121: Leaders with Heart Accept the Truth of Their Leadership

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In this episode, Heather speaks with Kristin Fox, VP of HR at Gyrodata about her leadership style and where her drive to lead comes from. She also shares on the ways she was not the the best version of herself and what strategies she used to show up better.

Key Takeaways:

  • Take time with your people and leave the boss back at the office.
  • Try to establish a deeper connection especially now during a crisis.
  • Help your people through the struggle and model it.
  • Find cheerleaders who believe in you and will help you through rough patches.
  • Value the differences in those around you to help you see things differently.
Have an insightful week by listening to this gem of an episode!

Kristin Fox is a human resources leader passionate about putting the “human” back into HR. She has worked in the HR field for 20 years, currently serving as Vice President of HR for Gyrodata Incorporated. Kristin obtained her Master’s Degree in HR from the University of Texas and is a certified Senior Professional in HR (SPHR).

When Kristin isn’t working, you will find her spending time with her husband, Roger, and six kids or hiding somewhere with a good book to avoid the six kids. 

Founded in 1980, Gyrodata is one of the world’s leading providers of technologies and differentiated services to the energy industry.  Gyrodata’s unique products and services portfolio enables its clients to maximize hydrocarbon recovery and optimize an asset’s lifecycle cost.  With approximately 1,000 employees operating in over 50 countries in virtually every energy market in the world, Gyrodata is uniquely positioned to provide services from a global platform with a focus on technology, service quality, people and clients. the leading supplier worldwide of precision wellbore survey services to the energy, mining, environmental and construction industries

Learning, Empowering

I’m still learning in my leadership journey, and I hope it never stops. I’ve learned so much in my 20-year career working in HR. I’ve made many mistakes and errors along the path that created the leader I am hopefully trying to be today. I’m still trying to observe more, and get better in time. 

My goal is to focus on empowering others, whether that be from example or just lessons learned. I try to value using my influence in areas where I can showcase empathy or stewardship by actions. I make sure that I support them in their endeavors.

You're only as good as your team. – Kristin Fox #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Inner Compass

I hope my people feel supported. I love to challenge them. I love to see how far they’re willing to challenge themselves and how far they can go. I really get the value of working with them as a team, and not have the boss title all of the time. I’m there to support.

When I was 15, my father unexpectedly passed away from a heart attack. He was only 48. I remember watching my mom trying to pick up the pieces, despite dealing with her own grief and watching a confused angry teenager. I realized years later that we probably would not have made it had she not had her own career separate from my father.

I watched my mother’s determination. Her independence just set an example for me to make sure that I always strive for that excellent stride in life. 

I think as a leader it’s those defining moments that become your inner compass to remind you of where you came from and what you’ve endured. I’ve had those reminders when life gets tough. It’s the core of how I want to be as a person and as a leader.

It's vital for leaders today to get feedback and really try not to work independently. – Kristin Fox #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetI am not going to be an expert in everything, even though I want to be. – Kristin Fox #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Embracing Failures

I have failed so many times and have taken wrong turns. I had to eat many pieces of humble pie in my past than I’d like to admit. But, I’ve also learned how to embrace it. 

Embracing your failures is like hugging a cactus. It hurts. But to learn very quickly, I’ve had to hug a lot of cactuses. It’s not fun, but the sooner you embrace it, the sooner you can move on.

I am very fortunate to have a couple of trustworthy and valued peers, who have seen me at my worst and at my best. I know that they’re going to be truthful and supportive. I just call them, and say, “Look what happened. Look what I did. I’m so embarrassed.” It was as if the die was already cast.

I just shut my mouth and listen to what my peers had to say. Did I agree with all of their advice and opinions? No, but the truth doesn’t really care about our opinions, whether it hurts or not.

Find supporters and assured leaders because we need them now more than ever. – Kristin Fox #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetSelf awareness is so important. – Kristin Fox #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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Employee Well-being: Showing That You Care During a Pandemic.

Employee well-being


{Guest post by Cynthia Grant, PhD, MBA, LCSW, Chief Clinical Officer, AllHealth Network}-Leadership with Heart podcast episode #85

Introduction to my employee well-being WHY.

Here’s my truth. I really, genuinely, whole heartedly care about my employees. I am a psychotherapist by training now working as a leader at a behavioral health organization, but that’s not why I care. In my mind, being a leader is about carrying responsibility not only for the organization, but for the people who make up the heart and soul of the business. And right now, many of my people are scared and need me to lead them through uncertain times filled with anxiety. Staff are working in isolation, juggling work and home in ways no one could have predicted would go on for so long, and they’re stressed. Really stressed, which means I need to up my game and do more to help take care of them to keep them healthy— not just physically but mentally strong and resilient.

Supporting employee well-being is not only an ethical obligation for leaders, it’s also a bottom-line issue.  People who feel isolated and lonely, uncertain or afraid have decreased well-being that can interfere with productivity. Stressed out employees may have increased absenteeism, negative interactions with co-workers or may become disengaged from their work. Normal coping mechanisms like spending time with friends, going to the gym or even seeing a good movie aren’t options right now, which makes  people much more susceptible to mental health issues. It’s our responsibility as leaders to try to prevent this from happening.  

