111: Leaders with Heart Feel Called to Serve Others

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In this episode, Heather Younger speaks with Timbra Yoakum, Director of Special Programs, Mabank Independent School District about her drive to lead, her time when she was not the best version of her, her leadership style and focus, and where her passes lies.

Key takeaways:

  • Be a servant leader and get in the trenches with those you lead.
  • Don’t place yourself above those you lead, but be in a supportive role at their side.
  • Spend one-on-one time and get to know your people personally.
  • Leadership is more of a union with those who look for you for guidance.
Hope you don’t miss this insightful episode. Listen and learn!

Timbra Yoakum has been in education for 15 years, and is currently the Director of Special Programs for a public school district in Texas. She has spent the last eight years as an Educational Diagnostician.

A Servant’s Heart

My style is having a servant’s heart. I try to lead by doing the dirty, hard jobs all the way up to the difficult tasks. I lead with my heart as a servant. That goes back to my core value, which is to serve each other.

I have a passion for kids. I started out as a classroom teacher, and I saw the need to address students with special needs better. 

As a teacher, I want to do better for the kids. I could touch more lives by creating people, systems and processes that could impact their lives. Helping kids and people that need it most is where my heart is. 

I lead with my heart as a servant. – Timbra Yoakum #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Quick Change

I started my work for the school district and left to take a promotion in a different school. Then, I was offered an interview for a job back to the district and I didn’t feel quite ready for it. It was hard to come back and work as a leader of people who were my peers before.

I didn’t know how to handle that at first. I wanted to change. Then my superintendent, my boss kept saying that I was spinning too fast. And, when you spin so quickly, you’re flinging everybody else around you. They can’t keep up with your ideas and how fast you’re spinning. But, I want to make changes.

The first couple of months were difficult. Me wanting to make changes too quickly came across as finding fault with people who were already working really hard. I think I made people feel defensive about the work they were doing.

As a new leader, the best advice I got was to build relationships. I need to build trust. I don’t have to change everything all at once. I need to build relationships so people would trust that my ideas came from a place of improvement and not from a place of finding faults with the work that has already been done. 

So, I slowed my way down and focused on the human component. I paid attention to how I could support my team emotionally to build trust. After that, everything just fell in place. It just slid in effortlessly and nobody felt like their hard work were being attacked. I do love my team and I care for them.

Helping everyone see that these children and people with disabilities need the same opportunities is where my passion is. – Timbra Yoakum #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

As leaders, we just show up. We do the hard stuff with a good attitude. – Timbra Yoakum #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

More Listening and Observing

I don’t ever want to be seen as the person in the office that’s not down to the ground with the troops. So, I try to start the day knowing the daily lives of my people. I spend the first part of my day talking to them about things beyond their job roles. I try to open up the lines of communication to all of my teachers and administrators by email, phone calls, visitations, or just spending time.

I want my people to feel comfortable to come to me with their problems. I want them to know that when I come into a classroom, I’m not there to watch the teacher but to see their needs. So, I ask, watch, and listen to them—a lot less talking and a lot more listening and observing.

I also try to help them to be solutions oriented. I help each person to find the leader within them, whether he or she may be a teacher or a direct assessments staff. If they come to be with a problem, I want to hear their solutions first before I give them an answer.

You don’t have to always act like there isn’t a struggle. It’s okay to admit that it’s tough. – Timbra Yoakum #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

A little bit of time goes such a long way in building relationships. – Timbra Yoakum #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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26: Leaders with Heart Know That They Must Lead the Whole Person

Today on the podcast we have Denise Testori, President of Prestige Cleaners. We talk about her unique management style, and a time when she was not the best leader she could be.

Denise considers herself as a servant leader as a part of a family-owned organization. She acknowledges that the size of the company she leads allow her to learn more about and spend more time with the people who show up to work everyday. Some key takeaways from this podcast are:

  • How to humanize the workplace and build relationships with your team
  • Get outside feedback and help to grow yourself, your team and the organization
  • Invest in your team to grow them and keep them with the organization longer. Do what is required to make sure they don’t leave.
  • Maintain flexibility, stability and empathy with your employees and customers.

Golden nugget: Showing your team members that you want to know them as people and not just as a number on a payroll list, helps them to feel important and valued. Then, they turnaround and do it for your customers!

