds turned for the worst.

Overhead, the sky pelted us with graupel (soft small water pellets). Underneath us, the rocks were loose and the ground was wet. Our clothing became a darker shade as it saturated with water and my toes burned with every step. After an hour of downhill running, we made it below the tree line without getting struck by lightning.

We stopped for a moment in the trees and caught our breath. The nice folks continued their way without me. I had given every remaining ounce of energy in the sprint and somehow needed to find a way to finish my descent.

I eventually did make it down. As soon as I saw my rental car, I fell to the ground and wept. I couldn’t feel my legs. My feet were bloody and bruised. I wasn’t sure if I still had either of my big toenails still attached.

This was one of the most challenging experiences I have ever faced in my life. The mental capacity needed to push one’s self, without anyone or anything to comfort you, is monumental. Without cell service, or music, podcasts, nothing – just sheer will power.

You can plan down to the exact sip of water. You can train with professionals. But when you’re faced with empty terrain, alone, and the “what if’s” start to creep into the back of your mind, the effects are crippling. There were moments when I truly doubted that I would make it to the top, let alone OFF the mountain.

But I did. And I did it by myself. 14,197 ft. June 5, 2021

While this was intended to be a fun activity fueled by my love for hiking, I walked away from this with so much more than a thrill.

During the five hours it took me to ascend, I fought harder for mental endurance than I did physical. Questions swirled in my head every time I stopped to catch my breath. There were times when I considered admitting defeat and turning around. At other times I wondered if I truly could even finish, and what would happen if I couldn’t find help. During the very last hour I lost all feeling in my legs near the point of collapsing. But there was no other choice but to continue. Life was on the line. I had to keep telling myself: “You – Can – Do – This.”

I am 100% convinced that humans are capable of so much more than we realize.

We are all born with varying degrees of physical and mental strength. As children, we begin with education in the classroom and exercising on the playground. We learn to read and write and how to play hopscotch or tetherball. We form passions and opinions and begin to develop a lifestyle with routines and goals. And then we get comfortable and settle, adhering to societal norms and our own checklists.

But what if you pushed even just 10% harder than you thought you could? What if you woke up an hour earlier every day to work toward a goal you really wanted to achieve? What if you really are capable of pursuing that crazy idea you’ve stored away in the back of your mind? What would happen if you really did achieve it?

What would that mean to you?

I spent nine hours climbing a 14,000 ft. mountain by myself. I learned that when my back is against a wall, feet bloody and bruised, knees about to buckle with each step, that I choose to fight back and survive. Because that’s what it takes to cross the finish line, even when you’re weak, broken, and bloody. 

Maybe your goal isn’t a fourteener. But if you’ve read this far, then perhaps you have something in mind, something more you want from life.

So what’s keeping you from climbing your mountain?

An hour in.

Looking for your next Keynote Motivational Speaker? Let’s chat!

Shannon is a motivational speaker and business consultant based in Dallas, TX. She has worked in almost all 50 states with audiences ranging from corporate executives to student leaders.

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Ten Years Speaking Business

This past December, I was snowed in at my sister’s house in Kansas City writing out my goals and projections for 2021. I had just finished my last virtual keynote of 2020 (from her basement) and was excited to end the year strong when I realized

Drumroll please…….

2021 marks TEN YEARS of owning my speaking/consulting business!

Girl holding a balloon

Wow! I couldn’t believe it. Where had the last decade gone? Whom had I impacted? What had I accomplished?

In those ten years I:

  • Spoke in 45 states (still need Rhode Island, Idaho, Maine, Hawaii and Alaska! Know anyone there?)
  • Addressed over 200,000 audience members
  • Worked with companies like Tesla, Fidelity Investments, Newell-Rubbermaid, Garmin, MIT and more
  • Delivered more than 50 segments for TV programs around the country including: ABC, CBS, Nickelodeon and others
  • Delivered a TEDx Talk
  • Designed apparel to accompany my “Dream It Map It Reach It” initiative that signifies it doesn’t matter where you come from, or what you have in your pockets, you can still dream big and accomplish your dreams

After a decade of both exhilarating highs and lows, I’ve learned a few things from this wild ride. Strap in, I’m taking you with me!

Here are the ten things I’ve learned over the past ten years. 


1. Start with a solid plan.

When I realized being a motivational speaker and business consultant was in my DNA, I put together a plan. I hired a business coach, asked tons of questions and created benchmarks and mile markers to guide progress and results. I knew my plan may get derailed along the way, but because I knew what I wanted to accomplish, it kept me on the right track for success! Q. What’s your plan for 2021?

