162: Leaders With Heart Need to Have a Loyal and Dependable Team

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In this episode, Heather speaks with Matt Manners, CEO & Founder of Inspiring Workplaces. Matt shares his well-founded perspective that the traits of a caring leader are those of a caring human being. Matt’s mission, and that of his company, is to make people’s lives better inside and outside of the workplace.

Matt’s whole leadership philosophy is about recognizing others and shining the spotlight on the most deserving of employees throughout organizations worldwide. Leaders with heart know, like Matt, that you need to have a loyal and dependable team, by being a transparent and dependable leader. A Caring Leader will never have to face challenges alone.

Key Takeaways:

  • Leaders with Heart are approachable and lead by example.
  • People with purpose and challenge are what change things, not technology.
  • Everyone is a leader, because people can always see you.
  • You want to be the leader that faces a challenge and turns around and has a team waiting there willing to support them.
  • Leaders don’t have to own everything, they can and should share their burdens.
  • It’s not healthy to hold everything in and shut down.
  • Quote from Rocky Balboa-if you’re struggling at work or home
    • “Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”

Matt Manners was born into a half English/ half Irish media-obsessed family. A journalist grandfather, a grandmother who said he was blessed by the blarney and a father who led a top communications agency. So storytelling has always been very important to him.

He followed in his family’s footsteps for the first ten years of his career, living and working in London, Sydney and Boston helping organizations communicate with their customers. It was near the end of this period he began focusing on the CX and ultimately the number one influence on it…the employee experience.

The lack of appreciation of and investment in the EX by leaders and businesses drove Matt to invest all he had in the world to create The Employee Engagement Awards. To recognize and tell the stories of those that dared to try new things. Things that would enhance the people experience for the benefit of both them and the organization. Over five years The EE Awards expanded around the world and evolved into much more than just engagement and awards. Evolving into a global community, an academy, a content hub, events, a foundation and it also did awards.

So in 2020 it felt right to bring it all together in a new home called, Inspiring Workplaces. An organization that wants to change the world, with you, through the world of work.

Evolving and Maturing

My (leadership) style, I think, is evolving as I mature as a person. A lot of the traits we talked about when we try and distinguish between work and home, inside and outside of work, are just about who you are as a human being. I think I’ve matured a lot in the past three or four years—being approachable, leading by example, and open to new ideas for sure. It doesn’t come easy. Like most things worthwhile, you have to work really hard.

What kind of leader do you want to be in the future? – @Matt_Manners #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Making lives better

We were basically built to recognize people that were trying every day to improve the experience of people they work with and to better the organization. That became my life’s purpose. As we evolve, we did much more than the awards. We did conferences and we had all these amazing stories of people and the work they were doing around the world. It is a community where we work together to solve issues. We have the awards, the academy and the conferences. But at the heart of it is our people who just believe in the same thing—let’s make our lives better inside and outside of work. We’ve probably all had negative experiences at work where you just aren’t treated that well. I’ve never wanted to treat anybody the way I’ve been treated in the past. Therefore, I want to make places of work great places to work, psychologically safe, and inclusive so people can bring their true selves, open up, and give their ideas to the business. If people love what they do, then they’re going to deliver better customer experience. Hence, the world will become a better place and businesses will perform better.

Keep moving forward. Just keep going and things will get better. – @Matt_Manners #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

I don't believe it's just technology that changes things at all. It's people with purpose and passion. – @Matt_Manners #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

How Winning is Done

I’m going to quote Rocky Balboa from the film Rocky. There’s this one passage in one of the last movies, that I think just rings true if you’re struggling whether at work, at home or both. He said Life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It will beat you to your knees, if you let it. You, me, or nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it’s not about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.” I don’t believe it’s just technology that changes things at all. It’s people with purpose and passion.

 I

f you look at what’s happened over the past couple of months, I get really excited because that means it’s going to be a lot of money and we might start evening up the scales between customer and employee experience. It’s an exciting time for those people who have struggled for so long to get a voice in the boardroom.

Let’s make our lives better inside and outside of work. – @Matt_Manners #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

If you actually focus on the people within an organization, there’s a huge impact on the customer experience. – @Matt_Manners #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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Does Your Organization Understand the Art of Caring Leadership?

caring leadership

In my experience working with organizations of all sizes, every leader thinks they are a caring leader and even those who don’t secretly aspire to be one. Unfortunately, despite their best intentions, many will fail to demonstrate caring leadership consistently. Their actions or inactions towards colleagues looking to them for leadership and guidance often highlights a distinct lack of self-awareness.

