Key Changes Leaders Need To Make Now To Help Their Organizations Thrive

Part of Kathy Caprino’s series “Supporting Today’s Workforce”

Errol Gardner: Over the past 6 months of remote work, we have solved for or adapted to many of the challenges that initially arose– technical, logistical, getting the right people connected with their clients and internally there are still some unavoidable challenges. Our younger staff may not have as much space at home to work effectively and those with young children or with home schooling, may have a harder time committing to a predictable work pattern. At this moment, we and our clients have a degree of stability when it comes to working remotely—which underscores our human resiliency and ability to work in a dynamic state.

In a way, remote work has eased some work burdens for us. In the past, you had to find a way to physically be in the same place or be prepared to lose intimacy through a phone call. Now, the norm is to take video calls allowing us to see people’s facial expressions and respond accordingly. By doing so, you can broadly emulate what happens in most face-to-face situations, particularly if you have an existing relationship with the person and can understand their body language.

I think the biggest challenge we are facing is managing new relationships. So far, we have adapted many of our existing working relationships both internally and with clients to function virtually and many continue to thrive. However, over the next 6 to 12 months we will have new hires, new managers and managees to connect. This type of relationship building—forming trust and ultimately teaming is what will be hardest to achieve in the virtual world. When we meet in person, we spend the first few interactions getting to know each other’s personality and working style. We develop bonds and collaborate with a level of trust that will be difficult to replicate from a solely virtual starting point.

Caprino: How can leaders overcome those challenges, and helping remote employees and teams collaborate closely and thrive?

Gardner: As social creatures, humans still crave connection and friendship, even at work. Making time for virtual games or team bonding exercises is still important when remote in order to form those connections. Various studies tell us that a large proportion of an individual’s behavior is driven by their manager, so it is important to maintain those relationships.

Moving forward, depending on government guidelines, it will be important for us to come together again and invest time in our teams to the extent that it is safe. I feel that once a month or once a quarter it’s important to make time to get everyone in the same location—perhaps outside given the challenges of the pandemic, to build a baseline that is needed to continue the momentum of working remotely.

Caprino: Talk about great leaders who are tackling the tough conversations we need to have today, about issues that are at the forefront of people’s minds. What are leaders doing well and not so well, in helping people feel heard and understood?

Gardner: The hallmark of a good leader is deep listening and transparent communication. If you look at various studies that are created its often the case that only a small percentage of employees think that the leadership of their organization communicates effectively with the rest of the organization. So, in regards to the pandemic, those leaders that shared information across their company, prepared offices and individuals to face the challenges ahead but then also took a step back to listen to their employees’ needs were the organizations that have adapted more quickly in these challenging times.

Now more than ever, making conversations accessible about mental health is vital. At EY, we have put a focus on investing and making sure we have the right facilities available to support people if they’re struggling with the impacts of working in this kind of environment, or if they have experienced Covid-19 first hand or through their family.

Another conversation at the forefront globally is the racial unrest and inequity we are all grappling with. Companies who addressed the issues head on and made organizational commitments to being anti-racist are faring the best. At EY, for instance, leaders in the US and globally came together to take a stance, contributing $3M to organizations fighting social injustices and $4M to HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities) and evaluating internal talent and business processes to further advance equity across race. Organizations need to articulate clearly what they think is right and what they cannot support.

For leaders across all organizations, it is important to host listening events to hear the lived experiences and injustices colleagues have faced. Some experiences happen within the work environment and exposing those to the highest level of leadership does allow real and genuine change to develop.

Caprino: How important is it today that leaders do what is necessary to move managers out of the organization who are toxic, narcissistic, abusive or otherwise harmful to the culture?

Gardner: If a manager is not aligned with the values of an organization and is stifling the growth of their colleagues, it should be a quick decision to remove them. Increasingly, there is recognition among leaders that a candidate’s fit with organizational culture is as important as their skills and experience.

At EY, we always try to take our people through a process of education and enlightenment in order to increase awareness and understanding. We have found many missteps come through lack of knowledge or lack of self-awareness as very few people get up each morning wanting to upset fellow human beings. But, if that doesn’t work, it is important to send a message. We are a values-based organization, and inclusivity is at the heart of our organization. Effective leaders embrace diversity to challenge the status quo. Making it a comfortable, safe and equitable environment to get work done is of the utmost importance to us.

Caprino: How can leaders better identify when their own behavior and communication as a leader and manager needs to change?

Gardner: Having the self-awareness to look internally at your own behavior and communication is one of the trickiest parts of being a good leader. Something I think the Black Lives Matter movement demonstrates is that most leaders really didn’t recognize—and may still not be aware of—just how unjust the society is for people of color.

By listening to colleagues of all levels in an unfiltered fashion, engaging in reverse mentoring and frankly just giving people the opportunity to share their lived experience, leaders can go on an educational journey and act as a catalyst for behavioral change.

Leaders need to be comfortable to get uncomfortable seeing their words and actions from a different perspective. A lot of leaders have very little exposure to the prejudices societally entrenched against people of color or the LGBTQ+ community. Without exposure there is a lack of understanding and a lack of self-awareness. So as a leader, put yourself in uncomfortable situations, ask questions and take feedback graciously on an ongoing basis in order to change when needed.

Caprino: What must leaders do differently today than ever before and how will that strengthen their leadership, communication and ability to inspire action towards a shared vision?

Gardner: We’ve talked a lot about empathy, but it is also about connecting with people. Leaders need to communicate to a certain extent and then be active listeners. Managers are used to being brought into conversations to offer advice and opinions but that means it can sometimes be easy to forget to listen to what people are saying and capture the sentiment of employees and even wider society.

At EY, for instance, we talk a lot about keeping humans at the center of everything we do. That means our employees, our customers, our stakeholders matter most. If you don’t understand them, what is motivating them, making them happy or sad, it is really hard to move the business forward.

In an era where uncertainty and change are the norm, it’s imperative for leaders to create a compelling story framed in the future—and you can bring employees together this way. And the future is all about transformation and being comfortable with it.

By focusing on realizing transformation from the inside out, leaders can unlock meaningful change for people, customers and other stakeholders.

Learn more about the EY transformation journey here.

To build your leadership and career strength in today’s times, read Kathy Caprino’s new book The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss, and subscribe to her LinkedIn newsletter The Finding Brave Circle.

Four Powerful Steps That Will Boost Your Career During This Pandemic

Part of Kathy Caprino’s series “The Most Powerful You”

During these past four months, I’ve heard from many more professionals than usual on LinkedIn and privately—particularly those who have decided to use this unprecedented time to rethink their lives and careers. For so many, what was intolerable in their work before has become more glaringly so, and the hopes and dreams they had for their lives are now even more pressing. In fact, according to my recent Power Gap survey, 76% of the close to 1,000 women around the globe who completed the survey indicated that they’ve lost sight of their thrilling dream for their future, and 25% feel this is the most pressing of all the power gaps. Many are finally ready to do something about it.

During this time, when millions no longer have to physically commute and have extra time available to them, people have decided that now’s the time to take action and change what isn’t working in their careers. And I’ve seen this phenomenon occur every time there’s a major crisis in the world. It happened to me and so many others after the tragedies of 9/11, where suddenly we realized that so much that we’ve taken for granted simply cannot be counted on. And we’ve seen that life is much more precarious than when recognized before the crisis, which bring with it a sense of urgency and agency.

Personally speaking, after a brutal layoff in the days following 9/11, I finally left my 18-year corporate career to go out on my own, and became a marriage and family therapist, and later, a career coach and writer. It was the powerful catalyst I needed to pursue a new career that aligned much more closely with who I am and what I care most about in the world.

What people begin to see in times like these is that no job or career is truly “safe and secure.” The only constant is change. Once that dawns on us, it often motivates us to take the reins on our lives and careers and finally pursue that new job, career or field, or get on the path to starting that new venture we’ve been dreaming about for years, because we see that there truly is no time like the present.

But during these uncertain times, and always, we need to be very strategic and intentional in our efforts if we want to land plum roles or claim new opportunities that will be a great fit with our values, needs and desires.

Here are four key steps you can take starting today (yes, even during this pandemic) to make the most of this time and make the changes you want in your job and career:

Stop focusing only on applying online

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that more than 80% of jobs are NOT achieved through applying online and 70% of jobs aren’t even publicly listed. If we are engaging only in applying online and sending out our resumes, we’re missing the boat completely. It’s effective and powerful networking that is what is needed now, and that includes numerous ways of “bringing yourself to market” and also connecting with mentorssponsors and “ambassadors” who can open key doors for us that we can’t open on our own.

Summer—and during these months of the pandemic—is a critical time to cultivate those relationships. Job seekers need to overcome what I’ve seen is a key “power gap” of Isolating From Influential Support (Gap #4 of the 7 most damaging power gaps that professional women face today), and start taking more empowered action to build these support relationships.

Get in the right room, finally

My friend and colleague Judy Robinett, author of How To Be a Power Connector and Crack The Funding Codeshared with me that women are so often “in the wrong room” in their networking, meaning that they stay stuck associating with people at their same level but fail to reach higher and connect with people of influence who can make things happen for us that we can’t achieve on our own. Women are often networking at the wrong level for their goals.

In her book Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor and her researchSylvia Ann Hewlett revealed that women on average have three times as many mentors as men—but men have twice as many sponsors (sponsors are high-level, influential people who can help elevate you and connect you with new opportunities that you can’t access on your own).

It’s time to get intentional and do the work to build an influential support community that will help you elevate and stretch beyond your current level. The fact is we simply cannot manifest our most thrilling dreams by trying to hack it out alone and in a vacuum. We need others who’ve already achieved great success and impact who can uplift and support us and advance our causes by opening doors for us while we’re not in the room. And we need to stop feeling ashamed, humiliated and “less than” because we’re not where we want to be.

