Monday, December 20, 2021

The Alignment Between Leadership, People and Culture

Over the last 12 years, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege to meet a variety of amazing marketing, leadership, employee experience, and customer experience experts. One of these experts is Siobhan O’Leary from New York. We recently had a discussion about leadership and corporate culture, and highlights follow below Siobhan’s bio.

Siobhan O'Leary is an experienced and highly regarded executive coach, leadership development professional, and people and culture strategist. In 2019, she relaunched Aubergine Partners, LLC. From 2013-2019, she served as Senior Vice President of People and Culture at Convene, an Innovative Workplace Hospitality Company. Under her leadership, Convene was recognized by Smart CEO magazine, receiving the Top Company Culture Award; 2017’s #11 Fortune Magazine Great Places to Work; and in 2018, Inc. Magazine named Convene Best Workplace. Siobhan previously spent over 25 years as a human resource executive, predominantly in the luxury hospitality field and held senior level positions with Hyatt Hotels, Four Season Hotels & Resorts and The Carlyle, a Rosewood Hotel, and Rosewood Hotels and Resorts Corporate. Connect and follow on Twitter (@AubergineCOACH), on LinkedIn (, and on her website at

QUESTION: How do you explain the difference between management and leadership?

SIOBHAN O’LEARY: To achieve the high-quality organizational performance that is characteristic of high-performing organizations, it is necessary to master leadership and management simultaneously. Despite potential overlap between these roles in practice, they are different and require different skills and competencies.

Leading involves creating a vision, mobilizing people around that vision, and motivating them to actively contribute to its implementation. Management is about implementing this vision. Management provides a step-by-step approach to strategic planning and decision-making and is usually focused on the short-term. In leadership, the focus is on the long-term development of an organization and its people. It is often more concerned with motivating the organization to accomplish its goals.

The concept of management is concerned with organizing an activity from conception to completion, such as, planning, organizing, directing, etc., whereas, leadership involves a broader concept of people and their motivation to achieve goals. A leader works “in service” to the organization, protecting and driving the long-term direction of the business.

QUESTION: How do you convince your clients about the importance of having an inspiring employer brand?

SIOBHAN O’LEARY: To attract and retain talent, employers today must develop compelling employer brands in an increasingly mobile workforce.

You can make a tangible statement about your company's culture and identity with employer branding. It reflects who and what you are as an organization. Candidates' perceptions, behaviors, attitudes, and decisions are affected by the way you brand your employer image.

Prospective employees nowadays research companies and read more than just the annual report/promotional materials. The success of a company is commonly acknowledged to depend heavily on its employees. So, in order to build a talent pipeline for their businesses, employers need to leverage their employer brand as an effective and engaging first touchpoint with candidates. A positive employer brand helps to engage, motivate, and retain employees. With increased engagement and loyalty, companies increase profits. This means a win-win for the organization and employees. As a result, engaging new talent and retaining the best talent require employers to use their employer brand as a competitive advantage.

TWEET THIS: Engaging new talent and retaining the best talent require employers to use their employer brand as a competitive advantage. –@AubergineCOACH #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: Which three leaders inspire you, from business or history, and why?

SIOBHAN O’LEARY: Here are my three:

Isadore Sharp, Founder and Chairman, Four Seasons Resorts & Hotels.
Isadore Sharp was an early influence in my career. Four Seasons had only 13 hotels at the time. His constant commitment to the “Internal guest” (employees), as he insisted we were, was unfailing. He started out in Toronto, the son of a modest builder from Poland. He believed in what I call failing forward, listening “between the lines,” and truly proved the significant ROI on employee experience.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Supreme Court Justice – aka, The Notorious RBG
Clearly, I am not alone in identifying RBG as an inspiration. I suppose the characteristics that inspire me about her are synonymous with those of my mom. Prompted by their own experiences, they began to take on initiatives for the greater good. On a more personal level, the inspiration is truly how she (and my mom) connected with people individually to deeply understand, acted with humility, and never compromised doing what was right. Beyond those traits that are the obvious, is the respectful, calm approach with which she communicated, with tenacity and yet never offensive. Her ability to bring people together regardless of differences and disarm uncomfortable moments to be productive or enjoyable is something that creates more productive and empathetic conversations. Not to mention the incredible sense of humor which my mother taught me is truly a gift that creates success.

Chris Johnson, CEO Rackson Restaurants and
Chris Kelly, Co-founder and former President, Convene

These are two incredible leaders I currently work with and have worked with in the recent past, respectively. I mention them together mainly because of the commonality in their passion for building companies on a strong people philosophy; having the insight and commitment to recognize values are the cornerstone for a successful and sustainable organization; of course, providing the pallet to create a people platform, build into this philosophy and more importantly live the philosophy (bringing it to life). As with most things in life, there are no accidents.

My fantastic chapter with Chris Kelly led me to Chris Johnson. Chris Kelly insisted that our team members are the “CEO” of their households, and transparency with our business and commitment to our values will create true engagement and a sense of ownership.

Chris Johnson, similarly, leads Rackson Restaurants in service to our store managers. He believes our general managers are operating as entrepreneurs of their piece of the business and through common values and tools we create opportunities for THEIR success, ultimately, OUR success. Chris Johnson inspires me daily, reminding me that we are building a company to be part of the communities where we operate and create opportunities for people to learn and grow. Whether they continue with Rackson or move on, we (Rackson Restaurants) are a part of the learning journey.

A little clarity: I currently work at Rackson Restaurants as Chief People Officer. Therefore, I refer to Rackson Restaurants' store managers when I use the term "our store managers." By "we (Rackson Restaurants) are a part of the learning journey," I mean Rackson Restaurants remains a part of our store managers' learning journeys through their time with us regardless of whether they stay with us or not.

QUESTION: When President Obama introduced Janet Yellen as the new Federal Reserve Chair in October 2013, he said, "Janet Yellen is a proven leader who knows how to build consensus, the kind of person who makes everybody around her better." Certainly, President Biden remembered this when nominating her as the first woman Secretary of the Treasury. What three characteristics do you think are necessary to create a consensus-builder?

SIOBHAN O’LEARY: Habitual good judgement, ability to listen intuitively, and ability to admit failure and learn.

QUESTION: You shared a quote from Sheryl Sandberg on Twitter: "Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence." What does that quote mean to you?

SIOBHAN O’LEARY: Being a good leader comes from not just being powerful, but from creating significant, productive spaces for others to grow. Leadership can mean different things to different people, but at its core, it rests on one simple principle: Influence. It's about connecting with others, building strong relationships, and inspiring people to do their very best work. Effective leaders know that every word, action, or decision has a profound effect on those in their sphere of influence. These leaders use this awareness, along with key insights, on establishing values-based environments to drive behavior toward high performance. To me, Sheryl's quote underscores the importance of being aware of oneself and others. Creating a positive impact triggers a domino effect that drives everyone to success.

TWEET THIS: Leadership is about connecting with others, building strong relationships, and inspiring people to do their very best work. –@AubergineCOACH #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog

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?

SIOBHAN O’LEARY: My understanding of that quote means that the goal of leadership is to understand the nuances of each person's job, making way to create a clearer path to success for them. There will be times when you have to work with people who lack the aptitude to do the job themselves. Leadership demands that you step in and support them.

To lead, one must not simply be the smartest person in the room per se; it’s also about being on the frontlines with your team: supporting, coaching, holding them accountable, and making sure that they feel supported. Good leaders help get others to the finish line. They create trust and team spirit. Every day, they strive to help those around them succeed.

TWEET THIS: Good leaders help get others to the finish line. –@AubergineCOACH #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog

TWEET THIS: Every day, leaders strive to help those around them succeed. –@AubergineCOACH #EmployerBranding #LeadershipTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog

My thanks to Siobhan for sharing her business insights and for appearing here on my Blog. Also, a shout-out to Sherry Lawal for her much appreciated assistance.

