Leighann Lovely – Deciding to Be Open About Mental Health Issues

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Episode Description

Leighann Lovely is an independent HR Consultant who got tired of keeping her bi-polar disorder under wraps. In this episode Leighann talks about her diagnosis and the reasons behind her decision to start openly talking about her mental health issues, even though she knew that by doing so it would cost her business and could affect her career.

Leighann talks about the way that she makes decisions and the way she keeps herself from letting the "parade of horribles" from stopping her from making real progress in her life. Leighann's story is full of courage and is a testimony to the value of being true to yourself.

Show Notes

About Leighann

Leighann Lovely is an independent HR and Business Development Consultant. She has a a BA in Business and nearly 20 years of combined experience in Human Resources and Staffing. Leighann puts a huge emphasis on the Human side of human resources and advocates supporting the needs of people. She believes that if you are not learning something new everyday you are missing out on an opportunity to be great.

Leighann is also the host of the podcast Let’s Talk HR – Humanizing the Conversation.

Where to Connect with Leighann

You can find  Leighann on Linked in at Leighann Lovely and on Twitter at Leighann_lovely. You can also connect with her on her website at Let'sTalkHR.com.

Make sure to check out Leighann's podcast, Let's Talk HR: Humanizing the Conversation on her website, and on any platform where you listen to podcasts.

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Deciding to Be Open About Mental Health Issues 


people, decision, business, clients, hr, bipolar disorder, mental health, sales, hire, person, podcast, world, companies, life, job, walked, knowing, Leighann, decided, work


Leighann Lovely, Karen Covy

Karen Covy  00:03

Hello, and welcome to Off the Fence, a podcast where we deconstruct difficult decision makings, so we can figure out what keeps us stuck, and more importantly, how do we get unstuck?

I'm your host, Karen Covy, a former divorce lawyer, mediator, arbitrator and collaborative divorce professional turned coach, author and entrepreneur.

With me today is Leighann lovely, and Leighann has a BA in Business with an emphasis in Human Resources. She has nearly 20 years combined experience in human resources and staffing. She puts a huge emphasis on the human side and supporting the needs of people. She believes that if you're not learning something new every day, you're missing out on an opportunity to be great. And that brought her to the launch of her podcast, Let's Talk HR: Humanizing the Conversation.

Leighann, welcome to the show.

Leighann Lovely  00:59

Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to talk with you today.

Karen Covy  01:03

I'm excited to want to start at the end and talk about your podcast, Let's Talk HR. Can you tell our listeners, why a podcast? What prompted you to decide to start the podcast? And how did you make that decision?

Leighann Lovely  01:23

I think that a lot of people start podcasts for a number of reasons. One, they own a business or they're in a business and they want to get information out. They want to promote. They want to get information out. Or there's the others who have something to say.

I've got a talking point, I want to be heard, or I'm saying the same thing over and over to my clients or, it's like, ‘Oh, I'm going to say the same thing until I'm blue in the face, and why don't I just make a podcast to say it to the masses?’

For me, personally, it was I had something to say and I was ready to say it. My podcast came out with everything that was happening in the world with COVID, with everything that was happening with mental health in the world. Being an HR professional, I wanted to tell a little piece of my story. So, the first episode that launched was a good friend of mine interviewing me on why are you doing this. It's really my mental health background. I have bipolar disorder. For years, I lived in the shadows, trying to keep it a secret, trying to keep the, I don't want to say the sob story of mental health, in the closet, but compartmentalizing this deep, dark secret that I have from the business world. But we're not living in that world anymore.

So, I just made a decision one day, I'm not going to be two people. I'm going to be my whole self. I remember the words that my father said to me, “I'm extremely proud of you. But be weary, there will be people who choose not to work with you.” I said, “I know. And I'm 100% okay with that.” I remember him saying that I am even more proud of you. And that was it. I made the decision that I was going to tell my story. It was an overwhelming acceptance of the people in my network. From there, it has evolved into way much more than just me ranting about my story. It’s been about culture. It's about creating culture in companies. It’s about being accepting of all humans, from no matter what or who they are. And having companies start to understand that people don't walk into work, drop baggage at the door and then become a zombie, worker bee.

