SAVE THE DATE: Sleep Summit Oct 8-11, 2024

CEO Christina Dyer Talks About the “Noblest Adventure” Your Company Can Take

Join BT for Season 2 as he chats with female executives the mattress/furniture space and other underrepresented industries!

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Season 2 of “Just Stories with BT” features all Female Executive guests in the mattress/furniture space or other underrepresented industries!

These episodes focus on getting to know the amazing woman behind these roles and giving a platform to talk about getting our male dominated industries more balanced out!

Episode 15’s guest, Noble Adventures’ CEO and Founder Christina Dyer, has a remarkable story that you NEED to hear! Her journey is so unique, and she walks us through the beginning of her career as a social worker, traveling the world taking photos, documenting genocide in Uganda, and launching Noble Adventures—a company that takes leadership teams on remarkable journeys all over the world! I was so inspired by her humility, transparency of her failures, and her life pivots that took her to where she is today. She always gives up-and-coming women in business amazing advice to up-because she wishes someone would have given it to her! Watch or listen today 

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Full Transcription:

Brett Thornton: All right, welcome back to another episode of “Just Stories with Bt”, season two, focusing on female executives. I’m extremely excited today because, I have an amazing guest, Christina Dyer. Welcome to the show.

Christina Dyer: Thank you so much for having me, Brett. This is awesome. 

Brett Thornton: Yes. I’m very excited about this episode. I’ve had a lot of different people on the show. And so, I have not had someone who kind of does what you do yet, which is great. So, I’ll get to learn a little bit about that and we’ll talk about that in a little while. But before we do that, I love to introduce my guests for them, right? So, you don’t have the pressure of saying, “Hey, what do I say about myself? How do I make myself sound cool without being cocky?” It’s a whole issue that people go through. So, I’m going to take that off your plate and I will introduce you. And then afterwards, you can tell me what I missed and fill in the gap. Sound good? 

Christina Dyer: Sounds good. 

Brett Thornton: All right, everybody and listeners. This is Christina Dyer. So here we go, ready? Alright, she was born in a very small town in Illinois. And she grew up in Wilmington, which has only 4500 people, it’s right off route 66. As a child, she grew up, she had a hobby of collecting stuffed animals. She had at one point up to 60 and my favourite part about this is that, she had a rotating calendar of snuggle time, so that no animals would be left off the list of not being on snuggle, which I love. We’re going to come back to that. She grew up doing gymnastics. As she got into high school, she was into cheerleading, leadership retreats, she also had to take the bus from 40 minutes to get to school because she lived in a really small town. As she grew up and got her licence, I’m presuming, she got her first job at the launching pad, which was literally like American Graffiti, old school, little Dairy Queen in a small town where everyone would hang out and park their trucks. So that’s where she works called the pad. After that, she went away to college, to Illinois State University majoring in retail marketing so, right up my alley. Outside of college, she got her first job at Neiman Marcus in Chicago. Eventually that led her to move to California in 1988, where she eventually met her husband and got married in 1996. So, she just celebrated her 25-year wedding anniversary, so congratulations! That’s amazing. During that time, she also got her master’s at Fullerton State University, which is right by our offices, which is great. She has three sons who are now 17, 20 and 21. So congratulations, you’ve gotten through the crazy times. She started out in Child Protective Services, which is obviously very difficult job. She was getting a little burnt out. She had an opportunity to go on Dan rather work 48 hours, which is the show. I remember my parents watching it while I was growing up. And while on after the show aired, or when you were done filming, the producers came up and said, “Christina, you’re wasting your talent. You should be in front of the camera, you should be yourself, charismatic. You should be doing this.” And that spurred her into thinking, maybe I should. She got married. On her honeymoon, a backpacking trip around the world, she came back and realised she want to start a family. So, she’s like, how can I work and have a family so, she started her own photography business, which she did for a long time and that parlayed into a lot of other different jobs. She became an executive, studying critical human performance issues for different companies. That led her to become the founder and CEO and start noble adventures in 2008, what she still has today and she helps CEOs and executives and senior leadership align and drive people forward for success. Recently, she partnered up with her nanny Alves. He’s one of my close friends, who’s an amazing business person. So, I’m really excited to talk about that as well. And here we are now in 2021, you’re on “Just Stories with Bt Podcast”.

Christina Dyer: Wow! That’s kind of amazing. 

Brett Thornton: That was a lot. You gave me a lot. I was trying t o figure out, how do I get this? Oh, what did I miss? 

Christina Dyer: The only thing that was off, just a little bit, was that I started my business in 2008 as Christina Dyer consulting, doing consulting for corporations. Noble adventures weren’t birthed until 2018. So, it’s still pretty new. But I just felt like, we needed something more transformational. And that combined all my loves, which is, people, number one, giving back and doing service and then having fun. And so, “Noble Adventures” was created around that. It’s a longer story than that but, yeah.

Brett Thornton: Yes, they always are. So, really quick from the intro, tell me, I want to learn more about this snuggle schedule thing. Was this like a chart on your wall? 

Christina Dyer: So, I had a dresser that was one of those armoires, right? The drawers below and then the armoire and I just had so many stuffed animals. I still have my first stuffed animal, sitting over there on my shelf and his name was Bimbo. He’s a little blue elephant. I got him when I was four. 

