Dayna Lapkovsky is the founder and CEO of frank, a new virtual international leadership community that accelerates professional and personal growth. In frank, a safe space is created where members are guided by a trained facilitator in peer-coached sessions, gaining a diverse set of perspectives and learning new tools to navigate situations in their work and home lives.

We spoke with Dayna about how the sessions work, how frank is different from your typical women’s group, and how she manages to juggle being an entrepreneur while also being a busy mom. Plus, she shared some insights used in frank sessions we can implement in our own lives to tackle challenges!

How did you come up with the idea for frank? 

DL: A couple of years ago, I was attending a women’s entrepreneurship conference and I had the opportunity to meet and chat with many incredible women, all from different backgrounds and industries. I noticed how open they were willing to be, candidly sharing their career and personal life stories and challenges with the other attendees.

In return, they were met with empathy, encouragement, best practice advice and support. It was so amazing and eye-opening to witness these vulnerable exchanges between strangers. I knew there was something special about the way they lifted each other up in a strategic manner. As a solo-entrepreneur, I recognized how valuable connecting, empowering and learning along with other like-minded women is, and I knew I was not alone in feeling this way. I created the frank women’s leadership community as a sustainable way to build a supportive network for ambitious entrepreneurs and professionals across all industries.

The sessions are in a guided, peer-coaching format with a trained facilitator. Can you explain a bit more about how sessions are formatted and how frank differs from other women’s leadership and empowerment groups? 

DL: At frank, we encourage a holistic approach to leadership, it’s more about human connection and being authentic vs. climbing the corporate ladder. Our professional coaches guide our members on their journey and help them peel back the layers of their challenges, synthesize their communications and present new tools for self-reflection while gaining clarity on their paths forward in the realms of work, personal and family. frank is a framework that allows for emergent discussions on what is pressing and important to our members.

Unlike other leadership groups, we do not have a set curriculum regarding the topics of discussion. Our discussions are organically based on whatever is burning in the moment and we weave in essential leadership practices into each of our sessions.

One of the biggest differences really lies in practice. You could read a book about leadership skills, but until you actually put them into play and receive valuable feedback, you really don’t know how to do it. In frank sessions, we allow room for our members to practice – and see how others practice – their skills in a safe space so when they are thrown into situations out in the world, they are better prepared.

The environment you’ve created within frank allows for deeper connections between members. How do you foster connections and create a safe space for members on a virtual platform? How is that better/worse than in-person? 

DL: We take great care in ensuring our members are primed for open and honest sharing. Creating a psychological safe space goes far beyond simply stating a space is “safe” – it’s about cultivating a confidential, curious, respectful, non-judgmental environment. We build trust over time and reinforce our safety agreements regularly.

It is amazing how you can create deep connections in 2-D. I am always blown away by the authentic bonds we’ve created virtually. I think it is a testament to how fully our frank members show up to each session. While it’s easy to be distracted online, our community is present, focused and in-gear to support their peers. They genuinely care about one another’s success and understand the ‘give & gain’ reciprocity that frank fosters.

While I would love to physically be in the same room as our energetic members, our virtual sessions really cater to our busy women. They no longer need to fight traffic, have the hassle of finding parking or running out of another meeting to attend our sessions. Plus, being virtual has opened our membership internationally, adding another dynamic layer to our community.

Can you share any techniques used in frank to combat some of the negative emotions we might be facing like stress, burn out or imposter syndrome that our readers can use in their own lives?

DL: Many of our exercises are focused on reframing challenging situations and looking at it from a fresh perspective. Our curated cohorts are designed to offer viewpoints from a multitude of industries, backgrounds and knowledge bases. Our international members share best practices and experienced-based feedback making each discussion rich and inspiring. It is reassuring to know that you are not alone in your situation and to hear how others moved past the challenge with success.

It is always helpful to break-down overwhelming journeys into bite-sized steps, or Microsteps. We practice this technique in frank by taking a large challenge, breaking it down into steps, and then completing the first 15% of that first step. Not only does it help you get you started (often the hardest part of tackling any challenge) but the quick win gives you an immediate sense of accomplishment.

As a busy working mom, how do you manage building a business and taking care of your kids while also finding time to take care of yourself? What are some ways, big or small, that you practice self care?

DL: Practicing simple daily rituals helps keep me grounded in my chaotic life. For example, each night I go through the same bedtime routine of turning off my phone and charging it in the kitchen (no tech in the bedroom!), reading fiction or an inspirational book, and doing a deep breathing exercise like box-breathing to help shed some of the day’s stress before I drift off to sleep. I get a sense of comfort from the routine and it helps to prime my mind and body for a good night’s rest.