Monday, June 20, 2022

A Tale of Marketing, Storytelling, and Community


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

Based in Vancouver, Canada, Christine is a strategist who helps young marketers get comfortable promoting themselves by creating marketing portfolios that supercharge their careers. As a marketing leader, she's rebranded companies, launched new SaaS products, written sales copy, and developed long-term strategies. She loves sharing insights that help people open new doors and showcase who they are.  

QUESTION: In your pinned Tweet on Twitter, you provide a great thread of nine things to include in a marketing portfolio. Can you provide a quick recap?

(Check out the full thread on Twitter:

CHRISTINE JOHNSON: In 2015, I met someone during a layover at an airport and was offered a job at a marketing agency because I had a marketing portfolio published/ready to go. Early in my career, building my portfolio was really difficult because I didn't know how to position myself or my accomplishments. There were no guides to help me navigate. Flash forward a few years/career moves, and I'm now confident on what I need to showcase for clients to want to hire me.

In early 2021 (with an audience of 500-ish), I shared a Twitter thread with tips on what to include in a marketing portfolio and realized that other people are struggling with the same problems I struggled with (this thread has been viewed 250k+ times). I want to be able to offer them support/guidance on how to create a great portfolio to make it easier to land an interview and find new clients because this is an industry-wide problem that both hiring managers and celebrities struggle with.
We're all taught to keep a win folder, but no one is really taught WHY they need to continue to build their portfolio. I see this as an industry gap and want to help change things so that it's easier for people to find their next opportunity.

QUESTION: What exactly is a WIN FOLDER?
CHRISTINE JOHNSON: A win folder is where you keep emails or snippets of work that showcase success from your projects. This could be a nice accolade from a client or someone in a different department. Or, it could be a screenshot of analytics data that shows what kind of results you generated (page views from Google analytics, click-through data from Twitter analytics, etc.). It's nice if you have something visual, but it doesn't necessarily have to be a piece of creative such as a graphic, video, poster, etc.

You want to keep this current and continue to look for things to add to it over time (you're trying to showcase your own growth.) Having this info on hand can help leverage new positions or brighten a bad day.
To create a folder for your wins, start by going through your inbox and message history (anywhere you can find notes/feedback on your work), and take screenshots. Write down any compliments you remember. Go back and look through projects you are proud of. It can feel a bit intimidating to get start,ed but once you get going, it's a fun project that pushes you to reflect and think more about where you'd like to go.

QUESTION: What's your favorite aspect of marketing?
CHRISTINE JOHNSON: My favorite aspect of marketing is storytelling. I love finding new ways to capture people's interests and showcase their passions.

QUESTION: What three marketing books should every marketer read, and why?
CHRISTINE JOHNSON: Here are three:

(1) Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger: There's something about the storytelling that really draws me to this book over and over again. I loved reading about the restaurant in New York called 'Please Don't Tell.' I can't bring myself to find out just how much their secret location was rumor or real for customers, because I like the whimsy of the whole thing.

(2) Marketing Outrageously by Jon Spoelstra: This book was recently recommended to me by Brett Rudy (@BKRUDY on Twitter). The lessons are both memorable and simple. I'm not a sports marketing guy, but I can't stop thinking about how the author gave out jock straps as part of a guerilla marketing campaign and the way he shaped sports marketing in general. The lessons are great for any and all types of marketers. Even the packaging of the book stands out. I mean, how can you forget the cover when you see a sumo wrestler slam dunking a basketball mid jump?!

(3) Junior: Writing Your Way Ahead In Advertising by Thomas Kemeny: This is a copywriting book that is one part story, one part lesson, and (if you're brave enough), one part writing exercise. It pushed me to rethink how I approach writing.

QUESTION: What's your fave marketing buzzword or term, and why?
CHRISTINE JOHNSON: Community. It feels like we're moving in the right direction by focusing on community and how to bring people together around a common problem/goal. The olden days of marketing, where everything was exaggerated or gimmicky, seem to be falling behind us (thankfully). I still like guerilla marketing campaigns that capture your attention, but can see that focusing on the audience and how to build a community is what will have more impact long term. The Internet is evolving (some are calling it WEB3) and that means our expectations are getting higher for when and how information is delivered to us as consumers.

TWEET THIS: Focusing on the audience and how to build a community is what will have more impact long term. ~@CJ_250marketing #MarketingTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What's THE marketing buzzword or term that annoys you the most, and why?
CHRISTINE JOHNSON: Growth hack. There are no shortcuts. You have to do the work.

QUESTION: Who do you admire in the marketing arena, and why?
CHRISTINE JOHNSON: Seth Godin is a great writer and I admire that he's consistently putting out daily blog posts; and Christina Garnett revived a hashtag on Twitter, and over the past year, has helped me learn about the value of community (and how that can shape your entire marketing strategy).

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

Image Credits: Debbie Laskey and Twitter.

Check out Christine's links:
Article referenced in first question:

Monday, June 13, 2022

The Best Leaders Remove Roadblocks

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

Michelle Gibbings is the workplace expert. Internationally recognized, she is the award-winning author of three books and is welcomed on stages globally to help inspire leaders, teams, and organizations to create successful workplaces. Her mantra is simple: help people thrive, and progress is accelerated. Visit her website ( and connect on LinkedIn (, Instagram (@michellegibbings), and on Twitter @michellegibbing.

QUESTION: You wrote a book entitled, "Bad Boss, What to Do If You Work for One, Manage One or Are One." According to the book's description, "Regardless of your role – be it an employee, a boss or leader, the boss's boss or a leader of leaders – this award-winning book encourages you to play your part. It challenges you to examine your role in the dynamic and to own what you CAN do to make relationships work." What are the three most important take-aways from the book?
MICHELLE GIBBINGS: We've all worked for a bad boss and perhaps, at times, been a bad boss. Consequently, your approach to the situation depends on your role – be it employee, boss or boss' boss. Whatever your role, the book encourages you to critically examine the context, challenge your perspective, and outline what you can do to shift the situation.

Firstly, you assess what is going on, your impact, and the potential cause. Next, you consider the options given the circumstances and your role in the relationship. After that, you implement your approach while living your values and ensuring you take care of your well-being. In the final phase, you reflect on your progress (or lack, thereof) and determine any next steps, especially if it's not going according to plan.

QUESTION: Years ago, one of my bosses told me that I should "lower my expectations" regarding the work product completed by one of the employees I supervised. How would you have responded?
MICHELLE GIBBINGS: Context matters, so it's never a simple answer. There are many variables to consider. I would want to understand your team member's level of experience, capability to do the role, and aptitude to learn. Is their performance a competency or capability gap, or is it behavioral? How much time has been devoted to upskilling, and how long have they been in the role? It's also essential to challenge yourself regarding the expectations you set on performance and outcomes based on the level of resourcing in the team, other priorities and workload pressures.

All of this doesn't mean you set the bar low for your team, but it does mean you are realistic about what's possible given the context in which the team members are working. If there's a gap between your expectations and your boss' expectations about performance, I would want to understand why. If they are downgrading their expectations, what's driving that shift, and what does that mean for the team's overall performance and objectives? So, I would start by getting curious and asking lots of questions.

QUESTION: What is the most memorable thing you've learned from a boss, and how has that lesson shaped your career?
MICHELLE GIBBINGS: I've been fortunate to have worked with some fantastic leaders throughout my career. One of the best bosses from early in my corporate career said to me one day: "Michelle, I get that you're ambitious and that you want to do a good job. The work's important, but no one will remember the work you did when you move on. The only thing they'll remember is how you made them feel."

Those comments shifted my focus. The more I connected with my team, the more I understood them and their needs, and vice versa. Our working relationship improved; we got more done as a team and were collectively more successful because I put them first. It was a reminder that being a great leader takes work, but above all else, it takes a desire to want to do better.

