Navigating the Customer Experience

Join host Yanique Grant as she takes you on a journey with global entrepreneurs and subject matter experts that can help you to navigate your customer experience. Learn what customers really want and how businesses can understand the psychology of each customer or business that they engage with. We will be looking at technology, leadership, customer service charters and strategies, training and development, complaint management, service recovery and so much more!
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Navigating the Customer Experience





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Now displaying: March, 2019
Mar 19, 2019

Jennifer Brown is an award-winning entrepreneur, dynamic speaker, diversity and inclusion expert. She is the Founder, President and CEO of Jennifer Brown Consulting (JBC), a strategic leadership and diversity consulting firm that coaches business leaders worldwide on critical issues of talent and workplace strategy. Brown is a passionate advocate for social equality who helps businesses foster healthier, more productive workplace cultures. Her book Inclusion: Diversity, the New Workplace & the Will to Change will inspire leadership to embrace the opportunity that diversity represents and empower advocates to drive change that resonates in today’s world.




  • Couldyou share with us a background of how did you end up in this arena of diversity and inclusion, what was your journey like?
  • As it relates to diversity and inclusion, could you share with us some of the issues that have been may be barriers to preventing a fully diversified and inclusive workplace based on your experience?
  • As it relates to diversity and inclusion, could you share with us maybe one or two strategies that you think small and medium-sized business owners could employ?
  • Now in terms of how this impacts the customer experience, could you share with us some of the best practices that you've seen in organizations and how it has translated into retention and better customer experiences overall?
  • Could you share with us how you stay motivated every day?
  • Could you share with us what’s one online resource, tool, website or app that you absolutely cannot live without in business?
  • Could you share with us some of the books that have had the biggest impact on you?
  • What’s one thing that's going on in your life right now that you're really excited about - either something that you're working on to develop yourself or your people?
  • Where can our listeners find you online?
  • What’s one quote or saying that during times of adversity or challenge you revert to that quote to help you to become refocus?




  • Jennifer shared, as we like to say in this field not a lot of standard paths towards a career in diversity and inclusion. In fact, if you try to find academic programs that address or degrees that address this topic you probably will come up empty-handed. We all come from different places, for her,she was an activist in nonprofits in her 20s, but she was also always a musician and it was sort of an amateur pursuit in those early days in her life, but it was a huge passion. So, she decided to make it her profession and give it a shot, she moved to New York to become an opera singer and study at a conservatory and get her Masters in voice which was really exciting and heady times for her.But unfortunately, through the course of training she injured her voice and ended up having to get several surgeries on her voice to repair it but ultimately, she realized it wasn't going to work, her voice just would not be an instrument that she could count on for a career where she could make her living.


  • It was heartbreaking but it's led her towards where a lot of theater people go because they love the stage and they're so good in front of people, a lot of them become trainers and educators. In fact, we find a home in leadership in the whole kind of field of leadership whether that's as consultant or a learning and development person. So, she ended up getting a second Masters in Organizational Development/ Organizational Change, it goes by a lot of different names but it's basically the HR education realm and she was a corporate learning and development, training and development leader for a while as an employee and then she got laid off and she said, “I think I can have more impact from the outside if I became kind of that third party, that expert.”That really appealed to her, it still appeals to her to this day, it's the best role for her to play which is that agitator, but not the employee which helps give her some authority, gives her some distance, gives her some credibility earned or unearned or deserved but it is what it is. People tend to want to listen to people who've written books on things and people who are external when they don't do a very good job of listening to their employees, which is another maybe we'll talk about that. So she ended up hanging her shingle out about 12 years ago and doing leadership and team development and morphing into DNI because she felt pulled in that direction to specialize because she’s a member of the LGBTQ community and she has been out since she was 22, and yet she had really struggled with being out throughout her life and even in the nonprofit world certainly in the opera music world and then as an entrepreneur where she felt very exposed to bias if she were to be honest and authentic about who she actually is and it's a huge part of our lives to deny and to walk around and do business without talking about it, without kind of leaving that hole and not feeling it's going to be accepted and it's also going to hurt your ability to make a living which is really problematic.


  • So, now they do specialize in Diversity and Inclusion, and she’s fully out all the time, you could Google her and it's very plain.It is actually, she considers part of her secret sauce, it's part of where she has cut her teeth on developing her own voice, her bravery, her courage, her resilience has a lot of that has come from that identity and the pain of some of the painful lessons of exclusion that that has allowed her and enabled her to feel, to think about, to empathize with and hopefully made her a more inclusive leader, not just because she’s LGBTQ, but for all communities that needs her voice as an ally. So, it's a very cool place to find herself where she gets to write books and speak about all this stuff and it's particularly timely because the topic is, she would say, there's never been more attention on the topic than there is now.


  • Jennifer stated that it has a lot of reasons and a lot of factors, it's rather complex and yet it's kind of simple at the same time because the mandate is simple, the need to reflect your customer base which is diversifying quickly who has the spending power for example that non-white communities are the fastest growing consumer communities with the largest spending power.She thinks the gay community now has a trillion dollars of spending power. So, consumers are getting smarter, they're getting organized, they're finding their voice, they're using it to hold brands accountable which is exciting and make spending choices that reflect their values. And yet companies in terms of their employee mix particularly in the top half or third of organizations really don't reflect that diverse world and companies structures are old school, there is no better way to say it, they have been unchallenged and they haven't challenged themselves in terms of the makeup of their senior leadership in particular and many companies not all but many companies have kind of gone about their merry way trying to make money and really not focused on anything larger than that, whether it's how employees feel, who's succeeding and feels they can thrive in the organization, who may be reaching senior leadership roles and who's not and why they're feeling thwarted in that process up the pipeline. And so, she thinks there's this business as usual, we're here to make money, we’re here to generate shareholder results and there's not been a lot of attention paid to values, the importance of the workforce and what they want and need in order to stay and thrive and there is honestly a lot of bias around, “Well, I worked hard and all you need to do is work hard too and you'll achieve what I've achieved.”So, this belief and meritocracy and it's really easy to believe in meritocracy when people that look like you have benefited from that, it hasn't been a challenge, there haven't been stereotypes that have affected you, you have been pulled forward by others that look like you without even knowing it sometimes, and so there's this willful blindness to the difficulties that are faced by anyone that is not of a certain demographic in workforces, it’s sort of, “I write it off. I don’t take it seriously. I don't listen to it. I don't even know it honestly.”So, there's a lot of education that's needed around micro inequities, unconscious bias, HR processes that are so critical like recruitment, retention, promotion and advancement, all those moments in the employee life cycle where bias occurs, it's in a large part still allowed to kind of continue and so what their job is to interrupt those things and come in as a company and build strategies that help companies wake up, get educated, care about it, honestly have empathy for other people which you shouldn't even need to say but it feels that it's hard, it feels that if I explain something to you and you don't care and then you don't take action, that hurts, there's a ton of research on this it's not even like this is a mystery. It's right there and so the best leaders and the best companies are really forward, they're asking all these great questions, they’re humbling themselves to their own learning, to their own mistakes, they're publishing their data and saying, “Hey, here's our data and I know it sucks and we're working to change it.”That's what courage looks like, that's what leadership looks like these days and she wish she saw more of it.


Yanique shared, I like the fact that you mentioned that it's not something that people are accustomed to and change is hard. Unfortunately, human beings don't adapt to change very readily, and I don't think it's based on the geography in terms of where you're from in the world, I think it's just general human nature. So, it would mean that you have to put yourself in a place of being uncomfortable in order to move from one stage to the next.


Jennifer agreed and stated that nobody wants to be uncomfortable, but the flip side is it makes you so much better of a leader and a better team member, better colleague and by the way better parent, better community leader, all of these. There's a reason that you open a paper today and diversities in every headline, it's everywhere because institutions are really struggling with it of all kinds for profit, nonprofit,community organizations, church leadership, so there is probably, no area of your life where you can afford to not understand and embrace this conversation and do your work, your kid could come home tomorrow and say, “Mom, I think I'm transgender.”You would be completely ill-equipped to deal with that and to be fair most parents are, it's something that is life and does not prepare you for that but at the same time don't you want to be ready? Even if you're interviewing for jobs, even if you're leading teams at a company that values diversity and you don't or you haven't paid attention to it, you've assumed it's somebody else's job to care about it, none of that is going to work for you in the long run, it's a little bit of a scare tactic but she has to use every tool she has to convince people that this is important which is really tiring and honestly kind of depressing sometimes because you're wondering how they don't get it, “Please have empathy for people that haven’t had as easy of a road as you.” It's just that and then she doesn't know why we have to ask and convince and scare, how many different techniques do we need to basically talk about something that's such a human right and is all about the dignity of everyone in this world to do their best work and to feel their sense of purpose every day.


Yanique agreed and stated, and to feel appreciated, a lot of people work in organizations and they just don't feel appreciated and I think they've lost the purpose if there was even a purpose from day one, they've definitely lost it. It comes out in the interactions that they have with customers, it comes out in how they relate to their team members sometimes unconscious of the fact that the customer is observing you in every interaction once they're standing in front of you or you’re on the phone and you ask them to hold but you didn't actually put the phone on hold, so they're hearing everything that's happening in the background.


