Picking and Perfecting Your Diverse Leadership Behaviors

Yesterday, my family and I went to the pumpkin patch. We went through a complicated selection process, picking up different pumpkins and testing them for size, weight, shape, color, cleanliness, overall appearance, and more. We debated if this particular pumpkin was too green, or if this one was too round, or if this one was too small—essentially conducting mini focus groups for every imaginable quality.

Of course, we rejected a few gourds in favor of others. Though it may seem like a stretch, I would liken this fall tradition to honing our own leadership behaviors at work. In my new book, The Art of Caring Leadership, I explore nine different behaviors that caring leaders exhibit. I believe a truly caring leader encompasses all nine of these behaviors with aplomb and confidence.

But here’s the thing: we as individuals get to choose how many of those behaviors we exhibit. Sometimes, we call on certain behaviors that suit us in the moment. Other times, we take a different approach, it ends up not working, and we have to pivot and adjust in response. Just as we troubleshot different pumpkins in the patch, a caring leader tries every approach at their disposal when guiding their team.

The process of caring leadership is all about trial and error—experimenting with different approaches until you find the ones that work best for you and your team. So how do we discern which behaviors suit us best?

First, we need to be meeting and engaging with our people often—both as a larger team and one-on-one—in order to find out what they need from us. Though it goes without saying, I’ll say it anyway: the needs of your team members come first. Instead of showing up the same way every day across the board, we should personalize and customize our approach to best address their changing needs and expectations. Each team member is an individual, and should be treated as such. What may seem like too small a pumpkin may be just the right size for someone else, and leadership behaviors are similarly received in different ways based on the person.

Another underutilized tool is organizational surveys. Whether it’s pulse surveys or more sustained, 360-degree feedback, all that information is valuable data we should listen to when trying to determine what areas of improvement need attention and how we can best address them. Instead of randomly trying out different behaviors until one resonates, you can use that energy to intentionally listen to your people’s voices, and architect your leadership approach accordingly. In short: listen first, act second.

The nine behaviors I explore in The Art of Caring Leadership are the arrows in your quiver, the tools in your toolbox, the paint in your palette, and yes, the pumpkins in the patch. Whichever metaphor inspires you most, the message is the same. Picking and choosing different leadership behaviors based on the individual situation is an act of care, and a demonstration of your acuity as a leader. It will take time to become comfortable switching between these behaviors, but that time spent is valuable practice for yourself. So get out there, get practicing, and find the pumpkins that suit you best.

Learning from the Little Moments

I’m often asked where I find my inspiration. Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer. Of course, I am always inspired by my work, my clients, and the diverse people I connect with every day. I even find there’s nothing more motivating than helping others overcome obstacles, enhance their organizations, and achieve their goals.

However, caring leaders have to source their energy from places outside of their work as well. If your mind is firmly locked within the four walls of the office, you’ll have a significantly harder time coming up with creative solutions, replenishing your energy levels, and fortifying a sense of self-worth independent of your job performance.

So where should you look for that inspiration? I argue that sometimes you don’t even need to look in the first place. By that I mean, inspiration often reveals itself to us when we least expect it. We’ve all experienced the phenomenon of “shower thoughts,” or getting your best ideas in the shower when your mind is seemingly turned off. If you’re desperately searching for epiphanies, your overthinking might be scaring them off.

Just the other day, I was sitting on the couch, becoming visibly stressed out as I went through my mental to-do list. Like most of us, the list felt neverending. My ten-year-old son noticed my anxiety, and suddenly said, “Don’t worry about any of that. Lay down, take a few deep breaths, and breathe all those things out of your mind and let them go, and everything will be alright, okay?” Naturally, I was taken aback by his precociousness, but I went along with his suggestion. “Are you teaching me about meditation right now?” I asked, and he replied, “Yeah, about mindfulness, Mama.”

Sure enough, a moment of quiet reflection did me good, and I was grateful that my youngest child was there to pull me out of my spiral and grant me the time and space I needed to recenter my focus. Of course, this is a great reminder of how much we can learn from our children, but there’s a larger universal message here as well. Teachers, instructors, and educators are quite literally all around us. Caring leaders know that life’s most teachable moments often arrive outside the workplace, usually without the fanfare of a grand “Eureka!” moment. It’s our job to take those lessons and leverage them towards improving those we lead. Whichever experiences are fueling those “a-ha” moments are what make your perspective truly unique and needed.

