Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Are You a Customer Advocate?

To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." As a member of the Twitterverse for 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with David Beaumont from Ohio and invited him to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A format. Highlights of our conversation about customer experience marketing and management follow a brief introduction.

Known for delivering outstanding customer support to clients, David Beaumont is a knowledge seeker and results driven visionary who builds relationships with clients and peers by aiding the end-user through training and development tasks. David is a qualified support professional, HDI Certified, and holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Finance from The Ohio State University. He has more than 15 years of experience in customer service, equality/diversity/inclusion (EDI), and client support.

QUESTION: In your Twitter bio, you state "Be your customer's advocate." What led to that statement?

DAVID BEAUMONT: I heard the words, "Customer service is dead." At that time, I thought to myself, "Is it really?" Then I thought, what if I could bring awareness and attention to some customer service mistakes that I see and share some insight on what could make customer service better? I also thought all customer service is not bad, but it may need a bit of fine-tuning. So, I figured I'd create a blog and talk about it. That is how Customer Service is Real came about.

TWEET THIS: All customer service is not bad, but it may need a bit of fine-tuning. ~@dbeaumont266 #CX #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: How can businesses teach employees that they are the front-line to customer happiness?

DAVID BEAUMONT: The front-line support needs to know that their leadership team has their best interest at the forefront. That means giving the front-line folks the proper tools to act on behalf of the customer. It means allowing the front-line team to make things right for the customer when it makes sense – without judgment, criticism, or punishment from the management team.

When you empower your team to know that they can get the customer back on the right track without a lot of friction during the process is when the front-line can feel secure in delivering exceptional support to the customer. That is when you begin to build customer happiness – because the front-line team is happy.

TWEET THIS: Allow the front-line team to make things right for the customer without punishment from the management team. ~@dbeaumont266 #CX #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: Which social platform is the best tool for creating a quality customer experience, and why? If different, which platform is the most effective for addressing customer complaints or issues in a timely manner, and why?

DAVID BEAUMONT: I would have to say Twitter is a platform for creating a quality customer experience as well as voicing a complaint. Social media is a channel where people can share their true feelings about how products and services work or don't work for them. Twitter has more of the business element built in such that it is monitored more closely by staff to see what customers are saying about them.

QUESTION: What's your favorite customer service story?

“A Target employee helps teen tie a tie and prep for a job interview”

I enjoyed this story because the team member showed his empathetic side. He may have walked in the young man’s shoes at one time and now is invested in making sure this young man makes a great impression. It also showed a caring and compassionate side, which, as customers, we want to see when we visit places of business. Also, by showing this act of kindness, this particular team member created a memorable moment that the young may will surely not forget.  

(Read this customer service story and more here:

QUESTION: What are your three favorite brands, and why?

DAVID BEAUMONT: Here are my three:

Barnes and Noble: While I am not a frequent visitor, the times I do go into Barnes and Noble, the staff does not disappoint. There is always someone walking around to see if you need help. The information center team members are very knowledgeable about suggesting the best kinds of books. If I say I am looking for books that are like the early days of Stephen King, they can give me a couple of suggestions. If a book is not available, they offer to order or alert me when the particular book of interest would be in the store. If I call in and they have a book for me, they will hold the book at their front counter, so I don’t have to search around the store looking. Barnes and Noble helps remove the friction, thus making the customer experience a pleasurable one.

Chick-fil-A: I have visited a few Chick-fil-A's, and the level of service is the same across the board. The people are always pleasant, and they greet you like they are happy that you have come to see them. I am also amazed at how fast they move the drive-thru line. It seems no matter how many cars are there, a slowdown does not happen. My wait time is always minimal.

Cove Security: With the ability to DIY (do-it-yourself) security systems, the process could be a little challenging. Cove's customer service is great. You may think emailing support is going to have your wheels spinning, but not with Cove. They are very responsive, and they give you answers that help you resolve your issues. Talking to them on the phone is the same way. The service is also affordable and customizable to fit your specific needs.

My thanks to David for sharing his customer experience insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Check out David’s links:
Twitter: @dbeaumont266

Image Credit:

Monday, September 26, 2022

Storytelling, Connections, and Social Media

To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." As a member of the Twitterverse for 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with Gail Robertson from Ontario, Canada, and invited her to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A format. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Gail Robertson brings an unfamiliar and fresh outlook to the more traditional manufacturing industry. She has always been curious, which led her into journalism. She began her professional career as a journalist at the Toronto Star and has worked at The Hamilton Spectator, The St. Catharines Standard, and The Windsor Star. She now uses storytelling, developed as a journalist, in the manufacturing world as a social media strategist and keynote speaker, helping others to #ShowUP, tell their story, and exercise their curious brain. Her transferable skills have assisted her as she transitioned from being a journalist, to bed-and-breakfast owner, to fundraiser, to marketing manager at an insurance tech company and now, as “Chief Curiosity Officer” at GailNow.

QUESTION: What first attracted you to marketing, communications, PR, and storytelling?

GAIL ROBERTSON: Growing up, I loved to hear stories and was especially enamored by their development, one sentence at a time. To me, marketing, communications, and PR are related as they help a company or brand tell their story.