  • Jennifer shared that small companies have a great opportunity, it's actually much easier to shift things than for large organizations, and certainly remembering that if you build it right from the beginning, you will have a much easier time down the road. So, it's very important to think about how you are recruiting and retaining all kinds of talent, how comfortable they feel once they are in your organization and really being open to feedback about when that inclusiveness, the desire for inclusiveness is actually though being interpreted and the impact of an intention is one of exclusion. She thinks that sometimes we don't want to know the answer to that question so we don't ask and so it's very critical, particularly, if you're not a person of a marginalized or underrepresented background yourself, you're going to have some blind spots, your network is going to look a lot like you so you will tend to recruit from that network. You will have blind spots around how people perceive your brand and by even blind spots probably about your desired customers so that to the extent that you can ensure your team that you build reflects the world that you're doing business in, it will allow you to resonate and to see around that corner and to anticipate that audience and that customer and gear your communications accordingly and have kind have a check in balance on how are we coming across in the marketplace and like you said, we're being observed all the time, so your future talent is looking at your current organization and looking at your website and thinking about, “Would I be comfortable there? I don't see anyone that looks like me there.”That's something that's hard to fix in some cases because when you're an entrepreneur you're grabbing warm bodies, you're trying to get work done, it's very fast, you are going to pull from your own network because it's most expedient and that network is going to tend to look like you and so you've got to actively counterbalance that in your outreach, in the talent pools that you're seeking, in the way you talk proactively and very overtly about your commitment to inclusion.Shewould really recommend you have that in all of your marketing materials, it doesn’t matter what business you're in, there's always a way to talk about what inclusion means as a value to you and to what you're trying to build and to the customers you're trying to serve, there are ways to do that and she would recommend you do it because it's a beacon, not only for talent you hope to recruit and to say, “Hey, this is a safe place for you.This is a place that you are wanted and needed not just tolerated or accepted. We need all of you to bring your full self to work, this is a place in which you can do that.”Then we want to best serve the customer and their needs and wants, and companies are at real risk of missing some key….There's just a lot of mistakes that are made because diverse talent is not at the table when creative decisions are made or marketing collateral is designed, we've seen very high level mistakes made by brands like PepsiCo with the ad that they had where there was like a mock black lives matter march and one of the Kardashians was handing a Pepsi across the police line, it’s a nightmare and they pulled it immediately. And it became a kind of a case study that a lot of us talking about where we wonder who was at the table making those decisions, and if they were at the table, were they listened to, were they really considered, was that feedback taken into account?So, she doesn’t know where the error happened in their process because she doesn't have the inside look into them but at a smaller scale this stuff can happen all the time and she thinks you've got to make sure your mentored and coached and you run things by people, you think about the nuances of the diversity conversation because it is really nuanced, languages changing all the time and she gets a lot of complaints about are trans and gender non-conforming friends will say, “Yeah, I identify as they, them.So that's my preferred pronoun.”People will literally say, “Well, I don't feel comfortable referring to you as that, it's grammatically incorrect and I feel uncomfortable.”It's just amazing to her, to the point earlier, it’s a small action on your part that allows somebody to feel seen and heard is that so much work, she thinks it's such a red herring, it's just an excuse to not grow and she doesn't understand it. Jennifer thinks if you're in business, you should want more language, you should want more ways to talk to people in and resonate with them, that's what you should want.


  • Jennifer shared that she thinks that companies that are designing products for example for different communities, some of the larger organizations she worked with literally have something called Employee Resource Groups or they're called Business Resource Groups, but they are diversity networks, maybe they're a multicultural talent network, maybe they're a black employee network, maybe there are an LGBTQ network and most companies are trying to reach those diverse demographic so they can sell more to them, but they realize that they don't have the intelligence on the inside to really do this well and effectively, the smart ones realize that so they have these groups or these networks for a lot of reasons, these networks serve a lot of purposes in organizations and these can exist in small companies to by the way. She has worked with 200-person companies that have a full diversity committee, they have several Employee Resource Groups that are literally playing kind of this market intelligence role for the company so you don't have to be big to access this idea and they are at the table informing product design, informing marketing strategies, informing sales, educating the sales team and anyone that's external facing around cultural nuances and behaviors and language.In banks and financial services, a lot of the financial advisors are tend to be white and to be male and yet the biggest growth and wealth is in diverse wealth holders, female heads of households, people of color and yet you have a financial advisor community in all the big banks and insurance companies that doesn't really look like that and they're struggling to diversify those ranks on the inside.So, literally there are certifications you can get for example as a financial advisor, you can get certified in selling to the LGBTQ community, selling financial products to that community and you go somewhere, and you get a designation that you can put after your name and yes, you're an ally, you're a straight ally, you're not in that community but you know and you're investing in how to be culturally competent when you are selling to that community. So, you're listenership probably selling a lot of different kinds of things, we're all in sales all the time, we all have customers and it's all about resonating with them and making sure you're staying up to speed on what their care abouts are and how they talk about themselves and how they kind of getting inside their lives and anticipating what they want and need.It's just that awareness and there's just a lot of examples of brands that have done this really well. Heineken had a great ad that aired a Super Bowl ago that she would encourage everybody to go look at where they introduce people to each other without providing a lot of demographic information about the person and they give them some questions to talk about and they pair somebody who might have very conservative views with somebody who's in the military and who identifies as transgender.But they don't tell them any of these things and then they encourage some conversation and then they kind of reveal later on, “Well, actually this person that you've bonded with, this is who they actually are and how they identify and are you surprised and do you feel your bias is being challenged?”It's really, really neat and there's a lot of interesting ads, Gillette just came out with an incredible ad, she would encourage everyone to go and watch it on masculinity, it was so good and there was a lot of threatened boycotts and she watched it with her partner and they literally cried and it was so moving and to think that something that could move us and touch your soul could make so many people angry is really indicative of the polarized times we live in but by the way, Gillette's sales went up after that ad, by a considerable amount.So, threatened, boycott or not, anger or not and social media, they correctly diagnosed the bump that they would get through putting their values out there and saying, “Here's what we want to be about and we know that as a brand we haven't always been all that hip to the issue, so, we're trying to be.”She thinks it really worked.It definitely burnished the brand for her and a countless other potential customers.


Yanique stated, so this is definitely something that's new and of course it's definitely going to continue into another couple of years as you said people are trying to flesh out what does that mean for them based on their organization, based on where they operate in the world, based on who they are trying to target and as you said, how much sales they're trying to increase in what community and if they can connect with these people because as you stated at the beginning of our conversation, people are now buying from brands that represent the values that they hold near and dear to them and sometimes that's very hard to find and it's amazing that consumers are taking this stance because it just goes to show that the power is really in the hands of the consumer and it's going to be continuing even more, social media has given themso much power in terms of the things that they do, the comments and the feedback that they give and so it's not so much about what the brand says about themselves, but what the consumer has to say based on their experiences with the product or the service.


Jennifer agreed and stated that it goes beyond the four walls of the company, there is no such thing anymore, there's total transparency as you said, there's a lot of accountability and a lot of communities are diverse communities who are questioning - Do we want to work at a place like that? Do we want to patronize a place like that? What do they stand for? People really now want to hear what do you mean and are you walking the talk?And she’s really excited to see this accountability and the visibility that they have, they can peer into how companies do business and employees are finding their voice and really being public about it like the Google walk out of a couple months ago had 20,000 employees all over the world walking out and protesting their whole process that they handle sexual harassment claims and pay equity.They had his whole list of demands and it was really inspiring to seeing Google had to pay attention. They just had to and they've been kind of on a journey of addressing some, not all of the requests/demands that the employees had, so, we're going to see this is not going away, this accountability and it's exciting because brands have gotten away with a lot in the past, they've gotten away with unfair workplace practices, they've protected their data, they haven't been forced to admit where they're board is entirely white and male but it's never been talked about in the news before, those days are over and if you're in a company where you haven't been called out publicly, it will happen.And so, a lot of their work is actually these days about helping brands and companies make sure they're doing their work internally, and so hopefully that day never comes, hopefully they never mess up but that accountability is fierce and swift and she almost feel like we need to start teaching the art of the apology to our customers because they're going to make mistakes, they are absolutely going to and so the question is, how do you come back from a mistake? How do you apologize, own what happened, say you're learning, talk about what you're going to be recommitting to, what are you going to do differently in the future, even that as something you're prepared for, that's a new idea but she thinks it would behoove all business owners and even all managers to think about when I say the wrong word, do people trust me enough and they know that they can come to me and tell me, that's what you really want, you want to ask for that, you want to earn people's trust because by the way, you can't just one day and once only say, “Hey, can you let me know if I ever make you feel uncomfortable?”It's not a one and done. So, you've got to earn that trust that somebody then will trust you enough to be honest with you and say, “Hey, that joke you say or that saying you say or you know that you stole that person's idea in the room or assigned it to, you took it and you attributed it to somebody else or did you realize that men did 90% of the talking in that meeting?”We've got to be sensitive to these things and we just haven't been in the past and we need help to learn and so it's not just something you do need to do a lot on your own, you need to educate yourself, you need to read a lot of books about bias and team dynamics and being an inclusive leader, her book is helpful she has been told by a lot of people, she hopes it's helpful, so read these books, but they commit to making behavior change in yourself and inviting feedback and then act on that feedback, adjust, be humble be resilient, have that growth mindset which is failing forward.You know you're going to fail, it happens to all of us, we're all bias and it's hard to keep up with this, but you just have to try, that's huge points for trying.


Yanique stated, I like the fact that you made a point to the fact that the change starts with you because I find in a lot of organizations, the managers or the leaders are quick to say well they need to do so and so and they're not including themselves in the process because it all starts with them as well and as a leader or a manager, if I'm in an organization, I'm looking to see what you are doing because I'm taking lead from the behaviors that you've demonstrated, the attitudes that you've demonstrated and yes, I may have my own values but in an organization people kind of watch what's happening and they kind of conform to the culture that exists and if they do anything out of the norm, it means that they're going to stand out and because most people don't want to stand out, there kind of just going to go along with whatever is happening there, whether it's good or bad sometimes.


Jennifer agreed and stated that the best example of what Yanique is talking about is watching how many men take paternity leave or parental leave. We don't get a lot in this country, some companies are really trying to become much more generous around leave and actually going as far as requiring some employees to take leave because there's such a stigma around taking leave and particularly for men and male parents in any family configuration, it is particularlyshamed to take. Even the leave that's provided, take all of that leave, it's not viewed as a positive, you get pressure, it's spoken and unspoken pressure and men follow other men and follow what they do and they decide what the norms are based on what they see particularly senior people doing so you're right that we take our cues from everyone we watch above us in a way and we say, “Well, that's acceptable, that's not acceptable, that's a boundary I can cross or that's a boundary that I shouldn't cross.”This is why it particularly would leave and also vacation interestingly, there are some companies that are starting to require vacation because we don't take all the vacation we haveand that’s not because we don't want to take the vacation, it’s because we don’t think it's going to be okay to do. So, the norms that are communicated through behavior of others particularly senior people, we are watching, and we are then deciding, “What should I do that's not going to hurt my career in this particular culture?”So, she wouldn't encourage people to think about, it almost needs to be mandated because until such time as we can change this dynamic of pressure and peer pressure and watching these role modeling behavior happen and kind of employees not taking care of themselves and not really doing what they need to do to have a balanced life, we may need to mandate some things. She just interviewed this woman, Erica Keswin, and she really recommend her book called Bring Your Human to Work  and she has so many examples of what companies are doing in this vein to encourage leave, to encourage parenting and to encourage balance and flex and literally power to the employee to really have that balance that is the theme, the theme of women's month is how do we achieve this?But remember men need balance too, we single parents need balance, people without children need balance who are caregiving, we may be doing none of those things, but we may need just balance for our time off. So, let's not be biased in terms of how we set systems up as well and assume that only one group of people needs to manage their work-life balance, but traditionally was spoken of as a sort of women's challengeand that's really changing, and she hopes it's changing. She hopes men are thinking about what they need and they're advocating for themselves, younger men, she has a lot of hopes for millennial generation to say, this is what I need and want whether that's a sabbatical, whether it's flexible work assignments and arrangements, whether it's different career opportunities and moving around a lot more often and she just hopes that employees are in the driver's seat, it's time to assume our more powerful position as you mentioned earlier.