Image Credit: Jonathan Chng via Wordswag app.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Tips to Improve Employee Engagement and Create Better Leaders

Over the last 12 years, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege to meet a variety of amazing marketing, branding, employee experience, leadership, and customer experience experts. One of these experts is Liz Kislik based in New York. We recently had a discussion about leadership and employee engagement, and highlights follow below her bio.

Liz Kislik is a management consultant, executive coach, facilitator, and a frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review and Forbes. Her TEDx “Why There’s So Much Conflict at Work and What You Can Do to Fix It” has received more than a quarter of a million views. She specializes in developing high performing leaders and workforces, and for 30 years, has helped family-run businesses, national nonprofits, and Fortune 500 companies like American Express, Girl Scouts, Staples, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, and Highlights for Children solve their thorniest problems. Connect and follow on Twitter (@LizKislik), on LinkedIn (, and on her website at

QUESTION: You wrote a post for Harvard Business Review entitled, "Leaders, Are You Feeling the Burden of Pandemic-Related Decisions?" What are the six ways that you recommend leaders re-channel their energy to create a better work environment during and post-Covid?

(Post referenced:

Liz Kislik: I’m going to answer this question based on things that have been happening since this piece was written in October 2020.

(1) The most important thing is to learn what your people need and to gauge how you can support them. How will they work best and be able to participate most, given their personal health requirements and home lives? Look for ways to accommodate team members’ needs as much as possible.

(2) Stay up-to-date on all the medical information and changes in direction so you can adjust inside the organization and provide the most relevant content to your team. Whatever your plans are, craft at least a Plan B and a Plan C, because things keep changing, and that’s not likely to stop.

(3) Stay in touch personally as much as you can, and encourage all the other leaders in the organization to do the same, so that both employees and other leaders feel like part of a community rather than feeling isolated in any way. This is important whether you are all on-premises, working remotely, or are in a hybrid situation.

(4) When you have to change direction or status, explain why the change has occurred. If you’ve made an error in judgment, or are adjusting based on push-back from the team, own up to it and thank whoever helped you come to your current position.

(5) Encourage team members to engage in self-care, from getting enough sleep and exercise to spending time with their families and taking rest breaks. Explain how these behaviors will help keep people fresh and that you recognize that grinding or gutting it out will create burnout or brittleness in the long term.

(6) Model the behavior you want to see. Don’t send emails after work hours, for example, or make clear that you’re not expecting responses till the next workday. Share your plans for rest and relaxation and ask team members for theirs. Acknowledge that you’re all figuring things out together.

(7) And an extra — cultivate colleagues or experts that you can consult with when you need extra information or want to talk things through. Don’t try to get through hard times alone when there are people available to help you.

QUESTION: You wrote a post for Forbes entitled, "How To Use Corporate Culture To Help Get The Results You Want." What are the six ways you think can improve an organization's culture?

(Post referenced:

Liz Kislik: The six points in this piece are based on Netflix’s culture — all of which are relevant, but here’s a bit of a restatement.

(1) Be clear about your purposes and intentions, both in terms of the goals and objectives of the organization and the kinds of behavior, interpersonal dynamics, and cultural norms you expect all to abide by.

(2) Acknowledge that people are different, and all have to find their own expression of and commitment to your organizational principles. Discuss these concepts and real-world examples frequently enough that you can feel confident that everyone on the team has bought in and knows what’s expected of them.

(3) Communicate more than you think is necessary. This means both outbound — notifying, explaining, and describing plans, changes, concerns — and inbound — soliciting employees’ input and concerns and listening, listening, listening. And taking action on what you hear.

(4) Be willing to raise uncomfortable issues kindly and with compassion, and also to hear criticisms and complaints with equanimity and open-mindedness especially when they are about your behavior or your deeply held opinions.

(5) Invest in the best candidates, tools, and other resources. In general, you get a better return when you invest up front rather than wasting time, money, and energy to repair less-than-best choices and decisions.

(6) Experiment with new approaches to increase growth and excellence. Let employees run tests and pilots and build prototypes of process improvements, training approaches, market outreach, etc. You can learn more from lots of little experiments than from big changes that may not match the realities of your organization.

QUESTION: Which three leaders inspire you, from business or history, and why?

Liz Kislik: I’m going to focus on three current leaders, for very specific reasons. I’ll start with Dolly Parton. Not only is she extraordinarily skilled at her craft, she is always on brand. She knows the world expects to see Dolly in full Dollyness, and she never disappoints. In particular, she took her masses of money and targeted child literacy and a Covid vaccine as some of the noteworthy projects she wanted to fund. She’s not looking for her own aggrandizement, she is trying to build up and protect community.

Dan Price is the founder and CEO of Gravity Payments, an online credit card processing company. He’s famous for reducing his annual pay from $1.1 million to $70,000 so he could increase all employees’ pay to at least $70,000. He speaks out consistently on topics of social inequality and social justice and right now is urging other CEOs to consider team members' needs and preferences rather than requiring that everyone return to their physical offices.

Stacey Abrams is a politician, author, lawyer, and voting rights activist. When she lost the fiercely-contested Georgia gubernatorial election in 2018 in the face of numerous accusations of voter suppression against her opponent, she did not make public complaint. She dusted herself off and doubled down on her organizing efforts.

All three of these individuals use their success and platform on behalf of others. They are resilient and dedicated, and they persist in their efforts to accomplish their goals and bring their beliefs to life.

QUESTION: How can people without impressive titles lead others?

Liz Kislik: Impressive titles are only meaningful to strangers. When you’re in a real working relationship, if you want to feel comfortable and confident about following them, it helps to see that they’re willing to understand what you care about, they’re curious about how things work and how they can be improved, and they’re willing to experiment — and to let you experiment — and will take responsibility for results whether those results are satisfactory or not. They use their political capital and personal reputation to provide cover for their colleagues when things are bad, and share credit and resources all the time. They demonstrate an ability to navigate relationships and spaces that you may not have — and they share the benefits of that experience with their colleagues rather than using them only for personal advancement.

TWEET THIS: Impressive titles are only meaningful to strangers. -@LizKislik #Leadership #EmployeeExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: How can a leader inspire his/her employees to become brand ambassadors?

Liz Kislik: The first thing is that leaders have to actually love their products/services/other offerings, and what they accomplish for customers. And they have to love their customers and express that love as part of their business-talk, so employees learn to understand how important customers are, and how their company’s offerings affect people’s lives for good. Leaders’ authentic excitement goes a long way to demonstrate to employees just how important, meaningful, and valuable their company’s offerings are.

The other thing is for leaders to show that they love their employees, so that employees are happy to be associated with the company and its offerings and proud to talk about their experience with the company and with the company’s offerings.

QUESTION 6: 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 that quote mean to you?

Liz Kislik: Believing that you’re the smartest person in the room could actually lead you to ignore the wonderful contributions that others can and are willing to make. The understanding and contributions of the group can be so much more powerful than that of any one individual. As the leader, it’s your job to recognize the barriers to their progress, and try to get those barriers and deterrents out of the way so your team members can all shine and be and do their best.

TWEET THIS: Believing that you’re the smartest person in the room could actually lead you to ignore the wonderful contributions that others can and are willing to make. -@LizKislik #DebbieLaskeysBlog

My thanks to Liz for sharing her inspiring insights about management, leadership, and the overall employee experience here on my Blog.

If you’d like to read Liz's free E-book, How to Resolve Interpersonal Conflicts in the Workplace, here's the link:

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Leaders Should Only Give Ideas After Asking Teams for Input

Over the last 12 years, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege to meet a variety of amazing marketing, leadership, and customer experience experts. One of these experts is Victoria Hepburn from New Jersey. We recently had a discussion about leadership, career development, productivity, and more, and highlights follow below Victoria’s bio.

