GCM 186 new Joanna Dodd Massey | Embracing Change


Pivoting is the ultimate expression of embracing change because it requires someone to stop resisting and find a way to thrive with the flow. Known as the Queen of Pivoting, Joanna Dodd Massey has demonstrated that expression so many times in her career that her reputation for resilience lends so much credibility to her as a thought leader on crisis communication, culture transformation, and many other things. Her greatest lesson in life is that when you see the change train coming, you need to jump on it and drive it instead of letting it drag you to ruin. Jumping on this conversation with Rodney Flowers, Joanna talks about the mechanics of communicating effectively in crisis communications with the aim of inducing calm and avoiding counterproductive escalation. They also go on to a rather fruitful tangent to discuss racism, diversity and inclusion, and the hope for change around those narratives as the new generations start to take over the world of leadership. There is so much to unpack in this episode, so if you’re not ready to embrace change just yet, this might not be for you at all! 

Listen to the podcast here:

Tackling Crisis Communication, Diversity And Inclusion, And Embracing Change With The Queen of Pivoting, Joanna Dodd Massey

I have the Queen of Pivoting in the studio with me. I have Joanna Massey with me. She is an experienced Clevel Communications Executive and Board Director. She has managed brand reputation, corporate turnaround, crisis communications, culture transformation among other things. She’s a Doctor of Psychology. She’s written multiple books about how the brain works in stressful situations and we’re going to talk about all of that. I am delighted and excited to welcome Joanna Massey to the show. Welcome, Joanna.  

Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here.  

It’s great to have you. I’ve enjoyed the conversations that I’ve been having with you. I’m interested in you being the Queen of Pivoting, given that we all are going through a pivoting type of situation and your experience around neuroscience. I know you write a lot about how the brain works. I want to get into some of those things and understand and learn about how we could maybe respond better to stressful situations, respond better to crisis. You have been involved with crisis communications. want to learn more about that experience from you, what you have gleaned from that and how we can use some of that expertise in our day-to-day lives. Before we start with that, I want to say thank you for coming to the show. 

The key to effective communication is to keep everything calm. Share on X

It’s a pleasure to be here. Thanks for that nice introduction, too.  

Tell us a little bit about your book. You’ve written multiple books. I want to give you the opportunity to plug your book and learn more about it. 

I have two books. They both have business titles. They have business titles to mask the fact that they’re self-help books. One of them is called Communicating During a Crisis: Influencing Others When the Stakes Are HighThe second book is called Culture Shock: SurvivinFive Generations in One Workplace. They both deal with how we handle stress. They talk about neuroscience and how the brain reacts when we’re in fear, in stress, experiencing a lot of change, which we’re all going through. Each book gives tools based on the topic. I spent 30 years in business and I do have degree in Psychology but I don’t write like a business person. I write like I talk. I write like we’re having a conversation over the dinner table about pop culture, entertainment and the way I would analyze that situation. They’re pretty broad. I’m told they’re a quick and easy read.  

One of the nicest things when you write a book and they’re on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, people rate them and comment on them, which is a little scary. These are my babies. I’ve birthed them off of my fingers and my head. What are they going to say about my children? They’ve gotten great reviews and one of the nicest things I like is, “A quick, interesting read and I get the concept she’s talking about.” Neuroscience sounds dry and boring and it’s not. In my view, it’s fascinating. I put it in terms that are understandable instead of scientific jargon that might make your eyes go in the back of your head.  

What are the takeaways that your book expresses that maybe we need to know about how to communicate in a crisis situation? 

GCM 186 new Joanna Dodd Massey | Embracing Change

Communicating During a Crisis: Influencing Others When the Stakes Are High

What happens for people when we get stressed is there’s this system in the brain and it’s run by this thing called the amygdala. The reason it’s called the amygdala is that it’s shaped like an almond. Amygdala is a Greek or Latin word for almond. The amygdala is in control. When we get stressed, it is the amygdala’s job to take over. There’s this part of the brain in the front called the prefrontal cortex and its nickname is executive functioning. The reason it’s nicknamed executive functioning is that it does exactly what you think an executive would do, it problem solves, it makes rational decision-making and self-control, all those lives in the front. Rational decisionmaking and selfcontrol, when we’re stressed, they go offline. It’s like it doesn’t exist.  