Inspiration not only gives us new ideas for possible innovation, but it also replenishes our energy levels and reminds us of our core purpose in whichever field we choose. This element of self-care is critical, as caring leaders must fill up their own emotional/mental cup so they can continue to pour from it for the benefit of others. Whether you find inspiration in art, nature, literature, food, family, or even reality television, carve out time in your schedule to hold space for the things that bring you joy and excitement. Take note of those places where you get your best “shower thoughts,” and save them for when you need an extra boost of encouragement. Welcome those little moments back into your life—even if it seems counterproductive—and I promise the creative and emotional return will be worth the small investment.

6 Tips for Honing Your Unique Leadership Style

In the countless interviews I’ve conducted with leaders as part of my podcast, Leadership with Heart, I’ve grown to appreciate the multitude of leadership styles my guests bring to the table. I’ve learned through these dialogues that no two people lead in the same exact way, and that it’s these differences that make the workplace such a nuanced and complex ecosystem.

Within that environment, I often find my clients struggling to develop their own unique leadership style. And with a growing body of literature and thought leadership out there, it’s harder than ever to cut through the noise and carve out a meaningful path for yourself.

So how do you begin to discover and refine your personal leadership approach? In this article, I share six tips that can get you started on that journey.

  • Reflect on what makes your perspective unique. Right out of the gate, I recommend conducting an in-depth dive into yourself. Assess your personality, examine your dominant character traits, identify your core values and morals, determine your most comfortable communication style, etc. Because our behavioral traits will always influence how we make decisions and interact with those around us, it’s crucial to pay attention to how they manifest (consciously or subconsciously) in a work environment.
  • Identify your weaknesses. Knowing where your overall skill set is lacking can help you better leverage your team’s strengths as a countermeasure. Moreover, being fully transparent about your shortcomings can inspire your team to improve themselves, as well.
  • Build a culture of feedback. In all honesty, you will never know how effective your personal leadership style is if you fail to solicit feedback from your peers. Gauging your performance on a frequent basis and in a constructive manner will help you adapt your strategies in real time, and make your team members feel valued and respected.
  • Take notes from leaders who have inspired you, but don’t copy too closely. Take stock of leaders you’ve connected with in the past, and consider what they did to truly impact your life. However, in my opinion, there is nothing worse than a poor imitation of another caring leader. Of course, we as humans learn from observation, and you should always be looking to others for inspiration and motivation when crafting your unique approach. But avoid emulating others too closely, or it may come across as inauthentic and disingenuous. After all, your leadership style should be your own.
  • Learn from past leadership mishaps—others or your own. Conversely, reflect on instances of poor leadership. What went wrong? What did they do (or didn’t do) that negatively influenced the outcome? As with many things in life, learning what not to do may be as productive as learned what to do.
  • Put yourself in new (and potentially uncomfortable) situations. Discomfort is one of the most effective self-discovery tools in the caring leader’s arsenal. Take on a project outside of your wheelhouse, talk to someone you wouldn’t normally connect with, or sit in on a meeting in a different department. When honing your leadership style, venture outside your comfort zone to discover how you instinctually react in moments of growth.

With all that said, it should be noted that introspective questions like these should be returned to every so often. Our leadership styles are always evolving with the times, and changing as we learn new information. As such, a critical element of honing your leadership style is remaining flexible and open-minded enough to adapt it as needed, so you can ensure your approach maintains relevance in a rapidly progressing world. If you welcome these adjustments as the necessary learning opportunities they are, you’ll find you’ve created a leadership style all your own before long.

Why Caring Leaders Are Artists in Disguise

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

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

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

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

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

How Holistic Leadership Shows You Care

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

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

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

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

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

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

47: Leaders With Heart Go Personal With Their People


In this episode, Heather speaks with Patrick Brady, Regional President for FirstBank about his leadership style, his philosophy on leading people, the different levels of his leadership, and a critical nugget for leaders who might be at an impasse in their leadership.