We as humans can't just turn off emotions. It's not a light switch where we flip it and become something else. And until employers completely and totally accept that, we're going to continue to have issues. Not saying that we're not going to have issues, there's always going to be some type of thing, of course, but there's going to be more acceptance and empathy and companies willing to work with individuals who either have mental health or childcare issues, or even addiction issues. It's a protected class in which this is tied to mental health. There's so many other things that companies now need to be more aware of, and have somebody who's got the expertise to handle.

Karen Covy  05:06

100%. That's part of the reason why I wanted to have you on the podcast because I think your message is so important and so huge. But it had to take a tremendous amount of courage to come out of the closet, so to speak, because mental health, it's kind of like the dirty little secret that so many people have, and they push it away. Because of COVID, I think, a lot more came out and people are now a lot more aware of mental health issues. I think that's partially because people developed some mental health issues, or they became bigger things during COVID because it was such a stressful time. What prompted you to finally make that shift from I'm just going to be quiet about this and hope nobody realizes it, and I'll just do my job and maybe be that worker bee or try to no, I'm going to tell my story. I mean, that's a huge shift. What was your thought process in making that proclamation coming out? I don't know what you call it.

Leighann Lovely  06:14

No, I think that we all get to an age. I'm not a young 20-year-old anymore, but I think that part of us, we get to an age where acceptance isn't the first thing on my mind anymore. If there's somebody who doesn't like me, they don't have to. I don't need friends. I'm not collecting friends. It's a great thing to have somebody who likes me, who wants to work with me, but I'm not collecting friends these days.

So, when I made that decision, it wasn't about are these people going to like me? Are they going to accept me? And no progress has ever been made by people staying quiet. When you see, taking the stars, for example, when you see public figures coming forward, slowly but surely, why wouldn't somebody like me come out in my community say, “Yeah, I've experienced that.” It takes people like me to pave the way for the younger generation to say it's okay, because I'm not going to live the way that I lived when I was younger, or the way that my mother lived, or the way that her mother lived. That's not the way that we're supposed to live being quiet and hush hush and sweep it under the rug, because it's not comfortable.

Karen Covy  07:39

Yeah, I think that's huge. You've really put your finger on something. I commend you for having that strength and looking at the people who are coming behind you and saying, “This is a road I want to pave,” because it's important, because it matters. But as someone who recently started your own business, kind of recently that had to cross your mind. Like, is this going to affect my ability to do business? So, how did that play a role in your decision, or maybe it didn't at all?

Leighann Lovely  08:15

It didn't. It didn't at all, because there are plenty of people out there who think just like me. There are plenty, and there is business to be had everywhere. And again, it comes down to if I do great at the job, at the work that I do, the people who I want to work with will respect me for who I am. Let me repeat. The people who I want to work with will respect me for who I am as a whole person, not just as the okay, she's great when she's not bipolar. And again, I don't want anybody to take offense to that because I am. I have bipolar disorder. Now, I've had it under control for many, many years. So, I can't speak to going through the cycle that many men and women still are continuing to go through. I've managed to stay balanced and have my mental health under control for many, many years.

But if there are people out there who choose not to work with me because they're afraid or uncomfortable or don't understand it, I'm open to talking about it. Or you can choose not to work with me and I'm okay with that. It's part of what I chose when I decided to talk about it. It wasn't a hard decision once I wrapped my head around what could happen? I mean, yeah, what could happen the pros and cons? People could choose not to like me. They could choose to be afraid of me. They could choose to not hang out with me or, but what is the benefit? The benefit far outweighs and that's what it comes down to in every decision I make.

Karen Covy  10:15

I think that's so important, I want to just pick out something that you said, because it's very, very important, especially for people who are entrepreneurs, who are in business. I mean, you said that the people who are right for you, the people who are your clients, your tribe, they're going to find you, and they're going to work with you, and they're not going to care that you have bipolar disorder. As a matter of fact, that will make you a better fit for some people than for other people. But that is so important and such an important message to get across to people, whether you're an employee, but especially if you own your own business. You don't want to work with everyone. You're not meant to. And the people that you can say, “They're not my people,” if you have the strength to do that, instead of trying to make everyone happy, you're going to have a better business and a better life and probably so will they.