The amygdala is the general in an army and the executive is one of the soldiers. When we’re afraid, when we’re stressed, the general barks out the orders because you can’t have multiple parts of the brain calling out orders at the same time. The amygdala takes over. The thing about the general is that the way it knows what to do is it searches this memory bank of our brain and our central nervous system that has been being developed since we were in the womb. That’s how long this thing has been being programmed. It’s like a computer with an unlimited supply of memory. It searches for the thing that calms us down. For some people, that might be to react, to fight. You’ve heard of fightflight or freeze. For other people, it might be to run. They have to get out of wherever they are at that moment. For other people, it’s to freeze. They can’t think of anything to say, they can’t process, they go silent. They’re standing there frozen.  

It’s important to understand the stress reaction. What you see is your friend, family member, coworker looking perfectly normal. You don’t see this happening. They don’t even know it’s happening but this is what’s happening. It’s a biological reality and none of us can escape it. The thing about the system, at first, I thought, “That sounds like a design flaw. Whose idea was that? Why are you taking rational decisionmaking and selfcontrol offline if I’m stressed? That’s stupid.  

The thing is the system was developed back when it’s like, “There’s a tiger behind that treeI’d better run. The amygdala is perceptive and fast that it has the body running before you’re even consciously aware there’s a tiger behind the tree. If the executive was involved in that situation, the executive would be like, Was that a growl? Was it clearing a throat? Should I run or can I get away with a jog because I don’t want to break a sweat? Do I go left or do I go right? You would be the tigers dinner at that point. You don’t want the executive involved at that moment. You want the amygdala in charge. The problem is that with the amygdala in charge sometimes it can be like the kid running in the candy store.  

Great explanation of this. People have heard this before. I’ve heard this before. What I’m interested in is how do we control this process so that we’re not in that place where we’re running, freezing or we’re in a state of paralysis? How can we gain more power in those situations and maybe turn that executive on so that it serves us in a way? I don’t think any of us are in a position where we’re going to be eaten by a tiger anytime soon. How do we turn that off or operate the system in a manner that serves us?  

You’re right about the tiger thing. I live in New York but I used to live in LA. I can be on the 405 freeway in traffic and running late for a meeting with the CEO of my company. All of a sudden, I am screaming out my window, honking my horn like a crazy person, looking down at myself, doing that and thinking, “Why am I doing this? None of these cars are moving. I can’t move. That’s the amygdala at work. That’s where the amygdala comes in. In New York, stuck in the subway, inside a tunnel where I can’t even get a text out to my assistant to say, “Can you please tell the CEO I’m going to be late?” I’m like, “Somebody move this train. This is how it shows up these days.  

How do we stop that? This is what I talk about in my books but it’s also what I teach when I go into companies as a consultant and advise on this stuff. It’s not up to us, the individual, to be aware of it and try to stop it ourselves. Communications will go better if the other person on the other side of the conversation is also aware of the process. The key is you want to try to keep everything calm. When people get defensive, when they feel attacked, stress starts to rise. It starts to go up and that system starts to kick in. You can see it happening.  

I mentor a lot of women and one of them was having problems with an ex. It wasn’t a business issue at all. It was a personal issue. She was having a problem with an ex and I said, “Since that’s triggering for you, why don’t you consider cutting that person out of your life? Stop interacting with him. Look what it’s doing to you. She went, “That’s too cruel. I would never do that. That’s not appropriate. I hit a button there with that comment. That was the amygdala at work. Something hit her the way I said it and the defense reaction came up and then the amygdala started to do its job.  

How could I have handled that conversation better? Where is my responsibility in that? As someone who teaches and preaches this stuff, I can tell you that I step into it all the time. What would have been better is if I would have had a second there to recognize like, “She’s emotional. I know that I have to tread carefully.” I talk about this in Communicating During a Crisis. First, understand where she’s coming from. Where have I had a similar situation before with an ex? Maybe it’s not a significant other. Maybe it was a friend or whatever. Where have I had conflict before? Can I have empathy for the pain she’s in? Yes, I can. I’ve had this experience before.  