Key Takeaways:

  • Leave room for your people to be independent in their roles.
  • There is a way to still remain within an organization or a team, even if your leadership style differs drastically from your manager.
  • It is the leader’s fatal flaw to not to go deep with their people and not build personal relationships.
  • Our people want to see our humanity.
  • Employees put meaning in the work that they do.

This is a rich episode with a light-hearted and heart-centered leader. Listen and learn!

Patrick Brady’s Full BIO

Patrick Brady is the Regional President for FirstBank for Northern Colorado and Arizona. In addition, Mr. Brady serves as Executive Vice President for FirstBank Holding Company. He works to set and implement strategic initiatives for the organization as a whole and advises several other FirstBank markets.  Over the years, he has been responsible for the opening of the Northern Colorado market for FirstBank and overall management of $850 million in bank assets. 

A Colorado native, Mr. Brady has also served the northern Colorado communities extensively via board positions and other involvement in church groups, chambers of commerce, economic development groups and affordable housing non-profits. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business with concentrations in finance and real estate from Colorado State University. He also holds a certificate in advanced bank coursework from the Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University. Patrick’s passions are his Catholic faith, his wife Robyn and his four children.

Ever Evolving

Clearly, I feel like I’m still learning, although I have managed people for almost 30 years. I have been a manager for three decades, and a leader less than that. I am ever evolving.

My previous job is a lot closer to people, which I really feel natural to be in. But my current job is a bit more removed from the people. I interact with less people, in a less, face-to-face personal way.

My people appreciate my energy and goofiness. But they would also appreciate how that sometimes I set some things that a lot of folks in business have, which is real Type A, driven, and super-organized personality. 




A lot of people struggle often more with soft skills and letting their guard down more. I tend to work currently with a group of people who have more skills I wish I had during all those years—timeliness, organization, and detail. Most people would say we’re a good team for the most part because of that. I believe they know I care. I view them as my peers, as equals, and I learn an awful lot from them. I think that I’m giving good room for independent decision making, their own trial and error, and not trying to become over the top or over-managing. That’s how I am attempting to manage: with a lot of trust, a lot of energy and beyond myself.

Embrace your own goofiness. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Stylistic Differences

I was maybe five years in the company. I had just my first child. I knew I had responsibilities, but I wasn’t that motivated at work. I wasn’t liking it that much. It didn’t feel right to me. I remember having a review with my president at the time. He said, “Honestly, I have grounds to maybe just ask you to leave.” I said, “You do, because I am not happy.” But I have to figure it out. If I don’t, I’ll be gone.

It was evolutionary for me because I was like, “Why am I like this? What I am doing wrong at work? If this is right company, if this is a good company, if these are good people, why wouldn’t I be happy?” I found out that that leader was a leader who was really different stylistically than what I have become. But I had to go, “Well, you’re not going to love that style.”

The more control you have, the more people you know you engage with. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

That’s my boss. And if I like this company, if I want this job, I’d better learn how to work with him. So, I went from that person saying, “Maybe, I should let you go. You’re not performing that well,” to five years later, that person worked really hard within our internal structure and pushed the board pretty hard to make me a president at a young age. To cover that space in five years, to figure that relationship out, make it productive, positive, more fun for me and more valuable for him, and to have success together– that’s a really big deal.

People’s ability to change became really clear to me at that time. My ability to change people’s ability: not saying something can or cannot work because there’s stylistic differences but saying how it can work when there’s stylistic differences is just a key point to me. I think it’s just miserable to battle all the time, and try to build yourself up exclusively. Some people get to the top that way. It’s just not the way I found in getting closer to the top.

Connect and Get Personal

I try to make time for personal connections. I think it’s an important one. You have got to be present still, even though you do a lot of these electronically. This physical presence is important. I do travel to those out-of-state markets often. That’s a meeting protocol. But I also schedule smaller meetings with some of their people for breakfast or lunch.

The job satisfaction surveys you read shows that being cared for, being known personally, and having relationships are as important as paid hours. As leaders in business, to miss that important piece seems like a fatal flaw, if you can’t bring it back to a relational level at a regular interval.

I also try to share personally. When someone asks you how your weekend was, 75% of the people would say, “It was great.” Then they go to their tasks. But as a leader, I think that’s a real shortcoming.

