Lauren Schifferdecker, CEO, Inspire Counseling Center
In a world where leadership often wears the tired cloak of authority and hierarchy, few dare to step out of the shadows with a refreshing new perspective. These visionary pioneers understand that true leadership transcends mere titles and positions. They embrace their role as catalysts, nurturing growth and inspiration within their teams and skilfully steering them towards the shores of success. Rather than basking in the glory of their own triumphs, they humbly serve their teams, exemplifying a distinct approach to leadership — one that celebrates individuality, embraces innovation, and fuels collective success. And among these transformative trailblazers stands Lauren Schifferdecker, the visionary CEO of Inspire Counseling Center, a pioneering counselling and therapy agency dedicated to helping individuals in their journey to emotional well-being.
The Prolific Journey To Prominence
Before founding Inspire, Lauren’s path led her to Edelman, one of the world’s premier public relations firms where she honed her skills and gained valuable insights into the dynamics of marketing. Yet, it wasn’t merely her marketing prowess that shaped Inspire’s success. Instead, it was her profound understanding of the essence of good business—excellence, streamlined systems, and the power of teamwork. At Edelman, she witnessed firsthand the transformative power of setting measurable goals, prioritizing tasks, and anticipating challenges.
However, it was the exceptional influence of Lauren’s supervisor, Katy Pankau that truly revolutionized her perspective on team culture and career trajectory. Katy’s kind and approachable nature created a safe environment where mistakes were not feared but seen as opportunities for growth. Instead of seeking blame when faced with challenges, Katy directed her energy towards rallying the team to rectify the situation. Moved by this inspiring leadership, Lauren made a solemn vow to cultivate a similar culture within her own team. “If your team is not afraid of mistakes, they can put all their effort into fixing instead of blaming, it’s a lot more fun and you get more work done. Not to sound too dramatic, but it’s magical. Lastly, I learned the best marketing in the world doesn’t matter if you don’t have a good product or service. Excellent service is the best marketing, hands down. ” asserts Lauren.
Fuelled by her experiences and insights, Lauren took a leap of faith and founded Inspire in 2015. At Inspire, the team takes a holistic approach, offering counselling and psychiatry services under one roof. Its dedicated team serves ages 2-100 with a variety of life’s challenges, including anxiety, depression, ADHD, panic attacks, trauma, OCD, PTSD, LGBTQIA+, social issues, internet addiction, disordered eating, self-esteem, chronic illness, couples, parenting, family challenges, divorce, and many other issues. “We don’t see ourselves as ‘therapists’ helping ‘clients.’ We are real people supporting real people,” she adds.
Lessons Learned Along the Way
Throughout her journey, Lauren has learned invaluable lessons that have shaped her into the insightful and forward-thinking leader she is today. Among the many lessons she has learned while building Inspire, one stands out as pivotal: prioritizing the essence of an individual over their mere professional credentials. In the beginning, she hired individuals solely based on their impressive resumes, extensive education, degrees, and industry experience. However, she soon realized that these commendable attributes while valuable, the innate qualities that define a person’s character hold far greater significance. “Technical training and skills can be learned along the way. It’s much harder to develop character, heart, personal responsibility, care, love and acceptance,” opines Lauren.
A Refreshing Take on Leadership
For Lauren, leadership is not just a mere title or a position of authority; it is an extension of customer service. She treats every employee as a valued client, believing that each one deserves excellent service and a healthy work environment to thrive. Recounting a recent conversation with her children about her team at Inspire, Lauren shares, “My kids asked me the other day how many people worked at Inspire. Their eyes widened and they said, ‘There are 50 people who work for you?’ I said, ‘Actually, no. There are 50 people that I work for.’”
This humble response encapsulates the essence of Lauren’s leadership style, unveiling her unwavering commitment to serving and uplifting her team. Her leadership goes beyond the office walls as she makes it a point to acknowledge and appreciate her employees in small, delightful ways. From cheerful emails to friendly chats in the hallways, she strives to inject a sense of fun into the workplace and cultivate an extraordinary culture at Inspire—one that thrives on kindness, thoughtfulness, and teamwork.