Instead of dictating and telling the person what to do, offer options. What you’re trying to do at that moment is you want to try to keep them calm from going into what’s called an amygdala hijack. The second thing that you’re trying to do is, as a person, they need to feel like their autonomy is restored. They need to feel like they’ve got some control in a situation. When we’re stressed, we feel out of control. You want to be able to bring that control back into the situation. When you give someone choices, even if the choices aren’t ideal, you’re still giving them control over that decision.  

If I had said something to her, like, “That sounds difficult. In my experience, have you thought about doing it this way? Here are a couple of choices. One is maintaining contact with that person and try to convince yourself that you shouldn’t react this way anymore. Two is have you thought about not having any contact with them and blocking them? If that doesn’t feel good, how about not having contact with them for 30 days? Offering options, they would have been like, I don’t like or B for sure but C doesn’t sound bad.  

I like that. As the individual on the other end of that, if you weren’t around to facilitate that conversation or that communication, having the wherewithal to go through that process within yourself can be powerful. As you were stating that, I’m thinking, “That control thing is a real thing. Perhaps that’s why we default to the amygdala. That’s the only option because we don’t have other options to choose from. If we can give ourselves options and practice that and get good at giving ourselves empowering and servicing options, that can be a powerful way of being in crisistype situations.  

Unconscious bias is so prevalent that we don’t even realize that we have it. Share on X

I’m going there because I’m bridging the gap between what you’re saying and some of the experiences that we’re having. There’s a lot of uncertainty. Uncertainty is such a big word. It’s as big as resilience. A lot of people are dealing with that. What do you when there’s so much uncertainty? You can create certainty. That’s the right thing to do. Uncertainty is like a blank canvas. I don’t know what you create and what you want. That may be difficult for people but if we can get into the habit of creating options for ourselves, “What about this? What about that? That exercise alone brings a sense of control because now you get to choose where you go, which in a sense is creating. You’re creating and you’re bringing in the possibility of certainty if you will.  

People are attached to our status. Where do I stand with this person, with my family, with my work? What about my own autonomy, my ability to do what I want, to make decisions for myself? Things like certainty like you were talking about, for sure. Fairness is another big one. Fairness is a lot of what we’re dealing with in 2020 and 2021 whether it’s around the pandemic or Black Lives Matter, even around the election in the US. The thing that happens can still feel unfair especially if you use Black Lives Matter as an example. Anybody who believes that the systemic racism that exists in the United States is fair has one opinion. For the people who believe it’s unfair, you’re not going to change their minds. You’re not going to change my mind and tell me that’s okay. I don’t buy that.  

My black friends who experienced it, who lived their lives with it, they’re not going to ever think that’s fair nor should we ask them to. However, what we can do in having the negotiation around how we change it is to offer everybody, the whole pie of people, options for how that happens. There is a place and it is necessary for protesting. People have to protest. We have to speak up. We have to speak strongly. There comes a time where we have to then get to the table, work it out and that’s where this comes in.  

agree. Those negotiations are around how we relate because this is a relationship. That expands to everyone that’s in this country, in my opinion. I agree, there should be options about how we relate. Everyone has a say and a voice in what those options are and what the final agreement is going to be. It’s difficult to please everybody and yet we got to reach a common consensus that’s beneficial, that works for all lives because all lives matter.  

I agree. I heard something eloquent that I heard when the Black Lives Matter had boiled up. Some people were saying, “All lives matter.” People would say that and people would slam them for saying that. That became a little bit of a thing that people got hit for. I heard someone say something brilliant, which is cancer is still important. AIDS is still a major issue. Diabetes is still a major issue. In 2020, it’s COVID’s turn. That was the analogy for all lives matter. We agree with that. It’s time we have to pay attention to how this country treats black people and how we change that. To me, that was a logical way of addressing it. We’re not saying, whoever, white person, Asian person, black person, that you’re not important. What we’re saying is we have an issue here that needs to be addressed because it’s not been worked on for a long time. It’s been buried and it hasn’t gone away and it’s not right.  

I concur. There’s a house that’s on fire. Not every house in the neighborhood is on fire but there’s a particular house that needs some attention. That’s the one we’re going to focus on. I get that. Those discussions need to take place and they should be inclusive. If there are changes, you got to be aware of the other houses that are in development if we’re going to talk about preventive measures. I completely agree with you. Diversity and inclusion are something we haven’t talked about. Veterans matter. Individuals with disabilities matter. There are systemic issues that are going on there. What happened with the Black Lives Matter Movement is there was an incident that raised it at a high level of recognition. Unfortunately, a life had to be taken during that process but it got people’s attention.  

