136: Leaders with Heart Embrace Their Own Leadership Style

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In this episode, Heather speaks with Gavriella Schuster, Corporate Vice President, Commercial Partner at Microsoft about her leadership style, her drive to lead, a time when she was not the most empowering leader, and much more.

Top Takeaways:

  • As leaders, we have our own brand of leading.
  • We must be true to our own leadership style if we are to uplift those around us.
  • We must take time for ourselves.
  • We can see adversity as a gift by reframing and helping our team do the same.
Hope you don’t miss this gem of an episode. Listen and learn!

As a C-Level Microsoft Executive and Thought Leader, Gavriella has grown a P&L of $6.5B and currently lead a global portfolio of channel partners that has influenced over $1 trillion in ecosystem revenues. She brings over 20 years of leadership in digital and cloud transformation roles, driving strategy and execution spanning all aspects of business model and product development, launch, marketing, sales and partner development. She leads global recruitment, enablement and engagement of Microsoft’s fast-growing partner ecosystem.

As a builder and change agent, she builds and turns around businesses by inspiring a vision for future customer relevance and engaging teams in developing the roadmap. She is qualified to assist a board in developing their vision to transform the organization through new technologies including cloud and artificial intelligence (AI). Notable achievements include:

  • Doubled P&L in 3 years, increasing by double digits consistently YOY for 5 years for Microsoft’s global Windows Commercial Business and then the U.S. Cloud and Datacenter business to a growth of over 35% CAGR.
  • She leads the global recruiting, enablement and engagement of Microsoft’s fast-growing partner ecosystem influencing over $1 Trillion in ecosystem revenues –adding 30% more partners YOY and 7K+ net new partners to Microsoft every month.
  • She defined a global portfolio of partner investments to achieve a 10-20X return.
  • Led the launch of 15+ product releases including Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) and Windows Intune with engineering, from product, acquisition strategy, business development, licensing, pricing, business model and packaging.

Be an Experience ‘Collector’

We spend so much time in our working lives, helping that build your equity, helping that make you a better person and fulfill your own curiosity, and helping you become an experience collector. I think that’s really what it’s all about.

It is oftentimes the adversity, it’s oftentimes the failures, that you learn the most from, get the most introspection. You learn how to pick yourself back up, you learn what you’re good at, what you’re not good at, and it pushes you towards the things that you love as opposed to things you feel like you have to do.

It is not so much that happens to you but what you do with what happens to you and your attitude towards it. #mindset #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Adversity as a Gift

I live by that. I have just found that to be so true. Even take this pandemic – how are people interpreting that themselves? Do you feel like a victim or you feel like maybe the world’s coming to an end, because there’s just so much terrible stuff going on.

But you could also look at it and say, “I am living through a turning point in history. I am living through an opportunity for us to really come face to face with all the challenges with our society – challenges in our healthcare system, with the challenges in our government, and I am living through this, and I can take on a purpose, and I can take on a purpose to change it. And I happen to be at the right place at the right time – that’s a great opportunity.

What can you take away? What can you learn? How does it help you? How does it help you become a more resilient person? @gavriels1 on reframing adversity #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetYou are a leader when you are connecting with people and you are helping them to shape a vision and they are willing to follow you. – @gavriels1 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Connecting with your remote team at a deeper level

It’s about making time, being intentional, because it’s so easy to go a whole day and not do that, especially when you don’t see them at all.

We have open teams channels where we just go back and forth all day. We have these daily stand ups where we just see each other face-to-face once a day, we know we’re just going to connect and share whatever is top-of-mind and whatever is going on.

I do a ton of – I just IM somebody and I’d be like, “Hey, do you have a minute? Can we just jump on a call?” All throughout the day I just have a lot of those “interstitials”, I call them, because they’re between meetings. I’ll just grab that minute and we’ll have a quick connect.

Think about what gives you energy and make sure that you are creating the opportunity in every day to do that. In this very chaotic time, create a routine for yourself. – @gavriels1 #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetKeep yourself from getting overworked, because it’s very easy to move from “I’m doing work from home” to “I live where I work.” – @gavriels1 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

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Why Caring Leaders Are Artists in Disguise

When it came to writing my upcoming book, I kept circling back to one phrase in particular: “caring leadership is more art than science.” Why art? When we think of art, we think of creativity, innovation, risk-taking, and resourcefulness. Art challenges, motivates, and excites us, and even pushes us out of our comfort zones at times. I would argue many—if not, all—of those qualities apply to caring leadership, as well.

But how else do leaders embody the artist spirit, and why is that mindset even useful to us?

