163: Leaders with Heart Lead with Compassion

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In this episode, Heather interviews Taneshia Nash Laird, president & CEO of Newark Symphony Hall, the vintage 1925 performing arts center in Newark, NJ. The way that Taneshia came to be on Heather’s podcast reveals a uniqueness that accompanies this episode until its end. 

The first word Taneshia uses to describe her leadership style is compassionate. This deep found sense of compassion that Taneshia claims to strive for, is revealed through each story and experience which she shares. Taneshia is an incredibly compassionate leader, an imperfect, eager to grow, caring leader in development. Please listen to her story to find some inspiration for your own.

Key Takeaways:

  • Leaders are coaches, investing in people professionally. 
  • Caring Leaders guide their employees towards their respective destinations and heal the organization. 
  • Have a willingness to invest in your people.
  • Discover and unearth the strengths of your team at the earliest opportunity. 
  • Leaders have the positive power to change the lives of those they lead. 
  • Fill the space created through the lay-off process with compassion. 
  • Recognize that the work is not more important than your team’s self-care and health. 
  • Take the time to ask, ”is there anything I can do to help you navigate through these times?”

Taneshia Nash Laird is president & CEO of Newark Symphony Hall, the vintage 1925 performing arts center in Newark, NJ. As a social change agent, Taneshia centers cultural equity in her work. In her career in the public, nonprofit, and private sectors, she has been a city and state official for economic development, a regional director for the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, the executive director of the Arts Council of Princeton, and co-founder of the MIST Harlem venue in NYC.

An in-demand speaker about the intersection of arts, entertainment and economic development, Taneshia is a member of the board of the National Independent Venue Foundation and co-chairs the Save Our Stages Implementation Task Force of the National Independent Venue Association. She is also president of the board of Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, the influential community arts nonprofit co-founded 25 years ago by siblings Danny, Russell and Joey “Rev. Run” Simmons.

Taneshia is also an adjunct professor in the B.S. in Entertainment and Arts Management degree program at Drexel University and a visiting professor in the M.F.A. in Creative Arts & Technology at Bloomfield College.

Resilience is key

I am leading a 95-year-old historic Performing Arts Center in a community of color, which is one of the reasons that I was attracted to the role. The organization wasn’t just in decline but in crisis. So, I am turning around a historic organization and venue, and leading it through the global pandemic. Resilience does describe my background professionally and personally. This is the third nonprofit that I’ve run. I’ve been a for profit,  nonprofit, and a municipal appointed leader so I’ve been a trisector leader.

One of the things I have to figure out is how to balance being a compassionate person but also still setting some good, firm expectations. – Tanesha Nash Laird #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Investment on impact

I like to think that I’m a compassionate leader. When I came there, I found that not only had the building been neglected, but the people had been as well. The building needs a $40 million renovation. So, I’m leading a pretty significant capital campaign to renovate the building and to also turn the organization around. I also like to think that I’m more of a coach. A lot of what I’m doing is supporting them in terms of their journey and their career, as they hadn’t been invested in professionally in developing their skills. I felt that it was important to invest in those people. They were really punching above their weight, because I was asking them to do a lot, but it was very targeted and was very focused. We also put together a customized professional development plan for each of the employees and my colleagues, as well. Investment on impact to the Community—that’s the way I approach.

Give colleagues some space during this time and be understanding that it's high stress. – Tanesha Nash Laird #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

I'm more of a coach. A lot of what I'm doing is supporting them in terms of their journey and their career. – Tanesha Nash Laird #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Putting compassion

I remember my first nonprofit role about 15 years ago where I had to make a staff change, and I really felt like I could have done that better. I could have been more compassionate. Sometimes you do have to make these changes, and it’s still a horrible thing that you have to do to meet the objectives. Most recent case, frankly, is the pandemic, so loss of revenue and ability to continue to carry for full staff, but now I’m better at laying people off. It’s still difficult, please don’t get me wrong. It’s very difficult, especially you have to do everything, what gets in all these situations. You have to do everything in a particularly legal way and it doesn’t leave as much room. But as much room as it leaves, I put compassion.