Now we’re having discussion, which is a good thing. There’s still a lot of work to be done around that. It’s challenging to break down to attitude with no barriers. One of the things that I’ve done in my career is I worked in the government that allowed me to work with individuals with disabilities and address attitudinal barriers that may exist that prevented hiring and retention or the promotion of individuals with disabilities. There were biases that existed among hiring officials that prevented or stifled the hiring, retention and promotion of those individuals. We have the same thing here when it comes to black livesThere are biases and attitudes with no barriers in high positions that are stifling the economic growth and development, the opportunities for individuals with disabilities.  

I was on the phone with a graphic designer. He’s a prominent graphic designer. He used to work for me. He’s Canadian. He brought up the conversation about what was going on in the US around Black Lives Matter. He said, I experienced the disparity by doing this work for you that I hadn’t ever experienced before. I don’t work with a lot of black individuals and you are one of the first that I’ve worked with. As I was going through your stuff and working on the graphics, it was difficult for me to find graphics that fit the work that you were doing of individuals that look like you.” Hsaid he had a hard time.  

GCM 186 new Joanna Dodd Massey | Embracing Change

Embracing Change: Instead of telling a person what to do, offer them options instead. You want to make them feel like they are still in control.


He said, I get the disparity. I understand what the message is. Why is it I can’t go and look into a repository of graphics because this is what I do as an individual? I see many images readily available of individuals that look like me, all kinds, shapes, categories, genres, you name it. All of that, they’re there. When I start looking for African-Americans, I’m having a hard time. I had to spend extra time finding graphics. Why is that? I’m like, “This is what we’ve been talking about all along, this is the disparity. There were images that I wanted to change in some of the work he was doing. Automatically, by default, there were images where you have someone who’s white at the forefront and one black. They’re in the picture but they’re in the back or they’re hidden. You can’t see them all there. The way things are positioned, there’s a disparity. Even the positioning of the person demonstrates that the white person is more superior or more dominant. These are images.  

We were having this conversation and I’m like, I want to change some things around. That’s not what I want to portray.” I’m in a position of power. I’m in a position where I can make these types of changes that needs to happen. He was ready. He’s like, I get it. We need to do this. He’s willing to make those changes. It was a healthy conversation, what made it healthy as he understood. He got it to the point where he wanted to figure out what can we do to increase the repository of African-American images so that disparity doesn’t exist. I was appreciative of that. That’s a prime example of what’s going on in America. 

You’re spot on. It’s unconscious bias. It’s prevalent that we don’t even realize it. It happens with men and women. Women are biased against themselves. We have the same stereotyping, the same messaging about ourselves that men have too. I do consult and I am the same thing. If you go to my website for my company, JD Massey Associates, I have a lot of images of black people, Hispanic, Asian, Muslim and some white. That is because I drive my designers nuts. I’m like, “I know.” Because there’s a prevalence of white people, that’s what shows up. I’m like, “We need more diversity. I didn’t even want a white female. I have this thing where there was a string of people and I was like, “Don’t start with a white female.” My designer is a person of color. He was doing it intentionally.  

A friend of mine sent me a video. He was starting a new job at a new company. He was like, I’m excited. I’m at this great company. They’re terrific. They’re all about helping, diversity, equity and inclusion. Isn’t this great? Take a look at this video we’ve done. He’s sending it to me as a friend. I sent it back to him and I said, I got to tell you something, the first image that you see is three white people walking up a grand stairway.” It was for business. I was as a B2B video. In every single image, you had a white person talking and a person of color listening with their hands folded and nodding. You had exactly what you said, which was the white person was in the foreground and the person of color was in the backgroundIn some cases, even blurred. I went frame by frame. I gave him time code of where I saw it. He shared it with the head of the company and the head of the company called me and said, “Can we hire you? said, “Yeah. I’ll come in and consult for you. We don’t even know we’re doing it. 