Leighann Lovely  11:16

If you historically think of businesses just to try to serve everybody, they usually miss the mark anyways. It's the businesses who are very specific to a very specific clientele who have honed in on a very specific skill, that usually thrive. And if that means a very specific person, a very specific personality. And I'm not saying that I have a very specific person or personality that I want to work with, but just taking as an example.

Karen Covy  11:50

Yeah, that makes all the sense. What you do with HR, I mean, I think that's a fairly specific niche. I mean, you're very clear, you work with HR, you work with sales. And why HR? You've been doing it for decades. What drew you to that?

Leighann Lovely  12:08

I fell into HR. I returned from basic training. I was discharged from the military with an injury. I went and worked in a factory while I was looking for a job. I actually was working at a medical clinic for a while then and then I walked into a manpower. And I said, ‘I need to find a job.’ This was what, early 2000s, dating myself here. So, can you help me find a job? And they said, ‘Well, come work for us.’ I was in school for computer programming. I just loved the idea of helping other people find their perfect fit. So, I quickly decided, well, not quickly, I was a degree or a class away from getting my degree in computer programming, my associates, and I decided I don't want to be a computer programmer.

So, I switched my degree to my bachelor's degree, and then set off on that course and stayed in recruiting, came up doing a high-level recruitment. You name it, I probably did finance, accounting, IT and just fell in love with that.

During this time, all the recruiters that I knew all wanted to go into corporate HR. That was their dream. I'm going to do this. I'm going to get my degree. I'm going to go to corporate HR.’ Well, this was before 2006, ‘07, ’08. And then of course, at that time, every single HR department just pare down to like, from like, a team of five or six to one. It was tough. It was it was really tough. Did consulting work for a while and eventually decided that I wanted to go on the sales side. I did some things here and there and I ended up back in the staffing industry, but on the sales side, and that's where I thrived. I love to be able to consult with my clients, but on the sales side, I love the chase. Just absolutely love that. But being able to, again, consult with my clients. Help them problem solve, help them figure out, do we have a hiring problem or do we have a retention problem? What is the goal here?

Karen Covy  14:56

That's fascinating to me. I just want to stop you for a second, because I know that the name of your company is Love Your Sales. Now, I've been an entrepreneur for a while. And I have to tell you, I've spoken with lots and lots and lots of entrepreneurs, very few people say, “I love my sales or I love selling.” Most of them, that's the their least favorite part of the business. How can you love sales? How do you help other people share your passion for sales? Because that's not an easy thing. In my world, that's not an easy thing to love.

Leighann Lovely  15:35

So, yeah. First, coming up with the business name was so much fun. Not for me, I have a mastermind group that I get together with. A shout out to the Idea Collective who is just amazing. They do this thing called the Idea Slam. I went to them and I said, “I'm not a creative, I am a hardcore salesperson, not marketing.” I'm like, “I cannot figure out for the life of me a name.” So, within an hour, or within like 20 minutes, they had come up with like, three top names for this business. Because I had described to them, what my business was. I had never dreamed of being an entrepreneur. Well, maybe at one time I dreamed about being an entrepreneur, but when you end up in a cushy job where you don't have to, and I was shoved into this. So, I'm like, “Okay. I'm currently doing a fractional sales job. I am working part-time as a sales individual, where basically making cold calls, that is where I thrive. I am 100% a cold call girl. I love it. I enjoy it. Doesn't matter the industry. Right now, I am doing a job in two vastly different industries. I love to recruit for salespeople. I've always been told, like, that's not the business we want to get into. Well, I love it. I love talking to salespeople and trying to figure out how do you do it? How do you make it work? So, 20 minutes into this, they came up with three names. An hour after that, I bought the domain. I sent over to a great friend of mine who creates content and does little marketing things. She created the logo for me and I'm most often running.