Don’t miss out on this warm discussion.

Aaron Skogen’s Full BIO

I am a senior executive who drives Continuous Process Improvement and Lean methodology at facilities that produce consumer packaged goods and durable goods.

I improved operational effectiveness at one facility by reducing DPMO to 60% and downtime 80%, while increasing productivity 15%, as well as increasing production by 41% during peak periods within one year for Toro’s Consumer Z products. Additionally, I led the Total Predictive Maintenance (TPM) roll-out at Schwan, establishing a baseline TPM program for Continuous Process Improvement in global supply chain facilities.

Facility management is a core competency; when I managed Birds Eye Foods Minnesota facility, I expanded processing from 14,500 acres for corn and 7500 acres for peas to 25K and 15K, respectively, within a 4-year period. The success of this expansion won me personal recognition by Refrigerated & Frozen Foods as “The Frozen Food Processer of the Year.” I was also tapped to serve on executive team for $350M start-up of Sysco’s VA regional distribution center

Volunteerism is also an important means by which I initiate positive change within my community, leveraging my core competencies on behalf of organizations whose mission align with my values.

Faith and Family

For as long as I can remember, my foundation has been my faith and family. I come from a very large family, my parents worked hard, and they set that example and never complained.

I look back as an adult, and I remember from the wee hours of the morning, both my parents – my mom was a stay-at-home parent, and with six kids, she had her hands full, plus just being there for her aging parents and my dad’s aging parents.

And then my dad would leave to go to work and would come home sometimes to just have a bite to eat, and then he would go to the neighbors because their plumbing was having a problem.


My dad was one of those people – jacks of all trades. If he didn’t know something, he read, and he literally tried.

Seeing that as an example, and of course my faith – my parents really instilled in each one of us to be the very best version that we could be – that pretty much sums up my foundation of where I am and why I am today.… Click To Tweet

Denise’s Leadership Style

I think at this time, a servant leader.

I believe that being a family-owned business that has 64 employees, I get to be more among the crew than perhaps a big Fortune 500 company or something like that.

I am able to interact not only with my management team but with each individual, and help them meet their goals.

Maybe they’re struggling with something, or they’re proud of themselves after trying to reach a goal and they do. As minor as some big corporate leader might think, it’s very impressionable when you write a thank you note to that particular employee and say,

“I’m really proud of you. I know you worked really hard and this was a big goal of yours, and here you are.”

And then we do some celebratory gift card, or something that we know would resonate with that person/individual.

Reconnecting With Your Team

What I like to do is just carve out time for myself and take the opportunity to write down why am I feeling that things aren’t meshing, that people aren’t connecting, or just moving a little bit away vs coming together?

I’ll align those points that I feel that are just not in alignment with the team. I then present them to the team, and then I get their feedback because they may have other points that I hadn’t thought about, or from their vantage point, they have things that they’re concerned about.

Whatever the case may be, we make it a point to meet our management team on a monthly basis. Then the management team shares that with their supervisors and the rest of their team.

You have to have stability – be able to know that people can reach out and you’ll be there, and be able to serve them. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet Have the empathy. There’s so many challenges around that people have outside of their professional life that they need the support and be able to know that you’re there and feel what they’re going through and help encourage them to… Click To Tweet Your team is going to appreciate you so much more when you show that they aren’t just a number on some kind of payroll list, that they’re people, and that you care about them holistically #leaderswithheart Click To Tweet When you take your employees holistically as whole people, and receive them that way, they will do the same for your customers. #leaderswithheart Click To Tweet



Connect with Denise on LinkedIn

Email Denise at denisetestori@gmail.com

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24: Leaders with Heart Strive to Serve First

Today on the podcast we have Heather Heebner, former SVP of HR at Instawares Holding Company. We talked about leadership from the unique lens of a human resources executive. Heather shares her perspective on “happy employees”, and, instead, focuses on creating an environment that makes people proud to work there and do the work that they do.

Heather opens up about an early learning experience with differing communication styles and how she had an awakening after one specific instance that drove her to hold herself and others to a higher standard. She relates stories of leaders who were “in-the-trenches” with their people, and they were much more effective as a result.

Heather enlightens listeners on the importance of active listening, serving others first and trusting the silence and allowing others to process what is happening.

