Sunday, March 27, 2022

Personal Branding Tips from Madeleine Albright

By now, the news that Madeleine Albright passed away has traveled all around the world. While we still mourn a talented diplomat, among other accomplishments, there are many personal branding tips we can learn from this esteemed leader.

Madeleine Albright was born Maria Jana Korbelova in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1937. Diplomacy was always a part of her family because her father worked for the Czech government in Belgrade, but after the Nazis invaded her home country in 1939, the family fled to London, and eventually, to the United States.

President Bill Clinton offered Albright the cabinet-level role as Ambassador to the United Nations. She received unanimous Senate confirmation. At the time, she was the sole woman among 15 representatives in the UN Security Council, and she described the first meeting as “14 suits and a skirt.” Then, after Clinton won a second term as President, he nominated Albright as his Secretary of State. After a unanimous confirmation vote, she became the 64th person and first woman in that role.

Don’t be afraid of being the first in any role. Take risks, discover new and/or untapped talents, and new perspectives.

Madeleine Albright endorsed Hillary Clinton during her 2008 and 2016 presidential campaigns and said at one event, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women.”

Do you, on a regular basis, support women colleagues, supervisors, and other women leaders? How can you show your support in a meaningful and long-lasting way?

And finally, to quote Bill and Hillary Clinton, “Few leaders have been so perfectly suited for the times in which they served. Because she knew first-hand that America’s policy decisions had the power to make a difference in people’s lives around the world, she saw her jobs as both an obligation and an opportunity.”

How often do you view your job or professional role with that perspective in mind? Perhaps, it’s time to re-think.

Rest in peace, Madeleine Albright, and thank you for shining your bright light on all of us.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Good Leadership Is NOT Defined By Gender

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. After reading a recent article written by Amy Diehl for Harvard Business Review, I connected with Amy and invited her to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A format.

Before I introduce Amy, a reminder that March is Women's History Month, a special time to honor the role of women in American history. While many industries have shown increases in the presence of women, there are still many ladders to climb and ceilings to shatter. One such environment is the C-Suite and top leadership roles.

Amy Diehl, Ph.D. is Chief Information Officer at Wilson College and a gender bias expert, researcher, and consultant. She’s a sought-after speaker for conferences, workshops, guest lectures, and panels. Her work has been published in academic journals and book chapters as well as in business and popular press, including Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and Ms. Magazine. She is currently co-authoring a book on gender bias. Connect and follow on Twitter @amydiehl and on LinkedIn at

QUESTION: Despite recent successes, how can women earn more top leadership positions as CEOs, COOs, CFOs, CMOs, Board Chairs, etc.?

AMY DIEHL: By and large, women ARE preparing themselves for top leadership positions. The problem is not the women. The problem is societal structures and organizational cultures which contain barriers and roadblocks to women climbing leadership ladders. We need to fix the systems, not the women.

To remove roadblocks, governmental officials must create policy and law that contributes to women’s equality, such as equal pay, paid parental leave, universal Pre-K, and subsidized quality childcare. Organization leaders must identify gender biased practices within their companies and work to eliminate them. Assessment tools like the Gender Bias Scale for Women Leaders, developed by me and co-authors, can identify specific aspects of bias (e.g., male culture, lack of mentoring, salary inequality, workplace harassment, etc.), so that they can be rooted out.

You can find the Gender Bias Scale here:
QUESTION: You wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review entitled, "When People Assume You're Not in Charge Because You're a Woman." Can you share the highlights and how we, as women and as a community, can right this wrong?

(Read the post here:

AMY DIEHL: I’ve heard from so many women who have experienced role incredulity, which is a form of gender bias in which women are assumed to be in a support or stereotypical female role instead of a leadership or stereotypical male role. Examples are when a female physician is assumed to be a nurse, or a director of security is assumed to be the receptionist.

In the article, Dr. Leanne Dzubinski and I shared many tips to overcome role incredulity. They boil down to prominently communicating women’s titles and correcting mistaken assumptions when they happen. For example, titles should be used when introducing women, in email signatures, and on door signs and name tags.

If you see a colleague’s role misidentified, speak up on their behalf: “Zara is our vice president of engineering.” While it may feel awkward when it happens to you, don’t be afraid to correct the mistaken person: “I’m the director of this department.” These are little steps, but they go a long way to eliminating these gender stereotypes.

QUESTION: Janet Yellen, the current and first female Secretary of the Treasury, has been described as, "A proven leader who knows how to build consensus, the kind of person who makes everybody around her better." What three characteristics are necessary to create a consensus-builder?

AMY DIEHL: Consensus building is important for all leaders. People feel more empowered and willing to contribute to solutions when their ideas are heard, considered, and incorporated into the outcome. To create consensus, leaders must proactively ask for input, really listen to ideas, and be flexible and willing to adapt.  

TWEET THIS: To create consensus, leaders must proactively ask for input, really listen to ideas, and be flexible and willing to adapt. -@amydiehl #LeadershipTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: When I was in graduate school in the mid-1990's, one of my tenured professors said to the class, "Women don't belong in grad school. They belong at home in the kitchen" How would you, as a gender bias expert, have responded?

AMY DIEHL: It's terrible that a professor said that to you! When influential people put out prescriptive stereotypes, it can cause both men and women to keep traditional gender role boxes around themselves and others. I would have responded with this quote from former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “Women belong in all the places decisions are being made.”