Karen Covy  17:29

All right. So, you go to this Mastermind, they come up with an idea. And within an hour, you're like, “Yes, I got the domain. Let's do this.” I know you and I have talked before about how you make decisions really quickly. How in in heaven's name did you do that?

Leighann Lovely  17:47

Again, what is the worst thing that can happen? People are like, ‘What the heck is the name of this? Or I hate it and it crashes. I spent 20 bucks on the domain. A good friend of mine created it and then what happens? I buy a new domain and change the name.

Karen Covy  18:07

How do you stop the parade of horribles in your head? I know in my business; I work with a lot of people who what if themselves to death. Like well, what if I make this decision? And what if this bad thing happens? And that bad thing happens? No one ever asks, ‘What if this good thing happens, right?’ They're all in the parade of horribles. How do you not do that?

Leighann Lovely  18:31

I grew up in a family that just didn't allow those What if to happen. It was you do it or you don't. No progress is ever made if you sit still. It's simple as that. If you're not moving, nothing is moving forward. For me, I have to be moving. And some people would say it's slight ADD. Maybe that's part of the mental health but progress has to be continuously made in my life. I think it is also tied to the learning. I'm constantly sucking up information, keeping that information in. I always think what is the worst thing that can happen? Now, obviously bigger decisions. They take a little bit more time. Financial decisions, I'm going to buy a house. I'm not going to go out and go, ‘Oh my gosh, I'm just going to buy this house.’ That obviously takes much more time financially. Can I afford this? Can I do this? Those are more impactful in your life. But the little things, if I do this, what is the outcome? Is it immoral? Illegal? Unethical? No. Okay. Those boxes are checked.

Now, what is the impact that will have? The negative impact? It's minor. There's no major impact if I make this decision. What is the benefit? Okay. Here's the benefit if I make this decision. And if the negative impact is very, very low, the decision is made. I move forward. If that's waiting on the high, then it's okay, we need to think about this. Let's run it past somebody else. Let's throw this across, talk to my husband about, talk to the other people in my life that are confidants in my world. And make sure that I'm not being too hasty. Make sure that I'm not doing something that's not so smart. But for the most part, we make a million decisions a day. Do I have another cup of coffee? Do I run to the grocery store when I know that I have a meeting that's happening in a half an hour? Do I have enough time? Yes, no. We make a million unconscious decisions a day. We don't have a problem doing that. It's the conscious decisions that our brain gets caught up in. All of a sudden, we're like, “Oh, my God,” and we become paralyzed in fear. It's a mindset thing. We need to remove them.

Karen Covy  21:25

I think you nailed it. I think you got it right. It's the whole mindset thing for big decisions anyway. I mean, small decisions to go through an entire intricate decision-making process would take too long. You'd never decide what to have for dinner if it took you half an hour an hour to figure it out. Right? These are the things you do. But for the bigger decisions. I think mindset is so important. I mean, do you have any tips or tricks or advice you can share with the audience about how you keep your mindset in the place where it's working for you so that you can make those important decisions without constantly second guessing yourself?

Leighann Lovely  22:11

If I'm getting locked down, and I'm struggling, and I'm in that state of going back and forth of should I or shouldn't I, I'll write it down. I write down here's the big decision. Here's the pros, here's the cons. And then I lull over it. Not for an hour, not for two days, not for a week, I’ll lull over it. And if I'm still stuck, that's when I engage somebody else. And I go, ‘Here's what I'm thinking about.’ I'm not afraid. And here's where I think people get stuck. Oh, gosh, this is not that big of a deal. I shouldn't bring somebody else in. Why not? Why not? I mean, I have good friends where I'm like, ‘Hey, I'm going to text this group of people and be like, ‘What would you do? Like yay or nay?’ And my friends will be like, nay like, what are you thinking? And I'm like, ‘Oh, okay, fine. That's a stupid idea. When it came to the business name, as soon as that name came up, I text my family actually. I have two brothers. They're both married. I have my mom, my dad, their spouses. I text the three names and said, vote. And within a couple of minutes, they all voted. I went back to the Mastermind group that I was still on and said, “Here's their votes. What are your votes?” And it came down to everybody really liked, Love Your Sales. And I won't tell you the other ones that were on the table, because there were some fun ones on the table. And it was hands down, boom, decision made.

Karen Covy  23:45

I think that what you're saying, though, too, is also very helpful, not only to have trusted people in your life that you can say, “Hey, what do you think about this or that,” but also, the idea of a Mastermind, the idea of having other people in the business world, when you're talking about a business decision that is. To have other people who are in the same environment or world that you're in and you can go to them and say, “Hey, what do you think?” And get some expert feedback, and get feedback from people who actually care about you, I think is huge.

Leighann Lovely  24:25

I think it’s huge. You made the comment about people who care about you. Sometimes you need to take it to people who are completely unbiased, because sometimes the people who care about you are too close to it. So, take it to somebody who's like, I don't really care one way or another, but this is what would get my attention.

Karen Covy  24:49

Yeah, I think you're right about that, too. Sometimes the people who care about you care about you so much, that they can't give you that unbiased thoughtful advice. Even though they want to and they mean well, the advice they give you is more sometimes from a place of fear. Like, we don't want you to do something stupid, so we're going to say don't do this. Not because it's a bad idea, but they don't want to see you hurt. So, it's about knowing who to ask when to.

Leighann Lovely  25:21

Right. It goes back to the peer pressure, like all the kids are like, ‘Yeah, jump off that cliff.’ Your family would be like, ‘Oh, no, don't jump off that cliff.’

Karen Covy  25:32

I know. Sometimes entrepreneurship does feel like you're jumping off that cliff. I want to switch gears a little bit and go back to the HR because not only do are you making decisions in your own life, but you help other people in HR. I mean, there's got to be a thousand different kinds of decisions that you help people make. What are some of the biggest ones? In the HR realm, what kinds of decisions are you helping your clients make?

Leighann Lovely  25:59

I focus mainly on the staffing. Mainly in the staffing world. And it's mainly associated with hiring. So, I've honed in mainly on that. Some of the things that kind of shout out to me, it's a lot of times the questions of I've had individuals, like, this is an awesome candidate, really want to hire them but, and the number one thing that I get is walking through or walking my clients through the fears of do I hire this person knowing certain information.

Karen Covy  27:04

I can see you're trying to be sensitive.

Leighann Lovely  27:07

Yes. There's always situations where clients without knowing are on the edge of legality. You want to make sure that they're not being biased due to things that they're not supposed to be. So, those are a lot of the conversations that I have, kind of taking the clients off the edge of very sensitively. You can't not hire this person for that reason.

It's amazing how much it still comes up today. You cannot choose not to hire this individual for that reason. And then it's the conversation, can they do the job? Do you believe that they will be good at the job? And it usually is always, “Well, yes, yes, yes.” Then there is no reason why you shouldn't hire this individual. It's amazing how often I have that conversation. Sometimes it comes down to, “No, they don't check that box.” And it's like, “Okay. Well, then you part ways.” And now, you have a legal and valid reason for passing on this person. I mean, it happens still to this day. The person is not blatantly trying to but those are still things that are happening in today's society.

I'm glad that companies come to people like me to help with those hiring things, and then actually feel comfortable enough with me to have those discussions because 9 times out of 10 if it is something that they're worried about. Years ago, I had a hiring manager come out of an interview and say, “I'm pretty sure this individual is on drugs.” I had to sit her down and say, “This person is not on drugs. It is not my belief that they're on drugs,” and explained to her that he had some form of disability that caused him to have an eye tic. So, again, there's different situations that you just have to, I guess, walk the managers off the ledge and kind of explain.

Karen Covy  29:47

Yeah. What you're saying what you're talking about, which is so key is education, right? That person wasn't trying to, it doesn't sound like, they weren't trying to discriminate against someone with a disability, they didn't see that as a disability. They thought they were on drugs. So, having you there to educate them about this is the manifestation of something else, and this is what I think. And also, it sounds like you also have to educate your clients about, “This is what you can and can't do under the law.” Some people probably legitimately don't know, and they're doing things that maybe they shouldn't be doing, because they don't know any better.