I also love to connect with people, and after years as a journalist and now Chief Curiosty Officer, I  realize how many stories are not being told!

Meeting people and helping tell and share their stories is exciting and powerful as I believe we can change the world, one story at a time. I know far too many women who also are reluctant to own their power and step into the spotlight.

TWEET THIS: Meeting people and helping tell their stories is exciting...we can change the world, one story at a time. ~@GailNow #brandstorytelling #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: On your website, it says, "Gail's true joy and passion for networking and connecting with others is what makes her a top motivational speaker." What tips do you have for people who may share your passion for connection but lack your confidence in public speaking?

GAIL ROBERTSON: My tip for them would be to embrace their own story and speak from that. As American author and professor of literature, Joseph Campbell, once said, “You are the hero of your own story.”

We also need to look at our own individual comfort zones and not compare ourselves to others. For public speaking, it is also about taking baby steps and realizing we have a duty to “show up,” not just for ourselves but for others. We have a duty to share stories!   

Some of the best speakers aren’t extroverts, but they had to start with the right mindset and decide to challenge themselves. Even the best speakers struggle with Imposter Syndrome and fear of failure, so it’s best to embrace failure and make it your friend!

Very few people find public speaking easy - even the ones who make it LOOK easy. It takes an incredible amount of time, hard work, and practice. The best tip is to just start. Speak up in a meeting or at your local church or school. Speak up online too. Join a video challenge! Get comfortable being uncomfortable, as cliche as that sounds. By just deciding to start, you are so much further ahead than others sitting on the couch. As a keynote speaker, I still get nervous; I worry and I stress about my content, which is normal. But the more I share stories and get feedback, the more supported I feel to Sign Up, Suit Up, and Show up!

QUESTION: What's your favorite social media platform, and why?

GAIL ROBERTSON: Twitter: it’s fast-paced, has a greater diversity of content, and is an excellent way to meet, get to know, and engage with people. It is also a place you need to curate content and embrace the scroll button. I have met phenomenal people through Twitter, including Nathalie Gregg who leads the #LeadLoudly Twitter Chat.

Along with great connections, there are some other top notch Twitter Chats like #USAMfgHour and #TwitterSmarter. You can find a chat for just about any topic. There is also audio. With Twitter Spaces, you can jump in, listen, and meet incredible people.

While Twitter still is a “favorite,” each social media platform has its own special place in my heart! I like a few others for different reasons and have also connected with cool people. For sure, LinkedIn is phenomenal, and I have even started enjoying the fun part of TikTok.  Social media is what you make it, and with some engagement and sharing of content and ideas, each platform can deliver results.

TWEET THIS: Twitter is an excellent way to meet, get to know, and engage with people. ~@GailNow #connections #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: You wrote an excellent article on your Blog entitled, "When You're Ready for Your Close-Up, Mr. DeMille." (On a side note, I'm a film buff, so I really enjoyed the post.) Can you provide an overview that explains the tie-in between the film and marketing?

(Read the post here:

GAIL ROBERTSON: In the film, Norma Desmond realizes she has to adjust to the times in order to continue making an impact. Similarly, in today’s world, we need to adjust to the times (for example, video is required to make an impact).

Video is extremely powerful when it comes to getting your message across. According to, 87% of marketing professionals use video as one of their tools, and whether they pop up on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, or any other social media platform that allows more than just posting a pic, it’s a key way to sell your product or service through your most valuable asset – you.

So when we look at film, it is all about building relationships via the big screen. Today, we can use video and tell stories; showing a part of your personality AND building relationships by allowing people to get to know you. Films are still powerful, and now we can add to that power with social media, through video and sharing behind-the-scenes clips, by sharing insights about stars in a film. AND, social media posts with film and video content get 48% more views than those without them, according to HubSpot.

So, bottom line, video footage featuring your employees, customers, and/or volunteers is a great way to make them feel part of the action. And there is also great ROI: A single film/video can be repurposed for different lengths, platforms, and audiences. That ONE video can return a great deal back to you!

My thanks to Gail for sharing her digital marketing insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Reuben Juarez via Wordswag.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Fall Back to Reading with These 9 Thought-Provoking Books

Those of us with a passion for reading (and consider reading an essential part of life) often start the summer with a large pile of books. However, life's commitments intervene, and the pile of books sometimes seems just as high at the end of the summer as it was at the beginning. Today may be the first day of fall, but I completed all of the books in my pile during this past summer: 9 business books featuring memorable insights about leadership, marketing, and customer experiences. I highly recommend that you add them to your fall or winter reading list. A suggested Tweet (or a few) for each book is included at the end of each book's mini review.

BRINGING UP THE BOSS, Practical Lessons for New Managers by Rachel Pacheco
One of the nuggets in this book is the importance of feedback. To quote Pacheco, "To be a great manager, not only do you have to be great at giving feedback, but also, you have to be great at receiving effective feedback from your team." Effective feedback results in quality work. Feedback also leads to employees who feel productive, confident, motivated, fulfilled, and valued. These types of employees climb the corporate ladder and improve the business.

