129: Leaders with Heart Use Employee Feedback to Improve Themselves

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In this episode, Heather speaks with Scott Miller, EVP of Thought Leadership at Franklin Covey about his leadership style, his drive to lead, and his unique view on leadership and self-awareness.

Key takeaways:

  • As leaders, we must be aware of our shortcomings to truly meet our people where they are.
  • Do your people feel safe to tell the truth about you to your face?
  • Great leaders are more concerned with the right thing than being right.
  • Be the leader who is comfortable with your people eclipsing your leadership.
Listen in and take as much wisdom as you can from this leader with heart!

Scott Miller is a 25-year associate of FranklinCovey and serves as the Executive Vice President of Thought Leadership. 

Scott hosts the world’s largest and fastest growing podcast/newsletter devoted to leadership development, On Leadership. Also, Scott is the author of the multi-week Amazon #1 New Release, Management Mess to Leadership Success: 30 Challenges to Become the Leader You Would Follow, and the Wall Street Journal best-seller, Everyone Deserves a Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team

Previously, Scott worked for the Disney Development Company, and grew up in Central Florida. Scott served under the tutelage of Dr. Stephen R. Covey for close to two decades as a sales producer and sales leader.

He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife and three sons.

Cycling Back

I think I am transitioning out of leading people. It’s been a wonderful journey.

[Leadership] can be unrelenting. It can be unrewarding and it’s not for everyone. Not everyone should be a leader and I’m not sure if I should have been a leader early on. I’ve grown and matured a lot. At this stage of my life, I’m very comfortable saying my leadership journey is coming to completion.

I’m going to cycle back into becoming an individual producer. Right now, I’m leading three boys that my wife and I have brought into this world.

Just because you're in the C-suite does not mean you perfected all of the leadership management strategies. – @scottmillerj1 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Blind Spots

Sometimes, I have extreme courage. I’m too courageous when it comes to calling up people’s blind spots. I don’t let issues linger.  Also, I could use some growth on balancing my courage with my diplomacy or consideration.

It’s your job as a leader to constantly become more self-aware, whether it be through seeking feedback and making it safe for others to tell you their truth about you. I say their truth because sometimes it’s about their ex-boss who sounds like you, or their ex-husband who looks like you. You have to make it safe for others.

What I often do in a conversation is I just ask people what’s it like to work for me, to be in a zoom call with me, to work a trade show booth with me, to go to lunch with me, or to work on a product launch with me. I would  make sure they know that I’m not going to refute, deny, or explain it away. I’m just going to listen and write it down.

Then I would take it a step further. I would show extraordinary levels of vulnerability, and ask them what they think is going on with me when I’m showing those. I’ll ask if I seemed jealous, insecure, unprepared, or threatened. I would roll out some adjectives so that they can share with me what they haven’t felt safe saying before. Occasionally, someone will tell how I react and I become more aware of why I act that way in front of a meeting. It’s insightful.

No one is as self-aware as they think they are. – @scottmillerj1 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Scott’s best talents are two things: taking nothing and turning it into something, and giving my people feedback on their blind spots. – @scottmillerj1 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Leading People

I don’t believe that everyone should be a leader of people. Sometimes it gets confusing that everyone has leadership skills in them. Of course, you lead yourself, or your legacy, or a project. But I don’t think that everyone should be a leader of people. I think, too often, people are lured into being leaders of people.

A study said that the average age when someone is promoted into their first management role is at age 30. But the average age they receive their first leadership development training is at age 42.

Now there’s a whole lot of people wrecking carnage across cultures and organizations because they were not trained to be great leaders. Either they weren’t vetted properly or they weren’t told that this is what leadership looks like.

If your people know that you're willing to grow and learn, they can share insights about your own blind spots with you. – @scottmillerj1 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Effective leadership is not acquainted with charisma or vocabulary. It's confidence, humility, vulnerability, and listening. – @scottmillerj1 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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119: Leaders With Heart Understand Who They Are And Use It To Lead Well

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In this episode, Heather speaks to Karen Weeks about her leadership journey and the way she sees how the differences in leadership styles impact the way we lead. She also shares more about her drive to lead and interesting lessons she learned when she left a team member out of an important meeting:

Key takeaways:

  • Collaborate with team members to ensure you aren’t making assumptions about their future opportunities.
  • Understand your unique style and how that helps you lead better.
  • Our mistakes inform our future decisions. Don’t hide from them, but embrace them.
  • Feedback is a gift.
Start your week right by listening to this wonderful episode. Enjoy!