In perhaps a roundabout way, reconceptualizing leaders as artists can help us lead in more generative and transformative ways. By expanding our definition of leadership beyond a results-oriented framework, we can empower our teams in a more personal and imaginative manner. Below I outline a few parallels between leaders and artists, and why it may be worthwhile to keep them in mind.

  • Leadership and art are deeply personal and subjective practices. The beautiful thing about art is that there’s no one right way to do it; it’s completely individual. In that same vein, caring leadership is not a cookie-cutter approach, simply because not everyone exhibits care in the same way. Just as we might think of Monet or Picasso as artists with different styles, each leader finds personal inspiration to lead in their own unique way. I myself gained many of my key leadership skills, such as empathy, growing up as the product of an interracial and interfaith marriage. Whatever your sources of inspiration, the real art form is exhibiting your own special pastiche of them all.
  • Leaders and artists alike must use a diversity of tools and strategies to get the job done. If you’ve ever seen an artist’s studio, you know how varied and abundant their materials are. Sometimes they need this type of pencil versus that type of brush, or this hue of paint versus that shade of charcoal. Likewise, the effective leader leverages different strategies for different problems. You might employ conflict resolution skills one day, project management strategies the next, or active listening another day, or perhaps all three simultaneously. As a caring leader, it’s your job to become comfortable harnessing your own capacities.
  • Both leadership and art is a daily, perpetual journey—not a destination. Leonardo Da Vinci is often quoted as saying, “art is never finished, only abandoned.” Being a caring leader requires consistent practice and growth. Just as artists sketch or write on a regular basis, the more you practice caring leadership, the easier it will get. Some argue effective leadership is proven with increased profits, but I argue that a leader’s responsibilities extend beyond the realm of quantifiable metrics. Caring leaders are tasked with inspiring others to bring out the best in themselves. Sure, you can get a sense of this through engagement surveys and performance reviews, but if a leader makes a truly profound impact, it’s near impossible to measure. Remember: a masterpiece isn’t determined by its price tag.

In closing, I’d remind you that art is for anyone & everyone, and the same goes for leadership. If you value technique and skill as much as heart and integrity, you’ll find there’s plenty of room for your own style of leadership wherever you choose to let it flourish. Thinking of your leadership style as an art form hopefully mitigates the fear of stepping up in your own right. I believe a single stroke can change our lives forever; you need only find the courage to pick up a brush.

135: Leaders with Heart Lead with Humility

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In this episode, Heather speaks with Dustin Yowell, Director of Operations for Mercy Health Systems about his leadership style on humility and admitting mistakes, his time when he was not the best version of himself and his perspective on resilience in leadership.

Key takeaways: 

  • Humility in leadership is essential.
  • Setting goals and being clear about expectations is not the opposite of leading with heart—it is leading that way.
  • Focus on enduring past the pandemic.
This episode will surely empower your leadership with heart. Listen and learn!

Dustin Yowell currently serves as the Director of Operations for Mercy Hospital Kingfisher and Mercy Hospital in Logan County.

Dustin has over 20 years of experience in managing healthcare organizations and he is adept at sales management, staff training, customer relations, presentation development, corporate budgeting, financial analysis and forecasting, contract negotiations, and strategic planning.

Dustin earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and a Masters degree in Business Administration at the University of Central Oklahoma.

Always Learning

I am growing as a leader. I have learned over the course of the last 20 years that you can never stop growing. You can never stop learning. That is true in multiple facets of leadership and even personal growth. I would like to think I am in a growing stage and I don’t know if I will ever get out of it. 

There are always something to learn. There are always things to improve on, particularly when you have other people’s lives to affect as a leader or supervisor.

If you're not humble, it's hard to be a good leader. – Dustin Yowell #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Respectful Accountability

As leaders, our job is to hold people accountable. But you can hold people accountable and be a good human being in the process. That’s important for young leaders to understand.

At times, when people make mistakes, leaders think they have to just hammer someone to hold them accountable. That’s not the truth. There are ways to hold people accountable in ways that make sure they are growing and completing their job in the way they need to. It’s not one or the other.

If you aren’t working side by side with your people to set goals and to give them a path for the things to chase, how can you hold them accountable if you’re not part of that process with them?

My philosophy is more of: “It’s our job to get a, b, and c done. So, let’s figure out how we can do that together.” We all have roles. We all have ways to to spend our time, but let’s do this together. Let’s figure this out together and then we’ll chase it together, too. Things work better and your employees certainly would feel stronger about you if you’re side by side with them, caring about them and how successful they will be.

Always be reading. Always be learning. – Dustin Yowell #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetThere are ways to hold people accountable in a respectful way. – Dustin Yowell #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Collective Success

We have a responsibility when we have folks that work with us. These co-workers work with me and depend on me for good leadership and good support. So, it’s really my job to grow and get better.