Her key nugget? Look internally as a leader. Continually development yourself and find people who support you and hold you accountable.

This podcast holds a rich conversation about the role HR plays in organizations and as leaders-with or without titles.

Heather Heebner’s Full BIO

Heather is accomplished HR leader with 22 years of progressive, hands-on experience. She is self-motivated, a passionate business partner, is competent at managing all aspects of human resources from program development to implementation and on-going maintenance and improvement. She is skilled at and enjoys coaching all levels of leadership relating to employee engagement, best practices and change management. Most recently, she has served as the HR leader for several mergers and acquisitions.

Heather is a graduate of Oglethorpe University and resides north of Atlanta with her husband and dogs. She can be reached at heather.heebner@gmail.com

“Happy Employees”

Everyone can’t be happy all the time. What is that that I look to next for my team members?

For me, what will let them take pride in their work? Where they will leave at the end of the day and say, a) “I gave it 110%” and b) “I’m very proud of what I do and I’m able to make a difference.”

I think that’s where I really want to focus going forward.

Don’t get me wrong, I think having the right culture is important; I think having the right leadership and having people that you love to work with and work for is of utmost importance. But how do we translate what the company is doing into what makes people proud to work there and proud to do what they do?

Recognize the Signs

Wherever I am, I try to have weekly one-on-ones with people, which I think is pretty standard of course for most folks nowadays. I’m checking in, and it was a very challenging time. There was a lot going on, and we didn’t have the resources – certainly not for HR. We had resources that we needed elsewhere.

I remember talking to this individual every week and I could hear their frustration, and I would try to go, “Let’s focus on this” and “You’re doing a really great job.”

It came to a point where one day, there was a very frustrating call for both of us. I think I was just in an off place, and they were continuing to feel the frustration and my positivity was not there.

They resigned shortly after.

I’ve always regretted that conversation, because I wasn’t there for my team member.

When I look back in hindsight, I should have recognized the clues sooner instead of trying to turn things into a positive note on each and every call.

I should have really gone and said, again, “What’s going to be what makes you proud to work here? What is going to be what you need this role to be and what you need this company to be?”

We need to do a better job of recognizing when our employees aren’t making that transition well, and if they don’t want to make that transition well. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

“How Can I Help You” Vs “How Can I Make This Better?”

We’re all in situations where we can’t make it better right where we are. We just can’t. That’s just what it is.

“How can I support you?”

“What can I take off of your plate?”

“What can I do for you?”

I think for each person it’s different, and that’s my leadership style – I’m much more of a servant. I consider myself a servant leader because I believe that by serving the people that you support, it just lifts them up to be better.

How can we shorten the distance between the awareness of what’s happening and maybe what we are doing, and how it impacts others and how we can pull back so that we can minimize the negative impacts? Click To Tweet For me, as a leader, I’m not comfortable with silence. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet This is not about being perfect; this is about continuous improvement. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet Look internally. Constantly evaluate where you are and what you are doing. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet At the same time that you’re trying to help others, you should also still be working and refining yourself. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet Because you’re in a place right now where you’re struggling, doesn’t mean that you’re not meant to be a leader. It’s really important that you not throw in the towel because this will be one of the hardest things you do. Click To Tweet


Connect with Heather on LinkedIn

Email her at heather.heebner@gmail.com

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14: Leaders with Heart Don’t Take Their Own Leadership For Granted

Today on the podcast we have Kristi Turner, CMO at Compeat Restaurant Management Software.

In this episode, we talk about company culture, learning from the best and the worst, being honest and authentic with your employees, and a lot more.

As a CMO, my role is to create a brand, a culture, a marketing plan that really inspires employees, customers, partners, prospects to want to engaged with us and be proud to be associated with Compeat. @kturneroa Click To Tweet

Kristi Turner’s Full BIO

Kristi oversees product marketing strategy, competitive positioning, brand awareness, digital presence, customer retention, lead generation, inside sales, and internal and external communications.

With over 27 years of domestic and international strategic business and marketing experience, Kristi has a successful track record for building scalable SaaS revenue growth, empowering employee cultures and customer centric marketing strategies.

Prior to joining Compeat, Kristi served as CEO of Kaizen Consulting, a SaaS marketing consultant firm and previously served as SVP of Marketing for HotSchedules, formerly Red Book Connect. Before HotSchedules, Kristi served as a consultant to wireless global providers and as SVP of Marketing for InComm, a global technology innovator and provider of prepaid and payment solutions.