  • When asked about how she stays motivated every day, Jennifer shared that she calls it self-care and when you do diversity work, it has to be radical self-care because it can get kind of depressing to have to have these conversations over and over about why empathy matters. We have not succeeded in building healthy workplace cultures and that is wearing us down, it's tiring us, it's actually making us physically ill from stress-related issues when you can't be yourself, it’s harmful. So, talking about this all the time as is equally inspiring and also kind of depressing and makes her angry and frustrated and she has days when she wants to give up but that's also entrepreneurship. You have this passion, you're trying to raise money, you're trying to hire your team, you're trying to get contracts signed. So, how she fills her cup is gathering with people that care about what she cares about and just being able to let her guard down and be real about the frustrations and how it feels every day and for her, that might be in a room of women entrepreneurs as it fills her up to think about how are you growing your business?Just to see herself in them is a way of finding that space where you can say, “I'm not alone.” As she thinks isolation is really dangerous for us. So, who your community, where can you be real and let your hair down and let your guard down, be honest. Where can you go to feel re-inspired to realize the size of the community that's trying to do similar things or that shares your values.There's a lot of conferences on conscious capitalism and so, it's not just diversity conferences, it's conferences about values at work and culture conference, which is about why workplace cultures matter, there's a lot of great HR conferences that are talking more and more about what she does. So, it's this incredible convergence that she’s seeing in her conversation to many other sort of parallel worlds, which is a really cool thing to see. So, she would just recommend find your community, gather with them, put yourself around people that are having the highs and lows and everything in between, find folks you can be really real and honest with where it's off line and so nobody's watching and people who will hold your confidence. But ultimately, to her that has really sustained her. She has an amazing team as well, she doesn't try to do this alone, she has always wanted to build this beyond herself because she knew she wouldn't be able to touch all the lives that she wanted to without a team of people that could be going out and being in those classrooms and building those strategies for the companies and bringing those practices back to their group, so that they could do more of it. So, she has an incredible consulting team that does client work but also has a great marketing team that feels like they are all very aligned in terms of how much they believe in what they're doing every day and they're all sharing articles all the time, they're sending inspirational stuff to each other, they're sending discouraging new data to each other which just fuels the fight. So, she’d say if you're the kind of person that for maybe a team would feel that it would help you do the work and get up every day for a reason, then you might want to build a different kind of organization.There's a lot of us that just want to do it alone and that takes a certain kind of personality, it was never really her so, it's important to know what kind of leader are you? What do you need around you? Who do you need around you to be able to do your work and really find your sweet spot and your voice in that work and then who needs to surround you to enable that so that you can focus on what you do best.


  • When asked about an online resource, tool, website or app, Jennifer stated that it's such a hard choice, there is so many, she has her favorite podcasts, she has her favorite research institutions.She really relies on research by McKenzie and Deloitte are probably her favorite things, her go-to resources for data on the way the workforce is changing. So, there are these amazing think tanks, they very well resourced, they are very cutting edge and a lot of that information fuels their consulting work, they just take that to clients and they hadn't seen it, it's compelling data about the future and they can help kind of flush it out because of their expertise, so it really works well. And then on the personal side, she really loves this woman who runs a daily Facebook live called, Resistance Liveand that's more of a sort of for her personal fuel.It talks about what's happening in our political system, the new generation of democratic leaders and candidates and the whole developing conversation around progressive values is exciting to her and again, kind of feeds her the certainty that she’s going in the right direction and that there is a big community that is asking the same questions that she’s asking so, but there's so many women's podcasts that she listens to, so many where she also gets her education around difference.She listens to code switch which is an NPR Podcastabout race and ethnicity and code-switching which is a critical foundational principle in terms of what we talk about diversity and all of us are code-switching all the time around a variety of aspects. So, that's one of her go to podcasts to learn about how other people experience code-switching and how she can be an ally to lessen some of what people feel that need to code switch every single day, how she can lessen that need and support people to bring their full selves to wherever and not have to put all that energy into hiding and minimizing and shifting and speaking a different language to different people, it's exhausting stuff and we shouldn't have to do it.


  • When asked about books that have had the biggest impact, Jennifer shared that she has many favorite authors that are difficult to narrow it down as usual, but there's a new book called Better Allies: Everyday Actions to Create Inclusive, Engaging Workplacesby her friend Karen Catlin and literally she's a woman in Tech.She was a VP in a technology company in a technical role and today she's an author and keynoter and she has a million ideas for how to be a better ally. She's got a hashtag and a handle on Twitter called #betterallies, which she really recommends everybody follows but she has a new book that literally pulls all that together in one place which is so helpful.So, that's one book that she would encourage reading. She doesn’t think there's a lot written on Allyship, so, this is an emerging area. Her new book coming out in August does talk about this a lot as well and sort of the allied journey, how you can get on board, how you can put one foot in front of the other and whether it's adopting one new word and trying to understand what it means and using it all the way to kind of advanced Allyship, which is she’s an advocate in her organization, she’s a big-time voice, she’s challenging the system and everything in between so, Better Allies is great. David Smith wrote a book called Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Womenabout why men should mentor women and she really pays a lot of attention to men and there are not many men who are writing about inclusion and men who speak on it because it's so important in so many ways. The (a) that they're involved but (b) other men are going to listen to them and read them in a different way and she thinks maybe many people are used to people who look like me and you speaking about all these things but for a man to speak about it is powerful.So, those are two amazing books she would point people towards that are great reads and full of practical advice.


  • Jennifer shared that they are embarking on a big shift in their business strategy at her company, they've been highly like white glove bespoke consulting has been their bailiwick and then she gave a lot of key notes, which is great, and she loves, and she just plan to do a lot more of them. She thinks it's really her sweet spot honestly, but she thinks they're moving into the online product arena and they've launched their first online program in the last couple of months and have their first cohort of students and thinks their programs could be so many things. They're going to launch a new assessment behind the second book that's coming out in August around how inclusive of a leader are you and actually give people a score and then kind of break down their score within 6 different domains. And so, it’s the first assessment they've ever really had like that as a company. She thinks it has a lot of potential because people want to know where they are and then they want resources and tools whether it's a quickie online program that's really affordable or whether it's much longer, six months multi-course program where they can really do a deep dive. They're starting to build all those things on the back end, to get access to their knowledge, you don't need to hire them to come into your company basically, there's going to be a whole way to access what they do online. So, she’s just really excited to investigate that, it's a great revenue generator for them, a different kind of workstream business unit and who knows what's in store for them with the economy, but it's been a long time since they've had a correction and corrections and recessions are really difficult for consulting companies, a lot of us don't make it through and she thinks they're recession-proof now but it's very important and every entrepreneur that listens to you will know this, that we must diversify your revenue, spread out the ways that you make money in as many ways as you can to protect yourself against downturns particularly if you are a service company, and you're attached to corporate budgets.And diversity has been viewed as a nice to have traditionally and so, she thinks a lot of us, it really would behoove all of us to think about how are you going to weather storms? Because we know storms are going to happen and so that's another aspect that she’s really excited about having these online offerings.They're more affordable, they are something that people can do even with in a recession environment to invest in themselves, continue to learn and grow and prepare for the upswing, not to be morbid but it is something that has crossed her mind and she’s sure has crossed everyone's minds that are listening to you if they run a business.


  • Jennifershared listeners can find her at –

Stitcher Radio – The Will to Change: Uncovering True Stories of Diversity & Inclusion

Twitter - @jenniferbrown

Instagram - @jenniferbrownspeaks

Facebook – Jennifer Brown Consulting

LinkedIn – Jennifer Brown Consulting


****Special Note: the book is available for pre-order on Amazon in order to get into the flow that way


  • Jennifer shared that she likes to think about the quote that was on President Obama's rug in the Oval Office. It says, “The Arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”You talked about like an idea that keeps you working and getting up in the morning and thinking that what you're doing is making a difference, there's no better quote than that. I think Martin Luther King originated it, but she thinks about it a lot because it is a struggle, because progress can feel slow, sometimes it's a real galvanizing idea for her and many others who do the work that she does.





Mar 12, 2019

Sarah E. Toms is an Executive Director and co-founder of Wharton Interactive where she has built award-winning EdTech teams that develop highly engaging games and simulations, which are played by tens of thousands of students globally. Her drive to modernize, transform, and democratize education led her to co-invent, an open-source simulation framework. As an entrepreneur for more than a decade and a demonstrated thought leader in the technology field, Toms has founded companies that build global CRM, product development, productivity management, and financial systems. She is dedicated to supporting women and girls in technology through her work with the Women in Tech Summit and Follow her on Twitter at @SarahEToms.


Peter S. Fader is the Frances and Pei-Yuan Chia Professor of Marketing at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. In 2015, Fader co-founded Zodiac, a predictive analytics firm that was acquired by Nike in 2018. More recently, he co-founded Theta Equity Partners, which focuses on customer-based corporate valuation. His expertise centers on topics such as customer relationship management, lifetime value of the customer, and strategies that arise from these data-driven tactics. Fader is also the author of Customer Centricity: Focus on the Right Customers for Strategic Advantage and he has been interviewed in The Wall Street Journal, APM’s “Marketplace,” NPR’s “Planet Money,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Forbes, and more. Follow him on Twitter at @FaderP.




  • Could you tell us some of the things that really propelled you to take it a step further especially focusing on the difference between customer centricity and customer lifetime value and how an organization can really identify what that is for them.
  • In the book you also focused on the difference between customer centricity versus product centricity. Could you share with us a little bit about that?And do you find that organizations are shifting more towards customer centricity and less in the product realm?
  • Could you share with our listeners what are some necessary elements that help to support customer centricity in an organization?
  • How is it that you integrate the CLV (Customer Lifetime Value) and align the customer service strategy with a proper CRM solution?
  • Could you share with us a little bit about the loyalty programs in terms of does every organization need a loyalty program in order to have an effective or have a true reflection of what their customer lifetime value is to understand the whole metric process?
  • Based on your experience, your research, your exposure, different interactions that you've had with different people. How do you view customer experience today and what do you think it will look like 5 to 10 years from now?
  • Could you share with us maybe one online resource, tool, website or app that you absolutely cannot live without in your day to day operations?
  • Are there any books that have had really great impacts on you that you'd like to share with our listeners that you think will help them in their own journey?
  • Could you share with us, maybe one thing that's going on in your life right now that you're really excited about - either something that you're working on to develop yourself or your people?
  • Where can our listeners find you online?
  • What’s one quote or saying that during times of adversity or challenge you revert to that quote to help you to become refocus and to get back on track?




  • Peter shared that they build a bridge from the first book to the new one and to the simulation that was mentioned that Sarah has developed. So, the first book was about this radical idea that a company can potentially make more money and have more sustainable, defendable success by focusing more on the differences among its customers by celebrating heterogeneity, that if we can figure out who the right customers are and kind of double down on them, enhance their value, find more like them, that that could do better than just obsessing over version 2.0 of the product. But the thing about the first book, it was good, and he hopes that if people haven't read it, they will but it was more definitional, motivational, aspirational, here's this concept, here's what it can do for you, here's the problems with a lot of companies out there that are failing to go in this direction. So, it was trying to get people to kind of wake up, but it didn’t really give them specific guidance how to put one foot in front of another and that's one of the things that he and Sarah have tried to do with their simulations and this new book basically takes a lot of those ideas and kind of crystallizes them, goes beyond just the simulation, makes them very real, talk about real companies, real actions.


Sarah shared that what was interesting to them was when they started writing the book they actually started to create sort of this Frankenstein, it was a combination of a simulation manual and some interesting stories and interesting content about customer centricity and how to actually put customer centric thinking into action and they brought it to their publisher and they said, “Get rid of the simulation stuff, flush out more about the book, make it a standalone piece if people want to run the simulation and read the book. That's fantastic.” But they really need something that engages folks who are working in the trenches day in day out and give them a clear guideline for how to become customer centric.


  • Peter stated that it goes back to some of the concepts in the first book was taking conventional business practices that they just accept as this is just how you run a business, you put the product first, that's all about what product should we develop, how do we fine tune it to meet the needs of the customer, distribution, promotion all about the old four P’s that we talk about in marketing. And we're saying, “Well no, actually let's build a business around the customers, the more valuable customers and have that.”And sort of say what product features will be most appealing, they say, “Here are the most valuable customers, what is it that they want?” And so, they start looking at product development and product management quite differently. Again, when he wrote the first book it was more about just this provocative kind of let’s do a 180 on the way we think about business. But they still stopped short of actually saying, here's an overall playbook which of course is the name of the new one to begin to not only embrace the metrics and all the “mathy” stuff that he likes to do but the thing more about how to build the right kind of organization, how to send the right kind of message, how to establish the right kinds of principles. Again, tremendous credit to Sarah for taking some of the best practices from the software world and bringing them over.


Sarah stated that at the end of the book they have a manifesto which really comes from her experience in technology and software development, where she experienced something very similar to what she’s learned now with partnering with Pete over the last four years…..five years that's happening in the marketing science world as well. And that is it, they're being inundated with all this data, there's data insights and data collection and it's becoming cheaper and easier and faster to just collect swathes and swathes of information about their customers and how they behave and what makes them buy etc. And the problem is that a lot of it is garbage and so we had something similar happen in the software development realm in the heydays where they had this tremendous capability with technology and the problem was they were really weighed down by old bureaucratic bloated software processes, she’s talking about waterfall where they had to write reams and reams of documentation and they weren't able to work leanly and be able to keep up with the technological advances in a way that was in line their our customers and their business users and what they actually wanted from the software that was being developed. And so, this sparked an idea as she was having these conversations with Pete and she said, I think what we really need for customer centricity is we need a manifesto as well. We need something that will really focus business people, it will give them just simple clarity around what is important and what they need to double down on with regards to customer centricity.


Yanique mentioned that the book is a playbook, anybody in an organization in a leadership role or non-leadership role can pick up the book and they will be able to have a guideline like step by step as to how they can really master customer centricity in their business, whether they're an organization that has customers that come in or they're an online business.


Sarah stated that the way that they've laid out the book from the playbook perspective is to really think about those different functional areas. Our goal with this to most definitely make sure that this was a cross-functional conversation. This playbook is not just for the sales person or the marketing person, this is for the data person, it's for the finance people, it's for the folks in H.R., the folks who are developing the products are indeed, this is for everybody. And it's really again pivoting and pivoting so that your customers are at the center but understanding that this heterogeneity at play within that customer base and how are you really going to focus in on what you need to do. So, when you're thinking about acquiring those customers, when you're thinking about retaining them and developing them, when you're thinking about having conversations with those in your technology team on how to tag them and track them and understand what information is actually important when it comes to figuring out who's valuable today, who will be valuable tomorrow and when I'm acquiring new customers who's more than likely going to be valuable to the organization and then taking all of those conversations and making sure that folks in your finance team understand what that means from the customer lifetime value standpoint.


  • Peter stated just to add one other example to that, he thinks Sarah mentioned that one of those elements being retention and development, they look at the array of new tactics that are available to either make your customers more valuable and have them stay around longer. So, things like a loyalty programme or a premium offering or customer experience or strategic account management and the problem is a lot of these tactics are so new, they just weren't done. They didn't exist a generation ago and so, companies don't really know which one to use when. When should be lean towards the loyalty program versus the premium offering? You really need a playbook to kind of lay out all these tactics and come up with a solid framework to give companies guidance about, don't invest in all of them but think strategically and have a good idea of would it makes sense to start one or pivot to another. So, that's just one example where they're starting to get much more tactical and starting to deal with issues that just aren't in what say your traditional marketing one or one type course.


  • Peter shared that for him, a big part of it is all about Customer Lifetime Value. And again, he acknowledged it's a bias because that's the kind of research that he has done, those are the kinds of models and activities that he has commercialized in a couple of different ways but to do customer centricity right, you have to be able to have that CLV (Customer Lifetime Value) magic wand, you have to be able to look at a customer's past interactions with you and say here's my best guess about what they're going to be worth in the future and to line up customers in that future looking way and to use those numbers and those differences across customers to really drive all these tactics. So, a lot of companies are eager to get into the tactics, they want to do that customer experience campaign but they're saying it won't be nearly as effective if you don't have a good quantitative assessment of the value of customers before and after you do that kind of campaign.


Sarah shared that one of the shining examples that they use a couple of times in the book is Electronic Arts. So, Electronic Arts is really one of the most mature organizations that they've seen with regards to customer centricity. Every day as players are playing their games they are collecting data about behaviours about what they know about who's more than likely going to be a high, medium and low value customer and they're feeding that information back to the game studios, they're letting them know, “For our high value customers, did this part of the game work the way we thought it was going to, did we see this as high engagement as we were hoping and if not why not and what do we need to do to pivot in the actual game development.” They're using information about these customers with how they advertise to them. So, not just saying, “All right well, here's our advertising campaign for this game, we'll put it out there, it'll be out there for a month, three months, five months.”They're using that information about their customers to actually fine tune how they target and attract the customers that they're looking to seek.


Yanique mentioned that it is definitely a combination of many different things all in one in terms of an organization looking at how the customer is interfacing with their product or their service, the frequency of them utilizing that product or service and of course to spend.


Sarah agreed and stated that RFM (Recency, Frequency, Monetary) is still key. RFM is a marketing technique used to determine quantitatively which customers are the best ones by examining how recently a customer has purchased (recency), how often they purchase (frequency), and how much the customer spends (monetary). To build on what Peter was saying about customer lifetime value in chapter 1, they spend some time delving into problems with CLV that they see that are common out there and mistakes that are being made with the calculation itself. So, CLV itself can be quite complex and there's lots of open source ways to leverage and create CLV calculations within your organizations. But they do spend some time going through the mistakes which should hopefully shine some light on how to be tracking and calculating CLV correctly in your organization.


  • Peter stated that on the CLV side, he learned so much not only from the research that he does and interacting with students and executives but through his first startup company called Zodiac where they were working with a wide variety of companies calculating the CLVs for them. And it was surprising because he really thought he is just bringing you the CLVs, “I am the expert here, take the CLVs and make money rain down from the skies.” But it was a great learning exercise for him to see the kinds of use cases that companies would come up with and actually, Sarah basically gave the list of them a few moments ago and she was talking about all of the different tactics that you need to understand and align and do in an accountable way - customer acquisition, retention development, with that customer experience campaign, it's not enough just to give people glasses of champagne when they walk into your store, you have to do the CLV calculation, you have to say how valuable were they before this campaign started, how much more valuable are they afterwards or better yet, more realistically, how many customers meaningfully increased in value and how many of them are the same as ever before. So, CLV gives us a really good lens not only to make decisions but to evaluate decisions after the fact and so again, just seeing the way that companies have been using it very creatively as far as he’s concerned across a wide variety of functions and by the way that includes getting outside of marketing and maybe in a bit we could talk about the idea of customer based corporate valuation. Let's get the CFO into this party as well so we could talk more about that but to the other part of the question, it also goes to having really good CRM systems which is a big part of Sarah's expertise.


When asked how do you know which one is the right CRM to go with, Sarah mentioned that unfortunately there aren't any great additions to CRM yet that they've seen. In her conversations with a number of the companies that appear in the book, L.A. Dodgers is a great example, they have had to build their insights outside, so they use salesforce and they're then doing the analytics sort of outside, their tracking all of their customers in their CRM but then they're running a different algorithms etc. in other systems which is unfortunate. So, she thinks Peter would agree that a lot of the companies that he has been working with they're having to kind of roll their own if you will because there isn't a good solution out there yet.