Work is important, but your self-care and your health are actually more important. – Tanesha Nash Laird #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

In order for the organization to move forward, I can't be coddling all the time. – Tanesha Nash Laird #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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

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

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

Key Takeaways:

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

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

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

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

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

Evolving and Maturing

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

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

Making lives better

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

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

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

How Winning is Done

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

 I

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

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

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


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161: Leaders with Heart Surrender

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

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

Key Takeaways:

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

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

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

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

Encourage, Excel, Evaluate

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

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

Provision, Awareness, and Surrender

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

 

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

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

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

Graceful, Merciful, Reflective

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

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

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


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160: Leaders with Heart Lead from Behind

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

Key Takeaways:

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

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

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

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

The Big Risk

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

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

Leading From Behind

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

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

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

Making Space for Others

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

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

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

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


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

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

Key Takeaways:

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

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

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

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

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

Always a Beginner

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

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

Passion and Achievement

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

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

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

Values, Emotions, and Empathy

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

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

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


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158: Leaders with Heart are Committed to Doing Better

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

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

Key Takeaways:

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

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

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

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

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

Change-making

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

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

Maximizing Impact

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

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

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

Team not Family

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

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

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


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157: Leaders with Heart Lead with Curiosity

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In this episode, Heather speaks with Donald Comer, Staff VP of Fedex Corporation, an incredible leader of color who was recommended by Stephen M.R. Covey. Donald’s leadership wisdom conveys that he is a humble leader who leads with reverent power. Their conversation conveys that anyone in any place in an organization has the opportunity to lead. Donald and Heather discuss strategies for maintaining culture in a remote environment, which are very useful in today’s climate.

Key Takeaways:

  • Lead with reverent power. 
  • Make sure your personal brand and company brand mesh. 
  • Foster an environment that allows mistakes and by consequence innovation. 
  • Bring culture of office to the remote environment.
  • Handwritten notes are a forgotten skill and a powerful tool. 
  • Share a different perspective than what you’re accustomed to.
  • Assume positive intent and use curiosity to meet the other person where they are.

Donald Comer currently serves as Vice President, Decision Science & Analytics at FedEx. He is a seasoned Fortune 100 business professional with successful experience across broad portfolio of business disciplines and industries. 

Donald has been a member of the FedEx family since 1989. He is a recipient of the FedEx Five Star, awarded to the top 2% of employees annually. Prior to FedEx, Donald was with International Paper, Holiday Corporation, and Brandon, Smith & Jones CPA in accounting, finance, and audit roles. 

He is currently the Board Chairman and the member of the Executive Committee of the National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA). Donald has also been a member of the Executive Committee of LeMoyne-Owen College, and at Stillman College as a member of the Advancement & Development Committee and the Athletic Committee.   

He earned an MBA from the University of Memphis and BS in Accounting from the University of Tennessee. Beyond his professional and board commitments, he enjoys music, traveling, and photography. 

Expecting A Lot

I use data analytics machine learning and artificial intelligence to explore opportunities. It’s such a great job. I have lots of opportunities to share thoughts with leadership and to lead an amazing team who are extremely talented. I expect a lot. What I aspire to be in my leadership style is to set expectations: to have a team that trusts me, that knows that I support them, that expects me to remove barriers, and knows that I am a caring leader. I think that’s what’s important.