Victoria Hepburn, ACC is a certified business transitions coach, Amazon bestselling author, and speaker based in Hackensack, New Jersey. Her company, Hepburn Coaching, specializes in helping professionals and business teams maximize business results and personal well being using science-based brain training and career acceleration tools. Her new book, Pressure Makes Diamonds: Simple Habits for Busy Professionals to Break the Burnout Cycle, is available on her website at, as well as on Amazon and Audible.

QUESTION: What was the impetus in writing your book about burnout, and what is the single best take-away that you hope all readers have from the book?
VICTORIA HEPBURN: I wrote "Pressure Makes Diamonds: Simple Habits for Busy Professionals to Break the Burnout Cycle" after years of coaching values-driven professionals who felt frustrated or lost on their career journey. With this book, I want to offer simple actions that professionals can take to break out of the overwhelm and increase their confidence and clarity at work quickly.

Early in my career, after I was promoted to a senior chemical engineering role, I quickly realized that I wanted to make a career change. It was so hard to figure out what would make me happy and how to make a career pivot while working in an demanding role. Fast forward to today, after two amazing career pivots - engineering to corporate sales to author and certified business coach - I want to share what I've learned to help values-driven professionals make a positive impact on their lives, organizations, and ultimately, our planet.

QUESTION: One of your specialty areas is public speaking. What three recommendations can you share to help people who are fearful of public speaking?
VICTORIA HEPBURN: Public speaking is something I love because I get to share stories and techniques to help professionals increase their confidence and clarity in their lives.
Here are three key points to consider if/when people are fearful of public speaking, whether in front of a group or someone you don't know:
(1) Focus on your audience: You are sharing insights that can help someone else. Whether it's a business presentation or networking outreach to learn more about a dream company, you have unique experiences and training that may be helpful to your audience. Don't deprive them of your insight and positive energy.
(2) Don't allow your past to define who you are today: Just because you may have had a bad speaking experience in the past doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. It means you should practice. Even professionals at the top of their game mess up - pro athletes make errors that lose games, stand up comics have jokes that aren't funny. You have to keep going knowing you only fail if you stop trying to deliver your best.
(3) Use a centering practice: I've been speaking on stages since I was five years old, and my nervous system still shifts into fight or flight mode like everyone else. To manage the racing heart and shallow breathing, I have a centering practice to help me become calm quickly so I can connect with my audience. I use the Heartmath Quick Coherence technique because you can do it with your eyes open anywhere and feel the shift in your energy. Find what works for you - an affirmation, Box Breathing, a Body Scan mediation, a Power Pose. Practice often so you can rely on it when under stress. I'm a certified Heartmath Mentor/Coach and use the techniques personally and with coaching clients.

Here's a link to the Heartmath Quick Coherence Technique:

QUESTION: I once had a boss who told me to lower my expectations when it came to the employees who reported to me. How would you have responded in that situation?
VICTORIA HEPBURN: When I supervised a manufacturing team early in my career, I quickly learned that everyone has a different work ethic and capabilities. We work in organizations to leverage the collective strengths. It's the diverse talents and experiences that each person contributes to innovate and deliver results that leaders want. Leaders who are never satisfied or want things done precisely their way, inadvertently tell their team they don't trust them or value them. Studies show that teams that feel supported by leaders are more innovative and adapt quickly when crisis hits.

It's critical for leaders to communicate the mission and goals, define the minimum acceptable delivery, the timeline, and what’s at stake for the team. Then let them do the work. Trust the team to deliver as needed. Make yourself available to clear barriers and support problem solving efforts throughout the process. Just because people do things differently from how you do them doesn't make them wrong.

TWEET THIS: Studies show that teams that feel supported by leaders are more innovative and adapt quickly when crisis hits. -@v_hepburnauthor #EmployeeExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: You wrote a Blog post entitled, “How Leaders Can Improve Remote Employee Engagement In Uncertain Times.” Can you briefly talk about the five ways?
VICTORIA HEPBURN: I highlighted five proven ways that leaders can secure productivity and positive business outcomes with remote workers. We have to be a bit more intentional in our communication when working remotely, and leaders have to create time and space to check in with team members to ensure that they stay engaged.

Here are the five ways:
(1) Focus on employee output and not hours worked: You hired talented adults and trust them to drive results. Clear objectives, deadlines, and two-way communication along the way will help your team feel supported as they use the flexibility to maximize productivity.
(2) Remind managers to show employees that they are trusted and valued: Activity and time tracking apps, and expectations for being responsive to email, Slack, or text at all hours undermine your productivity goals and send a clear message that you don't trust your employees to prioritize business goals.
(3) Communicate like you never have before: Leaders can build trust by affirming their commitment to doing what’s right and making decisions, business strategies, and taking action that reflects that commitment.
(4) Leaders must frequently clarify the organization’s mission and direction: This helps managers establish priorities and teams organize priorities as the business landscape changes.
(5) Implement a plan to support your managers’ well-being and work/life balance: Humans are not machines. The well being data is clear that taking time to support managers yields powerful business returns as engaged managers motivate employees and accelerate business results.

(Post referenced:

QUESTION: How can employees who work in silos (aka, different departments) come together to work collaboratively?
VICTORIA HEPBURN: As someone who has worked with cross-functional remote teams across multiple time zones, I know it can be a struggle. I offer simple tips that fall away when we get too busy and default to habitual behavior.It's easy for teams to get derailed by competing priorities and urgent tasks that reduce progress toward long term goals.

It's important for leaders and project managers to make time to build relationships beyond the transactional work check-ins. Whether you set up social meetings or build time for rapport builders in meetings like icebreakers or acknowledge incremental wins, case studies are useful to give other function areas insight into what another department is/does. In my sales career, more successful leaders had a habit of inviting other departments to present their updates so that the remote sales reps knew who did what inside the company and could ask direct questions.

QUESTION: You wrote about leading by example. Of the ten ways you mentioned, which three were your favorite, and why?
VICTORIA HEPBURN: My 3 favorite ways to lead by example are centered around personal growth actions that help strengthen the team:
#5 - Be persistent. Build up your resilience to stress and challenges by taking action. Go over, under, or around any hurdles to show that obstacles don’t define your company or team.
#6 - Create solutions. Don’t dwell on problems; instead, ask your team for solutions and give your ideas afterward.
#9 - Take care of yourself. Exercise, don’t overwork, take breaks throughout the day. A balanced team, mentally and physically, is a successful team. Model it, encourage it, and support it!

(Post referenced:

TWEET THIS: Leaders: Ask your team for solutions and give your ideas afterward. -@v_hepburnauthor #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: Since 2020, “Many organizations have ramped up their investments in diversity, equity, and inclusion - largely in the form of anti-bias training, employee resource groups, mentoring programs, and more. But gauging the effectiveness of these measures has been a challenge...Organizations must also assess employee experience.” How do you recommend organizations implement change in these very important areas?

(Quote referenced in this post:

VICTORIA HEPBURN: Culture change starts with leaders who make investments of time and money that align with the goals and ends when front-line employees are living the new reality. Since my background is not in DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) work, I'm speaking from my experience navigating change as a former corporate professional and currently as a business owner. It's important to recognize that awareness training and changing policies is good, but what's critical is pull through at all levels and for all employees. Often the message at the top isn't reflected at middle and front-line management meetings. Also, we humans forget most of what we learn in training within days because we don't practice the new skills.

To fight this normal human tendency, there must be accountability for leaders to have tactical plans to address inequity and strengthen opportunity for all employees. That could include stronger new hire programs to get new people plugged into the corporate network quickly, have more opportunities for promotions, mentorship, sponsorship, and public recognition, all of which increase retention and engagement.