We talk about racism a lot. There’s systemic racism in America, no doubt about it. There’s an issue with inclusion in America. We don’t have enough inclusivity in America and that’s what we’re talking about here, including all races, all colors in your promoting and branding. If you look at commercials, what is the default image that America portrays? It’s not inclusive. We talk a lot but what we express and portray doesn’t represent what we say when it comes to being an American. When you go back to when this country was built and some of the documents that exist, those things don’t support where we are because we didn’t have this much diversity, wdidn’t have the coloring that you have of people here from different backgrounds and ethnicities.  

To address this, in my opinion, you got to go back to that. If the country was built on this particular race being supreme at that particular timethat’s what you’re not doing. If you’re saying we’re inclusivewe’re going to be a diverse nation, you got to go back. You got to modify those documents to fit what you’re trying to do, that movement, that focus. If you’re not willing to do that then everything else is talk. In my opinion, that’s the foundation. Those documents are the foundation of what this country’s built on. Those are the governing documents and it doesn’t represent where we are. That wasn’t the case back then, what we’re living with. How do we go back and change that? 

You’re talking about the US Constitution and The Bill of Rights. That would be a massive fight to get that changed. The Bill of Rights was an amendment to the constitution. It’s ten amendments so it can be done. In my book, Culture Shock, I talk about the communications between the five generations that are at work. The truth is that book applies to families and any situation. There are more than five generations in the country but the five that are still prominently involved in politics, business, nonprofit, actively like that. The other ones are over in their late-90s and the others are younger than ten years old.  

In the book, I go into a lot of detail about this and I talk about all five generations. talk about everything that was going on the Silent Generation who are between the ages of 74 and 95 somewhere in that range and the Baby Boomers who are 56 to 74 and then Gen X, Millennials and then Gen Z. The differences between what was happening when we were growing up, the way we’re impacted, the information that we have access to and the makeup of the country. When the Silent Generation was growing up, 85% of that generation are white. Gen Z, 50% are white and 50% are other ethnicities. There’s not a specific ethnicity in there but it is 50/50 absolute parity with white and people of color.  

The way they see the world is different than the way a Baby Boomer or a Silent Generation person sees the world. The second thing is we’ve given them social media, which is a megaphone for their ideas and their ideals. It’s brilliant because they have a voice that no generation before them had. My generation, Gen X, if we disagreed with something, I remember being highly politically involved in college, we had to have a press conference as 22yearolds. We called the local press and hope that they thought what we were saying and doing was important enough to send a camera crew down. Nobody could hear our opinion unless we wrote a letter to our congressperson. What is that nowadays? These kids can mobilize in a way that no generation before them could. It’s exciting and also threatening to some people.  

I am a change agent. I love change. jump on the change bus. It’s one of the things I was taught by a woman I’ve worked for in business three times, three different companies. She always said, Joanna, when you see the change coming, jump on that train in the front and drive that change. If you don’t get on the change train until the caboose, that thing is going to be dragging you and you might not make it. What you’re talking about could be met with a lot of, frankly, hostility and defensiveness from older generations. The two younger generations, the Millennial and Gen Z, once they get into positions of power and strength in politics and business, it’ll be interesting to see what changes would come.  

When you see the change train coming, jump on to the front and drive that change instead of letting it drag you. Share on X

Those changes will be necessary. They’re necessary now. It’s going to take that time for some things to fill out and then other things to move in then you’ll see those changes. It’s interesting how we are reluctant to change as a nation.  

That’s a human thing. 

It is, however, what you and I know sitting here having this conversation is the issue around racism is a real thing. When there’s a reluctance to change, when you have an issue around racism and inequality in Americafor me that raises a question, the power to change things is there but there’s a reluctance to change it. To me, are you condoning this issue? Is there an acceptance of this issue? Other people of color, that’s what they think about at night. Why isn’t there a change? If things were different then that change would go into place immediately. I think about some of the events that happen at the Capitol, that was a little bit different of a scenario. There were different colors of people that were doing those things. A different action would have happened. It would have been a completely different outcome because the power to do so exists and it would have been legal but there’s a hesitation.  

I’m going out on a limb here. There are people of power that have the ability to make certain changes that will, if not put this to rest, reduce the stress, the tension, liberate the situation. You talk about wanting to bring the nation closer together, truly being a more diverse country where we are inviting diversity. We’re inviting inclusion. There are things we can put in place to invite those things. That’s what I did on the job. What can we do? What policies do we need to change? What types of activities and events do we need to execute to ensure that we’re supporting the policies that we have in place to have an inclusive culture? That’s what’s missing in my mind. Now more than ever is when we need to make those changes whatever the laws are, whatever the policies are. Who’s looking at those documents? Who’s saying that? Where’s the bill that the president can sign that says, “This is the step forward. This is what we’re going to do. Who’s taking the stand? People in a position of power that can make a change are slow to make a change, slow to put something in place and that’s troubling.  