What does an empathetic, compassionate and caring leader look like? When working with leadership teams, most can quickly identify what caring leaders don’t do. Bad examples include failing to respond to employees’ requests, micromanaging teams, or showing favoritism to some while excluding others. We have all been on the wrong side of a leader that does not care, takes you for granted, and wants you to stop asking so many questions and get the job done.

By contrast, caring leaders live and breathe their values. You will find them listening intently to what their employees need to empower them to do their best work. These are the leaders that effortlessly unlock increased employee engagement and loyalty by simply showing they care.

When helping organizations unlock the intelligence, they need to improve their employees’ quality of work-life, the results do not happen by accident. I join them on their journey and try to be purposeful and aware of who I am and where we are going together. By being brave enough to recognize our perceived gaps and try to fill them, we collectively understand that the path to a caring leader is an evolutionary process.

I have made mistakes that can be painful, but they also served as exciting opportunities to learn. By changing and improving ourselves, we earn the right to stay on the journey to caring leadership. If we do not set our intent from the start, our entire trip will feel like an accident. 

With my Leadership With Heart podcast, it was my intentionality and curious mind that helped me find caring leaders who exercise their power to be more emotionally intelligent in their communications and interactions. Carey Jenkins, CEO of Substantial, a digital strategy firm, described her focus on intentionality around her mindset and her conversations with those she leads.

Carey told me, “I am incredibly intentional with the conversations I have about the way I support and mentor people and my expectations for what we are trying to do at the company and how people contribute to that.” As a direct communicator, Carey does not leave others guessing. For her, being intentional is all about being very clear about expectations and how others can contribute their gifts to the mission. 

 On my podcast, I also spoke with Ron Alvesteffer, CEO of Service Express, who shared how the secret to his success was moving away from the traditional leadership style of saying, “Go do this for me.” His alternative approach involves asking employees, “What are the roadblocks? What do you need from me?” By solving the problems holding back his teams, he could empower the people who deliver business results.

I have worked closely with organizations to increase their leadership prowess through leadership development and executive coaching services and recorded over 160 podcast interviews with business leaders. These stories of individual’s ongoing struggle to become leaders and express more care for those we lead inspired me to write my new book, The Art of Caring Leadership.

The book includes inspirational leadership stories, including Howard Behar, former president of the Starbucks Coffee Company; Judith Scimone, senior vice president and chief talent officer at MetLife; Garry Ridge, CEO and chairman of the board of the WD-40 Company; and Shawnté Cox Holland, head of culture and engagement at Vanguard. 

What did I learn? Employees will go the extra mile for leaders who show they are genuinely concerned with what they can do, who they are and can become. The book is aimed at leaders who want to learn how leading with heart can uplift their teams and organization. But I also invite you to share your caring leadership stories with me.

161: Leaders with Heart Surrender

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In this episode, Heather speaks with Mechelle Roberthon, Vice President/Director of Talent Development at Home BankHeather and Mechelle both share the opinion that this episode is like being in “Leadership Church”. It is 35 minutes filled with rich wisdom and inspirational stories, which we guarantee will fill you up and leave you motivated for the rest of your day, or even your week. 

Lessons learned and discussed in this interview extend beyond the realm of leadership into the reality of being a caring person. Mechelle’s gracefulness, graciousness, mercifulness and willingness to surrender demonstrate the powerful traits that make up caring leaders as well as the hearts of good people. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Be transparent, apologize often, and solicit feedback all the time.
  • Be forgiving. 
  • Be consistent—in your home life, your work life and your personal life.
  • Have self-awareness, but make sure you follow up with action. 
  • Surrender is hard, and feels like weakness like you’ve lost. But surrender is such a strength: to be able to bite your tongue, to resist an unkind gesture, and to move forward.
  • Give your employees grace because you are going to need their grace. 
  • Awareness is huge-be aware and over aware, of who you are, not who people want you to be, or who you hope to be, but be aware of where you are right now including your faults, so you can receive feedback and understand better how to grow. 
  • Your work as a leader is not more important than the work of your direct reports. 
  • Just engross yourself in leadership development, like this podcast. Also, articles, books, you’ll get hooked on a philosophy then work to make it your own.

Mechelle Roberthon is a Certified Professional in Talent Development (CPTD) through the Association of Talent Development. She serves at the Vice President/Director of Talent Development for a community bank in Louisiana; which has 40 locations across 2 states. 