Caring for employee well-being/mental health is not just something that happens urgently or in crisis, but needs to continue and be available long into the future. It’s important to have a clear strategy in place to support your staff. Here are a few tips I’ve learned and implemented in supporting the mental health of employees.

  • Check yourself first. Knowing your own stress level and taking care of yourself is a requirement.  When you are in the right space to be able to take a deep breath, be prepared, and be present for another person, you are ready to be a supportive leader.  Find time to decompress, recharge, get some fresh air, and take care of yourself first. The time spent investing in your own well-being will pay you back many times over in employee confidence and faith in you as their leader.

  • Be sure your “door” remains open.  When working remotely, plan purposeful alternative ways to be accessible to your team. Designate time on your calendar for virtual office drop ins.  Hold an optional weekly huddle for staff to ask questions.  Send impromptu emails to ask if there are any questions you can answer. Clearly communicating to staff that you are here for them is a meaningful way for you to watch out for them.   
  • Incorporate wellness check ins into 1:1s. A recent HBR article reported that 40% of people say their organization has not asked them how they are doing since the pandemic began.  A simple question such as “How are things going at home?” or “How have you been coping with all this?” offers an opportunity for a brief conversation.  Listen to what staff are saying.  This personal connection ensures people feel heard and lets them know that you care.  Responses will give you a heads up of trends across teams and may guide you to where you can to take action to offer more support.
  • Build stress reducing activities into the workday. With very little effort you can start meetings with a round robin question that will allow people to laugh and connect (Google “fun icebreaker questions” for ideas). Encourage staff to share memes or quotes with each other. Use screen savers to remind people to get up and stretch. Plan lunch get togethers via Zoom.  
  • Maintain human connections to strengthen mental health. To combat the isolation of working from home or the loneliness of working in an empty office, you’ll need to be proactive in creating spontaneous informal interactions.  Make sure you and everyone on the team uses video for conferences so that you can see each other’s faces. Establish a “water cooler” virtual video conference room that is open all day for drop ins.  Text or use instant messaging to say hi without asking for anything work related. Unexpected chance encounters help offset the busy-ness of the workday and remind people that they are not alone.   
  • Show appreciation. Although this should happen even without a pandemic, it’s a good reminder that showing value and appreciation for another person does wonders for our mental health (both as the giver and receiver of that joy). Take time to jot a quick note to express gratitude and say thanks for something specific. Start a meeting with someone sharing what he or she is grateful for that day. Gather “Wednesday Wins” each week to celebrate accomplishments. A culture of gratitude and appreciation promotes feelings of self-worth and has been found by the Studer Group to increase employee engagement.
  • Lead with empathy. Not everyone is in the same place mentally and emotionally in terms of their coping, anxiety and comfort level working during a pandemic. Be careful not to make assumptions that your staff are dealing with stressors and information in the same way as you. Show grace, compassion and understanding with every touch point— you don’t get as many of them so make sure you are attuned to your staff’s frame of mind with each one.

Keeping an eye on employee well-being  in a purposeful way doesn’t take much time and yet will make a meaningful impact on employees (and for you as a leader).  As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Be the type of leader who’s willing to champion the importance of mental health in the workplace and show staff how much you care. I promise you that watching out for the mental health of your staff will be a key to establishing a resilient organization that can recover and thrive as we slowly establish a new normal.

What other strategies are you using to keep yourself and your staff healthy during this challenging time?

104: Leaders With Heart Cultivate And Invest In Their People

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In this episode, Heather Younger speaks with Kimberly Loving, Chief of Staff for the City of Seattle overseeing the HR function with 13,000 employees. Kimberly shares some requirements of leaders to cultivate their employees, the time when she was not the best version of herself as a leader, and really cool learnings from her mother and relatives.

Key takeaways:

  • People matter most, so set everything else aside.
  • Focusing on people is simple, yet not easy. But it must be done.
  • Align yourself with people who will support you even when you fail.
  • You have more to offer, and you may have to leave for others to see it.
  • Believe in yourself that you are worth it.

Prepare your ears for a wonderful and insightful ride. Enjoy!
Kimberly Loving’s Full BIO

Kimberly Loving is the Chief of Staff at the Seattle Department of Human Resources.

She is an experienced Executive Operations and Human Resource Leader who is expert in building high performing teams that align with strategic vision. She has over 20 years of experience in both the public and the private sector. 

Kimberly is skilled in transforming executive vision into tactical and measurable deliverables and outcomes, as well as executing strategic initiatives through quality programs and solutions. She is also an expert in managing diverse executive level strategic projects.

Kimberly graduated at Reed College with a BA in Economics & International Comparative Policy Studies. She also holds an MBA from the American University- Kogod School Of Business.