To read more about DEI, click here:

My thanks to Victoria for sharing her inspiring business insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Where to find Victoria online:
All links on Linktree:

Amazon book page:





Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Comfort Zones and Leadership


Thanks to social media, over the last 13 years, I have had the privilege to meet a variety of amazing marketing, leadership, and customer experience experts. One of these experts is Melanie Benson from Los Angeles. We recently had a discussion about leadership, coaching, and comfort zones, and highlights follow below Melanie's bio.

Melanie Benson, Authority Amplifier for Expert-preneurs, shows her clients how to stand out in a crowded market and attract opportunities. She has a proven track record of accelerating results for her clients. She’s host of the Amplify Your Success Podcast, author of Rewired for Wealth, co-author of Voices of the 21st Century, and has been featured in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Woman’s Day, and Parenting. Visit her online at and connect on Twitter @melcoach.

QUESTION: You use the word AMPLIFY a great deal. What does that word mean to you and your business?
MELANIE BENSON: To spread your business message, make a greater impact, and exponentially increase your revenue is the goal -- but most people work ten times harder than necessary to accomplish this. When you amplify, you are able to grow exponentially with very little effort. When I work with entrepreneurs who are building a business around their expertise, they often have a million things to accomplish with very little time. Anything that helps them amplify their results without having to work twice as hard is a game changer. I also find that AMPLIFY is a powerful word that integrates the masculine ACTION and the feminine of CREATION, so that it feels exciting to both male and female entrepreneurs.

QUESTION: You wrote a blog post entitled, "Five Signs You Are Meant to Lead." Can you share some key highlights from that post?

(Post referenced:

MELANIE BENSON: Often, someone with a powerful message and great work that can help others feels like a best kept secret in their market. If you are meant to lead, then there is something about you, your work and your leadership style that can positively impact others.

Sometimes an entrepreneur doesn’t really feel like they are “leadership material,” and they shy away from influencing others. But the truth is, we influence others all the time! We lead our children, we direct our team members, and if we work with clients, we often inspire their actions on a daily basis. When we “own” our leadership role, we can not only have a greater impact, but we also can learn how to be a better leader.

TWEET THIS: When we “own” our leadership role, we can not only have a greater impact, but we also can learn how to be a better leader. ~@coachmel #LeadershipTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What three things should a person do to get out of their comfort zone?
MELANIE BENSON: A comfort zone is where most of us like to live: a mental space where we know what to do, how to do it, and have a sense of control over our lives. As an entrepreneur who wants to make a greater impact and grow his/her/their revenue potential, a comfort zone keeps you trapped right where you are.

Three things I often coach my clients to do to get beyond their comfort zones are:
[1] Set a goal you have no idea how to pull off (and the idea of accomplishing it inspires you, so you imagine it often).

[2] Focus on what you want, not how to get there. Stop trying to figure it all out. Instead, keep your thoughts and actions on taking the next steps. Ask yourself, “Who would I have to be for this to feel easy to accomplish?”

[3] Challenge yourself to shatter limits and fears and stretch your paradigm of what you believe is possible. Do something every week that is not comfortable so that you get used to feeling “outside” of your normal approach to things.

When you decide to push through your comfort zone, it's common to have all kinds of challenges, fears, and a very logical set of reasons why it can’t work. We call it Upper Limiting. I invite you to check out an episode of my Amplify Your Success podcast where I share how to recognize and move beyond this common trap:

QUESTION: You are a passionate advocate for women in leadership roles, so on a related topic, what is your favorite RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) quote, and why?

MELANIE BENSON: RBG was a powerful force for good in our world. She shattered limits and accomplished what many women didn’t believe was possible. One of her quotes that inspires me is: “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

For those who are building a business with the intention of creating positive change in the world, we often have to battle many who don’t believe in our vision, and who won’t support our efforts. To take on this challenge, we have to inspire others to take action that they may not believe in at first. Being a leader who inspires is a million times more sustainable that being someone who forces, uses fear tactics, manipulates, or hurts others to make their point. When leaders inspire others to join their efforts, they create a movement, and THAT is what creates lasting change.

TWEET THIS: When leaders inspire others to join their efforts, they create a movement. ~@coachmel #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: You shared a tweet by Mark Twain on Twitter: "Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great." What does that quote mean to you, and why is it your inspiration?
MELANIE BENSON: Two out of five of my entrepreneurial clients feel a lack of support in achieving their goals in their home or environment. Three out of five of my clients have had a mentor who shamed them or used fear tactics to try to get them to take action.

The work I do with my clients is very different from most “coaches” out there. I find the superpower inside them and help them amplify it so that they transform their wisdom into wealth. I don’t need to use fear or shaming to get people into action. I uncover what lights their fire and show them how to accomplish their goals so that they get what they really want. Sometimes I have to do some mindset recoding to help them believe in themselves again.

In my experience, a great person has a unique talent to make someone feel they are capable of accomplishing anything they want in life. That is my personal aspiration – to be that kind of force for my clients and the world.

My gratitude to Melanie for sharing her leadership and coaching insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Twitter.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Does Your Organization Deliver Value and Care for Your Employees?

Over the last 12 years, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege to meet a variety of amazing marketing, branding, employee experience, leadership, and customer experience experts. One of these experts is Henry Stewart from Hackney, England. We recently had a discussion about employee experiences and leadership, and highlights follow below his bio.

Henry Stewart is founder and Chief Happiness Officer of London-based learning provider Happy Ltd, which was rated one of the top 20 workplaces in the UK for 5 successive years and now helps other orgs create happy workplaces. Henry was listed in the Guru Radar of the Thinkers 50 list of the most influential business thinkers in the world. His book, The Happy Manifesto, was published by Kogan Page in 2013, and short-listed for business book of the year. A keen cyclist, in 2008 and 2010 he completed the Etape, the public stage of the Tour de France, and in 2016, he took part in the Haute Route, seven days through the Alps climbing the equivalent of a third of Everest every day. Connect and follow on Twitter (@happyhenry), LinkedIn (, and on his website at

Question: On your website, you offer a free E-Book entitled, The Happy Manifesto. What are three take-aways you hope readers will have upon completing it? (Check out the E-Book here:

HENRY STEWART: First, get your people to play to their strengths. Gallup has found that, in the UK, only 17% of people are able to say “Every day I get to do what I am best at”. This means people are making themselves miserable and ensuring the organisation underperforms by doing things that are not their strength.

At Happy, we recruit to a job description and then throw it away, and work out what each person’s talents really are. Gallup found that if people are doing what they are best at, not only are they happy, but the company is 30-40% more productive.

Second, people work best when they are given freedom (within guidelines) and trusted to make their own decisions. The book explains how to enable this. One example is pre-approval where you approve a solution before they have thought up the solution. Not quite clear? Read the book and you will find out all about it!

And if they are working to their strengths (pt 1), give them that freedom and they will truly excel.

Third, what is the role of the manager? Think of your managers and which you performed best for. I’m willing to bet it wasn’t the ones that thought they were the expert and told you what to do.

Instead we find it was the ones who listened, who trusted you, who challenged as well and – instead of telling you what to do – and coached you.

Those are my top 3: let people play to their strengths, give them the freedom to perform, and coach them to be their best.

Question: Since marketing is everything, how did you devise your title of CHIEF HAPPINESS OFFICER?

HENRY STEWART: The first person to adopt the title Chief Happiness Officer was Alex Kjerulf of WooHoo in Copenhagen. I nicked it from him! He is an inspiration and has been promoting happy workplaces or “Arbejdsglaede” (Danish is apparently the only language that has a word for happy workplaces) for two decades. WooHoo now runs programmes for Chief Happiness Officers!