Mechelle is the 2021 president of the ATD Baton Rouge chapter and was a 2020 20 under 40 recipient; an award for young leaders in her region. Her background includes training delivery, performance improvement, managing learning programs, and interpersonal/business/personal skills. Currently, she is pursuing a Doctorate of Education in Learning and Organizational Change from Baylor University. She holds a Masters of Science in Education with a specialization in Training and Performance Improvement. 

Mechelle is also an experienced career and professional development instructor. She has taught over 500 corporate courses with her evaluations consistently rating above average. Her dynamic teaching style has become a favorite amongst learners. 

Encourage, Excel, Evaluate

I think my leadership style could probably be described as encouraging. I’m going to develop you. I’m going to give you autonomy. I trust you to do what you need to do. I will take the time. I will carve out the time for you to make sure you have all the resources and all the tools you need. I hold them accountable. I demand excellence. I’m also transparent as a leader. I apologize often if I think I’ve wronged or offended you. I solicit feedback all the time. It’s just who I am.

I think employees should always assess their leader. How can a leader get an evaluation if no one talks to the people they're leading? – Mechelle Roberthon #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Provision, Awareness, and Surrender

I don’t think I’m stagnant, but where do I have the opportunity to become better? My philosophy is, if I can love up one my people who report to me, I’ll give them everything that they need. Not only will this be an enjoyable place to work for them, but they will thrive. You take care of them, and they’ll take care of the business.

 

Surrender is hard. Surrender feels like weakness. Surrender feels like you’ve lost. Surrender feels like you’ve quit. But surrender is such a strength, though, as well as maturity. I’m still young and maturing but surrender is such a strength. To bite your tongue is such a strength. To resist unkind gestures is such a strength. Awareness is huge, leaders—being over aware. Be aware of who you are, not who people want you to be, who you hope to be. Who are you right now, flaws and all, because the more aware you are, the more prepared are you for any type of feedback you receive.

If I can love up one my people who report to me, (I’ll) give them everything that they need. – Mechelle Roberthon #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

I'm still this work-in-progress. I don't know if you ever really arrive, but I take all of those (learnings) and I'm always trying to sharpen (myself). – Mechelle Roberthon #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Graceful, Merciful, Reflective

Who I am today has a lot to do with my spirituality. I’m more graceful, more merciful, and more reflective. I try to be gentler. I try to model these biblical principles so that it’s not a separate life—not this is not my home life and then I’m a different leader at work. I just want to be the person the Bible wants me to be. That shows up in how I lead so I’m way more reflective in 2021 than I was in 2011. I’m way more gracious now than I was then. I apply those principles in my real life, and my real life is my work life. All honor and glory to God because that’s how I get through every week, every day. I pray and read my Bible regularly because I know God is gracious. I’m way more forgiving in my life now than I have ever been. Who I am as a person, like at home is who I am at work. If you talk to my direct reports and my husband, they’ll say the same thing about my opportunities and strengths. I just want to bring my full self, and my full self is my spiritual self.

Give yourself grace. – Mechelle Roberthon #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

I try to let my team know that they are leading with me, not for me. – Mechelle Roberthon #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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How Leading with Heart Uplifts Teams and Organizations

I have worked with many organizations of all sizes throughout my career and helped them transform their employee engagement and leadership development. After earning my stripes throughout multiple industries, I am often affectionately referred to as the “The Employee Whisperer.” My ethos is simple, as an empathetic person, I deeply value the contributions of everyone, whether directly or indirectly, on my team.

Everyone who is reading this will have encountered managers who genuinely cared for them and those who did not. Those who do not genuinely care leave employees feeling like they are just a number. You may have found yourself thinking or overheard others say, “I don’t understand why they do not care about all my efforts” or “They don’t care about the hours I work; they just want me to get the work done.”

By contrast, those managers who made you feel that you had an important role to play in a team’s success and the organization would have gotten the best out of you. After what seemed like a lifetime of repeatedly hearing and reading about these same scenarios and experiences, I set out to clearly define what caring leadership looked like and how leading with heart uplifts teams and organizations.

My work, combined with insights from 80 podcast interviews, inspired me to write a book called The Art of Caring Leadership. I wanted to create a blueprint that would empower any leader to form their own masterplan to show they care in very definitive ways. Ultimately, I wanted to help readers understand how the ROI of diversity, inclusion, and belonging can transform their company culture and improve their business performance.

After 12 months of working from home, many teams will be collectively feeling that their world has been turned upside down. An increasing number of employees will also be feeling battered and taken for granted, and that whatever they offer will mean nothing to the organization. Although some think they are a caring leader, they will unwittingly steer the organization into even more stormy waters if they fail to address these issues.