You’re not bragging. You’re not trying to overtake their weekend story or their weekends coming up. But they want to know something about you, too. They appreciate you ask about them, but they have an interest in you and your life, how that plays out, and what it looks like. You can be real about that and share things openly. I think it only strengthens the bond, too.

Praise in public. Criticize in private. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet
It hasn't always been easy, and it won't always be. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet
I look at all the people I've worked with and for, and ask what I can from them to get better, then tweak it into my own leadership style. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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48: Leaders With Heart Are Fiercely Loyal To Their People


In this episode, Heather speaks to Adam McCoy, Director of Employee Experience at Arrow Electronics and President of the Mile High Society of Human Resources Management. Adam talks about his leadership style, his unique view of his role as a leader, and his recommendations to all leaders in stressful situations.

Key takeaways:

  • When you don’t shine and slip up, sit with the team, see what they think went wrong, and admit your mistakes.
  • Seek feedback.
  • Ensure authenticity.
  • Be willing to share yourself, beneath the surface, with your people.
  • Don’t create a team who needs a micromanaging leader.
  • Take a moment to breathe.

This is a meaningful conversation with rich lessons for all listeners. Enjoy!

Adam McCoy’s Full BIO

Adam is passionate about driving HR forward in an innovative, inclusive and collaborative way. He is a Global HR Executive with expertise in leading complex people programs. As the current Director of Employee Experience, he designs systems which drive the employee voice, such as collecting employee feedback through surveys and social media, etc. to retain talent across the global enterprise and further business excellence.

Adam is also the President of Mile High Society of Human Resources Management, which is the largest SHRM chapter in Colorado, and one of a handful of Super Mega Chapters, which have more than 1000 members.

A Lasting Mark

It’s a really deeply rooted desire to make a contribution. I want to leave a lasting mark. Whether it is people, processes, or projects to be wildly successful, I get a deep sense of satisfaction out of that. I certainly feel that people come in and out of our lives for a reason. In time, there’s something for us to gain from each other as a part of that relationship. The need for contribution, the need to have lasting relationships, and to add value to people, processes, or projects, probably sums up that drive for me. 

When I’m leading folks, I ensure my authenticity by things that are very simple. I am not someone who over-complicates things. 



I have a team that’s in my physical proximity. It’s saying good morning to every single person. It’s asking them how their weekend was. I’ve got one working project team member whose wife is going to be expecting their third child soon. So, I talk with him about that. It’s showing people that you care, and you mean it. You can walk the walk, but you certainly have to talk the talk, too. People produce more and come together as a more effective team when leaders show that they care.

Part of it is also by being willing to share yourself. Some leaders are uncomfortable with that. It’s not something you do when you find yourself in a jam. It’s something you have to do consistently to make sure that it pays off correctly. I do it out of absolute genuine interest in my people.

I don’t want to create a team of people who just sit and stare at their cubicle walls. They might get their work done faster, but I don’t want to create an environment like that.

People who put in time to develop relationships end up with incredibly devoted and committed teams. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Seek Feedback

People have a fear of being vulnerable. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Make sure the team is well-informed about what’s happening, not only about what they’re seeing, but also about what they’re not. Sometimes, high-stress moments can cause us to almost recoil. As I started to see what’s happening, I dug in hard to make sure that I could repair and recover, so people wouldn’t feel the stress too much. I probably bore a lot of it on myself. There are those really high-stress situation, and we all hope that auto-pilot kicks in. But it doesn’t always do. It’s important that when we have those moments, remember those and try to learn from them.

Try to teach others a better way for themselves, as they grow: What have a really learned through all of these? Here’s what a have learned. Here’s what I would like to have done better. I want to make sure that you are equipped, so that when you face something like this in your career, you’ll handle it even better.

Too often people don’t seek feedback. For me, being a leader is about that evolution to your comment earlier. There’s nothing wrong with doing sort of that post-mortem. There were some things that went really well. There were some things that didn’t. And, I was a part of that. That’s not a bad thing. We do grow a lot through those moments.

Step Back and Relax

We put so much pressure on ourselves. Our organizations are putting pressure on us, too. At the end of the end, the work will get done. The team will perform. Processes will take place. All of those things can be changed over time. They can’t all be changed in a day. I think people put a lot of stress on themselves when they shouldn’t. They shouldn’t let it sit there for a long time.

