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Ep. 64: Leadership Development Consultant Nancy Halpern Embraces The Increased Competence That Comes With Age

"I think many women fall into being reactive versus responsive. So they want so badly to be the person others can rely on that they say yes before they even think about it."

Nancy Halpern is a leadership development consultant and principal of KNH Associates. She's also a serial career switcher who never wants to get stuck in a rut. On this episode, Nancy shares wisdom learned through coaching top executives and emphasizes the importance not just of confidence but of competence. Hear why we should embrace aging and the increased competence that it brings. Get inspired by a woman who is not afraid to pivot and try new things, and who has thrown so much spaghetti on the wall that she has "marinara wallpaper."

"Focus on one thing. Do it deep. Do it well."

We discuss the importance of pivoting, playing in new areas with her skillset, how failure made her curious and changed her path, lessons learned from failure, her proudest career moments, what inspired her to go out on her own, growing competence over confidence, why we should be excited about the future, when to say yes and when to say no, why getting older is an advantage, finding balance between assertion and aggression, and the importance of asking for help.

"How can you ever be competent or confident if everything being sold to you is things that contribute to a better version of you? Aren't you pretty wonderful the way you are?"

What you'll learn:

  • Nancy is a self employed leadership development consultant.
  • A year ago Nancy launched an online platform that failed and as a result taught her lots of important lessons.
  • She has taken these lessons and changed her career and tried new things within her market.
  • For example Nancy started writing and blogging, she’s been interviewed by global journalists and started coaching women running for office.
  • She learned that she never fundamentally understood her coaching practice; if a person can’t see a service then they’re unlikely to use it.
  • The world of building a brand through word of mouth referrals is over.
  • One of Nancy’s recent proudest moments was being asked to moderate a class at her 30 year business school reunion.
  • Nancy highlights the difference between competence and confidence for women in the workplace, these can be easily mistaken.
  • The more you develop in competence then the confidence will grow.
  • There is two different kinds of advice regularly given to women; “say yes more” and “say no more”.
  • Nancy says that you should only say yes more if you’re looking to learn things and increase your education.
  • When you want a promotion then you should say no more so that you have a clean plate for focusing on the job.
  • Nancy’s most frequently seen problem in the office is women being told they’re too aggressive, but only after they have achieved their goal.

"Fear is a great motivator. As is boredom, and curiosity."


  • Pick your battles; you aren't going to win everything so put your energy into what you will win.
  • Work isn't the place to give your personality full rein. 
  • Learn how to say no; if you keep saying yes you can become a dumping ground.
  • Go somewhere that scares you – for example don't travel to Paris because that’s easy!
  • Focus on one thing and do it well.
  • Ask for help.

"You have multiple missions and purposes, and they change over time. It's also okay to say yes as a form of experimentation."