In 2016, we embarked on focused, original data collection through inspiration interviews with leaders across industries and levels about the role inspiration plays in their lives and their work. To date, we have conducted interviews with nearly eighty leaders which has confirmed and expanded on the considerable secondary research we’ve conducted.
We’re launching our inspiration spotlight series to share, in detail, the inspiring stories we’ve heard over the past 3 years.
As part of our research on inspiration in the workplace, Allison interviewed Janet Kraus, CEO and Derek Ohly, COO of Peach. This dynamic duo runs a company dedicated to the mission of empowering women through positive psychology and entrepreneurship. They both care deeply about the mission of the company – it’s personal. What makes their situation unique is that they both also care very deeply about each other, as partners in realizing Peach’s mission in the world. We intentionally interviewed them together as we wanted to learn from them as individuals and as partners in creating an inspiration organization. Below are highlights from Allison’s interview with these two incredible leaders.
Image Source: Peach
Janet and Derek, who or what inspires you and how?
- Janet: I am inspired by big thoughts about the meaning of life and nature – looking around and thinking: “How did this happen? What are we meant to do on this amazing planet that there is maybe only one of in the entire universe? What is the meaning of life, in general, and what our purpose, each as individuals?” Also, I’m inspired by Beyonce – she is so amazing. If only I could be her, up there on a pedestal being goddess-like!
- Derek: The kind of people that inspire me, people who are amazing, they aren’t geniuses (geniuses are born that way), but they are very smart. They get really smart from doing little things every day, stretching and learning in bite-sized steps every day. My father, who is totally inspiring to me, painted all the time. He became a good painter by painting lots of bad paintings. He painted every day for 50 years with true dedication and commitment. Going back to the idea that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert, the 9,999th hour makes a difference.
Describe what you are like when you are inspired in your work? How is work different?
- Janet: It doesn’t feel like work…
- Derek: Ditto! The entire quality and color of the energy is different. When I’m inspired, it implies leaning forward. I am most inspired when I am working with other people and I see growth, whether it’s in me or in them. We are just in the zone and in a really creative space… in the flow, oriented to growth and progress.
- Janet: It feels like, you know, when Mary Poppins walks through the air…there are days when I’m gliding from meeting to meeting, and the next meeting and you could just hum a little tune.
Tell me about someone who has inspired you?
- Derek: My dad. I lost him almost 9 years ago. He was a relatively quiet person in the world, but he had amazing powers of observation and perspective. He didn’t push them on anyone, but if you dug a little deeper, you could find them. He was an architect and had a large body of work as a sculptor and painter in watercolors. I was inspired by his appreciation for beauty and excellence, his perceptiveness, his curiosity. He would spend hours trying to understand: how does the wind move around this object? Oh, let’s sketch the wind is doing this… He made art with an unbelievable amount of love and honesty.
- Janet: Derek is someone who inspires me because he is so reliable and hopeful and good, every day, in and out, without fail. You can depend that every day that the sun comes up, Derek will be there doing what he does with hopeful perspective and perception. Derek – you are like your father on a different track, it is so inspiring.
What is your earliest memory of being inspired?
- Derek: What popped into my head first: I remember learning how to ride a bike at 5. I remember practicing and falling a bunch of times. It was exhilarating, and uplifting and affirming. It was hard work and then when I got it, just felt amazing.
- Janet: Amber in 3rd grade gave me the book How to Win Friends and Influence People. She said: “you are very powerful and you need to learn to use that for good; if you don’t learn how, you are going to be a steamroller.” She could see that I was being overly bossy in how to play the recorder in her class. I could barely read half of the words, but I read the whole book and it inspired me.
What’s your inspiration “secret sauce” – how do you inspire others?
- Janet: I think mine align with my strengths. I think people know that I deeply care for them and I’m passionately committed to their success. I’ve taken that thing I can do on stage as a CEO and make it relatable, I’m very human.
- Derek: My sense of purpose and perseverance. I’m on this path and dedicated to it…but that’s not actually it. I think this world is a hard and lonely place and I think kindness is the most inspiring thing that we can do for one another.
Reading this interview from a few years ago reminded me of the unique dynamic between these two inspiring leaders. Both of them speak a lot to the relationship-based engines, mentioning people in their lives who activated them to greater possibility and confidence. However, it’s worth noting that the most inspiring qualities in others differ for each of them. Derek mentions being inspired by qualities like perseverance, patience, and kindness; while Janet mentions being inspired by Derek’s optimism and her teacher’s push to channel her energy in a positive way via How to Win Friends and Influence People.