Dr. Heather Denniston bridges the connection between personal well-being and professional success for elite leaders and their teams.
In this episode of The Leader Assistant Podcast, Dr. Denniston shares her career journey, chats about well-being (at home and at work), and walks through the concept of “Energy Leakage Liability” and how we unnecessarily spill our limited energy.
Be sure to download Dr. Denniston’s free Energy Leakage Liability Inventory to learn how you are leaking energy during your day.
You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. Your goal is your desired outcome. Your system is the collection of daily habits that will get you there.
– James Clear (Atomic Habits)
CONNECT WITH DR. DENNISTON
ABOUT DR. DENNISTON
Dr. Denniston bridges the connection between personal well-being and professional success for elite leaders and their teams.
She delivers custom solutions for burnout and stress and provides cohesive habit-training strategies that maximize vitality, productivity, and resilience.
Her Wellness Amplifier Performance Program is sourced from 25 years of private practice and working with companies from small start-ups to global giants like Microsoft.
As a keynote speaker and coach, she motivates audiences covering topics from health and wellness to stress and resilience. She is the author of Three Day Reset and a regular contributor to several online wellness publications such as Thrive Global and Medium.
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Dr. Heather Denniston 0:00
Hi I’m Dr. Heather Denniston today’s leadership quote comes from James clears atomic habits you do not rise to the level of your goals you fall to the level of your systems your goal is your desired outcome your system is the collection of daily habits that will get you there.
Podcast Intro 0:21
The Leader Assistant Podcast exists to encourage and challenge assistants to become confident game changing leader assistants
Jeremy Burrows 0:35
Hey friends, it’s your host, Jeremy Burrows. And I just wanted to let you know a little bit about today’s sponsor. The Leader Assistant Podcast is brought to you by goody with employee burnout at all time highs it’s so important to make your team feel appreciated and recognized. With goody you can connect your HR system and automatically send gifts for employees birthdays and work anniversaries. Talk about automating before your role is automated. It’s a modern hands free way to show your team members how much you appreciate them. Goody is free to start gifting and you can get a $20 credit when you sign up. Be sure to mention The Leader Assistant Podcast and goody will add an extra $10 credit to your account. Go to leaderassistant.com/goody to give goody a try. Hey friends. Thanks for tuning in to The Leader Assistant Podcast it your host Jeremy Burrows and welcome to episode 181. You can check out the show notes for today’s episode at leaderassistant.com/181. And today I’m excited to be speaking with Dr. Heather Denniston. Heather is a wellness strategist and the CEO of well fit and fed. Heather. How’s it going?
Dr. Heather Denniston 1:57
It’s going very well. Thank you for having me. This is gonna be really fun.
Jeremy Burrows 2:01
Yeah, let’s let’s dive right in. Why? So tell us a little bit about let’s let’s go back a little bit. What was your first job was your first job?
Dr. Heather Denniston 2:14
Oh, my goodness. My first job was at EXPO 1986 at Boston Pizza in Vancouver, British Columbia and had to take the bus down an hour and a half from my town in the suburbs to go work at a pizza place during the expo and then take the midnight bus home. That was my first job.
Jeremy Burrows 2:33
Wow. Did you take pizza home with you? Course? Of course. Silly question. Right. So okay, then fast forward a little bit. What kind of experience do you have in your in your career?
Dr. Heather Denniston 2:47
So I went to college thinking I was going to be a marine biologist. And then I realized I’d have to look through a microscope all the time. And I didn’t want to do that. So I had a friend who went off to chiropractic school. And I said, What is that and he was all excited about it. And after he finished talking to me, I was just ready to go. I loved the idea of it. So I finished my degree in at University of Victoria in Canada, and jaunted down to Southern California or actually Northern California, outside San Francisco, and did three years of a chiropractic degree there. And once graduated, stayed in the States, I moved to Washington and started my practice there. And that’s been my career journey. About five years ago, after 20 years of practice, I left practice and moved into the speaking and presenting and consulting space.
Jeremy Burrows 3:44
Awesome. And when you were running your own practice, did you have an assistant or another type of assistant in that world?
Dr. Heather Denniston 3:53
I did over you know, 20 years of doing a practice. I had a few and I had just some of the most fond memories of the different folks that came through my practice. And they were just fantastic. It was wonderful.
Jeremy Burrows 4:10
Awesome. So what’s maybe a moment that you can think of or maybe a story you could share about how chaos ensued and your assistant and team helped helped you kind of
Dr. Heather Denniston 4:26
figure it out? Oh, gosh. story that just came to mind when you ask that because I did not know that was going to be a question but it is funny what pops into our minds when a question comes forward. And that was I had a really very pivotal moment in my practice where three of my staff quit in about a week and two had great reasons for what they what they were moving on to do. And one of them it was a case of me being a incredible micromanager and not a good leader. And it was a real learning moment for me. But my office manager at the time had also given her notice, but about a month before she was staying with me for six weeks or so. And she came into the office after I it was Armageddon. And she said, Heather, I am going to stay with you until we backfill, everybody. And I thought here was somebody who had such a vested interest in the success of the practice, put her own plans aside to come alongside me and support me in continuing the journey of building this incredible practice that we had, and bringing in some new, talented and credible people, which we did. And really largely because she agreed to stay and work alongside me for that. So I would say that, thanks. Thank you, Lindsay, for supporting me through that really tough time.
Jeremy Burrows 5:52
Wow. Yeah, that’s, that’s awesome to have that support. And she was a huge, huge part of that.
Dr. Heather Denniston 5:58
She was she was incredible.
Jeremy Burrows 6:02
Awesome. So we’ll talk a little bit more about assistance here in a minute. But how did you go from being a chiropractor to working you mentioned, you know, you started your career, but how did you kind of get into that working with corporations, professional and personal well being?
Dr. Heather Denniston 6:21
Yeah, I have a long well being personal journey that started when I was about 2021, with a lot of ill health, that took many years to turn around. And then I’ve worked with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of patients on their personal well being. And there was a point, I would say, about seven years ago, I’ve now been out of brick and mortar practice for five years. But about seven years ago, I started to get a leading, that there was change coming for me. And I tend to be really responsive to that because I feel like we have this one life to lead. And if we are being led in a different direction, we need to at least explore it. And I kept getting these Inklings about writing about publishing about speaking about spreading concepts of wellness, practical implementable sustainable concepts, to bigger groups of people. And what was interesting is my practice was located right in the center, Costco headquarters, Microsoft, Expedia, Amazon, Starbucks, it’s so many corporations just right around me. So my patient base was largely corporate employees. And I felt like I needed to get to them sooner than by the time they were on my table. And I started to see patterns of stress on the body and the nervous system coming through that I thought, you know, what if I could impact earlier that we could save some of these folks from really difficult health outages that impacted their quality of life and the things they cared about. And so that’s what I did is I sold my practice to two lovely sisters from Wisconsin who are still caring for my patients today. And I moved into first the online space as a blogger and a writer and published a few things. And then I really got the itch to start presenting. And that’s what I’ve been doing just full force the last couple of years.
Jeremy Burrows 8:18
Wow, that’s great. So how did you get into? I know a lot of assistants that I talked to they, in especially the leader, long term assistants, they’re like, hey, I want to start something, I want to start a blog. I want to start training. I want to help other assistants, I want to put myself out there. What was that process like for you? Okay, you started blogging individually into speaking, any tips for those listening who want to jump into something like that someday? Yeah, that’s
Dr. Heather Denniston 8:48
it? That’s a great question. I think, when I look at other folks who kind of done that same journey that I have, who I’m peer with, and maybe we mastermind together, and we talk about this quite a bit, I would say the first thing that comes to mind is use your network. And there’s a saying your network is your net worth. And so really tapping into first, second and third degree network as much as you possibly can. And you’d be amazed how people want to support you. And so don’t be afraid to reach out and call uncle so and so who works somewhere that might actually be interested in what you’re offering. Or call that person who was you know, a friend of a friend. I think that’s really essential. And I also think to it showing up every day. And so I remember a story about a young kid as a professional golfer, who was hopeful professional golfer, and I remember his coach saying, what’s different about him than somebody else who doesn’t make it as he just shows up every day, no matter what is do the work. Make the calls. If you’re writing write, if you are trying to make connections network Go and just do the work every day. And that’s the hardest thing. I think when we’re transitioning into being a solopreneur is making sure that we put the time in and on quality tasks, not just things that make us busy.
Jeremy Burrows 10:14
Yeah. Yeah, well said, I think that was one of the biggest things for me when I started was, especially when I started this podcast a few years ago was, I didn’t even want to start a podcast unless I knew that I had enough content or could come up with enough people to talk to, you know, all that stuff. Yeah, to be able to do one every week. And so 100 and this is episode 181. And, you know, I’ve only missed, like two weeks. So that’s just so incredible. But consistency just goes a long ways. So
Dr. Heather Denniston 10:49
it sure It sure does. And you probably are just proof that, you know, it’s showing up and showing up and showing up and it feels like you’re just digging and digging and digging and not hitting gold. And then all of a sudden, okay, people are listening, people are downloading their you know, they’re supporting me. And it just takes time.
Jeremy Burrows 11:11
Yeah. So when did you when did you really kind of hit that point where? All right, I’m not just blogging anymore, but I’m showing up to Costco and doing a training for their employees.
Dr. Heather Denniston 11:26
Yeah, it started with I, you know, a lot of us as as solopreneurs, we put a few products out there that maybe don’t do as well as we’d hoped. But we learn a ton from them. And I did a membership program called the change cave, which was a sort of women’s centric wellbeing membership program. And it was 12 months long, 83 downloadable PDFs, and wow, surprise, Nobody followed through. And, and but I learned so much there. And so what came of that was a very distilled down short product, that is all the low hanging fruit for practical well being that we can implement right away, and very strategic to bridge the connection between personal well being and professional success. So to answer your question, it took some trials, some iterations to land on something that I’m like, this is going to work for people. And it gave me the confidence to go into corporations and call my connections and say, Hey, I have this really cool product that I think is going to leave a really big impact. And it’s interesting, it was a lead admin at Microsoft, who took a chance on the project. And she piloted the program. And then she ran it again. And then two of the admins that were in that group, they ran it for their groups. And that was that was it. And so I’m just so grateful to that first admin Melinda, who said, Yes, this is important. We need to support our admins in their personal well being in not just their work performance, but in helping them show up as better humans. And we had a ball doing it and we got great results. And it was super exciting.
Jeremy Burrows 13:11
Nice. So what would be one thing that you want all assistants listening, maybe maybe one practical tip on well being, you know, maybe one philosophy, whatever it is that, you know, assistants listening, they’re sitting at their computers all day, I’m sitting here, you know, massage my shoulder, because I’ve been slouched at a laptop for, you know, eight hours today. What, what’s one thing you think that could be helpful tomorrow or today for these assistants listening?
Dr. Heather Denniston 13:47
So I do and I’ll, I’ll keep this as short as possible. But if you envision a circle on one side, and a circle on the other side and a line joining the two circles, and on the left, inside the circle is illness. And on the right inside the circle is wellness. Inside the circle of illness, that’s symptoms and signs. It’s a snotty nose, you have a cold, it’s upset stomach, bad salsa, but just outside that circle on the line, no signs or symptoms. But does that person really well? No, there’s a long line to journey to true wellness. So just three quick points. One is Don’t assess your well being by the absence of signs or symptoms. We need to be pursuing well being consistently intentionally, and we need to be making it a priority. In the in the middle of that line is those of us who go whoa, I’m doing pretty good. I’m like halfway toward wellness but maybe I’m not perfect. But I’m gonna just hang out right here. We have to also remember we are part of a beautiful life cycle and as part of that we are most of us in a state of degenerative change heading toward a very long dirt nap. Bad news But the point is that if we are complacent and if we are cavalier about our well being, we’re actually in a headwind, and we’re being blown backwards. So the rapidity with which we degenerate in all aspects of our life is largely due to the well being choices we make, when I share that with people that helps give them permission to not tack their well being choices to a bikini body, or six pack abs, or we’re doing something well being because somebody said they should they do it because they want to slow that journey down of where we’re headed toward Well, wellbeing and allow us to lean in there. And then finally, and this is the point that I want to make from the question is, well, being that journey toward it is really a tightrope. And as tightrope artists, we don’t leap along the tightrope heading toward well being, it’s heel, toe, heel, toe, heel, toe, consistent, small chips, made over time, one glass of water, half hour extra asleep, five minutes of meditation, but done consistently, over time, will get you big change. And so that’s my advice is pick one thing, make it small, implemented consistently. And when that becomes a routine, and you don’t have to think about that one extra glass of water every day, you add another. And so these big 21 days, this and a 30 day that and all these big aggressive shifts often are not aligned with how we do behavioral change as humans. And so really important to recognize and respect that we do much better with tiny shifts made over time than big, grandiose changes that we think are oh, I’m going to be this or this now. We actually get better results with smaller change.
Jeremy Burrows 16:52
Yeah, and that’s what that book atomic habits is all about, which you quoted in the beginning of the episode. So
Dr. Heather Denniston 17:00
can I can I dovetail off that then because why I love that quote so much is we do not rise to the level of our goals, we fall to the level our systems. So when I coach one to one, a lot of what we’re working on is, okay, Jeremy, you want to start a early morning swimming program? Well, if you don’t have your suit ready, and your your clothes to throw on before you get in a cold truck, and you don’t have like your coffeemaker on already, you don’t have all the systems in place to make that habit really slippery, you’re going to fail. And so what we spent a lot of time doing is evaluating environments, looking at systems, how can we just make this so easy for you. And that tends to be really helpful for folks to so if you’re looking to implement an exercise program, or start drinking water, or start eating better food, look at the environment in which you’re trying to establish or plant that
Jeremy Burrows 17:54
little habit? Yeah, great. So tell us a little bit about this concept of you gave me a little bit of a cheat sheet for our conversation, this kind of energy leakage liability. What is that?
Dr. Heather Denniston 18:11
I’m glad that we came here. And it’s one reason why I didn’t share this as the one tool for some for your audience, because I probably would have shared that. But knowing we were going to get to it. I’d left it for for last. And so it’s a big mouthful of words, energy leakage liability, all that’s talking about is all through practice, when I had patients who would get so excited about becoming well and starting a walking program and starting to eat better. And two weeks later, they come into my office, and I’d be like, how’s it going? And they’d say that And inevitably, they fallen off the wagon, and I think, ah, lack of trying lack of willpower? No, I realized they were missing some very foundational pieces of their well being and the first one was becoming conscious and aware of how they’re spending their energy. And most people don’t realize that you wake up with a certain amount of brain battery. And we deplete it during the day with different things such as decision fatigue, or paying attention or multitasking. Now admins have to multitask. But there’s ways that we can do it that actually preserve our energy. And there’s another type of energy sucking thing that happens. And that’s called Soul sack, which is more of the heart centered stuff, things like toxic relationships. Things like being doing things that are not in your strengths, where you’re working in your weakness, it’s much more energy depleting, those sorts of things. So taking an inventory throughout your day and just going where am I spending energy? Oh, I’m making that decision over and over every day. Do I need to Should I put my keys in the same spot so I don’t have to go looking for them every day. Should I meal prep? upon a Sunday, so I don’t have to read aside how to make dinner every night, should I lay out my exercise stuff for the week, so I always am ready to go. And it’s less stressful, less energy. So what I usually do with folks is I put them through an energy leakage inventory assessment, and it’s 75 questions that helps us identify where are you spilling energy unnecessarily, it might be permeable boundaries, it might be, like I said, friendships that no longer serve you. So it’s really important to assess that because when we do, and we shore that up, it gives us bandwidth to spend time on the things that are more important, such as our own well being. So that’s what I want to share with your audience today, I think it’s a really important starting point for anyone who’s up leveling their well being. So it’s a free download, just go ahead and take the test. And you can see where you land, whether you’re dripping or overflowing or flooding. And that will help you assess like, oh, okay, these are places I need to shore up my energy.