Another important aspect of leading involves a sense of purpose. Pacheco shared a story of a dog pulling a tire. You'll have to read the book for the full story, but suffice it say that the dog was happier when pulling a tire along the beach. Can you say that all your employees have a sense of purpose, and even more importantly, do they understand how their roles impact the entire organization's brand promise?

Lastly, as Pacheco wrote, "When you become a manager, there is a fundamental shift in how you approach your work, and there is a fundamental shift in how others think of you." As a leader, this is something to genuinely understand.

TWEET THIS: Often we are put into positions of management before we're actually ready. ~@rachelbpacheco #LeadershipTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog

TWEET THIS: We have the power to help someone grow, develop, and thrive; we also have the power to overburden, confuse, and wreak havoc. ~@rachelbpacheco #LeadershipTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog

TWEET THIS: What no one ever said: I wish my manager communicated LESS. ~@rachelbpacheco #LeadershipTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog

CHIEF JOY OFFICER, How Great Leaders Elevate Human Energy and Eliminate Fear by Richard Sheridan
Sheridan explained that he wanted to build a joyful company once he was promoted to VP of R&D for Interface Systems in 1997. He wrote, "I wanted to implement this joyful dream in an industry not exactly known for delighting customers or employees - software design...Let's get you to a place where you bound inside those doors (of the office) with enthusiasm and energy and share that with others as the leader. Where those on your team can become leaders in their own right because you've built a culture where leadership can thrive."

Sheridan provided a very good visual. He compared leaders to airplane pilots. "They are responsible for a lot, but they can't do their jobs safely entirely by themselves. They depend on help from others and are aided by systems that keep them as safe as possible while allowing them to get where they are going."

Another memorable visual that Sheridan shared was in a section he called "Own Your Mask." Here's the explanation. As part of a grief counseling session for teens experiencing the loss of family members or friends, they participated in an exercise to write on plastic white masks. On the outside, they wrote "I'm doing okay," "Thank you for asking about me," and similar thoughts. However, on the inside of the masks, feelings were raw, feelings that these teens did not want to share: "I'm lonely," "I'm sad," "I'm angry," and "Why me?"

This was an excellent lead-in to Sheridan's explanation of leaders and THEIR masks. On the outside, the masks may say "strong, confident, competent, ambitious, etc." However, for most leaders, the inside of the mask would look like this: "scared, worried, overwhelmed, stressed."

Sheridan also referenced one of the greatest books of all time, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. If you haven't read it, add it to the top of your reading list immediately! I won't spoil the experience for you - I read it the first time in elementary school, and many times since.

TWEET THIS: Business has to give people enriching, rewarding lives, or it's not worth doing. ~@richardbranson via @tom_peters for @menloprez #DebbieLaskeysBlog

Dedicate "to anyone who has gone out of their way to help a customer," this is a playbook for organizations that strive to add a remarkable customer experience strategy to their day-to-day operations. As Gingiss explained at the outset, "When happy customers share their positive experiences with friends, family, and social media followers, it is far more powerful and persuasive than any brand campaign. But most of the time, companies are so focused on acquiring new customers that they forget to provide positive experiences to their existing customers. This makes things infinitely harder on the sales and marketing teams, which are constantly saddled with higher and higher acquisition goals each year while many existing customers are heading for the competition."

Some of the memorable customer experience stories that Gingiss shared were the IKEA ad for pregnant women, the romance writer who experienced her stories before publishing them, Target's easy-to-assemble media stand, the fresh approach to Instagram by the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, the Savannah Bananas baseball team antics, and the Crock-Pot storyline featured in the February 4, 2018, episode of the amazing TV series This Is Us.

TWEET THIS: One of the easiest ways to improve the #CX is to find the customer pain points and then alleviate them. ~@dgingiss #DebbieLaskeysBlog

TWEET THIS: A common recommendation in #CX is to walk in your customer's shoes. ~@dgingiss #DebbieLaskeysBlog

TWEET THIS: Every interaction a customer has with a brand is a customer experience opportunity. ~@dgingiss #CX #DebbieLaskeysBlog

TWEET THIS: When you go above and beyond to solve a customer's problem, they will love you even more - despite the fact that something went wrong. ~@dgingiss #CX #DebbieLaskeysBlog

MANAGING UP, How to Move Up, Win at Work, and Succeed with Any Type of Boss by Mary Abbajay
Abbajay began the book by explaining, "By learning how to effectively manage those who manage you, you put yourself in the driver's seat and take control of your career...Managing up is not about brownnosing, sucking up, or becoming a sycophant. Managing up is about consciously and deliberately developing and maintaining effective relationships with supervisors, bosses, and other people above you in the chain of command."

First, you need to determine if your boss is an introvert or an extrovert. Then, you need to assess your boss' workstyle personality as well as if he/she/they is a difficult boss, which can be the following according to Abbajay: micromanagers, ghosts, impulsives, narcissists, pushovers, best friends, workaholics, incompetents, seagulls and nitpickers, and truly terrible (psychos, tyrants, bullies). At the end, there is a cheat sheet of 50 ways to manage your manager.