When people say, “You don’t need to tear up the place. You don’t need to riot. I completely agree. Any baby who isn’t getting heard and who’s not getting attention is going to do something to get attention. It’s not that they’re destroying things, that’s not the issue. You got to peel the onion back a little further and get at the root of why the child is acting the way the child is acting. Maybe there’s something that needs to be addressed and you’re not addressing it. I don’t know what else to do to get you to see that there’s an issue. How can I make you understand? How many people got to die? How many buildings need to burn down? How many things do I need to do to get you to see that a change needs to happen? You’re the person in power that can change it. Why isn’t it changing? There’s hesitation around that. That leads to feeling like black lives don’t matter or certain things don’t matter. Here in America, when it matters, things happen. 

You’re coming from it as an American issue and I said it’s a human issue. Interestingly, we’re coming a little full circle because the amygdala, I talk about this in one of the books, is coding us. It’s coding everything in our brain from when we’re in the womb. It authors a book and it’s called the book of life according to me, what should be and shouldn’t be, the way things can be and can’t be the way, what’s nice and what’s not nice. We all walk around with this book in our heads. I call it the rules of life according to me. The amygdala is the thing that resists change. We are biologically-hardwired to resist change. That we are drawn to, that we surround ourselves with, which is comfortable, familiar and similar biologically. We reject that, which is different from us and makes us uncomfortable. If it’s different, it makes us uncomfortable. We push that away.  

There are people who are naturally prone to overcome that wiring, people like me. I’m a change agent but that doesn’t mean that when change comes, I’m not like, “It’s scary. I like to consider myself pretty wokefairly wise, intelligent. I got four graduate degrees. I’ve been downsized five times and that is a nice way of saying I have been fired five times. I have big titles at big companies but I have been let go five times for whatever reason, mergersacquisitions, money issues. This is why I call myself the Queen of Pivoting. Every time that happens whether I love the job or I hate the job where I was planning on moving on or whatever the deal is, my first reaction is, I don’t want the change. The change is terrifying. I then get into acceptance. I talk about radical acceptance of what’s happening so that I can calm myself down and get on the bus, the change train. 

There’s a lot of people in this world, 90%, who don’t have that insight or that ability who know, That’s not the way I see the world and that can’t happen. They push against that change. They’re fighting like a kid. I agree with you, it’s part of why I love the younger generations. I have a couple of friends in their 40s50s and they’ve got teenagers. All of their kids know at least one person who does not subscribe to being a male or female. They believe themselves to be genderneutral. They use the pronoun they, them, theirs instead of he, his, she, hers. That is a foreign concept to somebody who’s a Gen X or a Boomer. We’re like, “What? We don’t get that.”  

GCM 186 new Joanna Dodd Massey | Embracing Change

Culture Shock: Surviving Five Generations in One Workplace

If you ask a 15yearold or 16yearold to explain that genderneutral concept, they’re like, “Mom, that is embarrassing. How can you even ask me that? There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s normal. My point is there are parts of their lives that are different than whathe older generations experienced. This change is coming through the system. Whether you’re the type of person who wants it or you’re the type of person who doesn’t want it, it doesn’t matter. It’s coming. Gen Z is the largest generation in this country. The Millennials are the second largest. They will bring it.  

We have to be patient.  

When I’m in a business and consulting, I’m also helping people on a personal level. When I started out joking like, “My books have business titles but they’re self-help books.” What I talk about is helpful for everybody to know whether it’s personal or professional. There are some realities to how human beings are wired that we need to learn to work with so that we can communicate better with each other and influence better. We’ve all seen how it happens on Twitter and it doesn’t work well. That is not working. It’s good for bringing up issues and getting the attention but it’s not working in terms of getting stuff done. 