And it works. Whenever I speak or introduce myself with that title, people are always intrigued and want to know more. It is a great way to market my brand and to give a hint of what Happy does in helping organisations to create happy workplaces.

Question: How can a leader inspire his/her employees to become enthusiastic brand ambassadors?

HENRY STEWART: By building an organisation that truly lives its values, that delivers great value to its customers, and cares for its people.

This isn’t about the leader doing that. It isn’t about the leader telling people what the values are. It IS about fully involving everybody – by giving them freedom and trust – in that whole process.

What doesn’t work is a leader who states how great the values are and how the company is based on its people, and then doesn’t give them trust, or micro manages, or skips the one-to-ones because they have more important things to do.

It is about showing that you care. It is about giving that trust. At Happy, my aim is to make no decisions at all, based on the ideas of David Marquet. Instead I seek to enable those closest to the front-line to make those decisions.

Question: How can a President/CEO become an organization's number one brand ambassador?

HENRY STEWART: Well I’m not a CEO, so I’m not sure I’m the right person to answer that!

On the one hand, the CEO obviously needs to be promoting their company brand. However if they are the only people doing that, then you have a problem.

Ideally, every person in the company should be a brand ambassador telling all their friends and colleagues, and posting on social media about how great the company is, and being fully involved in whatever form of sales or marketing is taking place.

Question: What employer brands do you admire, and why?

HENRY STEWART: The inspiration for everything we have done at Happy is Semco, the Brazilian manufacturer. Everything changed at my company in 1992 when I read Maverick by Ricardo Semler. There he describes how he took his father’s factory – where trust was so low that workers were searched every day at the gates – to a company where front-line staff were trusted to set their own targets, organise their workplaces, choose their manager and, in some cases, even set their own salary.

Buurtzorg, the Netherlands-based care company. They have grown from 4 nurses in 2006 to 15,000 today, all organised in self-managing teams. They haven’t had a management meeting in 15 years! They deliver the best care, deliver great value, and have been rated the best company to work for in the Netherlands on several occasions.

And then there is Haier, the Chinese white goods manufacturer that has reinvented itself many times over, and now, among its 70,000 staff, works in self-managing teams. Their ecosystems model is based on 4,000 micro-enterprises. Indeed, any three members of staff can set up a new enterprise, if they have an idea, and some of these have gone on to be multi-million pound enterprises within Haier.

Question: One of my favorite 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 that mean to you?

HENRY STEWART: I completely agree that you shouldn’t try to be the smartest person in the room. Your role as a leader should be to show how smart your people are.

However, I’m not entirely sure on the second part. The work of Liz Wiseman on Multipliers shows that protecting your people is often a diminishing behaviour. Sometimes, you may need to block and tackle for others, but it's even better if you are able to support the person to face whatever issue is taking place themselves.

TWEET THIS: Your role as a leader should be to show how smart your people are. -@happyhenry #EmployeeExperience #LeadershipTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog

My thanks to Henry for sharing his inspiring business insights about the employee experience and employer branding here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Management, Leadership, and Consensus

Few of us recall our first Tweet, our first Facebook post, or what our initial LinkedIn profile looked like. However, I vividly recall the first few folks I met thanks to social media. 

Eleven years ago, Doug Dickerson, a leadership blogger, trainer, author, and speaker first appeared here on my Blog in 2010, after I read his inspiring book, Leaders Without Borders: 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders. Doug has more than 30 years of experience in various leadership positions, and he strives to inspire others to become better equipped as leaders. He is a member of the John Maxwell Team and contributes to various newspapers, business journals, and websites around the world. Connect with Doug on Twitter at @DougDickersonSC, on Facebook at @CardinalPointLeadership, on Instagram at @DougDickerson1, and visit his site at

With leadership always a hot topic - especially in the covid era and the accompanying changes to the workplace and leadership, it's a good time for another Q&A with Doug, and highlights follow below.

QUESTION: Since the Covid-19 pandemic began a year ago, how has it impacted the role of leadership?
DOUG DICKERSON: Covid impacted leadership in many ways. Most notably, the way in which we as leaders interact with others. One of the hallmarks of leadership is relationships, and the way in which we establish and maintain them is through personal interaction. Because of Covid, everyone had to pivot and learn how to keep personal connections strong even though it was done via Zoom or other platforms.

QUESTION: How can a President/CEO become an organization's number one brand ambassador?
DOUG DICKERSON: I believe that the best way for a President/CEO to be the number one brand ambassador is by always keeping the vision and mission at the forefront of everything they say and do. It’s easy to lose sight of what your organization is all about if it's not being regularly communicated. This person must be proactive about reminding his or her people of who they are, what they do, and why it matters.

QUESTION: How do you differentiate between a leader and a manager?
DOUG DICKERSON: Someone once said that you manage things, you lead people. Good management requires good leadership. Managers oversee the work/projects of the organization and that requires people skills. Sadly, many wait too long to begin leadership training, and thus, put the organization at a disadvantage. Good management coupled with sound leadership skills can be of tremendous benefit to any organization.

QUESTION: When President Obama introduced Janet Yellen as the new Federal Reserve Chair in October 2013, he said, "Janet Yellen is a proven leader who knows how to build consensus, the kind of person who makes everybody around her better." What three characteristics do you think are necessary to create a consensus builder?
DOUG DICKERSON:A strong consensus builder, I believe, possesses these three qualities:
(1) They are inclusive. They bring many voices to the table and seek out the input of others.
(2) Trust. Without trust, it will be hard to build or sustain consensus in an organization.
(3) Communication. Smart leaders regularly communicate with their team members to build consensus and keep morale strong.

TWEET THIS: A strong consensus builder brings many voices to the table and seeks out the input of others. -@DougDickersonSC #LeadershipTips #EmployeeExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What’s your favorite leadership quote and why?
DOUG DICKERSON: My favorite leadership quote is by Lao Tzu: "A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves."

I like this quote so much because it speaks of a leader who empowers his people, puts them in the spotlight, and has them believe they did it all themselves - which is the primary aim of the leader. It speaks of a leader's humility, not seeking all the credit and glory for himself.

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?
DOUG DICKERSON: What this quote means to me is that we are all a part of something larger than ourselves, and it’s not about me. I want to add value to those around me, and the greatest way I can do that is by serving others.

TWEET THIS: We are all a part of something larger than ourselves, and it’s not about me. -@DougDickersonSC #LeadershipTips #EmployeeExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog

My gratitude and appreciation to Doug for again appearing on my Blog and for sharing his inspiring leadership insights.

Check out Doug's previous appearances on this Blog:

A Review of “Leaders Without Borders: 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders” (2010)

What Yahoo's Recent Scandal Says About Leadership (2012)

Tips to Develop Your Leadership Legacy (2018)

Leadership Is a Marathon, Not a 100-Yard Dash (2019)

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Would you pick up the dust ball – or just the quarter?

Over the last decade, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege of meeting a myriad of amazing marketing, branding, customer experience, leadership, and social media experts. Sam Horn is one of these internationally known experts and is based in Texas. We recently discussed leadership, corporate culture, and communication, and highlights follow Sam’s bio.

Sam Horn, CEO of the Intrigue Agency, helps people create respectful, collaborative, one-of-a-kind communications and projects that add value for all involved. Her commentary has been featured in The New York Times, Fast Company, Forbes, and more. Her presentations receive high evaluations for featuring original insights and stories, laugh-out-loud anecdotes, and actionable recommendations people use immediately to produce real-world results. She is known for her ability to help people create intriguing, purposeful, original communications that help them break-out instead of blend in. Her TEDx talk on INTRIGUE has nearly 500,000 views and shows how to connect with anyone anytime. Visit her websites at and and connect on Twitter @SamHornIntrigue.

QUESTION: You've written nine award-winning books published in 17 languages on a variety of business and communications topics. Which was your favorite to write, and why?

