Dia Bondi is the Creator of Ask Like An Auctioneer. After 20 years as a communications coach, she combined those skills with her impact hobby of fundraising auctioneering for nonprofits that are women-led or that benefit women and girls. Her goal is to help one million women ask for more and get it.

Learn more about Dia.

Learn more about The Passionistas Project.


Passionistas: Hi and welcome to The Passionistas Project Podcast. We're Amy and Nancy Harrington. Today we're talking with Dia Bondi, a communications coach, speaker, and creator of Ask Like an Auctioneer. For the last 20 years, Dia has coached some of the highest profile, most extraordinary world leaders, CEOs, philanthropists, visionaries and innovators.

She's helped Rio de Janeiro secure the 2016 summer Olympics, worked with countless thought leaders, entrepreneurs across industries and Changemakers at the Clinton global initiative and the Commonwealth games Federation among many others.

Dia founded Ask Like an Auctioneer, combining her skills as a communication coach and her impact hobby of fundraising auctioneering for women led nonprofits and nonprofits benefiting women and girls. Her goal is to help one million women and underrepresented folks ask for more and get it.

So please welcome to the show Dia Bondi.

Dia: Hi everybody.

Passionistas: Thanks for being here. We're really excited to talk to you today.

Dia: I'm excited too.

Passionistas: What's the one thing you're most passionate about?

Dia: This is such a tough question for me when I get any questions about what's your favorite ice cream? What's your favorite color? What's the one thing I'm like, there's so many things and that's been sort of the definition of my career has been being a multi passionate, you know, I mean I, I, I really am, which is, you know, adventure is one of my core values and that means like trying a lot of different things. And so, you know, in my work I think whether I'm helping somebody sort of elevate their impact on stage or helping in a workshop for aspect, can auctioneer a woman craft a powerful ask, the kind that can change everything across the board when I'm really passionate about is sort of getting to the heart of the matter and helping people be honest with the world about what they want.

Passionistas: So talk about how that does translate into your work as a communications coach.

Dia: I'm a CEO activator and the SHEEO network and I was talking to Vicky Saunders who's the founder of CEO and about what it is that I do. And yes, I help, you know, leaders stand on stage and have impact. Helps sometimes help them put together the story, their signature talk or, or to put together their 12 minutes on stage for a crucial communications moment as a leader in their organization. But what I'm really doing is, is asking like who are you and how do you want to show up and what kind of impact do you really want to have? And then how do we strategically tie that to the mission of your organization or your entrepreneurial journey or the, you know, your business that you're running. So it's really a lot about like who are you?

And like what? Like if you honestly say who you are on stage and what you're about, of course we're going to be nuanced and we're going to be intentional about the language that we use. But that's really a lot of what I do inside of that work. And then you know how it shows up, that stuff directly translates over to project as like an auctioneer because I'm kind of asking the same question. I'm asking women like, wait a second, what do you really want? And then how do we craft a powerful ask that actually gets you there more quickly? And a lot of folks sometimes think about that as like, Oh you mean negotiations and yeah, sometimes we're talking about negotiation, but negotiation starts with getting really clear about what are you really asking for? And knowing that depends on what do you really want.

Passionistas: What inspired you to become a communications coach?

Dia: There was a very specific moment that really took the small flame into a full on campfire for me. But leading into that, it was really, I started my career in fitness and fitness is about building muscle. Mass fitness is about, you know, increasing your range of motion. Fitness is about stability. Fitness is about whole health. But what is the part that I really loved about teaching group fitness, which I did all through college, was helping folks in my room have a sense of personal power in their bodies like that. That's just what ends up happening. That sort of the after-glow or the, you know, the halo effect of moving your body is the energy and sort of the embodiment you get from that. And that was something that was really an important part of that work.

Aside from the fact that I've always been kind of entrepreneurial, you know, in college I didn't want to work in the bookstore for eight bucks an hour at that time, so long ago, $6.25 an hour. I wanted to teach group fitness on my own terms with the schedule that I determined for 50 bucks an hour. You know, that it made a big difference because free time matters to me. And it turns out that I really loved that work. And after college I was an international economics major, which was, I mean even my professors were like, I'm sorry, are you in the right place? They were like, you know, marketing and communications is down the hall. And I'm like, no, but I want to study statistics. It was an interesting match for me, but when I was done with that work, I was really interested in like international development.

