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The Brimful Life with Beth Ridley
26 minutes | 2 months ago
Peggy Williams Smith: Changing Culture Amid a Pandemic
When Peggy Williams-Smith started as chief executive officer of VISIT Milwaukee in November 2019, she knew the organization was going to need to change. She had seen VISIT lose some of its luster during her more the two decades of experience working in hospitality in downtown Milwaukee.“It was a pretty fractured culture, it was pretty siloed and there were people who, unfortunately, I think were just fighting to stay afloat and starting to stay alive which caused the organization to be really damaged when I got there,” she said.Williams-Smith joined Beth Ridley of The Brimful Life on the BizTimes MKE Podcast. VISIT is a Brimful Life client and the two discussed their experience working together. Ridley noted that many of her clients stopped working with her when the pandemic hit and Williams-Smith was one of the first to come back.“Investing when things are tough is the hardest thing to do, but it’s also the best thing to do, because it helps you look outside of your own four walls and have that person who can then tell you what you’re doing right and wrong,” Williams-Smith said.She also discussed how she approached her first few months at VISIT, including meeting with everyone on a staff that at the time was around 50 people for 30 minutes each.Staff members were allowed the first 10 minutes of their conversation to complain about past problems, but the next 20 minutes needed to focus on what the organization needed to do to improve.Williams-Smith was also careful to set expectations for what was going to come from those initial meetings.“I wanted them to know during that timeframe that although I wanted their input, that not everyone was going to be intimately involved with every decision and I was not going to take immediate action,” she said.
26 minutes | 5 months ago
Let's Simplify and Demystify Diversity and Inclusion
I joined BizTimes associate editor, Arthur Thomas, to discuss lessons learned from my series of podcast interviews with local diversity and inclusion leaders Grady Crosby, Erikajoy Daniels, Chris Rowland and DeVona Wright Cottrell.In this episode, I reflect key lessons learned from my conversations with these leaders and from my own experience helping companies build inclusive cultures to offer guidance for small and medium companies starting their own D&I journey.Based on my experience leading diverse teams in five different countries and leading D&I for a Fortune 100 company, I’m passionate about simplifying and demystifying D&I for leaders to make it less scary so you don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what to do, but actually lean in and start learning by doing.
31 minutes | 6 months ago
Aligning D&I to Business Strategy with Grady Crosby
In the second of four episodes with Milwaukee-area diversity and inclusion leaders, Ridley I speak with Grady Crosby, chief diversity officer at Johnson Controls. Our conversation touches on how to align D&I efforts a businesses strategy, measuring the results of those efforts and celebrating successes along the way.Crosby said the number one thing employees can do at Johnson Controls is solve problems for customers. As a result the company needs to have thought diversity and a diversity of people to be able to offer a range of choices to customers“It’s important because it actually speaks to our sustainability as a viable business concern, unless we’re able to provide solutions that customers need, we won’t be relevant,” Crosby said. “The only way we provide those solutions is having access to the broadest array of though and that means we have to be attractive to talent markets that are out there.”
24 minutes | 6 months ago
Engaging Employees with D&I
In the fourth of four BizTimes MKE Podcast episodes with Milwaukee-area business diversity leaders, I talk with Devona Wright Cottrell, associate general counsel and director at Baird.Wright Cottrell also co-founded Baird’s African American employee resource group, chaired it for six years and now serves as an advisor to the group. The conversation focuses on engaging employees in diversity and inclusion efforts, including how to best structure employee resource groups for success.
26 minutes | 6 months ago
Embedding D&I into Business Operations with Chris Rowland
In the third of four BizTimes MKE Podcast episodes with diversity leaders from the Milwaukee area, I talk with Chris Rowland, global diversity officer at ManpowerGroup. Their conversation touches on embedding D&I practices into business operations. They also discuss responses to those who argue companies should just hire the best person for a role without regard for diversity and inclusion efforts.“It makes my skin crawl and I think we’ve all heard it from time to time,” Rowland said. “There’s a subtle tone, not even subtle, that the best person for the job is not someone who is diverse.”
24 minutes | 6 months ago
Driving Leadership Commitment to D&I with Erikajoy Daniels
This is the first in a 4-part series focused on diversity and inclusion. In this episode I talk with Erikajoy Daniels, the chief diversity and inclusion officer at Advocate Aurora Health.Our conversation focuses on the need for leadership commitment to D&I efforts while also offering some specific tactics those looking to improve organizational diversity can use to build momentum.“The dialogue is probably the richest opportunity and the most important ingredient for driving any kind of diversity and inclusion work and that doesn’t take a position, title or budget to do it,” Daniels said.