Peter agreed and stated that that is unfortunate. They were in the process, they were creating that solution through his company Zodiac, but Nike bought that firm which was of course a wonderful outcome but now it's all under the swoosh. So, he really hopes that companies can learn from those experiences. And again, a lot of that through that they're trying to convey in the book both laying out these frameworks as well as these specific company profiles that Sarah has been referring to.


Sarah stated that just to go back to the original question there was the whole point everybody thinks, “Okay well, customer service, it's to turn ugly ducklings into beautiful swans.”This is another point in the book is really think and this was to Peter's earlier point, we've got all of these sort of ways that we engage with our customers, ways to increase CX quality, ways to increase hopefully customer loyalty but it's very rare that you take somebody from your bottom tier from a customer lifetime value standpoint and boost them all the way up to the very top. And so, rather than think that you can do that and expend a tremendous amount of energy trying to achieve that impossible dream, just look at what you're doing and understand who you're serving from a CLV standpoint. So, customer service is really for your lower value customers and the same with loyalty programs like understand that that's who you're really targeting those types of programs to.


  • When asked if all organization needs a loyalty program - Peter stated no and a lot of companies are finding that the hard way because there's this lemming like behavior out there that, “Oh, we've got to have one too. It's a box that we need to check, some of our competitors have one.”So that's why they really try to come up with a framework that says, “Under what circumstances do you really need a loyalty program?” Sarah just said, if you think about it logically, a buy nine get one free just kind of a basic loyalty program, that's not appealing to your top platinum customers, they're going to buy from you all the time anyway.They're looking to deepen the engagement not necessarily just to buy more stuff.Whereas for those middle to lower customers if we could get them just to buy a little bit more often that that's how we can create more value out of them. So, a big part of it is that loyalty programmes are aimed more at the middle to lower tier of your customer value pyramid. And if that's where your main strategic focus is at a given time then great, that's the way to go but too often companies are thinking about the loyalty programme as something that would be appealing to or aimed at the tippy top customers. And again, they're with you not because of points, not because of bonuses, put it this way if that's why they appear to be really valuable customers, if it's all because of the goodies that comes from the loyalty programme, then they're not really loyal, then you're kind of bribing them to be with you. So, you want to find ways to appeal to the high value customers that's just a very different kind of thing, something like a premium offering where it's not a matter of giving them stuff, it's actually a matter of getting them to actually potentially pay a little bit more to kind of show their loyalty, to show that they want to have a different kind of relationship with you, that they want to have that kind of badge of honor to show that they're different than most customers. So, they're trying to bring some logic and discipline to things like loyalty programs and customer experience and customer service that they feel just doesn't exist anywhere out there to date.


  • Sarah shared that they actually have a new blog post or article coming out very soon that talks about customer experience and the fact that it is not customer centric.And they outlined this in their upcoming article. There are just a few small steps that organizations could be taking to become more customer centric when it comes to see CX. She alluded to this earlier in the conversation when they're talking about CX, they're looking at different ways to really reduce the friction that their customers feel when they're interacting with them, with their brand etc. And there are many different ways to measure CX and how they're doing with respect to CX, whether it be CX quality which is measured by effectiveness, ease and emotion or customer loyalty which is measured by advocacy otherwise known as a Net Promoter Score, enrichment and retention. And one of the problems that Sarah and Peter have is that these CX measurements, these metrics are one dimensional, they don't really tell them anything else that's happening with respect to their customer and that interplay with the brand. And so, what they've done with this article is they've created another framework where they're looking at the CX metrics, again switching costs and switching costs as they know are a way to measure another form of friction that their customers are experiencing. And so, what they've done in this new framework is they've said okay if they're looking at high switching costs against their CX metric and they're doing really well with customers, they've got caged customers but they're very loyal and they're happy to be with them. What they should be doing with them versus customers who have got a low CX metric and low switching can cost. So, those are their revolving doors if and that's where something like a loyalty program might come in. They don't have a lot of friction from the standpoint of staying with them, they want to try to raise that a little bit so they do stay with them more and they can extract a bit more value from them so a loyalty program would be perfect for them and then for anybody who is kind of stuck with them because of high switching costs but they've got high value, let's look at making them happier while they're kind of stuck with them. They want to keep them engaged and then hopefully once competition comes in or those switching costs may be lower, they still are able to retain them as high value customers.


  • When asked about tools and apps, Sarah shared that for her and her team, she’s still a technologist, she has had the absolute pleasure and honor of being able to write this book and really double down on the way she thinks about her customers that she’s designing technology for. Agile is what she lives and breathe by. So, she works with teams that are international, she brings the best of the best to the table and she doesn’t really care where their brain is as long as she gets to leverage their brain and being able to run lean teams is very important to her. And so, Slackis her go to and this is a way that she’s able to communicate very quickly and rapidly with her teams. And then also where she’s actually tracking software changes and her sprints and that kind of things, so they use GET Laband Jirato do a lot of that management. And that kind of approach, that lean approach is something that again they talk about in the playbook and the importance.


Peter shared that he’s addicted to Twitter, but whether it's for news, sports, entertainment but also just a whole bunch of people that he follows who are always looking for the best practices of how companies are using their customer level data. So, just the million anecdotes a day some good, some appalling but it's just a great way to learn a lot of different stuff and then make up your own mind about which is good, and which is not so good but good to have that kind of broad exposure. Peter shared that he doesn’t read books anymore, Twitter is the firehose that really keeps him attached to the world.


  • When asked about books that have had great impacts, Peter stated that he has a couple, but he’s actually very interested to see what Sarah has to say because as she was starting to develop this simulation and then write the book, she took a whole bunch of books off his shelf and kept some of them a little too long actually. So, it would be interesting to hear which one she said were the ones that really shaped her thinking the most, but he'll share which one is at the top of his list. It’s an oldie but a goodie and it’s really one that got a lot of these ideas started, it's a book called The Loyalty Effect: The Hidden Force Behind Growth, Profits, and Lasting Value by Frederick Reichheld. Kind of interesting, he's a Bain Consultant, not an academic and this was a book he wrote back in 1996 which is ‘500 years ago’ for all intents and purposes and basically laid out this idea that not all customers are created equal and if we could figure out who the just right ones are then all of these great things are going to happen, there will be this virtuous cycle once we find those customers because they'll will stay with us longer, they'll buy more often, they'll be cheaper to serve, they'll be strong advocates for us, they'll make a lot of referrals. And so, it was laying out this idea that loyalty manifests in lots of different ways and provides this kind of multiplier source of value, it's just a matter of figuring out who those just right customers are and they kind of stopped short of that, they didn't talk about lifetime value and so on. But he thinks it really was something that started this conversation and a lot of us today especially the younger generation thinks that we've been talking about these ideas forever but really until the mid 90s they were just not part of the conversation.


Sarah agreed with Peter and stated that she did so much wonderful reading and thanked Peter for your amazing library and contribution to that. She mentioned at the beginning of the interview that their guiding goal with this book was to land in that cross functional space and to really try to ignite a conversation about really the organizational and cultural changes that must happen cross functionally in organizations in order for customer centricity to really take root and she stumbled on this book called The Silo effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers by Gillian Tettand it is a fantastic book, it's one case study after another of where breaking down the siloing effect that happens in organizations where that has been good for some organizations and where it's existed, where it's been really perilous and difficult. So that's one book she most certainly recommends. The other book that she recommends is The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty by Matthew Dixon, but this gentleman has it right, you shouldn’t be trying to overdo it with every single customer, and he has written some incredible books in the CX space as well.


Yanique shared, I am familiar with Frederick Reichheld, I read a couple of years ago when I just started this business, The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth, I haven’t read The Loyalty Effect but he definitely opened my mind up when I read the Ultimate Question.


Peter stated that he’s glad that Yanique made the connection. He (Fredrick Reichheld) laid out these ideas but in 1996 but it wasn’t until 5, almost 10 years later that he kind of translated them into the Net Promoter Score, this is the metric that’s going to help us identify companies that have been doing a good job at finding those customers and deepen those relationships. So, a lot of people think that Net Promoter Score just sort of appeared in the early 2000s, but it was really decades of work and thinking and just careful consideration by Fredrick and his colleagues at Bain that made that possible. And again, that revolution he thinks sparked a lot of the work that we’re doing and great admiration for the folks over there and enjoy his own collaboration with them.


  • Peter shared that he’s super happy to talk about his new startup.He mentioned the idea of customer based corporate valuation, let's get the CFO involved in this customer centricity thing. So, he has a new company called Theta Equity Partners, thetaequity.comand that's exactly what they're doing. It's a finance play, they're actually working with a bunch of private equity firms, Late-Stage Venture Capitalist, talking to some Hedge Funds to basically say, “Let's value your company from the bottom up, let's look at how many customers you are acquiring, how long are they staying, how many purchases are they making, how valuable those purchases, add all that stuff up and say that will give us more visibility and more understanding of the value of a company than the traditional Wall Street approach.”So, they're doing this for real and it's really working and it's actually creating a meaningful dialogue between CFOs and CMOs that has just never existed before, so it's been just a thrill to expand the conversation in a direction that he never thought he’d even be capable of doing but to see how receptive the finance and investment audiences for the stuff.


When asked if there was anything is there anything, she’s working on to develop herself or her people - Sarah shared that she is. About a year ago she launched a new team at the Wharton School called Wharton Interactiveand they are building platforms to transform education. So, when you're looking at creating experiential learning in classrooms, it's expensive, it takes a long time, it's hard to change and fine-tune once you've launched experiences and really what she has discovered over the last six years being in this niche in EdTech is that platforms provide a way that forward where we can start to build truly transformational experiences for less cost and ones that we can then fine tune and learn from and so they're leveraging ultimate reality gaming,they're leveraging even smaller things like text messaging and social media patterns to really create social learning and don't democratizing that educational experience for the learners. So, a lot of the work that she has been doing with Peter in understanding and fine-tuning folks’ eyes to heterogeneity with customers, she has been starting to think about how they bring that into learning space and creating more fine-tuned and tailored experiences for the learners knowing that not everybody learns the same way. So, that she’s very excited about, very proud of you can find out more about what they're doing at


I'm especially intrigued by Sarah's approach to education, I do think it's something that will definitely impact customer experience in the long term. When I think about my daughter who is 13 years old and some of the challenges that they have in schools, trying to get through to these children with the information that they're trying to simulate. I find that we're teaching children in 2019, but we're using methods that were applicable in 1975 and it's clearly not reaching the audience that we're trying to reach now, they just need to be stimulated in a higher way. And so, I hope some of the work that you are doing, it materializes that it can stretch to different parts of the world like Jamaica. Because I don't know what it's like in the USA, I'm sure you probably have you greater exposure to better opportunities, but here, I can see that the methodology that they are using is definitely not as impactful and I think based on what you are saying if hopefully that can become more widespread in the long term these children who will become business owners or employees in organizations that we’re all going to have to be customers of it would be great for them to have that experience from early, Yanique mentioned.