Brett Thornton: Wow. 

Christina Dyer: So, I had a hard time pushing him off the bed and letting him lay there and stare at me. So, I created this chart and I thought I would just rotate and put two in bed with me every night and I would set them up. I just think it kind of reflects on my care about people and making sure that people feel that they matter, that they’re necessary and that we all need connection.

Brett Thornton: Yes.

Christina Dyer: To be honest, that’s been my through line in life. 

Brett Thornton: Yeah, absolutely. I love it. She’s going to hate me for saying this, well hopefully, she does listen and then she still hates me. But my sister had a glass dog collection as a kid. Little glass dogs, right? So, it became this thing where my aunts, uncles and my grandma, when she was little, it was like, “Oh, she likes these little glass dogs.” So, they would buy them for birthdays and stuff. Then eventually, she aged out of not wanting glass dogs anymore. But it was like this thing that she didn’t have the heart to tell people that I don’t like this anymore. And so, she keeps getting them for presents and I would laugh so hard, because I knew inside that she hated it. But she didn’t ever say anything. So, she had this giant collection. And now, we as adults, I still make fun of her for it all the time. I am always like, oh yeah, talking about the collection.

Christina Dyer: It’s one of those things where you’re like, “Oh, I really want an iPod and they’re giving me glass dogs.”

Brett Thornton: So, there was one other thing that you didn’t mention in your intro, but I read about it in your bio on LinkedIn. Was this time that you worked with that foundation for Rwanda, in 2008? I want to hear more about that, because we might have some connections in common. So, how did that come about? What was that all about?

Christina Dyer: So, you mentioned that I backpacked around the world for a year for my honeymoon. And we did that intentionally because, I knew we were going to start a family. I always had this intense wanderlust and so, we did that, right? We went to Africa, did all of that. But once I started a family, I started to long for the travelling and all that stuff again. I had started the photography business so that I could stay home and raise my boys on my own. I was watching an Oprah show with Anderson Cooper. It was about all these starving people in the Niger. And I broke down and sobbed and thought, “What can I possibly do?” Because there’s no record of these people, there are no pictures of these people. They walk for 50 miles to get medical help; their child dies and they have to bury him right there and then walk back to their village without their child and there’s no record. I thought, here I am taking pictures at birth, 3, 6, 9, 12 months and there’s too many pictures. God, what can I do? And it kind of came into me to go there and take their pictures for them. And I thought, well, that is so weird. They need water, not a photograph. So anyway, long story short, I did a search, one thing led to another and then all of a sudden, I got to this page, that these people sold their wedding rings and went to Rwanda to help after meeting a refuge, and they were about 40 minutes from my home. I mean, I started on the gate’s foundation and I end up right around the corner. I picked up the phone, called the guy that runs the foundation and I said, “I want to help and I don’t know how”. He said, “What do you do?” I said, “Take pictures. He said, “Send me some of your stuff”. So, I sent it and he called me back and said, “Will you come on our trip with us and take pictures and record these families because the photographs are so important to them? Because so many people died in the genocide. All they had left was a picture.” So that started in 2006. I went, I experienced it. I met so many survivors and I came back to the United States pretty changed. The political injustices for, these people, they can’t even self-actualize because they’re trying to get food, water and shelter and then they’re killed. And even if we do a ton as a charitable work to feed them, if the government kills them, they die on a full stomach, right? So that led to a Rwandan hearing me say a lot of these things, then one thing led to another and I was introduced to Paul Recesso Begina, the man that Don Cheadle played in the movie, “Hotel Rwanda”. I flew to New York, I met him and some of the ambassadors during that time to Burundi and Rwanda and heard a different story about what happened. Then Paul asked me to work for him. So, then I started to run his non-profit. And our focus was working with widows and orphans and then trying to get a truth and reconciliation commission, similar to what had been done in South Africa with Bishop Desmond Tutu. And so that lasted a couple of years. It was kind of a scary time.

Brett Thornton: We were doing similar things on opposite sides of the country because, I was doing something very similar in Burma at the time. So, we went, we made a documentary film on the genocide that was going on inside of Burma with the Korean people at the exact same time, 2006-2007. The group that funded us to go was called “Invisible Children”, which had produced that amazing movie that was on Oprah and everywhere about the children, child soldiers from Rwanda. So, I don’t know if you knew those guys, but those guys actually funded our documentary film.

Christina Dyer: Okay, I know of them. I know of the one leader that suffered from it. 

Brett Thornton: Yeah, Jason. So, pretty incredible times. But it’s those type of trips and those type of engagements, you know, that they definitely do change your life because, you can’t look at -at least for me- life the same. When I came back, like you said, the stories are so devastating, you come back and it’s like wait, don’t you guys realise that on the other side this stuff is happening and it just goes over and you can’t blame people but, it is what it is. We had a lady who talked to us about the road. The film that we had is called “The Road”. It was because the Burmese army was building roads through the jungle, so they could basically take over and eradicate the Korean. And this one mother saying how she was walking along the jungle to get to this displacement camp and they would get coming up to the road, all these soldiers start coming, she has six kids and her husband’s already been killed. And she has a baby, the baby starts to cry. So, her choice is, I got to cover my baby’s mouth. Otherwise, my other five kids are going to die. And she had to suffocate her child to save her other five. All these stories and you’re just sitting there going, you can’t look at things the same after that type of thing. I think, not that’s obviously an extreme, but I do think it’s important, especially for the young generation, you’ve got to travel to get out of your bubble, you know, you have got to get out of this see what is happening.

Christina Dyer: Absolutely. Actually, Rwanda was where “Noble Adventures” was born. I just didn’t have a name for it and I thought it was too big and too impossible. When I did tell people about my idea, I got so much pushback. But you know what, that’s probably one of my biggest life’s learnings that, do not listen to the naysayers. When I wanted to backpack around the world for my honeymoon, like we did, when people said what are you doing for your honeymoon? I’d say we’re going to backpack. They’re like, what are you doing? You should spend that money on a house, you’re going to be so far behind, and I don’t know whose timetable I was behind, but I absolutely just protected the idea like it was a baby. I didn’t show it to people and say, “What do you think of my child? Does it look good to you?” I started to say, “This is my baby” and I am not telling anybody or if I decide to tell them and they say something negative, I’m just going to politely walk away. You really have to do that; you have to protect your dreams. And so, the same with Noble Adventures, but the talk was inside my own head, how it’s not going to work. I talked to one person that’s a high-ranking CEO in a large fortune 20 company. And when I talked about how important a culture is in an organisation and how important team building and people have in psychological safety in their organisation, he said, “Oh, it’s just a bunch of white wash, you just need to go in and do your job and keep your mouth shut…” and blah blah. It was so disheartening, I thought, Okay, he’s not my demographic. He’s not my target audience. Don’t talk to him about it anymore. I learned that from that lesson, years ago and so I didn’t let it stop me. But there was a lot of, maybe he’s right, maybe he has more information than I know. So, it’s kind of been a dance and a little bit of a struggle in some of the ways, but I really just kind of get quiet and go with my heart and know that I’m on the right path. 

Brett Thornton: Yeah, so that’s actually perfect opportunity. So just give everyone the quick snapshot on “Noble Adventures”. So, what’s it about? What’s its purpose?

Christina Dyer: Right. So, in 2006, in Rwanda, we were going to Akagera, to go on a one-day Safari as a break from the work that we were doing on a mission project, building an orphanage. I was sitting next to an executive from “Caterpillar” and I was talking about how excited I was to go visit my family that I had been providing some funds for, leading up to this trip. He was talking about going to see his village that “Caterpillar” was providing funds for so, long story short, we basically talked about how little I could do, yes, I was impacting a family of six and he was impacting an entire village. They were funding a school, they were giving cows, which is life, giving goats, all kinds of thing, education to this family, and I said, it’s the impact that business could have on the world like, NGOs or non-profits can’t do it alone, the public sector can’t do it alone, the government can’t do it alone. We all have to work together. And if business saw the opportunity, the impact they could make around the world, I think they would get on board and do something. And he basically was in agreement with all of that, but I just kind of sat there and thought, I don’t know how to do this, right? So fast forward, I backpacked around the world, I’ve worked with these refugees, then I went into executive coaching, I’m a former therapist as well and then I went into social work. So, I’ve done so many different things but, one thing that I recognised is that cultures, you could transform in such a small period of time and doing these team building exercises and conference rooms and that work, but they kind of die off once you’re back into the environment and back into the setting. So, I created the idea that the “Noble Adventures” has three pillars, we go and we work on personal and professional development. Now personal is because you cannot be a leader and be unaware of yourself, victim to all your triggers. You have to have self-awareness, you have to have self-mastery, you’ve got to have the courage to work on yourself, so that you can be the best leader you can be. So, it’s personal and professional development. The second pillar is not doing fake team building or development in a fake ballroom somewhere in Chicago, but it’s actually going out and serving others and taking on that role as a servant leader and working side by side with people on a mission that is going to run a service project that’s going to have some impact, putting in water supply, building a school, building an orphanage, it’s just a day or two or three that we do the project. But at the same time, you recognise the shared humanity of the other, the people that we often don’t get to meet, we just hear about. So, and also as I know from my backpacking experience, going into a brand-new environment where things aren’t as comfortable, where you’re not sure of the water source, where it’s a new place, a new people, it makes you change a little bit. It makes you uncomfortable and it makes you kind of raw and open for change and everything is transferred. Then the final piece is the adventure piece. So, we do something that is specific to the location that we’re in, that is unlike anything else. So, like in October, we’re going to Mexico for Día de los Muertos, where the festival was born in the traditional city of Patzcuaro. And we’re going out to the island of Geneseo. We’re spending two days in that environment that is, celebrating the lives of those who have gone before. So, the whole entire week is about transformation, meaning and purpose, we’re going to examine the values of people. So, that was born in Rwanda, when there was so much going on. For the first time, some of us were seeing poverty and we didn’t have any room to process what we were experiencing with some of us felt bad about what we were saying, we had a lot of guilt about what we had versus what they had and we process this on our trip, so that you come out richer, stronger, better. and what to do with the experience once you return to the United States. So, that’s a noble adventure.

Brett Thornton: Yeah, so, these are companies that will send leadership groups or what?