We all suffer the negative impacts of women not being in places of influence. I think of the example of Dr. Katalin Karikó. Dr. Karikó worked on messenger RNA research at the University of Pennsylvania from 1989 to 2013. During that time, the university put up roadblocks to her work, which included denying her tenure in the mid-1990’s. She stayed in an adjunct role, eventually publishing her breakthrough mRNA research in 2005. She left Penn in 2013 to join BioNTech, and her research was used to develop Pfizer-BioNTech’s mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Karikó’s research is mitigating the impact of this worldwide pandemic, but just think what would have happened if she had left Penn when they demoted her out of her tenure-track position. And think about how much more productive she could have been if Penn supported her work. For the betterment of our world, we need women to be able to fully contribute in all realms of society.

TWEET THIS: For the betterment of our world, we need women to be able to fully contribute in all realms of society. -@amydiehl #NoCeilings #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: Susan Colantuono (@SusanColantuono on Twitter) wrote, "If women aren’t proportionately represented throughout your organization, you aren’t facing a women’s issue, you’re facing a talent development issue with business implications." What do you think about that statement?

AMY DIEHL: I agree. Too often, organizations use the excuse, "But there are no qualified women here." Organizations should examine their job and promotional qualifications, which are often biased in ways that keep women out. An example is the cybersecurity industry which often sets minimum job requirements of expensive and time-consuming certifications. A way to bring a broader set of individuals into this industry is to hire people into entry-level roles with no certifications required and then pay certification fees and allow employees to use company time to earn them.

The business implications of keeping women out of leadership, technical, and other male-dominated roles are huge. The organization loses out, women lose out, and society loses out. Even if your business is already thriving, think of how much more successful it could be (profits, breakthroughs, and innovations) if women were equally represented and fully supported in all business units.

TWEET THIS: The business implications of keeping women out of leadership, technical, and other male-dominated roles are huge. -@amydiehl #NoCeilings #DebbieLaskeysBlog

TWEET THIS: Think of how much more successful your biz could be if women were equally represented and fully supported. -@amydiehl #EqualityForWomen #DebbieLaskeysBlog

My enormous gratitude to Amy for appearing here on my blog and sharing her inspiring perspective!

Image credit: The Notorious RBG.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Social Media: Prioritize QUALITY Over QUANTITY

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 Kim Scaravelli and invited her to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A format. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Kim Scaravelli, B.A., B.Ed., is the author of “Making Words Work: A Practical Guide to Writing Powerful Content.” She is the Founder/CEO of Trust Communications (, Managing Partner of the Canadian Diversity Initiative (, and an award-winning content strategist with 20+ years of practical experience. Kim's writing appears on more than 400 corporate and nonprofit websites across Canada, the United States, and Europe. She is also a keynote speaker, mom, and butler to several demanding pets. You can follow her on Twitter (, Instagram (, and LinkedIn (

QUESTION: Many people remember the famous OREO Tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl. With that in mind, what's your favorite social media marketing campaign?
KIM SCARAVELLI: I liked Dove’s #PassTheCrown campaign. As with past campaigns, Dove leaned into strong core values of positive body image and inclusivity. Hard to argue with that. I also got a kick out of the #RIPeanut campaign. Humour is a hard thing to pull off and it was risky to kill an icon like Mr. Peanut, but it worked for them! Made me smile and I actually DID pick up a container of peanuts at the grocery store, which I had not done in a very long time.

QUESTION: What is your favorite social media platform or platforms for brand-building, and why?
KIM SCARAVELLI: I love this question because it aligns with my belief that social media is best used for long-term goals, like brand-building, rather than short-term objectives, like trying to boost sales for the month or the quarter.

Social lets you speak to your audience so directly and authentically that it’s an ideal way to engage and build trust with people. With that in mind, the ideal social media platform depends on the brand and the objectives. Personally, because I'm a writer by trade, I adore Twitter! It allows me to lean into my strengths and play with words. That said, if I were a chef, I might be more inclined to focus on Instagram, because food is so deliciously visual.

The key is to find the most natural ‘fit’ because it makes long-term effort easier and more fun, and thereby more sustainable. I’m not saying you can’t be on multiple platforms, but I do think most smaller brands, and even many larger ones, need to have a favourite that they can really dig into.

TWEET THIS: Social media is best used for long-term goals, like brand-building, rather than short-term objectives. -@KimScaravelli #SMTIP #brandexperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What are your three tips for creating excellent content?
KIM SCARAVELLI: My number one tip is to BE HELPFUL. Content that answers a question or solves a problem is always a winner. No one cares about features and benefits - they care about HOW those features and benefits serve them and their needs.

My second tip is to CHOOSE CLEAR OVER CLEVER. If you can be both - fantastic. But the purpose of content is to inform, educate, and/or entertain. All of these goals can be reached as long as your communication is clear. Clever is an add-on.

My last tip is to EDIT. EDIT. EDIT. Powerful content is almost always created through repeated editing. It is very rare for thoughts and ideas to land on the page perfectly formed.

QUESTION: Many CEO’s and leadership teams question how to track ROI when the topic of social media is raised. What social metrics do you measure and why, and how often?
KIM SCARAVELLI: I am obsessed with engagement numbers. I check them monthly and I also check engagement rates for competitors, so I have accurate benchmarks. Engagement is how you know you’ve made real connections, so it’s the bomb. That said, I don’t make massive corrections based on what I see happening. Sometimes, things need time to heat up. When it comes to social media strategies, I believe you should stay the course, but make small tweaks based on the numbers you’re seeing. Continual improvements are the way to go.

QUESTION: Blogs are easy and inexpensive marketing tools to promote experts and expertise. What five ways do you recommend generating content on a regular basis?
KIM SCARAVELLI: I believe in strategy:
1. Figure out who your ideal audience is. Hone in on their needs and wants.
2. Choose topics based on that audience.
3. Now create topic clusters. (One main topic that’s BIG to your audience, with 3-5 smaller, related topics.)
4. Decide how much time you can commit to blogging each month, realistically.
5. Now make a schedule that prioritizes one piece that’s a deep dive into the main topic, with subsequent easier content covering the smaller topics.

Prioritize quality over quantity. By starting with the most authority-building, valuable piece, you have a strong foundation. After that, it’s about staying on schedule!

QUESTION: Some experts recommend that you should add one new social platform each year. If you agree with this, which one will you add to your marketing arsenal this year, and why? And if you stop using one, which one, and why?
KIM SCARAVELLI: I disagree. When it comes to social, each brand is unique. And there is a point where you may simply be spreading yourself too thin. I recommend being on 2-3 platforms. Master them. Don’t give in to the pressure to be everywhere.

Professionally, I ventured into Clubhouse in 2021, but it really wasn’t my thing. I didn’t feel comfortable or productive there, so I gave it up. Couldn’t see the benefits for myself. That said, I’m sure it works for lots of other folks. There’s no shame in taking a pass on things now and then.

TWEET THIS: When it comes to social, each brand is unique. -@KimScaravelli #socialmediamarketing #DebbieLaskeysBlog

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

Image Credit: Wordswag.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Leaders and Employees: Everyone Can Be Heroes

Thanks to social media, over the last 13 years, I have had the privilege to meet a variety of amazing marketing, leadership, and customer experience experts. One of these experts is Jason Meucci from Seattle, Washington. We recently had a discussion about leadership, and highlights follow below Jason's bio.

Jason Meucci is the Chief Possibilities Officer at his Leadership Prelude Coaching and Consulting practice. As a leadership development and team building coach, facilitator, and educator, he helps leaders and teams expand and enhance their possibilities by integrating the “3C’s” that he considers a prelude to transformational leadership into their culture: Care, Connection, and Contribution. Jason has spent more than 25 years in the corporate and nonprofit world, working in and with companies that include: CNN, the Points of Light Foundation, Delta Air Lines, KING TV, and Expedia Group. No matter his role, his favorite responsibilities have always been building teams, developing people, and crafting cultures. He has a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University, where he’s taught graduate courses in Leadership and Team Building, and also serves on the Board of the Association for Talent Development’s Puget Sound Chapter. Connect on LinkedIn at, and on Twitter at @jmeucci and @LeaderPrelude.

QUESTION: I love your title, "Chief Possibilities Officer." Can you share how that came to be?
JASON MEUCCI: The title is a way to combine who I strive to be and the impact I try to make through what I do. Possibilities are something to aspire to; they give us hope. And if you’re leading, developing, or caring for others, one of the greatest things we can give them is hope. That’s something I try to be intentional about doing.
I use that title for my team-building and leadership development work, which is all grounded in the principles of Care, Connection, and Contribution. When these values become an everyday part of someone’s leadership, the way a team works together and the environment in which they operate, problems start to look a lot more like possibilities. Check out the graphic below.

I also do a fair amount of coaching and mentoring with people who are looking for more purpose in their life or their work. When they discover it, they inevitably see a whole new range of possibilities for themselves. 


QUESTION: Your resume includes a unique section called SUPERPOWERS. Can you explain why you include this, a few of your superpowers, and why everyone should include this section?
JASON MEUCCI: Everyone should include this section because everyone has superpowers! Many people have sections that specifically highlight their top skills, which is certainly important and might even be necessary for those pesky Applicant Tracking Systems. I just feel like a good resume can showcase those skills in other ways.

I chose to include that section because I want to be known for what I’m innately great at and love doing. Superpowers are what come naturally to us, the things people consistently come to us for no matter the setting or the role. They’re how we uniquely contribute and can’t help doing because they’re a part of who we are. Some of my superpowers include team-building and leadership, mentoring, talent development, facilitation, and being a crafter of connection.

In my days as a hiring manager and people leader, it was more helpful to know what someone is CALLED to do, not just what they CAN do, because that’s how I know how they’ll make the biggest difference and be most fulfilled in their work.

QUESTION: You share your leadership philosophy on your website: "Everybody matters." Can you please elaborate?
JASON MEUCCI: I’ll start by saying that’s inspired by Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller. As he says, and as I profoundly believe, everybody should feel like who they are and what they do matters. It’s a big part of the “Contribution” piece of my work that I talk about: Everyone has something unique and important to contribute.

It could be what they do, how they do it (which gets back to Superpowers), or even how they show up for others in the process of doing that difference-making work. It’s the leaders who are intentional about consistently recognizing and appreciating those qualities, and then crafting and delegating work in a way that empowers people to do work that matters to them, in a way that matters to others, including the organization as a whole.

TWEET THIS: Everyone has something unique and important to contribute. ~@jmeucci #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: The creation of a positive employee experience and employer brand is critical for long-term employees and business success. What three tips would you give new CEO’s to create what I like to refer to as corporate assets?
JASON MEUCCI: I’ll preface this by saying, I’d hope someone who’s reached the C-Suite would already be thinking this way. But for any new leader, I’d make the case that:
[1] There’s no bigger influence on customer or brand experience than EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE. If employees don’t love working at your company, if they don’t feel cared for or invested in as a human being, there’s absolutely no way that they’ll give you their best effort. Why would you go through the exhaustive and expensive process of hiring people, then not be intentional about giving them an environment that enables and inspires them to fully utilize the attributes you hired them for in the first place? You can’t expect people to fully care about their work or your customers if they don’t feel cared for by their leaders.

[2] You can turn The Great Resignation into The Great Retention by prioritizing people over profit and production. It’s not a case of either/or. It’s an understanding that BY putting your people first, profit and production will exceed levels that aren’t possible, or at least sustainable, otherwise. Create a culture where people can not only thrive but grow and develop in ways that matter to them and they’ll not only have no desire to leave, they’ll become an army of recruiters and brand ambassadors because they can’t help but talk to others about what a great place it is to work. It’s hard to acquire new talent if you don’t take care of the talent you already have.

[3] Embrace the fact that a positive employee experience leads to not only better business results, but a better world. Without a positive employee experience, people are likely to finish a day of work feeling depleted, demotivated, or demoralized. That takes a big toll on how they show up in other key life roles, their relationships, and their communities. Look at your employee experience as an opportunity to be a force for good by giving your most important assets, your people, an environment that builds them up instead of breaks them down. They, and society, will be better for it.

TWEET THIS: It’s hard to acquire new talent if you don’t take care of the talent you already have. ~@jmeucci #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What three leaders, from history or business, inspire you, and why?
JASON MEUCCI: Here are my three:
[1] Theodore Roosevelt: 26th President of the United States. He had a combination of curiosity, adventure, and diversity of interests that I relate to on a spiritual level. I also happen to think these are some undervalued aspects of leadership. So many of his big ideas were in support of our shared humanity, hard work, and, of course, daring greatly. We need more of that in leadership.

[2] Howard Behar: Former President of Starbucks. He played a huge role in growing the company into the global giant it is today. And he did it with the cultural philosophy that focused on people more than coffee, knowing that caring for your employees as human beings is a catalyst for everything else a business needs to succeed. He’s an authentic leading voice in Servant Leadership, who recognizes that every single person in an organization has something important to contribute.

[3] Greg Daniels: Creator of the American version of THE OFFICE. That may seem an unconventional choice, and there’s definitely a recency bias at play, but like millions of Americans during the pandemic, I immersed myself in THE OFFICE including the multiple podcasts exploring the making of the show. What I’ve learned is that Daniels’ gentle and visionary leadership was what created the container in which this enormous cast could create something special. He had a way of recognizing the unique humanity and talents in each member of the cast and crew, then synthesizing that for the greater good of the show.

Everyone (the show’s cast, guests, crew) speaks so reverently about the sense of belonging, kindness, and humility that permeated the entire production. Daniels created a culture that enabled everyone to be their best selves and do their best work because they felt cared for, connected to each other, and knew that their unique contributions mattered. You can really sense that when you watch the show. Having spent most of my life in the TV business, I find it fascinating. The beautiful irony is that the show is about a dysfunctional workplace with a bad boss, but the team that created that fictional world actually had a thriving culture led by a great leader.

One very important caveat to this list: These are leaders I feel a personal connection to. While there aren’t any women on this list, I firmly believe that women are unquestionably better leaders than men, and no one can convince me otherwise. That’s another blog post for another day.

QUESTION: What is your favorite leadership book, and why?
JASON MEUCCI: The last book I read in grad school was “The Culture Code” by Daniel Coyle. Maybe it’s not technically a leadership book, but I’d argue just about the most important thing any leader can do is create a culture that enables an organization’s people to flourish, because when you have that, the possibilities for your business are enormous.

I like to say that “The most meaningful ROI is the Return on Intention.” Coyle’s work offers compelling examples, from just about any size and type of organization you can imagine, of how successful cultures come to life by design. It’s up to leaders to be intentional about it.

TWEET THIS: The most important thing any leader can do is create a culture that enables an org’s people to flourish. ~@jmeucci #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: How does an organization know when its employer branding efforts have evolved into enthusiastic brand ambassadors?
JASON MEUCCI: Anecdotally, employees just can’t keep themselves from organically talking about how much they love their experiences at work, how great their boss is, or how proud they are of their company’s services, products, or charitable efforts. You see it in their personal conversations and what they share publicly on social media (in authentic posts that are easy to distinguish from the scripted ones often handed down from the comms team).

From a performance standpoint, a company will know it when they see employees repeatedly going above and beyond in any type of customer-facing work. Those employees intentionally carry the reputation of the company on their shoulders and will do whatever is necessary to uphold it because they’re that proud and committed. They don’t do work just to check boxes – they work to make a difference. Incidentally, I don’t think any of this is possible unless and until employees feel cared for, connected to each other, and are contributing in ways that are meaningful to them.

