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UpSpiral Leadership

UpSpiral Leadership

By UpSpiral Leadership

Welcome to UpSpiral Leadership, a podcast dedicated to helping leaders at all levels to think bigger, act bolder and collaborate better in order to create positive change, even when it’s hard.
Join us as we explore paths towards a world where everyone is running to co-create a better future because they feel valued, inspired and connected.
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Rosie Corvo on Strategic Planning and Investing in Human Capital

UpSpiral LeadershipAug 31, 2022

Rosie Corvo on Strategic Planning and Investing in Human Capital

Rosie Corvo on Strategic Planning and Investing in Human Capital

Sue Covelli-Buntley of UpSpiral Leadership interview Rosie Corvo. She is the UpSpiral Leadership team's general manager. But before that, Rosie has had an amazing career in finance for 30 years. She has served as the Head of Risk UKRB for Barclays Bank. Then she moved on to become the Chief Administrative Officer and Chief Marketing Officer at Early Warning Services. While there, she had a pivotal role in launching the fintech brand Zelle.

[00:38] Introducing Rosie Corvo

[02:29] Components of Strategic Planning

[07:21] Adapting to Rapid Fire Change

[14:28] Human Capital Investment Strategies

[23:46] Pause and Rise Above

[28:52] This Simple Leadership Exercise will Change your Business

[33:08] The Lightning Round

According to Rosie, strategic planning has three phases. You begin the process by thinking about the future of the business. How do you add value for your stakeholders? How do you stay relevant in the future? Once you’ve answered those questions, move on to capacity assessment. Evaluate whether the available resources are enough to fulfill your set goals. Finally, the last step is prioritization. With the finite resources, focus on specific tasks that will serve the growth of the business.

A strong strategic plan not only considers the business, but also the people. With the advent of digitization, globalization, ESG, and COVID-19, the environment is nothing like before.

Change is happening at a rapid fire pace, it’s crucial to equip employees with skills that can keep them and the business moving forward. It’s equally important to reduce turnover rate to avoid knowledge gaps within the organization.

Studies have shown that effective leadership training decreases turnover rate by almost 77%. People yearn for purposeful work. Knowing these facts, seize the opportunity to develop more leaders. Provide coaching or group coaching not just for executives, but for everyone. Coaching small teams can help deepen bonds and facilitate transfer of wisdom from different departments.

Another way is to create an unconventional learning structure. For example, you can do something as simple as pairing leadership development with an initiative. Form a small cohort of emerging leaders and ask them to list areas of improvement for the company. A simple project like that can benefit the business greatly by instilling a sense of camaraderie, confidence, and purpose.

For more information on becoming an excellent leader, visit the
Upspiral Leadership Website, and remember to tune in to our next episode.

Aug 31, 202249:03
Kim Sandifer on the Importance of Work-Life Integration.

Kim Sandifer on the Importance of Work-Life Integration.

Sue Covelli-Buntley is joined today by Kim Sandifer, a Lead HR Business Partner at HALO Solutions and most recently held the position of Vice President, HR Business Partner to C-Suite and Senior Leaders at CNA Insurance. She is a Human Resources executive with a consistent track record of enabling business results by delivering value added HR Consultation. Kim has over fifteen years of experience as a business partner connecting talent strategies to business outcomes and ensuring HR processes and programs are practical, deliver value and create a great employee experience.

[00:30] Introducing Kim Sandifer

[05:22] Setting Boundaries and the Meaning of Work-Life Integration

[11:45] How to Set Boundaries

[23:23] Learning Through Others, Creating Dialogue, and Doing Well at Work

[40:50] Lightning Round

[46:51] Closing Notes

Kim doesn’t believe in work-life balance. Instead, she believes in balance as integration. Achieving work-life integration is a journey; each phase of the journey may feel different and how you go about attaining balance or equilibrium in your life looks different at every stage. Setting boundaries is a way to go about establishing that integration and can look very different for each of us as individuals. The paradigm of work-life balance 20 years ago was about perfection: you could be a working mom and juggle so many balls at the same time, which created a false perception of work-life balance. Kim looks at integration as self-reflection for our own personal idea of success “how do you focus where you need to focus and be present where you need to be present throughout the day?"

Putting boundaries in place allows us the mental capacity to be present in whatever we’re doing, whether in our work or in our personal life. Kim believes that when we don’t set boundaries, we can't show up as our best selves because of stress and exhaustion. She advises two things: first is to let go of myths such as working long hours to "prove" success. The second is letting go of the mindset that a perfect means having a perfect life. As a mom herself, what’s important is the time spent with her partner and children. Boundaries offer protection and freedom to achieve personal and career goals.

Another mental model that Kim advocates for is knowing that you have a tribe you can reach out to for help. Among companies, there is a fear of having an open dialogue because leaders feel unable to give options or solutions to their peoples’ problems. For Kim, the solution comes from the dialogue. These solutions can look different in every organization and is not a one-size-fits-all but if organizations don’t know what’s going on, they can’t help people to figure out which solutions to put in place.

Kim advises to keep asking questions and challenging one another, because that’s the only way we can help each other step back and rethink possibilities. One of the things Kim is most grateful for is that she can see things differently and expand her thinking, and she predicts that the conversation around integration and work-life balance is going to look so different in the years to come. Forget the whats: how do we get it done?

Gratitude is extremely critical for mental health and just being grounded, centered, and graceful is something we need to be as well as to provide more for each other. If we can come from a place of grace and assume positive intent, it ends with better outcomes. When having difficult conversations, if you assume positive intent and give people grace, if you can look at the situation through a different lens, and Kim thinks that this mindset can help us progress better as human beings.

For more information on becoming an excellent leader, visit the Upspiral Leadership Website, and remember to tune in to our next episode.

