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.

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