I try to always assume positive intent. – Donald Comer #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Adaptability and Reverent Power

I’ve always struggled with my drive to lead. Is it something you grow and develop, or is it innate? I think that it is innate. But I also do think that you have to work at it. You have to be highly adaptive, because the expectations of the people, of your organization, and of society, continue to evolve. Whether it’s learned or it’s innate, you have to be adaptive and you have to be a continuous learner. You have to grow, and you have to develop. When you become complacent, it’s very quick for people to notice. That doesn’t slip in your leadership. Whether it’s truly a slippage from how much you care, or it’s just the fact that it’s not on pace with what’s expected in the marketplace, it shows up. I want to be relevant. There were some times that I want to lead from the second tier. I want to contribute, but I want to do it in a way that it always has some degree of influence on how other people show up. It’s not always about being the person that leads from a position of authority. I want to lead with reverent power. I want people to respect me. I want people to believe that when I show up my commitment is real, that what I say is what I do, and that there is no gap between those two.

(I’m) always trying to get to the place where the other person is before I make a decision. It is my nature because I'm a fixer. – Donald Comer #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

It's extremely important as a leader to find a culture that either messes with your style or gives you the tools to adapt. – Donald Comer #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Inspired And Motivated

A lot of my career in marketing and in the job I am in has been around innovation. It’s about changing minds and hearts about what an opportunity looks like. Leading a team in that space of innovation means you’re going to have far more time to choose strike out, then you win. What I’ve had to learn in my journey is to how to keep people inspired. I am going to be really intentional about using the word inspire. I used to say that it’s motivation. But there’s a significant difference between inspiring people to want to continue to do more, because I’m having to do the same thing for myself. As a leader, when I’ve worked hard on something, I have to maintain my motivation, then inspire a team to pick themselves up and move on to the next opportunity. Know that driving the organization to the right decision is really what success looks like. I could choose to see that as a failure or I could choose to see it as a learning moment and be inspired to move on to the next opportunity.

You have to be intentional about leading a team because trust is probably the most significant thing now. – Donald Comer #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

I want my entire leadership journey to be more of relevancy. – Donald Comer #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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156: Leaders with Heart Care All Year Round

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In this episode, Heather speaks with LaToya Lyn, Vice President of Talent Strategy at Oscar Health. Heather and LaToya begin with a discussion of Black History month and what it means to both of them. Their conversation ranges from activism, to identities, to listening and learning. One of the richest episodes to date. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Black History month is in February because of 2 prominent birthdays in February—Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. 
  • Drive D&I conversations all year round. 
  • Safe spaces aren’t just for the trendy voices. 
  • Repeated exposure to stimulus creates learning. 
  • Listen for the other person’s lens; listen outside of your shoes. 
  • Everybody has so many identities. 
  • Search for people’s “why”.
  • Know the goodness that everyone has been a part of on both sides.

LaToya Lyn is an HR leader with a deep passion for people within the workplace. 

LaToya has a dual masters in Industrial-Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior from Brooklyn College. Her professional experience spans from executive coaching to driving organizational changes and culture transformations for technology companies globally. She has contributed to the world of cognitive neuroscience, including adult learning theories, and animal research. 

LaToya is also a four-time National DisruptHR presenter, GoCoach, and ThinkHuman reoccurring contributor. She is also a recent Harvard University and MIT executive coaching and artificial intelligence professional. 

Growing, A Celebration

Growing up is always a celebration. It was always something that we thought through like a plan. We have monthly assembly, or someone’s doing like African dancing. Maybe someone is reciting a poem from Langston Hughes and singing “Lift Every Voice,” the black national anthem. When I think about black history month and how it works, it’s important for us to keep that connected spirit and stay aligned when it comes to the bigger picture—how we think about black history in general.

I always said that Black history month is history. It is highlighting and focusing all of us in one time of the year. – LaToya Lyn #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Comfortable Conversations

I think Oscar is one of the most forward-thinking companies when it comes to diversity and to having actual conversations in the room. There’s obviously a lot of work to do, but there’s been a lot of efforts from our leadership team, which in some ways makes my job pretty easy. I can just bring up a topic and it’s spoken about and heard. Then, a lot of questions come back, like “What do I need to do differently?” or “How do I think about that?” or “Oh I’m going to go ahead, think about these things, and come back to you.” I think it’s really great when it comes to that, especially for the members being served. It’s super important that every company spends a lot of time, allowing space and being able to drive these types of conversations. Also, not only talking about black history once a year, or during the month of February, but talking about it all the time, which my company absolutely does. It’s like they make [diversity] in front of a business standpoint. Because every other companies can’t do it, this is a reason why we have issues like a vicious cycle. A lot of companies should think about how to have conversations in a comfortable way, and not feeling like they’re in threat.