Jul 29, 202251:17
Mykala Sandifer on Honoring Pride Month

Mykala Sandifer on Honoring Pride Month

UpSpiral Leadership’s Rebecca Braitling Interviews Mykala Sandifer. Mykala is the Director of Inclusive Programs and Talent Development for the Kansas University Alumni Association, where she leads DEI&B as a strategic partner focused on community building to connect all Jay Hawks to the university with an intentional commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. She also works closely with senior leadership on issues surrounding organizational development to improve culture and organizational effectiveness. She is also a member of various diversity committees.

[00:42] Introduction of Mykala Sandifer

[01:52] Mykala’s past experiences with diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging

[07:16] True definition of diversity, equity, and inclusion

[10:12] The importance of of celebrating pride month with true intentions

[22:02] Leadership traits that create a more inclusive environment

[27:18] Get to know Mykala and Lightning Round

[36:00] Around the UpSpiral: Limiting beliefs about DEIB and how to reframe it

Mykala began her career in diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging based on her past experiences and childhood activities. She discusses her past work environments wherein she used her skill sets to see perspectives of different people with various personalities. She built personal relationships with others based on their own personal intersectionalities. Mykala’s experience as a competitive dancer in childhood gave her the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life. Her dance director emphasized the foundation of community and enjoying the culture and experiences of others, which piqued Mykala’s interest in sociology and DEI&B.

With different interpretations of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, Mykala enumerates the true definition of DEI&B. To her definition, diversity is appreciating the uniqueness of each individual and that not everyone is the same. She elaborates that equity is giving people what they need and that it is not the same as equality. Inclusion, for her, is having the intention to get people involved in order to alleviate biases.

In Mykala’s perspective, it is important to celebrate pride month to honor the historical struggles and barriers the LGBTQ+ community has faced. Gender and sexuality discrimination isn’t as apparent as racial or ethic discrimination. The pride movement is an effort to create a space for awareness, education, and honoring lives lost within that community. To be an authentic and intentional ally, Mykala advises us to lean into our allyship and take action rather than just saying that we support pride. It helps to have ongoing, uncomfortable conversations regarding gender and sexuality in order to challenge ourselves and create meaningful change.

Mykala advises leaders who want to create a more inclusive environment for their organizations to follow 4 steps. First is through humility; leaders must acknowledge that they do not know everything and are open to learning from their peers and colleagues. Second is psychological safety, which allows a space to show up as themselves without negative consequences. Third is to model what they are trying to embed in their culture by shifting away from old models of leadership.

Mykala believes that the one leadership trait our world needs most is humility. In a generation where people are afraid to speak up out of fear of being wrong or insensitive, Mykala advises that humility is the key to communicating that we are all still learning. Though she has never met Denzel Washington, Mykala finds Denzel to be thoughtful and intentional in his interviews or interactions with others. She strives to mirror this intentionality as a way to communicate with emotional intelligence. What Mykala wishes for the world at this point is to heal, especially after a series of tragedies that have recently occurred across the nation.

Jun 03, 202241:03
Faith Hassell on Being an Everyday Leader Who Leads With Love

Faith Hassell on Being an Everyday Leader Who Leads With Love

Poyee Chiu of UpSpiral Leadership interviews Faith Hassel. Faith currently serves as the Lead Community and Customer Manager at National Grid. Both Faith and Poyee volunteer and serve as Officers and Board of Directors for the Leadership Forum Community.

[00:30] Introducing Faith Hassell
[04:41] Faith’s Perspective on Change
[10:09] The Impact of Faith’s Handbell Choir
[14:58] Faith’s Challenges
[22:05] Faith’s Advice and Lightning Round
[31:09] Mindset Reset: “Conflict is scary and holds us back from progress”

A story that really highlighted her journey of change was how Faith used to be a handbell choir ringer since she was ten years old which she loved and still loves doing. When she was in high school, her school didn’t have a handbell choir, so she decided to start her own by collecting her girlfriends and petitioning the school board to buy them handbells. They went around to local nursing homes, libraries, retirement convents for nuns. What she loves about handbell choir is that it shows how important teamwork is—if one person is missing, they could still play their song, but they could be missing crucial tones to make the song happen.

Faith is glad that she took the chance to create her own handbell choir. Though she believes she wasn’t the perfect leader and would have done things differently now, she can look back on it and be amazed that she created it along with her friends, gave back to her community, and performed in front of people who have never heard of handbells before. Her advice to the listeners is to take that step, whether or not they hear that voice that’s talking down on you, change the dialogue in your head, take a leap of faith, give it a chance. It also helps to be surrounded with a group of people who support you, like Faith’s family which Poyee calls “collective leadership”.

Some of the challenges that Faith faces are internal. Leaders are very quick to find their own flaws but it’s very easy to point out all the great things in other people. It’s a challenge to have all these internal thoughts and Faith thinks it’s okay to recognize these thoughts, but not believe them and have people remind you of your strength and the good that you do. Faith looks up to other leaders and groups and tries to identify the things that could apply to her and help move her along as a leader.

The leadership trait that the world needs most is love. As a religious person, Faith thinks that so many things create love and love is many things. If you lead with love, that will be able to change the world. The person that best embodies this trait for Faith is her friend and mentor who she finds is always patient, kind, always lends a hand, always slow to anger, and embodies everything that love is. She also believes that the smallest thing can change leadership and starting something that you’re passionate with can grow and create a community, which creates leadership. As long as you take a leap of faith and step outside your comfort zone, there’s an everyday opportunity for everyday leadership. Seizing those moments that are presented to you, you will see yourself grow as a leader and see that you are making meaningful change happen.

For more information on becoming an excellent leader, visit the Upspiral Leadership Website, and remember to tune in to our next episode.