Sarah shared that she has a 10-year-old son, she also has 3 teenage daughters and we're not just teaching the same way we did in the 1970s, we're teaching the same way we did in the 1900s, so there is a lot of work to be done in moving the needle and with a lot of pride.They're doing some amazing work at the Wharton School and it's with great partners like Peter Fader who are willing to take the leap and who are also pushing and challenging teams like hers to think outside the box and bring something new to the table for the learners.


  • Peter shared listeners can find him at –


Sarah shared listeners can find her at –

Linkedin – Sarah Toms

Twitter – @SarahEToms


When asked if there is a possibility for the playbook to be developed into an online course, Peter shared that he has some older online courses that are more about the kind of original aspirational, definitional, motivational stuff. The best thing that they have is the new customer centricity simulation, that really brought them together.


Sarah shared that they've got the existing simulation, it's usually played in teams and usually played with faculty or teachers who are facilitating the experience and so they've got that experience. Her team is also starting to work on a steam-based game, so folks who are interested in learning can just go to steam and they'll be able to download a single player game from that marketplace. And then she also has designs to work with Peter on creating something in the alternate reality gaming space on their arc platform and that will be a massive online offering, hopefully not too far down the road from now.


  • Sarah shared that she has a quote, and this is from the founder of the University of Pennsylvania, Benjamin Franklin. This is a quote she loves, and it is her world, it's “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn.”




Mar 5, 2019

Karen Millsap, the CEO (Chief Empathy Officer) of Egency and Founder of The Groflo, began her career in human resources and talent acquisition where she led countless training, new process, and change initiatives. At a young age, she suddenly became a widow when her husband was tragically murdered which completely changed the trajectory of her life. After experiencing a domino effect of other losses, she became acutely aware of the overall lack of support in our society for grieving people. We are all connected through our struggles, from the death of loved ones, to life-altering illnesses, divorce, even job loss. This realization ignited Karen's desire to turn her pain into purpose and pay it forward to help others.

Egency is a leadership development and training firm that helps organizations create a human-centric culture with compassion and empathy. The Groflo is a community that shares mental + emotional growth tips and positive lifestyle inspiration.


Karen's client list includes NBC’s Golf Channel, Hubspot, Universal Studio Resorts, Sprint and many more! Her work has been featured in Forbes, SHRM Magazine, on Good Morning America, MSNBC, and many others! She's also a regular contributor to Arianna Huffington's THRIVE Global community.  Karen is a TEDx keynote speaker who inspires audiences to embrace compassion and empathy to help alleviate other’s suffering by becoming advocates for their own adversaries.

She received her undergraduate degree in Communication from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. She is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist through the Grief Recovery Institute in Los Angeles, California.


  • Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey?
  • Could you share with us a little bit about empathy?
  • Where does compassion come from?
  • Does compassion come innately?
  • A taboo topic that is found in Jamaica is incest and abuse. When I hear people talk, especially when you're talking to young girls to help them to move from that trauma and that experience because it's something that stays with you for life, how do you respond to them in terms of, you made it through, everything's going to be okay.
  • Do you think that traits of empathy and compassion are required more than the traits of technical competencies of doing the job because those things had to build had to build the relationship?
  • Could you share with us how do you stay motivated every day?
  • What's the one online resource tool, website or app that you couldn't absolutely live without in your business or life?
  • Could you share with us any books that have had the greatest or biggest impact on you?
  • What’s one thing that’s going on in your life right now that you are really excited about – either something that you’re working on to develop yourself or people?
  • Where can our listeners find you online?
  • What’s one quote or saying that during times of adversity you tend to revert to that quote or saying to help you to refocus or recenter so that you can move forward?



  • Yanique mentioned, I first phoned Karen on Good Morning America when Robin Roberts was interviewing her a couple of weeks back. And I was so impressed that we actually have people out there that are called Grief Consultants. And it was amazing to hear that she was using her pain, she's channeled it into good to go into organizations and train leaders on how to effectively communicate with their team members and build better teams.

Karen shared that unfortunately, this knowledge and this passion came from the tragedy when her husband Richard was killed and at the time she was working in Human Resources and recruiting for a national home building company. So, her background up to that point had been in HR but touched in different pieces of recruiting and training and leadership development and all of that good stuff. So, after her husband passed, when she transitioned back to the workplace, she found that there was just this huge disconnect between the expectations of corporate America and humans, what we are capable of doing and how we process in the midst of such a delicate time. And so, when she experienced this firsthand, her immediate response was, “How can I use this to help other people?”Now, part of it was helping individuals because we definitely need help in navigating grief. It's such a complex journey and it doesn't look the same for everybody, but we also need help interacting with people who are going through their own grief journey. And so, that's where her heart was initially led, although there were one off individuals, who she was helping along the way, she really honed in on creating workshops or training and leadership development tools that would help people to manage grief in the workplace. So, her company, they develop The Four Pillars of Practical Empathy and those are Awareness, Communication, Support, and Productivity. And so, as she started down that journey of talking about grief in the workplace, there was a lot of resistance as you can imagine. First of all, people don't want to admit that there's this elephant in the room, everybody is going through something, grief is a universal human experience. The biggest myth about grief is that we think it only occurs because of a death, but it actually comes from different losses or changes. It could be from becoming a caregiver to an elderly parent or finding out that somebody in your family or even yourself is diagnosed with a terminal illness, there's so many different things. But again, it comes because of a change or a loss when we expect things to be different or better or more and it just doesn't turn out that way. So, as she started to just kind of break down all of these barriers and these myths that are surrounded with grief, again, corporate America was not really receptive because by saying you want grief training would be admitting that you have a problem because brief is kind of looked at it as a problem. And so, she recognized this resistance and most of what she was teaching was really surrounded around compassion and empathy in the workplace. So, she decided to just adjust slightly and instead of leading with the problem, she led now with the solution which is compassion and empathy. And as she was pulling different resources and research articles and studies and all of this that just helps us to create a basic framework for human interaction in the workplace. As she was pulling that, she recognizes, well, it still touches on grief in the workplace because if we are operating with compassion and empathy on a day to day basis, that's mastery preparation for the time of crisis. We're already connecting in this space that's just really vulnerable, we've established trust and respect through kindness, so when somebody does hit a tough life situation, which inevitably happens to all of us, then at least your work family is prepared to walk through those tough times with you and handle that because you guys have already established this kind of workplace. So, it's been a journey to get to this point but she’s super grateful that she learned all that she did throughout this journey because it's helped her to serve her clients at a whole new level, not just the basic leadership development, it really is taking it up a notch.

Yanique shared, I like the fact that you've mentioned that you started to lead with the solution, and you focus on empathy and compassion. And one of the things that we have identified in the whole client or customer experiences, people are driven by how they feel, their emotions play an integral part. I think even more than the intellectual because the emotion drives how the intellectual will respond. 

  • Yanique shared, I personally think that it's not something that you're born with, it's a learnt behavior and it's all dependent on how you're socialized, what you're exposed to, the behaviors that you see, both from your environment that you're in as well as maybe even from things that you're exposed to are stimulated by like the television or even social media. But not everybody knows how to be empathetic.

When asked about empathy, Karen shared yes and no to Yanique’s statement. Yes, it is something that can be learned, but no, it's not something that people are only inheriting that ability through a learned environment. That's not the case. People are born with empathy. There are people who are born with a lack of empathy. As a matter of fact, there's a chemical in the front part of our brain, in our amygdala that triggers our emotions and so you could live and be raised in a very compassionate home, but you were born kind of without feelings, you don't get too riled round up but that doesn't mean that you didn't have an environment that included feelings and emotions and conversations around that, it really is how we're born. But even if people are born without or with a lack of, maybe they don't have a lot of empathy, you still can adopt behaviors and skills and habits that bring empathy into conversations and interactions so that way the person who you are interacting with feels valued. And so, empathy is really being able to feel and understand another person's emotions and respond with care. So again, that feeling part may not be natural for some people, but you can try to understand where they're coming from and respond in an empathic way. So that's how it looks and so as it pertains to their customer experience, you may not be able to completely resonate with where this customer is coming from. And she gave you an example, it's a personal example. She bought a new car at the end of last year and the sales team, they weren't that great but she needed to get out of her car, it had 140,000 miles on it, it was just not safe anymore. Karen said she was kind of in a rush to get into the car and didn't do her due diligence on a few things that she noticed within 24 hours of driving off the lot. So, she immediately contacted the sales team, they were not very responsive. So, then she looked online for customer service team, they were not very responsive. So, being the person that she, she’s just saying, well this isn't okay. So, she’s going to do her due diligence. She contacted the corporate office to say, “Listen, there are a couple of defects and this is actually not safe. So, I just purchased this car and we need to figure out a resolution.”Now up the chain of command, the customer service sucked, it was terrible. And she was telling them like the rear-view camera is not working, that is a safety issue. If she runs over a kid, do you think they're going to say, “Oops, that's our bad, we should have responded quickly to that email.”No, she’s going to be the one who is dealing with the legal ramifications. So, she’s pushing forward and say, no, this is not okay. She felt like there was a disconnect between kind of the first level of customer service and then once you get to the executive office, once she got to the executive office and there was an individual who was assigned to work with her, he followed up, he was patient on the phone, he made sure that the service manager they got her in touch with was timely in his response. He kept Karen in the loop, even if there was going to be a waiting period, he communicated that to her and what he did that was different than the first level of customer service was he empathized with the fact that we have a single mom here who has made a very large investment and she’s not saying she got anything fancy, but when you purchase a car, lease a car, that's an investment, you are putting your credit on the line and all of that. So, it's not something to be taken lightly and so because of his understanding of where she was coming from and her position and her worry and concern, he made sure that he saw it all the way through. Where on the front end, that didn't happen. Now what did he do differently than the first people who may be answered a call or answered an email? He didn't do much in the practical sense, except for the fact that he took his time to patiently understand where she was coming from and communicate in a way that made her feel like she was being heard, that her purchase was valued, her position as a customer was valued and he wanted to make sure that we found a resolution, he responded with care. So, it didn't take him much, but just the way that he was on top of it made a world of difference because she was ready to just blast this company, don't ever buy from them and that's not her character. But she felt like they did not care that we had such a major issue and it was only because, and she told him on their last call, she said, “It is only because of you and how you resolved this, that I feel satisfied.”The first three months of this process, which she didn't mention, it took a long time to get to that point, but the first three months was treacherous and because of this one person who showed compassion, who interacted with empathy and who made sure that a resolution was done in a caring way, she felt like, “Okay, I'm okay. I could come back and buy another car from them.”She knows that sounds bad because it was such a crazy, but he did resolve it with empathy.