2. Mentors, mentors, mentors.

Every successful person has had a mentor, or maybe a few mentors, who offered advice, motivation, encouragement, emotional support and grace.  I wouldn’t be where I am today without a few significant individuals who have walked alongside me over the past decade. It is helpful to have a fresh set of eyes and ears, especially when I’ve needed to make difficult decisions.  Many times, my mentors encouraged me to stick with the plan, even when it got hard.  But sometimes, they provided fresh insight and permission to walk the other way and try a new plan, when my original wasn’t coming together as expected. Q. Who do you look to for advice and encouragement along your journey?

3. When the tides change, learn to change with them!

This feels very relevant for 2020, but the truth is that we encounter obstacles every year (heck, probably ever week) that cause us to shift, pivot, roll with it and figure it out. Did you know that in the spring of 2020, when all of my speaking commitments cancelled, I went back to my sales career for a brief while to help distribute a product that was vital during those early stages of the pandemic?  Was that part of my plan?  No way!  But when 2020 threw me those lemons, I learned to incorporate them until I figured out what would be next.  When you deny change, you deny yourself opportunities and growth. And wow, have I grown tremendously in this past year. Q. How have you grown because you had to adapt to new realities?

4. There’s no one way to define your professional or personal life.

Every story I’ve heard over the last decade has been similar…. But different. There’s no one way to be the best employee, entrepreneur, student, mom, friend or spouse. However, there IS a right way for how you can define your life. It’s all up to you. You get to make your own rules. Don’t let anyone define that for you. Q. How do you describe yourself?

5. Hindsight is 20/20.

I probably should’ve written that book. Or created more online courses. Or said yes to more things. Hindsight is always 20/20. But, we can’t live our lives in the rearview mirror. We have to keep taking action forward! Q. How are you looking forward?

6. Every relationship matters.

I’ll never forget one Tuesday morning in October 2017. I was drinking my coffee and about to start the day when the phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number, but answered like I always do, “Hi this is Shannon!” On the other end was Brian, the president of an audio/visual company I had worked with a few years prior. We chatted for a bit and then he cut to the chase. He was producing an international company conference which included renting out Gillette Stadium in Boston for three days and they wanted me to emcee the entire thing. I was floored. His staff remembered me from another conference I keynoted and thought I would be the perfect fit for this event. It was a dream come true and something I will never take for granted. I’m certainly not perfect at it, but every day I try to treat everyone with kindness and respect. You never know what relationships will come back around in your life. Q. How can you reevaluate your relationships? 

7. Nothing replaces work ethic.

You can study at elite schools, obtain the highest degrees and have unlimited connections, but nothing can take the place of hard work. If you are willing to work hard enough, I believe you can have anything you want.  The best players on the field are not always the biggest, the strongest, or fastest. The same can be said about the workplace.  Despite what the media and news often show, the best in the boardroom are not always the smartest, wealthiest or most educated.  But are they the persistent! Q. How can you increase your work ethic and productivity this next year?

8. Criticism is tough.

There will always be someone who provides solicited (and unsolicited) criticism that makes you question your decisions and your plan. But it’s how you handle the critics that will define you. Detractors are just that – detracting you from your path and your plan. When you can, turn the criticism into fuel to keep you going. Q. It hurts to hear, but how can you turn criticism into a catalyst for you?

9. Your physical health impacts your emotional and mental health.

When I started my business, I was coming off the healthiest time of my life serving as an NFL cheerleader. I was in the best shape I’d been in, which allowed me to work round the clock building my dream business. However, over time running from airport to airport, eating meals out and not getting to the gym as often, caused my metabolism to shift. I felt the energy drain and realized I couldn’t offer as much to my audiences when I wasn’t feeling my absolute best. That’s why I’ve been on a mission to get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily and drinking as much water as possible. Q. I know you know, but are you moving that body of yours?

10. When in doubt, follow your gut.

I’ve learned time and time again; your gut instinct is almost always right. Sure, we put parameters in place to try and guide us, but at the end of the day, if you’ve done the homework, you should feel confident about putting yourself out there and knowing right from wrong. It all works out the way it’s supposed to. Q. Do you trust yourself?

Gratitude – In Closing

Looking back, the one thing I can confidently say is that I am beyond grateful for the journey. The ups, the downs, the twists, and turns. All of it. I can send this note out today knowing that as nervous as I was a decade ago, I still chased my dream. It’s never too late to do what your heart is passionate about. Thank you for being on this journey with me! You inspire me to keep pursuing these passions. I hope you pursue yours! As a matter of fact, let me know what you are chasing. Maybe I can help you get there. Feel free to email me!