Dec 15, 202134:29
Bill Hunnex on Using Courageous Dialogues to Drive Positive Change

Bill Hunnex on Using Courageous Dialogues to Drive Positive Change

Sue Covelli-Buntley and Poyee Chiu of UpSpiral Leadership interview Bill Hunnex. For the past 30 years, he has been focused on improving organizations through behavioral management training and TQM. Bill’s belief that courageous dialogue stems from authentic human connection has really shone through in the training programs that he’s done for companies like Wall Street, American Express, and TIME Magazine.

[00:42] Introducing Bill Hunnex

[06:09] Learning from and Stepping Up to Career Transitions

[15:15] How to Start Courageous Dialogues

[20:50] Changing the Culture of MMBB

[28:35] Lightning Round: A Series of Brief Questions

[38:21] Mindset Reset: “It is only worth having courageous conversations with those you know and trust most”

Bill has had a very colorful career transitioning from healthcare to community work and to corporations. In every new role, he has accepted unfamiliar challenges and tasks. Moving to New York proved to be one of the best life decisions he’s ever made. He had the opportunity to learn from diverse people and to adapt to new environments. It was in all these changes that Bill learned the most about himself.

When Bill introduced management training to organizations, he emphasized listening skills⎯the core of courageous dialogue. People are so preoccupied about their own responses in a conversation that they fail to really hear each other out. To start courageous dialogue, we must learn to connect with each other on a personal level. Let the other person know that they’ve been heard.

During his time at the Missionaries and Ministers Benefit Board (MMBB), Bill was tasked to improve the organization’s culture. At the time, MMBB had strong ties to its customers but had an authoritarian management style and inefficient operations. The organization needed to cultivate a supportive environment. Bill modeled the behavior that he wanted to see more of: he was respectful and attentive in every interaction. Next, he changed systems. Personal incentive goals were all published, thereby promoting transparency. To address problems, Bill encouraged the members to focus on what could be improved. Blaming others was unproductive. In fact, he even asked for more complaints so that issues could be resolved.

According to Bill, the leadership trait that the world needs the most is forgiveness. You cannot lead if you do not forgive others. Similarly, you must also forgive yourself. Acknowledge your mistakes and then move on. Everyone has the ability to forgive. We all have our own grudges and regrets but we try to rise up from them every day.

For more information on becoming an excellent leader, visit the Upspiral Leadership Website, and remember to tune in to our next episode.

Aug 20, 202141:28
Anne Hunnex on Amplifying our Multi-Generational Leadership Voice

Anne Hunnex on Amplifying our Multi-Generational Leadership Voice

Sue Covelli-Buntley and Poyee Chiu of UpSpiral Leadership interview Anne Hunnex. She has had a long and successful career transforming the work culture of numerous organizations. As a firm believer in leadership development, Anne also serves as the Leadership Forum Community’s treasurer even in her retirement.

[00:31] Introducing Anne Hunnex

[03:25] Anne’s Passion for Creating Change

[10:00] Finding Your Voice and Using It for Good

[15:32] Getting Things Done with Empathy and Kindness

[19:12] How to Create Leadership Opportunities for Others

[22:26] Discovering other People’s Strengths & Purpose

[24:45] Waterfall to Agile IT Transformation

[26:37] Lightning Round: A Series of Brief Questions

[33:42] The Flip: “It is Too Late to Invest in Leadership Development”

[36:28] Leadership Forum Summit

Early on in Anne’s career, she experienced firsthand how some work environments can be so damaging. She recalls how she had to deal with a leader who often berated the other employees. Because this leader had so much experience and expertise, nobody dared to speak out against her. Instead of turning a blind eye, Anne approached human resources regarding her abusive actions. HR set up a meeting for them and provided counseling to correct the leader’s destructive behavior.

Anne’s act of courage helped strengthen the bond between her and her team because she had their back and was willing to advocate for them. At this moment, Anne realized that her voice could indeed make a difference. It wasn’t long before the other employees started becoming more outspoken in the workplace.

Anne also learned from this experience how to address the undesired behavior. To truly change behavior, you need to get to the root cause. After identifying the reason for it, assess if you can do anything to address it. Seeking to understand others is the first step to helping them. Every interaction is an opportunity to help or to hurt. Choose to do the former. Remember that words leave a lasting impact whether you realize it or not.

Anne believes that each person is capable of becoming a leader. It’s just a matter of providing leadership opportunities to more people. Leadership is a skill that gets better the more we are able to practice it. It’s never too late nor too early to learn. The opportunities to grow are endless. By encouraging leaders from all backgrounds, we are allowing them to use their talents for good.

But how do we recognize what each other’s talents are? We must get to know people on a deeper level. Ask questions, engage in activities outside of work, and interact in new social environments. Be genuinely curious about their passions and hobbies. If you build enough trust in a relationship, people will be willing to share more about their personal lives. Engaging with others gives us a more accurate picture of who they are and challenges our initial assumptions about them.

Visit the Leadership Forum Community website to learn more about their events and programs. Don’t forget to sign up for their free leadership trainings! Reach out to Anne on LinkedIn or on her personal website

For more information on becoming an excellent leader, visit the Upspiral Leadership Website, and remember to tune in to our next episode.

Jul 16, 202141:47
Susan Lubalin and Matthew Mangino on Service Above Self

Susan Lubalin and Matthew Mangino on Service Above Self

Poyee Chiu of UpSpiral Leadership interviews Matthew Mangino and Susan Lubalin. Matthew has spent a lifetime leading, coaching, and inspiring individuals at all levels to collaborate and excel in teams. He is the co-founder and CEO of Legacy Teams, a consultancy that offers clients evidence-based insights and field-based applications to help their teams achieve peak performance. He is passionate about helping leaders and teams find “the zone.” His research on effective leadership and high-performing teams can be found in widely-read publications like Primal Leadership by Daniel Goldman and The Organizational Development Journal. Matthew works with various professionals, non-profits, and Fortune 500 companies, including Johnson & Johnson.