When people see you as authentic, they will sense that. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Be calm. I know a lot of leaders can get very frantic because they sense disappointment or failure somewhere in the process. But as long as we learn from those pieces, we will continue to grow the team and the business. You don’t need to gain those 10 extra gray hairs through that process. 

I’ve mentored and counseled folks a lot over the years. I’ve asked a lot of them to take that step back, relax, and ask themselves if they’re really ultra-stressed or scared about something. What’s the proof? Are you making a rational observation, or is this something that’s just stuck in your head? Just take that moment to breathe. 

Directing, so to speak, isn't necessarily equipping people the right way. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet
I think that there are leaders out there who take a protectionist view about their work. They aren't actually working in their employees' best interests to grow. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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32: Leaders With Heart Know That They Must Show Up And Participate

Today on the podcast we have Rich Gassen, supervisor of the University of Wisconsin’s print shop, chair of the CSN network and owner of the Flying Button Design.

Rich has been out there, interacting with me on LinkedIn for quite a while and I just see the type of content that he puts out there. I see the level of caring that he has, his desire to grow himself and the people around him, and his deep desire to always learn.

In this episode, we talk about his leadership style, the roots of his leadership, and some great tips and nuggets on how he leads his team.

The key takeaways in this episode are:

  • Sometimes we must be leaders without titles to  become leaders with titles
  • Empowering staff to do their best work allows the leader of the team to enrich a broader audience and grow themselves
  • Always be present, available and engaged with your people
  • When your staff knows your mission and knows what has to be done, trust them to do it
  • Someone emotional self-management , or regulating our emotions is something that we learn to get better at over time
  • Leaders cannot give what they do not have and must find resources for themselves to manage others better
  • Seek out training and development opportunities for your team that takes into consideration the whole person inside and out of work
  • We all win when the team uses theirs strengths
  • Life-long learning is key
  • Get to know your staff and attend to their needs

This episode is helpful for all leaders, but particularly helpful for newer supervisors or managers. Great stuff!

Rich Gassen’s Full BIO

Rich Gassen is currently a supervisor at the DoIT Digital Publishing and Printing Services Shop- UW Madison in 2012. He is directly handling 15 staff members over a total group of 40. Prior to that he has already been working in print, prepress and design environments, taking on lead production roles even without a title. He is also specialized in supervision and empowerment, marketing, graphic design, preflighting, customer service, consulting and project management.

Rich also chairs the Campus Supervisors Network (CSN), a community of practice with over 500 active members at UW-Madison, supporting other supervisors in their roles, offering training and networking events on campus, and maintaining a website of resources.

For years, he has been building the team atmosphere, empowering the staff in order to allow them to make decisions on their own, be their own leaders. When not in the office, he does freelance graphic design for a few clients from home. He is a proud husband and a father of two teenage boys, and have lived in the Madison, WI area his whole life.

Calmness and Participation 

Rich describes his leadership style using two things: casualness and teamwork. 

I work right next to my staff. My office is in the production center. The door is always open. I can see people working all the time.

I’ve always had a mantra that I live by that says, “Show up and participate.” And for me that means always be present, always be engaged with people. Obviously it means come to work for starters.

I don’t get too upset or excited when there are issues. We try to solve them as a team and learn from them so we hopefully be avoiding them in the future.

Hopefully my staff would say that I am easy to work with. I try to be lenient as far as things like flexible time off for family and for health reasons.

I’ve have been in the production environment long enough to know that getting angry doesn’t do you any good. #reasonoveremotion #leadership Click To Tweet

Training the staff

Rich believes in equipping the team to get better.

I have a lot of staff now that were in the same position as I was in in my previous job where they are natural leaders, leading the work in our production areas.

I have several people that have come to me and asked questions about “How can I handle this better?” or “I am actually struggling with another employee in communication with him. Is there something that I can do differently?”

We have plenty of training for things like conflict management, and communication styles. I decided I would do training for some of the staff just so that they are better prepared. They are on the path maybe to become a supervisor at some point in their career.

So making sure that the tools and the resources available to interact with each other right now and in their future is important to me as well.