Right Reasons

Yes, I have a pretty big job. It is extremely diverse. Some people say, “No day is the same.” For me, “No hour” is the same. Everyone can be very different in terms of the demands, the political swings at the moment, the needs of the organization, and the variety of other things.

The idea that so many tactical things going on is not unique to HR. I think it is a function of Western culture where everything must be fast, including the results, whether you’re in the public or private sector, or HR or in Manufacturing. How I ended up here is certainly unplanned. I feel like I am someone who accidentally landed in HR but for the right reasons. At my core, I care about people.

I remind myself to look at everything as an opportunity to learn. In some instances, you learn what not to do. – Kimberly Loving #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

The Core

I love working with people. I love coaching and supporting my people, identifying their skills and the courageous steps they have to take to realize their potential and for me to develop high-performing teams. I am a pretty linear thinker. I love to solve problems and figure out how an organization can structure itself for people-based outcomes.

People are the things that matter most. The leaders that I have had the pleasure working with throughout my career and the ones that I work with today would hear me talk about this over and over. 

I refocus and repoint them constantly by asking, checking, and reminding them that it doesn’t matter how wonderful our strategic plans may look, or how excited we all are about it. If we are not seeding, developing, investing, and placing our people, our most precious and most valuable resource, at the core of everything that we do, we will fail.

Introducing performance metrics to departments where it didn’t exist before could be very frightening. But performance metrics, service metrics, and service level agreement outcomes and improvements are helpful in organizations. Hence, it is important to bring people together in order to educate and help them understand the why these methods are valuable.

It takes time. It takes time to sit down with people and listen to them. It takes time to schedule a post-activity meet up to talk about how your meeting or the presentation you led went, and what the good things were. As leaders, you must invest, prune, water, cultivate, and reach out to your network.

Refill your own cup. – Kimberly Loving #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetYou have to be your own champion. – Kimberly Loving #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Align Yourself

You must align yourself with people who support and love you, and who are willing to be your champion even when you cannot be one for yourself. You have more to offer than some organizations are willing to see.

For anybody who might be struggling, you must align yourself with the people whom you can trust, whom you can be your true self with, and who will support you even if you fail. Hopefully people have families or close friends they call family to lean on.

Most importantly, lean on yourself. It’s not easy but it is not complicated either. Understand and embrace your power. Put yourself first.

Love yourself. You are worth it. Know that your talents will be cherished, valued, respected and honored if you put in the work and find the right leader, the right team and the right organization to work with.

Know what is important to you, where your values are, and how you want to align with your organization so that you can show up as your best self. – Kimberly Loving #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetYou must believe in yourself. – Kimberly Loving #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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103: Leaders With Heart Help Others To Take A Breath Through Adversity

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In this podcast episode, Heather Younger speaks with Benilda Samuels, COO of Nurse-Family Partnership, about her unique way of helping others breathe through challenges and how she brings her employees close when times get tough. She also shares a time when she was not the best leader and how she came out of it.

Key Takeaways:

  • Take a breath to reflect on what is happening in your work life.
  • Bring your people close to you and pause amidst adversity.
  • People should always come first; tasks come second.
  • Take time to be with a person, without any agenda.
  • There is value in pausing.

This episode is jam-packed with wonderful insights. Enjoy!

Benilda Samuel’s Full BIO

Benilda (Benny) Samuels, serves as Chief Operations Officer for Nurse-Family Partnership where she is responsible for the growth and effectiveness of the national network operations covering 275 local NFP sites, across 41 states, serving more than 500 counties within the U.S. 

Prior to leading operations, Benny served as Chief of Marketing and Communications where she was responsible for rebranding and repositioning Nurse-Family Partnership as the gold standard in home visiting. She also created the first national outreach team aimed at reaching eligible clients where they are in community. 

Benny’s career began in advertising working on big box accounts in Colorado such as McDonald’s of the Rocky Mountains, the Colorado Lottery and Qwest Communications. Following he start up in advertising, Benny worked with Denver Health (Denver’s nationally recognized safety net public hospital system) in communication, and as the program manager for Community Voices; a 7-year multi-million dollar grant funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Colorado Trust aimed at increasing access to publicly sponsored health insurance for the uninsured and underinsured. Additionally, she led the operations of Denver Colorado Long-Acting Contraceptive Family Planning Project. A project that is credited with reducing unintended pregnancies in Colorado by 40%. 

Her career continued when she was appointed director of communications at Denver County Human Services under Mayor Hickenlooper. While there, Benny worked to increase participation in childcare assistance, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), food stamps, and energy assistance, and foster care family recruitment. 

Benny received her undergraduate degree in graphic design from the University of Denver, and her master’s degree in mass communications from the University of Colorado, Boulder. She is a native of Panama; has one son, Sergio; a junior at Grand Canyon University, and is married to John Watson, a retired Paramedic/Firefighter. They live in Denver with their mutt Oreo. 

Be Intentional

My leadership is a journey that I manage with intentionality. I think the world is a strange place in terms of how we relate, tolerate, and lift each other up. There’s a great need to tackle social change from a different angle.