TWEET THIS: Being a great leader takes work, but above all else, it takes a desire to want to do better. ~@michellegibbing #LeadershipTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: Which leaders (from history or business) inspire you, and why?
MICHELLE GIBBINGS: I am an avid history buff, so it's challenging to narrow down to three because there is so much we learn from seeing how leaders of the past have confronted challenges and embraced opportunities. What I am often reminded of when I read biographies and autobiographies is the complexity of humans. Leaders are not one-dimensional, and some of the character traits that made them successful in a specific context also meant they were difficult to work for in a different context. On a practical level, the leaders who have most inspired me and most changed how I lead are the leaders I worked with during my career.

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 message mean to you?
MICHELLE GIBBINGS: I often say, "If you think you're the smartest person in the room, you need to find another room." My comment is about encouraging leaders to accept they don't hold the licence on being right, and it's essential to recognise the impact their positional power has on how they make decisions. While I get the intent behind the concept of 'blocking or tackling', I find the language problematic because it has undercurrents of an adversarial approach to relationship building. For me, the best leaders help their team members navigate organizational challenges and remove roadblocks. They play a crucial role in assisting their understanding of organizational power structures and help them determine the best approach to building relationships with challenging stakeholders.

TWEET THIS: The best leaders help their team members navigate organizational challenges and remove roadblocks. ~@michellegibbing #LeadershipTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog

My gratitude to Michelle for sharing her inspiring leadership insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Pixabay via Wordswag.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

My Amazing Dinner Party of 15


With Queen Elizabeth II’s unique accomplishment of a 70-year reign and the Platinum Jubilee celebrations now a part of history, I wondered what it would be like to enjoy afternoon tea with Her Royal Highness. Then I began wondering about having dinner with her, which led me to think about the question some ask during an interview, “If you could dine with five people, who would you choose, and why?” Upon much thought, my dinner table would include 15 seats plus me, so here are the 15 people in my dinner party.

Queen Elizabeth II: No words are really needed as to why she would be a guest at my table, but I would definitely ask her about all the Prime Ministers she has worked with – especially Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. I would also ask her about her many international travels and ask which was her favorite trip during her 70-year reign.

Bertie Green: Born in the 1870’s, my great-grandmother passed away 16 years before I was born, but my middle name was given to me in her memory. In an era when women remained in the background, she was a passionate supporter for women’s equality, who, in the early years of the 20th century, fought for women’s suffrage. She met with groups of women and advocated for women’s right to vote.

Sandra Day O’Connor: As the first female Supreme Court Justice, O’Connor is a hero in the fight for equality for women. She graduated in the top ten percent in her law school class at Stanford University but was unable to be hired for any law firm job due to her gender. She found employment as a deputy county attorney in San Mateo, California, after she agreed to work for no salary and no office and shared space with a secretary. I was lucky to see her in person in a Q&A many years after she retired, but the ability to speak with her about her experiences on a one-on-one basis would be priceless.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: As the second female Supreme Court Justice, Ginsburg was an inspiring advocate for women’s equality. While her politics were diametrically opposed to Justice O’Connor’s, the two demonstrated how two people with different perspectives could work together harmoniously. Later in life, Ginsburg became a cultural icon known simply by her initials, RBG, yet her ability to inspire never wavered.

Susan B. Anthony:
According to the National Women’s History Museum, “Champion of temperance, abolition, the rights of labor, and equal pay for equal work, Susan Brownell Anthony became one of the most visible leaders of the women’s suffrage movement. Along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, she traveled around the country delivering speeches in favor of women’s suffrage…In 1872, she was arrested for voting. She was fined $100 for her “crime.” This made many people angry and brought national attention to the suffrage movement.” I would ask her to talk about her inspiration for the amazing work she did.

Eleanor Roosevelt: While she was the longest-serving first lady of the United States during her husband Franklin Roosevelt’s four terms, she was also a diplomat (appointed by President Truman to the United Nations). Beginning in 1936, she wrote a daily syndicated newspaper column called “My Day.” She was a sought-after speaker and advocated for child welfare, housing reform, and equal rights for women and racial minorities. I would ask her to talk about her inspiration for the amazing work she did.

Jackie Robinson: Since I come from a family of Dodgers fans (both Brooklyn and Los Angeles), Robinson is known as a hero for his baseball abilities as well as his off-field personality and composure. He was the first black player in major league baseball and, while the Dodgers family supported him in the late 1940’s, others in the baseball world did not. I would ask him about how the world of baseball changed from 1947 to when he retired in 1956 – as well as his thoughts about the annual Jackie Robinson Day, when all major league baseball players celebrate the date of his debut every April 15.

Shirley Chisholm: I have always held Chisholm in high regard. She was the first black woman elected to the U.S. Congress and represented New York's 12th Congressional District for seven terms from 1969 to 1983. Her quote, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair,” has been front and center in my life as I have taken risks, “leaned in” as Sheryl Sandberg suggests, and given 110 percent. There have been times when the risks paid off as well as times when they have not – and I would discuss both with her.

Hillary Clinton: As the first female presidential candidate for a major American political party, Clinton’s experience cannot and will not be repeated. She set the stage for all who follow – and for the woman who eventually becomes the first woman president. Since much of her experiences were documented in her book entitled, What Happened, I would ask her to pick any highlights she wished to share. My questions would follow.

Meryl Streep: Her film career has spanned decades and shows no sign of slowing down. From her depiction of a divorced mom in “Kramer vs. Kramer” to a mother with an impossible choice in “Sophie’s Choice” to a terrible boss in “The Devil Wears Prada” to famous suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst in “Suffragette,” Streep has demonstrated why she’s the actress every director wants. I would want to discuss these roles and more and ask which she’s enjoyed most.

Eero Saarinen: A fan of architecture, I would want to discuss some of Saarinen’s most unique works, such as, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the TWA Terminal at JFK Airport in New York, and Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. Saarinen’s life was cut much too short, so he did not see everything he designed come to fruition, but I would want to discuss his entire body of work with him.

Claude Monet: A fan of art, and especially Impressionist art, I would want to compliment Monet on his collection of art. I would tell him that I visited his home in Giverny in the rain but could almost see him there painting. I would also tell him that I visited many museums in France to see his work. I would want to discuss his technique and favorite pieces with him.

Barry Manilow: This singer-songwriter and entertainer has been around for decades. Sitting at a piano, he would add some music to the dinner party – all tunes that everyone would recognize and possibly sing along to. I’d want to discuss his favorite songs with him.

Lucille Ball: One of the first female comedians to make her mark in Hollywood, Lucille Ball has become an icon. Her sense of timing was flawless, and she never cared who got the laugh, as long as the audience laughed. Her show “I Love Lucy” has become timeless, as have many storylines from the show. I’d want to discuss her thoughts when the episodes featuring the little chicks and burning nose were filmed before LIVE audiences - and many more.

Walt Disney: Developer of the modern American theme park, Walt Disney branded family entertainment in a way that no one before or after has improved upon. When you walk through the entrance of a Disney park, you have a special feeling of happiness that you experience nowhere else. Sure, there are numerous other Disney creations, such as, animated cartoons, movies, retail stores, clothing, etc., but it is the theme parks that most people associate with Walt Disney. I’d want to discuss the evolution of the theme parks with him.

Would you want to be a waiter, chef, or sommelier at my dinner party? Who would you choose to dine with if you could choose anyone from history or the modern era?

Image Credit: Haley Lawrence via Unsplash.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Social Media Is a Way to Lift Up Others


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

Noel Dávila has been writing for online publications since 2008. Before moving over to editorial, Noel had a decade-long career in the advertising industry. Currently, Noel is finishing up work on his first novel. Visit his website at and connect on Twitter @noeldavila.