Jeremy Burrows 21:09
That’s great. And we will link to that in the show notes at leader asst.com/ 181. You can get the energy leakage liability inventory and help you get started and also help it help you get connected with Heather as well. So, leader assistant.com/ 181? Well, Heather, what is maybe your 62nd answer to the big question that I like to ask most of my guests, and we’ll get back to the assistant role. What makes an assistant
Dr. Heather Denniston 21:48
a leader who I like that a lot?
Jeremy Burrows 21:56
Dr. Heather Denniston 21:57
I’m going to answer that in two ways. I will try to keep it to 60 seconds. I believe confidence, growth, mindset, curiosity, and a willingness to take risks are key factors in leadership. But I also have experience with several admins in my own personal experience, and they elicited traits that I also think are really important. Can I share those? Yeah, of course. Okay. So I’m gonna by name. So Michael, Peter was one of my office managers, and he was my longest term office manager. And he anticipated need like nobody else. That is a huge trait. I think that is just so valuable to leaders, Don King, accountability, so readily admitting when you made a mistake, and not being afraid that it’s going to result in be too much feedback or threatened that you’re, you know, that if I admit this, I can make it right and move forward. That’s a huge one. Lindsey Sumner. She’s the one I mentioned earlier, first time profession proficiency. And I think that’s really important, where attention to detail is such a huge responsibility on admins. And I think when a leader like myself can count on first time excellence. It’s a game changer, because we’re not second guessing and feeling like we have to micromanage right and double check everything. So first time proficiency is huge. Aaron Kramer is best adness. So believing in not just the leader, but the company you’re working for and feeling a vested interest in being part of the team and the company as a whole. I think that’s huge. Loyalty was Jaime Holtz. And Amelia Stark was a champion she championed for me on my behalf on a regular basis. So I know that’s a lot, but I really wanted to do a shout out to each of those folks who served me for the long time, and I just appreciate and love them so much. And so thank you for letting me mention them and their strongest traits here.
Jeremy Burrows 24:00
Awesome. Yeah. Thanks for sharing. Heather. That’s awesome. Sounds like you’ve worked with some good people over the years. For sure. Yes. So one, one last little question. So if I am listening to this episode, and I have an assistant team or I’m tasked with the corporate you know, training or development for personal well being for my company, what’s what’s kind of an example of how you work with with corporations specifically like is it a half a day workshop? Is it a two hour training you know, what are a couple of things you would be able to come into our teams at our corporations and and help out?
Dr. Heather Denniston 24:42
Yeah, great question. Thank you for asking that. I am so enthusiastic and excited about some of the products that we’re offering now. One of them is called the wellness super sessions. It’s a two part series 290 minute or we can do it in 260 minute but 290 minute is it Well, because they’re highly interactive activity based sessions on well being. The second is the product I spoke to about before called the wellness amplifier performance program. And that is highly geared to come in have big impact big transformation. It offers personalized coaching for each of the attendees. It offers an eight week online program that they have access to forever, and some live sessions as well. And so that’s a really fun program. But I also have come in and done one off keynotes, etc, to just really help inspire and create enthusiasm in folks and help them getting on top of their own well being. Because even though we are fingers crossed most of the way through a locked down pandemic, we are far from being well, again, and we are seeing outages, particularly in the culture that you speak to where people are burnt out. They’re anxious, they’re depressed, they’re stressed, they’re not sure how to prioritize their self care, and they need help. And so that’s where I come in.
Jeremy Burrows 26:06
Love it. Well, how can people get a hold of you if they if they want to learn more?
Speaker 1 26:10
Super. I’m always on LinkedIn. And so message me on LinkedIn is great under Heather Denniston. And then you can also check out my website at wellfitandfed.com Wellfitandfed.com.
Jeremy Burrows 26:24
Perfect, and I’ll put those links in the show notes as well of course and yeah, hopefully, you all listening have learned a little bit today and we’ll connect with Heather and get your wellness on right.
Dr. Heather Denniston 26:36
Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. Thank you for having me, Jeremy. I really appreciate it. You’re doing wonderful work.
Podcast Intro 26:52
pleased to have you on Apple podcast.