Susan Lubalin is the HR Manager of K-9 Resorts Daycare & Luxury Hotel, a doggy daycare and boarding facility in Fairfield, NJ. In addition to her work, Susan is a passionate volunteer. One of the many places she offers her volunteer services is Pace University, where she recently served as President of Lubin School of Business Alumni Association Board of Directors. Susan is also a member of the Rotary Club of the Caldwells in New Jersey and is the third woman in the world to hold the office of President of the Rotary Club, which has historically been a men-only club.

[00:30] Introducing Matthew Mangino and Susan Lubalin

[04:07] The Vision of the Rotary Club

[06:10] How the Rotary Club is Changing the World and the Caldwells

[14:26] How the Rotary Club is Rallying their Members and Communities

[26:59] What the Club has taught Susan and Matthew about Themselves

[33:52] Lightning Round: A Series Of Brief Questions

[43:47] The Flip: “Change is hard. It’s not worth it.”

The rotary club is a global non-profit with the slogan “Service Above Self.” It originally started as a place where men could network and has grown into a major social change agent. The club has been instrumental in eliminating polio worldwide. Their work includes the empowerment of women, global health, access to resources, and beyond. On a local level, the club helps business professionals and leaders.

Matthew identified strongly with the “Service Above Self” intention, and after being recruited by Susan, he joined the Rotary Club to give back to his town. Susan got involved with the Rotary Club in 2015 after her work as a teacher, broker, and in HR, where she found a passion for helping people. In the Caldwells, the Rotary Club intends to revitalize and develop the town after the pandemic slump.

Susan has learned the value of positivity, honesty, and showing up. Matthew has learned that he has skills and processes from the corporate environment that he can easily apply to his volunteer work. His ability to fine-tune a team or organization and encourage a group of people to commit to a shared vision has been invaluable.

The Leadership Trait the World Needs Most Right Now

According to Susan, the leader that the world needs most right now can motivate and appreciate people and invest in them. According to Matthew, the leadership trait that the world needs most right now is courage and the ability to inspire and listen.

The Thing that Susan and Matthew Believe that Almost No One Else in the World Believes

Susan believes that mistakes should be viewed as a learning experience and not as failures. Matthew believes that despite our many missteps, on the whole, the world is improving.

The Mindset Reset: “Change is hard. It’s not worth it.”

Even though change can be challenging, Susan believes that the rewards make it worth the effort. For Matthew, change is still difficult, but he believes that change is rooted in the human need for learning. So, change is necessary.

Jun 18, 202149:19
Angie Sebastian and Melissa Nelson on Helping Others Reach Their Full Potential

Angie Sebastian and Melissa Nelson on Helping Others Reach Their Full Potential

Sue Covelli-Buntley and Poyee Chiu of UpSpiral Leadership interview Melissa Nelson and Angie Sebastian of Levenfeld Pearlstein, LLC, a unique and contribution-driven law firm that was born out of the desire to be different and make this world a better place.

[00:54] Introducing Melissa Nelson and Angie Sebastian

[05:18] Starting in the Legal Industry

[07:40] Every person matters

[12:16] How to make people feel valued and connected to each other

[18:59] The LP way and how it stood the test of time

[28:54] The Future of the LP Way

[36:22] Lighting Round: A Series of Brief Questions

Melissa works as the Director of Professional Development at LP. She got her master’s degree in Leadership and Organizational Development because she believed there were better ways to be a leader. After completing her master’s program, she began working in professional development in the legal industry.

Angie is the Chief Executive Officer at LP. She has her MBA, oversees the organization’s financial and operational functions, and is responsible for the execution of the firm-wide business plan. She considers herself so lucky to have been part of LP since almost the very first day and having created things that never previously existed.

Back then, their firm only had one thing in mind: the things they didn’t want to do. Angie says that it’s as valuable as knowing what to do. Twenty years later, they had come up with a great story and an impactful culture that engages and honors every person that’s part of the firm.

The LP Way has been going on for at least 10 years. Despite its age, it still holds value today and continues to drive business strategies and decisions. The LP Way helps everyone at LP be aligned.

The idea of the LP Way came from the very beginning and has borrowed inspiration from great business leaders. Despite bombarding the people at the start, the leaders at the firm did a great job of simplifying the LP Way into 5 steps that help people at LP understand what their role is, where their relationship is, and how they’re adding value. It was difficult to add or to amend concepts in the LP Way, says Angie. However, they found a strategy to make it work. They didn’t sell things as new. Instead, they made people understand that these are just parts of the pre-established steps. That’s how they prevented resistance.

According to Melissa, they are intentional about finding ways to develop their people and work through the challenges of today. Angie echoed that they embrace the circumstances and find new ways to execute and make it better.

When asked about the future, both women said that they are both excited for the new, emerging leaders at LP. They have developed a succession plan and are partnering with UpSpiral Leadership to prepare and empower these new leaders for the future. Angie emphasized the importance of establishing a path forward for the future leaders of the firm.

Learn more about Melissa Nelson and Angie Sebastian of Levenfeld Pearlstein, LLC by visiting their website. For more information on becoming an excellent leader, visit the Upspiral Leadership Website, and remember to tune in to our next episode.

May 28, 202146:03
Katleho Mohono on Using Good Influence For Positive Impact

Katleho Mohono on Using Good Influence For Positive Impact

Sue Covelli-Buntley and Poyee Chiu of UpSpiral Leadership interview Katleho Mohono, a leadership development facilitator, coach, and speaker. As one of the founding members of the African Leadership University (ALU), he helped establish the institution’s culture, development strategy, and curriculum. Recently, he co-founded NiaDelta, a leadership and education consulting firm that seeks to inspire purposeful change.