Striking the Right Chord of Work-Life Balance
While healthcare professionals are inherently wired to help and serve others, often neglecting their own needs, Lauren has learned that neglecting personal well-being ultimately hinders the ability to make a meaningful impact. As she eloquently puts it, “You can’t water a garden with an empty watering can. The tricky thing is figuring out what actually fills your cup.” She further explains that commonly prescribed forms of self-care, such as vacations, massages, or indulging in recreational activities, may not always be accessible or provide the desired rejuvenation on a regular basis.
Drawing from her personal experience, she shares that even activities she enjoys, like playing golf can sometimes leave her feeling frustrated and discouraged. Likewise, vacations, although enjoyable, can be sporadic and emotionally draining depending on the circumstances. It is therefore crucial to identify activities that genuinely replenish one’s spirit. For Lauren, the key lies in connecting with people who uplift her on a daily basis. Whether it’s a brief phone call during her commute or sharing laughter with colleagues, these moments of connection energize and rejuvenate her. Furthermore, she carves out more time for a leisurely walk with her husband. And whenever she finds herself feeling guilty about it, she firmly reminds herself that this investment in her own well-being is not a “waste of time,” but rather an essential step to ensure she can perform at her best.
Forging Meaningful Connections Through Storytelling
A highly sought-after TEDx and public speaker, Lauren possesses a natural gift for storytelling. With a treasure trove of humorous, challenging, and heartfelt tales derived from her own life experiences, she effortlessly weaves magic to establish meaningful connections with her audiences. The natural-born storyteller has shared her narratives and insights across many esteemed platforms, including TEDx, Northwestern Mutual, GCG Financial, Moms of Preschoolers (MOPS), schools and non-profit organizations, and more. Her versatile speaking engagements have garnered widespread acclaim, resonating with diverse audiences, including corporate professionals, leaders, parents, children, influencers, health enthusiasts, and even members of the clergy, all united by a common thread – they relate to vulnerable, real stories that can apply to their life.
Right after her engaging talks, people often approach Lauren, expressing their gratitude for her relatable narratives. Many find solace in realizing they are not alone in their struggles, while others draw inspiration from the valuable insights she shares. Quite often, she continues to hear from individuals, even years later. In one particular instance, a woman expressed her gratitude, confiding, “I still think about what you said about your marriage. I’ve been trying to let go of being ‘right’ and it has helped my marriage so much!” Another person shared, “I loved your story about you and your son. I tried just listening and not offering advice with my kid and they opened up so much more.” It is during these heartfelt encounters that Lauren is assured of her success in serving others and fulfilling her purpose. “At the end of the day, we all want to hear stories and examples that inspire us with new ideas and hope to be better, to live better lives,” she affirms.
Bridging the Gap Between Physical and Mental Well-being
As a passionate advocate for holistic well-being, Lauren envisions a future where healthcare systems transcend the boundaries between physical and mental health. She understands that mental health has a direct impact on various bodily functions such as gut bacteria, heart health, digestion, and even headaches and muscle tension and vice versa. “For example, when people experience loneliness, the health risks are comparable to the dangers of smoking, obesity, diabetes, heart disease or cancer–increasing the risk of death by approximately 30 percent. In other words, a mental issue like loneliness is as lethal as smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” emphasizes Lauren.
Thus, to bring about a paradigm shift in healthcare, Lauren proposes the integration of mental health professionals within medical teams or, at the very least, training medical personnel to address basic mental health needs. She recalls a time when despite being a therapist she struggled to manage her daughter’s anxiety and her own during a minor surgery, resulting in the procedure taking twice as long. By prioritizing mental health within healthcare systems, she believes that patients’ preparation and recovery time can be reduced, ultimately leading to improved overall health. As Lauren continues to make her mark in the world of healthcare, she exemplifies the notion that success is not merely measured by achievements alone but by the positive impact one leaves on the people and organizations they serve. With each stride, Lauren continues to make a profound impact, leading Inspire to unprecedented success and setting an example for leaders to emulate.