We all know good leaders who carefully avoided the dreaded “micromanager” title when working alongside their colleagues in the office. Unfortunately, when asked to lead their teams in a new remote working environment, many lost their way and drifted into micromanaging tactics. However, in this period of uncertainty, caring leaders automatically reached into their toolkit of skills, aptitudes, and attitudes.

A ‘command and control’ or ‘my way or the highway’ approach will do more harm than good in any organization. Jim Reuter, president and CEO of FirstBank, shared with me the importance of authenticity “I think one of the most important things is to know yourself. People see authenticity, and they know it right away when they see it, and they’ll get behind that.” By learning the value that relationships and focusing on authentic communication can bring, you can also drive better performance and results across the entire organization.

Caring leaders understand that they must care for their people before expecting anything in return. When I spoke to Dirk Frese of Julabo USA about the power of connection, he told me: “Sometimes you cannot look each other in the eyes, but if you listen to the heart of the other person, then you can connect, and when you connect, you can empower your staff, or you can empower your customer, and motivate him or her.”

In another conversation, Mindy Flanigan, founder, and chief inspiration officer of Inspiring HR, shared with me, “One thing I’ve learned, whether you’re remote or you’re in an office with the people that work with you every day, you’ve got to give everybody individual face time.” This separate undivided attention helps those we lead feel genuinely seen and valued for just being themselves.

These powerful quotes are just a few examples of the real life leadership experiences that I feature in my book, The Art of Caring Leadership. I believe that leaders who invest their time in reading and learning from the stories of other caring leaders will become known as leaders who genuinely care and proudly lead with their hearts.

Over the next few weeks, I will share other inspirational stories that highlight the transformational impacts that caring leadership can bring to every organization. You can find out more details and pre-order my new book here. But I also encourage you all to reach out and share insights from your own leadership journey with me.

Giving Grace Where Grace is Due

In a recent podcast interview, a guest called Eddie shared a story about how he approached his manager because he made a huge mistake at a national level. The manager looked at him and said, “This is a major mistake, but we all make mistakes. So, let’s focus on fixing it.” There will be time for debriefs and lessons learned exercises later, but rather than playing the blame game, leaders with heart give a person grace in the moment.

The exchange with his manager formed the way Eddie would lead his own teams many years later. When faced with similar mistakes made by his employees, Eddie immediately reflects on his own experience. He begins exploring how to resolve the problem and understand how they can challenge themselves to overcome what they did wrong and talk about the other things later. 

This powerful story highlights the need for leaders to give themselves grace, and at the same time, show others grace too. In our conversation, Eddie also mentioned that when you hear the word grace, many will automatically think of religion, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The reality is that we need to be comfortable using this word in the workplace because we need to do it regularly to keep relationships strong. 

Many happily give grace to others but admit to struggling when giving grace to themselves. The problem is that when it comes to us, we want to be perceived as being perfect. Having that self-awareness will not only improve your personal development but those around you too. When a team observes a leader daring to give oneself grace, they will allow themselves to do the same. 

Giving and receiving grace in response to workplace harm can be critical in overcoming conflict and misunderstanding. If you don’t have grace and you aren’t able to exhibit it to those around you, you will run the risk of allowing stress and anxiety to take over. When in solution mode, we all naturally want to keep pushing forward. For these reasons alone, we should never forget the importance of taking a moment to have both compassion and grace for ourselves. 

Grace can empower employees and give them the confidence to move forward after making mistakes. It can also help build an environment that promotes rather than fears risk-taking. However, you can have too much of a good thing and you must get the balance right. When we give ourselves too much grace, it’s easy to maintain the wrong kind of behavior. But self-awareness will guide you and keep you on the right path.

Sometimes you will go off-track, take a detour, and even be forced to backtrack. Rather than beat yourself up or blame others, remember to give a little grace for yourself and to give it back to your colleagues. You will quickly find yourself back on track and together with your teams, you will figure out how to overcome almost any obstacle.

In every element of our life, mistakes are inevitable, but failing to learn from them isn’t. Caring leaders can give and receive grace when an error is inevitably committed in the workplace. They not only fix the issues caused by mistakes, but they also ensure that they will not be repeated.