TWEET THIS: We need to know how to manage those who manage us (which is itself a form of leadership). ~@maryabbajay #EmployeeExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog

FIND YOUR HAPPY AT WORK, 50 Ways to Get Unstuck, Move Past Boredom, and Discover Fulfillment by Beverly E. Jones
Since research has shown that a large majority of people are disengaged at work, Jones shares ideas for re-engaging. She posed the idea that there are three keys to finding satisfaction at work, also known as the three points of the engagement triangle: purpose, people, and performance. She explained, "You can't flip a switch to make yourself feel more contented, but you can steadily, methodically cultivate happiness." Jones ended her book with a list of ten key takeaways for finding "your happy" at work.

PURPOSE: It's easier to love your job if you're working for something that matters more than just a paycheck.

PEOPLE: Your job can feel more satisfying because of your colleagues, your broader circle of clients and professional contacts, and other people you encounter in the course of your career.

PERFORMANCE: You're more likely to love your job if you invest effort in your tasks, build expertise and remain invested in your work, and exercise some autonomy.

TWEET THIS: Remember that you own your career. You can change your work life if you want to. ~@beverlyejones #DebbieLaskeysBlog

TWEET THIS: Having a passion for reading books can help you learn, make you happier, and stimulate your career. ~@beverlyejones #DebbieLaskeysBlog

NOTE: How's that Tweet in reference to my introductory paragraph???

THE JOURNEY TO WOW, The Path to Outstanding Customer Experience and Loyalty by Shaun Belding
As Dave Carroll, singer-songwriter and creator of United Breaks Guitars, explained, "The Journey to WOW was a treat to read. The topic of customer experience can sometimes be dry and formulaic, but Shaun understands that we are all storytellers and so the most effective way to convey important insights is through a well-written story. The difference between perfection and excellence; the importance of delivering consistently high service; being congruent in your brand and understanding that an outstanding customer journey is a never-ending process for the provider; all of those insights are woven tightly inside an engaging character-driven narrative. This book should be required reading for everyone if the customer experience space."

TWEET THIS: There is no end to the journey of creating an outstanding customer experience environment. ~@ShaunBelding #CX #DebbieLaskeysBlog

TWEET THIS: Your internal #CX is as important as your external #CX. ~@ShaunBelding #DebbieLaskeysBlog

TWEET THIS: Customer experience needs to be actively championed at the top. ~@ShaunBelding #CX #LeadershipTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog

MAKING WORDS WORK, A Practical Guide to Writing Powerful Content by Kim Scaravelli
Scaravelli wrote this book for copywriters, content writers, business owners who write content for themselves, folks who have personal projects on the go (like blogs or books), and business leaders who pay others for words. "Keep your notebook open while you read, and if a fire ignites, shift to a keyboard and begin actually writing something. Notebooks are for ideas, not content assembly. The online world is where your words will live, so that's where you should plant them."

Like me, Scaravelli is a fan of reading and believes, "Reading is how you come to appreciate and understand the art of writing." Her tips include: (1) start with an easy time commitment, say 20 minutes a day; (2) highlight phrases and passages that resonate with you; and (3) read hard copy books with paper pages.

According to Scaravelli, "Content that serves a clear purpose is more apt to thrive online." Therefore, content's primary purpose will fit into one of these three categories: (1) informing or educating; (2) entertaining; or (3) inspiring readers to do something.

Scaravelli shared a memorable story to illustrate her writing tip called, "Find Your Angle." In an art class, all students painted basically the same bowl of apples. However, during the class, there was constant shuffling noises of a chair being moved. It turned out that the sketch painted by the student who kept moving her chair had created an aerial view of the fruit bowl - completely unique and much more interesting. As Scaravelli advised, "Your job is not to reinvent the fruit bowl - it's to move the chair."

TWEET THIS: You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have. ~Maya Angelou via @KimScaravelli #DebbieLaskeysBlog

TWEET THIS: Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work. ~@StephenKing via @KimScaravelli #DebbieLaskeysBlog

TWEET THIS: The secret is to write like you're speaking to an audience of one. Talk to them as though you're seated beside them on the sofa. ~@KimScaravelli #DebbieLaskeysBlog

RBG'S BRAVE AND BRILLIANT WOMEN, 33 Jewish Women to Inspire Everyone by Nadine Epstein with introduction and selection by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
While written by journalist Nadine Epstein, the list of women included in this book were chosen by former Justice of the Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg during the final year of her amazing life. The women featured include Deborah, the first woman judge in the bible; Emma Lazarus, a poet whose words adorn the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty; Golda Meir, the first and only female prime minister of Israel; Anne Frank, whose diary during World War II became famous; and many more.

According to Epstein, "What (the women in this book) all have in common is that they transcended what was expected, allowed, or tolerated for a woman of their time. They chose difficult or unusual paths and stayed true to their talents and missions despite the obstacles. They achieved what was unimaginable, and the unimaginable led to the advancement of women, to breaking barriers in previously men-only fields, and to changing the world for the better."