Leighann Lovely  30:33

Right. I've had everything from clients asking, “Are you planning on having a family?” So, sometimes it's just a matter of, “Hey, I'm going to be blunt. You can ask my candidates what year they were born, or if they're planning on having a family, or what year they graduated high school, because then if you choose not to hire them, they could try to come back and say it was age discrimination.” Again, often, as long as the candidate fits the role, often, in the end, the person ends up hiring these individuals, which is great, because then the message came across, we've gotten through it. And the person, obviously, was truly trying to, they're innocent in any discrimination. They just didn't know any better. It's amazing how even in today's age, or in today's world, we are still very naive to what we are allowed and not allowed to ask during the hiring process.

Karen Covy  31:54

Yeah, that's crazy. It's crazy that this level of, we'll call it potential discrimination, still exists for whatever reason, because people just don't know any better. They haven't educated themselves, or maybe in some cases, I'm sure, there's a lot of intentional stuff going on as well. It's just mind blowing that in this day and age, that still happens.

Leighann Lovely  32:21

What rings in my ears as speaking to employment attorneys, I just recently interviewed one on my podcast, this is not specific to necessarily what we're talking about. But she had said to me, the government makes laws, they create laws, but they don't care. I shouldn’t say they don't care, but they don't teach law. It is up to each individual company to stay abreast of what those laws are. It's their responsibility to make sure they understand what each protected class is and what EEOC means and what DEI means. I mean, most companies are severely behind on what DEI is. Diversity, equity and inclusion actually means. I've walked into companies and they said, “We're extremely diverse.” And they have every race, every sex on the manufacturing floor. But the minute you hit the office, you have all white males. And you think, “Well, okay. That's great.”

Again, it's a work in progress. But in order to really, truly be diverse, you need decision makers to be that diverse, because that's where it starts. That's where the progress truly starts.

Karen Covy  34:09

Yeah, 100%.

Leighann Lovely

Sorry, I digress.

Karen Covy

No, this has been fascinating. I think it's something that every employer should hear, listen to and dive into more. I'm a little biased, I'd say with you, but definitely dive into. You can't work with everybody in the world.

Now, I'd like to just wrap this up by throwing you a bit of a curveball, if that's okay.

Leighann Lovely


Karen Covy

I knew it would be with you. But let me ask you this, what do you think is the best decision you've ever made? Could be personal, business, career, anything. What's the best decision you've ever made?

Leighann Lovely  34:53

In my life?

Karen Covy

Yeah, whatever comes to mind.

Leighann Lovely

The best decision that I've ever made in my life was when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder was to dig in and get help. Because every decision that came after that was contingent on my being healthy.

Karen Covy  35:17

That's amazing. So, thank you for sharing that. Thank you for sharing your story and all of the information that you have here today.

Just sort of to bring this full circle, can you tell people where they can find you? I know you've got a podcast. I know you've got a website. Where can people find you if they want to?

Leighann Lovely  35:38

You know, it's funny, I've got like five email addresses. So, I'll start with this one. If you are looking to find me, you can find me on LinkedIn. I am absolutely there. If you're looking to check out my podcast, it is Let's talk HR - Humanizing the Conversation that is at http, that whole thing, let's-talkhr.com. That's really the best way to find me. You can email me at let'[email protected]. So, you'll find me. I'm all over LinkedIn.

Karen Covy  36:18

You know what, we are going to link to all of that in the show notes anyway, so don't worry about a thing. Leighann, it has been lovely. For those people who are listening, if you like what you heard, if you want to hear more of it, please give us a thumbs up, like, subscribe, feel free to comment if you're watching this on YouTube, and I look forward to talking to you in the next episode.

Leighann Lovely  36:40

Thank you so much.

Head shot of Karen Covy in an Orange jacket smiling at the camera with her hand on her chin.

Karen Covy is a Divorce Coach, Lawyer, Mediator, Author, and Speaker. She coaches high net worth professionals and successful business owners to make hard decisions about their marriage with confidence, and to navigate divorce with dignity.  She speaks and writes about decision-making, divorce, and living life on your terms. To connect with Karen and discover how she can help you, CLICK HERE.


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