160: Leaders with Heart Lead from Behind

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In this episode, Heather speaks with Jane Fischberg, previously the CEO of Rubicon Programs. Jane explains how she learned many important leadership lessons. Each trait in her leadership style echoes the humility that she serves with as a leader. She provides beautiful personal examples of setting up her team for success. Her wisdom is apparent as seen in the advice she offers others on their caring leadership journeys. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Be a servant leader and lead from behind. 
  • Leadership is more important than money. 
  • Leave behind your legacy. 
  • Find a drive to make space for other minds within your organization-avoid formal education limitations on career progression. 
  • Leading is like directing an orchestra—help all the brilliance and talent shine together under your guidance. 
  • Stretch opportunities and development opportunities can be just as desirable as financial opportunities. 
  • It doesn’t have to be lonely at the top—be vulnerable enough to ask for help. 
  • Realize there is brilliance all around you→ break through that isolation if it exists in your organization.

Jane has been with Rubicon Programs since 1997 and served as CEO from 2009 to October of this year, when she transitioned into her new role as Senior Advisor. She is an Experienced social sector leader with deep commitment to social justice and dismantling systems perpetuating poverty.

Jane has led Rubicon through several major changes, including a restructure to sharpen our focus on ending poverty, adopting a theory of change, innovating new service models, and increasing advocacy. Prior to Rubicon, Jane worked in the public and nonprofit sector in San Francisco on initiatives dedicated to equipping people to move out of homelessness and into permanent housing. 

She received her BA from Williams College, her MPA from San Francisco State University, and additional training at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and at Harvard Business School. Business Times named Jane a Woman of Distinction, and the SFSU MPA Department recognized her as a Distinguished Alumnus.

The Big Risk

I’m at a really exciting place as I took the big risk. I was with an organization for a very long time and I felt that it was time for me to move on to my next chapter. It’s pretty rare that people who are CEOs of an organization decide to move on, rather than they’ve decided that they want to stop their working career. I got to the point where I realized that they needed a different leader, and I needed to be serving an allied mission, but in a different kind of organization. I am in the process of identifying that one,

It's important that we be there for our team and, at the same time it's okay to acknowledge that I can't do it all myself. – Jane Fischberg #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Leading From Behind

I do consider myself a servant leader. I lead from behind, and it’s very important to me to be looking at sustainability in the organization. A lot of times people think sustainability is about money. But just as much or probably more important than money is leadership. Very important parts of what I’ve done in the last few years were putting other people forward, learning from them and hoping that they are learning something from me. One of my fears or one of the things that gives me the creeps is the idea of sometimes an organizational leader would leave and people will say that things just fell apart when they’ve left. To me, that means that the leader, unfortunately, missed doing a big part of what they’re responsible for doing. Sometimes you have the metaphor of an orchestra. How do you make it possible for all the instruments to shine, to come together, and to make beautiful noise? There are all these different people who have different perspectives and every one of them is true. How do we make them come together as an orchestra?

Create space for others to help you. – Jane Fischberg #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Make oneself vulnerable to ask (your team) to join with you in coming up with the solutions. – Jane Fischberg #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Making Space for Others

I want to leave the world in a much better place than it is right now. All of that is true, and I think a unique role I can play is to step back and make space for people who have incredible strengths and assets. A big part of what drives me is creating space for a new generation of leaders who might otherwise be overlooked, because they either don’t have the right credentials or people think someone needs a particular level of formal education for others to do a job.

For a very long time, we had limited space and resources to develop and provide professional development opportunities for employees. So much of what they wanted even more than pay increase often were professional development opportunities. We got to a point where we realized there’s a gut feeling that you don’t have the space for that. We’ve done the research and a good job of raising resources, but it doesn’t take that much to come up with creative ways for people to experience professional development. We’ve created an infrastructure for employees who we’re doing right in their jobs to have stretch opportunities to shadow other employees who will perhaps be doing the job they would be interested in doing in a few years. That’s a big part of why we have earned a lot of loyalty from our employees. They know that we’re invested in the long term. If they can contribute to the organization and if we can contribute to their professional development, then it’s a great match for the number of years that they’re with us.

Break through that isolation of feeling like you to need to solve it all yourself. – Jane Fischberg #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

It's important to realize that there's brilliance all around you. – Jane Fischberg #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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159: Leaders with Heart Put Their Hearts into Their Work and Find Joy

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In this episode, Heather interviews Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight, The Customer Success Company. Nick shares about his values and the values of his company. Values such as putting people first, beginner’s mind, childlike joy, and more. These qualities shine in Nick’s character throughout the episode, as his passion for leadership and doing good becomes more and more apparent. 