Looking for a virtual keynote speaker? A consultant for your team? A coach? Let’s chat! I would be honored to work with you!

Cheers to the next ten!

21-Day Thankful Challenge

The holidays are upon us, the store sales have begun and many of us are quickly trying to cross off items on our “things to accomplish this year” list.  Although 2020 hasn’t been what any of us expected, there are still things for which we can be thankful, so I’m kicking off my 21-Day Thankful Challenge TODAY!

Join me on CBS Portland as I talk about having a thankful heart over the next 21 days.

If you’ve been part of my community for a while, you know I’ve participated in this challenge several times. It’s simple: jump into the Facebook group, download the FREE Workbook and begin encouraging others over the next 21 days to live with a thankful heart. The challenge runs November 10 – November 30, and takes no more than five minutes of your attention each day.

Looking for your next Keynote Motivational Speaker? Let’s chat!

Shannon is a motivational speaker and business consultant based in Dallas, TX. She has worked in almost all 50 states with audiences ranging from corporate executives to student leaders.

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2020 Vision

October 1st crept up on me.

Ahhhh, October. The leaves are changing. Pumpkin spice flavors appear on every menu. School is (usually) in full-swing. Football games consume our weekends, and annual trips to the pumpkin patch and apple orchards pepper our social media pages.  It’s also the beginning of the last quarter of the calendar year…a subtle reminder that we’re running out of time to cross things off our “goals to finish this year” list.  

I remember October 2019 like it was yesterday. My friends and I were enjoying pizza at Sixty Vines, a popular spot in Dallas. My event planner friend told the group how excited she was for her 2020 conference titled “Vision 2020.” It was going to be a huge conference with all the bells and whistles, and her company was planning an awesome celebration to culminate the event.

[Insert mic drop] If only we’d had 2020 vision a year ago.

Like you, I had audacious goals for 2020. This was going to be MY year. I was slated to speak at more conferences than ever before. I debuted a new keynote in December 2019 that was very well-received and I had to plans to expand my business.  

And then, March happened.  The virus and pandemic changed everything we knew about our ways of life.

The last seven months have been strange, and over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about my goals from January 1st. I had many New Year’s resolutions, hopes and dreams, and was determined to take my work ethic to a new level this year. I realized that even though October sneaked up on me, it’s not too late to make 2020 the year I had intended it to be.

Together, let’s vow to be intentional with the last three months of the year. Here’s my plan.

If you follow me on social media, you know I swear by the Best Self Journal. It categorizes three important goals into 13 weeks to divide and conquer. So, I just started a new journal and set some attainable goals:

Write 6-8 blog posts between now and December 31

Create 4-6 new YouTube videos between now and December 31

Start building an online course that goes along with my new keynote

If you had to sit down today and write out three major goals for yourself, what would they be? I’d love to hear yours. Send me an email or tag me in your post so I can see!

Let’s fight to finish this year strong! Work toward that career move you wanted prior to the pandemic. If you are a leader in your organization, find a way to build unity and strength with your team. But no matter what, let’s not waste these last three months. We still have an opportunity to show up for our careers, our spouses, our families and our friends in all the best ways. A new normal doesn’t mean giving 50%. Let’s give these next 180 days all we’ve got.

PS – if you want to buy a journal, I still have a code to get 15% off! Use “ShanDance” at checkout.

Four Journals

Looking for your next Keynote Motivational Speaker? Let’s chat!

Shannon is a motivational speaker and business consultant based in Dallas, TX. She has worked in almost all 50 states with audiences ranging from corporate executives to student leaders.

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Building Great Teams During a Pandemic

Building great teams under normal circumstances can be challenging.  Building great teams during a pandemic can feel down right impossible. Many of us are struggling to find a work/life balance while operating with remote workforces, a myriad of distractions, added pressures and uncharted waters.

How can we use these (often uncomfortable) circumstances to make our teams better?

Let’s go back to the basics.

In cheerleading, I learned that “practice makes perfect.” We constantly honed in on the number of reps we could physically do over and over and over again. The simple thought was that by pushing the number of reps we completed, we could create muscle memory that would pull every team member through any difficult scenario we faced.  

On Sunday, Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker proved that methodology applies to more than cheerleading.

Cliff Notes:

  • With four seconds remaining in the game, the Chiefs tied it up to take the game in to overtime.
  • During overtime, the Chiefs were forced to a fourth down, and Butker was thrust into a pressure cooker situation: a two-minute warning, a false-start penalty and a timeout from the Chargers, undoubtedly used as an additional means of distraction.
  • Butker was forced to kick THREE times in less than three minutes. Because of a penalty against his team, his third kick was from 58 yards out, the second longest field goal ever kicked, to win a game in overtime since 1974.