[00:36] Introducing Katleho Mohono

[06:01] Katleho’s Passion for Creating Change

[12:42] Dealing with Dichotomy

[18:24] How to Influence People

[21:42] Challenges and Successes in Leadership Development

[28:22] Lightning Round: A Series of Brief Questions

[37:53] The Flip: “Leadership is a Solo Act”

Born and raised in South Africa during the 90s, Katleho grew up at a time when apartheid was ending. He had more access to opportunities that would have otherwise been unavailable a decade before. From a young age, he saw the transformational impact of prominent figures like Nelson Mandela. His early experiences had a profound effect on him, leading him to become passionate about leadership. Coincidentally, he also realized that he was a persuasive communicator.

Katleho’s schooling years were an interesting phase for him. Although his family wasn’t wealthy, he was able to attend a private school. His neighbors teased him for being more well-off. Meanwhile, he couldn’t quite fit in with his classmates’ lavish lifestyle. This confusing situation taught Katleho how to deal with dichotomy. Instead of taking sides, he is able to take different vantage points. He encourages the practice of empathy instead of judgement.

Another way to deal with contradicting situations was to get comfortable with paradox. It’s all right to have incompatible concepts in the same space. Oftentimes, our preconceived notions hold us back from opportunity and growth. We need to be curious about one another and let our biases go. Ask questions because you’re interested, not because of your own agenda. Curiosity can change how we communicate and work with others.

As Katleho matured, he realized that leadership was about inspiration rather than coercion. Leaders are so passionate about a cause that it encourages others to join in. The drive that they have is on full display, inspiring the people around them to be part of the movement. Now, Katleho is on a mission to help others become the best version of themselves through coaching and training.

When asked what leadership trait the world needs the most, Katleho chose facilitation. A leader should be able to bring people together for a common goal. However, leadership is not solely an individual’s responsibility. There is too much emphasis on individual characters that we forget to focus on the community. We should seek to empower a leadership ecosystem that elevates not only leaders, but the leadership trait itself.

Learn more about Katleho and his leadership development work by visiting his website. Connect with him on LinkedIn. For more information on becoming an excellent leader, visit the UpSpiral Leadership website, and remember to tune in on the next episode!

Apr 30, 202140:40
Lyndon Rego on the Transformational Journey of our Individual Leadership.

Lyndon Rego on the Transformational Journey of our Individual Leadership.

Sue Covelli-Buntley and Poyee Chiu of UpSpiral Leadership interview Lyndon Rego. He is the founder of CoMetta, an initiative that seeks to build and revitalize communities through leadership development and innovation. As a former director for the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), Lyndon was at the helm of the organization’s different programs. Most notably, he directed CCL’s Leadership Beyond Boundaries effort to make leadership development more accessible all over the world.

[00:30] Introducing Lyndon Rego

[03:18] Lyndon’s Passion for Creating Change

[12:41] Stages of Leadership

[20:31] Being-Knowing-Doing Framework

[26:00] Leadership Beyond Boundaries

[34:54] Lightning Round: A Series of Brief Questions

[42:35] The Flip: “There is Only One Right Answer”

Lyndon spent his formative years in India. This was during the 70s and 80s, when poverty was much more rampant in the country. He recalls seeing a homeless family near the apartment complex he resided in. The Rego family’s middle-class lifestyle was in stark contrast to how people lived on the streets. At the age of 15, Lyndon recognized that he was in a privileged position to be able to help the disadvantaged. Since then, he has wanted to create a positive impact in the lives of the vulnerable.

As a student at the University of North Dakota, Lyndon spearheaded a statewideevent to raise awareness on global hunger and food security. He took on the responsibility even though he felt inexperienced. The project was a stepping stone in Lyndon’s leadership journey. From feeling inadequate, he realized he was capable of so much more

From his own experiences, Lyndon created a framework for leadership development based on the Indian chakra system. At the most basic level is the acknowledgment of self-worth. Marginalized individuals may feel oppressed and worthless. The first step in becoming a leader is believing that you matter. To progress to the second level of leadership, you must determine what you want in life. Circumstances may lead a person to believe that he or she is powerless to take control of destiny. It’s crucial that you make a decision about the direction of your life.

The third stage is about learning and empowerment, where one must figure out how to achieve his or her goals. A level above that is stepping up to become a leader in the context of others. The pitfall here is that an individual might focus on working solely for the benefit of an organization. To avoid this, remember that social entrepreneurs effect change because they champion causes instead of specific groups.

The next level of leadership is seen in figures like Gandhi, Luther King, and Mandela. Social change leaders support not just one cause. They understand that it is not a matter of who is right or wrong, but rather, people must come together to solve challenges. 

Finally, the highest level in Lyndon’s development framework is demonstrated by spiritual leaders like Jesus or the Buddha. Their contributions withstand the test of time because of how relevant they are. They help us focus on the liberation of self⎯how we live and experience the world. This last stage of leadership brings us back full circle: from beginning with self-discovery to the empowerment of others.

Learn more about CoMetta by visiting their website. Lyndon shares bite sized information, ideas, and thought leadership on his blog. Connect with him on LinkedIn. For more information on becoming an excellent leader, visit the UpSpiral Leadership website, and remember to tune in on the next episode!

Apr 16, 202146:06
Ken Warman on Finding your Purpose, Embracing Non-linear Thinking and Empathy

Ken Warman on Finding your Purpose, Embracing Non-linear Thinking and Empathy

Rebecca Braitling, Poyee Chiu, and Sue Covelli-Buntley of UpSpiral Leadership interview Ken Warman. Ken is the founder of The Leader’s Evolution, a leadership consulting firm with the mission to “Build and develop successful people, great leaders, and high-performing teams”. Ken helps his clients become more purpose-driven leaders through his coaching practice and improves their individual and organizational performance. Before founding The Leader’s Evolution, Ken led teams as Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operating Officer, and Head of Consulting Practice for Prudential Financial. He is also a coach with UpSpiral Leadership.