QUESTION: You describe your strengths in your Twitter bio as "copywriting, content, storytelling, and professional growth." What are your favorite things to tweet and why?
NOEL DAVILA: I love to tweet anything that will resonate with my audience. That may seem simplistic, but it’s a constant challenge. After finding my niche, I’ve stuck mostly to copywriting insights, stories from agency life, and platitudes about growth and development. Threads are also a big part of my content strategy, and they’ve served me well. I also love to include photos I’ve taken with some of my tweets; I find that adding a visual component makes the content stand out in people's timelines.

QUESTION: Your pinned tweet on Twitter is "Lift up others around you. Their success is your success." Who inspired that quote? A boss? A family member? Please elaborate on the inspiration for that amazing quote.
NOEL DAVILA: The inspiration for that thought came from legendary ad man, David Ogilvy and his quote: “If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.” I feel that by helping other people, I grow in the process as well. Also, since I’ve had help from mentors through the years, it’s incumbent upon me to pay it forward.

TWEET THIS: Lift up others around you. Their success is your success. ~@noeldavila #SMTips #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What’s your favorite social platform, and why?
NOEL DAVILA: Twitter! Without a doubt. I’ve been tweeting since 2009, and during that time, I’ve made great friends on Twitter. I’ve also learned so much because the platform gives me access to some extraordinary thinkers and writers. Fortunately, I’ve been able to leverage my social media presence to further my career, so it’s been a win-win.

QUESTION: Many CEOs and leadership teams question how to track ROI when the topic of social media is raised and marketing teams pitch moving forward with the implementation of a social media marketing strategy. What social metrics do you measure - why, and how often?
NOEL DAVILA: I measure impressions and engagement. With impressions, I see how many people were exposed to my content and whether I’m leveraging the algorithm successfully to my advantage. With engagement, I can gauge the quality of the content. If the engagement rate drops off, I know that kind of content is not resonating. Once I find something that works, I double down on it. I’m still learning, so it’s essentially a work in progress.

QUESTION: Many people remember the famous OREO tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl. With that in mind, what's your favorite social campaign?
NOEL DAVILA: I’m a big fan of Apple, mostly because they’ve transcended the brand designation and become a lovemark. Also, I just love their products. With that said, I’ve always been in awe of their advertising, a lot of it spearheaded by Lee Clow. Their ‘Shot on iPhone’ campaign was beyond brilliant, mostly because it empowered consumers and gave them a sense of belonging. If you manage to do one of those things, it’s extraordinary. But to do both? That’s phenomenal advertising right there.

Read more about Lovemarks here:

My thanks to Noel for sharing his inspiring social media insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Pawel Czerwinski via Unsplash.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Five Personal Branding Tips from Queen Elizabeth II

As the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth countries, and the entire world celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee from June 2 to June 5, there are five personal branding tips we can all learn from Her Majesty.

First, a little context and history. According to JM Bullion, “Queen Elizabeth II was born April 21, 1926, in England. Her parents were Prince Albert, Duke of York, and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. When her uncle Edward abdicated the throne, her father became King George, and Elizabeth, who had no plans of ascension, was heir to the throne. By 1951, her father’s health began a sharp decline, and in 1952, he died. On February 6, 1952, the 25-year-old Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor acceded to the throne. Her reign has become the longest reign in history, spanning two centuries, ensuring a link between generations that see her as an enduring symbol of stability and tradition.”

According to Forbes, “Under the gold and the pomp, behind the palaces, the brooches, tiaras and the hats, everyone feels that Elizabeth is a woman almost like the others, loving country life more than anything, with her old scarves, her dogs, and her family, even if a little dysfunctional. Like everyone else, she has faced ups and downs, joys, and dramas, approaching the vicissitudes with exemplary self-control. Her Platinum Jubilee celebrations will be, given her frailty, her last big show of pomp, pageantry, lavishness and ceremony.”

So, what can we learn about personal branding from, perhaps, the most famous woman on the planet? Check out these five tips.

The meaning behind the slogan is why it is loved. “Keep Calm” means to remain level-headed in times of crisis. “Carry On” means to act normal and rise above the bad times. Originally featured in posters created by the British government during World War II, the phrase has been embraced since it was rediscovered in the early 2000’s.

Queen Elizabeth maintains a confident exterior. She does not show fear or uncertainty. Wherever she goes, whether to a charity function in London or on an international journey, she presents an appearance of professionalism and dedication to her role.

The Queen leads a Commonwealth of 54 nations. She has a ceremonial seat in Parliament. She meets with the British Prime Minister on a regular basis. And she has met with countless international leaders including 12 American Presidents. She has set an exemplary example of teamwork and collaboration.

The Queen always wears bright colors and memorable hats. In this way, she stands out in a crowd. While this is done for security purposes, it also allows fans and constituents to easily see her to wave and show their support.

The Queen champions the same causes and patronages and attends the same events every year. People know that they can count on her support, her kind words, her appearances, and her in-person smiles.


The Queen knows how she wants to tell her story. Over the last 70 years, she has controlled her narrative. There have been black marks on the Royal Family including the breakup of Prince Charles’ and Prince Andrew’s marriages, but there have also been highlights, such as, four generations alive at one time representing the line of succession (Prince Charles, Prince William, and Prince George). While she has a “Royal Palace” that provides statements to the press/media (and many of us do not have this public relations luxury), we can still control our own narrative.

What other personal branding tips can we learn from this inspiring leader?

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey via Keep Calm app.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

The Importance of Branding

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

Anthony Gaenzle is CEO and Founder of Gaenzle Marketing. He is a two-time published author and digital marketing influencer. He has helped brands both large and small grow and thrive across multiple industries through strategic marketing campaigns and leveraging a powerful network of influencers. Several of Anthony's links are provided at the end of this Q&A.

QUESTION: You wrote a book entitled THE BUSINESS OF BRANDING YOU. What three personal branding tips would you give everyone?
ANTHONY GAENZLE: The biggest part of building a high-impact personal brand is relationship building. Networking, in other words. Seek to build a network of like-minded people, and work together to help one another grow. It's amazing what you can achieve when you focus on growing your network.

Help others grow. Focus first on adding value to others without asking in return. For some, this may sound counter-intuitive, but as people begin to see that you're genuine and you truly want to help, they'll begin to help you.

Finally, clean up your digital presence and put together a strategic vision for the story you want to tell about your personal brand. Understand your audience, and craft a story that appeals to them. Be consistent, be present, and be active online. Find ways to help, and your personal brand will thrive.

TWEET THIS: The biggest part of building a high-impact personal brand is relationship building. ~@AnthonyGaenzle #PersonalBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What first attracted you to the specialty of brand marketing?
ANTHONY GAENZLE: Brands, whether personal or for your business, have a story to tell. I have a passion for digging in and finding that intersection between strategy and creativity to create a compelling story that helps get across your value in the market and grabs attention.

QUESTION: What is your fave branding quote, and why?
ANTHONY GAENZLE: The "Think Different" slogan from Apple always stands out to me. We all want the newest, the best. We want something innovative, and we want to tell our friends about it. Apple thought differently about the PC, they thought differently about the phone, and it came across in the popularity of their products. People wanted to stand out and get away from the same old thing.  

QUESTION: Who are your three fave people, from history or the modern era, whose personal brands stand out, and why?
ANTHONY GAENZLE: From the content marketing space, Joe Pulizzi has built an amazing personal brand. From founding the Content Marketing Institute to now launching The Tilt, Pulizzi has essentially positioned himself as the godfather of content marketing. The orange suit was a great touch. If you work in any area of marketing, you've heard of Pulizzi at some point. And you may have had the pleasure of attending Content Marketing World, listening to his podcast, or engaging with Pulizzi on social media.

Ann Handley is another one. She founded Marketingprofs, boasts the bragging rights to being the first Chief Content Officer in history, and really has some amazing insights. If you aren't signed up for Handley's email newsletter, do so now. It's great.

A colleague of mine, Ryan Biddulph, has carved out a niche in the blogging space and created a solid personal brand. Framing his blog, Blogging From Paradise, as the tales of a digital nomad blogging and traveling the globe, Ryan has built a huge following and gained tons of respect. One of the best things about how he has built his brand is that he focuses first on helping others. He goes out of his way to lift others up, and it's paid dividends as word-of-mouth from other bloggers and marketing pros have created a ton of social proof.

QUESTION: What are your three fave brands, and why?
ANTHONY GAENZLE: I love the Clemson University brand. I may be a bit biased, but they really have a brand that welcomes people into the family. Whether it's academics or athletics, you really feel like you're part of something. From Dabo Swinney's "Little Ole Clemson" comment to the friendly brand persona the school has built, it's really impressive.

Disney has always been a favorite of mine. It's just so impressive that it all started with a sketch of a mouse and turned into such a force that's recognized all over the world. It's amazing how the Disney brand captures the hearts of people of all ages. You see 90-year-olds smiling just as wide as 9-year-olds when they talk about Disney. I worked there for several years, and they do such a wonderful job of making each and every cast member a part of the brand. It's cheesy to say, but it truly is magical.

Marvel has really developed an amazing brand. From the pages of a comic book to a worldwide cinematic sensation, it's amazing to see how the Marvel Cinematic Universe pulled together an ongoing, cohesive story that keeps growing in strength. This is an excellent lesson for brands. Consistency and storytelling are keys to growth, and no one does it better than Marvel.

TWEET THIS: Here's an excellent lesson for brands: Consistency and storytelling are keys to growth. ~@AnthonyGaenzle #BrandTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: Brand experience is closely tied to the overall customer experience. I wrote about some amazing customer experiences in one of my blog posts (link provided below). What's your fave all-time customer experience story, and why?
ANTHONY GAENZLE: While Delta Airlines may not be known for its outstanding customer service, there is one story involving Delta that stands out. Last year, a child was flying Delta and left his teddy bear, "Teddy", on his flight. Rather than simply toss the teddy bear in the lost and found, the airline's employees took "Teddy" on a journey around the US. This is a case where the staff went above and beyond, and it culminated in a reunion between "Teddy" and his 10-year-old owner on TV's Good Morning America. When brands go above and beyond, it sticks. People remember these types of stories.

TWEET THIS: When brands go above and beyond, it sticks. People remember these types of stories. ~@AnthonyGaenzle #BrandExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog

My thanks to Anthony for sharing his brand marketing insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: K. Earest via Unsplash.

Post referenced in final question:
Want Your Brand to Soar Above the Competition? Learn from 6 Amazing #BrandExperiences

Read the full story about Delta Airlines and the teddy bear:

Watch the Good Morning America video:

Check out Anthony's links:
Gaenzle Marketing:

Amazon author page:

Anthony's website:




Monday, May 23, 2022

The Alignment Between #EmployeeExperience and #CustomerExperience

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

Dennis Geelen is a customer-centricity and innovation author, speaker, and consultant. He is the founder of Zero In, a consulting company that helps businesses build a more customer-centric and innovative culture and author of the book The Zero In Formula: The Ultimate Guide to Building a Disruptive and Sustainable Business through Customer-Centric Innovation. Connect on LinkedIn ( and on Twitter @dennis_geelen.

QUESTION: In a post you wrote on Entrepreneur entitled, "How to Get Customers and Employees Excited About Your Business," you provided some key take-aways. Can you briefly share them?
DENNIS GEELEN: The main theme of the article is that all businesses need to be focused on solving indifference in BOTH their customers and their employees. They should be focusing on building a brand that customers crave and a company that people are passionate to work for. This is the key to long-term success.

In the article, I shared seven different strategies to help you get there:
(1) Exclusivity: Start by targeting a specific group or people or a specific need (Think Amazon and how they started with selling ONLY books online)
(2) Company Message/Purpose: Having a message or purpose that your customers and employees resonate with (Think Tom’s Shoes)
(3) Business Model: Perhaps the way that you provide your product or service is what separates you from your competitors (think Dollar Shave Club or AirBnB)
(4) Product/Service: Delivering a very unique or high quality product or service (think Dyson)
(5) Customer Experience: Building an experience that is meant to resonate with and WOW your ideal customer (think Starbucks or Disney)
(6) Practices and Processes: The way that you operate is unique and better in a way that benefits both your customers and employees (think Amazon or Google)
(7) Employee Culture: Having the right incentives and rewards in place that motivate the specific behaviors that you want to build your culture around (think Zappos)

(Here's the article's link:

QUESTION: Dennis Snow (@DennisSnow on Twitter) wrote, "A customer-focused culture is one in which everything is designed with the “lens of the customer” in mind." What does this quote mean to you?
DENNIS GEELEN: I love this quote and completely agree. Centuries ago, humans believed that Earth was the center of the universe with the sun, moon, and all the other planets revolving around it. Only to discover this was not the case at all. The sun is at the center, and all the other planets (including Earth) revolve around it.

I believe the many business have similar incorrect thinking. They place their company, their products, and their services at the center, and all of their customer strategies (marketing, sales, CX, etc.) revolve around this inner focus. Whether you want to call it product focused, or inner focused, they have it wrong.

The CUSTOMER needs to be at the CENTER of everything you do and everything else needs to revolve around them. Understanding your customer, what their needs are, and why they do what they do (or don’t!) needs to be what drives your business.

TWEET THIS: The CUSTOMER needs to be at the CENTER of everything you do and everything else needs to revolve around them. ~@dennis_geelen #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: Those of us who live in the marketing and customer experience worlds have heard the Jeff Bezos empty chair story many times. What does this mean to you?
DENNIS GEELEN: It is so easy to “forget” about putting your customer and their needs first when you are in internal company strategy meetings. I love how Amazon created a physical reminder that the customer and their needs should always have a seat at the table in every decision they make.

Another way that I have seen this done effectively is to start a meeting with a story or two about some real life recent customer experiences with your brand (good or bad). Starting from a point of empathy with your customers is a powerful way to start a meeting and get everyone in the customer-first mindset. Maybe that is why Design Thinking is such a popular and effective approach to innovation, it starts with empathy.

(To read more about the Jeff Bezos empty chair, check out this article:

(To read more about Design Thinking, check out this article:

QUESTION: Since the covid pandemic began to impact everyone's lives in March 2020, which brands have stood out to you by providing excellent customer service?
DENNIS GEELEN: Again, I will go back to the point of empathy here. The pandemic has been a traumatic time impacting so many different people in so many different ways. Some companies get this, and some don’t (or don’t show it, at least).

Zappos is a great example of a company that gets it. They understood the need that people were having for human connection and opened a hotline to chat with customers. Zappos gets it.

Then there are stories of companies that have gone over and above to do something for their customers during these trying times. Restaurants delivered home cooked meals, grocery stores had special times set aside for the elderly to shop exclusively in a less busy environment, etc.

But I would like to highlight a business in my local area here in Ontario: Fresh Fuell. Owned by Louis and Leanna Segura, they have gone out of their way to build relationships, goodwill, and an amazing customer experience. They actually expanded their business during the pandemic. They have loads of loyal customers due to their empathetic and community-first mindset that, when times got tough, they still had the full support of their patrons.

QUESTION: Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has said, "Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning." How can all brands apply this timeless advice?
DENNIS GEELEN: Too many times, we seek to discredit or make excuses for critical or negative feedback from customers. I think it is human nature. We get defensive or want to deny or lay the blame elsewhere. But to Gates' point, we need to learn to get past this and seek to understand the situation more clearly. What caused frustration or anger with this unhappy customer? How could we have handled the situation differently or better? What improvements can we implement to prevent another situation like this in the future? Until we get to the point of being open and looking inside our businesses and ourselves with the objective to learn, grow, and improve, we will be sitting on a goldmine of information that is left untapped if we continue to ignore it.

The best way to handle unhappy customers is with a mindset that what they have to tell you is going to help your business provide a better experience for other customers in some shape or form.

TWEET THIS: What unhappy customers tell you will help your business provide a better experience for other customers. ~@dennis_geelen #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What three customer experience books should everyone read, and why?
DENNIS GEELEN: Great question. To answer this effectively, I think we need to categorize this first. To truly understand why customer experience is so important, you need to first understand the experience economy. For this, the book ‘The Experience Economy’ by Joe Pine and James Gilmour is the gold standard. For me, they are the godfathers of CX, and their book is where all business leaders need to start in order to get a solid foundation.

Next, you need to have a principle for understanding your customers better. You can’t design and deliver a great CX without understanding your customers. For me, that principle is Customer Jobs Theory, or Jobs to be Done (JTBD) as it is known. There are many terrific books on this subject, but my favourite has to be ‘The Secret Lives of Customers’ by David Scott Duncan. I love this book because Duncan takes the original JTBD thinking from the book ‘Competing Against Luck’ that he helped to co-author with the late Clay Christensen and expands through a wonderfully told parable full of interesting characters and lots of insights for better understanding your customers and why they choose your product or service.

Lastly, once you understand the experience economy, and you have a good grasp on your customers and why they purchase your product or service, you then need some strategies for how to deliver a great customer experience. Again, there are many great books to help you with this. Shep Hyken has written many, with ‘I’ll be Back’ being his latest. Dan Gingiss recently published ‘The Experience Maker’ as well, another great book. But my favorite book as a guide for delivering great CX would be ‘The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences’ by Matt Watkinson. Maybe I am biased because Matt and I have chatted a few different times about CX and writing, but I love this book because of Matt’s insightful yet concise writing style. He does a terrific job of bringing the reader in with captivating info and stories that keep you turning the page until, before you know it, you have finished the book and you have an MBA in CX!

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

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Leadership, Silos and Onboarding

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

Since 2011, Bruce Rosenstein has been Managing Editor of Leader to Leader, the award-winning quarterly journal co-published by Jossey-Bass/Wiley and the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Forum. For 21 years, he worked for USA TODAY as a librarian/researcher and writer about business and management books for the newspaper’s Money section. Based in Maryland, he is the author of Create Your Future the Peter Drucker Way, and Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker's Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life. His digital footprint includes the following links:;;; and Twitter at @brucerosenstein.

QUESTION: How do you recommend that employees who are forced to work in silos by their leadership teams overcome the silos and work together?
BRUCE ROSENSTEIN: Depending on how literally people are being forced, there should always be a degree of personal/individual choice on the part of people who are working in silos. I’d recommend that they continually think of ways to work around the silos and outsmart the situation, including figuring out whether the company/organization is one big silo or a series of silos.

This would also mean finding like-minded people internally and developing ways to work together and share information, and learning more about informal norms and ways of getting things done. It also means that you stay connected, via social media and otherwise, to people outside your organization, within or related to your area of specialty or expertise, especially in case you ultimately decide to work elsewhere.

A great book to read on this subject is The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers by Gillian Tett, an editor and columnist at one of my favorite publications, the Financial Times, who has a PhD in social anthropology from Cambridge University.

QUESTION: If you could have dinner with any leader from history, who would it be and why?
BRUCE ROSENSTEIN: I would choose Socrates, as sort of the original/eternal thought leader. I’d like to fill him in on the whole thought leader construct, and how his ideas have lasted and remained relevant for more than 2500 years. I’d then ask how he thinks he reached that status, and probably brace myself for a Socratic dialogue with the originator of the concept, ideally over coffee.

I think he’d be intrigued by the concept of the Socrates Cafés that have sprung up around the world in recent years. I would bring him a copy of the book by Christopher Phillips, the founder of the movement: Socrates Café: A Fresh Taste of Philosophy.

He might  be interested to learn that questioning, one of the main components of the Socratic Method, has become influential in the business/organizational world. If he could time travel to today and become a consultant, he could name his price!

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?
BRUCE ROSENSTEIN: You may not have to be the smartest person in the room, but you DO have to apply your mind, and think clearly and creatively in the moment so you can be effective. That would mean the supposedly “small things” and “unglamorous things” that can nevertheless be difficult to do well.

It can mean a leader protecting and looking out for people, clearing obstacles that can prevent them from doing their best work, and helping them work through problems. It reminds me of the important concept of servant leadership, which is less than 50 years old, and was originated by the late Robert K. Greenleaf. He was an HR executive at AT&T (and also a New Jersey neighbor and friend of Peter Drucker’s), whose work has been carried on and extended at the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership.

QUESTION: How can all members of the C-Suite care more about onboarding, which directly impacts corporate culture and employee engagement?
BRUCE ROSENSTEIN: This would have to be part of the corporate/organizational culture itself; how involved upper management is in the process, what components of the process they take seriously and how that plays out internally.

If people really are your greatest asset (which so many organizations say is the case), shouldn’t helping people be successful starting from the beginning of the process, and be adequately supported by as many members of the C-Suite as possible? At the same time, it would be a serious commitment of time and energy, and should not be taken lightly. Done properly, it could even have positive effects related to your earlier question about silos, as it would be a way for people to learn about different departments and components of an organization, and to make contacts and develop lines of communication.

However, if some people, especially in the C-Suite, aren’t taking this seriously, it could be related to exactly what each organization means by the term onboarding, and what the process exactly entails. Is it seen as more bureaucratic and form-filling, rather than an area directly related to results? It could point to the fact that the term onboarding, if not the process, has become a buzzword with a nebulous meaning, and therefore possibly in need of new terminology or different branding. For more background on this, see Patti Waldmeir's "The Perils of Onboarding in a World of Hybrid Work," in the Financial Times, February 7, 2022; and "The Case Against Onboarding," February 27, 2017, by Merrill Perlman in the Columbia Journalism Review.

TWEET THIS: If people really are your greatest asset, shouldn’t helping people be successful starting from the beginning of the process? ~@brucerosenstein #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: One of my favorite quotes about leadership is from Arnold Glasow, an American businessman often cited in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and other pubs: “A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.” What does that quote mean to you?
BRUCE ROSENSTEIN: Realistic leaders know that a certain part of their success is due to luck, as well as due to the work and knowledge of other people, circumstances beyond their control, and so on. So it would also play out in reverse, knowing that “failures” are subject to the same invisible laws regarding luck, circumstance, fate, and the work and roles of colleagues, competitors, and so on.

In a broader sense, it means less of a show of ego, more humility, more realization that you will develop a better reputation internally and externally if you strive for this type of balance. It could also directly relate to servant leadership, in one of your earlier questions. Fairly or not, credit/blame in many cases must be shared with others, and allows you to display a sense of grace.

Two recent books come to mind, that I believe amplify this quote: Marilyn Gist’s The Extraordinary Power of Leader Humility: Thriving Organizations - Great Results; and John Baldoni’s Grace Notes: Leading in an Upside-Down World. I’ve edited articles by both Marilyn and John for Leader to Leader.

TWEET THIS: Fairly or not, credit/blame in many cases must be shared with others, and allows you to display a sense of grace. ~@brucerosenstein #DebbieLaskeysBlog

My thanks to Bruce for sharing his inspiring leadership and employee experience insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Waldemar Brandt via Unsplash.

Note: John Baldoni (@JohnBaldoni on Twitter) has appeared on this blog numerous times (I'm honored to have also met him via Twitter), and I shared a review of his book GRACE NOTES on Business 2 Community.

Check it out here:

Monday, May 9, 2022

Tips to Become “Change-Capable”

If you’re not familiar with the name Erika Andersen, get ready to be inspired by some valuable leadership take-aways. She stands out wherever she appears in the digital landscape, whether as a guest writer on Forbes, her own website, or on Twitter – or here on my Blog, where she has appeared six times since 2011.

Erika Andersen is the founding partner of Proteus, a coaching, consulting, and training firm that focuses on leader readiness; and over the past 30 years, she has developed a reputation for creating approaches to learning and business-building that are tailored to the challenges, goals, and cultures of her clients. Erika and her colleagues at Proteus focus on helping leaders at all levels GET ready and STAY ready to meet whatever the future might bring. In addition, Erika is the author of many books as well as the author and host of the Proteus Leader Show, a regular podcast that offers quick, practical support for leaders and managers. Follow on Twitter @erikaandersen and @ProteusLeader – and also on the web at Erika and I recently discussed her newest book, and highlights follow below.

QUESTION: In your new book, Change from the Inside Out, you talk about why change is hard for most people – and that our difficult relationship with change is rooted in our history as humans. Can you explain that?
ERIKA ANDERSEN: I started writing this book, as with all my books, because I was curious about some things. We’ve been working with clients on change for well over a decade, but there were some core things about change that were still puzzling to me.

The first one was: Why is change so hard for most people? As I explored this question, I began to realize that the answer lies in our history as a species. Until the past few generations, most people’s lives stayed very much the same from beginning to end; people grew up where their parents had grown up, did the work their parents had done, believed and thought the things previous generations had believed and thought. Even the less common events were generally expected: people died, babies were born, crops did better some years and poorly in others.

Real change was fairly rare, and it was generally a threat and a danger. War, famine, plague, flood: change usually meant that a person’s stability and survival were being threatened. Getting back to the known as quickly as possible was almost always the safest bet. As a result, this urge toward homeostasis – returning to a stable condition – is deeply wired into us, and until recently, has mostly served us well. It has been a good survival mechanism for thousands of years.

But these days, the world is different than it’s ever been. Just over the past fifty or sixty years, the pace of change has increased tremendously. For example, Americans started buying TVs in the 1950s. Color TVs began to be widely available in the 1960s. That degree of innovation, from black-and-white to color TV, took a decade just sixty years ago – and it now happens in months or even weeks. Especially now, with all the change spurred by the pandemic, major change happens moment to moment: economically, environmentally, sociologically, politically – and organizationally. Today, our organizations need to change on an almost daily basis to stay competitive and to take advantage of the best and most effective new ways to communicate, to operate, and to meet their stakeholders’ changing needs and wants.

Given all this, our old, anti-change wiring that served us so well for centuries no longer works. We need to re-wire ourselves to be more comfortable with and open to change; we need to become more change-capable.

TWEET THIS: Today, our organizations need to change on an almost daily basis to stay competitive. ~@erikaandersen #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog

TWEET THIS: We need to re-wire ourselves to be more comfortable with and open to change; we need to become more change-capable. ~@erikaandersen #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: You use the term “change-capable” throughout your book – it’s even in the book’s subtitle.  What do you mean by that?
ERIKA ANDERSEN: Change-capable has become the “term of art” for us in our change practice. We use it to describe a person, a team, or an organization that is supportive of necessary change. For a leader and their team to be change-capable means they understand how change works, and have the skills, both mental and practical, to make needed change as quickly and smoothly as is feasible. Change-capable people can accelerate the process of change and make it less painful for themselves and those around them.

A change-capable organization is one that has systems, processes, structures, and a culture that enable and support change. We often say that a change-capable organization is like a solid, well-constructed bridge that allows people to move from the current state to a changed future state without undue difficulty.

TWEET THIS: A change-capable organization is like a solid, well-constructed bridge that allows people to move from the current state to a changed future state without undue difficulty. ~@erikaandersen #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What is the Change Arc, and why is it important?
ERIKA ANDERSEN: That’s the other thing I got curious about when I start writing this book: What actually happens inside us, as individual human beings, when we go through a specific change? I figured if I could understand that, it would be hugely helpful to people in their journey to becoming more change-capable. And the answer to that question is the Change Arc. We discovered that there’s a simple, predictable, and powerful pattern that occurs when a person embraces and moves through a change. My colleagues at Proteus and I have come to call this pattern the Change Arc.

When a change is first proposed, most people immediately want to know three things: What does this change mean to me? Why is it happening? And What will it look like when the change has been made? Based on our history of change-as-threat, these questions are the most efficient at helping us find out just how disruptive and difficult the change is likely to be.

As someone begins to ask these questions, their initial mindset (again, based on many thousands of years of change being a threat) is usually that the change will be difficult, costly, and weird. Difficult means “I don’t know how to do this, and/or other people are going to make it hard for me to do this.” Costly means “this will take away from me things I value.” We might assume that the change will take from us time or money, but we’re likely to assume the change will take away even more intrinsic valuables like identity, power, reputation, or relationships. Weird just means strange and unnatural: “this isn’t the way we do things around here.”

This initial mindset that a proposed change is likely to be difficult, costly, and weird acts as a kind of filter, so that even when we’re given genuinely positive and helpful information about the change – that it won’t be hard to implement or that we’ll be fully supported in doing it, for example – we tend to disbelieve that, and assume that either the person proposing the change isn’t being honest or that they don’t really know what’s involved.  

This all results in our negative reactions to a proposed change. When you share a proposed change with your team, they’re starting at the beginning of their change arc in responding to it and are starting out assuming that it will be difficult, costly, and weird.  

As we observed this pattern, in our clients and in ourselves, we then saw something exciting: the mindset shift that catalyzes change. We saw that people start to open up to and then embrace a change when their mindset begins to shift from “this change is going to be difficult, costly and weird” to “this change could be easy, rewarding and normal.”

This is the heart of the Change Arc. Once someone starts to believe that a change could be easy (or at least doable) to make; that the rewards of making it could outweigh the costs; and that the change could become normal – that is, that it could become “the way we do things,” then that person begins to be willing to operate in the new ways that the change requires, and they will be open to learning and doing those new behaviors so that the change can occur.

QUESTION: In Change from the Inside Out, you wrote, “The leaders of any group are the catalyst for successful change.” What makes a leader an effective catalyst for change?
ERIKA ANDERSEN: When we work with leaders around change, we almost always say to them the sentence you hear on airplanes about oxygen masks: “Put on your own mask before attempting to help others.” The most important thing you as a leader can do to be an effective catalyst for change is to first become personally more change-capable: to get better at moving yourself through the mindset shift around any change well and quickly. After that, the best ways for leaders to help catalyze change are to develop the skills of supporting their teams and their organizations through change – which is what the rest of Change from the Inside Out is all about.

TWEET THIS: The leaders of any group are the catalyst for successful change. ~@erikaandersen #LeadershipTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: Your new book outlines a five-step change model that you say, “integrates the human and practical side of change.” Why is this important?
ERIKA ANDERSEN: Most well-known approaches to change either focus primarily on the mechanical, nuts-and-bolts side of making change – like Kotter or Accenture, or they focus primarily on the human side – like Bridges or Adkar. We’ve found that the most successful change efforts do both: make sure that the change itself is clearly thought through, planned, and executed – and at the same time, that the people affected by the change are supported to move through their change arc so that they can accept and respond to the change as it occurs. That’s what our five-step model is designed to do.

QUESTION: Is the five-step model only applicable to large-scale corporate change, or can it be used to move through individual or small group changes, as well?
ERIKA ANDERSEN: The best thing about our five-step model, from my point of view, if that it’s almost infinitely “scope-able.” As a frame, it’s as useful for planning a family move as for moving a 50,000-person organization through a global transformation.

That’s because the five steps are simple and universally applicable:
(1) Clarify the change and why it’s needed
(2) Envision the future state
(3) Build the change
(4) Lead the transition
(5) Keep the change going

Each of the five steps has a handful of practical goals (what needs to be accomplished in that step), which again, can be done simply in a personal situation, or cover a lot of territory in an organizational change. But all of them focus on the two core ideas of thoughtfully planning and executing the change while supporting people psychologically, emotionally, and practically through that change.

QUESTION: What are “change levers?”
ERIKA ANDERSEN: The change levers are four simple approaches you can take to support people through their Change Arc. Like physical levers, they are force multipliers – they can accelerate and ease people through their mindset shift around change:

(1) Increase understanding: Remember, the first thing your folks want is foundational information about the change. Too often, organizations communicate a change in a cheery, superficial way (“We’re going to be converting to a new invoicing system - and it’s great!”) that doesn’t provide what people need – and, in fact, can simply increase their sense of risk. It’s most helpful to create and communicate a simple summary of the change that outlines the three pieces of information that those affected will want to know: what the change will mean for them, why it’s happening, and a verbal “sketch” of the better future you’ll have post-change.

It’s important that the information you share be realistic – that it acknowledges the time and effort the change will require – and that it lets people know how you’ll support them (with information, training, etc.) to make the change. Once you’ve created this “case for change,” expect (and be prepared to answer) questions about it. Remember, people are wired to believe that most change is dangerous, and the only way they’ll be able to shift to a more neutral or positive view of a given change is by getting the necessary information, stories, and experience to help them frame it differently.

(2) Clarify and reinforce priorities: Because we fear change, we tend to over-estimate its impacts. When people hear about an organizational change, they often assume everything is changing and nothing will stay the same which reinforces their fear and hesitation. Letting people know what isn’t changing as well as what is changing can be very reassuring.

For example, let’s say that you’re reorganizing your support services group by type of issue, and away from a geographic focus. By confirming that the roles and responsibilities of the client support staff will remain largely the same, and that their core priorities are still to build and maintain great relationships while resolving issues quickly and well, you can help your people be better prepared to focus on what needs to change, versus worrying about all the things that will be staying very much the same.

(3) Give control: One of the things that feels most dangerous to people about change is that it’s out of their control. Especially with large-scale organizational change, employees can feel almost victimized: at the effect of forces over which they have no say. By giving your people as many choices as possible during the change, you can reduce their fear and discomfort and increase the chances of engagement and buy-in.

A few years ago, we were working with a US-based multinational company that had just acquired another company, headquartered in Latin America. The Chief Human Resources Officer/CHRO of the acquired company was worried about the change. She assumed that the acquiring company would impose their systems and that she would have less influence. In other words, she assumed the change would be difficult, costly, and weird.

To her surprise (and delight), her new boss gave her control in a variety of ways. For instance, he worked with her to come up with the timing for the transition to the new systems, and he asked her to create a communication plan for how and when she wanted to communicate the changes to her team. By giving her as many elements of control as were feasible, her boss helped shift her mindset from negative to more supportive of the change; and she began to focus on how to make the change easier and more rewarding for her team and for the rest of the acquired company’s employees, so they could begin to experience it as the new – and accepted – normal.

(4) Give support. Finally, and most importantly, people need consistent support throughout any change that affects them directly. When things change, people go through a lot of mental and emotional adjustment. Too often, leaders try to talk people out of what they’re feeling or dismiss it all together. Remember, by the time we communicate a change to our people, we’ve generally had some time to go through our own change arc. Then we often expect our employees to be as accepting of the change from that first moment as we are after months of thought, questioning, and mindset shift. Give them a little time to be worried, to hesitate, to ask questions, to want to know the impact on them, even to be sad or anxious.

The single most effective way leaders can give support, especially at the beginning of a change, as those affected are starting to go through their Change Arc, is to listen. Listen deeply, and without trying to explain or reassure. Summarize people’s concerns and make sure that you’ve understood. Ask what you can do to address those concerns and take careful note of the answers.

Rather than labeling people’s initial discomfort and hesitation as resistance, recognize they’re going through the same process you probably went through when you first heard about the change: they need to understand and process the proposed change and then move through their mindset shift about the change. If you give people support in the early days of a change by listening deeply to their concerns and questions, without being dismissive or overly reassuring – they’ll feel heard and supported. Then they’ll be ready to hear about the more tangible support you can offer: training, tools, demos or simulations, mentors, or affinity groups.

QUESTION: What would you most like people to take away from reading your latest book?
ERIKA ANDERSEN: A hopeful message: that we can re-wire each ourselves to become more change-capable. First, we have control over our mindset, and we can learn to think in a more hopeful and neutral way about change. We can shift our thinking about any necessary change from “difficult, costly and weird” to “easy/doable, rewarding and normal.” Second, we can learn and use models for moving through personal and organizational change that address both the practical, tangible aspects of change and the human – more emotional and psychological – side of change. We can get good at this, so that we can enjoy and thrive through this era of non-stop change.

My thanks to Erika for sharing her always amazing and helpful leadership and workplace insights and for appearing here on my Blog again!

Image credits: Wordswag and Erika Andersen.

For more inspiration, check out Erika’s previous appearances on my Blog:

Three Leadership Secrets: Build Consensus, Be Open to Challengers, and Delegate (May 2021)

Review of: Leading So People Will Follow by Erika Andersen (October 2019)

Leadership + Strategy = Amazing Employee Experience (November 2018)

Review of: Be Bad First by Erika Andersen (October 2018)

Are You the Type of Manager or Leader YOU Would Follow? (January 2014)

Want to be Nicknamed Strategy Guru? (July 2011)

Monday, May 2, 2022

Social Media Is a Great Tool for Personal Branding

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

Jerry Jose is a passionate digital marketer specializing in LinkedIn and Twitter, and is based in India. He's a LinkedIn Specialist by profession and a traveler by heart. He enjoys working with teams and consulting leaders on how to utilize the power of digital marketing to reach out to their audience in the digital world. Jerry strives to help people build their personal brands on social media. As he sees it, "the power of personal branding is tremendous as it allows us to take control of the narrative and offers multiple opportunities to grow and build credibility in our niche." Connect and follow on Twitter at and LinkedIn at

QUESTION: You created your own hashtag: #socialjj. (Incidentally, I have one for this blog: #DebbieLaskeysBlog.) Why do you recommend that individuals create and use their own hashtags?
JERRY JOSE: I believe if you are working on your personal brand, it's imperative to create a customized hashtag. I always recommend creating a unique personalized hashtag to help users identify your brand and improve brand recall.

LinkedIn allows users to follow the hashtag. The audience can view all your content on one page on LinkedIn instead of scrolling through multiple pages to read all content formats. Add these hashtags to your Twitter bio, and it'll help users identify your Tweets and content quickly.

QUESTION: What social media platform do you think is best for personal branding, and why?
JERRY JOSE: The best social media platform for Personal Branding totally depends on the goals and objectives of each individual's brand. I'll take my example here: I wanted to connect with marketing professionals and help people build their personal brands. As I was comfortable with text format, I chose LinkedIn and Twitter to start my personal branding journey.

In the beginning, identify the content format that you're most comfortable with, then choose the social channel. Focus on one track in the initial days and master the features before exploring new social channels.

TWEET THIS: The best social media platform for Personal Branding totally depends on the goals and objectives of each individual's brand. -@jrryjs #socialjj #DebbieLaskeysBlog #personalbranding

QUESTION: Other than social media, how else do you think individuals should implement personal branding initiatives?
JERRY JOSE: Building a Personal Brand is a consistent effort for everyone. We discover new aspects about ourselves each day and present them to our community through various mediums. Social media is the prominent one, but it doesn't mean that you need only social media to build your Personal Brand. You can create blogs and make followership or an email list for a newsletter series.

One of the best initiatives for me is community meetups. The credibility improves tenfold when you physically meet someone and interact with them. Offline meetups and events are the best ways to establish your Personal Brand, and for the audience, it's the best place to validate your brand.

TWEET THIS: Building a Personal Brand is a consistent effort for everyone. -@jrryjs #socialjj #DebbieLaskeysBlog #personalbranding

QUESTION: In a Forbes article entitled, "10 Golden Rules of Personal Branding," which rule stands out to you as the most important, and why?

(Read the article here:

JERRY JOSE: Goldie Chan is one of my favorite Personal Branding practitioners. One of my favorite points from this article is about "leaving a legacy." One can leave a legacy behind only when they are clear about their "why." The "why" acts as a motivation and helps us show up every day and improve our work for the community.

QUESTION: Which five people, who you've met through your social media activities, have developed admirable or inspirational personal brands? Please provide brief bios as well as the social platforms where you first met the people.

JERRY JOSE: I've provided some on both LinkedIn and Twitter below. All of them are an inspiration to me and help me every day build a solid personal brand on social channels. The content they share helped me overcome the fear of posting content on social channels. Check them out!

My favorite personal brands on LinkedIn:

Luke Matthews:
Luke, is an amazing marketer where he never talks about the usual marketing stuff. He creates unique content in form of videos, reels, carousels to engage the target audience of the brand. The unique type of content delivery is something that always inspires me and makes me follow his content and learn from him.

Claire Parsons:
Claire is one of the best copywriters I've seen. I love the way her content engages the community and provides quality content with a twist. Lately, she has authored a couple of books that help content creators on social media platforms like LinkedIn. Following her content has helped me experiment with my content and become a confident gif poster on LinkedIn.

Shreya Pattar:
Shreya is one of the best inspirations for agency owners. She talks about her freelancing journey and always inspires the community to do well. Her IG Live, LinkedIn posts and now Twitter spaces have helped freelancers plan and communicate better with their clients.

My favorite personal brands on Twitter:

Mustafa Khundmiri:
Mustafa is one of my inspirations on Twitter. He is one of the most humble people I've met on the internet. Even though he has a huge following, he interacts and communicates with small accounts and guides them with their journey on Twitter. It's rare to find such selfless people on the internet

Udit Goenka:
Udit has one of the fastest-growing accounts on Twitter. It really inspirational to see the way he provides value to his community and always focuses on giving. The Twitter spaces he hosts is always focused on giving back to the community and helping them in their journey. Udit shares content revolving around startups, marketing, personal branding and business.

My thanks to Jerry for sharing his amazing personal branding and social media insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: OI Global Partners.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Happy Employees = Happpy Customers!

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

Julie Ann Sullivan’s diverse background gives her a unique perspective as a business culture expert. She earned a BA in Psychology from Cal State Northridge and an MBA in Accounting from National University in San Diego, earning the designation of CPA. She is an international best-selling author, global podcaster, and designated top global Employee Engagement and Experience Influencer. She has been speaking, training, and coaching for the past 13 years as a catalyst of culture. In her book, Blueprint for Employee Engagement, 37 Essential Elements to Influence, Innovate and Inspire, she created a roadmap for the complex journey to create a best place to work. Her second book, Catalysts of Culture – How Visionary Leaders Activate the Employee Experience, is based on her extensive research, experience and interviews on her podcast, Businesses that Care. Visit her website at and connect on Twitter @JASatLNE.

QUESTION: You are the founder of Learning Never Ends (awesome branding, by the way!), whose mission is to change the world to better communicate, collaborate, and cooperate, one person at a time. How do you help leaders to tackle and succeed in accomplishing those three things?
JULIE ANN SULLIVAN: First and foremost, I cannot help any leader unless they recognize that improvement is possible. The 3 C’s, communicate, collaborate and cooperate are building blocks. The first step is communication. It is key on the path to successfully have a team work efficiently and effectively together. 80% of the work that I do overall includes some form of improved communication. Once known as a soft skill, it is essential for prosperous growth and success.

QUESTION: You state on your LinkedIn bio: "Culture is a puzzle. Your missing piece is costing you top talent, fresh ideas, and MONEY$$$. Your culture defines your brand, your people, and your success. Create one that cares (because) #CultureMatters." What is the biggest challenge for organizations when it comes to corporate culture?
JULIE ANN SULLIVAN: The biggest challenge depends on whether a company recognizes the necessity and ability to create their own culture. If they are already doing that, the challenge is to continue to seek new ideas. That means including their workforce in the creative process. For those that have not begun this journey, the challenge is to know that a perspective outside their organization can see more about what they obviously have been missing. I begin working with a company by creating a unique survey to highlight their biggest challenges and build a plan from a survey’s results.

(Check out Julie Ann's LinkedIn bio here:

QUESTION: You wrote a book entitled, “Blueprint for Employee Engagement: 37 Essential Elements to Influence, Innovate & Inspire.” Which three of the 37 do you consider the most important, and why?
JULIE ANN SULLIVAN: This is a tough one. I will pick the three that I think are foundational to all the others:

(1) Communication is first. Without open and honest communication, it is difficult to progress in any area of your business.  
(2) Attitude is second. A person’s attitude determines their willingness to look at new possibilities. This perspective is necessary for change. The good news is that attitude, even optimism can be taught. It is all about changing thought patterns.
(3) Fun is third. There are so many ways to create fun in the workplace. I work with a company that does online employee engagement through gaming online, and it is an excellent way to connect humans to one another. People like to have fun, and it is a catalyst for creating great cultures.

TWEET THIS: People like to have fun, and it is a catalyst for creating great cultures. ~@JASatLNE #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: How can employee engagement lead to effective brand ambassadors?
JULIE ANN SULLIVAN: Your best customer is your employee. If they are not happy, satisfied, and clear on their purpose, they cannot be the best brand ambassadors. Engagement is multi-faceted. An engaged workforce is your best referral service for new employees and new customers. It may be through someone they know or through discussions at a gathering. Happy employees = Happy customers!

TWEET THIS: Your best customer is your employee. ~@JASatLNE #EmployeeExperience #CX #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: Many years ago, I 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?
JULIE ANN SULLIVAN: If someone you are managing never reaches your expectations, then the issue needs to be analyzed.

Here are two questions you might ask yourself:
(1) Is the person not trained or qualified to complete the task that was asked of them?
(2) Am I not being clear in what is expected?

In either case, a discussion is necessary. Many times, people do not feel comfortable asking for help or admitting that they don’t understand the goal. And sometimes, you might be trying to put a circle in a square. If they are a good employee, perhaps, another opportunity exists within the company.  

QUESTION: There is a lot of talk about organizations adding a new C-Suite position, the Chief Customer Officer. This demonstrates that orgs want employees to create an excellent customer experience. However, there should be another C-Suite position called the Employee Experience Officer. Some orgs use different titles, such as, Chief Personnel Officer, Chief Talent Officer, etc. What are your thoughts?
JULIE ANN SULLIVAN: An employee's experience affects the customer experience. That is a given. If you are a large enough organization to have a Customer Experience Officer, then you might want that person to work in conjunction with an Employee Experience Officer. I have found that many companies aren’t large enough to have either one or both. That is when consultants, like myself, can create a pathway to ensure that the two experiences are connected well.

One final note from Julie Ann: If you are looking for a different way for your teams to engage with one another, learn more about the people they work with, and have a great time on a sophisticated gaming platform, Weve is the place to be. Check it out here:

My thanks to Julie Ann for sharing her inspiring employee experience and workplace insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Count Chris via Unsplash.