Key Takeaways:

  • No matter what stage of life you are in, you are always a beginner. 
  • First rule of business is putting humans first. 
  • Bring the kid in you to work each day. 
  • If you have values, then you will have times you didn’t live up to them. 
  • A leader’s emotions are amplified, we must be self-aware.
  • In your corner of the world, think “I can be pretty good”
  • Get to know yourself (coaching, therapy, personality tests, peer groups, etc.).
  • Find joy in the work and in yourself, other things will come and go you have to love yourself and what you do. 
  • A great way to expand influence is by volunteering to help people, help as many people as you can.

Nick Mehta is the CEO of Gainsight, The Customer Success Company—a five time Forbes Cloud 100 recipient. He works with a team of nearly 700 people who together have created the customer success category that’s currently taking over the SaaS business model worldwide. 

Nick has been named one of the Top SaaS CEOs by the Software Report three years in a row, one of the Top CEOs of 2018 by Comparably, and was named an Entrepreneur Of The Year 2020 Northern California Award winner. On top of all that, he was recently rated the #1 CEO in the world (the award committee was just his mom, but the details are irrelevant). 

He is a member of the Board of Directors at F5 and has also co-authored two books on the customer success field, Customer Success: How Innovative Companies Are Reducing Churn and Growing Recurring Revenue, and The Customer Success Economy: Why Every Aspect of Your Business Model Needs A Paradigm Shift. 

He is passionate about family, football, philosophy, physics, fashion, feminism, and SaaS customer success. People told him it’s impossible to combine all of those interests, but Nick has made it his life’s mission to try.

Always a Beginner

One of our values at Gainsight is “soshin,” which means beginner’s mind. I would say I’m a beginner and will always be a beginner. But I’ve learned more about myself over time. I feel like I can always learn more on how to be a better leader from other people. But also, over 43 years, I’ve got to know myself a little better, which helps. I’m no different than everyone else we all have a very short amount of time on this earth. I’m just more privileged than most people but have the similar aspirations and desires.

You can win in business while being human first. – @nrmehta #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Passion and Achievement

There are three different levels of where my personal passion comes from. One of them is that I love what I do—literally the day-to-day. Two is I am like a lot of people. I admit that I am obsessed with trying to be successful and to achieve. A lot of that goes back to my parents and my childhood and upbringing. Three, you define yourself based on your achievement. It’s just overwhelming how much stuff is thrown at you in the universe about how much you’re not achieving no matter what you’ve achieved. But eventually you know yourself and you can laugh at yourself a little bit in a loving way. I accepted that we’re never going to be the biggest company in the world, but we can be somewhat successful. What we can do is to actually like the way we run our company, carrying a lot about our values and our people and trying to be our authentic selves. We defined our purpose statement, our company, and we want to be the living proof that you can win in business while being human first. There’s always somebody better no matter who you are. But we’re hoping to be a small example where maybe it can work.

When you're a leader, whatever you feel like amplified on everyone else. – @nrmehta #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

You can want to be somebody else but you are who you are, so you can't be somebody else. – @nrmehta #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Values, Emotions, and Empathy

If you have values, you have got to have times when you didn’t live up to them. There’s a lot of situations where I feel I could have done better. When you’re a leader, whatever you feel like amplified on everyone else. Some people intentionally might be upset at the team because they want them to feel it. How important my emotions are, how they make people feel, and being empathetic was one big learning I’ve really tried to practice over time.

If you don't love yourself in this process, then I don't think it's going to work long term. You're on your own journey. – @nrmehta #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Help people anytime you can. – @nrmehta #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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Caring Leadership Requires Letting Go of Past Failures

When endlessly scrolling down a social media newsfeed, many make the mistake of comparing themselves to the highlight reels of their friends and colleagues. Obsessively comparing everything from careers to holidays can damage your self-esteem, especially if you don’t stop to remember that it’s just somebody else’s best bits.

Leadership is no different. People are going to be taking assessments and gauging how they stand up against others’ benchmark scores. It usually manifests in thinking about all the things you have failed to do or should have done. All the times you messed up are much easier to remember than the career triumphs. It can even pave the way for the dreaded imposter syndrome.

Sometimes these feelings can blindside you when you least expect it, and they can quickly debilitate you. However, rather than allow it to stop you in your tracks, I want you to let it all go. Caring leadership is a journey, it’s not a destination. You will encounter hills and valleys throughout your career, and sometimes, you will need to stop dwelling on previous failures by letting go of the past and focusing on the road ahead.

While it’s essential to have a bigger vision of who you want to be, sometimes you need to strip everything back. Ask yourself, how can you show up better today, tomorrow, and the day after that? By taking one step at a time, you can move forward while also remembering to give yourself grace to know that you’re not always going to be perfect, and there is nothing wrong with that. By following three simple steps, you can finally let go of the past.