Yanique stated, so it's more about listening to what the person is saying to you, understanding where they're coming from and why this is a pain point for them. And as you said, responding in a way that, “Oh well, no big deal.”Instead in a way that, “I understand where you're coming from and what can we do to make it better?” Because it would seem from the first level of customer service that they were more concerned about making the sale and less about providing after sales support to you.

Karen agreed and stated that it doesn't take a lot of time, it doesn't even take a lot of effort, you are on the exact same call with the exact same person and literally your tone can change, and your active listening skills can change the trajectory of that outcome. You just have to decide while you were in the midst of that, “How am I going to show up for this person? Am I going to be caring or am I going to be short and curt? Am I going to listen or am I just thinking about the next thing that I need to get done? Or Am I be grudgingly going through the motions?”Either way you have a choice and the energy level is the same.

  • Karen shared that she believes that the major difference between empathy and compassion is one word, Action. We are meant to put compassion into action, it's how you are showing up for people, whether you're showing up for a colleague who's going through something that's difficult or the way, for example, this gentleman responded to her. He made sure that he was calling every four days with an update to let her know what was going on because she was really left in the dark and that was frustrating. So, compassion is what you put into action. Empathy really is kind of the starting point, like she said, being able to feel and understand and then choosing to respond in a certain way but that response is your compassion. Now, one thing that she’s done through agencies, they created a Compassion Action Plan. And what it does is it addresses, if you know somebody who has experienced in the organization, who's experienced a major loss, and they just touched on five because this is usually an activity that they do in workshops but for this eBook, what they did was, they just put five in there. And so, divorce, I'm becoming a caregiver, death, we identified those and how can you put compassion into action?So, if you just thought about it for a second and you thought about, okay, I know a colleague lost their spouse, what is a way that I can show up for them? What would be one or two ideas that come to your mind?

Yanique shared, so they've lost a family member and seeing that I experienced at similar situation last year, what I looked for in people who showed compassion were people who came, they were just there, they were there to support me, it’s simple things like just coming over and sitting and talking just to have the companionship at that point in time because you don't want it to be alone because it's an experience of trauma and being alone, your mind wanders all over the place and you feel more lonely. So, you kind of just want somebody to be there and you want them to know that you want them to be there without you having to tell them, I want you to be there.

Karen agreed and stated that she’s going to ask Yanique for another example but pausing there for a second. That is another example of how it does not take much for you to just show up for somebody, does it? She remembered at my husband's funeral, Karen looked, and she saw at least 20 people from her office who were there, and that just made her feel so supported because you're right. When we go through a major loss like that, somebody close to us, somebody within our inner family, our intermediate family, then we usually go to this place of isolation in our minds because you get on this emotional rollercoaster and there's so many complex feelings, it's hard to keep up with those thoughts. So, you really feel emotionally and mentally drained and so when you have people around you, as you mentioned, they help you to stay connected to life, so you're not just completely caught up in your head, you're not isolating yourself and end up on this negative thought cycle and start spiraling downward but you have somebody who's just present. And she had somebody, her name was Jamie, she actually mentioned her in her Ted Talk because she mean this, she would just show up and just lay on the floor with her or lay in her bed or they would like walk around Target, she is one of her closest friends and she told Karen later after hearing Karen’s Ted Talk, so this was four years after this happened, but she said, “I admitted to my husband almost every night when I came home. I don't know if I'm doing enough, I don't know what else I'm supposed to do.”So, for four years as she is relishing this friendship and it anchored in her mind is something to teach other people, just show up. She didn't even realize that it had made an impact on her healing journey, it made a huge impact. So, you're right, she always tells people, we all need a Jamie. So that's good. So, the first thing is show up, be present but what's something else that you can do for a colleague?

Yanique shared that when she lost her dad last year, it was also important, and I guess that would link back to being present. To assist me with anything, low hanging fruits that would distract me or make me feel not supported.

Karen shared that the difference there is, is that what they did was they stepped in to respond to your basic needs because it could have been like handling bills, it could have been like handling other logistics that when you're in that mental fog, you don't really have the capacity to do so. And so, if you have people who you trust, who are near you, this could be different for colleagues. For colleagues showing up and responding to basic needs is like making sure you have food. Creating a food calendar or just saying, “Hey, it's okay if you need to take longer than five days.”because usually that's the bereavement period, it’s like five days for somebody in your intermediate family but they can say, “You know what? I know you have this project going on, I'll help you with that. What's your client's name? Let me step in, just give me a couple of details and I'll go into the system and I'll figure out the rest. But you don't worry about it.”That's responding to a basic need that's helping them to keep their life afloat and that is putting compassion into action.

  • When asked if compassion come innately, Karen stated that in our world, in our society, it's just awkward. Grief is just awkward, and some people feel like, “Oh, I don't know if I'll say the right thing. I don't know if I have enough time to be there.”We come up with all of these different barriers in our mind and the difference between holding onto those barriers and acting like Jamie will say as a reference point is she just leaned in without knowing if what she was doing was enough, but her heart just led her to do that. What happens is we stop our heart from responding naturally because then our mind starts to take over to think that we need to say the right thing, we have to be perfect on how we show up, what if it's not enough? Our heart and mind starts to battle. But you're right, it is an innate response. It's just our mind can start to suppress that response because we start to feel awkward and that's her mission is to make grief less awkward, let's talk about it. Let's talk about all of this because again, it is a universal human experience, we are all going to go through it. Karen thinks if we have these conversations, for example, Yanique having her on the podcast again, thank you because it's helping to reach different people and to open up a different mindset so we can respond differently. Because right now, we're perpetuating suppression and isolation and that's what's making our journeys unhealthy. If we just opened our heart up to respond in a natural way, that doesn't look perfect and here's an example. If somebody at work tells you, “I just found out that my spouse has cancer, or I have cancer.”Instead of not knowing what to say and then not saying anything, which is actually worse. If somebody didn't acknowledge or say it’s the first time seeing them that Richard had died, she felt like, “Well wow, that was kind of a big deal. Like we're not going to say anything about it.”We don't have to go down the rabbit hole. But anyhow, if somebody shares some tragic news with you, you can say this, you can say, “I am so sorry that you're going through this. We don't know what is going to happen at the end of the day, but I know you are strong. I know that you have this light inside of you that you can just push through and I'm here with you, like anything that you need work related, if you just need to take a walk, if you need to get out of the office or if he just needed somebody to talk to for a few minutes, just know that you're not alone.”That's not giving false hope, that's not saying everything's going to be great or just pray on it, it's not giving any of that. It's just saying, “I'm meeting you where you are and yeah, this is hard. This suck, but you're not alone.”That is enough.

Yanique asked, what do you think about situations when someone shares with you for example, that they had a tragedy and they’re going through grief like a death for example. And the person responds and says, I know exactly what you're going through because I find that grief is different for everyone and you may lose someone, and you respond in a different way. It impacts you in a different way and I may lose someone, and it may not impact me in that way, or it might impact me worse or less. Do you think it's a safe to say, I know exactly what you're going through? How do you know? 

Karen shared that she thinks that this is another uncomfortable yet common response because it's true, it's a common response only because people feel uncomfortable and they're just kind of like, “Ah, what do I say?”And it just comes out so naturally and that's not really what they mean. They're not saying, I know exactly what you're going through because somebody has said that to her and she’s like, “Oh, your husband's been murdered. I didn't know that that happened to you.” And not to even downplay it, because some people will compare losses, they'll say, “Oh, well I went through a divorce and so I know how that feels.”Again, no, you don't know how it feels, but their heart is in the right place. So, the first thing she would say is if you're on the receiving end of that comment is to give that person a little bit of grace because at least they're trying to be there. Do not take offense to that and kind of see through their words to see their heart and their intentions and their heart and their intentions is to comfort you in the moment. But Karen’s advice to the person who wants to say that and guess what? Karen has said that to people before in a different light. And before all of this happened, before she became more aware of some of the myths that we use to comfort people. But if you are about to say that, hold your tongue real quick and then just think about saying something along these lines.

Again, “I don't know what you're going through, but I went through a situation and I know that pain is real. I know that those hard times can come in waves. I know that sometimes it can just feel really consuming and so if you feel anything that is just so painful and it feels hard for you to manage, you can come talk to me. I don't know what you're going through, but I know what pain feels like and I'm willing to just be here for you.”

 It's authentic in the sense that she can relate to your pain even though she hasn’t experienced the same loss. And here's the thing, two siblings could lose the same parent and feel completely different about it. So, imagine the differences of somebody who says, “Oh, I went through a divorce too.”or “Yeah, I also had a miscarriage.”or “Oh, when my mom was sick.”We compare them but there's so many different factors that make that situation so different and unique, but at least being able to relate through the pain, Karen thinks that's the authentic place to be.

  • Karen shared that there are pains like that where, for example, she has a friend and her parents were not kind growing up, they just weren't, and she doesn't have a relationship with them now. Now she doesn’t know that she's experienced any kind of sexual abuse. She knows that has had happened in her family, but it did not happen to her. However, the abandonment of your parents and them not wanting to be with you, it's a pain that stays with you through adulthood. A physical kind of trauma is also something that stays with you through adulthood and sometimes you have to see your abuser. And so, it's like how do you live in that space? So, what she encourages people to do is to create healthy boundaries, they can't always be physical. A lot of times they have to be mental and emotional.So, the person again who is hearing something like that, they're on the receiving end of that comment, you have to create an emotional and mental boundary just knowing that whatever they're saying to me, if it is not resonating with my heart, with pure comfort and peace and, and even empathy, than I'm not going to receive that, you choose if you're going to receive their words are not. Now for the person who is trying to comfort or build them up because a lot of times they're thinking if you've been a victim, what I need to do is pour into you that you are strong, pour into you that you have gotten over it, kind of build up your confidence and resilience but again, sometimes we just fumble over those words and so instead of saying something that is diminishing their past, meet them where they are. Again, the same starting, 

“I can't imagine what you have gone through, but I see who you are today and I see that you are a fighter, I see that you are a survivor and even if those pains are still being held with you, which I'm sure that they are, I can only imagine that they are. There is something in you that is not giving up and I admire that in you.”

That is truth. That is absolute truth. It does not diminish the pain that they have experienced, but it is uplifting them to say, I have seen that you did not give up. And I applaud you for that. But it is okay if you're still feeling and battling all of the wounds, the emotional wounds and mental wounds that you carry with you, but it's still, it uplifts them and it builds them up and that's at the end of the day, what we should be doing for each other is to build one another up so we feel safe, so we feel protected.

  • When asked about traits of empathy and compassion that leaders should have in order to build a team. Karen agreed and shared that one of her favorite Richard Branson quotes is, “When you take care of your people, your people will take care of your business.”And that is the absolute truth. A lot of times leaders are driven by the numbers and the data, but you have to remember there are people behind those numbers and that data it didn’t just magically appear, this is coming from somebody’s knowledge capacity, their relationship building, their goal setting. There are people who are driving these numbers and so you have to get to the source of your success, the source of your success is your people and how you treat people is how they produce at work. Now, a lot of times people, Karen kind of hears two things most often. One is, leader say, “I want to be a better leader, I want to connect with my people, I want to help them in a different way. Basically, build up their personal success but I don't know how.”And that's because we have to kind of get past that old adage of leave your personal stuff at the door and so, she thinks that again, leaders want to, but we are shifting society and we're shifting how we show up at work. So, that's why it's such a great time to really live out her passion because people are more receptive to this message and they need just some structure, some framework behind it. That's the first thing, but then the other thing is there are leaders who are naturally showing up with kindness and they are seeing just amazing, powerful results.

An example of this is, uh, one of her clients from Sprint, this gentleman is the general manager of one of their four business units, and they have been the number one team for the last 15 years straight. Fifteen years they have consistently outperformed the rest of the company and when she met him, she asked him to come onto her podcast, Invest Humanand she said, we just need to talk about what this is and he said, one word, “Kindness.”It is all about how you treat your people. Now when she goes into organizations, she breaks this down through like communication, interactions, conflict resolution, like how do we bring it into that. But it really all has to do with kindness because when you treat people well, then employees become more enthusiastic about their work and if they are enthusiastic about their work, what happens to their performance, it improves. What happens to the customer experience because of the person that they're interacting with. It’s like again a no brainer, it should be a no brainer, but she thinks what the shift that's happening is that people just kind of need permission and they need that framework because for so long we've lived in this space of kind of being robotic at work and only expecting or evaluating someone's performance and not opening up the experience, the actual employee experience.

Yanique shared that the interpersonal skills, the soft skills, showing kindness and ensuring that you exercise empathy and compassion, those are definitely characteristics and traits that as a leader will take you much further than any technical competence.

  • Karen stated that that is such a good question – how she stays motivated daily. She doesn’t live in a constant state of motivation. She has learned through different personality tests and stuff, she does have a natural personality that is drawn to the silver lining. So, she doesn’t stay in a dark place for too long. However, and when you've experienced this kind of tragedy, you can't help but to be in a dark space for a while. So, what she learned during that time, her most trying times so far in her life, it's absolutely critical for us to build a foundation of healthy habits so that we can navigate any hard time when it comes. Life isn't fair so you're not going to go just through one thing, it's not a one and done. And there are every day stressors that we have to work through, relationships, traffic, personalities that are not meshing. There's just so many different stressors that can make us feel weary and burnt out. So, it's not that you can live in this constant state of up because what goes up must come down, but you have to learn to find that balance when you do come down and how do you take care of yourself. So, for Karen, whenever she’s going through a challenging time, smaller or large, it's just a matter of tapping into those habits that she established when she was in the midst of her darkest hours with grief and she wasn't intentional then, she was very set on her why, her why was her son. She knew that she wanted to be a good mom for him and didn't want to be living in this state of like brokenness and in this victim mindset, like it wouldn't have been healthy for him in the long run. And so, as she focused on him, then she started to create these healthy habits that just made a huge impact on her total wellbeing. So, when you are feeling down, take a break, that's okay. Go for a walk, do a breathing exercise. There’re so many different habits on your mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical wellbeing that once you know what those habits are, then you can tap into them regardless of the low that you're feeling because they are tried and true. They helped you in a dark, dark place or they help you in a, I'm frustrated and burnt out place as well.


  • When asked about an online app or tool that she couldn’t live without, Karen stated that she thinks she would have to answer two ways. One is she really strive for strong organizational skills. She has very strong organizational skills, but she does that because she has a bad memory. She’s just going to be vulnerable here for a second, but Karen recognizes that her mind being an entrepreneur, being a single mom, having experienced trauma, she just has a bad memory and so she compensates by having really strong organizational skills. And one of the tools that she loves is Google Keep, it helps her because it just allows her to brain dump and when she is able to brain dump all of the different distractions that come into her mind, she’s creating that space of mental clarity so that she can stay focused on her priorities. So, Google Keep has been really helpful. But there was also an app that helped her early on in my grief with mindfulness and meditation and that was called Headspace, and she just signed up for the free version because she wanted to see what it was about, and it helped her because a lot of times we get into negative thoughts cycles at night before we're going to sleep. Our mind is just racing and then we start feeling like, I don't have enough time. What do I do tomorrow? Did I not do this today? And so that on top of any kind of trauma that you may be working through, Headspace taught a breathing pattern that she was even able to teach to her son, that at night if she can't fall asleep, it works wonders. And so it's really simple, it's just a matter of counting your breaths when you inhale and exhale, when you inhale, you count one when you exhale, two inhale again, three and so on up to 10, you don't change your breathing pattern, you're not, you don't have to take long, deep breaths, but when you get to 10 you start back at one and there's something about that Karen said she could do that three, maybe four times at the most, and then she pass out, she’s knocked out. It's taught her such a powerful breathing technique that she shares that with almost anybody she interacts with because she thinks we're all a victim of those nighttime blues when it's kind of hard to fall asleep. 

Yanique then stated, that seems to be a popular app. I've actually downloaded it on my phone, but I haven't clicked on it because things have been so busy. But I had a guest that was on our podcast and maybe two, three weeks ago and that was one of his recommendations. I find it interesting that shortly after, I'm getting the same recommendation, so that app must be really good. So, I think today I'm going to make sure I click on the app since it's on the phone and I haven't actually used it yet to see what it's all about. I have no problems falling asleep though but sometimes I do get distracted, like I'm doing something, and I start thinking about something else and I jump from one thing to the next. So, if Headspace can help me to refocus at times, that would be wonderful.

Karen stated that she thinks that it definitely, what she liked about it most was in the free version, it teaches you where some people just embark on this meditation journey and you're like, “Ah, how do I do this? I'm falling asleep. No, wait, I can't stop these thoughts.”There are so many barriers and she liked how in the free version it actually teaches you some of the techniques that are helpful.

  • Karen was asked about books that have had the biggest impact and she stated that there is a lot. She shared that she was not a reader until she was 30 years old. She hated reading growing up but after her husband died, she became obsessed with reading about heaven because she just needed that confirmation that he was okay, and she would see him again. And that's what kind of got her down this journey. So, she’ll say the two, there really are so many but to that she thinks made such a huge impact one was Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. It teaches you how you can change your mindset from being a victim or living in a fixed mindset to having a growth mindset. And again, it gives applicable takeaways on how you can teach even children, how you can teach, whether you're a teacher, a parent, a coach, it just helps in that state, how you can also use it in the workplace. So, Mindset by Carol Dweck was amazing. And then also it's kind of a tie between these two, Life's Golden Ticket: A Story about Second Chances by Brendon Burchardbecause it's a fiction book, but it gives you this visualization of you having a choice and kind of revisiting different people or moments in your past that have led you up to where you are today and accept where you are today so that you can move forward. And then the other one is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, which she knows is a lot of people's favorites, but it's one of hers particularly because it was suggested to her probably almost three years ago now, but she just read it at the end of last year and she believes in just divine timing and at the time it came to her life, she wasn't ready to read it, but when she read it, it was exactly the time that she was supposed to just digest that. So, it's a great book again for people who are just wondering, “Man, does all of this mean something? How do I know I'm headed down the right path.”So, that's why she loves that book so much.


  • Karen shared that she’s super excited about launching her new group coaching program. She’s going to be doing a group coaching and it is called, “Soul Care Coaching with Karen”and so she wants to create a network, this specific offer is for women, but she wanted to create a network for women where they are able to just grow, they are able to find healing and just become the best version of their self. And so, just sharing herself and stories but also sharing other coaches along the way. So, she’s really excited about that. But then she also launched her first eCourse, Heal Forwardand that's for anybody who has experienced a major loss or a hardship or they're just feeling depleted in life and they want to heal and move forward. It's a six-week series that just gives a whole bunch of selfcare habits and tips, worksheets, videos, all that good stuff. It loads you up so that you can build that foundation that she talked about of healthy habits. So, she’s excited about those two. The eCourse just launched and the coaching will launch in March 2019.


  • Karenshared listeners can find her at – 

  • Karen shared that regarding quotes or sayings that she tends to revert to, that ironically, it's like a little plaque that she found and it's on her desk as she’s looking at it right now. It is her favorite, it says, “Everything's going to be all right. Yep even that one thing.”Bob Marley said that. But she likes how it says, “Yep”, even that one thing because it's like yeah, you can get really stuck on something, it's like no, no, no, everything is going to be okay. Even that one thing, and she loves her some Bob Marley, so it resonated right away.