TWEET THIS: RBG was determined that this book would be part of her legacy. ~@NadineEpsteinDC #RBG #DebbieLaskeysBlog


Written by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, this book is a combination of storytelling, history lessons, and images of wearable art from all over the world. Albright explained, “A foreign dignitary standing alongside me at a press conference would be happier to see a bright, shining sun attached to my jacket than a menacing wasp. I felt it worthwhile, moreover, to inject an element of humor and spice to the diplomatic routine. The world has had its share of power ties; the time seemed right for the mute elegance of pins with attitude.”

She explained, “As my pins became more expressive and drew more comments, I had cause to reflect on the relationship between appearance and identity. To what extent, to adopt the old saying, do pins make the woman or, for that matter, the man? After all, the display of pins has never been confined to one gender. Medieval knights wore elaborate jeweled badges that defined their status and conferred a group identity...George Washington sometimes wore a spectacular diamond eagle that included no fewer than 198 stones...Finally, our armed forces also use pins – in the form of ribbons and medals – to convey messages about accomplishments, stature, and rank.”

TWEET THIS: The world has had its share of power ties; the time seemed right for the mute elegance of pins with attitude. ~Madeleine Albright #ReadMyPins #DebbieLaskeysBlog

Before this post ends, I must mention 8 memorable works of fiction that I also read during the summer:
* Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger
* The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark
* The Pilot's Daughter by Audrey J. Cole
* 22 Seconds by James Patterson
* The Favor by Nora Murphy
* The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth
* After the Wedding by Laura Elliot
* Movieland by Lee Goldberg

What did YOU read this summer, and what's on your reading list for the fall?

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey’s Library.

Monday, September 19, 2022

The Intersection of Leadership, Employee Experience, and Customer Experience

To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." As a member of the Twitterverse for 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with Joseph Michelli and invited him to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A format. Highlights of our conversation about leadership, employee experience, and customer experience follow a brief introduction.

Based in Florida, Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D., C.S.P., is an internationally sought-after speaker, New York Times #1 bestselling author of ten McGraw-Hill published books, and organizational consultant who transfers his knowledge of exceptional business practices in ways that develop joyful and productive workplaces with a focus on customer experience. His insights encourage leaders and frontline workers to grow and invest passionately in all aspects of their lives.

QUESTION: What is the most important take-away you hope readers will have from your book, Stronger Through Adversity?

JOSEPH MICHELLI: I hope readers will appreciate that COVID-19 was both a test of resilience and an opportunity to emerge stronger from the challenges we all faced. Amid the adversity, many individuals adapted to increase self-care, heighten transparency, enhance compassion, and evaluate what mattered most. From a leadership perspective, I hope readers will learn from the wisdom of the more than 140 senior executives from companies like Microsoft, Google, Starbucks, and Target who graciously shared their insights. Most importantly, I hope the book sparks conversations about how we can create “better than normal” human experiences based on the shared experiences of the pandemic.  

QUESTION: How can a President/CEO create a culture that inspires employees?

JOSEPH MICHELLI: It starts with being authentic and purpose driven. It requires humility and a willingness to listen and learn. We often confuse leadership with bravado and confidence bordering on cockiness. When people read Stronger Through Adversity, it becomes clear that candid, servant-leaders prevail over those who act as if they are unflappable and invulnerable. People want to follow caring, compassionate, and imperfect people. They may comply with authoritative leaders or individuals who provoke fear, but they follow those who tell an honest lullaby and rally people for a cause greater than themselves.

TWEET THIS: People follow those who tell an honest lullaby and rally people for a cause greater than themselves. ~@josephmichelli #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What three leaders inspire you, from history or the current business world, and why?

JOSEPH MICHELLI: I will stick with people, with whom I’ve worked.

The first is Howard Schultz. Howard is currently in the eye of the storm, returning to the helm of Starbucks during recent labor disputes. My work with him dates to writing two books about the company: The Starbucks Experience and Leading the Starbucks Way. Howard is a strategic genius. He understands complex problems and envisions bold and unique solutions, which he charismatically brings to life.

Johnny Yokoyama is the retired owner of The Pike Place Fish Market. Johnny and I co-wrote the book “When Fish Fly.” Even though Johnny’s family lost everything when they were relocated to internment camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Johnny let go of bitterness and focused on being of service. He led a team that creates unique customer experiences and sold his business to team members, even though he could have made more money selling to outsiders.

Finally, from history I would site my father who worked as a heavy equipment operator in a cement factory. He acted gently, quietly, and with integrity, which earned him respect from his peers and functionally made him a leader without a title.

QUESTION: One of my fave marketing quotes is from Jack Welch: "Marketing is not anyone's job. It's everyone's job." What's your take on that quote?

JOSEPH MICHELLI: I believe we aren’t in business to create a profit but instead are in business to create a customer. It is through customers that all profits come. If we focus on profit, we can make decisions that aren’t in our customer’s best interest. If, however, we truly focus on creating value for customers – we secure the loyalty of our existing customers, and they refer us to their family and friends. So, my take on Jack Welch’s quote is to say “Serving people is everyone’s job. If we do that, it makes marketing a lot easier.”