Kristi holds a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications from University of South Florida. She resides in Atlanta with her husband and two children. Kristi enjoys athletic challenges, outdoor adventures, yoga and meditation, and dedicates much of her time to studying conscious capitalism success and mentoring young men and women in professional and personal growth.

“I Absolutely Love Seeing Growth”

Kristi shares that her desire to lead comes from her desire to see growth. She loves seeing employees grow, personally and professionally. She loves seeing customers, the bottom line, grow because of the product they use from their company.

I literally get giddy when I can see or say that I had a small hand in any of these types of growth, as a leader of a company, or as a manager, or as a parent. It truly is the most thrilling high you can experience, just watching individuals, and companies, or teams, or organizations, grow and succeed.

And I think that’s what keeps the drive in me as a leader.

Make a Difference in the Lives of Your Employees

I can tell you what I strive to be as a leader. There’s a complex blend that I’ve learned from others where I strive to lead with integrity, authenticity, and being transparent.

Humility is a big one. We all make mistakes; we’re all imperfect. It’s showing your team that “Hey, we made a mistake. Now we’re going to correct it.”

Admitting failures, and learning from failures, but doing that with confidence. It’s not so much apologizing; it’s more like, this is our world, none of us are perfect and giving them permission to push and grow and make mistakes and have successes.

I try to be the truth barometer in our organization, or a change agent, or value-driven or servant-driven leadership – there’s so many ways to describe what I strive for – but the ultimate high is more about making a difference in the lives of our employees, or customers, while simultaneously driving a healthy bottom line.

I have a very passionate belief that happy employees = happy customers = happy bottom line. #leadershipwithheart #customerfanatix Click To Tweet

Kristi also believes that employee and customer happiness is driven by personal relationships, trust, and feeling valued. It’s never just about the product, or about the price, or about the salary you’re paying an employee; it’s the way you treat your employees, or the way you treat your customers that really drives the bottom line success, more than anything.

Nine times out of ten it all comes down to, Do I trust this company? Do I trust these people? Do I trust the leadership? Do I want to be part of this community? Click To Tweet

Kristi’s Authentic Leadership Style

“I give my team constructive criticism and feedback; I create sense of urgencies in situations. I have very high expectations of them, but I do it in a more collaborative way.

My goal really is always to create the relationships with my team members, or even other cross-functional teams, so that they would want to go beyond the call of duty, or they’d want to work hard for me or work hard for the company, because their heart’s in it.”

I don’t think we, as leaders, need to put a smile on our face…I don’t think we need to fake that everything’s perfect. I think that can be a real mistake. @kturneroa on #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet Learn from others, the best and the worst, and come up with your unique combination @kturneroa on #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


Connect with Kristi on LinkedIn and Twitter

Visit their website at Compeat


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Episode 8: Leaders With Heart Are Servant Leaders Who Look At Their Role As A Vocation

This podcast is not about being this perfect leader; it’s about someone who’s focused on continuous improvement Click To Tweet

Today on the podcast we have Richard Todd, present CEO of Innovest. When I first met him, I sensed that he was a leader that really focused on growing his people, so I decided to bring him on the show.

Richard Todd’s Full BIO

Rich is the CEO and co-founder of Innovest Portfolio Solutions. He has more than 30 years of experience in investment consulting and currently provides consulting services to both institutions and families. Rich has been named as one of America’s top 100 independent investment advisors by Barron’s and was selected a 2017 outstanding CEO by ColoradoBiz magazine. Prior to establishing Innovest, Rich was First Vice-President of Investment Management Consulting Group of Dain Bosworth and Managing Director of RPRime Services, the consulting department at Rauscher Pierce Refsnes. He earned the Certified Investment Management Consultant (CIMC) designation from the Institute for Investment Management Consultants Association. Rich has a business finance degree from Western State Colorado University.