I am wondering if it’s time for me to discuss more the roots of why things happen: social justice, social change, and disparities. But I want to give myself an opportunity to contribute differently.

My work is to lift up the younger generations in the workforce, supporting their vision and their resolutions for people living in poverty. I enjoy mentoring young professionals, connecting them to issues, and helping them with their profession.

It's important to listen to yourself. – Benilda Samuels #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Hold People Close

I have learned to hold people close from being a mother. I only have one child, and in the challenges he had, I always keep him closer to me. 

I go back to the days when he was playing basketball in high school. He had already said to himself that he was going to score twenty points in that game. However, he only had six points at the end, and he just fell apart. That happened a lot, because I have a kid who always wanted to up his game in basketball. 

Of course, saying, “Oh honey it’s just a sport,” is not going to work. So, I would just sit with him on the floor literally, if he’s crying. Sometimes, I wouldn’t say anything. Sometimes, I would help him think about what he could do better next time, even though I have no idea if it would help him or not. But, that’s what I mean by sitting close. Take time to be with the person in their lowest moments. You don’t always have to have a message. What is more important is that they know that somebody is with them in their corner.

If there’s a sick child or a sick parent, they are my focus. I say to people all the time, “You do what you have got to do. Let me know how I can help.” I check in with them just to make sure they are still doing okay. What is going on with your personal life can eat up what goes on in your work life.

People come first; work and the goals of the organization come second. – Benilda Samuels #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Pause and Breathe

My mother was a stay-at-home mom, but she was civically active. She built the church I grew up in and she was in a lot of civic clubs. She also became the first female president in one of them. So, as a child, I watched and learned.

On the same hand, my drive to lead also comes from having the opportunity to provide representation and a voice for those who are not always part of the table where the decisions are being made. That is really important for me. In my entire career, I wanted to make sure that I am positioned to support those living in poverty, the decisions made about them, and the resources that go towards them.

Culturally, I come from a place where you tough it out, and you’re taught that less whining is better. That’s how I grew up and how I would automatically respond to things. So I had to practice empathy to my son when he was growing up. Over time, what I had practiced and learned became my way of doing.

I have learned that pausing and taking a little time out to be with yourself is important because when things are out of whack at work, there’s a possibility that the problem is internal. So I reflect and sit in my backyard. I recommend that people pause and breathe as they move forward.

Stress could take over a person’s spirit, attitude, and mindset. – Benilda Samuels #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetWhen things get challenging and stressful, my approach is to hold people closer. – Benilda Samuels #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetAllow people to take a pause and to have some time to breathe so that they are not overwhelmed and overtaken by the actual situation. – Benilda Samuels #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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102: Leaders With Heart Know That Love And Care Is Transformative

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In this episode, Heather speaks with her listeners her plans for 2020 and the role they can play in it. She also talks about a powerful story of how loving and caring transformed a group of women, and how these can also transform our workplaces. Lastly, she shares some updates on her latest book.

Key takeaways:

  • Love and care in the workplace can transform cultures.
  • Once we set out to do some thing and we are wholly focused on that, it will become a reality.
  • Leaders play a huge role in their employees’ happiness and well-being. Take it very seriously.

Don’t miss this episode. Listen and learn!

Where we’re headed

I’m going to continue to interview leaders who are more emotionally intelligent having diverse backgrounds, jobs, and insights. This 2020, I am looking to change things, and that’s getting more interaction from you.

You may tweet to me, post something on LinkedIn or email me at heather@customerfanatix.com if there’s something you want to see, or specific people you like to refer to me. Reach out if you feel like there’s something missing, or if I am not going far or deep enough when I am interviewing people, or if there’s a question that is continuously lingering on your mind. I want to get that out for you.

I want more interaction between us. The idea of this podcast is to evangelize the message that imperfect leaders can also be caring leaders. If you have new ideas, just shoot them over to me. I’m very open and you might see changes from me pretty quickly.

You’re listening in because you think there’s something special here. – @CustomerFanatix #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Unconditional Love

My daughter watched something in school about a woman who has a salon, and all she does is help women whom people might think of as broken. These women have either been battered, sexually abused, or homeless. When all of them entered the salon, the salon lady fixed them up.

When they came in, these broken women were all jaded, hostile, and a little bit rough. But, the salon lady loved on them and made them feel good by doing their hair and nails, massaging their cracked feet, and doing other things that the average person wouldn’t do.

Within a matter of four or five hours, the broken women were already interacting with one another. They were lifting one another up. They told each other, “You can do it!” They became sources of inspiration for one another in their own brokenness.

The salon lady was able to break the walls and smoothen the rough edges of the women in a matter of hours. It was because she gave them unconditional love, care, focus, and importance. 

As a leader, it is the love and the care that you put into your people, the focus and the importance that you make them feel that enables them to uplift themselves. As a result, they do more for those around them. They feel better about themselves, and now they see the world differently. They’re prepared to do more for their team and for you.