Step 1 – Finding your why

Understanding where your life is heading can be learned by knowing your why. What is your purpose, cause, or belief? Why does your company exist? What makes you want to leap out of bed every morning? Simon Sinek spoke of the importance of finding your “why” in his 2009 book, Start with Why

Leaders from Martin Luther King Jr. to Steve Jobs all started with WHY. These visionaries understood that leadership is not just about a product, service or movement, it’s about helping audiences to understand the why behind everything. Do the people you lead understand your why? 

Step 2 – Getting energized about caring leadership.

Caring leadership is not all about you. Leaders that genuinely care can be seen empowering others and ensuring they give themselves the proper care they need to show up in the best possible way. Employees will naturally look to them for guidance.

Caring leadership requires you to let go of the past and understand that it’s not about you and your journey. It’s all about the people you are leading and those that are looking to you for guidance. These are just a few things that motivate an authentic caring leader.

Step 3 – Be authentic.

What does authenticity look like in the context of the caring leader? We have all encountered individuals that show up one way for one person or group and an entirely different way for someone else. Rather than attempting to fake it as a social chameleon by mimicking the behavior and social cues of others, caring leaders will never pretend to be someone that they are not. 

As a caring leader, I will never shy away from telling the truth about myself. I like to think that I can endear myself to others because of that truth. Being authentic and ensuring that you aren’t an identical version of some other leader is crucial. We must work hard to reveal the best of ourselves to become the caring leaders our people need us to be.

I explore how everyone can cultivate self-leadership skills in my new book.  I invite you all to join me on a journey of continuous learning around the art of caring leadership!

158: Leaders with Heart are Committed to Doing Better

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In this episode, Heather interviews Lindy Eichenbaum Lent, President and CEO of Rose Community Foundation. Heather realized she had to have Lindy on her Leadership with Heart Podcast after reading an article about Lindy in a magazine. That’s how strong her caring leadership abilities are. 

Lindy shares compelling stories and insights into the world of caring leadership. She describes what her drive to lead was born out of and shares a story where she learned a hard leadership lesson. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Leadership isn’t measured by organization or budgetary size. 
  • Leadership is about leveraging partnerships internally and externally to minimize impact. 
  • Just do better every day. 
  • Focus internally on your culture before diving into strategic planning. 
  • Teams attract best and brightest talent.
  • Leadership is the opposite of leave no trace. 
  • Create the space and time to listen. 
  • We’re on this earth for such a short time, why not do as much as we can?

Lindy Eichenbaum Lent joined Rose Community Foundation as President and CEO in November 2017. Prior to that, she was an executive director of the Civic Center Conservancy. In recognition of her accomplishments, Lent received an Impact Award from the Downtown Denver Partnership in 2017.

Before joining the Civic Center Conservancy, Lent served as then-Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s communications director – both for his 2003 mayoral campaign and his first four-year term in office. In 2007, she was named senior advisor to the mayor and subsequently served as the City and County of Denver’s director of communications for the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Named a 2012 “Forty Under 40” honoree by the Denver Business Journal, one of the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce’s “Top 25 Most Powerful Women” of 2016, and a 2017 Denver Business Journal “Thought Leader,” Lent serves on the Lowry Redevelopment Authority board of directors, the Colorado Media Project executive committee, and is a member of the Colorado Women’s Forum. She previously served on the Denver Preschool Program Advisory Board and the boards of the University of Colorado Cancer Center Fund, the Golden Triangle Creative District and American Jewish Committee’s Colorado Chapter.

Lent received her bachelor’s degree in political science with honors from Stanford University and her master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. She and her husband Jason are proud parents of a preschooler and a teenager.

Change-making

At a time when there’s so much pain, suffering and uncertainty, to be in a place where we have resources to make a difference and where we cultivate a community of donors who want to invest in the possibility of what could be is a wonderful distraction from the stresses and anxieties we’re all facing. Also, we’re just so grateful to have these opportunities to try to make a difference. We do “change-making” because there’s lots of tools in our toolbox beyond the dollars that were able to branch out. 