(Here's the link to Sam’s Amazon page:

SAM HORN: That’s like asking a parent to pick a favorite child! I would need to ask what topic someone was looking for. Based on the answer, I would then respond accordingly. For example, if someone wanted advice to create a perfect pitch, I would choose POP!: Create the Perfect Pitch, Title, and Tagline for Anything. If someone wanted to read about removing conflict from the workplace, I would choose Tongue Fu!: How to Deflect, Disarm, and Defuse Any Verbal Conflict. If someone wanted to read about office bullying, then I would answer with Take the Bully by the Horns. And that’s just three – there are more.

QUESTION: No one ever wants to work for a bully. One of your many speaking topics is bullying in the workplace, and you also include a bullying quiz on your website. What are some of the things employees can do if their boss is a bully, and if their workplace culture is toxic?

(Here’s the link to the bullying quiz on Sam’s website:

SAM HORN: A bully is someone who doesn’t want to cooperate and just wants to win. We cannot wait for this person to self-correct. Their entire house of cards is built on making everyone else wrong. Instead, we need to hold them accountable for their inappropriate and egregious behavior.

I always recommend that we document the behavior, so it is objective and not subjective. If someone has behaved in a bullying manner, go back to your desk, and write down at such and such a time, this person did XYZ. Documentation gives the decision-makers an opportunity to act.

QUESTION: You wrote a post entitled, “Never Again Give an Elevator Speech.” That seems like unusual advice. Please explain.

(Here’s the link to the post:

SAM HORN: Turn a one-way elevator speech (aka, monologue) into a two-way elevator connection (aka, dialogue). Want to introduce yourself in a way that isn’t confusing and that can actually lead to meaningful conversations and connections? Keep this question in mind: “What are the end results of what you do that we can see, smell, taste, and touch?”

Here’s an example: A conference attendee once approached me and said that he had difficulty explaining what he did. After a brief discussion, I realized that he made the software that makes it safe for us to buy things online. But I told him not to tell people that. Instead, I suggested that he ask people, “Have you, a friend or a family member ever bought anything online on eBay, Travelocity, or Amazon?” This question increased the odds that they’ve experienced what he does or know someone who has. They might respond, “Well, I never shop online. But my wife’s on Amazon all the time. She loves the free shipping.”

Now, confirm your connection by linking what you do to what they just said, “Well, our company makes the software that makes it safe for your wife to buy things on Amazon.” You’ve now made a connection – and in a much better way than with an elevator speech, aka monologue.

QUESTION: You wrote a post for Huffington Post entitled, "Don’t Just Lean in, Step Up" that was posted on January 22, 2014, but is just as timely today – seven years later. One quote stood out to me: "You do not serve when you step back." Can you please explain what you meant?

(Read the full article here:

SAM HORN: Think about sports for a moment. If you are a basketball player, do you want the ball to attempt a game-winning shot?

There are two types of people in this world: the type of person who steps up and says, “give me the ball,” and the type of person who steps back.

Leadership is very similar. Sharing accomplishments with all the highs and lows is not bragging. On the contrary, it teaches others how to take risks from real-life examples.

QUESTION: Which three leaders inspire you, and why?

SAM HORN: Here are lessons learned from three leaders I’ve worked for.

My first boss was at a restaurant where I worked as a waitress in South Carolina. I saw a quarter on the floor and picked it up, but there was a dust ball nearby that I left on the floor. I saw the dust ball, and he did too. I knew that I should have picked it up. The boss asked me why I did not pick it up. I learned a life lesson that day that has remained with me: it is imperative to do the right thing no matter who may be watching. Imagine if I had been a customer watching the quarter being picked up by an employee – but not the dust ball. I definitely would NOT have wanted to be that customer!

A boss of a tennis pro shop where I worked sat me down with someone I did not get along with. He said that we had to overcome our personality differences – that our problems with each other were negatively affecting the entire workplace. He said I was good at my job and that the other person was good at his job. But the two of us had to work together to figure out how to work in cooperation rather than in conflict. Perhaps, the inspiration for our working in cooperation to improve the situation was that we were told we were both valued.

Jim Petrus, General Manager of the Grand Wailea in Hawaii, was also an inspiration. In preparation for the hotel’s soft opening, I saw him on his hands and knees planting flowers and doing landscaping. I learned that it is imperative for employees to see top leaders actually doing work – if they want to earn respect and loyalty and create a positive corporate culture, as opposed to simply sitting in corner offices and earning large salaries.

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 that quote mean to you?

SAM HORN: We all have the opportunity and responsibility to be a good leader, to champion others’ accomplishments.

TWEET THIS: We all have the opportunity and responsibility to be a good leader. –@SamHornIntrigue #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding

My gratitude to Sam for appearing on my Blog and for sharing her inspiring insights.

Here’s the link to watch Sam’s TEDx Talk on YouTube:
“Intrigue – How to Create Interest and Connect with Anyone” (January 3, 2014)

Image Credit: Frank McKenna via Unsplash app.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Tips for Brand Storytelling, Respectful Workplaces, and Paradigm Shifts

Over the last 12 years, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege to meet a variety of amazing people from all over the world. One inspiring individual who I met on Twitter is Lillian Lake. We recently discussed brand marketing, the workplace, and leadership, and highlights follow below Lillian’s bio.

Living in the Western Mountains of Maine, Lillian Lake is a journalist for Sun Media Group. She uses her skills and broad knowledge of the importance of world compassion and equity as a Compassion Policy Consultant, Human Trafficking Educator, Caregiver/Youngcarer advocate, and food enthusiast. All of these areas reflect on the health of humanity as we work toward a world of peace and enlightenment. Lillian can be found online at and on Twitter @llake.

QUESTION: In your pinned Tweet and in your email signature, you include the following sentence, "When people tell us their story, we are to hold it as delicately as a flower, with as much honor and respect." How do you interpret this for a brand's story?
LILLIAN LAKE: Every customer and client come to a brand with a personal history, and while that history may seem directly related to a specific product, it's likely not the case. Take Campbell’s soup, for example. Generally, no one buys cans of soup for the taste. Instead, they believe it brings them comfort. Each spoonful represents an emotional memory that soothes the customer. Perhaps they are grieving, or work is difficult. Maybe they miss their grandma. Perhaps all of those reasons. Campbell’s gains trust by showing ordinary people living ordinary lives, looking for simple solutions. To honor and respect the customer, Campbell knows that "ordinary" represents safety and hope. The company serves generations, never straying from understanding why people buy their product – to be comforted, understood, and respected.

Before launching a product, successful companies listen. They empathize with what they hear. Then, with authenticity, they offer a solution that makes the customer feel better about themselves and their situation. They lean in because people remember when you listened and sought understanding.

I'm a grief facilitator. I see every week how people respond to knowing that I care about their story. It keeps them coming back until, eventually, they feel able to be on their own. You can be sure that when sharing their experience with other people, they will tell them, not necessarily in exact wording, that the center where we meet is empathetic and respects and honors their grief journey.

My quote is about honoring people where they are on their journey. That's what companies need to understand. That's what will give them longevity. They aren't selling a can of soup. They are selling an experience that makes people feel heard and valued.

Oh, and one more thing! Successful companies will use the message of honor and respect throughout their company because employees who feel they are seen and appreciated will stay for the long term and also recruit other team members looking for the same experience. Everyone wins. Everyone is part of the brand’s story.

TWEET THIS: Companies need to understand: they are selling an experience that makes people feel heard and valued. -@llake #CX #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: On your blog, you wrote that the buddy system is a good form of self-care: "The buddy system is a great source of strength to help us learn and remember the different aspects of self-care. What works for some doesn't work for us all; what works for us as individuals may not work for anyone else. A buddy or buddies helps remind us we are not alone, and we shouldn't give up." How can buddies help when there is strife in the workplace or when supervisors do not treat employees equally or fairly?
LILLIAN LAKE: If every organization, institution, or company created caring policies with compassion and reviewed them for compassionate ideas, we would have less strife, inequities, and lack of fairness. Buddying up would be a natural piece of caring workplace development. However, we are souls having human experiences. Strife and inequities are going to crop up.