[00:29] Introducing Ken Warman

[10:09] The Leader’s Evolution

[17:27] Finding Your Purpose

[20:22]  What Ken Has Learned about Himself

[22:44] Ken’s Definition of Success

[27:54] The Challenges Ken Has Faced

[30:25] Lightning Round: A Series Of Brief Questions

[38:47] The Flip: Career growth is a series of positions

The Leader’s Evolution

Adversity instigates change. For Ken, losing his job forced him to pivot. He used the time to reflect on what impact he wanted to have on the world around him and identify the qualities he believed would facilitate that change. The prospect of working with different types of people drove him to start his own company, rather than with a single company and certain kinds of leaders.

To Ken, leadership is an evolution that requires time and considerable effort. In his work, he tries to meet people where they are in their journeys and help them move forward. He aims to help his clients maximize their impact on the people around them and act as a catalyst in their leadership evolution.

Finding Your Purpose

It is a worthy endeavor to find your purpose. Finding his passion and helping others find it has been very rewarding for Ken. However, he maintains that finding one’s purpose is very challenging to do in isolation. To propel you forward in your journey, he stresses the importance of having a coach to challenge you and your beliefs. Attempting to find your purpose requires a commitment to the cause and the person you have chosen to help you.

Your purpose changes over the course of your life. The things that motivated him in his 20s are not the same things that inspire Ken now. His purpose and priorities have shifted, so he urges people to take a fresh look at what drives and motivates the person they are in this moment.

What Ken Has Learned About Himself

It is healthy and exciting to pivot. Ken encourages people to think differently about their career trajectories and what they could do. Many people experience a transformation within their lifetimes that shifts their frame of reference and their priorities, so it’s worth looking into how they can align their career trajectories with their new focus.

Through starting The Leader’s Evolution, Ken learned that he has at least some tolerance for risk, which is in part what allowed him to make such a drastic change at a late stage in his career. His definition of success has developed and changed alongside his career. He sees resilience and consistency as vital traits of success.

The Flip: “Career growth is a series of positions.”

According to Ken, career growth is an excellent opportunity to learn, spread our wings, and try things we may struggle with. Greatness is about expanding our horizons, as well as growing and evolving. Ken is energized by people who are inspired when they do something new or do something differently.

For more information on becoming an excellent leader, visit the UpSpiral Leadership website, and remember to tune in on the next episode!

Apr 02, 202143:28
Joel Wright on Democratizing Leadership

Joel Wright on Democratizing Leadership

Rebecca Braitling, Poyee Chiu, and Sue Covelli-Buntley of UpSpiral Leadership interview Joel Wright, the founding president of the Leadership Forum Community. Rebecca, Poyee, and Sue met Joel almost five years ago through the Leadership Forum, one of the longest-running leadership conferences worldwide. Joel is currently launching Democratizing Leadership Exchange, a resource hub that aims to empower all members of society on exceptional leadership.

[02:32] Introducing Joel Wright

[06:50] Democratizing Leadership

[12:52] Defining the Democratizing Leadership Exchange

[17:22] The Importance of Integrating Leadership Strategies in Schools

[20:34] Challenges Plaguing Leadership Education

[ 32:05] How Leadership can Positively Impact School Life

[34:40] The Lightning Round: A Series of Brief Questions

[41:45] The Flip: “Leadership is for Grownups”

Joel believes everyone can be a leader regardless of their background; we just have to tap into people's leadership potential and offer a little bit of leadership development. In the past, people would only be exposed to leadership training during the latter stages of their career. By this time, it's usually too late, and it becomes a burden to the new leader since they are forced to consume all this new material and still lead others. Moreover, many leaders often say that they wish they had been taught about leadership from a young age. Joel believes we can change the narrative by teaching students about leadership before entering the job market.

Teaching students about leadership packs its own set of unique challenges. First, teachers are already busy as is, and adding extra teaching material to their schedules will be met with frowns. Thus, Joel believes that the only way to do this is by using short and easy-to-implement tools. This way, a teacher will not be burdened with any extra material, and the learner gets to gain leadership training quickly and efficiently.

The past couple of years have witnessed an increased number of schools adopt the democratizing leadership framework. The framework aims to offer learners short learning materials that they can consume and apply to their student lives. This helps them think about how to understand and overcome challenges that they might be going through. Since leadership affects many aspects of a person's life, these tools can also be used to solve challenges plaguing the family unit and the community.

As earlier mentioned, most senior leaders never learned leadership practices and how best to pass on their knowledge. What happens then is that they develop mindsets that limit other people's opportunities to step into leadership positions. As a leader, it's your duty to nurture your team members, especially new employees, and push them to become the leaders they were meant to be. However, as much as you'd love to hold their hand throughout the journey, it would be best if you gave them the freedom to make mistakes. Learn how and when to step back and let the upcoming leaders tap into their creativity and solve problems for themselves.

For more information on becoming an excellent leader, visit the UpSpiral Leadership website, and remember to tune in next week! Check out Joel’s website and get in touch with Joel via LinkedIn.

Mar 12, 202145:42
Rodney Davis on Dreaming Big and Thinking Positively

Rodney Davis on Dreaming Big and Thinking Positively

Poyee Chiu, Sue Covelli-Buntley, and Rebecca Braitling welcome Rodney Davis to another inspiring episode of the UpSpiral Leadership Podcast. Rodney is the co-founder of a video-interviewing technology platform called Bondfire LLC, whose primary focus is connecting the best talent to the best opportunities. He is also the President of L.I.F.E. Support Inc., a nonprofit that offers educational and recreational activities to underserved individuals in Aurora, Illinois and surrounding communities.

Rodney is also a published author, having written the book 'After the Buzzer, Seven Steps for Winning the Big Game: Life',  a book that inspires young athletes to be the best, both on and off the field.

In this interview, they discuss Rodney's journey into entrepreneurship, how student-athletes can change their mindset towards their education, and the struggles people of color face in a society that's struggling to accommodate them.

