114: Leaders With Heart Strike A Balance Between Heart And Drive

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In this episode, Heather Younger speaks with Frank Ricotta, CEO and Founder of BurstIQ about his leadership style, his unique background that instilled in him a drive to lead, and a time when he was at a low in his leadership and what he did to come out of it. He also shares some key tips to move and iterate during a crisis.

Key takeaways:

  • Strike the balance between both nurturing and being a visionary driving for goal achievement.
  • Focus on growing and lifting those you lead.
  • If we don’t learn from those around us, we cannot lead well.
Are you ready to lead with heart to the next level? Listen and learn!

Frank Ricotta is an accomplished CEO and CTO with 30+ years of experience empowering people, building companies, and creating innovative solutions. 

Frank has been able to combine his love for people and building high performance teams with creating and applying innovative technologies. Strong entrepreneurial, problem solving, and communication skills allow him to see what “can be”, resulting in a relentless pursuit to create world-class solutions that capitalize on market opportunities. He is a life long learner that possesses a healthy balance of business, leadership, and technology acumen, providing a foundation for success regardless of company size and industry.

His skills include blockchain, business transformation, organization development, information security, product and technology strategy, agile transformation, enterprise content management (ECM), Big data, cloud, and healthcare IT, as well as software as a service (SaaS) and compliance. 

Frank’s professional career is guided by three principles: make a difference, have fun, and make money. He also finds it most gratifying when he keeps his principles in perspective

Learn and share

I’m in that stage in life where it’s really been more of a mentoring phase for me. I would love to really pass on all the things I’ve learned over the years—the good, the bad, and the ugly to a next generation of leaders that can go out there and truly be servant leaders.

You take learning from your kids. You have to learn from them, incorporate their leadership styles, and take what’s best in terms of how they respond to you as a parent and as the leader in your house.

If you're not learning from all the people around you, you can't be an effective leader. – @fricotta #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Balance the drive

Early on in my career, and even growing up I like to always be the leader, or at least be in an influential position.

I’m probably my hardest critic. I’m most critical of things I do and how I respond in different situations. I am a nurturing leaders that would set a very aggressive and bold vision. I work to get the team empowered to go execute on that vision.

You can set high expectations and goals and not have to be unkind about it. The key is really lifting people up to be the best they can be, particularly in the context of a team, and creating high performance teams. They are happy, motivated, and really energized to achieve the same goals you’d like your company to achieve.

You also have to recognize when you’re already pushing people out of balance. When I started, I was all focused about driving people a lot. However, I was starting to hurt my own team by driving them too hard and not letting them maintain their balance. If you don’t create the environment where people are allowed refresh their mind,  body, health, and spirit, it’s hard to sustain anything for any length of time.

People perform best when they are happy. – @fricotta #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetIf you don't believe where you’re going and you don't have the passion, it's hard to motivate and lead people to achieve anything at all. – @fricotta #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Know your people

Money only goes so far. 

People are focused on what their earning potential is and they should be paid according to what they’re worth in the marketplace. But that’s not the top factor that keeps people on your team, without moving around. It’s the culture, the environment, and their fit in that environment.

Everybody has a different set of goals. Not all your execution superstars necessarily want to move in a position of leadership or management because they really like doing what they do in an execution perspective. This is very true for technical talent. So, how do you nurture that forward for exponential contribution? 

You have to have a regular cadence where you’re focused on the actual delivery side, so they’ll know that there’s going to be a consistent amount of communication. It’s an open environment to share any problems so we can solve collectively as a team. 

Never confuse activity with productivity. – @fricotta #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetYou have to know your people. – @fricotta #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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113: Leaders with Heart Set a Clear Vision For Others to Follow

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In this episode, Heather Younger speaks with Kevin Patterson, CEO of Connect For Health Colorado about his leadership style and philosophy, a time when he was so proud of his leadership behaviors, and his unique perspective on employee voice and communication to different audiences.

Key takeaways:

  • Employees can’t be clear about what you need to do without knowing where you are going.
  • Do not micromanage; tell your people where you want them to end up and let them get there, their way.
  • We are managing to the outcome and not the how.
  • Provide guidance and suggestions on direction and then get out of the way.
  • Be comfortable with having a clear voice and vision.
  • Put yourself in the employees shoes to deliver the important messages.
  • We must nurture the human relationship side of the business.
Prepare your minds to be blown away in this episode. Listen and learn!

Kevin Patterson has served as Chief Executive Officer of Connect for Health Colorado since April of 2015. He previously served as chief administrative officer and interim chief of staff to Gov. John Hickenlooper and has an extensive history of public service. Kevin has served as the interim executive director of three state agencies during leadership transitions, the Governor’s Office of Information Technology, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and the Governor’s Energy Office. 