Nearly everything I’ve read seems to focus on what the buddy system can do for an organization. I think that the buddy system should be about what it does for the well-being of the employee, and the company will benefit.

I want to focus this moment on the employee who is new to the company and locale and likely has additional relationships and struggles at home. Why does the latter matter in a buddy system? Because the best buddy relationship is going to pick up on cultural differences, language barriers, and those days when their buddy comes in with slumped shoulders and is extra quiet.

These are opportunities for caring conversations. People who feel cared for will feel safe speaking up. They’ll convey difficulties with language differences, time schedules that conflict with caring duties at home. They are likely to express how other people make them feel about how they dress or express their concerns. They feel connected and necessary. Empowered to create positive change within the organization pertaining to gender, age, religion, and other cultural issues. Much of the strife we have in the workplace comes from lack of understanding.

Without a buddy system, an individual may think of themselves as "the only one," which can lead to self-doubt and other mental health issues. That's not healthy for the individual or the organization. Humans thrive better together because we can offer each encouragement, understanding, and reminders that work isn't all there is to life. We must remember to enjoy life's joyful moments. The buddy system should not be relied upon to answer all problems, but rather as a tool to engage and empower, and to establish confidence and self-empowerment.

QUESTION: On your blog, you wrote that "2020 witnessed the power of people to help each other. Against all odds, people have willingly stepped up to take action to make the world a better place." Since the pandemic began in early 2020, what inspiring stories have stood out to you?
LILLIAN LAKE: I think of moments when people have made the most simple, kind gestures. I baked for first responders and checked on the elderly. I made them fresh bread, soup, casseroles, and cookies. Neighbors helping neighbors as though everyone is our neighbor.

Around the world, people offered to shop for other people and set up Zoom meetings to keep in touch or created lists of people to text "Hi. I remember you. Do you need anything?"

Teachers checked up on students who were in particularly trying situations. As a journalist, I wrote a story about a student who lacked access to reliable Internet. Libraries were closed, but this particular student would ride his bike to the library, even in bone-chilling conditions, to sit on the steps and use the library's Internet. The story was a catalyst for change.

When the local paper mill severed 231 workers soon after a mill explosion, the former employees leaned in and checked on each other. Local communities cooked, baked, shopped, and donated food to the newly unemployed. Friends randomly handed cash to those struggling due to COVID-imposed isolation with no place to go or people to be with.

People gave of themselves when they had little else but themselves to give. These were simple gestures from the heart. Each express what the heart feels when words fail. I see each as a bearer of light, lighting another's path so that they don't stumble and lose their way.

QUESTION: Your Twitter bio features three awesome directives: "Empower, Inspire, and Encourage." How can leaders embrace and execute these actions?
LILLIAN LAKE: Empower, inspire, and encourage are all action words. They require leaders to be positive, intentional, deliberate, and compassionate. They work very neatly together. Before action, consider them and how you are about to apply them. Listen for understanding and trust building.

We always have the opportunity to communicate better at the soul level. Our souls are of love, so when we feel "empowered, inspired, and encouraged," we react accordingly. Positive words create positive energy, and that's good for everyone.

When we empower, inspire, and encourage, we affirm that a person matters. For example, "Times are difficult; I need you to work hard." OR "I know you're doing your best in these difficult times. Is there anything I can do to lighten your load? What do you need?"

The first statement causes an employee to think, "I'm a failure. I can never do enough." It's about the "leader" not the employee. The more positive second statement recognizes the employee and their effort, leaving an opening for the employee to ask for help, which opens the conversation, shares information, and by assisting, affirms that the employee matters. I am a big fan of asking what a person needs, so that I'm already putting them in the place of power.

TWEET THIS: When we empower, inspire, and encourage, we affirm that a person matters. -@llake #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: How do you recommend becoming a paradigm shifter in the workplace?
LILLIAN LAKE: Here are my recommendations:
(1) To be effective, the first step is to know self-love and practice self-care. When we love ourselves, including understanding ourselves and who we are, we can better understand our surroundings and everything and everyone in those surroundings. We can't effectively create change if we don't know why and how things need to change. As I like to say, "Change without thought is not change."
(2) Stay rested and balanced from within and without. Tired people are cranky people who can't think clearly and react lovingly.
(3) Develop strong communication skills. Communication isn't just about words. Communication is about taking information, transforming it, and transmitting it while being a solid cultural translator.
(4) Be with those who encourage you and support you. Support should include people who will tell you when you're wrong and offer suggestions without judgment. Likewise, develop trust and faith with co-workers. Be authentic. Be quiet and listen.
(5) Research. Know your subject but also keep an open mind and update it! Remember that truth is "always somewhere in the middle."
(6) Finally, don't rush in. Observe, don't absorb. Respond, don't react. Know your mission and goal.

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

Read more about the stories referenced in Question #3:

Image Credit: Lillian Lake.

Monday, November 8, 2021

The Importance of Brand Identity

Over the last 12 years, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege to meet a variety of amazing marketing, leadership, and customer experience experts. One of these experts is Susan Friesen from British Columbia, Canada. We recently had a discussion about marketing, and highlights follow below Susan’s bio.

Susan Friesen is the founder of eVision Media. In her capacity in that role, she recognizes that many business owners waste too much valuable time, money, and energy either hiring the wrong people to do their website and online marketing or trying to do it all themselves...and getting nowhere as a result. When working with clients, she has a proven, personalized, multi-pronged strategy that covers all of the critical aspects that must be done correctly to avoid these costly lessons. Susan can be found online at; on Instagram at; on Facebook at; and on Twitter @eVisionMedia.

QUESTION: In one of your Blog posts, you wrote about brand identity. What do you consider the five most important elements when creating a strong brand identity?

(Read the post here:

SUSAN FRIESEN: Creating a strong brand identity must first start with understanding and defining what your unique brand identity should be. Without that clarity, it's hard to be consistent with your brand presence and attract your ideal target market.

To help create your unique identity, begin with understanding your ideal target audience. You want to make sure your brand resonates with them.

Next is to get clear on what kind of value you bring to the table. This value will help convince your target audience to spend money on what you are offering.

Then you want to get clear on who your competitors are. Knowing the choices your ideal target audience have helps you better understand what they are facing when determining who to spend their money on.

And to help you be their obvious choice, the next step is to define your USP, your Unique Selling Proposition. That clarity will help you position your brand in a way that is the obvious choice between you and your competitors.

And lastly, develop a brand "voice" where everything said, written, and created should emulate your brand identity.

TWEET THIS: Develop a brand "voice" where everything said, written, and created should emulate your brand identity. -@eVisionMedia #BrandTip #BrandExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: In one of your Blog posts, you wrote about calls to action. Why is a CTA so important in marketing materials, email marketing, and on social media?

(Read the post here:

SUSAN FRIESEN: In the world of marketing, sometimes we need to get right back to the basics. And when it comes to a call to action, those basics are to tell people what they should do next. What may be obvious to you, is most likely not obvious to them. So we need to lead them to the next step by offering them a prompt on what action they can take. Whether it's to make a purchase, sign up for a free giveaway for lead generation, or schedule an appointment, we need to plant the seed so they will act on the suggestion if they're ready to move forward.