And so I went out and had a bunch of interviews with organizations like the world bank and the IMF and the labor department and in all of those interviews I basically all of his interviews put me in a state of anxiety that made me look at a career of quote unquote working my way up a ladder, starting from a, you know, an analyst position to whatever else inside a air filtered building with soundproofing and cubicles. And I just wanted to die and I'll, all I wanted to do was do the thing I was doing in a fitness room, helping people feel powerful in themselves and do it in a business context. And I learned about this thing called training and development, which now we call learning and development because training is a very specific thing. And through a lot of talking, my process out loud with my community met somebody who taught communications classes at large technology companies all over the world.

He had a small practice with a few other trainers out on the road and I managed to wiggle my way into getting to watch him teach one of his courses. And as I sat at the back of the room and watched people stand up with his coaching skills and have his, his facilitation skills, craft a powerful story and then deliver it in the front of the room. And these are like manager types, director level finance people, and it just turned out that it happened to be the CFO in that class for that large organization. When I say large, I mean like 45,000 employees globally. I watched him go from a sort of, I would say like an energy and impact level of a three on a scale of one to 10 to an energy and impact level without having to be outwardly, you know, demonstrative, but energetically go both in terms of the impact of his story and how he delivered it to go from a three to a nine of the course of those three days.

When I watched that happen, it almost took my breath away. I felt so clear that this is what I want to help people do. I want to help people grow their voice and their selfness in business. And I learned that storytelling, what we call Ben corporate storytelling, which was like nobody was talking about it then. I'm just that old now. Storytelling is everywhere. That transformation had me so transfixed and it again took my little flame to like, I think I want to do something in the world of training and development, whatever that means to like, Oh my God, if I don't do this work, I'm going to die. And as an outcome of that week, I got so clear that I wanted to learn how to do that work even though I had no, I mean what? I was a group fitness instructor and I just graduated with a degree in international economics.

I had no, you know, didn't come to the acting world. I didn't have a bunch of teaching background outside of the fitness context. I wasn't a writer. You know, I didn't have a liberal arts degree that showed that I could put together a powerful story. And I ended up making, actually that month I made the single most powerful ask I've ever made in my career. The ask. That changed everything, which I started now looking backwards. My husband reminded me like, Dia, you've been helping people ask powerfully forever. In fact, you made an ask that changed everything 20 years ago and he's referring to the ask I made of the man who was teaching that class, which was, will you teach me? And he said, yes, there are few things in my life I've been so singularly and sort of courageously determined to get to do.

And that was really one of the first ones in my life that I was really clear that like I want to do this come hell or high water and if he doesn't get me my big break, somebody else's going to, I have to do this work.

Passionistas: And then how did to build your own business?

Dia: Well, I worked with him for about eight years and ended up sort of being a lead in his organization. You know, the way training and development organizations work or training companies work are often, everyone's in a 10 99 and that's changed in California. But that was how we worked. So it was perfect for me because I had this wonderful life of autonomy and connectedness at the same time. You know, I was delivering his work out into the world for his clients all over the place. But every gig that came through I could say yes or no to with no punishment.

So it was really wonderful balance of, you know, getting to do the work I wanted, being connected to what was going on with our office in New York, but then also being able to exercise a lot of autonomy. I was with him for about eight years and then I had a kiddo and I thought, how can I do this all over the world? There's no way. I have a tiny kiddo. And I thought I was just going to say goodbye to that work. And when my son was about a year and a half, I was really starting to feel the itchy scratchies to get back to be in the context of teaching, which feels like a performance. But it also is so enabling. You get to, you get to witness other people's transformation. You get to, you know, solve problems. It's a very dynamic experience. You know, I just like I just to be in that context with something I was really missing, whether it's a coaching engagement or a training room, right.

What you think of as a training room and one day I got a call that sounded like a not such a big deal. It was sort of like, Hey, we are doing really interesting international project. We heard you're really good. Could you give me a call? I thought, Oh, this is garbage, but I'm going to follow up on it anyhow. And once I got on the phone with a person that I reached out, to me, it turned out that that was a gig where I got to go to Rio de Janeiro for two months and help the Rio bidding team deliver the stories they needed to deliver to the decision makers during the race for who would host the 2016 games. Now the competition for hosting Olympic games, whether it's summer or winter, the landscape and that has changed since that time. Fewer cities are bidding, but during the time it was a very, it was a very competitive race and it was a great experience and that kind of launched me into the 2.0 when I got finished with that project I really realized, Oh I do love this.

There is a way for me to do it and I want to expand my practice into doing remote one-on-one leadership coaching as well. So I use that as sort of a launching point to then grow my one on one coaching practice and doing more bespoke training to solve really specific communication problems in mid and large size organizations for specific groups. And it just kind of like I just started to get to some momentum and grew from there.

Passionistas: What do you think sets you apart from people that do the same thing in your field?

Dia: I want to challenge that idea for a second. You know, I work with a lot of people, particularly when I coach one-on-one with individual entrepreneurs. You know there's all this like get your differentiation statement, get your different, how are you different? How are you, how do you distinguish yourself? And what I don't like about that question is that it forces us to craft who we are based on who we're not like, hi, how are you different?

Well I'm not like that. I'm not like that and I'm not like that. And it, and it tends to kind of put us on our heels. And so what I find instead is a more powerful question for me, even when I did my own brand exercise is who am I? Like what is it that I do do? Cause there's lots of people do really similar work and then let sort of the chips fall where they may and how folks perceive that as a disk, as something that's distinguishable from how other folks role. And for me, like what I do in the world is I help folks find the courage to speak from the heart in a way that is honest to who they are. Take control of a very crucial moment in their career right now. That means applied to like onstage and on their goals so that they can elevate their impact in what they do.

And so that shows up in talks that I give, that shows up in my one on one coaching that shows up in the workshops that I deliver. And that's really what, that's the heart of the work that I do. In terms of style, I would say that, you know, my style both with my one-on-one clients and onstage is pretty punk rock. Yeah. I would say if you have a face, I'm usually going to be in it, you know, talk about why authenticity is so important. Well, what is authenticity? Authenticity is actually having who you are, what you do and how you do it all show up in a way that is aligned. That doesn't mean you're inflexible. You might have a range, you know, of the, how you show up. But I think it's important because it creates trust and consistency, you know? And I think it also, uh, you can keep track of yourself a lot better when we show up, honestly, about who we are and how we like to roll.

And it helps us reach our goals faster. You know, I was teaching, uh, I've, uh, I have a workshop for ask, like an auctioneer called your most powerful ask live. And last year I was in a session, I had a woman in the room during one of the sort of live coaching aspects of the workshop. I asked, you know, tell me one of your goals. And a woman in the room raised her hand. She said, I have a goal. I have a goal. I said, great, let me, let me hear it. She said, she's a lawyer in house somewhere and she big technology company. She said, this next year I really want to keep learning and growing. And all I could think of was, that's a pile of crap. That's not a goal. That's an activity. Okay, let's do it again. What is your goal?

And she said, all right, all right, I want to be in house general counsel someday. And I was like, now we're onto something that is an authentic, honest answer about what you really want. And we have to have that in order to actually have an honest, authentic pathway to try to pursue that goal. We can't get somewhere if we're not authentic about what we really want, you know, because the destination isn't accurate. So I think of authenticity in two ways. One, in being honest with ourselves about what we want. And then secondly, how do we actually pursue it in a way that's aligned to actually who we are and how we roll in the world.

Passionistas: We're Amy and Nancy Harrington and you're listening to The Passionistas Project Podcast and our interview with Dia Bondi to learn how you can ask like an auctioneer visit diabondi.com. Now here's more of our interview with deal.

Passionsitas: We know you're very discreet, so we're not going to ask you to name any names, but what are some of your proudest accomplishments as a communications coach?

Dia: What's a bit actually been a struggle and for me in my, in my coaching practice, because the thing that I'm doing with my clients are actually their accomplishments, not mine. You know, I feel like the moment, uh, my client, if it's an ovation kind of moment, the moment they have that ovation, I'm fading to black. Like I'm already on an airplane. You know, they did it. I didn't do it. But I will say that the, the, the thing that I am most proud of in my communications work isn't about the who. It's much more about the, how I have made a decision to be courageous with my clients and to not let them squeeze out of making a decision to be honest with the world about who they are when they have a chance to say their point of view, to not pull punches.