During a time of additional distractions and pressures, Butker went back to the basics. He relied on the long kicks he repeated over and over this summer. 

While few of us are professional athletes, we can use Butker’s “back to basics” approach to help build a better team.

  • Figure out the assignment, then do the homework. What does every team member need to do in order to be successful?
  • Push the reps. Does your team need more leadership drills? Communication exercises? Marketing knowledge?
  • Lead and support.  Lead with confidence that your team has the skills necessary to succeed. And don’t ask your team to do anything you aren’t willing to do yourself;  strong teams begin with strong leaders who are willing to walk alongside!

When your back is against the wall, the stakes are high and the team is counting on you – instill in your team that they have the skills to succeed.  Remind them of their past wins and acknowledge the work they’ve put in.  Encourage and reinforce the behavior that has helped them get this far. Be willing to call in reinforcements, perhaps in the form of extra training, to help your team succeed and to show that you’re willing to contribute to help them achieve progress over perfection.

Looking for your next Keynote Motivational Speaker? Let’s chat!

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Shannon is a motivational speaker and business consultant based in Dallas, TX. She has worked in almost all 50 states with audiences ranging from corporate executives to student leaders.

When to Hire a Recruiter

When to hire a recruiting firm?

People are your greatest asset. They’re your brand ambassadors and the lifeline to help build your business. According to a recent study by Paycor, labor costs can account for up to 70% of total business costs, which means they’re also your biggest investment, both in terms of finances and time.  

It’s true that headhunters, recruiters and staffing agencies can come at a premium cost difficult to digest for a small or medium size business. That cost is the reason many businesses shy away from seeking help outside of the organization. But remember what I said in the first paragraph, that people are your biggest investment?  That’s the main reason why you should consider spending the extra money. Wondering when is the right time to make that decision? Let’s dive in to why and when the cost to work with a headhunter or professional recruiting firm makes sense.

Why you should partner with a headhunter or recruiting firm.

A headhunter’s job is to be your partner through the entire process and to have your best interest in mind. They share your goal to fill the position quickly, and with the most qualified candidate. A headhunter doesn’t want to re-fill the position down the road and most (good) headhunters pride themselves on never having to do so.

Headhunters can source passive candidates in addition to active job seekers. This is an important one!  It’s common for companies to post a job, then wait for candidate resumes to trickle in. However, a good headhunter will understand your business, your company culture and the nonverbal idiosyncrasies that make your organization tick. Powered with that information, the headhunter can proactively work through their internal candidate database and call on prospects employed at other companies who may not be actively looking, but who may be a great fit for your company. Their proactive vs. reactive approach can make all the difference.

Headhunters know how to sell the position to potential candidates. While you know all of the best reasons to work for your firm, it can be difficult to clearly communicate all the things that make your company great to a potential candidate.  In this economy, every selling point matters! A headhunter knows how to work with a candidate to sell them on your company.

A headhunter is trained to assess candidates. I vividly remember one particular search I was conducting. The client loved a specific candidate who interviewed very well and seemed to check all the boxes, but something in my gut said I needed to dig deeper. After doing more research and asking more questions, I found the missing links that indicated this candidate wasn’t the right fit. Had I allowed the client to move forward, I believe we’d have needed to replace this person shortly thereafter.  

When should you make the decision to outsource the recruitment process?

Just like an engineer has studied how to build bridges, an accountant knows how to assess financial documents, or a doctor knows how to provide healthcare, a headhunter knows the fastest, best way to find your ideal candidates.

If you are questioning whether or not to partner with a headhunter, ask yourself:

  • Could my time be better spent building my business?
  • Is my time limited right now?
  • Does my office manager or HR person already have a full plate?
  • Has anyone in my office been formally trained on recruiting a great team member?
  • Have I already tried to perform the search without finding the ideal candidate?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, finding a trusted, qualified headhunter to assist you is the best answer! Time is money and your people are your most valuable resources!  A recruiter can help make your life easier by bringing you qualified, sourced candidates who are more likely to be a great fit within your organization. If funding the expense of a headhunter still has you worried, remember that if the recruiter does his or her job well, a new employee should be able to hit the ground running and start making (or saving) you money.

Here’s to building world class teams and organizations. I hope these tips help as you are looking for great talent to add to your team in 2019. If you are looking for additional consulting, reach out to us!

Shannon is a motivational keynote speaker and business consultant based in Dallas, TX. She has worked in almost all 50 states with audiences ranging from corporate executives to student leaders.