He brings a strong understanding of state government and stakeholder engagement to this role. Kevin has held leadership roles for the city and county of Denver in the Budget Office, the Planning Department, the Department of Human Services, the Department of General Services and the Department of Parks and Recreation. He was elected to the Denver Board of Education in 2001 and reelected in 2005. 

Kevin graduated with a B.A. in Teaching from Sam Houston State University and holds both a Master’s of Public Administration and a Master’s of Urban Regional Planning from the University of Colorado at Denver.  He serves on the Denver Zoological Foundation’s Leadership Council, the Health subcommittee of the Rose Foundation, and serves as a board member on the Tennyson Center for Children and the Keystone Policy Center.

Clear and Aligned

I currently sit as the Chief Executive Officer for Connect for health, Colorado. We administer the Affordable Care Act, which means I’m the person in charge of Obamacare for Colorado.

It’s important in an organization that everybody’s clear. This is where we’re going to go. Get everybody on the same page, and then the song sounds right. If you’re on a different page, everybody’s not singing the same song. Then, it doesn’t sound right. Things must be aligned from the frontline person up to the CEO.

You can’t be your best self as an employee if you’re not sure which direction you’re supposed to be. – @knp5280 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Communicative and Clear

I try to be very communicative and clear about expectations. I try my best not to micromanage. If you’re very clear about where you want them to end up by when, you don’t have to tell them to make three left turns to end up in the same place.

You have to be much more clear about what you want your outcome to be and about getting the vision to give context. It’s getting everybody to participate and describe the vision, and helping them get there. My job is to help block to make their job easier.

Also, it becomes important for us to have a cohort group. It is key because there’s a lot of times you can feel like you’re in it by yourself because there’s nobody that has the exact same job. There are similar ones, but not exactly the same. As they understand where pressure comes from, you don’t have to explain all to that group. They get it.

It’s also important to have questions.  Learn from your team and be able to listen. Sometimes the answers will come in conversations you’re going to have with other people. That is because they’re going to see it differently from the way you do. Somebody’s going to give you a perspective you did not have when you started.

You’ve got to be open to listen. You never know what one little piece is missing from the thousand-piece puzzle you needed to actually become clear on what the picture is. Be mindful and open to hearing.

We sometimes end up arguing so much about style points that we forget we're actually managing into the outcome. – @knp5280 #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetBe comfortable with whatever you're doing. – @knp5280 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Interesting Connections

It’s funny. We spend all this time trying to grow up, to fit in, and to figure out a way not to be different than everybody else. But then, as you move on in life, you start figuring out that that’s actually what makes us really interesting people.

You see people when they become successful because you know there’s something different about them, that either gets people to follow, participate, or listen to them. Far too often we forget we’re dealing with humans. Humans are part of everything we do.

Again, we are dealing with humans. I’m always very mindful of who’s in front. You never know what a person hears. But, they’re going to have a perspective that you will never have because you’re sitting in an office.

So, you always have to make sure you’re talking to everybody in the organization to make sure you know what’s actually going on. No matter who you think they talk to, remember to connect with persons individually.

Look in the mirror and check if you're okay. If you're not, think about what you need to do differently so that you can look at yourself and be comfortable. – @knp5280 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet It's important that you really have to know and understand yourself. – @knp5280 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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112: Leaders with Heart Lead First with Grace

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In this episode, Heather Younger speaks with Andy Boian, Founder and CEO of Dovetail Solutions, a PR firm based out of Colorado. Andy shares a touching story of his drive to lead out of adversity, his ideas on a 60-day quick start program for new employees and his reason why he speaks last at meetings.

Key takeaways:

  • Make sure those you lead feel valued, and that their interests and jobs are valued.
  • We must give trust before we get it.
  • Speak last as the leader in the room so you get the benefit of hearing other views and create a psychologically safe space for your people.
  • If you lead your people first with grace they will give it back to you.
  • Be compassionate to yourself and know who you are.
Hope you don’t miss this gem of an insightful episode. Listen and learn!

Andy Boian, Founder and CEO of Dovetail Solutions, is a natural “connector.” His career started in 1991 in political strategy and corporate communications before diving into PR fully. Public Relations Society of America, named his firm the “Public Relations Firm of the Year” recently.

Most recently, he served as chairman of the successful campaign and election of California’s 40th and current Governor, Gavin Newsom, and is now an advisor to former Vice President Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign.  Additionally, he served on the transition teams for both the nation’s forty-second President and a cabinet member of the nation’s forty-third President. He has been on the faculty of the University of Denver, the University of Colorado and Arapahoe Community College as well as Metropolitan State University of Denver for over a two decades.