We all win when they improve their communication skills or their conflict management skills. Everybody benefits from that. And they become a better team as a result of that which makes my job easier. 

You will learn over time that a little more professionalism and level-headedness wins in the end. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Well there is that saying of What happens if I train them and they leave? But the other saying is What if I don't train them and they stay? #equip #empower #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Keep Growing

This needs to be a continual-process improvement initiative.

I read a lot of books over the last few years. And it’s something that I would continue to do and always try look for new resources whether it is a book or an online blog.

Being bound in a covenant and a contract in your work environment is an interesting concept. The contract is the fact that you show up and we pay you and provide benefits for you coming in and you doing the job you do. But the covenant is being guided by the department’s mission and vision and wanting to fulfill that mission regardless of the pay and the benefits. It is saying, “I am here to do the job and the pay is great but I want to meet that mission.”

You are bound by a covenant as well as a contract in your work environment. #mission #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

It takes a team to make things work. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Get to know your staff and so that you can tend to their needs on that personal level. I am lucky to work alongside my team as opposed to being isolated from them. Being flexible to them also have huge advantages because everyone is comfortable talking to me about anything work-related or not.

Lastly, I had a supervisor once and he supervises staff the same way that I aspire to now. So I learned some of what I am doing now by seeing it in another manager. The kind of feeling that he had my back and he was there with me the whole time, and that really resonated for a long time. I appreciated that I had that kind of support. Seeing him manage that team and taking in the best parts of what he did and importing it into my management style, that was my goal when I became supervisor, how I would lead others. 


Connect with Rich on LinkedIn

Seven Intuitive Laws of Employee Loyalty

Daniel Pink’s Intrinsic Motivation

Kimberly Davis’ Brave Leadership

Lolly Daskal’s The Leadership Gaps

Max Depree’s Leadership is an Art

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19: Leaders with Heart Take a Holistic Approach in Building Relationships with Their Employees

Today on the podcast we have Dirk Frese, PhD, Director of Sales and Marketing at Julabo USA. He is also Executive Director of WISDOM (Women In Science Demonstrating Outstanding Merits), a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering, supporting and mentoring women in science.

In this episode, we talk about

  • cross-cultural communication,

  • managing a global team,

  • the positive and negative experiences that shaped Dirk’s leadership style,


  • diversity,

and a lot more, so make sure to tune in!

Dirk Frese’s Full BIO

Dr. Frese, born in Berlin, Germany, completed schooling there before embarking to the United States. Dr. Frese’s education includes a Master of Science in Chemistry and a Doctorate Degree of Natural Sciences in Biochemistry from the Technical University of Berlin.

Dr. Frese specializes in chemistry, biochemistry, biotechnology and microbiology with a sub-specialty in global sales and marketing. He has worked at internationally recognized powerhouses including CIBA-Geigy Pharmaceuticals, E. Merck, Switzerland, and Thermo Fisher Scientific. Dr. Frese was General Manager at BioTek Instruments, Europe and served as President of BioTek Instruments SAS, France.

Dr. Frese is widely known as an expert communicator and trainer. He believes communication is the key to successful business, especially within science and technology. “Strong communication skills guide us in how to effectively interact with colleagues, students and business leaders and can refine things like interview skills.”

Dr. Frese believes that so much can be lost in translation due to the technical nature of science, as well as working with those from many cultural and language backgrounds. Dr. Frese, who is highly trained in oral and written communications, believes it is paramount to train employees on the finer details of body language and micro expressions. Dr. Frese offers this type of training in both face-to-face and virtual settings for Julabo USA, Inc. and WISDOM.


I went to a very large laboratory company in the end, which was globally responsible as a leader in this area. I also took a global responsibility, which made it even more interesting for me to think about communications because from one day to another I led a global team with staff members on every continent.

That was interesting because communication skills are, to a certain degree, objective, but on the other hand, very much biased by a cultural influence.

I was very much exposed to cross-cultural management and gathered interest in that area as well.

You can’t accomplish anything if you can’t communicate well. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet First and foremost, you have to care. Click To Tweet Knowing and understanding what the culture entails – that would show that you respect and that you care for them. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

The Most Important Thing

When asked where his leadership drive comes from, Dirk shares that it’s all based on love:

For me, love is the main topic. Not only in your private life, but in your business life.