I'm most invigorated when I'm at the bottom of the learning curve: there's new issues to tackle, new relationships to build, and new systems and structures to understand. – Lindy Eichenbaum Lent #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Maximizing Impact

I always gravitated toward professional roles that had tremendous needs and expectations but very little in the way of roadmaps, budgetary resources or staff. For most of my career, I’ve had to create compelling shared visions in which I worked to engage potential partners who could be persuaded to invest their time, energy and human and financial resources into advancing a shared goal. So, I come to the Foundation with knowledge and experience that leadership isn’t always measured by organizational or budgetary size. It’s really about building and leveraging partnerships, both internally and externally, to maximize impact. I had to do that in a space with people who didn’t report to me. It really never has been about the reporting but how you work with other people whether they are part of your organization or not, to create a shared vision and to pull the oars in the same direction. I am fortunate to be in an organization that has both financial and human resources. When people are part of the process, it creates buy in and it creates better results. So, how do we get the most talented and diverse group of people around the table to make the best decisions possible? It’s really about equipping people with the tools to also move themselves. 

Leadership is learning always. It never ends. – Lindy Eichenbaum Lent #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

I find that leaders who are struggling have forgotten that they're on a learning journey. They're not supposed to have all the answers. – Lindy Eichenbaum Lent #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Team not Family

The word “team” is important, because when I came to the Foundation, they refer to themselves as a “family”. I love my family, but here’s the thing with families: they can be inherently dysfunctional, and sometimes can be inherently hierarchical. You don’t necessarily choose who’s in your family, and it’s sometimes hard to get rid of people. With that mindset, it had the potential and it was already breeding some dysfunctional behaviors within the organization. So, I said, “No. No we’re not going to be a family. We’re going to be a team.” Teams attract the best and the brightest. Teams choose to be together and collaborate. When something’s not working, you can make adjustments to a team, unlike a family. I really think that our team is truly now a team in every sense of the word. It’s been really exciting to be part of that transformation. 

If you can find a way to tap into the joy and the excitement of learning, I think that's a way for leaders to remain dynamic. – Lindy Eichenbaum Lent #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

You've got to put yourself back out there. – Lindy Eichenbaum Lent #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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Overcoming Adversity to Build Resilience

We all face various challenges, obstacles, and difficulties both inside and outside the office throughout our lives. Over the last twelve months, the arrival of a global pandemic has made it especially difficult to find the right balance in our lives or regain any sense of stability. However, the biggest lesson for organizations and their employees is the importance of building resilience and how to respond to inevitable adversity on the road ahead.

Now more than ever, organizations are focused on bouncing back and being stronger than they were in a pre-pandemic world. How successful they will be on this journey will depend on how they build the resilience of those they lead throughout the entire organization. In my new book, The Art of Caring Leadership, I talk about the importance of helping those you lead bounce back from their challenges. When you embed resilience in your teams, they will feel inspired to do the meaningful work that drives your organization forward. 

In episode 85 of my podcast, I speak with Cynthia Grant who exemplifies resilience. She attributes her career path in mental health to her turbulent childhood. She shares with me, “There was substance use, mental illness, domestic violence, and a lot of neglect of responsibilities by my parents, so much to the point that the Department of Human Services ultimately removed my brother and me from home.”

However, it was this adversity that enabled Cynthia to find her calling. Her story also highlights how resilience is often developed outside the workplace. It was carrying her strength and toughness into her professional life that helped her realize how applicable those qualities are in a variety of roles. Cynthia didn’t allow her past to define who she is, but it did inspire her outlook on life and work.

As someone who has endured my fair share of adversity as a child, I have experienced first-hand how rejection helped me develop the skill of resilience. I also share in my TEDx talk the importance of reframing and moving on. But it’s not all about you and your story. I don’t think anyone can claim that they have never had some form of adversity in their life. We all need to help guide others through the landmines of life too.

After a year of remote working, many employees will feel disconnected and isolated. They could be going through a difficult period in their life, but the idea of having a remote conversation with their manager or boss could fill them with dread. I believe that it’s a leader’s responsibility to help them recalibrate their thinking and show them that you care.

In another episode of my podcast, Shawnté Cox Holland, head of culture and engagement at Vanguard, describes how to build adversity-withstanding trust: “It’s important to allow people to get to know you better, to be humble and vulnerable with your team and to be human, so that people realize that people will make mistakes, and that’s OK. What matters is how we recover from them, how we come together as a team to work on something.” 

I liken building resilience with building muscle. In order to build muscle, we do strength training which tears the tissue before it builds and forms that muscle. That’s how resilience works. We must encounter some adversity or obstacle until we can build resilience muscle.

Helping others build their resilience by overcoming adversity is just one of many examples of how leaders can change the experiences of those they lead. You can explore many other aspects of caring leadership in my new book, which is now available for pre-order.