You don’t have to be perfect in order to be a leader that other people want to work for – @CustomerFanatix #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Good News

Last Sunday, I just signed a contract for the next book, the second one, and this is going to be predominantly based upon the interviews in the podcast. I’ve boiled up some main concepts of what caring and loving on our people really looks like, and the impacts that they have to our team, our culture, and our performance.

I am very excited about partnering with my publisher whose values are completely aligned with mine and my company. The book won’t come out until May 2021.

I am also excited to hear all of your feedback. My goal is that everyone of you buys the book and pass it down to all supervisors and managers in your organization so that we can continue to evangelize this message. 

Thank you for being a part of this journey. I welcome all honest feedback you provide along the way. If there’s anything that I can do for you outside this show, please let me know. I am a good listener, so you could always reach out to me.

We can change the hearts and the minds of leaders around the world. – @CustomerFanatix #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetAs a leader, love and care should really be your focus. – @CustomerFanatix #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetWhen you love and care for your people, they feel better about themselves. – @CustomerFanatix #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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101: Leaders With Heart Create Space For Open And Honest Feedback

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In this episode, Heather speaks to Christina Wegner, VP of Marketing at the Vollrath Company. Christina talks about her leadership style, a funny story about her drive to lead, a powerful account about a time when she was not the best leader she could be, and exactly what she did to come out of it. 

Key takeaways:

  • Feedback is a gift. Give it and receive it often.
  • Commit your time to becoming a lifelong learner.
  • Pay if forward. Give your talents away for others to benefit.
  • Do something different and innovative.

This episode is chock-full of psychological safety messages! Listen and learn!
Christina Wegner’s Full BIO

Christina Wegner is the Vice President of Marketing for The Vollrath Company.

A proud member of the foodservice industry since 2017, Christina has a demonstrated history of working in the financial services, plumbing and sports industries. While all seemingly different industries, her role in building incredible brands, relationships, developing amazing people is the common thread in them all! 

She attended the University of Montana for her undergrad, and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for her MBA. In her time outside of the office, she and her husband Tim are raising two beautiful daughters! They enjoy traveling the world, eating great food and playing lots of sports outside!

Since Childhood

I am in a space of continuous learning and improvement. Being a part of an ever-growing and ever-evolving company causes my leadership styles and skills to be put to the test on a daily basis. Actually, this week has given me a run for my money, which I very much appreciate.

I think my leadership journey is very interesting because from an early age, I always like to position myself as the leader. Back in the days, people used to call leaders who are girls very “bossy.” I remember reading my kindergarten report card where my teacher wrote, “I’m concerned to ever leave the room because Christina may take it over.” From then on, my parents knew that there was definitely nothing getting in my way to leadership.

Stretch outside your comfort zone. - @stinam15 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Cool Tricks Pay Off

I have two incredible role models—my mom and my dad—in my life who showed me that hard work truly pays off. As a woman who had gone up the corporate ranks, my mom really proved to me that if you set your mind to achieving your goals, you really could accomplish all of them.

I went in to all of my leadership roles with eyes wide open. I knew that I have to be prepared for the things I believe could come my way, and I also realized that I have to be open to the stuff I wasn’t prepared for

I have worked very diligently on being mindful of my emotions, on accepting things, and managing my facial expressions and my immediate responses. Over my career, these things definitely have evolved and have been honed.

When I speak in front of groups, sometimes small ones are even more intimidating than big crowds, especially when they are your peers. In public speaking settings, I was taught by a friend how not to become nervous by slowing your heartbeat down. 

To do that, you just have to sing in your head any song that just comes naturally to you. Whether it’s the “ABC song”, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, or “Happy Birthday”, just keep on repeating it over and over. While doing that, it would also be beneficial to take deep breaths. 

After time, you will find your heartbeat in a steady pace and your voice doesn’t shake. Then,  everything becomes cool, and you can go on with what you are doing. This has been a really cool trick and it has done a lot of good for me and my career.

Think outside of the industry you work in. - @stinam15 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Art and Science

I speak to my team a lot around art and science. I tell them that they can have all of the science to being a good manager. But if they don’t have the art of it, it would fall flat. 

As a result, you could lose people along the way. It would become hard to bring them along with you, especially in really difficult times when you need to rally people and get them excited in order to follow you in the battle. Therefore, you need to be able to make sure that you have both art and science of leadership.

So, if I am just being super direct with my team all of the time, but not building them up and giving them positive feedback, then I am going to have a hard time bringing them along with me in difficult times. 

I really try to implement both. I am not saying I am already perfect at it, but I am continuously working on it.

I came from a working environment, the finance services, where sharpness and directness were acceptable. So when I came to Vollrath, I had to tone them down so that I can meet my group, who has a different working culture, halfway. I give my group both directness, sharpness, and positive feedback, and I keep a healthy balance of those.

Commit the time to being a lifelong learner. - @stinam15 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet Feedback is a gift. - @stinam15 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet Every time I have a misstep, it is a learning opportunity for me. - @stinam15 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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100: Leaders With Heart Are Grateful For The Journey

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Heather celebrates the 100th episode of the podcast by sharing testimonials from people who have listened mostly since the beginning of the show. She also gives a short nugget and an impactful message to those listening. Please listen in as we honor those who support the podcast as well as the Leaders with Heart who have been on the show.

Cheers to 100 more! Enjoy!

Leaders With Heart

Employee experience is powered by emotions. Managers and leaders get to choose which emotions they express to the people they lead. Leaders drive much of the positive or negative emotions through their actions, inactions, words, and what they fail to say. 

When managers choose their words and actions carefully, they exhibit great emotional intelligence. These managers are often thought of as leaders who care, or as I like to call them, Leaders With Heart

These special brand of leaders drive engagement and loyalty simply by being themselves. Are these leaders perfect? Absolutely not. It is in their awareness and  sharing of their imperfections that we realize their brilliance.

I get so much out of every episode because Heather only brings in people who truly lead with heart. – Tyler Adams, PR & Communications Specialist at TinyPulse #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

100th Episode

In this podcast, I ask you to see yourself in the stories my guests tell about times when they were not the best versions of themselves. I want you to learn how they use their hearts to guide them to a place of heightened leadership prowess and deeper connection with their team.

Today is the 100th episode. I’m super excited for this day! What a journey it has been. I have to say I am super humbled to have spoken to amazing people and I am super excited about next year. I am very grateful that all of you have chosen to listen in on me and my unpolished, funny way of interviewing people. 

This episode is more of a tribute to you, listeners. I want you to hear some of the voices of people that are in the audience, those who are listening in with you.

I just couldn’t believe the impact that this show has had on people. So, I want to thank all of the listeners for sticking with me throughout. It has been definitely a great honor and I am super excited with what we can come up together in the coming months.

Also, there will soon be a book, the first of many in the series, based upon the podcast. It will contain interviews that I had and some of the work that I do in the human resource space. It won’t come out until 2021 but I think I will be proud of that work because you have been a part of it.

It is really inspiring to know that there are so many leaders out there that are willing to do what they can for the people that they work with. Here’s to a hundred more! - Jackie Benjamin #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

The Power of Choice

Whether you are leading someone now, or you want to lead other people, or you’re leading yourself, you get to choose what that looks like

You get to choose your mindset and behavior. You do have impact and you also get to choose what impact to have, whether it is positive or negative. It is critical for a leader with heart to be thinking about the journey, and not focusing so much on the destination.

Even leaders who do most things right also do things which are not so great. But, it is in us and how we highlight those stories and their backgrounds that makes our learning so rich. 

Be that leader who is constantly focusing on the journey—on getting better, on improving, bringing people along, and lifting people up.

I have always been impressed with Heather’s authenticity. When she says leadership with heart, she means it. - Rich Gassen, Ep 32 Guest #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet Everything about leadership with heart, you have brought to life. Here we are, two years later with a hundred conversations with leaders with heart. - Neil Hughes #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet I have really enjoyed listening to an eclectic, diverse, and thought-provoking mix of guests. I’m just so proud to know you and follow you on your journey. - Gary Turner #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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99: Leaders With Heart Have A Strong Moral Compass

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In this episode, Heather speaks with DeeDee Williams, Director of Human Resources at Davis, Graham and Stubbs LLP, about her leadership journey, her focus on compassion, and her strong moral compass which she fights to maintain. She also shares a powerful story of when she was not the best leader she could be and what she did to come out of it.

Key takeaways:

  • Be a compassionate leader.
  • Don’t allow your circumstances to define who you are and how you show up.
  • Be available when employees need you. Put the phone down and give them your attention.
  • Find a workplace that allows you to be the leader you want to be.
  • Show your people you appreciate them and they are important.
  • If a person feels valued, then they will do their best work.

This is a nice episode! Listen and learn!

DeeDee William’s Full BIO

DeeDee Williams has over 12 years of experience in human resources and is currently the Director of Human Resources for Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP (Denver), one of the leading full-service business law firms in the Rocky Mountain West. At DGS, Ms. Williams has helped foster a welcoming culture that, while success-driven, places particular emphasis on the well-being of its employees. This holistic approach to leadership and to nurturing leadership skills in others has enabled the firm to attract and retain talent, especially in a competitive market. 

Ms. Williams holds a B.S. from the University of Houston and is a native of Texas. 

Better Questions

I don’t really think of my career as a “leadership journey.” 

Currently, I am trying to provide the best HR department to the firm I have worked for 12 years. My current mindset revolves around the particular needs of my firm and the employees from an HR department, together.

I would always ask: What does my firm and my employees need from me? How can I do the best for them? In all of my past roles, as it stands now, I have more experience and understanding of what they’re looking for, a better sense of how to ask better questions, and better ways to really try and help my people.

In HR, you’re helping on both sides: you're helping the business be a better business, and you’re also helping the employees be the best version of themselves. - DeeDee Williams #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Wonderful Connections

Every day is not my best day, and I acknowledge that. I am definitely not perfect and I know that. Well, no one is, as we’re all just trying to do our best every day. That’s ultimately the goal.