It’s been exactly those times that I finally openly admitted to influential supporters and advisors that things weren’t going well in my career or business that allowed my problems to shift and be solved. When we muster the bravery to admit—and take accountability for—addressing our core problems and challenges head on, then we will experience the growth we’re needing.

Find new ways to be of service and demonstrate your potential to your influential supporters

Once you start building a powerful network, support those in your network. Ask how you can help your ambassadors and supporters. What do they need that you can offer and provide? What introductions can you make for them? What skill do you have that may be helpful to them?

Maybe you’re a fantastic writer and can help your sponsor or mentor by rewriting their bio or polishing up their Linkedin profile. Or maybe you’re a wizard using Canva and can help your advisor create some beautiful new images and quotes to share on Instagram.

Don’t focus your efforts solely on you and how you want to make more money or build more success. Think about important ways you can help the people in your network to thrive and grow. It feels enlivening to be of service and use your talents and gifts in ways that help others. Secondly, it is highly generative and creates more growth for all involved. As your supporters grow and flourish, so will you.

Speak up more bravely and confidently about the new work you’re thinking you want to do (even if you don’t have it all nailed down yet)

So many professionals tell me that they have an idea of what they want to do in the next juncture of their career, but because they’re not 100% clear about it, they don’t feel comfortable talking about it or sharing the vision with anyone else. That’s a big mistake.

You can’t move forward with your idea or vision for the next chapter if you won’t talk about it. People are very resistant to share about their new ideas or potential new directions for three key reasons: 1) they’re afraid that their current circle of colleagues and friends may think the idea is silly or that they’ll get negative pushback, 2) they fear their ideas aren’t good or sound enough, or 3) they fear that if they don’t have a clear idea of how to execute on their vision, or what the new direction is with absolutely clarity, that it’s not worthy of being discussed. These are faulty reasons for staying quiet.

Yes, in certain circumstances you might want to keep your innovative career or business ideas to yourself until a specific point along the development path where you’ve vetting them more fully. But in general, if you won’t talk about what you’re thinking about and hoping to create, you can’t build support for it. And we need a great deal of powerful support if we’re to achieve the biggest, most thrilling dreams and visions we have for our lives.


During this pandemic—when you may have more time to think and evaluate where you are today and where you want to be in the future, take empowered steps that will help you gain more control over your future. This is a perfect opportunity to put yourself first, finally, and decide what you want for your life and make the changes you need, to achieve those thrilling goals and visions.

As Viktor Frankl shared in his groundbreaking book Man’s Search for Meaning:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

To achieve more bravery, power and success in your career, read Kathy Caprino’s new book The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss.

10 Questions To Help You Know If Your Leader Or Manager Is Someone You Should Be Supporting

Part of Kathy Caprino’s series “The Most Powerful You”

For 15 years, I’ve been coaching mid- to high-level professionals and leaders in achieving their highest and most rewarding goals. This involves helping them embrace new strategies and approaches that allow them to make the positive impact they long for and become the kind of leaders they want to be. Throughout the process, they’ve told me that in overcoming their own power gaps, they’ve expanded their ability to learn from critique and found new ways to be more inclusive in their leadership approach. They’ve built more psychological safety in their organizations, and reduced the divisiveness and conflict in their ecosystems and work cultures.

It’s very inspiring to observe people mustering the bravery, confidence, and strength to walk through their deepest fears and insecurities. I’ve learned in my time as a therapist and coach that “greater awareness equals greater choice,” and these individuals are intentionally choosing to shift how they’re operating in the world to become leaders of beneficial influence, who uplift and support their followers, employees and constituents as they ascend.

Sometimes, in working with professionals around the world, I also see that they are struggling with their decision-making processes, unable to make a definitive decision on a direction to pursue or action to take. In many cases, their decision processes have failed them in the past—for instance, they’ve taken the wrong career route, or chosen a terrible job, or followed the wrong leader who wreaked havoc on their life. And these faulty decisions make them feel paralyzed today as to what to do next. Or they haven’t ever really trusted themselves fully so they waffle and waver when needing to put their stake in the ground and decide on a course of action.

Overall, I’ve seen that there are 5 key reasons that people’s decisions fail them, and these reasons are:

  • Their decisions don’t support their intrinsic, core values
  • They made the right decisions but due to weak boundaries or insecurity, they didn’t communicate or enforce their decisions with clarity or commitment.
  • Their decisions emerged from a place of disempowerment, fear or weakness instead of strength
  • Their decisions weren’t sufficiently vetted and didn’t take into account the real-life impact and outcomes
  • And finally, their decisions focused on the wrong problem instead of the key challenge they actually needed to address

Today, in these times of greater fear and uncertainty, I’m observing that my clients and course members—and those I hear from on LinkedIn on other social media platforms—are struggling even more in making key decisions that will have a large impact on their futures, including what jobs they should stay in, the career changes they need to make, and now, who they want to vote for in the upcoming local and national elections. These key decisions include which business or political leaders to follow, which organizations to join and which causes and directions to pursue.

In figuring out—and committing to— a vitally important decision that you’ll have to live with for the foreseeable future, that will have lasting repercussions in your life and the lives of those you love, I’ve found there are some key questions you can ask yourself today that will help you make the right decision for you.

These questions will help you cut through the noise and clutter, clarify where you really stand, and help you make the correct choice for who you are, focusing on the issues you care about, and the outcomes that matter most to you in your life and work. And these questions will help you not only choose the leader you want to follow, but also determine the way you want to show up in the world.

As a start, below are 10 questions that will help you identify if a particular leader or manager is truly someone you should be supporting and working for (or voting for):

Ask yourself these 10 questions:

  1. Does this leader or manager behave, communicate and operate in a way that I respect, admire and want to emulate?
  2. Does this leader share my core values and inspire me to be the best, highest version of myself possible, or do I find that their actions and suggestions make me behave and speak like a “lower,” more insecure version of myself?
  3. Does this leader know how to build beneficial, supportive relationships with others that help create sustainable growth and achieve critical allyship that is so necessary for my organization or entity to thrive?
  4. Does this leader believe in the innate equality, deservedness and worth of all people he/she leads, and do they support that core value in their words, actions and deeds?
  5. Can this leader take critique and challenge well, and take responsibility and accountability for his/her actions, instead of blaming others? Do they show remorse when they go wrong, and apologize when an apology or change of course and attitude is called for?
  6. Can this leader respect and like people who don’t agree with their actions and opinions?
  7.  Does this leader show maturity, emotional intelligence and regulation, temperance, patience, empathy, balance, and other key attributes that make a great leader?
  8. In reviewing the communications from this leader over the past six months, including social media messages, public and private statements, emails and memos, and other written and verbal forms of communications, do the communications show more positivity than negativity? (i.e. What percentage of these messages contain uplifting, positive words and sentiments that move people forward and what percentage tear people down, blame or attack others, or contain otherwise divisive or negative messages? Is there a ratio of more than 3 to 1 of uplifting and positive language and messages vs. denigrating and negative ones?)
  9. When this leader takes action, does the action support the growth, safety and success of the vast majority of people under him/her, or just those groups he/she is personally attached or connected to and only those who support him/her?
  10. Finally, are you able to say “I love how this leader behaves and communicates because he/she builds bridges across major divides and differences, and reduces the potential harm, conflict, anger and a lack of acceptance among the people he/she leads?”

Bonus question: The opposite of question #10 is if you often have to say, “Well, he/she didn’t mean it”  in response to divisive, derogatory or discriminatory statements the leader makes. If you find that you have to continually excuse away their behavior and say “they didn’t intend it that way,” ask yourself one final question – Why do I continue to want to make excuses for this leader? Why not do what it takes to choose a leader or manager I don’t have to make excuses for?

If you find yourself saying “No” to many or most of these questions, then your decision is clear. This is not the leader you want to be supporting, and it’s time to make some powerful decisions on what you need to do.

Perhaps now’s the time to finally look for a new job, and leave that harmful manager or leader behind forever. Or perhaps you can pursue working in a different department, working for a different manager within your organization who aligns more closely with what you want. Or maybe it’s time to take the reins and launch your own venture so you can finally become a great leader of your own enterprise. And now is the time to decide clearly who you want to lead you both regionally and nationally, in the upcoming elections.

Base your decision on what you truly value in life, and in all respects—both personally and professionally—choose to follow people whom you respect and who embody the very traits that you want to emulate and bring forward in both life and work.

To make stronger, more effective career and leadership decisions, read Kathy Caprino’s new book The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss, and work with Kathy in her Career Breakthrough programs this Fall.

How To Reduce Divisiveness And Build Trust And Unity In Our Workplaces

Part of Kathy Caprino’s series “Supporting Today’s Workforce”

As almost everyone has read, seen or experienced directly, our country has grown more divisive, angry and ununified in recent months. Hate-crime violence has hit a 16-year high, political polarization has increased, and a majority (55%) of adult social media users are “worn out” by political posts and discussions. In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated long-standing racial inequalities that have been rooted in systemic racism in our nation. We’re facing extreme challenges in our organizations and institutions where increased trust and unity are critical if we’re to make progress to address and solve these pressing dilemmas.

To learn more about how we all can reduce divisiveness today and work to build that needed trust and unity, I caught up this month with Dr. Laura Gallaher who has worked in the field of professional and personal development since 2005. Laura is an organizational psychologist, speaker, facilitator and executive coach and she is the founder and CEO of Gallaher Edge, which she started in 2013 and rebranded in 2018.

Her noteworthy career began after the Space Shuttle Columbia exploded upon re-entry in 2003, killing everybody aboard. Following the tragedy, NASA hired Gallaher and a team of organizational psychologists to change the cultural influences that were deemed to play a role in the accident. She worked for eight years to positively influence culture, develop leadership capacity, and improve organizational performance at Kennedy Space Center. Gallaher was also hired to help manage the change associated with radical changes in the performance management process and philosophy at Walt Disney Parks & Resorts.

At Gallaher Edge, Gallaher helps leaders across a variety of industries navigate changes and improve their organizational culture through workshops that build trust, grow self-awareness, and align strategically from the inside out.

Here’s what Dr. Gallaher shares:

Kathy Caprino: So, Laura, from your work and research perspective, why do humans struggle so much with change?

Laura Gallaher: We often hear that people resist change—but if I gave you $10 million, you’d probably agree that would change your life – so would you resist it? Assuming there’s no “catch”—no! You wouldn’t resist that. So it isn’t really that humans resist or struggle with change, it is that change tends to bring loss, and loss is painful. We call those losses the “costs” of change. When we hear that change is coming, we attune to the costs associated with that change. People only respond to their own perceived costs to changes in their lives. Evolutionarily speaking, we are programmed to avoid loss.

An endowment effect study by Knetsch showcases how we humans can be irrational in our own decision making. When participants in the study completed a task, they were rewarded with their choice of either a mug or a chocolate bar. About half chose the chocolate bar and half chose the mug. However, a different group was only given mugs as a reward after completing a task. When given the option to switch for a chocolate bar, only 10% of people took up that offer because most people had formed an ownership bond with their mugs.

When change is coming, it is valuable to remember that we are the ones putting the value on both the gains and the losses associated with the change, and we have control and choice over our own perceptions. Use that power of choice to shift focus—even change that initially feels unwelcomed will always bring both gains and losses.

The best way to deal with change is to focus on what will be gained. For example, unemployment is unfortunately skyrocketing due to the impact of Covid-19. If someone lost their job, the gain could be finding a different job that is better for their skills or lifestyle, or potentially the push they needed to start a business.

On the other hand, it could also be an opportunity to slow down and reconnect with their families or even themselves, helping them be the best version of themselves possible.

Caprino: During these times that are so difficult to handle, what tips and strategies can help us?

Gallaher: The environment today can make us feel that we’re in survival mode—constantly stressed, feeling like we can’t do enough and that we’re falling behind. While the news today is almost on a constant loop of negativity, we need to remember that we can still thrive in this environment. It’s all relative—it’s hard to believe, but there were days even pre-pandemic that were tough to get through, too.

We all evolved to be survivors, so our default mode is to survive—to shift into thrive mode, you’ll want to override your brain’s auto-pilot and retake control of our thoughts, your attitude and your chosen environment.

To do this, set aside some time for self-investment. Choose to practice gratitude multiple times a day and feel the meaning of it. In addition, choose to focus on some tangible action items. Limit how much news is watched if it limits your overall happiness. We have far more choices in life than we tend to realize. Everyone has a choice with what to do with their time, so determine where attention is given.

Caprino: What is the importance of the culture we’re in and how does that impact our resilience?

Gallaher: Culture has a huge impact on human behavior. It is where we learn what is OK and how we pick up on how things are done. The United States has a somewhat fragmented culture at this period in time, which means that different segments of the country have different ideas of what is OK and not OK. The pandemic and its impact on the economy is creating a scarcity mentality, which can lead people to start focusing more on themselves and less on others, which inhibits a society’s ability to collaborate and grow to reach new heights.

The flip side is that this pandemic is significantly increasing the generosity and desire to come together in other groups of people. Some are using this as a time to give to others when they see them struggling. Our healthcare workers, for example, are fighting every day for the lives of others.

Awareness of systemic racism has also elevated, and while it creates division and can trigger insecurity in white people, the murder of George Floyd has served as a catalyst to correct previous injustices. Now, the majority of adult Americans believe in the fight for what is right.

Many times it is darkest before the dawn, and when we can connect to a purpose (like fighting racism) and connect with each other (through generosity and caring for those who are ill), resilience abounds. Additionally, these experiences are creating deep wells of resilience that we will all be able to pull from in future life challenges. We are all more resilient than we think.

Caprino: Talking culture, so many of us are fighting with each other politically and ideologically, and in hateful ways that are devoid of compassion and understanding. How does that situation impact people and what can we do differently to thrive through this?

Gallaher:  Underneath all of this is vulnerability. When we feel vulnerable and afraid, especially subconsciously, we tend to rely on defense mechanisms to cope. I believe that as humans, our most natural way of being is kind and compassionate, but as we are all raised imperfectly by imperfect humans to become imperfect adults ourselves, we each develop ways to defend ourselves against unpleasant feelings internally.

So in the face of human suffering, especially if there is a subconscious feeling of helplessness (i.e. I can’t do anything to fix this), people may respond in ways to reduce their negative internal feelings. This can look like blaming the victim (i.e. if I can convince myself that they somehow deserve it, then I don’t have to cope with the painful discomfort of injustice).

On top of that, our desire to feel good about ourselves means that our egos often keep us in a place of wanting to feel right, instead of wanting to learn. So, we often tend to dig in our heels in the face of opposition, preserving the good feeling about ourselves as being “right” and also a “good person.”

Thriving in these times stems first and foremost from our ability to practice self-acceptance and courage. Lean into the vulnerability that underlies the anger, accept that you are wrong sometimes (we all are), and focus yourself on learning and listening.

Societally, from the top, it would look like politicians learning how to communicate in a way that is less polarizing. We are all far more alike than we are different, and we all tend to agree on way more than we realize—we just don’t highlight the similarities and the agreements, especially when there is vulnerability and discomfort.

For each of us as humans, what we can do is listen. Listening is one of the most powerful tools to facilitate connection, change and growth. Listen like it’s not about you. Listen to your friend share their personal experience with racism. Listen to your employee talk about their fear of falling ill. Listen to your co-worker talk about the fear of the decision of what is best for their children.

It is harder to hate people up close, so move communication to phone or video call and away from text-based communication—like email—as often as you can. Remember our common humanity.

Caprino: Should business leaders encourage and tackle head-on the difficult and sensitive conversations that today’s times are demanding?

Gallaher: While business leaders regularly face the potential for difficult conversations, 2020 has brought this to a whole new level. From navigating racial conversations to deciding how to keep employees safe amid the global pandemic, people are experiencing difficulty separating their personal lives from the workplace. This may make leaders nervous, wondering how can I help employees feel heard, understood and safe during these times of uncertainty?

As a leader, this is the time to actively listen to what employees need and not shy away from topics that seem difficult to address on the surface. Do your employees have kids and now have to decide between working full-time or home schooling their children? Does an employee have Covid-19 or is close to someone with the virus? Is an employee passionate about bringing more awareness to the systemic racism in the United States?

Hear what employees are saying, but also note what isn’t being said. If what employees are relaying isn’t perfectly clear, follow up by saying “Tell me more; I want to understand,” or try paraphrasing what you think they’re trying to say.

If employees’ concerns haven’t been addressed yet, these are all conversations that business leaders need to be having now. Having an effective conversation means it’s time to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. These uncomfortable conversations create room for growth in the workplace. No one needs to know all the answers, but being willing to facilitate these conversations fosters a more inclusive organization.

More importantly, don’t let the conversations die out once the world regains a bit of normalcy. Create the space for conversations to take place within the workplace and mediate as appropriate to ensure these conversations remain respectful. Having an ongoing, open dialogue in the workplace leads to a culture of learning and understanding and can help eliminate issues, like systemic racism, nationwide.

Caprino: Why do people become more divisive and critical of each other in crisis like this pandemic?

Gallaher: There’s a saying that the best way to assess an organization is to try to change it. In your work culture or organization in this time of crisis, are people pulling together or are they dividing? Are people leaning into the change to identify how they can adapt, or are they digging their heels in to avoid the pain associated with change?

Fear can be dominating. People start to look out for themselves, so fear of losing money or power creates an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality.

Most fundamentally, whether someone reacts in fear or unity comes down to trust. When people trust one another to act not only in their own best interest but also prioritize the interests of others, then people will unite even more in difficult times.

When trust has been damaged, or is lacking, people move into a state of assessing and evaluating the environment and people around them to gauge if they can proceed with trust, or if it is dangerous to trust others.

The best way to get through the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality is to state collaborative intent and actively listen.

Caprino: What are the best strategies you can offer to help us thrive through dramatic change and uncertainty?

Gallaher: Leading through dramatic change and uncertainty is no easy feat, but the reward is monumental. Not only does it build trust, but it also increases productivity and efficiency.

First, as a human, it is valuable to remind yourself that even though your brain often triggers your body to react as though survival is genuinely at risk, most of the time, you really are OK—you can breathe, you are alive and you are going to be fine. Use your brain to overcome the fear-based visceral reaction that comes in times of stress and uncertainty.

Second, as a leader, it’s important to remember to take care of yourself. A crisis is a crucial time for a business that demands true leadership and the willingness to be decisive. Handle the pressing tasks first and practice self-compassion. When you take care of yourself, you are your best self for others; trying to put others before you means that they end up getting what’s left of you instead of the best of you.

When communicating with employees on these tough matters, project confidence and optimism while staying grounded in reality. Being authentic as a leader is powerful. Also provide the context people need for current events and what the business is going through.

These conversations need to happen on a consistent basis rather than just reacting as the environment shifts; employees want to hear from you more than you realize. Be intentional about each change put in place and recognize the impact that it has on the emotional state of employees.

