Erin Thorp

Founder of Inside Out Leadership Program

Erin Thorp (she/her) is an empathic keynote speaker, writer and coach for leaders who struggle with conflict, communication, and performance during high-stress times. She supports leaders in navigating difficult conversations, building powerful teams, and communicating with empathy so they can lead confidently.

Having spent 20 years in the masculine dominated engineering and construction industries leading teams and delivering projects, Erin had taken notice that her colleagues were highly skilled and cared deeply about their work, but most were incapable of fully holding their own emotion and therefore unable to hold the emotions of others.

After being told time and time again she was “too emotional,” and to “pull herself together,” she realized there was a big gap in what was being taught to technical leaders. She knew that skills often categorized as “soft” — connection, empathy, vulnerability — are actually the most difficult to learn but are key to creating leaders who make an impact in their personal lives, their company’s, and the world. At the beginning of the pandemic, Erin did even more-self reflecting and observed the way leaders were treating their employees. Whether they were large corporations, or entrepreneurs, she noticed the same patterns, and ultimately decided to take the matter into her own hands. Erin is now running her leadership business full-time.

In 2017 she authored Inside Out Empathy, a book inspired by her career and journey as a mother, and explores using the superpower of empathy to build effective teams. Erin is currently working on a non-fiction leadership book about navigating new circumstances as well as a fiction novel.

Erin is gearing up to launch her Inside Out Leadership Program in early 2022, which is a six month, virtual program designed exclusively for leaders from all walks of life who want to discover and leverage their unique leadership superpowers to build, develop, and inspire a high-performance team.

She believes that there is a leader in everyone and frequently shares her knowledge as a speaker and facilitator at a variety of events such as the CCWESTT Conference, the 4H Canada – Alberta Leadership Conference, the University of Calgary Engineering Leadership Program, the WomenIN Network, and the Women Building Futures Conference, to name a few. She has also provided workshops for numerous corporations such as Atlas Gas and Schneider Electric.

Erin holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Calgary and is an Associate Certified Coach through Integral Coaching Canada.

She currently resides in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, with her husband Matthew and their three children Olivia, Thomas and Henry. In her spare time she enjoys curling up with a book and cooking with her family.

Where did the idea for Inside Out Leadership come from?

After spending 15 years working in project teams with highly technical people in the construction and engineering industries, I saw this massive opportunity to increase team and individual productivity through building power skills (I DETEST the term ‘soft skills’). As someone who was identified as a ‘high potential employee’ for a long time, I was always told that to be successful I had to learn more about projects, the industry and other people. What I now know to be true, is that we go further the more we know about ourselves. We cannot take a team of people any further than we are willing to travel.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I’m up at 5:30 am, and I quickly feed the pets and head out to walk my dog. I can’t think too long about it or I’ll convince myself it’s not necessary. I love this burst of fresh air in the morning!

After my ‘me-time’ with the dog, I’m back in the house waking up kids, making lunches and getting our day organized. We talk about dinner, evening events and whose going where.

I’m usually in my office between 8-9am where you can find me for the next six to 8 hours. Some days it is all client facing work, other days I’m planning, building or checking in on processes and systems.

I try to be offline by 3:30pm when the youngest gets home from school. By 4:30pm everyone is home and the house is full of energy again.

Evenings are anyone’s game – they usually consist of dinner together as a family, various sporting events and general errands that keep our family of 5 moving forward.

As much as possible I try and not switch between tasks until they are done nor do I multitask. I find I’m much more productive when I have focused work times and actually get more done when working on one thing at a time.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I get on the phone with a good friend, business bestie or coach to talk through my ideas and gain perspective. Once the idea starts to take shape, building a plan and executing it is my happy place!

What’s one trend that excites you?

The 4-day work weeks and a return to working to live – instead of our current live to work approach!

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Rest! It’s been a hard lesson but we need rest. Just like our computers and iPhones, when we find ourselves running on less, taking more time to get things done and feeling overwhelmed we need a reboot. Taking a day or two off, unplugging, playing and resting deeply helps keep me operating at my highest levels and providing my best work.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Rest is productive. Self-care is not selfish.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Our kids have a lot to teach us, especially about playing, rest and productivity!

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Set goals, check in on them, adjust your actions according to what’s working and what’s not. Rinse and repeat!!

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

A referral network! When I work with teams and leaders we often uncover other areas of the business that need support. Systems, process, social media, copywriting, finances, etc. I have a network of amazing professionals who are amazing at their craft. We all stay in our own lanes and refer business back and forth to each other.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I didn’t trust myself in the beginning. I was a long-term corporate employee and didn’t ever dream of being my own boss. In fact, five years ago I probably would have told you that what I’m doing right now was only a dream and not something I was actively working towards. This lack of trust kept me stuck for a lot of years. I was searching for answers and direction outside myself, not believing I knew what to do.

Over the past year I’ve been working on rebuilding trust with myself. I am more aware of my strengths and work with coaching, business consultants and friends in the areas where I’m not as strong. I no longer think that I need to have all of the information, I only need to know what feels right and check back in with myself to make sure I stay on course.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Meal kit delivery for large families (6+). I hate that the current subscriptions only have options for 2 or 4 people. And before you tell me to order a 2 and 4 person option, I don’t want to have to manage 2 subscriptions and the price per meal is drastically different between the two options 🙂

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

A fresh haircut. I love the feeling of a good haircut and the confidence it provides me!

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

I love batching my social media content so I don’t have to do this daily. Currently I’m using Hootsuite to plan and schedule my content. I’ve used other services in the past, and keep coming back to Hootsuite as it’s easy to use and low cost.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

24/6 by Tiffany Shlain. If you’re looking for somewhere to start when it comes to rest, productivity and play, start here! It’s a great read, highly entertaining with a ton of resources in it. I re-read it annually and pick up something different each time I do.

What is your favorite quote?

“When you’re going through hell, keep on going” – Winston Churchill

Key Learnings:

  • Try to not switch between tasks until they are done and do not multitask.
  • Rest is productive.
  • Self-care is not selfish.
  • Kids are great examples of the relationship between rest, productivity and play.
  • Set goals, check in on them, adjust your actions according to what’s working and what’s not.