Christina Dyer: Yeah, the ideal situation is to have an executive leadership team go, because then each one of them is just responsible for a department and if they want to come back and go with their smaller team, that’s fine. I’m the one that we have coming up is a couple of different people from one company, there’s a couple of different people from another company. So, the unique one about this is that we’re going to do something called teaming. It’s really getting people to know each other quickly and becoming a unified team all at once. That is based on some work by a Harvard psychologist, Amy Edmondson, who also coined the term psychological safety.

Brett Thornton: Nice. I love that a lot. So, tell us, I always ask for some stories so that the audience can kind of get to know you a little bit and I love to start out with just some type of a memory, a funny, entertaining story, something that when you think back throughout your life, your career, whatever it is that just you love to tell.

Christina Dyer: Well, I don’t necessarily tell this to a lot of people, but here I am and now a lot of people are going to hear this story. So, take me from social work, right? I’m taking children away from people and working really hard to reunify them. I was burnt out. And that’s the 48-hour story, right? It was when I realised, I was burnt out when the cameras were on me. and he said, you’re burnt out. And it hit me and I welled up and I’m like, “Oh, my God, I’m really burned.” So, when my husband said, “What do you want to do?” I said, “Quit everything, quit, sell, get rid of, let’s leave. I don’t want to just leave California. I want to leave the United States. I want to backpack around the world.” So, we did that. Well, my husband who had travelled a lot said, “let’s start out small, like, let’s go somewhere small. So, you can get acclimated.” I’ve never been out the United States. I said, no, we’re going to go to Africa and I’m going to see the migration on the Serengeti. So, I said, “this is what we’re doing”. This was 1997, so, there’s no internet and there were no cell phones, I mean, they have those ones that you plugged into your car, but what we have today, so fast forward, we make this around the world ticket where you can only have six steps. Our first step is in Nairobi, Kenya. I didn’t make any reservations, because I wanted to be a free spirit. So, we land in Nairobi at midnight, with no reservations, nowhere to go. I had never experienced a developing countries airport where there’s one or two lights on and there’s a lot of people standing around at midnight, for no reason. It was just bizarre. So, I went through a period of culture shock and they also warned us that a war, a genocide had just taken place and one of the neighbouring countries, there were a lot of refugees, they were desperate and we needed to be very careful. Turns out, years later, that I worked for those very same people, right?  But they were the Hutu and Tutsi. So, then we decided we’re going to go on a camping Safari and I’m having severe culture shock. So, the noises are really loud, I can’t sleep at night, I can’t go to the bathroom, I really can’t eat and I’m just a mess, right? I mean, imagine everything is shutting down and I’m like, wired. We go on this camping Safire Safari. We’re out in the middle of the Game Reserve and we’re seeing elephants and I’m like, “Okay, finally, I’m understanding why I’m here. This is like what I’m looking for” and we just stop, Nick, our driver says, “Okay, we are here.” I’m looking and I can see the elephants. I said, “we are where?” and he said, “We are here. We’re sleeping here.” And I was in a tent. Right? I didn’t do the, the whatever they’re called, where the bungalow and glamping and all that gusting old mildewed tent with spider eggs were in it and everything was horrible. Get what you pay for. So that very first night, I was terrified. It got black like pitch black and Nick and the other cooks said, “We’re going to go to sleep in the van to protect the food.” So of course, I’m going protect it from what? You know, and they’re saying, “Well, Christina, it is just from the animals.” And then all of a sudden, we hear feet coming and I’m like, “What is coming?” It was three Masai tribal men in the red with the beads and three spears and Nick says to me, “These are your guards for the night.” I said, “Where are we? What happened to me?” And so, one of the people on the trip was a doctor. We had everybody, they were Austrians. So, we didn’t speak the same language, but I knew he was a doctor. So, I went over to him and I said, “Please, do you have any sleeping pills?” He says, “No, go to the bar.” And I said, “What bar?” He pointed and there was a shack and the shack had this sign and it said “Bar” and you go inside this shack and there were some Maasai people and they had all this tusker beer, which is a Kenyan beer and they were huge. I don’t drink beer. I drink wine, but I don’t drink beer. I said, “Give me two.” So, I took a cold pill and chugged two beers, right? And I thought I am going to sleep. Well, it wired me. So, my husband is sleeping like sawing bricks, sound asleep. It’s pitch black. My stomach is like I’m nine months pregnant and I have to go to the bathroom and I’m like saying to him, “You’ve got to wake up, you’ve got to help me.” He’s like, “Just go there.” I’m like, “I don’t know what’s out there. There are elephants, I’m hearing hyenas, which if you’ve never heard them, they do this voice thing, I’m like, they are looking for food. I am food. I’m not going out there alone.” And he’s like, “I’m not nice husband.” He’d be out there now today, I wouldn’t put up with it, but then I said, “Okay.”, so he’s laying there, I’m laying there and I remember that movie Doc Hollywood with Michael J. Fox.

Brett Thornton: Yeah.

Christina Dyer: I thought, Okay, what did she do? She went out and she peed to ward off the scent. So, I thought to myself, that’s what I need to do. I’m not going in an outhouse that, who knows what’s in there and so, I got out and went all the way around the tents and I could hear my husband going, “What are you doing?” Because, you know, it was a start and stop so, I got back in. And I will tell you, that was the start of my trip. I got in. I was like, I did it. I went to the bathroom, I saved our lives. I didn’t sleep the rest of the night, but I saved our lives, yeah, in my mind. So then fast forward, we separated with the Austrian couple and we travelled for four more months and they said, “Come to Austria when you get here.” So, we met them in Innsbruck and the first thing Dieter said to me, he walked up to me goes, “Christina, we needed you in Tanzania. We almost died. We needed you to pee around the tent.” And then he went on and told us what had happened with him, but that is like my victory story.

Brett Thornton: Oh, yeah. 

Christina Dyer: You know, I had to overcome so many fears to do that and many more things happened, of course, but that was a big victory for me and so, I had to face my fears and pee around the tent.

Brett Thornton: Oh, that’s so good. 

Christina Dyer: Isn’t that a wonderful female executive story? 

Brett Thornton: Yes, perfect. We got the trailer for the episodes. I remember when we were filming in Burma, we met up with this guy called Rocky, who was the head of their military and he went to college in the States. So, he spoke English, which was awesome because, a lot of people didn’t speak and so, we were revelling in him and we were telling stories and we’re walking on this hillside, pretty close to where some of the fighting was and he’s like, “Thank you guys so much.” And we have this kind of iconic picture of all of us with cameras and mics and we’re walking with all my camo gear and I remember, we’re all young kids, you know, in our 20s, no caution of any idea of how serious it is. I remember just asking him like, or someone asked him, “Well, what would happen if the Burmese soldiers came over the hill and got us, you know.” He, just so matter of fact, he looks at us and he’s like, “Oh, well, you know, they’d kill you. They’d probably torture me.” And then he just keeps walking. And we were like, wait, hold on, back it up a little bit. Like, wait, what was that? “Yeah. Oh, well, they kill you real quick.” We’re like, “Oh, my God.” Wait a minute, okay. This is got a little more serious than I had anticipated. But, you know, like you said, you get that confidence rolling, and you kind of get your travelling feet underneath. You just got to go. 

Christina Dyer: Yeah, you got to go.

Brett Thornton: That is awesome, I love that story. So, obviously, like you said, you’ve had a lot of different paths and stop ways along your career got you to launching “Noble Adventures”, so, tell me, through all those journeys, is there a specific story that you have around a major failure, or a very hard time and how you got through it?

Christina Dyer: Yeah, in between the foundation in Rwanda and moving to California, because I’m originally from Chicago area, I was living back in my little hometown, which was really different after having seen the world and done everything that I had done. We moved back in order to build a house, flip it and then move somewhere else with our pot of gold. Well, I proceeded to have three boys right after another, like within four years and there was no moving at that point. So, I found a job near my home. I became a coalition leader in our small town but, I had to work with the 12 different sectors of our town to bring some anti substance abuse initiatives to the community. We had a big heroin problem. I took on this role with gusto, as I always do, as if it were my own baby and I just started to run it. What conspired was the current board, who were passionate people, no one was really educated, formally. I had been all over the world and they really hadn’t left the town. So, there was a lot of angst and don’t know the word, the nice word. They didn’t really like me, let’s just say that. I came on too strong and it was a really hard uphill battle. I was hired by the organisation outside of our town that had been given the grant to do the grant and I worked really well with those people. Well, then it became them against us and they literally called me names, they ransacked my office, like they knocked over shelves and they stole the signs. I went to approach one of the people to say, “What is going on? How is it getting to be this bad?” I knew things were getting bad when they would walk out of meeting and I approached her and she went and got the police and said I was harassing her and it got very crazy. At the same time, I had lost my father, suddenly, unexpectedly and my mum, budget director, it was she and I running this whole office, the budget director, her nine-year-old granddaughter was hit by a semi on a country road and killed. It was tragic. And so, we were both suffering plus how bad a failure we were doing with this organisation. It was really terrible. That was probably one of the lowest points in my professional life because I’d always been very successful. I really needed to have a come to Jesus with our board and figure things out and the board resigned, the entire board resigned. So, the city sector leaders really enjoyed working with me and liked me because they felt like I was getting things done. And then the coalition had to vote a new board in and we had mediators come in, they voted a new board in and then eventually, I had to move to California for my husband’s job. And so, I quit the position and I left. Since that time, it’s really interesting, my co-worker, she said, “Christina, we didn’t love them enough.” And I said, “love them?” Like, you know, that was the last thing I wanted to do. She explained to me that that’s what was lacking, it was love and respect. We thought we were being respectful but, they expected us to get permission for us to do what we were putting into place and we didn’t do that, because it made sense to us. So, that was like the hardest time in my professional life. I actually created a method of working with people, I call it the calm method. I created it based on that very bad experience. The calm is an acronym, but the ‘L’ is language and love and it is, watch your language, watch how you speak to people, watch whether you’re being condescending, or curious, are you asking condescending questions, because you already know you have the answer? Or are you asking them because you genuinely want to engage with this person and hear what they have to say? And if you are coming from a place of love, then we know the way that you’re going to ask the questions and we know that you are looking at that person as a human being and that we have a shared humanity. I was so blown away by their initial reaction to me, one of them didn’t even show up for the interview. Because apparently, I grew up with her. I don’t remember her, but I grew up with her and I was mean when we were in kindergarten or first grade. I’m not kidding you. I was mean to her then. And so, she had never liked me. It felt so middle school to me that I thought, okay, I apologise. But we’re adults now. And, you know, move on to that. So, long story short, after I had moved to California, I actually went back to visit and one person came to me and apologised, and said, “We were totally wrong.” And I basically said, “No, I was wrong.” In my initial reaction. I got a letter from another of the men on the board who said, “You were right. We were petty. We were childish. We did this. We just couldn’t see beyond our own job.” So that was a big learning experience for me, it was really painful. Me, the supervisor and the budget director, still, when we get together, it’s kind of like, war. You know, we talk about the war, we talk about the battle, we talk about what we went through and what we learned and how bad it was.

Brett Thornton: Yeah, I don’t want to say love the story, I don’t love hearing about that. Well, what I do love is that you came out of it, we’re able to recognise and get that feedback and then actually do something productive, right? 

Christina Dyer: Right. 

Brett Thornton: Because I think that’s, you know, the part of business that it just doesn’t get talked about enough, which is how important failures are. We don’t learn as much from successes, like, oh, that worked cool. You keep going, but it’s when something fails or something doesn’t work is really when you have to pause, take a step back, look inward, right? Like, well, what did I do? Because we typically want to just blame others, or well, it wasn’t my fault or it was the good system, but the reality is, no matter what, even if it wasn’t your fault, we can always learn and then figure out that how could I avoid this the next time. I can remember the first time I was working for a company and we were acquired by another big company and, for the first time in almost a decade, I had a new boss like, eight years and I was like, oh, this is weird and she sat me down before we ever talked about anything and she just split to me this book this Emotional Intelligence 2.0. If you read that one, great book, right? and said, “Hey, before we talk about where do you want to go, how you want to be led, all this stuff, go through this, take the assessment, go through it and then we’ll come back and talk.” And it was great because as I’m reading it, I even kept thinking like, I’m pretty good at this, I’m pretty emotionally intelligent, you know? Then I got my assessment and I think I scored in the 60s or something which isn’t that great. Then went through the whole book, really put a bunch of things in action where I realised like, Okay, I’m saying this or I’m doing this and in a matter of, I think 90 days, my score went up to like, 90, just being very hyper sensitive to how I’m being perceived at all times. 

Christina Dyer: Obviously, we’re intentional too.

Brett Thornton: Yeah, well, I mean, I wanted to get better at it, I was like, shoot. I don’t want people to think I’m a jerk or think I’m not paying attention or think I’m condescending. I was always coming up in sales, it was like, confidence is key, you got to be confident, right? In the sale, the meetings and whatever. But if that spills over to cocky or you know everything or you’re not really listening, then you lose all of it. Anything that you’re gaining from it, you lost and that was this balance, I remember had to learn, and it was like, Okay, cool. And when you did those assessments, like the blind assessments, that was what really got me was that some of the people that worked for me, we’re saying, yeah, I’ll come across this way, sometimes. And I remember being like, devastated, couldn’t sleep, stay up all night thinking about, oh, my God, how I’ve been doing this, or I’ve been hurting people’s feelings, not intentionally, but it rattled me. But to your point, then to come out and be like, Okay, I’m going to change, I’m going to do something different, I’m not going to let this happen again. And I always tell people, the number one thing you can do in any communication of any kind is control your tact. You control how the message comes out, no one controls that but you. So, that’s why I’m a huge fan of always get on the phone or get on a zoom, as opposed to a text or an email, because then, you lose the opportunity to have tact or to make sure you’re being interpreted like you want to, you know what I mean? 

Christina Dyer: Yeah.

Brett Thornton: Because tactics will ruin things super quick. 

Christina Dyer: Yeah, absolutely. 

Brett Thornton: So, tell me and the listeners, obviously it’s a struggle, right? But as you’ve done all these different things, and eventually, launched “Noble Adventures”, what’s the story that you can remember, that was a moment when you were like, wow, I’m having some success like this, this feels great? Is there any story that sticks out?

Christina Dyer:  Yeah, it’s actually a recent story. So, I, on my own dime, flew to Honduras to build up a project partner. I had a project and I needed the partnership and I needed to see the place, experience the place and feel the place. So, I went to Honduras, did all the work around that then, a month later, I flew to Mexico, did a service project, got to know the people, the place all of that and I was so excited to launch the trip and then Covid hit and I was devastated because, I was like, okay, we’re finally moving forward, we’re finally getting some traction and Honduras was tough too because, every time you turned on the TV, there were caravans from Honduras coming and who’s going to go. And I got people to go and everybody was excited and then Covid hit. I thought to myself, I can’t do this anymore, I can’t keep this really difficult business afloat with all these things against me. I never knew what country was going to do what next and where we would be warring and so, I got very down and I started to go, okay, I need to reinvent myself and do all kinds of marketing and I was still coaching and that was going well but, I’m good at it and I really enjoy transforming people and showing care, think of the stuffed animals, that’s how I feel about my coaches and my clients. But I really wanted to start to break down barriers of our unconscious bias and our fear of the other and all of these things that have stirred the pot, socially, in our world and I felt trapped that I couldn’t do that. I was having dinner with Hernani one night and we were talking about different things and different projects and I said to him, “Hey, how would you like to do this or this?” He says, “No, I don’t really want to do that, life’s too short and I don’t need that and I’m not going to do it.” I said, “Well, to be honest, I don’t want to do it either. What I really want to do is explain Noble Adventures.” and I said, “My heart just beats when I think about it.”, and he said, “Now, that’s something I would do.” I said, “What do you mean? What will you do?” And he said, “I would love to partner with you on that. I would love to do this. This is incredible. You know, I’m a former CEO of a big company, I would do this. There are people that can be helped by this.” And that was one of the biggest boost to my success and to my confidence in the fact that this was going to work. Since then, we have just skyrocketed. I don’t know what it really was that we have skyrocketed, I think that there’s a divine timing in everything, I’m a firm believer in that and the time is right and I think that out world is ripe for this kind of change. I think we’re becoming a more conscious world. I think, all of the stuff, that we’ve been through over the last few years, is an awakening and an opportunity for us to grow and change and recognize. The pandemic showed us that we are really borderless and that we are one big system and we are one big planet, we are all in this together. I think, companies have started to recognize, it’s not about performance, it’s about people. It’s not about hierarchies, it’s about working together in collaborations. Parents have found a new respect for teachers because, they realise it’s not easy to teach, you got to say the right things to your kids so, this has been a huge paradigm shift for the whole world. It feels ripe so, I’m thrilled and I’m excited about the future and this whole, as bad as pandemic has been in the world and I’m a Rotarian and I run an international service director for 36 clubs so, I see projects all over the world especially India that has really been hit hard by Covid. In our country, half a million people died. But there have been a few positives and those are what I’m looking at, I think that the world is ready. I think, we’re on the path to healing.

Brett Thornton: I couldn’t agree more and that’s why I wanted to have you on the podcast. When Hernani reached out about what you do, because I think, it’s not just the people but, the cutting edge and the great organisations of the world are understanding that the culture is more than checking off some box that yeah, we did a bowling night. It’s like if you want true meaningful relationships and a deep culture of understanding and support and love. You’ve got to do things that will allow people to get those bonds close. I had a podcast last month, I did a talk on my belief which is that, experiential giving is the best thing that companies can do. It’s not just donating a cheque, it’s basically like, hey, how can I provide my customers an opportunity to purchase, engage or do something that then has the other thing. Then we donate to foster kids and then because of the donation, it’s actually the employees that go and then they are the ones giving beds so then, they feel empowered and great. It’s a circle where everybody wins and elevates and those things happen with some donation or something. Like you said, you got to get out of the office, you got to go to the event. I’ve been a part of so many giving events in my life and I can remember all of them. Every house I built in Mexico or every food bank I went to work, why? Because those things are actually what make our hearts stick. You know, doing things for others is really fulfilling, right? I like giving gifts to my kids. Chris was way more than I like getting a gift and I think, as adults, we start to understand that. But there are a lot of companies that haven’t quite grasped it but, I think, it’s definitely coming.

Christina Dyer: Well, those companies, millennials, are really focused on purpose and meaning and wanting companies that do well in the world, right? So, not only you will retain your employees longer when you give them these kind of experiential leadership development trips, it’s not just a trip to Hawaii but, it’s an experiential development trip and it’s not a reward, it’s an expectation that I’m going to put you in an environment and I want you to be the best person that you can be, to come back and have that kind of energy be good for the company. It’s a great retention but, it’s also a company that does such kind of things for their employees and I’ve heard of The Unicorns, unicorn is somebody that can code, develop and design the stuff that they also have the security clearance so that it can work for the government and do all these heavy-duty projects and those people are really hard to find. I’ve heard Apple and Google give private trips to islands to get them to sign and be part of their company.

Brett Thornton: Yeah. 

Christina Dyer: And so, it really does make you stand out as a company, as somebody that does really extraordinary things and goes beyond the expectation to develop their people and to care about their people and their people’s lives and wellbeing. 

Brett Thornton: Yeah.

Christina Dyer: And that’s what this is about. 

Brett Thornton: Love it.

Christina Dyer:  We have trips all over the world coming. I mean, my husband and I are going to Bali in a few months, we’re going to go to Nepal, to India, to Uganda, to Honduras, I just had dinner with partners for Peru, we have incredible trips coming up and there’s so much need in the world and there’s so many people that are so thankful for any help you can give, right? So, it really is noble to work on yourself, to work for others and, you know, then come together and bond and have fun doing it, they’ll be friends for life. 

Brett Thornton: You know, I love the idea of combining multiple executive teams, because there’s something about getting peer to peer feedback from someone who you don’t know and they don’t have any objective other than hey, you help me, I help you, let’s learn. There’s just something magical about that so, and I know, we’re getting way over time here but, the two last things. So, one is this Season two of this podcast, it’s just really highlighting different female executives. And the stories so far have been great. I know, we talked before the podcast about you’ve had some of the traditional experiences and challenges that as a lot of females coming up in different worlds and we didn’t want to focus on the negative but, I would ask you, what are some advice, if we’ve got people listening on all over the place, when you said, hey, you know, what, I’m female and getting out of college or I’m looking to get into a different career and I want to be a CEO one day, what would be some advice you would give to that person?

Christina Dyer: Well, for somebody coming out of college, especially, I can say, a couple of things that is very practical. Sometimes when we’re anxious, women can talk higher and inflect their voices up like, what do you think, kind of questioning and it comes off as you’re questioning, you’re looking to somebody else to validate your ideas or experiences. So, make sure, this is really kind of practical. Lower your voice, take a deep breath and don’t swing up your voice as if asking a question, make sure that you’re firmly rooted in your own sense of self and your own voice and end your sentences with a period, not a question mark, that whole experience of doing that. Even if you need to practice that in the mirror, can really transform somebody else’s perception of you. When you hear yourself be able to do that, it can transform your perception of yourself. Stand in your power. There’s, I think, Amy Cuddy wrote about starfish position, spreading your arms and legs as far and wide as possible, makes you feel more powerful. Do that for a minute before you go into an environment. Don’t shrink down, but stand and hold your ground. I remember when I was younger, I didn’t know anything and I was just quiet and when I finally got comfortable, somebody said, “My God, you’ve grown.” I thought I haven’t changed at all, but what has changed is my confidence in what I already know, is coming forward, because I’m articulating more. But it’s not like I didn’t have that wisdom before. I wasn’t expressing it. So that is probably one thing. Also, in the same vein, when you’re sitting with the group of three or four men and you’re all talking and somebody says, “Who’s going to take notes?”, don’t be the one that takes the notes because you will get looked at. Don’t take the notes, look right back at them, like, are you going to do it? Don’t make the expectation that it’s going to be you and don’t be too nice because we’re raised, we’re socialised as women to take care of people and to be very self-sacrificing and self-serving. If you love taking notes, by all means, take the notes. If you don’t want to and you’re going to be angry and resentful about it, absolutely do not, because that energy will come off. So, it’s a bit, what I’m saying, is very behavioural and it’s just to get to know who you are and who you want to be and look for success. Somebody said, “Success leaves clues.” Emulate who you want to be. I very often say, what would Oprah do, because I so respect her and that’s what I do. Just be confident, I guess that’s as good as I can get. It doesn’t really have anything to do with men indirectly because, men are in the game too, men have insecurities just as much as we do but, like one of the things that you said, when you’re selling, you’ve got to be confident. But the thing about selling to me is, it’s confidence, but I couldn’t sell anything. I couldn’t sell what matches I have. People I know, that could sell what matches, I just couldn’t do that. So, make sure you’re relational in your selling, that you’re confident, but the confidence is coming from somewhere deep within and not cocky or arrogant or any of those kinds of things.

Brett Thornton: Yeah, absolutely. Love that. So, last thing is, just take a second to let people know, if they’re part of some business out there and they’re going like, we need this. We need to go on a trip, we need to do something that’s kind of a life changing culture defining trips. So, how do people get in touch with you? How do they do it?

Christina Dyer: I think the best place would be to, well, I was going to say, call me. Yeah, go on the website. It’s ‘’. Everywhere you look, there’s contact me because I would want to have a conversation with you and I want to know what it is you are wanting, because all of our trips are customizable. If you have, let’s say you’re a multinational and you’re moving into maybe the South American market, we could go to Costa Rica, we could go to Honduras, we could go to Belize, anywhere that you feel safe and comfortable. Any kind of project you’re working on, if you’re a water company, we could do a water project. Like I said, I have partners all over the world or you’re an education company and you want to do something with children, everything and anything can be customizable. The days, the number. We want to make sure that your objectives and your outcomes are met. And so, this whole journey can be designed for you and for your team and we will thrive on that arrangement and a setup. That’s what we’re here for, we really want to make it transformational, what would take you six to seven months to do with constant repeats, meetings, that we can do in a week. Then we can come back in three months, six months and have touch points to make sure that the learning is sustainable. Sustain ability is a huge factor for me, because I don’t want to be another binder on the shelf. Somebody said, that’s just shelf help, instead of self-help. But you know, we’ve had all these binders of things that we’ve gone through and we don’t even remember them, we want you to remember this. You will design a token, a kind of a totem, not a token, a totem that has some meaning for you and your company. Every person gets that Totem to sit on their desk or sit in their home, so that they are remembering what is the chief takeaway from this experience. I think that the teams that go together will stay close forever. 

Brett Thornton: Nice.

Christina Dyer: So, any problems that we have come up, that’s where the psychological safety comes in. That’s what we’re hoping for is, that those challenges reveal what is underneath and we work through it there. That’s kind of huge, you know, you’re in a different environment, you’re not going to go back to your offices and close the door. You got to still face that person the next day and it’s uncomfortable sometimes and it doesn’t need to be uncomfortable. So just know, this is available to you. You’ve got a psychologist, a licenced therapist and a world class CEO guiding you through all of this. You’re going to be in excellent hands.

Brett Thornton: I love it. Thank you so much, Christina. This was awesome interview, I knew it was going to be, but you know, you never know. 

Christina Dyer: You what?

Brett Thornton: I said I knew it was going to be great, but you never know. 

Christina Dyer: And I hope to get to take you on a novel adventure. 

Brett Thornton: Yes.

Christina Dyer: Awesome, wouldn’t it?

Brett Thornton: I mean, I don’t care what I have to do. I’ll hide in your suitcase, it doesn’t matter.

Christina Dyer: That’s okay.

Brett Thornton: Awesome. Well, thank you so much. I really look forward to people hearing this and I appreciate so much for coming on the show.

Christina Dyer: Okay, thank you. I appreciate it. 

Brett Thornton: Thanks Christina.

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