I am supportive. When you have leadership responsibility, there are a number of things that come with that, and one is to support your employees in their professional growth and also in personal, like needing to balance their life and their responsibilities.

There’s nobody more important than the next person down the hall. That includes me, my bosses and everybody else. Within a hospital setting, if your environmental services staff aren’t keeping things clean, it doesn’t matter how good your administration is or how good your nurses are.

In my opinion, if you’re not humble, it’s hard to be a good leader. If you don’t have that ability, and the love and care in your heart, it’s really hard to be a good leader. Over time, humility taught me that it’s okay not to know everything.

The people that work for us, for me—they’re not employees. They're my co-workers. – Dustin Yowell #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetIt takes everyone to be successful. – Dustin Yowell #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

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How Holistic Leadership Shows You Care

In my upcoming book, The Art of Caring Leadership, I speak to the importance of leading the whole person, and not just the face value of the employee that shows up to work every day. Often I witness managers “handle” employees through a narrow lens of their performance inside the workplace without ever considering them as whole people and their lives outside of work. But to truly elevate our leadership game, we must take into account the mind, body, spirit and emotions of those we lead.

This approach of leading the entirety of your employees is often referred to as “holistic leadership.” Why exactly is it so critical for employee engagement and organizational advancement?

In a nutshell, leadership that only addresses workplace concerns doesn’t accurately reflect the reality of how employees actually function. It’s simply unrealistic to think we check our personal worries, excitements, and challenges at the door when we enter the office. What happens outside of work impacts our energy levels, sense of control, and ability to feel engaged and productive. As a leader, asking your employees to constantly separate parts of themselves establishes an emotionally repressed environment, a lack of confidence, and true disconnection. No team or organization can weather that.

The caring leader knows that maximizing their relationships with those they lead means purposefully integrating their employees’ lives in total—including what’s happening in their personal lives. That can look like many things: regular check-ins before meetings begin in earnest, sending birthday cards/memos, respectfully asking about family matters, or providing emotional support and project flexibility in times of personal crisis. However you choose to demonstrate empathy and compassion, the most important aspect is to visibly show you are comfortable meeting your team members in the fullness of their identities and experiences.

As with all management strategies, however, there’s a careful balance to strike. In my personal crusade to empathize with others as best as I can, there have been times when I became too close to someone else’s pain and overly zealous in trying to alleviate it. As you try to lead the whole of someone else, don’t lose sight of your own wholeness along the way. Holistic leadership requires not only a broad awareness of others, but a deep awareness of yourself and your emotional boundaries.

Cultivating that balance will take time, but I genuinely believe the payoff is worth the effort. Leading the whole person cleanses the guilt of authenticity, and creates a foundation of trust you can leverage in future collaborations. Especially as the emergence of remote work has blurred the boundaries between professional and personal spheres, holistic leadership is needed now more than ever to integrate all parts of ourselves in a safe and inclusive manner. If we can honor that truth in our employees, they will honor it in us in return.

Waiting at the Stop Lights of Life

The other day I was driving my son to school, and it seemed like every single light we came across turned red just as we approached it. Naturally my son became exasperated, saying, “No! Another red light! Another red light! Darn it, why are there so many red lights?!” It was a sentiment we’ve all felt at one point or another.

His frustration got me thinking. It reminded me of all the various obstacles we stumble upon in our everyday routines, our life paths, and our leadership journeys. We’re always trying to do better for ourselves, to engage more deeply with our teams, to bring our leadership skills to the next level. But invariably, something always comes up: you’re delegated emergency projects, your boss makes a difficult request, you find yourself putting out little fires left and right. These hurdles often make us fall back on our old habits out of sheer frustration, and it’s dangerously easy to slip back into unproductive behaviors.

We’ve all been there. Despite our highest hopes for nothing but green lights, life keeps dealing us red ones instead. Just like on the road, there’s no getting around these red lights at work, and there’s no doubt we’ll encounter them at one point or another. 

But how can we reframe these roadblocks as challenges designed to make us stronger? How can we conceptualize these obstacles as opportunities to instill resilience and adaptability in our problem solving skills?

We need to think of all the red lights we come across—whether in traffic or the workplace—as mere pauses, and unexpected chances to recalibrate our strategies. If we simply sit and exist in these pauses without judgment, we can allow our environment to resonate with us on a more meaningful level. Maybe these frequent pauses help us be mindful of our surroundings, or patient with ourselves and others, or more thoughtful in how we persevere after a brief moment of rest and reflection. I’ve found that having faith in barriers as invaluable learning opportunities often inspires greater growth and perspective after overcoming them.