What piece of advice influenced you the most in your career? What have you heard, seen or done that has shaped and molded you to be the person you are now 

One of them I already mentioned was that change thing. Dawn Ostroff, I’ve worked for her three times at three different companies and twice as her head of PR. She is the one who told me, like, “When change comes, grab it. Grab the bull by the horns.” I remember once I was in her office and she asked me if I had made a phone call that I needed to make. I was her head of PR. She said, “Have you called that person yet? No, I haven’t done it yet. Why not. I know they’re going to say no, Dawn. She said, Joanna, you don’t know if they’re going to say no unless you ask the question. By the way, if you ask the question, the worst thing that can happen is they say no. What else is going to happen?” In my mind, I’m thinking, “The guy is nasty and he’s a bully. It’s going to be a challenging conversation. She took it down to brass tacks, “Whatever it is, it’s going to be a no however it’s delivered. That’s the worst thing that can happen. Get over the delivery and accept the no and move on. You won’t know unless you ask the question.” It was helpful because instead of putting off conversations, putting off whatever, it put it in perspective.  

Joanna, how can people connect with you if they wanted to learn more about you, find you out on social media? Where can they find you? 

Surrender to what is happening instead of fighting it. Get to that place of calm first and then get into action. Share on X

I post a lot on LinkedIn. If they’re on LinkedIn, I’m on LinkedIn as Joanna Dodd Massey. I post a lot of stuff there. My company is JD Massey Associates. My website is JDMAInc.com. I have a newsletter that I put out. Those are two ways. I have an authors page on Amazon that people can take a look at. You can get to me through my website and also through LinkedIn, direct message.  

Thank you for that. Thank you for coming to the show. It’s been a great conversation. I didn’t know we were going to start talking about racism, diversity and inclusion during this show. It’s an enlightening conversation, one that we need to have more of in my opinion. Some of the philosophies that you’ve mentioned are helpful. In that conversation, I love the way you’ve tied the communication skills around understanding what’s happening with the person and how you can facilitate it. You did a little bit of that for meMamygdala was coming out a little bit during this conversation and I’m not ashamed of it because it sparked some things for me. There is some calming I need to do. Thank you for bringing me back and facilitating a useful conversation. That skillset is useful in any conversation. I appreciate you bringing that to light for us. Thank you so much.  

Thank you. I agree. I did not know we were going to go there but I like that about your show. It’s a conversation that organically goes where it’s going to go. It was helpful for me, too. I like to see your passion. To hear your perspective, that was helpful. I agree, there are no easy answers here even though it seems like there should be. We have to talk about it.  

All voices need to be heard. I get what you’re saying about Black Lives Matter and this particular area needs the most focus at this point but not at the detriment of hearing what others have to say. We need to put water on this issue to diffuse it. When we fix it to prevent other houses from burning in the future, we might want to hear about what they think, what they have in their backyard that could potentially cause a fire.  

That’s a good point. 

Before we end the show, we always like to ask all of our guests this important question. You’ve touched on it a little bit but I’m going to give you an opportunity to leave something with us here before we end the show. How can we bounce back from adversity, dominate our challenges and consistently win at the game of life? 

The way I do it, I don’t know if it’ll work for everyone, is radical acceptance and total surrender to life on life’s terms. When I can get to that radical acceptance and surrender to what’s happening instead of fighting it, “This shouldn’t be happening to me. This shouldn’t be happening to my country. This shouldn’t be happening in my world.” When I can get into radical acceptance, I can get to that calm, stop that amygdala and get that executive back online. I can take steps whether I’m in the middle of a career pivot and it’s helping my own career or it’s speaking out about the types of things that you and I were talking about and taking action on that front. Whatever it is, I have to first get into acceptance and surrender before I can get into action. 

That’s what I call a power move. Thank you for coming to the show, Joanna. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you and getting to know you. I love the conversation. Thank you. 

Thank you for having me. I enjoyed it as well. Thank you very much.  

GCM 186 new Joanna Dodd Massey | Embracing Change

Embracing Change: There are just some realities to how human beings are wired that we need to learn to work with so that we can communicate better with each other.


There you have it, another successful episode of the show. Don’t forget your power move. Whenever we’re in a stressful or challenging situation, it seems like the opposition or the resistance or the defense has knocked you off your game. You have to go back to your power move. I love the way Joanna teed it up for us. We can accept what has happened. The milk is on the floor, the house is on fire, whatever it is, it is what it is. The question is, what are you going to do about it? That’s all on you. Remember, that’s your power move. Thank you for readingUntil next time, peace and love.  