TWEET THIS: Serving people is everyone’s job. If we do that, it makes marketing a lot easier. ~@josephmichelli #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: Erika Andersen, a leadership expert and author, wrote, "Great leaders don't do it alone...they get help." What does this quote mean to you?

JOSEPH MICHELLI: In Stronger Through Adversity, I wrote:

Bestselling author Simon Sinek titled one of his books, Leaders Eat Last. While we might agree that leadership is not about power, prestige, or title, many of us who practice servant leadership do so at the expense of self-care. It is as if true leaders need to put an oxygen mask on as many people as possible before the leader loses consciousness.

In the early days of the pandemic, many of the leaders with whom I spoke reported that they had lost perspective on self-care. They were running on adrenaline, caffeine, and a shortage of sleep. They struggled to find time to attend to their emotional or physical well-being. Their desire to drive solutions often compromised their health, solitude, and self-reflection. Many of them were not “eating last,” but instead, they forgot to eat at all.
In addition to self-care, I spend a lot of time in that book writing about getting off “your island” and reaching out for help. I also offer many examples of how leaders who asked for help, set their organizations up for meteoric success.

QUESTION: One of my favorite leadership quotes is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): "Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What does this quote mean to you?

JOSEPH MICHELLI: There are a lot of smart people who make terrible leaders. Especially, if they think their intellect is a leadership superpower. Emotional intelligence, however, is another matter. People who possess high empathy, collaboration skills, and resourcefulness are powerful leaders. They know that an aligned team will achieve more than their individual effort or intellect could ever create. Give me a leader who listens, affirms, and sees their job as one of service to their team, and I am all-in. Give me a person with all the right answers, and I will seek purpose, autonomy, and mastery elsewhere.

QUESTION: Those of us who live in the marketing and customer experience worlds have heard the Jeff Bezos empty chair story many times. What does this mean to you?

JOSEPH MICHELLI: I have clients who use the empty chair approach. I see it as a construct for reminding people to filter decision-making through the lens of the customer. It is akin to the "chorus" that symbolized the general population in Greek theater. Whether you use a device like the "empty chair" or designate a team member to be the voice of the customer, organizations prosper when the concerns of the customer are balanced with the needs of team members, shareholders, and other stakeholders.

(Check out the story here:

My thanks to Joseph for sharing his amazing insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Check out Joseph's digital footprint:
YouTube Channel: Customer Loyalty and Referrals

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Queen Elizabeth II Was an Epic Brand Ambassador

The 70-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II was epic, or according to “Heroic, majestic, and impressively great.” That definition sums up the lady, the Monarch, and the leader. While some might critique her weekly chats (or audiences) with 15 British Prime Ministers, travels around the world to an amazing 117 countries (out of a possible 195), or her handling of family crises including divorces, a fire, a disgraced son, and the death of her daughter-in-law in a Paris tunnel, without a doubt, Queen Elizabeth II was a lady that will be greatly missed on the world diplomatic stage.

TWEET THIS: To quote Camilla, Queen Consort and wife of King Charles III, “The Monarch carved her own role as a “solitary woman” on a world stage dominated by men.” via @DebbieLaskeyMBA #DebbieLaskeysBlog

For 70 years, the Queen was the most respected and effective brand ambassador for the British monarchy brand. As she eloquently said upon becoming Queen in 1952, "I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong." 

However, the are many changes that will now be made:

  • National Anthem – due to the death of Queen Elizabeth II, instead of “God Save the Queen,” Britain will now sing “God Save the King.”
  • Mailboxes – red mailboxes or postboxes were engraved with E II R, which stood for “Elizabeth Regina,” identifying that she was the monarch when the boxes were placed. Now that Charles is on the throne, new mailboxes will bear his cypher.
  • Money – the Queen’s image was featured on all British coins as well as paper currency. According to Rachel Elbaum of NBC News, “There are currently 82 billion pounds, or $95 billion, worth of paper money in circulation, so changes to the design of the bills are likely to be made slowly. It will also take time for new bills, likely with the new monarch’s image, to be distributed and the older money with the queen’s portrait will continue to be valid.” And regarding coins, “The tradition of using the monarch’s portrait goes back centuries. Currently, the queen is pictured facing to the right. There is a tradition dating back to the 1600’s, however, that the new monarch faces in the opposite direction of the predecessor, according to the royal family website, so Charles will likely be pictured facing left.”
  • Stamps – In 1967, Queen Elizabeth II was the first monarch to appear on postage. Her silhouette faces to the left on each stamp, rather than to the right as she does on coins.
  • Government Services – As a constitutional monarchy, government services such as the court system, the treasury, and the tax collection service will be renamed from “Her Majesty’s” to “His Majesty’s.” Here’s a good example: instead of being called Her Majesty’s Courts, the pronoun will change, and the courts will be known as His Majesty’s Courts.
  • Goods and Services – Commercial goods and services that supply the royal household are able to apply for a royal warrant, or a mark of recognition. Some brands, for example, Kellogg’s or Heinz, have a small mark on the box showing that they are used by the Queen. Following Queen Elizabeth II’s death, warrant holders can continue to display her crest and the relevant wording for two years before a review of the warrant takes place.
  • Social Media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube) – The Queen and her communications team joined social sites. Her likeness, activities, patronages, and special events were prominently featured. The new monarch will become the main feature once the official mourning period has completed.

And those are just the changes in the United Kingdom! Imagine the changes in other countries!

Over the years, there has been talk that the monarchy’s reason for existence has long since passed, but the Queen did not comment. Instead, she continued to represent her people around Great Britain and the remaining countries of the Commonwealth.

Isn’t that the purpose of a brand ambassador? To be a dedicated and positive representative? Absolutely.

There will be plenty of time to see if King Charles III will make a positive impact, but for now, let’s celebrate the legacy of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

My favorite examples of the Queen’s humor and co-branding appeared in the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics when she appeared with James Bond (actor Daniel Craig) and also when she appeared having tea with Paddington the Bear in June of 2022.

What are your favorite memories of Queen Elizabeth II as we usher in a new era of the British monarchy brand?

Image Credit: City of London via Twitter.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Do Your Leaders See Around Corners?


To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." As a member of the Twitterverse for 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with Mitch Pisik from Tucson, Arizona, and invited him to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A discussion about leadership and the employee experience. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Mitch Pisik, CEO of Pisik Consulting Group, is an Award-Winning Business Consultant, Executive Coach, and Leadership Trainer who has worked with over 1,000 executives in hundreds of companies in dozens of industries ranging from sole Entrepreneurs to Fortune 100 global businesses. Previously, as CEO, he turned around and grew four diverse private equity owned portfolio businesses for 15 years; and before that, was a senior executive at some of the world’s largest global companies for 17 years. On the social media front, he has written and posted a daily LEADERSHIP message on Twitter and Linkedin since 2013, and to date, has posted 2,267 of them.

QUESTION: How can a CEO be an effective brand ambassador?
MITCH PISIK: A CEO’s primary responsibility is to be an enthusiastic and compelling ambassador for his/her/their company, brands, and people. He/she/they should use his/her/their gravitas and power to be highly and frequently visible; be seen pro-actively identifying and taking advantage of virtually every opportunity to speak, present, write, and perform in multiple venues to explain/illustrate/demonstrate the positively differentiated and innovative benefits of his/her/their brands. And always portray/comport one’s self with a degree of professionalism and authenticity such that the message is received with resonance, is memorable, and garners raving excitement from the targeted audience.

TWEET THIS: A CEO’s primary responsibility is to be an enthusiastic and compelling ambassador for his/her/their company, brands, and people. ~@mitchpisik #LeadershipTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: Have any Presidents/CEOs impressed you by their leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic? If yes, how?
MITCH PISIK: I worked with a multitude of CEOs and senior execs during the pandemic. Although most had not prepared for the dramatic changes and challenges that were thrust upon them, many quickly realized that the world has changed, and virtually every business process needed to change, and immediately. The best execs also realized that what did not change was their vision, mission, and long-term priorities.

Two especially impressive leadership teams were those at Wegman’s grocery chain and Kendra Scott’s retail chains. They pivoted early, and executed their new plans virtually and flawlessly.

QUESTION: What three traits define a good leader?
MITCH PISIK: Here are my three:
(1) They have an unwavering focus on building world-class teams:
--A players hire A players.
--B players hire C players.
--C players will put you out of business.

Do not settle for mediocrity when building your team. If management does, it will be a decision that they will regret; and inevitably, it will be deemed unacceptable by your accomplished employees who possess talent and ambition. The ramification will be the demise of the organization.   

(2) They understand how to motivate and inspire their teams. They do NOT believe in the Golden Rule of doing onto others as you want them to do onto you. They do onto others as they want to be treated. I always taught my people to: Treat everyone fairly, but differently.

(3) They can see around corners. They have a capacity for innovation and creativity that fosters products and services that even their customers did not realize they wanted and had to buy until they saw it. As Henry Ford said 100 years ago: "If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse."

TWEET THIS: A good leader can see around corners. ~@mitchpisik #LeadershipTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What are some of your favorite leadership quotes, and why?
MITCH PISIK: "They don’t care what you know until they know that you care."
(I do not possess pride of ownership, as I did not write this one. Author unknown.).

This fosters/supports/emphasizes a foundational cultural value of successful companies. If your people do not trust/believe/respect you, then they will not perform for you. This quote resides on the same plane as another of my favorite quotes: “Numbers tell but stories sell.” People are motivated by emotions substantially more than by logic. And lastly, a third favorite quote is one that I did write:
"'Who you know' let’s you know who to call. 'Who knows you' let’s you know who will take your call.'"

QUESTION: What three leaders from business or history inspire you, and why?
MITCH PISIK: Here are my three:
(1) Jack Welsh: He fostered unprecedented success through unwavering expectations for performance.
(2) Sun Tzu: Those who follow his advice from The Art of War will inevitably be successful in business and in virtually all aspects of their life.
(3) Niccolo Machiavelli: This 16th-century author of The Prince expels advice that is invaluable to all business people.

QUESTION: Lastly, one of my favorite quotes about leadership is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): "Leadership is a gift, not a position. It doesn’t require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to trust and be trusted – and block and tackle for others." What does this quote mean to you?
MITCH PISIK: There are multiple priorities for a successful Leader.  These include (though are not limited to:
(1) Create new Leaders.
(2) Be a servant Leader when appropriate.
(3) Provide the training, resources, and support to foster an environment where success is most likely to flourish.
(4) Stay in business (which is the ultimate responsibility of a business).
(5) Ensure clarity of direction and the definition of success. Assist and encourage. And expect outstanding performance – and celebrate and reward accordingly.  

My thanks to Mitch for sharing his leadership insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Jacqueline Brandwayn via Unsplash.

Follow Mitch on Twitter @mitchpisik.

Connect on LinkedIn at

Monday, September 12, 2022

Branding and Marketing Build Businesses

To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." As a member of the Twitterverse for 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with Suzanne Huber and invited her to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A format. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Suzanne Huber, based in Toronto, Canada, has worked as a digital marketing consultant for hundreds of companies and non-profits over the last decade. She's a trusted advisor to entrepreneurs and executives growing their companies with a proven track record. Today, her company trains leaders and their teams to strategize and implement their next level of growth by accelerating new client acquisition. Connect on Twitter @SuzyHuber and on LinkedIn (; and check out her website at

QUESTION: You use a term to describe what you do (just like I do): "Brand Strategist." How do you explain that term to people who don't live and breathe marketing?

SUZANNE HUBER: "Business Builder." I have launched over a dozen businesses and non-profits over the course of my career. Setting up the foundation or helping more mature organizations scale to their next level of growth has been what I have invested most of the time in my career in. If you are starting from scratch as an organization, you will need to get your baseline messages and collateral together as well as your go-to-market marketing plan. Alternatively, I have helped other more established businesses grow to new heights by accelerating their marketing tactics and their effectiveness, creating new revenue opportunities and fast client acquisition in the process. It's really fun to be a part of a fast growing organization. It's also very rewarding to create something from nothing that attracts the first batch of customers for an organization's brand.

QUESTION: You also describe yourself as an avid reader. What types of books do you enjoy, and what are you currently reading?

SUZANNE HUBER: I just bought the new Gabrielle Bernstein book "Happy Days" today. I have read most of her books and tend to read spiritual, business, and personal development books. A few others titles that I enjoyed lately are "The Big Leap" by Gay Hendrinks and "The Ride of a Lifetime" by Robert Iger.

I enjoy reading books that are education, business, and life wisdom oriented. I appreciate that you can read one book that summarized the expertise of someone's whole life and that they are willing to share these valuable insights. It's a pretty special opportunity and for those that read versus those that don't, it is also a huge advantage in a number of different ways: getting exposure to expertise, how people communicate and think, and their recommendations and approaches to different topics.

QUESTION: What marketing term annoys you the most, and why?

SUZANNE HUBER: "Personas." I think interviewing customers is more effective then making assumptions about people's interests, behaviours, and motivations. I can't tell you why Joe the CIO is staying up late at night or what he wants to read next or what motivates him. Customers can tell you what challenges they have that need to be solved and what outcomes they had working with your brand. Personas can be useful, but I wouldn't strictly rely on them or put a lot of time into them. Testing and learning what works for messaging is also another avenue I prefer to persona development.

TWEET THIS: Customers can tell you what challenges they have that need to be solved and what outcomes they had working with your brand. ~@SuzyHuber #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What are your three favorite brands, and why?

SUZANNE HUBER: Here are my three:
(1) Big Ass Fans: I love this one because they took feedback from customers and rebranded their company and built a brand personality around it. I joke that they are my marketing crush.

(2) Chanel: For the brand's ability to maintain and sustain a premium image over time.

(3) Disney, more specifically the Mickey Mouse character. Simple and timeless.

A brand is the connection to future and current customers. It sparks feelings, interests, and loyalty across products, industries, and services. It's the unique way that a brand stands out in the marketplace.

TWEET THIS: A brand is the connection to future and current customers. ~@SuzyHuber #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: You wrote a great post on your blog entitled “Four Signs It's Time for a Marketing Makeover” (link provided below). Can you briefly highlight the four signs and explain which sign you consider the most important, and why?

SUZANNE HUBER: The sign that I think is most important is definitely number 1: the inability to attract new customers.

If your brand and messaging are missing the mark or are dated, you are missing out on valuable revenue opportunities and likely losing out to the competition. I have seen CEOs that have invested in growing sales teams and other resources that fell flat because the overall image of the company didn't resonate with the ideal buyer. The funny thing is, a dated brand identity issue was so clear to all of the employees who even made a new logo for a rec team sport because they didn't want to use the current one. It was that bad! New customers are the lifeblood of any business, and this disconnect can have a really negative affect on the bottom line. Plus, it is a problem that is easily fixed. So why wouldn't you do so before continuing on a path that clearly isn't working?

(Read the full post here:

My thanks to Suzanne for sharing her marketing insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Kadyn Pierce via Unsplash.