Perhaps this past year has felt like one seemingly endless red light; I surely wouldn’t blame you. But ask any effective business leader, and they will tell you that some of the best opportunities for enlightened innovation come under the guise of widespread disruption and chaos.

Though it is easier said than done, holding out hope in our darkest days may be our most useful tool for survival. Choose faith over frustration, and rest assured that eventually—however improbable it may seem—the light will turn green.

134: Leaders with Heart Embrace Change and Rise from It

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In this episode, Heather speaks directly to listeners about some recent changes she has made, and how she has learned to embrace change even during this pandemic. Heather also shares some key decisions she has made to create a metamorphosis in her life.

Key takeaways:

  • Now is the time to see change as a positive despite what is front of us.
  • Starting anew right now might be exactly what you need to help you see the situation differently.
  • How aligned are you with your personal and professional mission?
  • There are powerful ways to overcome your challenges and it all starts in the mind.
Prepare your ears for this wonderful episode. Listen and learn!

Embracing Change

I have reached quite a few milestones in my business these last couple of months during the coronavirus. My second book has been completed, and it’s a pretty big deal to write a book during a pandemic. I recognize it, and feel blessed to have done it.  

During this time, I know what I should have done. But I wasn’t doing it. I decided to do something that seems so obvious to me but I kept on fighting it—doing a name change for my business.

To be honest, my heart was really more in the place of employees. – @HeatherRYounger #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Noble Beginnings

For the last four or five years, the business name has been Customer Fanatix, and I decided to change it to Employee Fanatix. It was obvious because all of my work has been focused on employee listening, leadership development, and everything related to the employee experience, engagement, and retention.

The reason why I fought was because my heart was with customers and employees early on in my career. When I started Customer Fanatix, the idea was I would help organizations understand the connection between how leaders can impact both the customer and employee experience, and how we can look at it as a continuum or a journey. That’s looking at both stakeholders at the same time.

Over time, people were more confused if I was more on the customer side or on the employee side. My efforts and messaging on social media became more singular, focused and it was more about leaders and their impact on employees. I just made a choice not to include all of the customers.

I started my company in 2015. People were reaching out to me because of my writings on LinkedIn. They wanted me to help them on both the customer and employee experience. The focus changed, but in the end my heart didn’t change.

My end goal is to help employees and leaders be better and stronger. – @HeatherRYounger #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetEverything I do is about how we impact in their (employee) experience, whether they are working with leaders, executive, facilitating groups, or speaking on stage. – @HeatherRYounger #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

The Metamorphosis

It was always about the underdog. When I was a child, I felt like an underdog. So, I have always been an advocate for people.

We are in very unsettling times. But I am thinking of what’s happening right now as a metamorphosis. It’s all about change and being comfortable with it. To be honest, I haven’t always been comfortable with change.

But what has worked for me in the past is I try to focus on a mission that is bigger than myself. I try to focus on something exciting, powerful, and way beyond me that it helps me move forward past any adversity put in front of me. It helps me build my resilience.

Recently, I have just hired my very first employee, Monica. I just brought in a marketing team to really help me take the business on and take things off my lap so I can be the leader I talk to you about all the time— the one who focuses on caring for myself and my family first.

Aligning what I was already doing and using this time to start anew and afresh help me focus on shedding some of the skin of the past and the pain of the current. – @HeatherRYounger #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetMy desire is to uplift people by my words and my actions, and to bring people together in collaborative settings of safety. – @HeatherRYounger #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

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133: Leaders with Heart Provide Hope and Possibility for Those They Lead

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In this episode, Heather joins the show without a guest to talk about the status of her next book, The Art of Caring Leadership, which is based upon this podcast. She also tells her perspective on the death of Chadwick Boseman, a former Marvel star and king of Wakanda, the fictitious country in the Black Panther movie.

Key takeaways:

  • All employees are looking for hope, and they need leaders to help them discover it.
  • There is power in seeing someone who looks like you in the highest positions of leadership.
  • Be flexible in your recruitment and promotion practices to be more inclusive, and to provide the symbols of hope.

Updates on the Book

I did finish writing the Art of Caring Leadership: How Leading with Heart Uplifts Teams and Organizations. 

They’ve sent out my book to three reviewers, which could be very scary. It was really nerve-wrecking. But once I got the first one, I felt that it’s not going to be too bad. They gave some really good feedback that made the book richer, more synced, and easier to read. I hope that you will be proud of how I was able to encapsulate some of the most important voices that you’ve heard here. I am super excited about that.