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About Joanna Dodd Massey

GCM 186 new Joanna Dodd Massey | Embracing ChangeJoanna Dodd Massey is an experienced C-suite communications executive and Board Director, who advises Boards, CEOs, Presidents, and executive teams at Fortune 500 companies, startups, and nonprofits.

She has worked for over 25 years strategizing on global brand reputation management at companies, such as Condé Nast, Lionsgate, CBS, Viacom, Discovery, and Hasbro. She managed corporate turnaround as Condé Nast transitioned from print to digital video; risk and crisis communications for publicly held companies with their consumers, regulators, investors, and advertisers; culture transformation when Lionsgate purchased Starz, CBS converted UPN to The CW, and Discovery shuttered its Hub TV Network; successful communications with diverse stakeholders as head of internal and external communications; and multi-million-dollar P&Ls as a department leader. Dr. Massey’s career spans media, film, TV, digital video, publishing, venture capital, and academia. She is based in the United States and has international experience working with partners in Europe, the UK, China, and India.

Dr. Massey is also a venture capitalist (VC). She previously served as a Managing Director at Golden Seeds, an early-stage female-led investment firm with more than $125 million in total investments in over 170 female-run businesses. Dr. Massey advises entrepreneurs on investor decks, go-to-market messaging, and developing workplace culture. She is a member of the Angel Capital Association. Currently, Dr. Massey serves as President & CEO of J.D. Massey Associates, Inc. (JDMA), a communications consulting firm that advises clients on managing global brand reputation with an emphasis on communicating externally and internally with millennial and Gen Z employees, consumers, investors, and members of the press. In addition, she is the author of the upcoming book, “Culture Shock: Surviving Five Generations in One Workplace.” Prior to JDMA, Dr. Massey ran numerous communications departments reporting to presidents and CEOs.

She was Head of Communications at Condé Nast Entertainment; Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications at Lionsgate; Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications and Publicity at the Hub Network, a joint venture between Discovery Communications and Hasbro; Senior Vice President, Communications, West Coast at CBS; Senior Vice President, Media Relations at UPN, which was originally owned by Viacom; and Vice President, PR, Marketing and New Business Development at the independent production company LMNO Productions. Dr. Massey began her career at the international PR firm Fleishman Hillard and quickly transitioned to the media industry, working in-house as a senior publicist for the CBS Television Network. Dr. Massey serves on corporate, startup, and nonprofit boards and is a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors. Currently, she is on the Advisory Board of 8B Education Investments, a for-profit business providing innovative student-financing products for African students studying abroad at world-class universities. In addition, she sits on the Audit and Development committees as a Board Director for The Resolution Project, a nonprofit organization providing seed funding, mentorship, and access to global advisory resources for undergraduate students who are developing entrepreneurial ventures that promote social good. Dr. Massey is also an active fundraiser for The Chapin School and sits on both the development and planned giving committees.

Formerly, she served on the Executive Board of the University of Southern California New York Alumni Club, as well as on the Board of Colors LGBTQ Youth Counseling Services, which provides free LGBTQ-affirmative counseling and psychotherapeutic services to youth under 25 and their families in greater Los Angeles. In addition, Dr. Massey is an adjunct professor at Columbia University, where she teaches a graduate-level course in corporate communications and brand reputation management in the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). Dr. Massey’s diverse professional background includes several years of higher education. She has a Graduate Certificate in Corporate Finance from Harvard, as well as an MBA from the University of Southern California (USC), and two graduate degrees in psychology—a Master in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University Los Angeles, and a Doctorate in Transpersonal Psychology from Sofia University (formerly the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology).

While receiving her psychology degrees, Dr. Massey served as a therapist in a community clinic and then as a personal coach working with individual clients and holding public workshops to help people recognize conditioned thinking and achieve higher levels of personal and professional success. Dr. Massey is a member of the American Psychological Association. Dr. Massey was born and raised in New York City. She lived briefly in Paris studying French, and spent many years in Los Angeles, having originally moved there to attend USC as an undergraduate student, where she obtained a B.A. in journalism with an emphasis in public relations and a minor in philosophy with an emphasis in ethics.

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