[02:23] Introducing Rodney Davis

[02:10] Rodney's Leadership Journey

[04:50] Life's Lessons That Inspired Rodney's Journey

[08:58] Great Management and Coaching

[10:40] Challenges Faced and How He Overcame Them

[15:35] Having a Positive Attitude

[19:55] Lightning Round: A Series of Quick Questions

[46:28] The Flip: "It's Not Worth Trying"

Leaders are not born; they are made, and like most great leaders, Rodney's journey started when he was still young. His exploits on the basketball court earned him a full scholarship and later tryouts with some big league teams such as the Chicago Bulls and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Rodney admits that his interactions with coaches and teammates during his playing days shaped him to become the leader he is today.

Like most student-athletes, Rodney was only concerned about his game, a mistake that made him fail his first semester exams. Rodney explains that a majority of student-athletes fail to understand that the student part of a scholarship is even more important than the athlete part. Seeing that this was an issue that needed to be addressed, Rodney decided to tackle the problem by inspiring student-athletes to take their education as seriously as they do their sport.

Everybody is unique in their special way. Most leaders don't understand that uniqueness makes people different, not their skin color or social-economic backgrounds. Rodney encourages managers to get to know each individual on their team on a deeper level to get the best out of each of them.

Rodney attributes his leadership to watching his parents face challenges in their lives, including his sister who was the first in their family to go to college and his father who had to quit school in sixth-grade to earn money to support his family. Motivated by his father’s tenacity and hard work, Rodney focused his energy on doing what he was passionate about. He expects that things won’t go right and focuses on the bright side to be ready for challenges and keep moving beyond them.

As a parting inspiration, Rodney advises aspiring leaders to remove the word 'not' from their vocabulary. He also notes that people fail to try because of the fear of failure. If you're passionate about something, then it's definitely worth the try. Get out of your comfort zone and follow your passion. What's the worst that can happen?

For more information on becoming an excellent leader, visit the UpSpiral Leadership website, and remember to tune in on the next episode!

Feb 26, 202151:07
Eric Bailey on Closing the Empathy Gap Through Radical Curiosity

Eric Bailey on Closing the Empathy Gap Through Radical Curiosity

Sue Covelli-Buntley and Poyee Chiu of UpSpiral Leadership interview Eric Bailey, best-selling author of The Cure for Stupidity. His consulting firm, Bailey Strategic Innovation Group, has an extensive portfolio of clients which include Google, the US Airforce, and many others. Equipped with a master’s degree in leadership and organizational development, Eric is passionate about using radical curiosity to incite change and understanding.

[00:41] Introducing Eric Bailey
[05:15] Eric’s Passion for Creating Change
[08:18] The Concept of Radical Curiosity
[15:13] The Empathy Gap
[21:54] Creating Boundaries that Unite Instead of Divide
[25:12] “Just Shut Up and Listen”
[36:40] The Lightning Round: A Series of Brief Questions
[47:20] The Flip: “It’s Not Me, It’s Them”

Eric recognizes that all of his life experiences have brought him to where he is today. At the age of 5, he was living on the streets with his family. His mother put herself through dentist school, which eventually improved their living conditions. As an adult, Eric had a colorful career having worked at a restaurant, zoo, and a healthcare company. He obtained his master’s degree from Saint Louis University. During graduate school, he met Dr. John P. Kotter and had the opportunity to work with him for a year. Afterwards, he started his own consulting company that specializes in organization culture and business strategy.

From his experience working in training and development, he noticed that HR departments are fixated on correcting behavior. Similarly, we have the same goal when communicating with others. We enter conversations because we want to prove that we are right. Opinions different from our own are immediately dismissed. No real dialogue can happen because people refuse to take a new vantage point.

Eric explains that this divide is rooted in human nature. We have created tribes as a way for us to know who to trust. In the process of forming groups, we determine who is a friend or foe. If they are not one of our own, then we do not hear them out. Creating an enemy out of the other group feels good because it highlights membership in our tribe. It is this “us vs. them” mentality that creates the empathy gap. When people perceive that they are on different teams, they lose their empathy for the opposing team. Rivals are no longer cared for as human beings.

Judging others has become a learned reflex but there is a way to close the empathy gap. First, you need to be aware that these tribal boundaries are based on perception. Instead of emphasizing differences, choose to look at similarities. Create categories that would put you and your “rivals” on the same team.

Next, replace judgment with radical curiosity. Have that genuine yearning to understand the other person’s context. Let go of your desire to be understood and to be correct. Assume that you are talking to a rational being and find out their why. By identifying the “why”, you’ll see that people aren’t so different after all. From that realization of a shared goal, we can collaborate on a solution to achieve our “why”. Radical curiosity makes space for innovation and possibilities.

Check out Eric’s book: The Cure for Stupidity on Amazon. Get in touch with Eric via LinkedIn or via Bailey Strategic Innovation Group’s website. For more information on becoming an excellent leader, visit the UpSpiral Leadership website, and remember to tune in on the next episode! 

Feb 12, 202151:20
Ron Arigo on Influencing Change Through Storytelling

Ron Arigo on Influencing Change Through Storytelling

Rebecca Braitling, Poyee Chiu, and Sue Covelli-Buntley of UpSpiral Leadership interview Ron Arigo.

Rebecca, Poyee, and Sue all worked with Ron at Chubb Insurance where Ron served in multiple senior-level HR and business roles. After moving on from Chubb, Ron became the Chief Human Resources Officer at the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and is currently the Head of Human Resources at AAA Northeast. Ron believes in cultivating talent and has often played the role of mentor and friend.