We have to learn to celebrate our little successes, our big successes—all the same. – @HeatherRYounger #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Lessons from Chadwick

Just recently, Chadwick Boseman passed away at 43 years old. He died of cancer. If you’d recall, he played the king of Wakanda for Black Panther. He was the first black superhero.  When I saw the news, I felt like I was punched in the chest and the air left out of me.

I didn’t quite think about why until I reflected on some work I’ve been doing on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Looking through survey feedback, we would just keep seeing over and over again their desire to see more people of color in executive leadership roles.

I realized that the reason why people are having such as response about Chadwick’s death is because we saw him as a hero. He was a beacon of light for people who has overcame much and at the same time has represented us.

He got some assistance and good mentorship from other people, and he made it where he was. He did it with grace, even when he was battling with cancer for the last few years.

Inside of organizations, those who are different or considered a minority often don’t feel like they belong. They don’t always feel like they’re part of a purpose that’s bigger than themselves.

When they are able to see people in the highest parts of the organization, they see that there’s so much possibility to become those persons in the role. It’s the possibilities that keeps them having hope and makes them want to stay because they want to see how far they can go as well.

We actually have the ability to achieve. We can do more than what we think we can. – @HeatherRYounger #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetThere are very few limits in front of us. We can place our own limits in front of ourselves with our own mindset. – @HeatherRYounger #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Celebrating Self-care

We have to learn to celebrate our little and big successes all the same, or else, our life becomes one big blur of tasks. It’s interesting because in the book, I talked a lot about self-care and self -compassion. We need to make sure that we’re doing that more often. I did that for myself during and at the end of this process to celebrate.

If you are someone who leads organization where you have the ability to think outside the box regarding recruitment and your promotion practices, and to diversify the top ranks in your organization, do it.

We’re making sure that people of color and those who are different than the mainstream are going to be at the top roots, because you want to give everybody hope, a desire, a bigger purpose, and to know that they can do and be more.

It's the possibilities that keep your people hope and make them want to stay because they want to see how far they can go as well. – @HeatherRYounger #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetIf you have the power, use the power. Let's not just talk, but let's actually walk on this journey together. – @HeatherRYounger #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

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How Intentional Delegating Empowers Employees

One of the most common Achilles’ heels I see in managers is their tendency to micromanage every move of their team. Though this drive to nitpick often stems from perfectionism and a detail-oriented work ethic (which are otherwise advantageous characteristics in the workplace), micromanaging ultimately curbs employee loyalty since it hinders their ability to think and act independently.

What’s the solution? Trade micromanagement for empowerment.

The caring leader purposefully delegates important projects to their employees, and fully trusts them to problem-solve in their own unique ways, even if that entails making a few mistakes along the way. By surrendering a certain degree of hands-on control and entrusting your team with responsibility, you demonstrate self-confidence and the knowledge that true growth comes with the pressures of autonomous decision-making.

Below I share three time-tested strategies for empowering your employees by trusting them with self-directed projects:

  • Set clear and quantifiable expectations. This step is paramount to avoid confusion, and frustration later down the road. As a leader, it’s your job to provide an easy-to-follow framework that your team can work off of. Don’t be too narrow in your parameters, but also don’t be too loose. That precarious balance is a key driver of employee loyalty, as employees are more likely to consider their work meaningful the more clarity they have around objectives. In short, clarity is an important brush stroke for the caring leader.
  • Encourage risk-taking and innovation, especially if it’s outside your purview. The beauty of embracing a diverse team is that they bring unique approaches to problem-solving that are distinctly different from your own. Those who lead with heart invite innovation that they wouldn’t have otherwise believed plausible, even if that means making thoughtful mistakes. That valuable trial and error process will yield inspired business results, even if it complicates the journey from ask to result. Patience and grace is key!
  • Be a readily accessible resource for your team should they need to lean on you. Make no mistake: delegating and empowering your employees does not mean you entirely abdicate your responsibilities. As a caring leader, you have an obligation to be there for your team members, for both personal and professional matters. As they’re working through obstacles, be ready for questions, giving advice, suggesting resources, and regular check-ins. Frequent (though not overbearing) communication will show your employees that you respect their abilities, and are willing to provide support as needed. Just as you rely on your employees, expect them to rely on you.

In a nutshell, if you are not empowering others to make their own decisions and do their best work, you are not a caring leader. Empowering others doesn’t diminish your own strengths, rather it augments them. After all, the power harnessed from the diverse styles of your team is a testament to your judgment as a leader.

If you follow the steps outlined above, your employees will feel a sense of fulfillment, and your own workload will be significantly lessened–it’s a win-win situation for all. With that said, get back out there, get to empowering, and let the business results follow.