But let’s just focus on one thing we are going to do well. Sometimes, you just have to approach the day that way. If you are tired, and you’re not probably going to do well, just focus on one thing and give it a 110%.

I work with an amazing group of people who acknowledges that everyone is not perfect. We have a wonderful connection and it doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to know everything about each other. 

At the end of the day, I cannot just assume that I am a great leader because of me. The people I work with contribute to the success in my leadership. They play a huge part in it and I try to let them know that all the time.

Eye contact is incredibly important in conversations. - DeeDee Williams #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Happy Compromise

I am driven by knowledge. I like to learn and understand things. That would certainly drive me as a person. When somebody comes to me with a problem, I want to understand their problem. Then, I want to understand the right solution. 

I think a lot of people are very black and white. I have watched how people get affected by operating in right and wrong, or in black and white. So, over time, I have learned how to operate in a total state of gray. 

Then, I realized that everything is about perspective. You just have to understand the perspective from all sides.

Before, if I wanted a particular thing, but it is something that I couldn’t have, my mother would offer me another thing and say, “Is this a happy compromise?” 

Now, I find myself asking people in my workplace, “If we do this, is this a happy compromise?”

You can get a good pulse of a situation through a conversation. - DeeDee Williams #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet Everybody has to give up a little bit of something. But is it something we can live with? - DeeDee Williams #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet At times, a person needs another person to blame for their emotions. - DeeDee Williams #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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98: Leaders With Heart Create Psychological Safety For All

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In this episode, Heather speaks with Cheryl Fullerton, EVP of People and Communications at Corus Entertainment, Toronto’s largest media company. She shares about her leadership style, her super interesting focus on psychological safety for all and her unabashed belief in innovation.

Key takeaways:

  • See your role as a company and people builder.
  • Do the hard work to find out who you are and what you stand for.
  • Try to know the problem before you set out to fix it.
  • People need trust and confidence that they are going somewhere.
  • Embrace the idea of creating clear objectives for your people.
  • Challenge assumptions in a safe environment.
  • Choose what you want for your life.

This is an amazing episode. Don’t miss this one!

Cheryl Fullerton’s Full BIO

Cheryl Fullerton is Executive Vice President, People and Communications at Corus Entertainment, where she is responsible for the creation of integrated and high-impact HR solutions to support the exceptional creativity and performance of the company’s over 3,500 people. Cheryl also oversees the Communications function, which includes internal and external communications strategies and execution, as well as Corus’ corporate social responsibility approach through the Corus Cares program. 

Cheryl joined Corus in the fall of 2015, after over 25 years honing her expertise as a business-focused people expert, in a series of great Canadian companies; Maple Leaf Foods, Canada Bread, Morneau Shepell and Sobeys.

Cheryl has been granted a Certified Human Resources Executive (CHRE) designation, and is a member of the HR Professional magazine Editorial Advisory Board and the CHRO Advisory Council of the HR Professional Association. She has a Bachelor of Science summa cum laude and an HRCCC designation from McMaster University.

Company Builder

I am a company builder. My goal is to build strong companies and strong people. I’m trying to make sure that this company is not only seen from the inside out as strong and but also seen with character and impact on society which we can all be proud of. We’re building strong people to have full opportunities to show their value, develop their potential and support each other. Having these things allows me to lead with impact and with meaning.

Being responsible for building and demonstrating the character and strength of your company is also very powerful. It means that your people are proud to work with you and you’ve got the reputation with partners outside.

Know the problem you’re trying to solve before you do it. - @cherylannmc #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Happiness At Work

You do the good work to figure out who you are, what you stand for and why it is important. You have to do that in order to communicate and share them with people. That is the first foundational building block to a high performance culture.

I like to think out loud. I like to talk through, share, debate, admit the fakes and change our minds. I think it is a way of making sure that we’re all aligned. It is also a way of trusting my own assumptions and building strength in other people. That’s a big part of my leadership style. 

I love what I do. I firmly believe in the possibility of being in a job that you love, so you should embrace that and have fun.

I love to create. I want my team to have the idea that we’re building and using our talents. We think that this is fun and enjoyable. I don’t think happiness at work gets in the way of great results. Rather, I think that it is the enabler of great results.

When you know that something is important, it is important now. It is not important when you can reach perfection. It is more important to get started. It challenges us to try and simplify. We try to get into the heart of what we’re really trying to do, how we do that, and how we can get started. 

Always know why you are doing what you are doing. Don’t just do anything for the sake of doing it. Know the problem that you’re trying to solve before you do it. Having those kinds of conversations out loud just builds strength and much better work.

Always test your assumptions. - @cherylannmc #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Diverse Organizations

I am accomplishment-oriented, so the idea of having to share my work was hard for me early in my career. But I realized that you do much better work when you do that. 

There has to be the right kind of outcome so that when you do it, it is supported and celebrated. Otherwise, you’re just saying things that are actually meaningless.  

Everybody is so different. You cannot force people to show up exactly the same because that is not going to work. Each person is their own mix of all kinds of different identities, hats, and feelings. 

We’re all complicated beautiful people, so a culture that can value each person for their uniqueness is what is going to build diverse organizations. From there, they can develop their own potential, impact, and happiness. 

I don’t think happiness at work gets in the way of great results. Rather, I think that it is the enabler of great results. - @cherylannmc #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet You do the good work to figure out who you are, what you stand for and why it is important. - @cherylannmc #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet When you know that something is important, it is important now. - @cherylannmc #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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97: Leaders With Heart Have a Clear Leadership Vision

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In this episode, Heather speaks with Don Davis, County Manager for Jefferson County, Colorado. Don shares about his leadership philosophy and vision, and a time when he was not the best leader he could be. He also sheds light on the difference between helping people get the tools they need to do their jobs and meeting their wants and needs. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Leaders should help their people understand who they really are.
  • Vulnerability is not a weakness.
  • Have a vision. Write it down. Post it, and then share it.
  • Manage things and lead people.
  • No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.

This episode is fully packed with helpful insights. Listen and learn!
Don Davis’ Full BIO

Don Davis joined Jefferson County as county manager in May of 2017.

From 1990 until 2017, Don served his country in many different roles, locations and commands. He was deployed numerous times, including to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Afghanistan as the Commanding Officer for Marine Corps Logistics Command Forward. The last few years of his career in the Marines, he assumed command of the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, Georgia for three years and then was the Chief of NORAD-NORTHCOM Theater Strategy and Campaign Plans Division.

After he retired from the military at the rank of Colonel, he moved on to his next adventure as County Manager, serving the citizens of Jefferson County, Colorado. He joined Jeffco in May 2017, where he enjoys serving alongside more than 3,000 dedicated employees.

Don is a graduate of the Marine Corps Command and Staff College; the Amphibious Warfare School; the Executive Leadership Program from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill – Kenan-Flagler Business School; and the Marine Corps Executive Logistics Education Program at Penn State. He holds two master’s degrees; one in Public Administration from Webster University, graduating with high honors in March 1996 and a second in Strategic Studies from the Marine Corps War College in 2011.

Don, born in 1968 in Dover, New Jersey, graduated from Dover High School in June 1986. He attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Management and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in May 1990 in the United States Marine Corps.He and his wife, Becky, have been married 29 years, and have been blessed with four children; Kaitlyn (27), Mackenzie (25), Jack (18), and Luke (16).

Public Service

I think this is a culmination of my service in the military, leading America’s finest men and women around the globe, to continue public service at the local level. It has been pretty amazing and a great opportunity for me.

My drive to lead started during my freshman year in college. I was immediately indoctrinated into the military where I understood the gravity of the service that I was about to enter. After I graduated, I fully understood that I was going to lead men and women, and sons and daughters, the most precious gifts that parents could give to the country. It was a pretty tremendous responsibility.

As a leader, it’s really hard to develop if you do not know yourself. - Don Davis #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Knowing Yourself

In Jefferson County, we have a leadership academy which focuses on not teaching people technical leadership skills, but teaching people who they are. One of the leadership traits and principles in the Marine Corps and in the military in general is to know yourself and seek further improvement. 

If we can teach leaders that, then we break those barriers down. Then, we tear down all of the walls and the defenses that they have placed around to protect themselves. As a result, they become more willing to be vulnerable.

For others, they view the military people to have “Big Tough Guy” mentalities. But I tell you, vast leaders in the military exhibit all the best leadership traits that any organization would find valuable. 

When a life is on the line and time is of the essence, you don’t have time to discuss and brainstorm. So, in times of crisis, you need immediate obedience and response. 

But all the other times, we are collaborative. When you have the time to deliberately plan and discuss, I don’t think there’s a more collaborative organization in the world than the US Military. We work together and come up with answers that nobody else would think of.

You lead men and women, so you got to have a direction for your life. - Don Davis #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Life Compass

Back in my days in the military, we used compasses for land navigation. We have to have an azimuth, which is a general direction that you follow in order to get to your destination.

When you come upon obstacles, like a river or a lake, you point the compass across that obstacle. Then, you find the reference point. Afterwards, you put the compass in your pocket, then you maneuver and walk around the obstacle. Next, you get back on your reference point, and then, you take the compass out of your pocket. Lastly, you get back on your azimuth.

Vision helps you in the good times and in the bad. You could get blind by the peaks of success or you could get lost in the valley of despair and troubles. But, you need to have a vision to direct you.

There are four things about a vision. First, you should have one. Second, you should white it down, so that you could remember it. Next, you should post it somewhere where you can see it, and remind yourself of it everyday. Most importantly, you need to share your vision with those around you, so they can keep you on task and on target. If you don’t share it, who is going to help you get back on your course?

You need to share your vision with those around you, so they can keep you on task and on target. - Don Davis #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet All people are created equal. - Don Davis #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet There’s a lot of different ways to mould leadership through mentoring and guidance. - Don Davis #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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