Over fifteen years ago, Karen made a career change from theatre to HR and never looked back!  She found her passion in helping organizations build amazing cultures while guiding individuals to find success in their careers.  Karen is a results-focused, strategic partner, whose drive is to help companies build and scale their teams and culture to meet their business goals.  Her passion is around talent development, organizational effectiveness, change management and helping individuals build fulfilling careers.   She has been asked to speak on several panels, podcasts and serve as a guest writer on change fatigue, bringing a company’s values to life, scaling culture without sounding like “HR” and overall talent development.  She recently published her first book, “Setting the Stage: A Guide to Preparing for any Feedback Conversation” which is now available on Amazon.  Recently, she was named one of the 2020 Notable Women in Talent by Crain’s New York Business.

Currently, Karen serves as the VP of People at Ordergroove, where she is building the people strategy and focuses on maintaining a strong culture during the growth stage of the company, including winning Best Companies to Work in New York two years in a row!  Additionally, she can be found teaching management and HR strategy courses at Baruch College and as a professional development coach with GoCoach.  Karen’s academic credentials include an MS in Human Resources Development from Villanova University and a BA in Theatre Arts from Elon University.   She lives in NYC with her husband of almost 20 years and her furry babies.

Realizing Leadership

I felt like I kind of fell into leadership. I think it is partially because of being in an HR role. You’re always working with other people and helping them in their journey, so you sort of lose track of your own. All of a sudden, I would realize that now I’m the leader. In the moment of struggle, I would say, “Wait, I am actually the leader in this situation.” I’m the one people are looking up to.

I love what I do. I’ve been doing it for almost 20 years now. I truly see myself as a leader for the whole organization, whether it’s my direct team or the other folks.

You don't have to be a manager to be a leader. – @Weeks_24_7 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Bettering Leadership

You don’t have to be a manager to be a leader. A lot of engineers don’t want to be managers, so they become architects or things that are just much more senior individual contributors. In those roles descriptions, we would talk about team leader, culture champion, and things that we actually look for in our people managers. Yet, it was important for them to have those qualities, even if they didn’t manage people. It took a while for me to realize that it actually applies to me as well.

Anybody can be a leader. It’s more about knowing your style and how you’re going to use that to be a better leader. It’s important to know your styles. Maybe someone more introverted or more analytical can’t be or will be a better leader than someone else. Do it in your own style.

Back in the day, having feelings and talking to people like humans was a bad thing. It’s supposed to be business only. Either because they were afraid or they were misunderstood. Actually, being human and showing that side of you is what will make you a better leader.

Vulnerability, approachability, empathy, being willing to try something and fail, and try again are what’s making good leaders these days. That’s all based on who you are as a person and how you think about other human beings.

We are all humans in this journey together. – @Weeks_24_7 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

If we are putting someone in a manager role, they need to have the maturity to have tough conversations. – @Weeks_24_7 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Bringing People

I’m very approachable and supportive. I want you to see me as a human. At the end of the day, we are humans coming together, all with the same goal. I want to get to know you. 

I want you to be able to talk to me about things that are going on in your life. I want to know what’s important to you, whether that is in your career, or in your personal life. How can I support and help you get the things that are important to you?

In general, I did not want that spotlight. Looking back at my childhood, I realized I was always trying to bring people together. I wanted people to have a shared experience or shared journey for them to enjoy it. I think that’s a lot of what leadership actually is—bringing people together, supporting them, helping them achieve their goals.

Most people will rather hear tough or confusing stuff, because when you hear nothing you fill in the gaps with negativity every single time. – @Weeks_24_7 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Vulnerability, approachability, empathy, being willing to try something and fail, and try again are what's making good leaders these days. – @Weeks_24_7 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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106: Leaders With Heart Are Human And Give Others Permission To Be The Same

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In this episode, Heather Younger speaks with Dr. Karen Johnson, Equity and Inclusion Administrator for the Washington Department of Corrections about her leadership style, her drive to lead, and her leadership conversion story. She also shares her unique view and purpose for working with the incarcerated and those that serve them.

Key takeaways:

  • It doesn’t matter how much you know, but how much you care.
  • Take care of yourself, so you can take care of your people. In turn, they will care of you and your customers.
  • Realize you are human and give others permission to do the same.
  • Be grateful even for painful feedback.

You’ll surely love this episode. Listen and learn!
Karen Johnson’s Full BIO

Dr. Karen Johnson is the Equity and Inclusion Administrator of the Washington Department of Corrections since 2018.  She is passionate, driven, and has more than 20 years of experience and leadership in federal and state government.

Johnson served as the strategic operations manager at the Employment Security Department, chief administrative officer with the James E. Van Zandt Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and regional Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) program manager for the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System. Previously, as the strategic initiatives executive at Department of Social & Health Services, she led the development of a respectful, equitable, diverse and inclusive (REDI) workplace culture to achieve organizational excellence and results.

Johnson earned her Master of Public Administration and doctorate in Urban Studies from Old Dominion University. She is a Certified Master Respect Facilitator and a Certified Diversity Professional. Karen is currently pursuing the Certified Diversity Executive credential, and is a 2018 participant in the Leadership Women America program. Also she currently serves on the Special Education Advisory Council and the Washington Statewide Reentry Council.

Right here, Right now

I am right here—present, in the moment, in the now—embracing everything that confronts me and slips my way right here, right now.

My life’s purpose is to work towards liberty and justice for all, until justice rolls down like water. People being treated justly and fairly is what gets up me in the morning.

I get to build my legacy through unapologetically championing and preparing others to embrace, emulate, and embed a culture where everyone commits to collectively valuing, including, and respecting each other. I get to show up and help others to begin addressing the biases and the bigotry that has impacted the lives of our people.

People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. – Dr. Karen Johnson #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

It Takes a Village

I am doing this work with those we serve which is the incarcerated individuals, and those who serve them. 

In my life in the correction, I am not fully convinced with who needs the greatest help. Are they the ones behind bars to which we have the key to open their cells, or the ones who have the key, but are imprisoned by their minds and hearts to which we do not have the key? 

I see my work as the key to begin unlocking the hearts and minds of the staff.

My people would say that I am a transformational and authentic servant leader. They will tell you that I am there to serve them. That has thrown many people off because many believed that as leaders, particularly in the corrections, we bark orders and tell people what to do. But that is not how I show up. 

I believe that alongside strategies of respect, equity, diversity and inclusion, there has to be active listening, foresight, and empathy. Leaders should be feeling, understanding and living what others have lived. They have to be healers while bringing awareness, demonstrating commitment, and encouraging staffs to commit to growth and freedom. 

There also has to be a sense of community and team building. It takes a village to a raise a child. I believe that it also takes a village to do good work. We need to be able to expand the village and uplift them as we lead.

In this high-tech age, leaders are required to demonstrate appreciation of people for who they are and what they do. – Dr. Karen Johnson #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Cut yourself some slack. Realize that you are human. – Dr. Karen Johnson #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Loving Myself Adequately

In my journey, I had to learn how to adequately and properly love myself so that I can have the capacity to love others adequately, too. I talk about love here as a verb: an active, intentional, and tangible decision. 

Learning how to love myself changed the trajectory of my leadership philosophy. To this day, I am thankful to those individuals who spoke the truth.

What is going on in us impacts what is going on with the team. If we do not have self awareness, self-reflection, self-correction, and growth, that doesn’t give anybody permission to do the same.

Take some time off. Encourage others to do the same. – Dr. Karen Johnson #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

If we take care of our people, their care towards the people entrusted to them will extend to us. – Dr. Karen Johnson #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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91: Leadership with Heart Are Open To All Feedback

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In this episode, Heather speaks with Jo-Ann Robertson, CEO of Ketchum, in the UK. Jo-Ann shares what drives her to lead, her unabashed desire to lead from the front with a team, her experience when she was not the best version of herself, and what she thinks leaders like us need.

Key takeaways:

  • All feedback is good. Take it.
  • Challenge yourself to grow.
  • Leaders can change their styles to meet the needs of their people.
  • Leaders must demonstrate what they want before they speak about it.
  • Just because someone has more commercial value or brings in more money, doesn’t mean that they are good for the culture.

This episode resonates conscious empathy and the importance of connecting with our people. Hope you learn a lot!
Jo-Ann Robertson’s Full BIO

Jo-ann Robertson is CEO of Ketchum in the UK and Chair of the Young Women’s Trust, a charity working to achieve economic justice for young women. 

She began her career as a Labour party political activist and TV reporter in Scotland. Having worked in journalism, politics and communications, Jo-ann offers clients a truly 360 degree perspective to meet their specific needs. Her areas of expertise include integrated communication strategies, strategic media relations, stakeholder relations, corporate reputation, crisis & issues management public affairs and government relations. 

Jo-ann believes that being a people first business drives performance and is focused on building a diverse and inclusive workforce at Ketchum in the UK.

Always Learn

I’m still learning. 

Everyday, I try to reflect on how I have led my people because essentially, that is my job as CEO. It has been really interesting for me, particularly over the last ten years or so. I think my style has fundamentally changed as I have observed others and consumed information around leadership.

The critical moment in my journey was when I worked with an executive coach five years ago. It opened my eyes to what my preferred leading style is and how that works for people. I also learned various ways to lead which I could try out through different techniques. Some of them has been hugely successful, but not so much for others.

I feel good as a leader. I feel comfortable where I am now, but I am always trying to challenge my self to be the best that I can be. - @RedRobertino #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Always Listen

I have always been someone who really listens to feedback. 

That doesn’t mean that I take every piece of feedback I get as gospel, but I always listen to them. Then, I reflect on whether I think it is fair or not, and whether I think I should do something about it or not. 

Your position is not just because you got a title. You have to earn people’s respect, and their followership. They don’t have to follow you. So if you want to lead them, it is your job to find ways to connect.

I have really learned in the last few years that you can say something a hundred times, but you have to really demonstrate it for it to be true. People judge you according to your actions and words in equal measure. So, you really have to show what you say in practice because saying that is just not enough. Also, you have to be careful that they are the same as often as possible.

The absolute majority of people come at things with the right intention. There are very few people who set out on any given date to screw up or to obviously try to sabotage something.

It is very empowering to see my people challenge one another because that little bit of friction and tension is where we really come up with incredible work. - @RedRobertino #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Always Collaborate

I absolutely lead from the front

I am a driver, and that is my natural style. I am really motivated by goals and I really like to win. But all of these are within the context of working with a team. I get the most satisfaction and joy at work when we are really succeeding because the team is all playing beautifully together. 

I love having debates because I have a strong point of view. Sometimes, people misinterpret that as the notion that my opinion is the only thing I am interested in. But it’s quite the opposite. I love to hear the points of view of others. I love to move my people around as they battle between each other.

We’re all incredibly talented as individuals, and we have all got good ideas. But, none of those ideas are ever as good as when we really come together as a team and push them forward.

We put our people at the heart of every decision we make. We’re losing so much great talents just because oftentimes the workplace is not an environment in which they can thrive. Most of them allow only one type of person to be successful.

We have all got good ideas, but none of those are ever as good as when we really come together as a team. - @RedRobertino #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet If you’re not in the thick of your business, then it would be impossible for you to make the right forward-looking decisions. - @RedRobertino #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet I really encourage my people to have fun in what we do. - @RedRobertino #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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58: Leaders With Heart Know That They Are Works In Progress



In this episode, Heather speaks with Danielle Vaughan, EVP of Human Resources at FirstBank about her journey to leadership, her unique leadership style and what leaders can do to better connect with their teams.

Key takeaways:

  • Leadership is a long journey.
  • If you want employee buy-in, break down the goals into smaller steps.
  • Have courage to ask for feedback to keep you on track.
  • Leadership is more of how you leave people feeling and how much they want to follow.
  • Grow your social intelligence by understanding what your people needs.
  • If you feel like your desk is neglected, imagine what you people might be feeling.
  • Stay true to your values and don’t have regrets.

This episode is full of wisdom, so you better not miss this one!
Danielle Vaughan’s Full BIO

Danielle is a strong advocate of being in alignment with one’s principles. This showed at a young age when she started her internship at FirstBank and eventually, she had undergone the Management Training Program where she felt valued and not pressured to be something she’s not.

Currently, Danielle is leading her people as the Executive Vice President of Human Resources where she oversees many HR functions, including payroll, benefits and employee relations and she is blessed to have a rewarding career.

More To Go

Understanding how big leadership is and how involving it is, is very important. Growing up, if you’re a high-achiever type, you achieve and check off the box. Before you know it, you think you’re somebody and are praised for what you’ve done. Then, you get into the real world and you get feedback and challenges you haven’t had before. This journey has been pretty long for me. I’ve really been strongly on it for a little over ten years.

Now, I am at the point where I understand that I probably have more to go than I have achieved. It’s really inspiring, fun, and challenging, and it gives you a platform to really make a difference for yourself, for your family and for your company. 


Everybody is in a position to be a leader. -Danielle Vaughan #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Break It Down

Usually the first thing is to understand where your people’s reservations are coming from. 

It’s really easy to assume those reservations and it’s easy to start combating what you’re assuming the issues are, as opposed to just really understanding the concerns you have and the obstacles you foresee. Really digging into that helps the journey anyway, in order to get to the goal.

Also, I think, breaking down the bigger goals into pieces that are really doable and manageable and giving permission for things to take time, putting quality over speed, is good. That’s usually how I lead the team together and bring it to a finish line.

You’re going to need your people’s expertise, time, and commitment. Also, in a lot of times, the concerns are legitimate and it’s just that they’re also ones that you can overcome, so that’s bringing both of those perspectives together to eventually meet the goal.

The Seat At The Table

Interestingly, I wouldn’t say that I necessarily had a goal of leading others, but what I do have a goal of is making a difference, having a voice and having a seat at the table where decisions are made, where differences can be united, and where things can be improved. 

What I have noticed is that in order to do that, you probably have to be in a leadership position, leading others and leading an organization.

No matter what you're working towards, just stay true to your personal values. - Danielle Vaughan #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

I don’t completely have an interest in leading just for the sake of leading. How do I want to make a difference in way that I can leverage my talents and my perspectives?

I like to be part of a meaningful change, and with that comes leading others. You have to interact, understand, encourage, and develop people, and rely on them. You can get more through others than just through yourself.

You can be a leader of yourself, of others or of an organization. - Danielle Vaughan #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet
Focus on what's really important to you, regardless of how tough the journey is. -Danielle Vaughan #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet
You can get more through others than just through yourself. -Danielle Vaughan #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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31: Leaders With Heart Address Tough Issues Head On

Today’s podcast is another solo show. In this short episode, I want to take this opportunity to talk about addressing negative feedback or feedback or a negative situation or a heart situation head on and not hide from it.

If you are struggling in this area of leadership, this episode will definitely help you out.

How to Handle Feedback

Feedbacks must always be done in a respectful way, everyone has a right to it, whether they are in a leadership role or not.

Team cohesion and positive team dynamics are extremely crucial and it’s important as managers and leaders to receive feedback in a respectful way. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

To receive it inside of ourselves, to take it in, to hover that concept and to hopefully learn and change from it. It is not okay for people to undermine anybody on the team, I don’t care if you’re a leadership role or not.

Critical Conversations

Leaders need to learn how to head off negative things that might destroy their culture and team dynamics, this relates to receiving and addressing critical conversations.

It’s important as leaders to receive feedback, to hear what people might be saying, to hear criticisms and to take that in. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

But it’s also important to head off negative things that are happening that could destroy your culture, your team dynamics immediately.

This might also be a case when you think about it when maybe an organization is going through a merger or do lay-offs that we make sure that we let our people know why this has to take place, why lay-offs are happening, and understanding that the person had value in the organization but maybe it was a necessary evil to keep the business going.

These kinds of conversations are critical. These people are adults, they’re not children, they do deserve utmost respect, so having that open line of communication with them, letting them know where the business is going, how they can impact business results in a positive way and maybe what might be impacting the business in a negative way and then what that could mean for the business as it relates to potential lay-offs or cuts.


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