A lot of companies should think about how to have conversations in a comfortable way, and not feeling like they're in threat. – LaToya Lyn #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

When I think about like history, it's not just about pain. It's also a really fun time. We also need to remember our history for that. – LaToya Lyn #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Self-care, An Activism

I have a new activism I’m doing. I started, a few months back, an activism on myself. That means I’m taking care of myself. Self-care is a priority and that is a form of activism. Making sure that my mind body and soul is healthy, that my family is grounded, and all of those things are a priority in my life. Whenever we have a moment where folks really need to think very deeply about why and how people need to do this is really about self-care. That is the center of my life and a very rich form of activism. Anyone out there who is considering working out as a priority, or like a treat now, those are all the things you need to do—working out, eating right, drinking a lot of water, being very balanced, having quiet time at least 15 to 20 minutes a day for yourself to regroup, rethink, even going out, and hugging their family could be a recharge as well. This is so important to be able to continue on, push forward, and be in these spaces where there’s not a lot people that look like us.

Going back to black history month is about being curious. I think that will help people lean in a little bit more. – LaToya Lyn #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

If you're not putting a position to be in a different environment or a different sort of stimulus to kind of get you there, then you are going to have a bias. – LaToya Lyn #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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155: Leaders with Heart Exhibit Ownership

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In this episode, Heather interviews Dave Sims, CEO of Floify, the industry’s leading mortgage automation platform. Dave is an example of a humble leader, one who recognizes that his leadership journey has no end. We discuss his development within his company and the crucial leadership lessons he learned along the way that he incorporates into his everyday. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Leaders take ownership for the whole company. 
  • If there are problems on the front lines, take ownership and seek a resolution.
  • Your leadership journey has no end. 
  • Create a sense of belonging within your organization. 
  • Leaders learn to become less involved, so others can learn and excel.

As a veteran fintech software engineer, one of Dave Sims‘ many passions is identifying inefficiencies within industries and developing technology solutions that streamline common workflow processes and alleviate IT security concerns.

After developing and launching Flux, a software platform designed to manage file transfers and batch processing workflows for the banking and finance industries, Sims’ focus later transitioned to the mortgage space. Having been inspired by his personal experiences with acquiring a mortgage, Sims set out to build a solution that would not only enhance the security of exchanging and managing sensitive borrower documents, but also make the process far more efficient.

Floify, the industry’s leading mortgage automation platform, was the outcome of this effort.

Since launching Floify in 2013, Sims has led his company from a simple self-funded and customer-funded concept into a robust loan origination solution that now supports more than 2,000,000 users via mobile and cloud-based digital mortgage offerings.

Today, Floify remains unmatched in the level of functionality, flexibility, security, and service offerings it provides to mortgage originators, borrowers, real estate agents, partners, and other loan stakeholders. Despite numerous competing point-of-sale solutions that have entered the market in recent years, Floify has withstood the test of time through Sims’ leading-edge technology, massive suite of third-party integrations, a pricing model that puts the customer first.

As CEO of Floify, Sims continues to lead his robust team of software engineers, security experts, account executives, marketing professionals and other staff, and explore new partnerships with fellow industry leaders to ensure the solutions his company develops remain on the leading edge of technology.

Support and Success

We started so small, seven and a half years ago, and we were up to about 40 folks now. So, I am cruising along my leadership journey and still trying to learn so much. I definitely suffered from imposter syndrome but I am trying to do it right. 