10 minutes | 8 months ago
Wendy Baumann: My Answer is 'Yes'
In this special edition podcast about leadership during crisis, I interview Wendy Baumann, Chief Vision Officer for Wisconsin Women Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC). Wendy describes herself as being born not just a glass half full type of person, but as a glass almost completely spilling over. “I don’t need coffee in the morning”, Wendy says. “I’m just ready to start”!Wendy’s natural optimism and knowing that WWBIC is a critical part of the economic solution during the pandemic motivates Wendy and her team to work especially hard these days. “We are driven by how can we can help our thousands of clients keep their businesses going and survive”. Wendy explains that in times like these, she and her team have to be ready to move with flexible, creative and relevant solutions. "My answer is, "yes", says Wendy. "We just need to figure out how".To help WWBIC team members remain strong and not burn out when they are needed the most, Wendy sends them personal letters and notes of encouragement and gift packages. “Those little things can be everything”, Wendy explains.
13 minutes | 8 months ago
Michelle D'Attilio: Give Yourself Permission to Fall Apart
In this special edition podcast about leadership during crisis, I interview Michelle D'Attilio, Founder and CEO of digital marketing firm, Sosh. Michelle shares that it’s difficult to say that you don’t have all the answers as a business owner when everyone is looking to you. Still, Michelle has learned that sometimes it just takes too much energy to keep it together. “If I can just let it go,” Michelle explains, "I can regroup".Keeping it real, Michelle says that sometimes the answer to, "how you are you", is "I'm not in my pajamas". And that’s good enough! “We shouldn’t all be okay right now”, Michelle reminds us.Not feeling bad for feeling bad helps Michelle navigate challenges and uncertainty. Along with vacuuming. “My house is super clean right now,” she laughs.
13 minutes | 8 months ago
Kimberly Kane: Keeping the Wellbeing of Employees Top of Mind Every Day
In this special edition podcast about leadership during crisis, I interview Kimberly Kane, President and CEO of Kane Communications Group.When the stay at home order was issued, Kimberly saw fear in the eyes of her employees. “In that moment”, Kimberly shares, “what was best for my team was most important.” Since then, the wellbeing of her employees is top of mind for Kimberly every day. Kimberly shares her personal tips for staying positive, new leadership approaches she’s embraced and how she’s helping to bring the community together with the StayHomeMKE campaign. Kimberly has found that leading with compassion has enabled employees to grow closer and working remotely has actually increased the feeling of trust among her team. What will be key, Kimberly reflects is, “how to not take these important lessons for granted when things go back to normal”.
14 minutes | 8 months ago
DJ Hines: We Can't Get Well If We Have Selfish Ambitions
In this special edition podcast about leadership during crisis, I interview DJ Hines. As the Chief Operating Officer at Christian Faith Fellowship Church, DJ Hines is in the delicate position of having to navigate the intersection between policy, politics, faith and science during the pandemic. While DJ appreciates that there are many opinions and interests to consider, he is very clear that “there is only one human race” and now is the time to come together. “We can’t get well if we have selfish ambitions”, DJ asserts.In his messages to the CFFC congregation, DJ encourages people to “stand on their faith rather than give into fear” while doing our part to stay home and practice social distancing to stop the spread of the virus.DJ recognizes his messages will only be heeded if he projects calm and peace because “as a leader, whatever you give off is what people will respond to”. DJ finds peace and calm by sticking to his routine of morning meditation and exercise and by finding one thing to be grateful for in the moment. For DJ, that one thing is the opportunity to spend more quality time with his kids.
20 minutes | 8 months ago
Lisa Caesar: Be Pragmatic, Not Just Positive
In this special edition podcast about leadership during crisis, I interview Lisa Caesar, Chief Operating Officer at No Studios. "Don't feel a burden to be positive. It's more important to be pragmatic and move forward." Having lived through 9/11, Lisa reflects on the fact that all challenges have a beginning, middle and an end. "The recovery is inevitable," Lisa reminds us. "It's not IF. It's WHEN". And with that, Lisa is making decisions not just for today, but for how she wants No Studios to emerge stronger on the other side.Lisa shares how she's reworking the No Studios business model, what gives her inspiration during challenging times and how she's maintaining her sanity by maintaining a routine.
16 minutes | 8 months ago
Kate Meyer: Lean into Worst Case Scenarios
In this special edition podcast about leadership during crisis, I interview Kate Meyer, co-founder of BizTimes Media. “My state of mind is like the stock market”, Kate shares. “Some days things are on an upswing and other days not so much”.But having lost her mother at a young age and being a cancer survivor herself, Kate knows she has a “resiliency muscle”.And because of her resilient nature, Kate is also able to be innovative during times of uncertainty. Her technique for this is a willingness to “lean into the worst case scenarios”. “As things were falling apart”, Kate retells, “I wrote out what the worst case would look like”. In doing that, Kate starts to realize that she has options. And its empowering to appreciate that what used to be crazy ideas now seem plausible.“You start to wonder, why have I not considered this before?” says Kate.