QUESTION: Since March 2020, which brands have stood out by providing excellent customer service during the covid pandemic?
SUSAN FRIESEN:I'm a big proponent of supporting small businesses, so instead of sharing my thoughts on big brands and how they dealt with the pandemic, these businesses were just as impressive:

(1) The Broken Whisk restaurant in Agassiz, BC ( went above and beyond in response to their forced shut down. Instead of going home and waiting things out, they knew they needed to serve their clients who still had to eat but were also facing financial challenges. They created a select menu of gourmet meals and sold them for only $5. The orders were taken in advance and picked up on a specific day of the week.

(2) A local grocery store, Save-on-Foods (, ramped up their home delivery services in a big way. Not only did they adhere to all safety precautions during the pandemic, they also provided a valuable service for those who couldn't (or wouldn’t) leave their house. The drivers we had were kind, courteous, and got to know us as a customer, which was greatly appreciated.

(3) Malary's Fashion in Cloverdale BC ( knew her customers would be wary of going clothes shopping but also didn't want to order online, so store owner Yvonne Hogenes created a personalized shopping experience where customers could book an appointment and have the store to themselves while experiencing individual attention for their needs.

I could go on as there are plenty of examples of businesses that stepped up to the plate and went above and beyond to serve their customers in a safe and compassionate way. We at eVision Media offered our clients interest-free extended payment plans to help get them through the crisis but still be able get their online presence updated to accommodate the rush for online sales.

QUESTION: What's your favorite brand, and why?
SUSAN FRIESEN: It's tough to specify just one brand, but I am quite loyal to a Canadian brand, The Bay. They are Canada's oldest brand and continue to grow and evolve to best meet their customer's needs. They always have exactly what I need at affordable prices with exceptional customer service, and you can't go wrong with that!

(Check out The Bay at

QUESTION: Many people remember the famous OREO tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl. With that in mind, what's your favorite social media marketing campaign?
SUSAN FRIESEN: Dove has been doing an amazing job in their real beauty body image ad campaigns, and I came across one earlier this year where they put a focus on how selfie edits are done to highlight the dangers of social media.

(Watch it online at:

QUESTION: What do you think will be the central focus of our marketing discussions a year from now?
SUSAN FRIESEN: I hope it's to continue to focus on the empathetic marketing model. More than ever, consumers are wanting to be heard and understood and not be "sold" at. The more businesses can embrace the model of compassion, kindness, understanding and giving, the better this world will be.

TWEET THIS: More than ever, consumers are wanting to be heard and understood and not be "sold" at. -@eVisionMedia #BrandTip #CX #DebbieLaskeysBlog

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

Image Credit: Wordswag app.

Monday, November 1, 2021

Looking at Leadership through a Lens of Balance and Potential

Over the last 12 years, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege to meet a variety of amazing marketing, leadership, and customer experience experts. One of these experts is Jennifer Tsang from San Jose, California. We recently had a discussion about marketing and leadership, and highlights follow below Jennifer’s bio.

Jennifer Tsang is an ICF-Certified Leadership Coach who works with motivated individuals, leaders, and executives as they seek to discover and define their purpose. She strongly believes that conversations can transform lives. Jennifer loves working with leaders who are eager to develop more mindfulness to be able to engage teams, empower themselves and others to discover and define their purpose. She serves her clients by combining her two years of professional coaching experience, 20 years working with leaders at a fortune 500 tech company, and over 15 years of experiential work in therapy. Her website is; connect on Twitter @jenntsang; on LinkedIn at; and on her YouTube channel, InTheLead:

QUESTION: On your website, you wrote, "Leadership isn’t only reserved for C-Level executives at large corporate companies. Instead, it can be used as a powerful tool for everyday people to reach higher success, personally and professionally, helping you discover and define your purpose." How do you recommend people who aren’t in a leadership position, or don’t have a fancy leadership title, make a difference?

JENNIFER TSANG: A great leader is someone who can nudge you in such a way that it throws you off balance. The only way to grow and transform is to continually put yourself in situations to stretch forward. Anyone can do this if they have the courage and commitment to being fully present with another.

Some of the best leaders I have worked with were individuals, who didn’t manage teams, but had a way of connecting and building rapport with others to complete projects or just empower them to bring out the highest potential. Great leaders have this ability and can challenge and shift something or removes a roadblock for you to define and discover your purpose.

The ultimate gift we can bring to those around us is to be fully present so that we can listen, reflect and then act in a way that makes someone’s day better.

TWEET THIS: A great leader is someone who can nudge you in such a way that it throws you off balance. -@JennTsang #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: Since the Covid-19 pandemic began in early 2020, how has it impacted the role of leadership?
JENNIFER TSANG: The pandemic was a great reminder of how fragile life can be. Suddenly, we’re living at work, kids are at home, lockdowns, and uncertainty. 2020 was a great reminder that nothing is certain, and we have very little control over our own experience. Over the last year, I’ve noticed that many find it difficult to process the gravity of the suffering and, in that, there have been many opportunities for leadership to impact lives. We’ve seen this across many companies, announcing paid mental health time off, flexible work schedules and more support for individuals and teams. In my opinion, the pandemic has served as a doorway to a new way of leadership, which is centered around courage, empathy, compassion, and people.

I think we have seen many leaders really lean into the uncertainty with Covid-19 by adjusting their policies and creating more space for the conversations that are important to the well-being of the entire organization. I am a part of an organization that responded well to the pandemic, implementing new policies of mental health days off, facilitated conversations around important topics and revising work from home policies.

I think it’s remarkable the shift we have seen across many industries over the last 12-18 months that has been more inclusive, supportive, and empowering for employees. It has taken tremendous courage and leadership to have the difficult conversations and to make moves which put people ahead of profits.

TWEET THIS: The pandemic has served as a doorway to a new way of leadership, which is centered around courage, empathy, compassion, and people. -@JennTsang #Leadership #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: How can a President/CEO become an organization's number one brand ambassador?
JENNIFER TSANG: The CEO of an organization can become the number one brand ambassador by living and supporting the brand in everything that they do. To define the value of the brand and ensure people connect to it. This also includes the people who work for the brand. I see many executives that like to talk about what we all should be doing, but aren’t truly embodying those values. Being a brand ambassador means representing the whole, not just the part you want people to see.

A standout example of leadership I’ve seen recently is the remote work policy released by General Motors led by Mary Barra. When I read the new policy, I thought to myself, this is actually what workers need – the flexibility to ‘Work Appropriately.’

Why this is so important is because it acknowledges that we’re not all in the same boat. Some workers are able to thrive in a remote environment, and if their position doesn’t require them to be in the office, it makes sense for them to be remote. There have been many great examples of tremendous leadership over the course of the pandemic. The real stand out examples of leadership will be seen over the next year as we transition back to a pre-pandemic work environment. Stand-out examples of leadership do not end once the pandemic is over, but will define leadership for years to come.

QUESTION: What is your least favorite leadership buzzword, and why?
JENNIFER TSANG: Empathy. I feel like this word has been high jacked in many different spheres and we’ve gotten away from the true meaning of it. Empathy is not something that we do, it is something that we are. Even though it is my least favorite buzzword, I do feel the true essence of empathy is the most valuable leadership skill that leaders can possess. It’s not necessarily something that you can teach or force yourself into doing because “you have to,” rather it’s the ability to develop a deep rapport with someone, which is vital to a more meaningful life.

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 that mean to you?
JENNIFER TSANG: What this means to me is that leadership isn’t about being the expert or having all the answers, instead having the courage to help clear the path for another to realize their full potential. It feels like an act of service because the assumption is that the person is whole, capable, resourceful.

TWEET THIS: Leadership isn’t about being the expert or having all the answers, instead clear the path for another to realize their full potential. -@JennTsang #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog

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

For more regarding Jennifer's response to question #3, read "GM's New Remote Work Plan for Emmployees Is Ambiguous, Yet Surprisingly Simple: Work Appropriately"

Image Credit: Eddie Kopp via Unsplash.