Consider gains and losses in the face of change once again: a significant gain we can all take away from this time of uncertainty is that we’ve now been encouraged to speak with others and self-reflect in a way many of us hadn’t done previously.

Now that those doors are open, we can continue allowing ourselves to find comfort in the uncomfortable and have these conversations on a long-term, ongoing basis.

For more information, visit: Gallaher Edge

To build a more positive and impactful career and more effective leadership approach, read Kathy Caprino’s new book The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss, and work with Kathy in her Career Breakthrough Programs.

How To Get Exceptional Results In Your Career Through Authority, Warmth And Energy

Part of Kathy Caprino’s series “Today’s True Leadership”

Ever wonder why some people who have the same level of technical skill and ability as you do seem to catapult forward fast while you stay stagnant, at the same level or compensation, for years? As a career and leadership coach, I’ve connected with many professionals around the globe who, while extremely talented and accomplished, don’t seem to achieve the high-level success, impact and recognition they feel they deserve. And they are often extremely confused as to why this is happening.

To explore more about behaviors and traits that can propel us forward quickly and powerfully in our careers, I caught up with Steve Herz this month, who has a new book on just this topic. In Don’t Take Yes For an Answer: Using Authority, Warmth and Energy To Get Exceptional Results, Herz explores how we can catapult our careers and lives forward with three key communication strategies―authority, warmth, and energy, and how we often need some tough critique and feedback to let us know how to shift our ways for more success

Herz is President of The Montag Group, a sports and entertainment talent and marketing consultancy. He is also a career advisor to CEOs, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and young professionals. Prior to joining TMG, Steve was the President and Founding Partner of IF Management, an industry leader whose broadcasting division became one of the largest in the space, representing over 200 television and radio personalities. The agency represents some of the biggest names in sports and news media, including NBC Sports Mike Tirico, ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt and Dan Shulman and CNN Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward.

Here’s what he shares:

Kathy Caprino: You argue that we don’t get enough honest feedback at work, so it’s crucial to proactively ask your boss how you’re doing. Is this especially true right now, when we’re all working remotely and lacking valuable face time? What’s your advice on how to ask for feedback?

Steve Herz: We should be trying to get feedback all the time, pandemic or not. For reasons I explore in the book, we get a lot of positive feedback that we don’t actually deserve. Mixed messaging, or flat-out omissions, have generally replaced direct dialogue and tough conversations in the workplace and in nearly every space we inhabit, resulting in a lifetime of what negotiator Christopher Voss calls “the counterfeit yes,” in which we hear a fuzzy “yes” all while life is actually delivering an all-caps “NO”:

You didn’t get the promotion; you didn’t get the sale; you didn’t get the girl or guy. You can’t trust all the yesses you hear. In fact, if you’ve checked off all the obvious boxes necessary for a stellar career in your field – education, credentials, years of experience – but you still aren’t where you want to be, that lack of honest feedback is probably part of what’s holding you back.

It’s critical to ask for—and be open to—an honest assessment of your performance. And this is more important than ever right now, given the massive unemployment we’ve seen and the increased job insecurity. So, if your company is thinking (as many are) about layoffs, you want to make sure there’s nothing about your performance that you’re blissfully unaware of – that could doom your immediate future.

When you ask for feedback, make it simple. Ask – “what is one thing you think I could improve upon?” This is especially important if you usually only receive positive feedback from your manager. Or make it fun – if the situation is appropriate – and ask, “if you were a genie, what is one thing you would change about me that would improve my performance?”

For example, a young agent in our company who, after a few weeks as a trainee, asked me how he was doing. I told him he was doing great, to which he said, “Oh no, I’m not taking that from you. I know the book you are writing. And I hear how to talk to other people. I want to know what you think I’m not great at.”

So, I told him he said the word “like” way too often and that the filler word compromised his authority, especially as a young professional. He asked in a way that showed he was sincere about improving and saw it as an opportunity to grow and advance his life and career. I advise everyone to do the same. Look at feedback as a gift.

Caprino: The premise of your book is that the number one thing that determines your success is not your education or skills, but your ability to connect with people. I think we’re all really longing for that connection right now, as we’ve been social distancing for months. What’s the role of “connectability” in one’s career success, and what are its key elements?

Herz : In my work, I discuss the 85/15 rule. Based on a seminal 1918 study by The Carnegie Foundation, this rule states that only 15% of your professional success is correlated to your technical (hard) skills. In my view, the huge overlooked 85% is that ability to connect, persuade, and gain influence and respect from your boss, colleagues, clients.

The key elements of “connectability” are authority, warmth and energy, aka AWE. If you’re competing against people in your field who are all roughly perceived as equal in the technical skills, your AWE is the only differentiator. AWE is about your ability to have that technical substance and the stylistic sizzle; to be seen as one who knows their stuff, is trustworthy and makes others want to follow their lead. There is no other path to maximum influence without those traits.

Caprino: Unemployment is at a historic high right now. What’s your advice to people who have lost their jobs or who are worried about holding onto the job they still have?

Herz: If you are unemployed, try to make sure you have skills that are in demand. While technical skills only account for 15% of your success, that doesn’t mean they don’t matter. It’s crucial to have good technical skills – but the point of the 85/15 rule is that they only get you a seat at the table.

If you realize that your skills aren’t in demand or up to date, the first step is to retrain yourself with the myriad of free or low-cost tools available online. And if you still have a job, make yourself as indispensable as possible. Stay in close communication with your customers, your colleagues, and your manager and make sure you’re doing your job effectively and with very little friction. This is not the time to be the squeaky wheel. And try to use whatever free time you have (outside of family and other key interests) to improve your skill set, as well as your authority, warmth and energy. If you show up (remotely) as a better you, your bosses will notice.

Caprino: As our work interactions move from in-person to video, what should we be paying attention to as we try to connect with people when we don’t have the benefit of being together in the same room?

Herz: Pay attention to the way people are reacting to you. It’s harder to gauge this when you’re communicating virtually, yet you will still receive responsive cues from others. If you notice someone tuning out – like when they stop looking at the camera, start typing, or they’re not nodding at all or asking any questions – you may have to turn up your energy to keep their attention.

Try speaking more loudly or in faster bursts or show that you’re emotionally committed to your message. And sometimes calling out someone and soliciting their opinion also keeps them on their toes and energizes them. If they are not responding, you may have to become more inquisitive and interactive. It’s much easier to lose someone’s attention over Zoom, so it’s paramount to use every tool you have to keep them engaged.

Caprino: You’re an agent for some of the most successful broadcast journalists in the country. How did you come to identify these three elements as the key to getting ahead?

Herz: It was an evolutionary process. I started out working exclusively with sports broadcasters and media talent to other professionals in various fields because I discovered that the key to becoming a superstar manager, salesperson, or CEO is no different than the key to becoming a superstar broadcaster: you have to get your audience, of one or a million, to trust and believe in you.

Over the past two decades, AWE has become the prism through which I observe, assess, coach and grow every single one of my clients. I listen for it when we’re analyzing recordings of their voice, and I look for it while observing them perform simulated interviews, meetings, or sales calls. It takes a special person with a thick skin to work with me. I’m always respectful, but I pull no punches. Because of this, I’ve been hired and fired in the same day by people who were too accustomed to hearing “yes.”

But those professionals who have stuck with me, who have refused to take “yes” for an answer, have seen their stars rise. Anyone in any job can do the same.

Caprino: Is there one element of AWE that is most commonly underappreciated?

Herz: Energy is both underappreciated and probably most misunderstood. Energy is not just your energetic output. It’s the dynamic you create in your interactions. It’s most important to have the kind of energy that energizes other people. And you can sometimes energize others with relatively low energetic output. It’s a question of having the presence of mind to understand what is necessary in the moment. One example is Jeff Feig, who rose to the executive suite and built a billion-dollar business at Citibank based on his key strength: listening to and acknowledging others. He had record low turnover in his tenure because his team felt so energized by his caring ways. It is counterintuitive to think of a low-key person like Feig as energizing. But when I spoke to many of his colleagues, that was the unanimous feedback from all of them.

For more information, visit

To build a more impactful career, work with Kathy Caprino in her Career Breakthrough programs and read her new book The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss.

Banishing Our Nation’s Blind Spot About Blue-Collar Economic Potential

Part of Kathy Caprino’s series “Supporting Today’s Workforce”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released the nation’s July Jobs Report on August 7, and despite the recession and Covid-19 crisis leaving millions unemployed, a quiet revolution is underway. An ongoing blue-collar expansion continues as business leaders, entrepreneurs and job seekers find growth in this emerging sector. This revolution is what blue-collar entrepreneur Ken Rusk calls the “blue-collar boom.”

According to the Center for Economic Policy & Research (CEPR)’s Blue Collar Job Tracker, employment in construction, manufacturing, and mining and logging increased by 669,000 or 3.58 % in May. The construction sector gained 464,000 jobs in May, a 7.05 % increase, albeit largely a recovery from April’s losses.

To learn more about the blue-collar boom and the economic potential it represents, I caught up with Rusk, the author of the new book Blue-Collar Cash: Love Your Work, Secure Your Future, and Find Happiness for LifeFounder of Toledo, OH-based Rusk Industries, Rusk is a self-made millionaire. He skipped college and started out digging ditches, then worked his way up to buying the business and becoming a successful entrepreneur. Passionate about helping other people achieve their dreams regardless of their educational background or past experience, Rusk has coached hundreds of people without college degrees.

I was excited to catch up with Rusk to tackle the myth that career success requires a college degree (and college debt). Rusk explores how Americans still have a blind spot for the nation’s talent gap and sustained blue-collar growth—a viewed shared by many others including Mike Rowe, dubbed “The Dirtiest Man on TV”—and Rusk contends that despite significant overall job losses, blue-collar workers remain in greater demand than their white-collar counterparts, earning up to six-figure salaries without a college degree or the debt that follows it.

Below Rusk shares about this blue-collar boom and the opportunities it provides for workers everywhere:

Kathy Caprino: Ken, in your new book Blue-Collar Cash, you talk all about a new “blue-collar boom.” Can you share more about this and what it means for professionals today?

Ken Rusk: Long before the Covid-19 pandemic and widespread recession, blue-collar fields have enjoyed a resurgence due to high demand for trained professionals to replace a generation of retiring trades professionals, from plumbers and construction workers, to carpenters and welders, and anyone skilled or willing to work with their hands.  And most people are surprised to learn the earning potential for these professions.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and other sources detail a range of occupations and median annual salaries, many in the six-figures, such as:

  • Construction Manager: $93,370 (top earners: $159,560)
  • Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Managers: $92,460 (top earners: $156,710)
  • Wind Turbine Service Technician: a “green-collar” job where experienced top earners often exceed $104,000

Kathy Caprino: With today’s blue-collar boom, why should people without college degrees have more reason than ever to be optimistic about their future and proud to be in blue-collar work?

Ken Rusk: Despite the serious economic challenges facing us today, and their profound impact on the nation’s outlook, a perfect storm of positive influences now casts widespread optimism across blue-collar industries. This powerful sector of our economy now thrives, with high consumer confidence, huge demand for its services, full employment (with high disposable income) and the highest personal satisfaction numbers in generations. Combined with a serious labor shortage, there has never been a better time to be in the blue-collar world.

Caprino: What did it take for you to end up a millionaire after starting your career as a ditch digger?

Rusk: I could easily answer this question with expected traits: character, persistence and resilience. Though the answer goes much deeper than that, and something I wish educators would teach our youth as they prepare to enter the world.

I created a proactive life plan for myself: I sat down early in life and sketched what I wanted in life, down to the smallest detail, and then worked relentlessly to achieve it, always keeping my eyes open for opportunities to advance. Your life plan, if clearly envisioned, will provide all the motivation you need. You just have to be open to opportunities and seize them as they arise. Earning wealth wasn’t a main focus for me; I prioritized building a life of comfort, peace and freedom, and hit my goals, one at a time.

Caprino: Why do you think so many people overlook blue-collar jobs despite shrinking demand for white collar jobs?

Rusk: The blue-collar life has long suffered an undeserved stigma. With origins in the digital era of our economic transformation in the 80’s, an emerging trend was the beginning of the crisis of the American worker. The tradition of shop class, with woodworking machines, plumbing, electrical, car mechanics and home economics, was soon replaced with personal computing. While computer training was necessary for our kids to learn, it should not have been a binary choice.

The unintended consequence: millions of kids were eliminated from the necessary discovery of learning how to use everyday hand tools in favor of punching keyboards. Colleges, in turn jumped on board to funnel everyone into thinking a college education was the only path to success. Pursuing a trade was somehow gradually perceived as settling for less. And based on the rewarding opportunities that exist today, nothing could be further from the truth. And quite simply, working with your hands is enormously gratifying. The secret is that you can build an amazing life in an industry many others overlook.

Caprino: How did you end up training blue-collar workers to get on the right life path and why do you do this? 

Rusk: Initially it came out of necessity. Some 33 years ago, I started a company with 12 employees we convinced to believe in our mission, stick with us through all the uncertainties, and work very hard in a tough business, all with the promise of making their lives better for it. We came up with effective strategies that we still use today, ideas we continue to modify and improve upon.

With over 200 employees today, I see unwavering loyalty and ever-lengthening tenure of our team members. Over time, the need for constant recruiting slowed significantly as people realized they could build the life they wanted for themselves within the organization. Helping to mold effective goal-driven team members is a key part of my “coaching” outside our organization. I enjoy playing a role in people improving their lives. And this should be a standard practice in any business. The ideas themselves are quite simple; it’s the execution of those ideas where most people fail.

Caprino: So, in your view, what holds back so many blue-collar workers from achieving the comfortable life they deserve?

Rusk: Unfortunately, some people in blue-collar professions haven’t yet seen who they are or who they’re meant to be. So many of us live by the if/then rule. For instance, “If this could happen in my life, then I’d be set. Or “If I could catch a break, then my life would be better.”

We wait for life to happen to us, instead of us happening to life—as it should be. But it’s amazing how much this can change once they have a vision of their future, and then plan it out accordingly. For example, we are all familiar with planning a vacation: pick a destination, maybe book a flight, rental cars, hotels, restaurants, attractions, etc.  And then we wait in joyous anticipation of that day to come. We can see the week unfolding in our minds in crystal clear detail. And yet most of us live our daily lives in much too present fashion.

Research shows how effective a solid visualization strategy can be. According to a study conducted by Virginia Tech professor Dave Kohl (see his book Where Will You Be 5 Years from Now?) ), in a typical group of 100 people, 80 of them readily admit to not having any real goals.  The remaining twenty do have goals but break themselves down in an interesting way: Sixteen of them have goals, however, they remain in their minds—like most hopes, wishes, or dreams, not documented in any real way.

The final four do write them down, yet three of them leave their goals in a drawer somewhere, rarely looking at them again. It’s interesting that the remaining one person not only visualizes their goals but writes them down in very clear fashion and then posts them somewhere where they can be seen daily and therefore reviewed often. They also tend to earn nine times as much in their lifetimes as those who do not follow this practice.  And here’s the best part—anyone can do this.

You have the ability to be that one percent. We all do. With the right habits, you can design and achieve the life you want for yourself.

Caprino: What skills and training have you found to be essential to become an independent blue-collar worker?

Rusk: Historically, trainees would work for years before advancing. Not true today. With the high demand for anyone willing to work with their hands, one can enter the field of his or her choice, and quickly gain the experience needed to rise through the ranks of their chosen trade. So many business owners are in need of quality candidates, they now offer employees everything they can (competitive pay, training, bonuses, etc.) to keep them engaged. It is a workers’ market in today’s blue-collar industry and that bodes well for those looking to change or advance their careers.

Just like the theory in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, workers who can gain 4,000+ hours’ experience in a skilled trade, especially within a small company, can propel themselves to the top in both wages and responsibilities. This can also set them up to take the next step—starting their own company. And today it has never been easier to succeed as an entrepreneur.

Caprino: Why do you think women are helping drive today’s blue-collar boom—even in areas like welding and mechanics that were rarely considered in the past?

Rusk: In a not unexpected yet still somewhat surprising development, women are not so quietly moving into lucrative blue-collar positions traditionally held by men. Why? The answer is simple—they’re smart and they see the opportunity in front of them.  Remember Rosie the Riveter? Savvy women are now making six figures in jobs that are in high demand, and both technology and their command of precise details and quality opens many doors. They realize their country needs them, maybe not under wartime duress, but they are now more critical than ever.

Caprino: In your view, what are the keys to comfort, peace, and financial freedom as a blue-collar worker or entrepreneur?

Rusk: I would start by imagining your life the way you want it. Everyone’s picture is different so there are no wrong answers. Only you know who (and what) you are meant to be. And only you know how to live the life you want.

Build on your expectations as you achieve each goal. Begin with the end in mind and forge a clear path to get there. Turn your if goals into when goals, and set exact, precise stepping-stones to measure your progress.

Build your plan with certainty and share it with your trusted support system (friends, family, or trusted coworkers). Once you start to make progress on this plan, you will mentally click into overdrive on your way to achieving your entire picture. Here’s a simple formula to make this point clear: Vocational Passion + Life Vision = Comfort, Peace and Freedom.

Further, I would recommend the following actions:

  • Commit to your goals: get all in and be accountable
  • Turn IF goals into WHEN goals by breaking them down into small, doable steps
  • Apply discipline to make financial goals a reality, using tactics like weekly payroll deductions
  • Envision your best life and sketch it out for yourself … then display it in a place you can’t miss (refrigerator door, bedroom, mirror)
  • Ensure your success by sharing your goals with trusted peers, friends and family.

For more information, visit and Blue-Collar Cash.

To build a happier, more impactful career, read Kathy Caprino’s new book The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss, and work with Kathy in her Career Breakthrough programs.

3 Ways To Demonstrate Your Value And Positive Impact In These Unprecedented Times

Part of Kathy Caprino’s new series “Turning Crisis Into Opportunity”

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, I’ve been very surprised at the types of outreach I receive on a daily basis now from professionals around the world. As a career and leadership coach, I’m used to hearing from strangers every week who wish for career and leadership growth support. But the inquiries I’m receiving now have a different tone and urgency. Now, they’re more about how people can finally make the significant career and leadership shifts they’ve long sensed they needed to, but previously just couldn’t muster the courage to do it, or didn’t have the ability to focus on how to make the changes they dreamed of.

They’re sharing challenges such as: 

  • I hate this work culture I’m in and now it’s even more apparent how “off” it really is
  • I’m not aligned at all with the type of products and services my company offers and how they’re doing it
  • I’m so tired of the way I’m treated and know it’s time for a change
  • The leadership and management in my organization simply doesn’t get the challenges that we employees are facing every day—they’re completely tone- deaf
  • Women just aren’t treated with the same respect and recognition that men are here and it’s worse now
  • I realize now that I don’t want to be doing this type of work anymore and it’s time for a huge shift

And the most common revelation I’m hearing: 

“Now that I’m not commuting and I have so much more time at home with my family, I never want to return to the incredible, meaningless rat race I was in before COVID-19 hit us.”