Rich is a Registered Fiduciary™, earned through Strategic Ethos and Dalbar, Inc., in conjunction with the Foundation for Fiduciary Studies at the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate School of Business. This designation represents Rich’s commitment to acting in the best interest of clients. He has been a frequent author on fiduciary and investment related matters. He has been a columnist for the Denver Business Journal and has been published in Financial Advisor Magazine, Private Asset Management, Defined Contribution News, On Wall Street, Journal of Compensation and Benefits, Colorado Society of CPA’s News Account, Registered Rep, Pensions & Investments, The Denver Post, Accounting Today, Chief Executive, and PLANSPONSOR. Rich also wrote a chapter in The World of Money Management, a 380-page compendium of scholarly research, opinions and information developed by many of the top investment industry professionals.

Rich has served the community as former President of Legatus of Colorado, a Catholic organization fostering business ethics. He was appointed by Governor Hickenlooper to serve on the Western State Colorado University Board of Trustees in 2017. Rich is a member of The 100 Club of Denver which provides financial support to the families of police and firefighters who are under stress. Rich is also a member of Colorado Concern, an organization of influential Colorado CEOs committed to enhancing and protecting the business climate in Colorado.

He was formerly on the finance council for Our Lady of Loreto Catholic Parish, is on the board of Regents for the Augustine Institute and serves on the Investment Committee of Regis Jesuit High School. He is also a member of the Philanthropy Roundtable. In addition, he is the Past Vice Chairman of Seeds of Hope Charitable Trust, an organization that provides Catholic education opportunities to at-risk children, as well as the Chairman of Families of Character, a national organization that helps parents raise children with strong character and moral integrity. He is also a trustee of Colorado Family Action, a non-profit organization that promotes tenets of faith, family and religious freedom. Rich is also a member of the Arrupe Jesuit High School Board of Trustees. Arrupe is a member of the Cristo Ray Network, a consortium of inner city religious schools that provide a college preparatory education to disadvantaged youth through a corporate work study program providing tuition assistance. Rich and his wife Joanie have been married for more than 30 years and have two children, Alex and Reagan.

In this episode, we talk about servant leadership, creating a stewardship culture, small and effective ways to empower your people, and a lot more.

Click the play button below to listen to the rest of the episode!

A Stewardship Culture

My leadership has changed over time. I realized that to take us to the next level as a firm, it had to be about not just me; it had to be about empowering others. Click To Tweet

The best way to empower people is to do so in a culture that embraces them, embraces the clients, and ultimately our why as a firm is stewardship. Richard is the type of leader who is all about empowering others and creating a stewardship culture, which then creates a great place to work, and in the end, creates a great environment for their clients.


An “Others-Focused” Mindset

We want people to really look at their role here as a vocation, not just a career, and that it is something that is a part of them. Click To Tweet

“If you focus more on your role as a vocation, you’re much more interested in pulling people up within the organization and helping them be better at what they do or better people.

Sometimes when you’re just focused on your career, you’re self-centered, and you step on people on the way up. We often say that the best way to get promoted at Innovest is to pull somebody up so that they can fill your shoes as you’re promoted.

I don’t think that a lot of people look at their future or their career that way, but they certainly do here.”

The best way to get somebody’s attention and lead them is to serve them. #servantleadership Click To Tweet

“As I matured, and as our company got more successful, it has just become a part of the way that I lead. We tell people here that leadership isn’t just about a position and demanding that people follow you; it is about doing things to where they want to be with you, and you’re an example for them.”

Responsibility is a great way to compensate someone. If they’re in a position where they have a lot of responsibility within the firm and with clients and they’re paid well, they will never leave. Click To Tweet

Connect With Your People Through Philanthropy and Recognition

Doing charity work and philanthropy is a great way to connect with your people.

“We participate in a charity/philanthropy event once every quarter. Last week, roughly 25 of us helped sort through medical devices and medicines and packaged up lots of boxes to go all over the country to help the poor. We’ve built trails, we’ve fed the poor, we’ve painted houses for the elderly – we do things like that every quarter, and that is a great way to connect with people and help somebody in need at the same time.

Philanthropy is a big part of our culture; it’s part of that stewardship culture.

Once a week, I also write a column I call We Love Mondays at Innovest. I write about all the great things that happened the prior week. They can be very big, they can be small. I have people feeding me great things that people have done.

It can be as simple as going to somebody’s house to help them with their spouse that’s ill, to winning a new client, to meeting somebody who could help us. A lot of it is just the way we help people here, and those people are recognized every week.

Even though I’m not here, they’re going to get that column from me.”


Connect with Richard on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook