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Loneliness, Civility, Retention P2: Leadership for the Modern Executive, featuring Erika Jefferson

Season 7, Ep. 147

In the continuation of this deep dive into the complexities of modern leadership challenges, the Lead to Soar podcast with Mel Butcher, Erika Jefferson, and Michelle Redfern shifts focus towards organizational values, transparency, and the evolving expectations of the workforce. The conversation critically examines the traditional emphasis on mission, vision, and values within corporations, challenging leaders to prioritize genuine engagement and meaningful actions over empty rhetoric. The episode boldly confronts the barriers to innovative HR practices, including the resistance to change within corporate cultures and the necessity for executive support to foster bold, strategic HR initiatives.

Episode Highlights:

• Mission, Vision, Values – More Than Just Words: Erika Jefferson criticizes the often superficial approach to corporate values, advocating for simplicity and authenticity in organizational mission statements and emphasizing the importance of actions that genuinely reflect those values.

• The Role of Leadership and HR in Cultural Change: The discussion uncovers the obstacles that prevent HR leaders from implementing bold and innovative strategies, including a lack of support from executive leadership and the fear of punitive backlash for challenging the status quo.

• Transparency and Trust in Leadership: The co-hosts engage in a thought-provoking discussion on the importance of transparency within organizations. They argue for a balanced approach to sharing information, ensuring employees are informed and feel valued without compromising sensitive business operations.

• Redefining Talent Management: Reflecting on the changing dynamics of the workforce, the episode highlights the need for a shift in how talent is managed, suggesting organizations should embrace the transient nature of modern employment and view departures as opportunities for brand advocacy rather than betrayal.

• Innovation in Employee Engagement: The conversation emphasizes the necessity for HR to adopt more innovative and strategic approaches to employee engagement, moving beyond traditional engagement surveys to practices that genuinely improve workplace culture and employee satisfaction.

Leadership Call to Action:

• Redefine Organizational Values: Leaders are encouraged to critically assess and simplify their mission, vision, and values, ensuring they are genuinely reflective of the organization's culture and aspirations.

• Support Innovative HR Practices: Executives are called upon to provide the necessary support and resources for HR to implement strategic and innovative practices, recognizing the pivotal role of HR in driving organizational change.

• Foster a Culture of Transparency: Cultivate an environment where open and honest communication is valued, balancing the need for business confidentiality with the importance of making employees feel included and informed.

• Embrace the Evolution of the Workforce: Acknowledge the changing expectations and priorities of the workforce, particularly among younger employees, and adapt talent management strategies accordingly.

• Innovate Employee Engagement Strategies: Move beyond conventional engagement metrics and invest in strategies that truly enhance the employee experience, fostering a culture of happiness, productivity, and retention.

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  • 149. Ethics and Layoff Culture: Leadership for the Modern Executive

    In this episode of Lead to Soar, Mel, Michelle and Erika explore the ethical challenges of layoff culture and executive decision-making. Inspired by Seth Godin's Akimbo podcast, they discuss how stock options influence corporate decisions and the importance of ethical frameworks like ESG. The conversation covers the impacts of layoffs on employee trust and morale, differences in labor laws, and strategies for leaders to foster ethical practices.Episode HighlightsEthics in Leadership:Importance of compliance and ethics frameworks.Universal ethical standards in business.Incentives and Decision Making:Impact of executive stock options on business decisions.Examples of strategic profit-driven decisions, like Google’s email promotions.Layoff Culture:Negative effects of frequent layoffs.Labor law differences between the US and Australia.Trust and Employee Relations:Building trust in leadership.The erosion of trust due to layoff culture.Unionization and Employee Advocacy:Unionization as a response to unethical behavior.Importance of diverse and ethical board governance.Practical Advice for Leaders:Strategies for influencing ethical practices.Importance of personal integrity and aligning actions with values.Leadership Call to ActionImplement Ethical Frameworks: Establish and enforce clear ethics and compliance frameworks.Foster Trust: Create an environment where employees feel valued and trusted.Encourage Board Diversity: Advocate for diverse and accountable board members.Promote Open Communication: Allow employees to voice concerns without fear.Prepare for Unionization: Address underlying issues that lead to unionization.Reflect on Leadership Values: Align your actions with personal and organizational ethical standards.
  • 148. Addressing DEI Backlash: Leadership for the Modern Executive, featuring Erika Jefferson

    In this episode of the Lead to Soar podcast, hosts Mel and Michelle discuss the pressing topic of the backlash against Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives in the United States with special guest Erika Jefferson, founder of Black Women in Science and Engineering (BWISE). Erika, Mel and Michelle explore the controversies and criticisms surrounding DEI, examining public statements by figures like Vivek Ramaswamy and Elon Musk, who argue that DEI efforts compromise meritocracy and introduce new forms of discrimination. The conversation challenges these assertions by exploring the myths surrounding meritocracy and the embedded structural biases that hinder how people reach their full potential.This discussion is a call to action for executives to engage deeply with DEI initiatives, recognising their potential to transform individual organisations and the broader societal landscape.Episode Highlights• Critiques by Vivek Ramaswamy and Elon Musk: Mel, Michelle, and Erika analyse statements from these public figures criticising DEI, discussing their claims about meritocracy and the alleged negative impacts of DEI initiatives.• Debunking the Meritocracy Myth: The hosts critically address the idea of a true meritocracy in America, pointing out the historical and ongoing biases that skew opportunities away from deserving individuals based on race, gender, and other factors.• The Challenges of Women of Colour: Erika shares personal anecdotes and professional observations on systemic biases in education and employment, emphasising the challenges women and people of colour face in STEM fields.• Corporate Resistance to DEI: The discussion highlights how some corporate leaders and structures resist DEI, maintaining traditional advantages for dominant groups while overlooking the benefits of a diverse workforce.• Role of HR as Gatekeepers: There is a focused discussion on the role of HR professionals in promoting or hindering DEI through recruitment and policy practices, as well as the need for accountability in these roles.• Business Case for DEI: The hosts argue that embracing DEI is a moral imperative and a strategic business advantage that broadens talent pools and drives innovation.Leadership Call to Action• Confront and Address Personal and Organisational Biases: Leaders are encouraged to reflect on their own biases and the systemic biases within their organisations, particularly in recruitment, promotion, and policymaking.• Foster Open Dialogues on DEI: Create safe spaces for employees to discuss DEI issues openly and constructively, promoting understanding and actionable change.• Implement Substantive DEI Strategies: Move beyond tokenistic measures to implement strategies that affect real organisational culture and operational practice change.• Educate and Advocate for Equity: Use leadership platforms to educate others about the benefits of DEI and advocate for practices that ensure equity and inclusion across all levels of the organisation.
  • 146. Loneliness, Civility, Retention P1: Leadership for the Modern Executive, featuring Erika Jefferson

    In this episode of the Lead to Soar podcast, Mel Butcher and Michelle Redfern are joined by Erika Jefferson to discuss into the intricate topics of loneliness, civility, and employee retention in the modern workplace. The discussion is catalysed by statistics revealing a surge in loneliness among American workers and a notable rise in workplace incivility, which has not only doubled over the past two decades but also incurs significant financial costs to organizations. The hosts explore the role of HR in this landscape, pondering its capacity and strategies to reverse these trends. Insights from Gallup highlight the increasing importance of having a best friend at work, especially post-pandemic, linking it to better business outcomes and underlining the necessity for HR to take a strategic stance in fostering workplace relationships and a supportive culture.Episode Highlights:• Alarming Trends: Discussion on the significant uptick in loneliness at work and the doubling of workplace incivility over the past twenty years, highlighting the negative impact on both employees and organizational costs.• Strategic Role of HR: The conversation critically examines whether HR departments are equipped to address and mitigate these issues. The hosts argue for a strategic transformation within HR, emphasizing its potential role in improving workplace culture and employee well-being.• The Value of Workplace Relationships: Insights into recent Gallup research underscore the critical role of having close relationships, particularly a best friend at work, in enhancing employee engagement and linking it to positive business outcomes.• Management's Impact on Retention: Data points are shared to illustrate that a significant percentage of employee dissatisfaction and subsequent turnover can be attributed to management, spotlighting the urgent need for leadership development and HR's role in this arena.• Innovative Solutions: The episode highlights innovative approaches, such as Rivet Software's use of AI to help employees find their best friends at work, showcasing how technology can facilitate meaningful connections within the workplace.Leadership Call to Action:• Foster Workplace Connections: Leaders and HR professionals are encouraged to cultivate environments that foster meaningful relationships among employees, recognizing the value these connections bring to both individual well-being and organizational success.• Reevaluate HR's Role: A call for HR to adopt a more strategic and proactive approach in addressing loneliness, civility, and retention, moving beyond traditional administrative roles to become a key player in crafting a positive workplace culture.• Mindset Shift Among Leaders: The episode urges leaders to reconsider their perspectives on work and workplace satisfaction, challenging the notion that work must involve suffering and advocating for a culture where enjoyment and fulfillment are part of the work experience.• Strategic Investment in Employee Well-being: Highlighting the need for executive and HR leaders to scrutinize where their efforts and resources are being directed, encouraging innovation and strategic thinking in how to genuinely enhance employee engagement and satisfaction.
  • 145. AI in the Workplace: Leadership Skills in a Post-AI World featuring Erika Jefferson

    In this episode, the conversation turns towards the future of work, specifically the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and its effects on the job landscape and required human skills.Episode Highlights:AI's Impact on Jobs: The hosts explore how AI is poised to eliminate some jobs while augmenting others, raising questions about the roles humans will play in a technologically advanced workforce.Skills for the Future: The discussion emphasizes the importance of emotional intelligence (EQ), creativity, and interpersonal skills, which AI cannot replicate, as critical for future success.Workplace Changes and Challenges: The episode examines how workplaces need to adapt to these technological advancements by fostering environments that prioritize these uniquely human skills.Real-World Examples: Through anecdotes and examples, including innovative HR practices and leadership initiatives focused on listening and engagement, the hosts illustrate potential strategies for navigating the future work landscape positively.
  • 144. Employee Reviews: Leadership for the Modern Executive featuring Erika Jefferson

    This episode dives into the controversial and widely debated topic of performance reviews within the workplace. Drawing from personal experiences and current studies, the hosts examine the effectiveness and impact of traditional performance review systems.Episode Highlights:The Problem with Performance Reviews: Citing studies from Gallup and SHRM, the episode begins by highlighting the general dissatisfaction with performance appraisals, described as time-consuming, demotivating, and biased.McKinsey's Approach: Discussion on McKinsey's "up or out" performance management strategy and its implications for employee motivation and workplace culture.Personal Anecdotes: Michelle shares her experiences and the emotional toll of administering performance reviews, critiquing the forced ranking system that fails to genuinely engage employees' potential.Alternative Perspectives: The episode challenges traditional performance management practices, questioning their purpose and effectiveness in fostering a supportive and productive workplace environment.Bias in Reviews: The hosts discuss research indicating gender bias in performance evaluations, where women often receive vague feedback that hinders their professional growth.Solutions and Alternatives: The conversation shifts towards alternative methods of performance assessment, including more frequent, constructive feedback mechanisms that aim to genuinely support employee development. Links and ResourcesGallup Study  SHRM study reference
  • 143. Recruiting and an HR Revolution for the Modern Executive featuring Erika Jefferson

    In this episode of the Lead to Soar podcast, co-hosts Mel Butcher and Michelle Redfern, along with special guest Erica Jefferson, tackle the pervasive challenges within the recruitment industry. The discussion centres on the inefficiencies and impersonal nature of recruiting practices, advocating for a radical transformation that prioritizes human connection, candidate care, and the dismantling of outdated systems. Through trio sheds light on the importance of networking in job acquisition, critiques the reliance on artificial intelligence in recruiting, and proposes actionable solutions aimed at creating a more inclusive, efficient, and respectful hiring process.Episode Highlights• The Human Element in Recruitment: The episode kicks off with statistics from HubSpot and CNBC, revealing that a significant majority of jobs are filled through networking, and many positions never reach public advertisement. This underscores the importance of human connections in the job market.• Critique of Current Practices: Erica Jefferson passionately criticizes the grueling and often dehumanizing interview processes that resemble an episode of "The Hunger Games," highlighting the industry's failure to value genuine talent and potential.• Call for a Recruitment Revolution: The conversation calls for a comprehensive overhaul of the recruitment process, drawing parallels between the transformation seen in the taxi industry with the advent of Lyft and Uber and the potential for similar innovation in recruitment.• The Role of AI in Recruitment: The trio expresses scepticism about the reliance on AI for solving recruitment woes, emphasizing that technology alone cannot replace the nuanced understanding and empathy of human recruiters.• Impact on Brand Equity: Michelle Redfern points out how poor recruitment practices can tarnish an organization's brand equity, stressing that candidate experience is integral to the company's overall reputation.• Open Hiring as an Innovative Model: Mel Butcher introduces the concept of open hiring practiced by a company associated with Ben & Jerry's, which simplifies the hiring process by removing interviews and selecting candidates based on their willingness to work.• Leadership and HR’s Role in Engagement: The discussion touches upon the limited influence HR has on employee engagement and the necessity for executive leaders to play a more active role in fostering a positive organizational culture.Leadership Call to Action• Revitalize the HR Function: Leaders are encouraged to reconceptualize the role of HR within their organizations, integrating technical skills, strategic thinking, and a genuine care for employee wellbeing into the fabric of HR practices.• Embrace Metrics That Matter: Companies should adopt meaningful metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of their recruitment processes, focusing not just on filling positions quickly but on the long-term success and satisfaction of hires.• Prioritize Candidate Experience: Recognizing that every interaction with a candidate reflects on the brand, companies must ensure their recruitment practices are respectful, efficient, and aligned with the organization's core values and strategic goals.• Consider Alternative Hiring Models: Leaders are urged to explore innovative recruitment strategies, such as open hiring, to simplify the process and focus on the essential qualifications and willingness to work.
  • 142. AI and the Future of HR, featuring Erika Jefferson

    In this thought-provoking episode, Mel, Michelle, and Erika discuss the intersection of human resources (HR) and artificial intelligence (AI), exploring the implications, opportunities, and challenges that HR professionals face in the era of AI-driven automation and decision-making. As organizations globally adopt AI technologies to enhance hiring processes and operational efficiency, the trio sheds light on the necessity for HR to evolve, the fears surrounding job replacement, and the critical need for strategic, informed decision-making within HR departments.Episode Highlights:AI in Hiring: Reflection on the widespread use of automation and AI in hiring processes among Fortune 500 companies, including robot avatars and resume scanning algorithms.The HR Fear Factor: Erika discusses the anxiety within HR communities about AI potentially replacing human jobs, highlighting a general lack of analytics and technology training within traditional HR roles.The Need for HR Upskilling: Both Erika and Michelle emphasize the urgency for HR professionals to acquire technology and analytics skills, not only for job security but also to ensure they can contribute strategically to organizational growth and ethics in AI usage.Generative AI and Bias Concerns: The conversation touches on the risks associated with generative AI, such as biased algorithms influencing hiring decisions, underscoring the importance of knowledge and ethical considerations in AI deployment.Strategic Role of HR in AI Era: Michelle stresses the potential for HR to act as a conduit for upskilling the broader organization in AI literacy, while also advocating for HR itself to undergo significant upskilling.Legal and Ethical Implications: Erika warns of the increasing likelihood of lawsuits arising from misapplications of AI in HR, pointing to a crucial need for bespoke, organization-specific AI solutions to mitigate risk.Cultural and Organizational Transformation: The discussion extends to the role of HR in driving cultural and organizational change, advocating for a transformational approach to HR that leverages AI for strategic advantage rather than mere cost-cutting.Leadership Call to ActionFor HR Professionals: Embrace technology and analytics training. Engage with AI tools critically and ethically. Innovate in your role to become a strategic partner in your organization.For Organizations: Invest in upskilling HR teams. Consider the development of bespoke AI solutions that align with company policies and ethical standards. Promote a culture of continuous learning and adaptation.Lead to Soar is a global online network for businesswomen, a podcast, and we host live-streaming and in person events to help women have a career that soars! The podcast is hosted by Mel Butcher ( and Michelle Redfern (
  • 141. Effective Leaders Do Succession Planning! Here's how!

    In this insightful episode, Mel Butcher and Michelle Redfern tackle the often overlooked yet critical aspect of leadership—succession planning. They explore why leaders tend to shy away from this responsibility and provide a roadmap for effective succession planning that prepares organizations for future challenges. This episode is a must-listen for anyone in a leadership position, offering practical strategies for cultivating the next generation of leaders.Episode Highlights:The Importance of Succession Planning: An exploration of why succession planning is essential for sustainable organizational growth and leadership transition.Overcoming Avoidance: Michelle shares insights on the common reasons leaders avoid succession planning and how to overcome these hurdles.Evaluating Talent: Strategies for evaluating in-house versus outside talent, emphasizing the importance of knowing potential successors' capabilities and developmental needs.Developing Talent: Discussion on the necessity of grooming potential candidates through mentoring, coaching, and training to prepare them for leadership roles.Continuous Planning: The significance of continuously updating succession plans to ensure the organization's readiness for future leadership needs.Transparent Communication: The value of clear and transparent communication about succession planning processes within the organization.Leadership Call to ActionStart the succession planning process by evaluating your organization's future leadership needs.Develop a comprehensive understanding of potential candidates' strengths and areas for growth.Create a culture of continuous professional development and open communication about career paths and leadership opportunities.Lead to Soar is a global online network for businesswomen, a podcast, and we host live-streaming and in person events to help women have a career that soars! The podcast is hosted by Mel Butcher ( and Michelle Redfern (