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

JASON MEUCCI: Normalizing asking for help has become a bit of a mantra for me the last couple of years – in being a leader and being a human. For me, this quote speaks to how important it is for leaders to be vulnerable enough to ask for help, and humble enough to empower and encourage others to help in a way that leverages their superpowers. No leader can do or know it all – and any leader that tries to do EVERYTHING on his/her/their own is not a very good leader.

Getting help gives others a chance to contribute. As I say in my team-building work, asking for help gives someone else a chance to be a hero. And people that feel like heroes are more likely to perform like heroes.

TWEET THIS: No leader can do or know it all – and any leader that tries to do on their own is not a very good leader. ~@jmeucci #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog

My gratitude to Jason for sharing his leadership insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credits: Pixabay and Jason Meucci.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Tips to Create Gender Equality in Your Workplace

Today, March 8, is an important day on the equality calendar: it is International Women’s Day, a global holiday celebrated annually to commemorate the cultural, political, and socio-economic achievements of women. It also brings attention to the women’s rights movement, focusing attention on gender equality, reproductive rights, and violence and abuse against women. First celebrated in 1909 in New York City as “Women’s Day,” the holiday was celebrated in 1911 by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. International Women’s Day was adopted as a global holiday by the United Nations in 1977.

To recognize and celebrate International Women’s Day, I welcome Michelle Redfern from Australia to my Blog. We met on Twitter, and she has a fascinating background and is an impressive advocate for gender equality. We recently had a discussion about leadership, and highlights follow below Michelle's bio.

Michelle Redfern is the founder of Advancing Women, an enterprise providing research and advisory services on workplace gender quality, inclusion, and belonging. She is co-founder of A Career that Soars! and of CDW (Culturally Diverse Women) as well as the co-host of the Lead to Soar podcast. Along with her experience as a Non-Executive Director with Board and advisory roles in the finance, sport, for purpose and supply chain sectors, Michelle is a proud Ambassador for Honour a Woman, Flexible Working Day, and Girls Uniform Agenda. Michelle has held executive leadership roles at ASX & FTSE listed companies NAB, Telstra and Serco during her 40-year corporate career. She is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, holds an Executive MBA (Distinction), and holds various accreditations in organisational diversity and coaching. Michelle is an in-demand speaker and is a regular contributor to the discussion about equality and inclusion in sport and business workplaces. Connect on her website (, on LinkedIn (, and on Twitter @RedfernMichelle.

QUESTION: You are a passionate advocate for women in business and leadership, so how can women earn more top leadership positions as CEOs, COOs, CFOs, Board Chairs, etc.?
MICHELLE REDFERN: Women need an equal playing field for a start. All of us must examine, and then potentially change our mindsets about the roles that women play in society. To quote Ruth Bader-Ginsberg, “Women belong in all the places where decisions are made.” Therefore, eliminating gender stereotypes about women’s work is essential. Women still perform more than 75% of the world’s unpaid labour, which includes caring for children and elders. More equitable distribution of labour in the home will result in greater women’s workforce participation. The increase in women in the workforce will create vastly deeper talent pools for organisations to draw from and will benefit society economically.

QUESTION: Janet Yellen, the current and first female Secretary of the Treasury, has been described as, "A proven leader who knows how to build consensus, the kind of person who makes everybody around her better." What three characteristics are necessary to create a consensus-builder?
MICHELLE REDFERN: Being noted as a consensus builder is a lazy way of placing Ms. Yellen in the “acceptable behaviour for women” box.  Women are expected to behave in certain ways, building consensus, being agreeable and likable. When women break free from those behavioural stereotypes, they can be punished. If they behave in line with those standards, they are often viewed as “not promotable.”

Check out what is called THE DOUBLE BIND here:

So, I do not think that, in the context of gender equality, advising women to strive for consensus is helpful. Let’s instead, ask them to develop the skills to challenge the status quo and drive innovation, continuous improvement, and to have sustainable impact for their organisations. Even better advice would be to advise women to learn and apply our three-part leadership definition: “Leadership is using the greatness in you to achieve and sustain extraordinary outcomes by engaging the greatness in others.”

TWEET THIS: Leadership is using the greatness in you to achieve and sustain extraordinary outcomes by engaging the greatness in others. ~@RedfernMichelle #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperence #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What recommendations do you have for personnel/hiring/staffing departments to hire more qualified women, and then promote them?
MICHELLE REDFERN: Big question! The first thing to do is to recognise that it is not solely the role of the HR department to address gender inequality in the organisation. The Board, CEO, and all leaders in the organisation must consider closing the leadership gender gap as a business priority. Just like any other business priority, there is:
[1] a goal or target state,
[2] a strategy to achieve the target state,
[3] a plan to deliver on the strategy,
[4] resources assigned to implement the plan.
[5] Leaders are held accountable for successful delivery of the plan.
Yes, the HR departments hiring practices may well be part of the plan, but the rest of the business needs to also do the heavy lifting!!!

TWEET THIS: All leaders in an organisation must consider closing the leadership gender gap as a business priority. ~@RedfernMichelle #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperence #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: In one of your Blog posts written during the covid pandemic entitled, "How leaders can create workplace cultures that are better for working women," you suggested that the following question be asked during board and/or executive team meetings: "Do the board and the executive team regularly review the representation and lived experience of women in the workplace?" Can you please elaborate?
MICHELLE REDFERN: The context for this question comes from my own experience as a woman, an executive leading organisations and now, someone who advises Boards, CEOs, and Executives how to close the leadership gender gap. Over my 40+ years working in organisations, I saw many initiatives launched that were purportedly going to address gender inequality in the workplace. These initiatives more often than not fell/fall into the “Fixing Women” category which meant giving women mentoring, sending them to conferences, courses, or programs. None of these initiatives have worked and have fail to address the systemic barriers that exist for women in workplaces. Each workplace has its own culture, ways of work, and each woman in those workplaces will have had unique lived experiences. Rather than throwing investment and effort at initiatives that have failed to deliver, I want leaders to spend time listening to the women in their organisations so that they can hear exactly what it is like, for women, to navigate the workplace dynamics that exist. By doing so, leaders will have a much better understanding of how to address the barriers and behaviours that hold women back.

(Post referenced:

(Fixing Women article referenced:

QUESTION: In one of your Blog posts written during the pandemic entitled, "How Equitable and Inclusive is Your Organisation? (Do you really know?)," you listed six questions for leaders about leading for equity and inclusion. They follow below for context. After leaders answer these questions, what three things do you recommend they do to improve their corporate culture so that it reflects diversity, equity, and inclusion?
1. Do you know how your employees really feel about your organization?
(If you read this question and answered “no”, isn’t it time you asked?)
2. And even if the answer was “yes,” do you really know?
3. Do you know how your employees are experiencing your organization’s culture?
4. Do they feel included?
5. Are your company’s leaders demonstrating inclusive behavior?
6. Do your employees see them demonstrating inclusive behavior?

MICHELLE REDFERN: Make DEI a critical business priority: DEI is not nice to have, it is an enabler of sustainable high performing organisations. Make a visible, vocal commitment.
[1] Confront your organisations brutal truths. Obtain the data to establish the status quo for DEI (where are we now?) communicate to the organisation where you are now and where you aim to be, by when.
[2] Hold leaders accountable to deliver on the DEI vision, strategy, and plan.

(Post referenced:

QUESTION: Which three women leaders inspire you, from business or history, and why?
MICHELLE REDFERN: Here are my three:
[1] Professor Marcia Langton. Marcia is one of Australia’s most respected Indigenous Academics. She is a remarkable woman who is fearless in her pursuit of both knowledge and justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island women. Each time I hear her speak, I am inspired to do more and be better for our First Nations women in Australia.
[2] Susan Colantuono: Founder of Leading Women and my co-host of A Career that Soars. Susan consistently inspires me to think deeply about the issues that affect all women, and especially women of colour, and to develop actionable insights for organisational leaders as well as be generous with my time and effort for women who need me.
[3] Julia Gillard: Australia’s first and thus far, only woman Prime Minister. She inspired me and millions of other women when she came to power, when she was enduring the awful misogyny and sexism during her term as PM and of course, like so many other women, I was inspired by her famous Misogyny Speech.  Her work on a global level to create gender equality and stand up for the rights of women everywhere is outstanding.

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?
MICHELLE REDFERN: I really love that quote as it reminds me of my approach to leadership. Leaders must be both a bulldozer and a barrier. Firstly, they need to bulldoze through the BS that keeps their people and organisations from being successful. That means being open to hearing about barriers, things that don’t work well and then setting about fixing them. Secondly, leaders must be a barrier to BS. There is just some stuff that our people and our organisations need to be shielded from so that each individual and then the organisation collectively can reach their full potentials.  

TWEET THIS: Leaders must be a both a bulldozer and a barrier. ~@RedfernMichelle #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperence #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog

My gratitude to Michelle for sharing her insights about leadership and gender equality and also for celebrating International Women’s Day with us.

Image Credits: Debbie Laskey and Imad Clicks via WordSwag app.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Demonstrate Employee Appreciation 365 Days a Year

Does your organization recognize Employee Appreciation Day? If yes, you already know that today, March 4, is this special day. Celebrated on the first Friday of March each year, Employee Appreciation Day is the official day for organizations to thank employees for their hard work. Created to strengthen the connection between employers and employees, the holiday serves as an opportunity for orgs to reward employee effort and build a stronger corporate culture through appreciation.

To celebrate today’s holiday, I recently discussed the importance of creating positive employee experiences with Dr. Nicole Lipkin, who I met on Twitter. Highlights of our discussion follow Nicole’s introduction.

Dr. Nicole Lipkin, Psy.D., MBA is an internationally recognized organizational psychologist, executive coach, keynote speaker, and author of two business books (What Keeps Leaders Up at Night: Recognizing and Resolving Your Most Troubling Management Issues AND Y in the Workplace: Managing the “Me First” Generation). She is the CEO of Equilibria Leadership Consulting (, a leadership and organizational development firm based in Philadelphia. She is also the founder of HeyKiddo, a company dedicated to building the leadership, social, and emotional skills of children and their grownups. She is a regular contributor to and has shared her expertise on NPR, NBC, Forbes, Entrepreneur, and other media outlets. Follow her on Twitter @DrNicoleLipkin.

QUESTION: One of your recent Tweets was "Let people do the job they were hired to do! So often leaders and managers get in their people’s way, which creates employee disengagement." So, what's the secret?
DR. NICOLE LIPKIN: Give your people agency, which means give them the freedom and flexibility to come up with their own solutions for their workflow as well as the chance to do their work without someone breathing down their neck. If the work they turn in doesn’t meet your standards, then have an “expectations discussion” with them.

In fact, an expectations conversation should be had at the onset of a new hire – if not during the interview process – to figure out how they work, what they need to be productive, and what hinders their work.

During that onboarding conversation, managers and employees can work together to create the right working relationship so that everyone understands each other’s expectations. If someone was hired because of their qualifications and past experience, then it makes sense to let them do what they were hired to do.

QUESTION: You wrote a post for Forbes entitled, "How to Protect Yourself When Working with A Narcissist." What three ways can employees protect themselves in this situation?
DR. NICOLE LIPKIN: This is a very tricky situation as you may not know you’re working for a true narcissist until way down the line, when you’re already caught in their web of manipulation. Even if you do recognize that they are a narcissist, it’s still difficult to maneuver around their tactics, but there are a few self-protective things that can be done:
[1] Avoid vulnerability. Anything you share about yourself in such moments will definitely be used to hurt you down the line. You may not even realize it’s happening, but it will happen, and you will regret letting your guard down.

[2] Create boundaries. Both professional and personal. Don’t hang out with them after work, avoid going to lunch with them, and avoid – if possible – getting into work teams with them. They will steal the spotlight and exploit you.

[3] Don’t try to change them. Surrender your own ego. Narcissists, particularly of the DSM variety, don’t change easily. They are skilled manipulators and can dance around any accusations thrown their way, and then turn it back on you to the point where you feel discombobulated. Not to mention they are likely to erupt in a narcissistic rage if they feel they are attacked, and that can be very scary.

QUESTION: You wrote a post for Forbes entitled, "How to Work with Someone You Don't Like." What are three ways to survive in this scenario?
DR. NICOLE LIPKIN: Though not desirable, this is one of those times in life when reframing challenges as opportunities is necessary. They’re not necessarily opportunities you jump for, but they’re growth opportunities, nonetheless. Here are three:
[1] Remember that everyone’s a mirror. Typically, what we loathe in someone is something we don’t like about ourselves. This is a chance to do a little self-reflection and ask yourself what it is about this person that you find terrible and then see if there’s some part of you that is similar to that quality, though you may not want to admit it. If they’re unyielding and you want them to bend, aren’t you also being unyielding? It’s not easy, but that’s when you need to find a workaround.

[2] You can try to adapt. Whether it’s someone or a situation you don’t like, there will often be some aspect of life that is less than desirable. Avoidance only tucks the issue under the carpet, so to speak; if you can adapt and cope maturely, you grow as a person. Over time, these things/people will not bother you as much if you adapt and rise to the challenge in the moment. You thus become more resilient and ultimately happier.

[3] Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. The more we can see life from another’s perspective, the more we can work with other people and get things done. Compromise is a huge part of life, both in and out of the office. Learning to compromise and see things from another’s point of view breeds empathy, understanding, and influence.

TWEET THIS: The more we can see life from another’s perspective, the more we can work with other people and get things done. ~@DrNicoleLipkin #EmployeeExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What three leadership books do you recommend all leaders read, and why?
DR. NICOLE LIPKIN: Here are my three:
[1] Mindset, by Carol Dweck. This book is life changing and a must read for everyone, not only leaders. To learn where you land on the fixed/growth mindset spectrum is crucial for personal and professional development. The distinction she makes with fixed mindsets thinking their abilities are set in stone versus growth mindsets looking at their abilities as works in progress is eye-opening to say the least. It changes one’s perspective from “I’ll never be great” to “I can get better if I keep trying.”

[2] Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman: I’m a fan of anything that helps me understand the way I think, and the way others think. Applying metacognition (thinking about how we think, how we feel, how we behave) enhances our ability to be self-aware and more effective in our personal and professional lives.

[3] The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni: As much as I’m a fan of anything that helps me gain a deeper understanding of internal human processes, I’m also a fan of anything that helps me understand group dynamics. I’ve always loved this book and how it so clearly articulates the destructive dynamics that can ensue when people work together.

QUESTION: You wrote a book, "What Keeps Leaders Up at Night." A few of the chapters addressed topics such as "I'm a Good Boss, So Why Do I Sometimes Act Like a Bad One;" and "Why Do I Lose My Cool in Hot Situations?" What were some surprises that you learned while writing the book?
DR. NICOLE LIPKIN: I would say that the main premise of this book is helping leaders understand their own psychology and how that impacts their own leadership and the leadership of others. The more committed we are to understanding our footprint as leaders (whether we are leading ourselves or leading ourselves and others) and committing to lifelong self-discovery and awareness, the better we can be for ourselves and for others.

The most eye-opening aspects for me were the neuroscience research studies that I read about for the book, i.e., the way our attention suffers with our technology; the way our brain has developed over time where it still reacts to stress the same way it did in paleolithic times but doesn't realize the dangers are different; how people react to change; that our brain's reward center is activated from schadenfreude; all the research studies cited in the book were eye-opening for me as well and informed my view of leadership and life in general.

QUESTION: You wrote an E-Book, that is available on your website entitled, "SLAM! A Leader's Guide to Engaging People and Building a Company Culture That Works." What are three take-aways from the E-Book?

(Here’s the link to download:

DR. NICOLE LIPKIN: Here are three:
[1] Social connection figures prominently when it comes to not only employee engagement, but also the bottom line. When people feel connected to the people they work with and for, they are motivated intrinsically (from within versus externally, like paychecks, bonuses, etc.), which is the most powerful form of motivation. People want to come to work and feel like it is an extension of their personality outside of work. When they feel connected to the people in the organization, it supports them in doing their best work, which trickles all the way down to the customer.

[2] Leadership excellence means looking at the big picture and not thinking selfishly. This means considering everyone when making decisions, from employee to shareholder. They need to think long-term and what can keep everything going smoothly and positively for the long haul, rather than chasing a quick fix or some solution that serves only them. Furthermore, it means embracing soft skills like empathy, listening, and communication, to name just a few to drive engagement on all fronts.

[3] An aligned culture breeds trust and engagement, which means that it’s important for leaders and the powers that be to not only talk the talk but walk the walk. If they’ve espoused certain values – like integrity, respect, and communication, to name a few – as being the cornerstone of their organization, then they need to back it up in real life. When an organization only talks the talk, it creates disengagement, mistrust, workplace toxicity, and ultimately, high turnover. An aligned culture, on the other hand, breeds trust, engagement, a positive workplace culture, and positively affects the bottom line.

TWEET THIS: An aligned culture breeds trust and engagement. ~@DrNicoleLipkin #EmployeeAppreciationDay #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: One of my favorite leadership quotes is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): "Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What does this quote mean to you?
DR. NICOLE LIPKIN: It means – in essence – you’re there to support your people and to ensure that the loudest voices in the room aren’t the only ones that are heard. It means creating a psychologically safe work environment and providing a workplace culture within which they can thrive. To me, it also means you advocate for your people when you believe in them – and their ideas – when they aren’t accepted initially.

TWEET THIS: You’re there to support your people and to ensure that the loudest voices in the room aren’t the only ones that are heard. ~@DrNicoleLipkin #LeadershipTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog

My gratitude to Nicole for sharing her insights and for appearing here on my Blog. How is your org showing appreciation for your employees today?

Image Credit: Mohammad Metri via WordSwag app.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Is Your Brand Ready for International Women's Day?

As International Women's Day, March 8, approaches, is your brand ready? Have you created a unique ad campaign or a new product launch to celebrate women and women's achievements? If not, there's still time. No matter what you do, however, do NOT repeat what Burger King did last year. Allow me to refresh your memory.

As Lisa Roberts wrote for PR News:

"Five simple words: “Women belong in the kitchen.” One cringe-worthy tweet. Hoping to deliver its International Women’s Day campaign, Burger King UK instead made headlines for a controversial marketing choice. The public reacted swiftly. It called out the fast-food giant for using a sexist trope as clickbait. Highlighting gender disparity in the restaurant industry was the campaign's aim. That got lost in the hubbub. It didn’t take long for Burger King to backpedal. The company deleted the tweet and apologized for its insensitivity. It explained the intent of the provocative post, but the damage was done. In less than a day, women’s rights activists were speaking out against Burger King."

According to Daniel Piper of CreativeBlog:

"If you're wondering how Burger King's marketing team managed to convince itself this was a good idea, the company tried to explain in subsequent tweets. "Only 20% of chefs are women," one read. "We're on a mission to change the gender ratio in the restaurant industry by empowering female employees." The company said it was launching a new scholarship program to help female Burger King employees pursue their culinary dreams.

Later in the day on March 8, Burger King UK deleted the tweet and explained its reasoning in a separate Twitter post. "We hear you. We got our initial tweet wrong and we’re sorry," it began in one tweet. A second tweet read: "We decided to delete the original tweet after our apology. It was brought to our attention that there were abusive comments in the thread, and we don't want to leave the space open for that."

Burger King wrote in a statement: 

“We are committed to helping women break through a male-dominated culinary culture in the world’s fine dining restaurants, and sometimes that requires drawing attention to the problem we’re trying to help fix. Our tweet in the UK today was designed to draw attention to the fact that only a small percentage of chefs and head chefs are women. It was our mistake to not include the full explanation in our initial tweet and have adjusted our activity moving forward because we’re sure that when people read the entirety of our commitment, they will share our belief in this important opportunity."

The bottom line is this: If you are taking the time and spending the money to create a marketing campaign, spend time in the early stages and research who it will reach, what their core values are, and what may upset them. Look at how these targeted stakeholders engage online, things they talk about, language they use, accounts they follow, and causes they support. Then, and only then, go live with your campaign - not before.

And if you need a lesson from a positive marketing campaign, travel back seven years to what has affectionately been called the ice bucket challenge. The ALS Association, a nonprofit organization, raised $115 million to fund research with a simple challenge: Get a bucket of ice and water and record pouring it on someone. More than 17 million videos including posts by Bill Gates and George Bush were shared with the #IceBucketChallenge hashtag during the summer of 2014.

What have you learned from these two examples to help your brand's future marketing, advertising, and public relations campaigns?

Image Credit: The now-deleted tweet via Future.