He is a recipient of the Denver Business Journal’s “Forty Under 40” award, the Colorado Statesman’s “Fifty for the Future” and Metropolitan State University of Denver’s “Mover and Shaker” award. Additionally, Andy was recognized by his alma mater as an Alumnus of Distinction in 2011. In 1999, he was asked to run as a Colorado representative of the Democratic National Committee. He served four years at the national level.

Andy is remarkably active in the Denver philanthropic community. He founded ExecConnect, and served as board of the Henry C. Kempe Foundation, and the Denver Botanic Gardens. He is currently a board member of DAPS (Denver Association of Professional Services), BBVA Compass Bank, Turbine Labs, the PIVOT Foundation, and the Denver Scholarship Foundation. He is also a contracted senior political analyst for Denver’s Channel 31 Fox television network news.

Equal and Valued

In the early days of my career, it was unique for a guy in his mid-20’s to have some insight into treating someone who works with you as an equal and still have the same authority over what they do, how they act, and how they practice.

I’ve always worked hard to make sure that those who work with me in both professional and non-profit capacities always feel valued. I want them to always feel like their interest and responsibility in the community is valued.

There are no boundaries on how to work things out. – @apb5280 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Trusted and Respected

Employee loyalty is not something that just comes with day one on the job. What really has to be a part of the process is gaining that trust and respect by giving it.

The first thing we do right away is a 60-day Quick Start plan with our new employees. We ask for his or her aspirations, which is not about their job roles or company expectations, for the next 60 days.

I am the CEO, the one who writes the checks and does the negotiations. But I find myself more as a part of a team. I am not really somebody who is an authority over anyone, but gives authority with others. I use the word “with” a lot.

I’m not your boss. I’m your colleague. I think the boss-subordinate relationship is backwards. The top-down stuff doesn’t make sense to me, and it never did.

Psychological safety is what makes people feel better. We put a lot of effort and time into people who come to work for us and with us up front. If they feel immediately valued, immediately listened, and immediately considered, they’re going to want to stay.

We are business of relationships. We may be a public relations firm that deals with the media and talks to the public, but it is so big that it’s so much more than that. Especially right now with the pandemic we are going through, clients rely to us now more than ever for things that aren’t written down in our scope. But those kinds of things only come up if they trust you.

Be compassionate to yourself. – @apb5280 #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetThink about ways on how you can provide value. – @apb5280 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Speak Last

As CEO, I find myself in rooms full of people who work at our firm. I often don’t speak until the end. I don’t think that leaders, necessarily some of the best leaders I know speak last.

Let’s say we have a strategy meeting on a topic, or we’re dealing with a difficult client, and we all have come together to talk about how to manage this situation. If I speak first, it defeats the purpose.

I have two reasons why I speak last. First is, I gain the perspective of my people without having to say anything. My people get to voice what they want a voice, and they feel comfortable without any caveat saying what they want to say. I get the benefit of listening to that. Even if I don’t necessarily agree, if I think something different or if It goes long, I still listen because they have been willing to open themselves up.

The second reason is, when it is my turn, I want to speak with everybody’s thoughts in mind. If I come in with an agenda, I’m not leading. If I listen to what my people have to say but I have already made my decision before coming in, that’s not the way to leave. It must be done with everybody’s communication in place. I’ll speak only after I’ve had the chance to garner all opinions, and take them into account when determining what CEO’s would say in the end.

It’s basic to give the employee or the team member assurance that we have their backs. – @apb5280 #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetA critical part of how you treat somebody respectfully is when you do it with heart. – @apb5280 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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Change Your Language Change Your Life.

Change Your Life

Every time I hear the word, “crisis”, my skin crawls. I know that this is technically a crisis, but do we have to keep using that word for everything that is happening around us during this Corona Virus stay-at-home time?

How do you feel when people describe what is happening to all of us as a crisis? Does it change your mental state? Physiologically, does it change how you physically feel?

You might think that I am looking through rose-colored glasses. Actually, what I am doing is protecting how, where and when I move. You see, I move in the direction that my mind takes me. If I think in terms of crisis, then I will stop or make moves based out of fear. Conversely, if I think of this environment as a “crazy time” or a “wild ride”, then I see myself controlling some part of it all. If I am in control, then I can change some part of it and how it impacts me and those I care for.

I had a time in my childhood when I was quite literally all by myself. I sat there watching as the adults around me failed to be responsible for their actions. After years of watching this happen, I realized that their thinking was flawed and their focus was off. Without sharing too many details to protect their privacy, they were wrapped up in a belief that external things determined their direction. They allowed the outside world to drive their emotional state and their daily actions. Thus, they demonstrated how losing control of our thoughts will most likely determine our behaviors and our results. Since then, I fight every day to protect my thoughts and the words I use. I am intentional.

During this Covid-19 pandemic (Really dislike this very real word too!), I am not ignoring that we are facing very tough times. We have a long road ahead. Nonetheless, in many ways, I have been through much harder times than these. This might be true for you too. I am still here. You are too. Let’s commit to changing our language around this time in our history.

As a leader in my home, I am choosing to help my children see that I choose how I think and behave despite what is happening around us. I pray that they will not live in fear or remember me as a mother who focused on the wrong things, or used my emotions as an excuse to make bad choices. Hopefully, they will recall how I changed my language around this time to create a new reality for us all. Maybe, we can make history together and stop the insanity our language creates.

We are on this wild ride together!


Thank you for reading this article. It was something that has been on my mind, and I wanted to share it. If you want to make sure you don’t miss any of my articles, subscribe to my community.

111: Leaders with Heart Feel Called to Serve Others

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In this episode, Heather Younger speaks with Timbra Yoakum, Director of Special Programs, Mabank Independent School District about her drive to lead, her time when she was not the best version of her, her leadership style and focus, and where her passes lies.

Key takeaways:

  • Be a servant leader and get in the trenches with those you lead.
  • Don’t place yourself above those you lead, but be in a supportive role at their side.
  • Spend one-on-one time and get to know your people personally.
  • Leadership is more of a union with those who look for you for guidance.
Hope you don’t miss this insightful episode. Listen and learn!

Timbra Yoakum has been in education for 15 years, and is currently the Director of Special Programs for a public school district in Texas. She has spent the last eight years as an Educational Diagnostician.

A Servant’s Heart

My style is having a servant’s heart. I try to lead by doing the dirty, hard jobs all the way up to the difficult tasks. I lead with my heart as a servant. That goes back to my core value, which is to serve each other.

I have a passion for kids. I started out as a classroom teacher, and I saw the need to address students with special needs better. 

As a teacher, I want to do better for the kids. I could touch more lives by creating people, systems and processes that could impact their lives. Helping kids and people that need it most is where my heart is. 

I lead with my heart as a servant. – Timbra Yoakum #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Quick Change

I started my work for the school district and left to take a promotion in a different school. Then, I was offered an interview for a job back to the district and I didn’t feel quite ready for it. It was hard to come back and work as a leader of people who were my peers before.

I didn’t know how to handle that at first. I wanted to change. Then my superintendent, my boss kept saying that I was spinning too fast. And, when you spin so quickly, you’re flinging everybody else around you. They can’t keep up with your ideas and how fast you’re spinning. But, I want to make changes.

The first couple of months were difficult. Me wanting to make changes too quickly came across as finding fault with people who were already working really hard. I think I made people feel defensive about the work they were doing.

As a new leader, the best advice I got was to build relationships. I need to build trust. I don’t have to change everything all at once. I need to build relationships so people would trust that my ideas came from a place of improvement and not from a place of finding faults with the work that has already been done. 

So, I slowed my way down and focused on the human component. I paid attention to how I could support my team emotionally to build trust. After that, everything just fell in place. It just slid in effortlessly and nobody felt like their hard work were being attacked. I do love my team and I care for them.

Helping everyone see that these children and people with disabilities need the same opportunities is where my passion is. – Timbra Yoakum #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet As leaders, we just show up. We do the hard stuff with a good attitude. – Timbra Yoakum #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

More Listening and Observing

I don’t ever want to be seen as the person in the office that’s not down to the ground with the troops. So, I try to start the day knowing the daily lives of my people. I spend the first part of my day talking to them about things beyond their job roles. I try to open up the lines of communication to all of my teachers and administrators by email, phone calls, visitations, or just spending time.

I want my people to feel comfortable to come to me with their problems. I want them to know that when I come into a classroom, I’m not there to watch the teacher but to see their needs. So, I ask, watch, and listen to them—a lot less talking and a lot more listening and observing.

I also try to help them to be solutions oriented. I help each person to find the leader within them, whether he or she may be a teacher or a direct assessments staff. If they come to be with a problem, I want to hear their solutions first before I give them an answer.

You don’t have to always act like there isn’t a struggle. It’s okay to admit that it’s tough. – Timbra Yoakum #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetA little bit of time goes such a long way in building relationships. – Timbra Yoakum #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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110: Leaders With Heart Listen And Then Iterate

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In this episode, Heather Younger speaks with Arlene Mendoza, Senior Innovation Program Manager at Alluma about her leadership style, her drive to lead, her time when she did not shine as a leader and her ideas about iterating our leadership style.

Key takeaways:

  • Listen to yourself and then to others.
  • Think of leadership as an iterative process.
  • It is okay to decide to move in a different direction instead of being miserable in your current role.
  • We lead more effectively when we are using our best talents.

Don’t miss the pearls of this wonderful episode. Listen, learn and stay safe!
Arlene Mendoza’s Full BIO

Arlene Mendoza is inspired in bringing to life projects, ideas, opportunities with a curious heart, strategic mind, and always pushing the envelope on what is possible. She is driven by challenges and the possibility of co-creating and delivering on that which hasn’t been done before.

With over 10 years of corporate experience, Arlene’s focus has been re-imagining ‘value propositions’ as it relates to new businesses within Fortune 100 companies and developing executive client engagements/client partnership content for emerging technologies in the SaaS market. She loves bringing new perspectives to sales and business development with the use of design thinking and a values-centric approach. Arlene is the bridge and connector between the technology offering and the value-add it will provide to the overall business for my clients. She also searches for unique approaches with a natural ability to be both analytical and creative incorporating human centered design into scaling tech solutions to increase and tap into our human potential.

She is an owner of a consulting firm and an investor with SheEO (women led fund). She currently sits on the Board of Directors of a Minority Owned Civil Engineering firm in Long Beach, CA – Moran Consulting as well as the Ignite Leadership Institute at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA.

Ask, Iterate, Listen

I have a bit of a beginner’s mind. For the last 12 years, I was in the corporate and now I moved into the tech nonprofit  space. I am growing and learning on how to translate my skills, and also developing new ones, learning from others, and reflecting a lot.

This journey is an iterative process and an art, because there’s not one course you can take or one book you can read. I listen to a lot of podcasts and I read a lot of different books. It’s very personal. 

It took me a while to understand my own secret sauce or super power. We do certain things in our normal ways and it takes others to recognize or comment on them to work. I think part of this journey is the ask, and the iterate, and the listen.

I think leadership and growth are not isolated events. – Arlene Mendoza #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Be Curious, Stay Curious

I can remember when I was four. I was sitting with my family at a very formal family dinner. Everybody said no elbows on the table as a rule. But one of the older gentleman had his elbows on the table. It was okay for him, but nobody else could do the same. I remember thinking at a really young age, “Why do we have to be like this? Why can’t I also have my elbows on the table?”

I imagined things could be different. I always asked, “What if?” or “Why not?” and “Why not me?” I believe there’s this curiosity and exploratory part in me which I didn’t acknowledge as related with leadership, as much as I acknowledged it with curiosity.

I have this expansive curious mind. As I imagine things in my life, I try to lift and go. “Why not live this way? Why not go after that degree? Why not go after grad school? Why not do this to hit that. Why not take action?”

I think it’s just this curious rambunctious, optimistic part of me that believes that there’s also a responsibility to be a voice. I feel this responsibility to be curious and stay curious and to navigate new ways of doing things.

My dad had modeled for me the need to figure things out. So, when I come to him with a problem, I better have tried or have assumed certain things, and don’t just say that something was broken. I think that this made me extra resilient. Meanwhile my grandfather was an explorer. He liked travel and meeting people and has a “The world is my oyster” mindset. I believe this culture and this view the world has been infused a lot in my leadership style.

It isn't always second nature that certain things work. – Arlene Mendoza #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetInstead of listening to respond, listen to understand. – Arlene Mendoza #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Taking Pivot, Making Changes

In my last role before leaving corporate, a lot of reflections came out. I felt that I was not showing up and my heart wasn’t working the way it used to be. For a couple of months, I was doing a poor job. Mainly it was really difficult to understand and to just tell myself that it’s okay to take a pivot to make a change, and to look for another opportunity.

I knew that there was a shift that needed to happen, and I made a decision to leave the company. It was an opportunity for me to explore a new path. I had to give myself the permission to contemplate that my work, although it’s not reflective of my potential and it’s not up to par, doesn’t mean that I am a failure.

I can. I have a choice. I can search be in search of another opportunity.

It took somebody to tell me: You have a skill set. Know that the opportunity for you is out there. Believe that you can go and find it. You can shine elsewhere. If it doesn’t work, don’t be so hard on yourself. Just try again.

Listening to understand is a whole different dynamic, because it's about extracting and understanding what the other person is trying to communicate to you. – Arlene Mendoza #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetSometimes you need external touch points and reflections to help move you. – Arlene Mendoza #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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