And that scares the crap out of me every single time because every time I go to push on a client, every time I have to activate my own courage to say no Dia, you made a decision to make sure that we get all the way there with your client no matter who they are, how quote unquote important they are committing to. That is something I'm actually really proud of and it is very, it's very, it's, it can be hard, especially when, you know, in a production context, sometimes the producers that I'm working with and the teams are more, have to sort of be beholden to the hierarchy of the client. I'm of the thing we're working on and we'll deploy me on to working with a leader with a bunch of caveats about who that leader is and how to work with them and to what to be touchy about and what they don't like, et cetera, et cetera.

And when it comes really down to it, that's all bullshit. That the great way for me to make sure that I'm friendly and my client is not successful is to believe all the stories we have about who people are and how to treat them. Instead, I need privacy and courage to work with every client in the way they need to be worked with agnostic to their title.

Passionistas: And what's your fear? What makes that scary to you?

Dia: Oh, that I'd be wrong. That they'll reject it. That they'll push up against it. It's the same fear or the same nervousness or trepidation or anxiety or how it rolls out for you is the same fear we have when we, I mean, just to take this right back to our ask work to ask for something and somebody says no, what if they say no? You know, it's rejection.

It's, you know, doing it wrong. It's being punished for pushing too hard. It's, you know, it's, it's, I don't know how they'll react. That's sort of the first feeling. When did you know is no, no, no idea. Remember the courageous way is the way, go do it. Ask the question. Of course. There's all these, there's always big fantasies we have about what will happen if we, if we really go there, whether, you know, it's asking for what we really want or if it's for me, you know, coaching really courageously and being direct. Um, you know, we all have these fantasies about the leader you're working with. You know, something, it's kind of fantasies, the scenes that you could see in a movie of them going, what? Oh, do you think you are? And storming off, you know, but that just doesn't happen. Um, it has happened once, actually, now that I look back once I had a client who was basically ref in real time, refused to take my direction and blamed me for his inability to improve.

But because I know who I am and I stand in the decisions that I make, I, I could treat him both with empathy and boundaries.

Passionistas: How did all this lead to you becoming a licensed auctioneer?

Dia: In California, we don't have a licensing. Just to be clear with your listeners, some States you do have a licensing process. We do have to have a bond here in California, which I hold, but there's no real licensing. Anybody could stand up and be an auctioneer if you're bonded. And a lot of folks do just on a voluntary basis. But in other States, that's not so true. So I took a bet every seven years I kind of get tired. I mean, I'm tired a lot. I don't know about you ladies, but I'm tired a lot and I took an 18 months sort of self-imposed working sabbatical, you know, folks that I, some of my creative collaborators in the world invited me to do a few projects with them during that time.

I took on a few clients here and there, but really kind of had the disposition in the world that I just wasn't working outwardly and I wasn't pushing anything forward. And during that time, you know, I was sort of like, ha, my coaching work is really interdisciplinary. Like I draw on lots of different stuff to do it. And I, during that time I was like, I need to learn something that isn't, that isn't squarely in the vein of my coaching work. You know, I want to, you know, to have it not be a direct like professional development, but just a experience. You could go do something weird. I think I said at the beginning of our call that one of my values is adventure. And so I was thinking about it. My husband said, remember that thing you'd, that you done? You said you do?

I said, yeah. And so I packed my bags. I went to St. Louis and I went to auctioneering school for 10 days. It was me and a hundred Cowboys on the side of route 66 and a holiday Inn express learning how to auctioneer. Well, and I had the question, what am I, what am I doing with this? You know, I, I threatened to do it 10 years before. I have a 12 year old denim and a nine year old. And in our early preschool days we were part of a preschool co-op. Maybe some of your listeners who are parents and caregivers have kiddos that are in co-ops where it was just a parent run preschool and we had a fundraiser every year and one year when, when I was there, we were there for six years. Actually the fundraising committee said, Hey Dia, you know, you're, you're competent on stage.

And I'm like, yes I am. And they said, we didn't know nobody in the preschool right now wants to be the live auctioneer and MC for our upcoming fundraiser. Would you do it? And I thought, I don't know. I don't know how the hell to do that. And I did it and at the end I was like, that was a blast. It's onstage but in a really different way because I'm used to giving talks, you know, and coaching where it's all like, you know, we're solving a problem and it's very serious and all this stuff. Although auctioneering for fundraising is very serious cause we were fundraising for some really serious needs. But at the dinner table one night, I said, you know what I would do someday? I'd actually do that thing for real. Just like actually learn how to do it. Excuse me. And the 10 years later was that during my sabbatical.

So when I was, when I was there, I thought, what idea for real, what am I going to do with this? So I'm here. I spent a lot of time away from my family. It did this thing with a bunch of Cowboys. What am I doing with this? And, and I, I was like, well of course I'm fairly active in the world of women in work. Something I care about. There aren't a lot of women auctioneers in California. I thought, okay, well I'm, when I get home, I'm going to do this as an impact hobby for women led nonprofits and nonprofits that benefit women and girls. Because if you're a woman who's running, you know, a nonprofit that does environmental wetlands studies to protect lands in the central Valley, I want you to be successful in your project. And if I can help you get more dollars in your hands, I want to be the one to do that.

If you're, even if you're a dude running a nonprofit that's benefiting women and girls, I want to help get more money in your hands so you can be successful with that. So that's what I've been doing for the last couple of years and I don't do it for free. I'll tell you that I don't do it for free because it's a nominal fee compared to the other work that I do. But clients show up a lot better when they, they've got a little skin in the game. So I do call it my impact hobby, but I don't do it fully pro bono.

Passionistas: And so why did you set the goal of helping one million women and how many of you helped so far with a new project?

Dia: I just launched last year. I'm not at a million. So one night I'm a fallen asleep and I'm thinking, God, this last year has been so amazing.

A chance to stand on stage and auctioneer for all these nonprofits. I'm learning how to make direct pledges. It's a different way of being on stage then you know, giving a talk. And it's so interesting like so many of the women that I work with in my communications work, entrepreneurs and beyond, you know, many of them have to make at the end of their communications moment, whether it's a pitch or whether it's a, you know, a talk at an industry conference or if it's, you know, them standing in front of the room at, at an all hands. And most importantly, what I really care about are women who are growing, you know, businesses on their own terms. How like when they go to make asks, which you know, every time you stand on stage there's a CTA at the end. Isn't there? I mean in business we think of that language all the time.

What is the call to action in the room and it would be so amazing. I was thinking one night if the women that I worked with who have to make an ask had a chance to stand on stage like I've gotten to do in the last couple of years as an auctioneer and make an ask like I do like there's so much stuff I've learned in auctioneering that would be so relevant to the world of how we make asks in our businesses and in the business world. I mean think about it as an auctioneer, that's all I'm doing. I'm asking, I'm asking, I'm opening the bid right now at a hundred dollars any minute at two I bought three and went to like $300 looking for a $400 bid. Anyone at four I'm just asking and finding out, asking and finding out to see if I can get the most that the, that the room will yield.

So how interesting would it be if all women had a chance just once to stand on stage and ask like I get to that to borrow all of the ways we do that and then transfer it over to the way we make asks in business. Wouldn't it be wonderful? Have all women had a chance just for a second, just once to ask like an auctioneer and I flipped my light on and wrote it down and I thought this is a weird idea. Maybe there's something here. And I started to speak it out loud to a few of the communities I'm in. Hey, I got this weird idea. Hey, I got this idea, wouldn't it be interesting? And I had a couple of conversations and then I had an opportunity to go give a talk at a women's meetup. And the woman who invited me is a technique, a technology meetup for women in tech and down in the peninsula.

And she said, Hey, can you come talk about personal branding and storytelling or something? And I was like, no, bad question. Wrong question. No. What I'd like to do though is come, I have this crazy idea called ask like an auctioneer and I want to teach women how to take what I do in auctioneering and use it to ask more powerfully in our businesses and in our careers and I want to, can I try it out? And she was like, yes, that sounds so weird. So I, I had the chance to actually write down the ideas to go like, okay, here's actually the two core principles that we use in auctioneering that make a, well one and one idea. We use an auctioneering and one thing that actually prevents us from doing what we do in engineering and our business world. And then here's the nine things in the world of auctioneering that we can you borrow to help make bolder and more courageous asks.

And I got in front of this room and I said, okay ladies, here's the thing I'm going to share with you something I'm calling ask like an auctioneer, it might be total crap. Your job tonight is to listen for me. I had 25 minutes or something. There was about 65 women in the room. I said, your job is to listen. And at the end tell me if it is in fact crap or if I should keep going. Cause I mean really like my whole world is just a big lab, right? I'm not going to squirrel away and develop an idea that I think is great and then deploy it into everybody's heads and it's not great at all. Like I needed to put it in a lab, you know? So I got done at the end and as woman raised her hand in the back and said two things, she said, you are my spirit animal and to please keep going.

And everyone in the room raised their hand and were like, yes, you need to keep going with this. So over the course of the next couple of months actually developed the ideas. And then in last year, middle of last year, 2019 actually launched it and it, it is project asked like an auctioneer. And I realized that my big hairy audacious goal is to reach a million women with that work. I don't know how the hell I'm going to do it. It's going to be a combination of the live experiences I do going to other people's audiences. I'm hoping to write the book like for me, this is my next body of work. What's the one tip that you would give for someone who wants to ask like an auctioneer, stop framing your asks in order to get a yes and start making asks to actually aim for getting a no and be willing to get a no.

Passionistas: Elaborate on that a little bit.

Dia: Every time I sit down and work with somebody, my communications work, what do we do? The first thing I need to ask is what do you want? Okay, we're going to craft your 20 minutes story, but what do you want? Who are you really talking to and what do you want? What's the goal of this thing? What do you want from your audience? And inevitably the answer I get is another question. And the question is this, Oh, I don't know Dia, what do you think I can get? And so what we end up doing is crafting the kinds of asks that we think can guarantee a yes and we inevitably leave money and opportunity on the table because we don't like to get a know in auctioneering. What we do is we ask and ask and ask and ask until we get what.

Until we get to know until we know I'm in a $5,500 bidder, I'm looking for a $6,000 bidder in the room. Is there anyone in the room that would like to pay $6,000 for this piece of art? I'm going to $5,500 bid looking for 6,000 if I've got the person who's been bidding, shaking his head at me or hit her head at me saying, Nope, I'm not in at 6,000 I can say sold. Did I sell it for 6,000 I did not. I sold it for 5,500 I always sell it for less than I ask, but I always ask until I get a note. We don't do that in business. We don't want to know. We want a yes cause a yes feels good. A yes feels positive. A yes feels like you're on the right path. Yes, feels like approval, but it ends up inevitably leaving money on the table.

When I send a proposal out to do, to do work, to do a speaking gig, to do a workshop, whatever, and my client says, yes, great, we'll send you a PO. All I can think of was I should have asked for more. What I love about auctioneering and what it's taught me that I think is so valuable is to stop personalizing the negotiation. We have to stop personalizing it. We just have to ask and find out. Look, that doesn't mean we're blind. We're dumb or we're using Brit, you know, brute force and how we make our ass. But it does mean that we can stop bringing our hands and just ask and find out. Just ask and find out. You've done your research. Maybe you're making a salary, you know you're making a salary request for a new role. You've done your research, you've surveyed people in your business to understand what the range might be and then what do you do?

Do you ask at the bottom of the range or the top? Let me tell you what's happening is that women are doubling their salaries. What's happening is they're getting more headcount for their teams. What's happening is they're getting mentorship from people they never thought that they thought were untouchable in their organizations cause he asks, we make aren't just about money.

Passionistas: What's your dream for women?

Dia: My dream for women is to really, really be able to leave behind apologizing for wanting, having an acting on their power, like it just wouldn't even be in our DNA anymore like that. It would be so far behind our way of moving in the world that it's, you only read about it in books.

Passionistas: Thanks for listening to The Passionistas Project Podcast and our interview with Dia Bondi. To learn how you can ask like an auctioneer, visit diabondi.com.

Please visit The PassionistasProjectPodcast.com to learn more about our podcast and new subscription box filled with products made by women-owned businesses and female artisans to inspire you to follow your passions. Sign up for our mailing list to get 10% off your first purchase.

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