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Creating Connection Through Business with Ellen Petry Leanse

Episode 300
Each of us is meant for great things. Ellen Petry Leanse shares how to reach our full potential in business and life.

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Imagine: It’s the 80’s. You are working for a sprouting tech company called “Apple.” Many of the products that your company makes have never existed, let alone been available to the general public for purchase. Your job is to explain not only what this tech does, but why an average consumer should even want to buy it. 

If it sounds like a tough job, that’s because it is; but it’s exactly the job Ellen Petry Leanse took in 1981 at Apple. Her official assignment was to write a newsletter explaining how to talk to customers about Apple’s products and their capabilities. Apple had just gone public and Ellen was in for a wild ride with a company unlike any other, a company that would go on to change the world.

In 1983, after a few years of on-the-job training and mentorship, Ellen was invited onto the extended Macintosh team where she became a product manager for Apple’s international products. This was at a time when Apple’s customers were not happy with the Apple II computer and Ellen recognized a disconnect between the company and its customers. To build a bridge between the two parties, she became Apple’s first user evangelist and created the first-ever digital community for a company to directly address user feedback.

Ellen’s time at Apple was transformative for her professional career, but it also helped her realize her personal purpose.

“A big part of my purpose is to think through how people come together.” 

Ellen spent over 10 years at some of the world’s most successful tech companies such as Apple, Facebook, and Google before becoming an executive coach to business leaders and an instructor at Stanford University. Ellen also wrote a book titled, The Happiness Hack: How to Take Charge of Your Brain and Program More Happiness into Your Life, which dives into ways that we can rewire our brains to live a happier and more fulfilled life. 

In her work today as Chief People Officer at Lucidworks, Ellen is “encouraging people to step more fully into the talent they know they have inside.” She is taking her wide-ranging experiences to create a culture of safety, experimentation, and equality.

On this episode of Mission Daily, Chad and Ellen discuss Ellen’s extensive career from working at Apple to becoming an author, how she creates a culture of experimentation and risk at her current company, and how to bring more happiness and meaning into your day to day life. 

Quotes by Ellen:

6:55 –  [On working at Apple and launching the MacIntosh] “I didn’t know what I was doing but such was the beauty of that time. There were no maps for what we were doing. We were following a great compass, you know, a north star that we believed we were changing the world but no one had done what we were doing before.”

13:13 – “I do believe we were the first ones to forge an online digital connection between a company and its user community through the proto internet.”

16:12 – “Emotions are a navigational tool for helping us think through things in a way that favors our survival.” 

19:39 – [On her work.. ] “The heroic journey begins with this thing, ‘I’m meant for more than this.’ If we look at everyone in the world with an absolute understanding that all of us are meant for more than this but also that the world outside is closing that in and saying ‘play by the rules, keep it simple, keep it safe’. More and more I believe we are buying into this.”

27:26 – “Part of the reason why we were able to do so well at Apple is we were made psychologically safe. You were emboldened to take risk, you were invited to. It was better to ask forgiveness than permission and mistakes weren’t seen as mistakes. They were seen as steps along the way to a higher path.”

30:58 – “The brain’s natural set point is not safety, it’s fear. The brain is a survival mechanism, a machine, it’s always going to think something is about to go wrong. It’s going to want to get triggered rather than to be intentional.”

51:50 – “Our businesses are the best canvas for us to come together as humans and really say ‘what do we want from this?’ and be intentional about it.”


Bill Campbell 

Riane Eisler

The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future

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