15 minutes | 8 months ago
David Lee: Forging Ahead with the Most Right Thing in the Moment
In this special edition podcast about leadership during crisis, I chat with David Lee, CEO of ImagineMKE, an organization that supports Milwaukee's arts and culture sector. For David, leading with optimism means seeing clearly the obstacles ahead of you and even recognizing the possibility of failure, but forging ahead with the "most right thing you can do" at the moment.And forging ahead during these uncertain times is exactly what David and his team have been doing. Within one week, they launched an emergency relief fund for artists, giving checks to over 100 artists in need over the past two weeks.David shares with me his source of positivity as well as new behaviors his team has embraced that he hopes to maintain even after the coronavirus crisis is over.
15 minutes | 8 months ago
Christine Specht: Now is the Time to Live Our Values
In this special edition podcast about leadership during crisis, I interview Christine Specht, CEO of Cousins Submarines.“Now is the best time to be living our values,” says Christine. The culture at Cousins is built on being optimistic, purposeful, passionate and grounded and Christine is heartened to see her team display these values not only when times are good, but also during the coronavirus crisis.“People really do make the difference”, Christine says as she reflects on how her team is giving their all during these challenging times. “It really reaffirms for me the importance of hiring the best people you can afford.”In addition to getting inspiration from her team and bringing the company values to life, simply taking one day at a time and providing clear, concise and consistent communications to franchisees and employees is how Christine leads with optimism during these uncertain times.
39 minutes | 8 months ago
Ian Abston: Take a Risk and Tell Everybody
My guest is Ian Abston, co-founder of Light the Hoan. The future of Milwaukee not only depends on recruiting and retaining young, bright talent, but also helping young people feel like Milwaukee is a place where big ideas can come to life. That’s what Light the Hoan is all about. Ian shares how he’s been able to mobilize a city around a bold new idea and gives advice to all young Milwaukeeans with the next big idea.
40 minutes | 8 months ago
Hector Colon: Leadership Lessons from Boxing and Business
Hector Colon is President and CEO of Lutheran Social Services, one of the Midwest’s major health and human services organizations that provides aid to nearly 40,000 individuals a year. Hector reflects on how his childhood experiences shaped his leadership style. The influence of his mother helped Hector learn the true value of servant leadership and how to balance putting others first while also driving a culture of accountability.Hector’s journey to become a professional boxer helped him learn the value of determination, discipline and preparation. “Entering into the ring, there is great fear”, Hector describes what it is like to be a boxer. “But, if you have no fear, you have no courage. What gives you courage is preparation”.Hector also shares how having a bold vision and asking five key questions enabled him to successfully transform Lutheran Social Services from being in the red to realizing a $2.4m dollar surplus.
25 minutes | 9 months ago
David Lee: Being Curious, Interested and Willing to Learn
This episode was recorded live at PodFest in Milwaukee. My guest is David Lee, CEO of the start-up arts and culture non-Profit, ImagineMKE.From screen writer to chef, actor to investment banker and now non-profit leader, David’s professional journey has been eclectic to say the least. But through it all, being interested, curious and willing to learn have been keys to David’s success and what has ultimately led him to his current role that is tailored made for him. In this episode, you’ll get great career advice, leadership advice and arm wrestling advice.
37 minutes | 9 months ago
Dr. Tiffany Mullen: Bringing Humanity Back to Healthcare
My guest is Dr. Tiffany Mullen, co-founder of Vytal Health, a company that provides functional and integrative medical consultations and services online.One could argue that the healthcare industry is a great example of what goes wrong when leaders don’t put people first. Healthcare costs continue to rise, but our overall health and quality of experience with healthcare providers isn’t improving.Driven from her own experience as a patient living with a chronic medical condition, Dr. Mullen is working to bring humanity back to healthcare to improve our overall health and wellbeing and our experience with healthcare among patients and physicians as well.
18 minutes | 9 months ago
Michael Sheppard: Making Diversity a Differentiator
Michael Sheppard, Managing Partner at IronwoodDrive Financial Group, uses diversity as a differentiator in an industry that has been slow to reflect the changing demographics of consumers. Michael encourages his financial advisors to embrace their differences and be their authentic selves in order to establish trust with clients - which is the key to success.
45 minutes | 9 months ago
Just Think: Christine Specht
Serving others, connecting work with purpose and meaning, staying grounded and striving for better are some of the values Christine brings to life at Cousins. Christine makes leading with such optimism look easy, but she shares that she’s really intentional about developing these positive leadership competencies. One of Christine’s tips for being a successful leader is to walk away from the laptop, put the work down and just think. That and occasionally blasting some 80’s hair band music in the car, keeps Christine motivated to be her best!
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