For me, the most important thing in life is love. It’s even on the website of Julabo USA where I’m currently working, under my profile picture, because I think this really drives us.

If you love your staff, if you love your boss, if you love your customer and your product, then you can be successful. Click To Tweet

This is my mantra.

How WISDOM started

Dirk’s wife is a scientist, and he has a daughter as well, so this is something that’s really close to his heart. This came about a year after he arrived in the US. He realized that women in the area they served, mainly in the scientific community, are very much underrepresented.

I hadn’t seen this in other countries as strict and as harsh as here, and that was in 2016.

I spoke to a customer of ours, a professor at a state university and I asked her, “Did you face any obstacles? Why aren’t there more faculty members who are females?”

We’ve been talking about that, and I said, “Together, we should do something about it.”

So we started a nonprofit organization called WISDOM – Women In Science Demonstrating Outstanding Merits – to advance women in their scientific career and to overcome these obstacles by offering mentorship, opportunities, internships, and the social platform.

This was taken on so passionately by the women we talked to today, because we’re the only industry-backed organization like that.

There are a lot of women in science organizations which are great, they all sprouted out from academia, but there is a gap between academia and the corporate world or the industrial world, and that’s something we want to bridge.

You have to look for diversity. You have to have a team consisting of various characters who play along very well and ensure harmony and drive mutual success. Click To Tweet We have to be courageous enough to open up ourselves to our employees. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


Connect with Dirk on LinkedIn

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Respect me.

Respect me

Respect me


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Without feelings of respect, what is there to distinguish men from beasts? Confucius



Employees are more loyal when they feel valued, respected, listened to and important. Click To Tweet


Just recently, one of my coaching clients brought up that for relationships to be successful, both parties should respect each other. I asked him what he thought “respect” meant. I listened to his definition, and then I shed some light on the definition.


Respect is defined as “the due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights and traditions of others.”


A few months back I facilitated a workshop wherein the subject was values. We peeled away at the layers of what respect means.


I never noticed it before, but my new understanding of the definition changed my entire view of how I can respect anyone. It is the “of others” part of the definition that turns the traditional “practice” of showing respect on its head.


Many of us treat others as “we” would want to be treated. Does the Golden Rule sound familiar? I used to teach that in all of my service excellence classes.


The key is to treat others as “they” want to be treated. This means that we know a little about their filter, about the things that keep them up at night, about who they are as people.


This means that the needs of others come first in a respectful interaction.


I know. This takes time. We don’t always have time to get to know everyone with whom we come in contact.


Showing respect

Want to know some ways to show someone respect in simple, yet profound ways?

  • Slow down, pay attention and listen
  • Listen with the intent to understand
  • Minimize distractions when listening
  • Repeat back what you hear
  • Ask questions to clarify your understanding of what they want
  • If you see that they are flustered, take a little time to uncover the “why”
  • Eye contact and open body language are key, but in some cultures this can be tricky


These are some very intuitive ways to help others feel that you respect them.

Signs of disrespect

Since we considered some simple ways to show respect, below are some things that we may do that are often seen as disrespectful:

  • Looking away when others are talking to us (depending on the culture)
  • Rushing someone through a conversation
  • Walking by without a greeting
  • Talking down to someone
  • Huffing and puffing when someone is saying something you disagree with
  • Looking down at your cell phone when talking to someone
  • Finishing someone’s sentences
  • Making decisions about a person or people without considering any of their voices


Can you think of any others? II know that there are many more.


In our world of instant gratification, when organizations want results now, people who take the time to show respect are those who will inevitably build stronger relationships.


Strong relationships are the foundation of strong organizations, strong families and strong societies.


Cheers to respecting first and then being respected!


If you enjoyed this article, please do Share it with those who might benefit. Many of its tenets are in my book, The 7 Intuitive Laws of Employee Loyalty

As I stated in the opening paragraph, employees are more loyal when they feel valued, listened to, respected and important. It is up to organizational leaders to create that type of employee experience.

Whether you decide to get a personal copy of my book or not, I hope that this new way of thinking about respect will drive you to act differently.

Please add your voice to the conversation by adding to these lists in the comments.

Thank you for reading.