I’ve found throughout 15 years of doing career growth work that nothing motivates us more to finally stand up bravely and powerfully for ourselves and revise our lives, than a deep crisis. Just as 9/11 did for so many like myself, a crisis like today’s makes us wake up and realize that nothing is safe and secure but what’s inside of us and how we use our talents and abilities, and it’s time to leverage those gifts more powerfully and purposefully. It’s time to focus on turning crisis into opportunity.

This week, I was speaking to my colleague Tony Vlahos about this issue. Vlahos is the Chief Storyteller and Head of Brand and Learning for ExecuNet. For over 30 years, ExecuNet has shown senior-level executives how to land their ideal next role faster using a proven system developed by their world-class team of coaches, strategists and recruiters.

I asked Tony about what executives are reaching out to him and ExecuNet for right now and the types of challenges these professionals are facing that they wish to address, that are different from the common challenges they shared before the pandemic.

Vlahos shared this:

“Executives are reaching out right now in large numbers sharing different types of challenges than we have seen before. They are realizing more acutely than ever that there is no better time to “come forward” and be seen—truly seen—as value creators, uplifters and difference-makers, to be the kinds of leaders that top organizations would want leading them in challenging times and thriving times.

But many of these executives, both male and female, realize more than ever that they struggle with how to identify and communicate in a compelling, self-confident manner,  what their true strengths and abilities are, and how they lead and influence differently from others. What professionals seem to need more than ever—and what we offer them—is an effective system that helps professionals raise their visibility, demonstrate their impact, build their collaborative network and make a true impression to close the deal in the interview. And at the center of all of that is the person’s value story.”


I couldn’t agree more. Our value story is so important to understand and share confidently and clearly, but millions struggle to do that. To address that need, below are three key ways you can use this unprecedented time to identify more clearly your “value” story, and come forward to share it and leverage your talents, gifts and leadership capabilities to make the positive impact you long to:

#1: Understand more clearly your special talents and how and why they’re important

Each of us has our own wonderful set of skills, talents and abilities, some of which have been developed through education, hard work and training, but others have come very easily to us, from early childhood onward. I always say that each of us is like a thumbprint—totally different and recognizable, with amazing complexity and uniqueness that is important in the world.

Great talents that have been with us since the beginning often don’t seem remarkable or valuable to us, but they are. And these are the talents you should be leveraging for a happier, more meaningful (and yes, financially-rewarding) career.

Many people who are in careers they hate have pursued a direction they thought was “safe and secure,” only to find it isn’t, and further, it’s not rewarding or enjoyable either. Professionals who are happiest in their work are using talents that come easily to them and are also rewarding and impactful in supporting positive outcomes that matter to them.

Take this step this week:

Take some time this week (at least an hour or two) and make a list of every job you’ve ever had. Then clearly articulate:

– What you loved about the job

– What you disliked

– The major achievements

– The hardest struggles

– Your biggest takeaway

And write down every single skill or talent used, then the important outcomes these talent and abilities helped you achieved.

Here are some great examples of talents and key outcomes that a recent client of mine shared:

  • Built important client relationships that lead to substantially increased revenue (skill: listening, relationship-building, client development)
  • Mediated key differences between our clients and our marketing team to create more effective promotions (skill: mediation, marketing, promotion, client relationship management)
  • Devised and delivered successful new products based on market research to help the company diversify its offerings (skill: innovation, product development, product management, marketing)
  • Conducted market and other research on potential acquisitions to ensure these investments were sound (skill: research, analysis, acquisition)
  • Communicated with and supported the top media players in my field in ways that highlighted my company’s leaders as pioneers in the field (skill: communications, public relations, relationship-building)

Once you’ve done this exercise, you’ll see more clearly the talents and abilities you have and the measurable positive impact you’ve made in the jobs you’ve loved most.

#2: Start sharing and demonstrating your value and your “teachable point of view” and become more of the leader you dream to, now

Wherever you are right now, no matter the level, job or function you support, step up to more leadership and more uplifting and educational behavior in that role. Share your value, your innovations and ideas, your mental framework, and what you know. Find ways to bring forward your talents in new ways. Teach what you can teach to uplift people, and do what you can to enhance and shift the work culture to something more positive. You don’t have to be the boss to do this. You can do it in every word you utter, and every statement you choose to make.

Someone once said, “You can say anything when you say it with compassion and love in your heart.” Love is in short quantity at work, especially in fear-filled times, but there’s great truth in that statement. Say what needs to be said in all your conversations, meetings and Zoom calls, but avoid doing it from a frail, defensive ego or with harshness and fear. Inside, bring forth your gentle strength, empathy, compassion and calmness.

Embrace becoming the “highest” version of yourself starting today. By that I mean: Rise above pettiness, egotism, defensiveness, micro-managing and hyper-sensitivity and start embodying what it looks like to be the best and strongest version of who you want to be in the world and at work. When you can embody your highest and best ideals and values from a place of self-respect and self-appreciation, while respecting and embracing others, then you can be a role model for others, and have more successful conversations and meetings with greater positive impact.

#3: Identify three new ways this week that you can bring forward your great talents and use them more fully

Many of us are in “shelter at home” situations and we feel disconnected. But you can use this time to start thinking more deeply about how you would like to show up in the world differently and you can make a start to do just that, even in these times.

Clients of mine have, for instance:

  • Started blogging on topics that have been of burning interest to them for several years
  • Launched a new training series on YouTube
  • Began developing their book proposal
  • Curated content on LinkedIn, sharing the best of what they’re reading and commenting on it, adding their opinions
  • Leveraged their skills in a new way such as taking their design and creative arts talents and focused them on making personal protective equipment for the community
  • Stepped up to spearhead a new philanthropic initiative at work that gives support to communities in need

Another heart-warming example of this at a high level is John Krasinski’s new YouTube show “Some Good News” (I highly recommend it). Krasinski leverages his personality, humor and positive outlook to present content that helps us remember that everything that’s happening is not bad. There is so much good to be relished and celebrated.

While we’re all not top celebrities with a large following, we each have something important and beneficial to offer. The key thing that stops people from sharing their talents in a bigger way is fear that they’re not worthy enough to make the difference they long to. And a deep insecurity that they’ll fail and humiliate themselves doing something more meaningful.

There’s no time like now to turn crisis into opportunity and to walk through that fear to the other side, to greater contribution, impact and joy.

For more information, visit ExecuNet.

For support to make the impact you dream to, work with Kathy Caprino in her Career Breakthrough Programs, and check out her new book The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss.

Leading Hollywood Executive Producer Shares How Covid-19 Has Shaped Entertainment And Her Leadership

Part of Kathy Caprino’s series “Women, Leadership and Vision” 

As we’ve seen these past months, the Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted so many industries, some of which may potentially be able to recover, while others may continue the struggle or be radically transformed. According to recent data, the industries most impacted have been airlines, casino and gaming and leisure facilities, auto parts and equipment and oil and gas drilling. Many say too that the world of entertainment, has been forever changed.

To learn more about how entertainment industry is shifting to address the current challenges, I was excited to catch up this week with Den of Thieves executive producer Barb Bialkowski, one of the leading entertainment showrunners responsible for the MTV Video Music Awards, E!’s People’s Choice Awards and E!’s red carpet specials, to name a few. Up next, she will be producing the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards.

As a highly successful female producer in a male-dominated industry, Bialkowski is defying the odds and helping Den of Thieves see consistent year-over-year increases in ratings and social engagement across telecasts, which is a true accomplishment considering the current viewership climate. This continual increase is why the biggest entertainment events and most notable talent in the industry are repeatedly trusting her to make their content standout in a time where there is so much noise to break through.

Some recent Den of Thieves achievements are: 

  • E! Live from the Red Carpet: The 2020 Golden Globe Awards had 96 million total engagements were generated across linear, digital and social platforms; up 79% versus last year. This includes linear, digital page views, video views, and social interactions
  • The 2019 MTV VMA’s saw a 129% increase in social engagement versus 2018.
  • Social/video views for the 2019 MTV VMA’s were up 85% to 269 million this year.
  • The 2019 People’s Choice Awards drew an average of 1.8 million viewers across E!, NBCUniversal, Bravo, SyFy and USA Network, up 9% uptick from last year’s debut of the awards on E!.
  • E! Live from the Red Carpet: The E! People’s Choice Awards drew 620,000 total viewers, up +8% from last year.
  • The 2019 People’s Choice Awards trended worldwide, ranked as the #1 most social telecast of the night across all of television with 5.9 million social interactions across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. On Twitter, the exclusive “E! Stream” delivered nearly 5 million live streams globally, making it the biggest live digital video audience ever for the network.
  • E! Live from the Red Carpet: The 2019 Emmy Awards viewership was up 14% from a year ago in the adults 18-49 demographic and 27% among total viewers.

In our interview, Bialkowski shares how she builds success and collaboratively manages and approaches her projects in the male-centric entertainment industry, and offers a candid perspective on the future and ever-evolving landscape of television, and highlights how the narrative about women in the entertainment industry has changed over the past decade, but must continue to evolve.

Here’s what she shares: 

Kathy Caprino: As a female in a male-dominated industry, how do you think the narrative of women in the entertainment industry has changed over the past decade?

Barb Bialkowski: Not enough. We’re still fighting for seats at the table and we’re often greatly outnumbered in leadership positions. There’s a very narrow box women have to fit into, and that fit isn’t comfortable. We outgrew it a long time ago, or actually, we never fit into it in the first place. We contend with so many mixed messages. We’re told to be likeable, but decisive. Strong, but not too aggressive. That narrative is so tired.

When women work together, they make incredible things happen. I’ve been in the production trenches enough times and I’ve sat in the hot seat enough times to know that women have a most unique power to communicate, strategize, solve, elevate, and overcome.

I’ve made a very conscious effort to bring women into my production teams and it shows. Whether they are established producers or young professionals getting their start in the industry, they are the backbone of our productions. I strive to create an environment where those women feel seen, heard, and most of all valued. There are so many fantastic female candidates out there. You just have to hire them!

Caprino: As an established, development executive producer, what advice would you give other women in the entertainment industry pursuing their goals?

Bialkowski: Trust your instincts as a leader and as a creative. Women often take a backseat and let others be louder and taller. We assume someone else’s ideas are better. Trust yourself and your vision and share it. Make yourself seen and heard in a room. Your experience, ideas, and perspective are necessary.

I strongly believe in hard work. It’s not an even playing field out there, and you’ll need to work harder than anyone around you. Pay your dues and learn as much as you can. Be overprepared and know what you’re talking about. People will notice. I’m honest with myself about what my goals are, what I’m bringing to the table, and what it is I really want out of a project. That is often easy to lose sight of or be distracted from.

Caprino: Covid-19 has really taken a toll on the entertainment industry. How has this impacted your daily work?

Bialkowski: My daily work is sometimes just keeping my head above water. It’s worrying about your loved ones, it’s trying to stay sane, it’s trying to remain creative and productive during a time of uncertainty. This is not easy, and not being ok is ok.

We’re all working from the confines of our own homes obviously and all-day Zoom conferencing is the new normal. The entertainment industry was already fairly casual in terms of dress code, and now you’re seeing executives in sweatshirts in their kitchens, which I’m very supportive of by the way. Let’s just keep it real.

I do think a layer of formality is removed and we’re having straightforward conversations as we try to maneuver through this together. Everyone is in the same boat and there’s a vulnerability present. We’re all facing the unknown and scared for our families and friends. In that climate you tend to get right to the point quickly.

Caprino: How do you see the pandemic changing the face of entertainment?

Bialkowski: It has certainly paralyzed the event space. Productions can’t get off the ground, tours and festivals are canceled, and we’ve seen big event shows move into living rooms and backyards.

In the early stages of quarantine, we produced YouTube’s global dance event #MoveWithMe, and a month later, we were bringing a live interactive Prom experience to high school seniors across the country with MTV’s Prom- athon.

We had to quickly figure out how to produce live content all from the confines of our own homes. Our entire team of producers, directors, and technical crew were all connected through virtual Control Rooms and communicating via iPhone apps. If I’m being honest, it can definitely be frustrating at times and has forced us to be even more flexible and patient.

Now, we’re knee deep in the MTV Video Music Awards which we’ve been producing for over a decade. It’s an iconic show that has always inspired artists to bring their most ambitious performances. It has come to define that thrilling “you never know what’s going to happen” energy. This show is always a beast to produce, and the pandemic has added a very tricky layer.

Every day reveals new statistics and proposes a new challenge. We’re trying to wrap our heads around how to deliver on the creative expectations we all have about the VMA’s, but in a safe way with a million limitations.

Caprino: How have current events impacted your outlook on the type of stories and projects that Den of Thieves will prioritize moving forward?

Bialkowski: Working in the music event space for the last 15 years, diversity has long been at the core of the stories we tell. We’ve created iconic moments alongside artists who represent so many different perspectives, backgrounds and voices. They speak their truth when they get on the stage and it’s our job to ensure their artistic vision is realized.

But this year I’ve been shaken to my core. I’m listening and learning, and extremely conscious of the continued work that needs to happen. We have a platform that we’ve worked hard to create, and we will continue to shine light on the individuals that are bravely speaking truth to power, and the stories that are necessary for all of us to hear. I will work hard to hold us accountable for that.

Caprino: Artists and comedians tend to come with a vision or a social agenda. As the producer, how do you support that creative vision and help them execute it properly?

Bialkowski: I’m constantly inspired by outspoken artists. The ones who are willing to use their voice to speak kindness, truth, and justice, even when it’s uncomfortable for everyone else. They’re the trailblazers, the rock stars, the revolutionaries.

One of the biggest rewards to us is that the talent wants to use the platforms we’ve created on our shows to speak out, connect and inspire change.

For the most part, I stay out of their way. I try to create an honest and trusting relationship with our talent, making sure they feel supported and protected. We’re partners. Obviously as a producer, you’ve got to think about your audience and the tone of the show you’re trying to create. I’ve found that honesty is the best policy here. If you’re straightforward with your goals or concerns, that’s a good place to start the conversation.

Caprino: During this time of quarantine, how have you adjusted your day-to-day to help lead the other producers on your team and ensure productivity across the board?

Bialkowski: I won’t lie, it can be really hard. I wish I was better at it. When you’re not together in a shared space, you can’t physically check in, pop by to discuss a plan or issue, or just have a simple conversation. It’s really hard to create that momentum.

We’re existing in a world of Zoom, email, Slack, text. It’s exhausting. There are so many platforms to be reached on, but I’ve never felt more disconnected. I keep resisting the thought of getting used to this.

I have to shout out our incredible producers and team members who light up our endless Zoom calls with enthusiasm and passion. Some days you’re the cheerleader, and other days you need someone else to be. We continue to learn and adjust in this new normal and take the proper steps to ensure success despite the limitations.

For more information, visit Den of Thieves.

To build a more rewarding, impactful career, read Kathy Caprino’s new book The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths To Career Bliss.

How To Effectively Manage Your Job Search During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Part of the series “Supporting Today’s Workforce”

In the best of times, job search can be very daunting and confusing to many. But in extremely uncertain and rapidly evolving times like these, professionals can feel at a complete loss as to how to move forward in their efforts to job search, interview, network, communicate a compelling personal brand and land a great new role.

To delve deeper into the do’s and don’ts of job search during the coronavirus pandemic, I caught up with Lisa Hufford today, who is founder and CEO of Simplicity Consulting—the Pacific Northwest’s preferred marketing and business consultancy for the new world of work. Simplicity has been named to the Inc. 5000 list for five years running as one of the fastest-growing private companies in America, and Hufford has been recognized as an Inc. Top 10 Female Entrepreneur and an E&Y Entrepreneurial Winning Woman. She’s a champion for professionals transitioning to consulting and advises companies how to build on-demand, project-based teams that add immediate value.

Hufford is also the author of Navigating the Talent Shift: How to Build On-Demand Teams That Drive Innovation, Control Costs, and Get Results, which advises leaders on how to access top talent and fill skills gaps with on-demand, project-based experts to supplement their teams, and Personal Brand Playbookwhich outlines five actionable steps to define and share your personal brand. She’s currently writing her third book—an inspiring how-to guide for professionals looking to make the leap from corporate to consulting.

Here’s what Hufford shares about best practices in these times for your job search process:

Kathy Caprino: Are organizations still hiring during this crisis? If so, what fields and industries?

Lisa Hufford: Though it varies by location and industry, there are companies that are still hiring right now. Look for those companies that are uniquely positioned to add value in our new normal environment. Tech companies are largely well-equipped to transition their workforce to remote roles and are trying to maintain business as usual.

Tableau Software, for example, is actively hiring globally. There are also a number of roles that have surged in demand due to this health crisis—ranging from CPA or store associate to healthcare specialist or warehouse manager. Amazon, for example, has seen a huge demand spike and is hiring as a result. At Simplicity, we’ve seen an influx in communications roles as companies work to keep their employees, customers, and constituents informed in this rapidly-evolving pandemic and a focus on virtual events.

Caprino: How can people best handle a job search right now if they’re employed but want out of their current job?

Hufford: Let me challenge this by asking, are you sure you want to leave your job? Take some time to reflect on your strengths and the successes you want to achieve, and then ask yourself if you can create that where you are. Every job has its pros and cons, so before walking away in the hopes that the grass is greener somewhere else—and in the midst of economic uncertainty, no less!—see if you can make your current role more fulfilling. Whether it’s working with your manager to carve out time for a project that lights you up or mentally connecting elements of your role with your personal values, there are usually opportunities to shape your role (or your perspective) in small, but meaningful ways.

Caprino: What about those who are currently unemployed and it’s urgent for them to find employment—how do they handle the job search process now?

Hufford: My advice for finding a job is the same as it always has been: Take intentional action.

First, you need to define your personal brand and tell your story, framed by your past successes, on your LinkedIn profile. There’s a lot of noise right now, so showcase your strengths and passion with clarity and laser focus, so that you stand out to the right hiring manager.

Then, put on your detective hat, and do your research. Discover what companies are hiring for your skills. Use LinkedIn to learn who is working at these companies and reach out to schedule 15-minute chats with warm contacts to learn more about the work they do and the company they work for. Keep in mind: You are not asking for a job or an interview! You are collecting information to learn if the company and the role are a fit.

Set goals for yourself about how many reach outs you will do each day. If your situation is urgent, then consider this is your full-time job. While you can submit your resume blindly to jobs, this has been proven to be the least effective approach, so I encourage you to focus your energies on connecting with your network.

And be mindful that organizations are operating in business-as-unusual. Yes, they’re working remotely and keeping business-critical operations running. But they’re also adjusting to this abrupt new normal and working hard to put out fires and keep their people, clients, and partners informed. And, like you, they’re also bearing the mental load of this current environment. So recognize that things might move slower than usual, and acknowledge that the people you’re reaching out to likely have less bandwidth right now.

Caprino: How can we build our personal brands and get more noticed, for when the job market does open up?

Hufford: If you are an experienced professional, you already have a personal brand—you just need to articulate it. My Personal Brand Playbook guides you through five simple steps to defining and sharing your unique personal brand. I recommend starting there: You can access the Playbook here (free download) or watch the on-demand workshop.

Once you’ve defined your brand, it’s critical to tell a consistent brand story—from your LinkedIn headline to your profile bio, that’s echoed in your resume, website or portfolio, cover letters, introductory emails, and so on. At every touch point, tell the story of who you are and why you do the work you do with confidence and credibility.

Caprino: How can we best demonstrate our value now to organizations that we’d eventually like to work for?

Hufford: LinkedIn is a powerful tool for learning and building your network.

Focus on developing relationships with people at organizations you’re interested in working for, and once those relationships are established, express your interest in working and ask them to pass along full-time positions or contract roles that open up.

That second piece is important: When teams lack open headcount, they may allocate funds to hire a consultant on a project, so make yourself available to all options—not just traditional full-time employment.

Caprino: Any other powerful tips and strategies for job seekers right now?

Hufford: You have options. In addition to traditional full-time employment positions, many companies have a large community of suppliers who work on project-based contracts. Find out who the agencies, staffing companies, and consultancies are in your city, and contact the recruiters. You can often find work for large companies as a contractor or consultant. It’s a great way to learn more about the company, gain skills and expertise, and build your network. It’s also typically a much quicker hiring cycle—days or weeks as opposed to the months that it can take for a full-time position.

Last but not least, keep a positive attitude and keep moving forward. Gamify the process and try to get through as many “no’s” as you can until you get to a “yes.” I believe there is a great job for each person, and it’s up to each of us to define the work we want to do, showcase the business impact of our work, and keep searching for that hiring manager who says “YOU are the perfect fit for this role.”

This is a season, and we will get through this together.

For more information, visit and connect with Lisa Hufford.

To build a better, more rewarding career today, work with Kathy Caprino in her Career Breakthrough Programs and tune into her weekly Finding Brave podcast.

How Women Leaders Are Rising To The Unique Challenges They’re Facing From The Pandemic

Part of Kathy Caprino’s series “Women, Leadership and Vision”

While the impact of the global pandemic is far-reaching and hitting millions of people throughout the U.S. in different ways, research has shown that women are more likely than men to say their lives have been disrupted because of the coronavirus. And the long-term effects of Covid-19 on women may be more complicated. Unemployment has hit women harder than men, and women in leadership roles are also facing distinct and often acute challenges such as balancing full-time work with full-time caregiving, providing care for their elderly parents, homeschooling, financially supporting their families as breadwinners, and more.

To learn more about how female leaders are feeling the impact of the pandemic and how they are expanding their leadership influence today and beyond, I was excited to catch up this week with Carolyn Childers, CEO of Chief—the private network dedicated to elevating more women to leadership positions, with 2,000 members and 8,000 on the waitlist. Chief members are women that serve in a VP role (or higher) at companies like Amazon, American Express, Google, HBO, and Spotify. A number of my own leadership and executive coaching clients are members of Chief and work with other Chief members, and rave about it.

Childers explored with me a range of unique challenges that women leaders are facing during this time of crisis, and also the opportunities it presents. Here’s what she shares:

Kathy Caprino: From your perspective, in what unique ways are women impacted by coronavirus, as compared to men?

Carolyn Childers: Coronavirus, like many public health crises, hits women particularly hard and often in different ways from men. While early studies have shown that men are at higher risk to die from Covid-19, women are disproportionately affected by its societal implications. Worldwide, women comprise the majority (nearly 70% by some estimates) of frontline healthcare workers; in the US, that figure is nearly 80%.

These nurse practitioners are the front line workers caring for those hospitalized due to Covid-19. Without women in leadership roles, healthcare and policy solutions will not be representative of the workforce tasked with combating the pandemic. And when healthcare and policy solutions are not representative, they fail.

As women are less likely to hold executive roles, they are more likely to be impacted by layoffs. The data already suggests that women are being hit hardest by Covid-19 staff reductions. Women also comprise the world’s majority of informal workers and are more likely to sacrifice their jobs (either voluntarily or by force) should one partner in a couple get sick with the disease.

Caprino: What are the most profound ways in which women leaders’ professional lives are changing as a result of this quarantine?

Childers: Women have always managed a tremendous amount of invisible labor—whether it’s caring for their children, partners, elderly parents, friends, or maintaining the stability of their own household.

While women hold more executive roles now than ever before, the expectation that they should be able to “juggle it all” remains. This expectation was crazy prior to the pandemic, but now it is simply impossible.

For many working parents, caring for their children and households while sustaining employment depends upon external care—or at least school. Women are now expected to be full-time parents, caregivers, homeschool teachers, and housekeepers—all while excelling in their full-time jobs (and, in the case of Chief members, leading their businesses through unprecedented challenge). As a result, their professional lives are more challenging now than ever.

To survive this period, women need support. My Chief cofounder Lindsay Kaplan is an example of someone whose life has changed drastically as a result of stay-at-home orders. Lindsay has a three-month-old and a four-year-old at home. She balances leading Chief with me while managing a full load as a stay-at-home mom.

She is tasked with handling childcare while working to expand Chief as we look towards future cities, Los Angeles among them. Lindsay and I are fortunate to have a relationship where we are honest with each other and have built a team that allows us the flexibility to bypass certain meetings, knowing that our team will provide a detailed update following their call.

Other women leaders are not as fortunate. They may not have a cofounder, team, manager or leader who understands their specific needs. It can be lonely at the top, and those women are now alone in quarantine, away from their teams and support systems. We need to recognize these challenges and step up to help working parents.

Caprino: As a business devoted to supporting women executives, what specific initiatives is Chief pursuing to provide customized support to your members—all of whom are senior leaders?

Childers: Chief was built for this moment—to unite women executives and provide them with the diverse knowledge and support they need to make challenging business decisions. Our mission is resonating more powerfully now than ever as members help one another craft unprecedented business strategies, navigate difficult home situations, and share invaluable resources.

As an organization, our top priority is curating our services to our members’ needs. In just a few weeks, we moved all of our services to virtual, including our premiere peer Core groups. All of our programming is also now virtual, and we are offering more events than ever, including workshops on topics such as wealth management during times of crisis, motivating remote teams, how to lead through immense uncertainty, and private conversations with industry leaders like Ken Chenault, Penny Pritzker, and Eve Rodsky.

In April, our first fully virtual month, the number of women who participated in events was triple what we saw pre-Coronavirus.

We are also amplifying the Chief experience by fast-tracking new services. We launched personal executive coaching so that members can book one-on-one sessions with top-tier, Chief-vetted coaches. We also offered every member one complimentary personal executive coaching session, since everyone needs some extra support right now. We also created our first editorial email, delivering exclusive, reported articles and interviews directly to our members’ inboxes every week.

This content helps connect our community as we’re all physically distanced. Finally, this week we launched the Chief Hiring Board, where members can privately list top candidates and job openings to bolster their teams and explore new opportunities amidst this challenging professional landscape.

Caprino: In your view, what makes women uniquely qualified to lead at large, but especially during this crisis?

Childers: There is a single trait underscoring women’s unique qualification to lead: empathy. Defined as the ability to understand or share another person’s feelings, empathy is exactly why representation in leadership matters—especially in times of crisis. When employees feel supported and are seen by their leaders, they’re twice as likely to be productive and satisfied by their jobs.

From childhood on, women are socialized to be more empathetic than men. To succeed, we need to overcome challenges that are both different and difficult. Once we secure leadership positions, it’s impossible to forget our scars, or the women whose support enabled our rise to such leadership. We lead for them because in many ways, we are them. Our empathy empowers our teams to do more, stay committed and focused.

When leaders understand the difficulty of working from home while self-isolating with children, they can craft policies that support working parents. When they understand firsthand how families can rely on a single person, they don’t question colleagues who need to sign off early for “family matters.” And, when they’ve experienced the immense anxiety that comes along with pregnancy before a pandemic, they’ll remember to regularly check in on their colleague who’s in her third trimester.

Empathy is the antonym of ego, and without it, decisions cannot be made for the greater good. In this highly uncertain time, empathy is one of the few things leaders have control over. When we feel for others we welcome diverse perspectives, our blinders are removed, and we are able to make informed decisions rather than operating in silos. Empathy is emotional intelligence and awareness, and women have those in spades.

Caprino: As a business, Chief is anchored in gathering in-person as a community. How is your community evolving and strengthening despite becoming fully virtual/remote?

Childers: We have always said that we are a community that happens to have a space, not a space that a community is built around. This is so evident right now. The Chief community is truly stronger than ever. Whether they’re crowdsourcing advice via our messaging platform, gathering at virtual Chief events, or calling one for private conversations, Chief members are connecting on a deeply personal and strategic level.

Having access to the nation’s largest and most diverse network of C-suite women is valuable when your business is doing well, but it’s a complete game-changer when you’re facing a global pandemic. There is no coronavirus playbook, but at Chief, members are helping one another write the future real-time.

Each member is contributing her individual expertise—be it financial, organizational, operational, strategic, legal, or relational—and together, the Chief network is ensuring that no leader feels alone, or without a plan.

Whether gathering for a late-night venting session or navigating exceptionally difficult reductions in force, our members are there for each other now more than ever. We could not be more proud to facilitate these relationships. While we thrived when we had a space, this experience proves that our community doesn’t need to be together physically to make an impact.

Overall, this is a powerful time for women in leadership to make lasting change from the top down. Women in leadership have the opportunity to change policies that once ignored the challenges women at all levels faced.

For more information, visit

To build more expansive leadership in your career, work with Kathy Caprino in her Career Breakthrough programs and read her new book The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss.