Speaker Spotlight: bnourished Founder Katie McDonald

In January of 2018, I was busily preparing to create a memorable Women in Leadership Nexus event—the last event I would hold before Nexus would evolve from a casual community movement to a professional membership-based leadership association.

I had the topic identified, “Letters to Yourself: A Moment of Introspection,” an experiential workshop that would allow women to revisit a critical moment in their past, write a letter to their younger self, and uncover lessons learned in a look back that could be applied to the present and future.

But I needed an incredible speaker.

Someone who had an inspiring story. Someone who did inspiring work. Someone whose words, energy and spirit could activate a belief in others that one’s potential is truly limitless. And then I met Katie McDonald.

Katie, CEO/Founder of bnourished and a Self-Care Strategist, is someone who lives out her life’s purpose each and every day and, in so doing, encourages others to do the same. She was one of the very first speakers at Nexus and left the room illuminated and moved to take action.

It is an honor that we are able to bring Katie back as a featured speaker at our next chapter event, “Intentional Leadership: Own Your Potential,” taking place September 27. I sat down with my good friend Katie to catch up with her on her ever-growing business bnourished, thoughts about leadership, and what’s next for this visionary. Learn more about Katie below!

Katie, for our readers who are new to your work, can you tell us about bnourished and what made you start your company?

Katie McDonald, CEO/Founder, bnourished

Katie McDonald, CEO/Founder, bnourished

In 2010, I founded to honor a vow. When I healed myself from the disease of busyness and the accompanying conditions—asthma, allergies, irritable bowel, ulcerative colitis, depression, anxiety, insomnia, shingles—I promised to study my recovery so I could return to my tribe of over-achievers. I wanted my suffering to serve a bigger purpose than myself. I knew that high performing people like me often worked on fumes, borrowing from their future wellbeing to get done what only they can do.

I love being productive and effective, always have, but I did not know how to pair those priorities with wellbeing. Illness forced me to unite being impactful with wellness, and bnourished is the love child of that marriage. I am deeply curious about what happens when we leaders are leading our food, thought, and time habits with the same strategy and devotion that we conduct our professional lives. I want to be in a world where we invest the same intention and attention to ourselves as we do our business and our relationships. We are not mere tools for significant work, but rather creators who are inherently worthy of care. We must understand that self-neglect is no longer a legitimate, celebrated, or acceptable consequence of the legacy we leave.

I love that you are calling to the mat the very “badges of honor” that are hurting us an individuals—busyness, overachievement, self-neglect. In many ways, it seems like the timing has never been more crucial to tackle these issues. To that end, who is your typical client?

My typical client is a high-achieving doer who has forgotten or never known how to be. While I have a few (all fabulous) men in my practice, the typical bnourished client is a high-functioning female between the ages 35-65 who is taking care of business at the expense of taking care of herself. She is an executive, leader, entrepreneur who is so highly capable that she and everyone else goes to her to get things done. She skillfully serves her work, family, community and saves only crumbs for herself. Her expectations of herself far exceed her commitment to her wellbeing. Her exhausted head hits the pillow after a dizzying day of daunting tasks, and she quietly promises herself that tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow she will take a break, exercise, eat better, have one less glass of wine, stop losing herself in social media and calling it relaxing, take a deep breath, call her long-neglected friend.

But by tomorrow, overwhelm returns, sometimes as soon as her eyes open to face the day ahead and the depleting cycle of yesterday continues. She underestimates the positive impact of slowing down while also craving permission to pause. She knows she needs a new approach, even knows what she needs to do, but "the how" is elusive. What she knows for sure is that her path is not sustainable if she wants to be vibrant and healthy in the future. The guilt and perfectionism weigh heavy as she gains awareness that she has mastered the art of saying no… to herself.

Clients describe me as a holistic executive coach with vast resources going far beyond the typical coaching tool kit. My clients come to me because they are ready to be held accountable to the lives they say they want. When my curated resources and honed expertise join forces with their already established ability to get things done and intention to change, clients transform in breathtaking, lasting ways. Their inevitable badassery still astounds me, even though I bear witness to it every time.

You must meet so many amazing people through your work! As you reflect on your journey, and all the people you come across, how have your definitions about leadership evolved? How would you define leadership?

Leadership begins with how we lead our lives through our daily habits. Authentic leadership requires us to honor the responsibility and privilege of being a human being in a physical body and mind that need attention. We forget that our vitality is what fuels our success. We MUST find alternate sources of energy beyond sheer determination, debt to future energy, frenetic reactivity, people-pleasing, and sugar and caffeine fueled bursts. Only then can we lead with creativity, focus, and confidence.

What lessons have you learned along the way that have continued to shape your business?

For three decades, I have studied nutrition, wellness, productivity, mindfulness, home organization, and time management. For a decade, I have applied these best practices in the intimate work of coaching and have concluded that compassion and consistency are underutilized tools for transformation and evolution. For years I beat myself up because I believed that shame and self-disgust were effective catalysts for change.

I also chased the high of dramatic changes like fasts, extreme diets, boot camps, etc. rather than harness the under-appreciated and proven power of implementing small habits consistently for lasting change.

I was not alone in navigating life in this way. I see this same destructive approach dismantle the best of intentions and the strongest of spirits over and over again.

I am sure so many people will be able to relate to that. In a different thread, what advice would you have for other entrepreneurs and leaders?

For those of you who want to launch your career, I ask you to study yourself first. Be deeply curious about who you are, what makes you hum, how you soar, when you thrive and build a business with a profound respect for all you have learned about yourself. Turn your attention away from others to avoid suffering from distracting and debilitating "comparisonitis." Instead, look inward and ask how you can best serve you and the world as only you can.

Your life, your challenges, your delights, your triumphs, and your strengths shape you in a way that makes you unrepeatable. So do not deprive the rest of us of your glory and gifts. Unapologetically do you.

There will never be any competition when you do. You need only compare yourself with the version of you from yesterday and the aspirational version of you from the future. Let that perspective be your guide.

For those already established, I implore you to learn to love the business-the numbers, stats, trends, content, marketing, etc-as much as you love the craft. Dedicate a significant portion of your workweek to working ON your business as well as in it.

OK, final question… what can we expect from you in the coming months?!

I continue to build my work as a Keynote Presenter. When people gather with the common goal of learning and evolving, magic inevitably results. I challenge participants to not only passively listen but to commit to making one shift for which they are held accountable. For years, I read mountains of self-help books, but my life did not change. Only my expectations and sense of failure heightened. I changed only when I consistently adopted the habits and strategies I knew I needed to do to be the person I wanted to be.

I lead retreats for executive groups like the Women President’s Organization and will continue to grow that aspect of my business in addition to presenting to corporations. When done in community, this exploration and its inherent accountability change cultures and lives.

In all my speaking work, I topple the current perception of self-care as selfish and instead offer an alternative mindset. Self-neglect is, in fact, selfish because when depleted and resentful, we bring only a fraction of ourselves to the work and the world when we are needed most.

The core work remains my concierge coaching, where a client and I devote six-months to her dramatic transformation. I only take a total of 20 clients per year so I can focus on each client’s awakening during and between sessions. We disrupt every habit she has and design new ones that create the more evolved version of herself, the one she has always wanted but did not know how to claim.

In 2020, I plan on launching a time management tool. I know how effective paper planning is and observe how few people truly know how to craft their days intentionally. I have studied, used, adapted paper planners since I was a little girl trying to make sense of the world. Wrapping notebooks in wallpaper and cutting and pasting until the format challenged me to be successful, I attempted to make order out of the chaos. My lifelong obsession with planners and an exhaustive, disappointing search for one that aligned with my studied approach to time management force me to design my own. So many of us have calendars with appointments and external commitments to which to react, but few of us deliberately plan and strategize our days. We need a trusted tool to keep our contract with ourselves with the same devotion we tend to external obligations.

Online course content on topics covered in the private work will soon follow so that I can extend my reach beyond my capacity for one-on-one coaching.

For those relieved to know there is a remedy to overwhelm, I encourage you to schedule a complimentary strategy session. 30-minutes. About you. For you.

To learn more about how Katie is transforming lives, one mindful habit a time, visit bnourished by clicking here. There, you can schedule your free session and sign up for nourishing content, including Katie’s curated and substantive resource guide.

To register for the upcoming Nexus event, taking place Sept. 27 from 8:30-11:30 am, featuring Katie, click here.

Carrie Majewski is committed to affecting change. As Founder of the Women in Leadership Nexus, Carrie is fueled by a desire to create safe space for female luminaries to convene to redefine the notion of leadership. She has forged a career around strategic writing and storytelling, having led a digital marketing agency for almost three years and today working as VP of Marketing for Trilix. Carrie is a 2017 Rhode Island “40 Under 40” honoree and a 2016 Rhode Island Tech10 Winner. In her spare time you'll find her trying out a local hip-hop class, exploring parks with her rescue dog Tori, and sipping coffee with other powerhouse women.