It took me forever to tease out the difference between customer support and customer success. That evolved and it’s always evolving. I feel like every nine months or so, our company becomes a brand-new company all over again. You’ve got to adjust and reorder sometimes. 

It's just really fun to try something new and see if it's going to work out. – @FloifyDave #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Ownership and Trust

We have a thing called ownership and trust. Every new employee who comes on board on the first day read a pretty short article I wrote a year or two ago called “Ownership Interests.” What that really means is everyone owns their own place within the company. As they execute well their work with their teammates, their sphere of trust grows. So, they can take on more and more things in from time to time.

When I was working for someone else, I also wanted to own that piece of the business I was involved in. It feels great that you want to be in charge of your own destiny there. You want those responsibilities, and to carry it along. So, I have no interest in trying to take that away from folks who work here. Some people call it micromanagement. Nobody wants that right. Everyone wants to run their part of the business. Some do really well, grow, and expand that sphere. Some people don’t want it to be bigger. So we try to accommodate all different types.

It’s still quite amazing how many responsibilities different folks at the company have to take on because you’re still only 40 people, yet there’s thousands upon thousands of customers will need. 

In the past, and I still do today, I want customers to have like the perfect experience when they’re going through something. Previously, it was harder for me to let go to micromanage. I’d want every single interaction to be perfect, and I was too involved. Over time we got bigger and I slowly realized that I’ve got to become less involved. If someone doesn’t lay down like this awesome great experience, I’m starting to learn it’s really my own fault—maybe I didn’t give this person enough training, or maybe we didn’t have enough weekly practice sessions, or I didn’t empower them enough.

A lot of us get nervous, and aren't confident in certain situations—I think it's totally normal. – @FloifyDave #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

If a customer doesn't get an experience up to the standard of what I would want to give, that's really my fault. – @FloifyDave #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Trying Something New

I wanted to try something new, so I started a company a software company 21 years ago. It’s still going strong, and Floify spun out of that company back in 2013. I have zero background and mortgages. I refinanced my home here in Boulder and I used a local lender. Just going through the process, I thought, “Oh, my goodness, this could be so much better.” How much fun, would it be to try to build software that would make the work lives of like the lenders and make the personal lives of the borrowers better. I thought it would be an incredibly fun journey. But I had no clue whether it would turn out well or not. We almost walked away from Floify. But we made the bet to keep going.

I remember in the seventh grade I sold bubble gum to my classmates. My mom would take me to the store to buy out all of the bubble gum and I’d sell it. My spirit is always been entrepreneurial.

Everyone owns their place within the company. As they execute their work with their teammates well, their sphere of trust grows. – @FloifyDave #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

I'm always thinking about how can a prospective new team member or someone who's been with us for a year or two continue to grow within the organization. – @FloifyDave #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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154: Leaders with Heart Know When to Step Back

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In this episode, Heather interviews Dr. Nikki Johnson, the first ever Chief of Mental Health Services for the Denver Sheriff’s Department. Nikki shares countless caring leadership traits and best practices, and how she came to pick them up along her own leadership journey. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Strive to be empathetic, genuine and non-judgmental. 
  • Stay true to yourself, even in a unique and seemingly opposite environment. 
  • Know when to take a step back to better care for yourself. 
  • Be your own best cheerleader. 
  • Take the time for proper self-care. 
  • Place boundaries around the things you value, and make sure you honor them as well as others. 

Nikki J. Johnson Psy.D., CAS currently serves as the Chief of Mental Health Services at the Denver Sheriff Department (DSD).

She has practiced as a licensed psychologist in the state of Colorado since 2008 and as a Certified Addiction Specialist since 2010. Dr. Johnson has worked in corrections for the past 15 years, with 7 years of her career working for the Colorado Department of Corrections. Dr. Johnson also served as a professional board member on the Colorado State Board of Psychologist Examiners, and as the Program Coordinator of Jail-Based Evaluation and Restoration for the Office of Behavioral Health.

Dr. Johnson also served as the Vice President of Correctional Psychology Associates and as the Director of Mental Health at the Jefferson County Detention Facility, implementing a Behavioral Health Unit and Special Needs Unit. She also served as the facility and staff trainer for Mental Health Awareness, Suicide Prevention, Identification of Personality Disorders, Working within a Special Housing Unit, M-0.5 Transportation Hold, and Restrictive Housing.

Dr. Johnson earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Women’s Studies from Kansas State University, a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies, Counseling Track from Regis University and a Doctorate of Psychology in Clinical Psychology from the Colorado School of Professional Psychology in Colorado Springs.

New Year Goals

I have a couple of goals for 2021. The first one is to develop a competency restoration program. This is a pilot program of 12 beds, where we can provide that competency restoration treatment for those individuals and expedite that process. Another one is to provide a crisis response team that will be made up of civilians within the jail system. So, the first line of response will be someone in khakis and a polo, who hopefully will approach an individual in a non-threatening manner and work to decrease those number of crises in the jail system.

I'll be looking at what we can do for the mental health services for incarcerated individuals and helping them to return to the community hopefully better than they came in. – Dr. Nikki Johnson #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Taking A Step Back

I tend to look for strengths within individuals and build upon those. There’s a time and a place to give feedback, and to give critical feedback to employees or individuals. Most people work well having more of that strength-based approach and giving them that independence to grow within their own professional career. A lot of times we may see leaders that hold people back because they don’t want to lose them within their agency. For me it’s important that I meet them where they’re at, try to build upon that journey for them with their strengths, and see what direction they want to go. Even if it means they may have to leave the agency we work at together. Working in my particular field, we often give ourselves emotionally to the point where it’s called compassion fatigue. You truly are completely exhausted emotionally and have nothing left to give anyone. I think back to times where I was at that point and I became very cynical. I’m always a very optimistic and hopeful person in general. So, I knew it wasn’t me. When I was having a very cynical, negative view of what I was doing, you start to question your worldview in a deeper level. When I hit that point, it was definitely on another level where I truly had to leave my position and move on to something else. So, I really handled that by leaving a job that I did enjoy and in a lot of ways was I good at. Because of the vicarious trauma, and the emotional fatigue that came with that, I had to leave, take a step back, do something a little different, and take a year to recover and to move on to my next step in leadership. I think it’s a matter of seeing, and recognizing whether it’s taking a step back, changing roles, taking care of yourself, or giving up some things.

Go back to self-care. It's important to not only talk about it but to do it. – Dr. Nikki Johnson #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

As high achievers, we're always wanting to do more. We see more things we can do and more problems we can solve. It's really hard to take that step back sometimes. – Dr. Nikki Johnson #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Self-care and Encouragement

I think a lot of the skills that I have as a psychologist actually transfer well to being a leader because a lot of it has to do with empathy, and being genuine and non-judgmental. A lot of those skills need to be in a leadership role as well. Those come naturally for me because I am a psychologist, so it’s easy to transfer those into relationships with employees or individuals working with me. It’s important to be your own best cheerleader. That’s hard to do, especially as women. We’re not always reinforced to be confident or to be in a leadership role. But I do think it’s important for us to be our own biggest cheerleaders, where we don’t necessarily let outside voices that aren’t supporting our passion, drive, and vision to stand in the way of that. Not everyone’s going to understand what drives us or why we want to do the things we want to do. But I think it’s important to stay confident in that in order to be your best self. The second thing is going back to self-care. I think a lot of leaders talk a lot about self-care, but then you see them in action and they’re not taking care of themselves. They’re completely running themselves ragged. It’s important to not only talk about it, but to do it.

Try to see when people are truly ready to make that next step for themselves whether it's personally or professionally. – Dr. Nikki Johnson #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

It's been important to work my way to a leadership role to be able to assist the population in the best way that I can. – Dr. Nikki Johnson #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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