[00:30] Introducing Ron Arigo

[07:53] Ron’s Passion for Creating Change

[11:08] How Ron Was Able to Think Bigger and Face Challenges

[15:27]  The Art of Storytelling

[16:29] Managing Resistance to Change

[23:25] Lightning Round: A Series Of Brief Questions

[40:21] The Flip: “Change Is Hard”

After 28 years at Chubb Insurance, Ron sought a new path to attain his goal of becoming the Head of HR and occupy a position in which he could leverage what he had learned at Chubb to drive change. His time at Chubb had helped him establish many best practices and learn the value of investing in people, but the change had been mostly incremental.

Following his time at Chubb, Ron served as Chief Human Resources Officer for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Ron had essentially inherited a multifaceted business in his role. Though it was government, there existed a representation of various businesses like health and human services, transportation, information technology, and finance. He would be accountable for enterprise-wide recruitment, development, and retention of talent in a pool of stalwarts of public service. Many of the employees could not appreciate what they were missing in terms of HR and how it could serve them more effectively. He was hired and introduced as a change agent, but faced doubt among the team about the need for change and would have to sell every idea to them.

An important lesson Ron learned in his endeavors to drive change, often with audiences of varying change tendencies, is the art of storytelling. Often management uses either data or anecdotes to persuade and inspire. Ron’s winning formula is both. He affirms the importance of using data to ensure that you root yourself in fact and avoid being dismissed as not credible and using anecdotes to represent what else may be going on in the organization that data is ill-equipped to communicate. Ron adopted storytelling as a way to merge the data with the anecdotes.

According to Ron, the leadership trait that the world needs most right now is collaboration. As he sees it Project Warp Speed is an example of “best practice collaboration”. Government, scientists, business leadership, military, airlines, and other logistics-based organizations are collaborating on an incredible scale to end the global crisis of coronavirus. Although he believes government is sorely lacking in the skill of collaborative leadership, he identifies Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts as a leader who best models this leadership trait. “He is a leader who reaches across the proverbial aisle to get things done,” says Ron.

Ron’s biggest wish for the world right now is (relative) normalcy. The pandemic has created conditions that impede development and self-actualization in the different phases of our lives and we are living in the realm of protectionism. He shares his personal mantra for the times, “take this time to get physically healthy, mentally healthy, and as best you can, financially healthy, and emerge strong.”

Jan 22, 202144:25
Diane Menard on Knowing People on a Deeper Level

Diane Menard on Knowing People on a Deeper Level

Rebecca Braitling of UpSpiral Leadership interviews Diane Menard. Diane is a trailblazer, mentor and advocate for women in business. She currently leads the Commercial Real Estate Division of Prestige Title Business Development. Diane has spent the majority of her career in sales and marketing in the commercial real estate industry. During her career, Diane has taken an active role and career in New Jersey dedicated to advancing women in commercial real estate. She currently serves as a board member for 2020 WomenRising and previously served on the advisory board for Montclair State University. Diane has been recognized for her accomplishments by Leading Women Entrepreneurs as a Top 25 award winner.

[00:28] Introducing Diane

[04:48] Diane’s Motivation for Mentoring Women

[08:37] Limiting Mental Models

[18:30]  Diane’s Early Experiences with Strong Women and the Ms Foundation

[23:53] The Importance of Collaborative Leadership

[31:43] Pain Manifests as Anger

[33:28] Lightning Round: A Series of Brief Questions

[39:37] The Flip: “It is Important to Fit In”

Diane attributes her work mentoring and advocating for women in business to her upbringing. She believes that growing up around a lot of men and boys was a reprieve from how women are generally socialized to be more demure and self-conscious when advocating for themselves. Additionally, she sees her ability for empathy as particularly useful in the context of mentorship.

Diane’s approach to mentorship and helping women in the workplace is grounded in one-on-one conversations and asking questions about their experience and strengths they have rarely been asked. Also, in college and in her early career, she found herself networking with women who provided hands-on support to other women, including Gloria Steinem. These networks of women influenced her to pay it forward by mentoring other women and helping them see the strengths that lie within them.

When we approach people with skepticism and feelings based on fear, we tend towards limited outcomes.

Approaching people with empathy, being curious about what’s happening with them, and assuming positive intent allows us to think bigger and create a model for empathetic leadership. When someone is showing up angry, Diane tries to understand their point of view because that anger comes from some sort of pain.

According to Diane, the leadership trait the world needs most right now is compassion. To her, Michelle Obama best models compassion, hearing and responding to all sides with empathy without losing herself along the way. She urges us to consider other people’s perspectives and collaborate better so that we can develop solutions together.

Diane flips “It’s Important to Fit In” with a suggestion that we change the parameters of what it means to fit in. She suggests that the Generation Z’s are doing this by getting rid of the defining variables that keep people in boxes.

Jan 08, 202142:43
Allyson Hernandez on Letting Your Genius Shine

Allyson Hernandez on Letting Your Genius Shine

Rebecca Braitling, Sue Covelli-Buntley and Poyee Chiu of UpSpiral Leadership interview Allyson Hernandez. Allyson is currently the Director of Learning and Development at Bohler Engineering. She is well known for her expertise in progressive leadership development, her innovative coaching and for delivering breakthrough solutions that serve the greater good. Allyson is also a professional actress, singer, writer and composer, as well as a friend, wife, daughter and self-proclaimed soccer-mom.
[00:29] Introducing Allyson
[06:30] Allyson's Passion for Creating Change
[12:22] How Being “Extra” Makes You More Effective
[15:57] Freeing Yourself from Other People’s Expectations
[19:14] The Impact of Embracing Your Authentic Self
[22:38] Allyson’s Definition of Leadership
[24:16] How Mentors Have Shaped Allyson’s Work
[29:28] Lightning Round: A Series of Brief Questions
[35:48] The Flip: “That’s the Way We’ve Always Done It”
Allyson is a Jersey girl, who has been singing as long as she can remember. Despite stern warnings from her mother, she got her BFA in Musical Theater from Syracuse University; a degree that she believes set her up for life. After moving to New York to make it on Broadway and realising she did not want to be a waitress, Allyson took her first “survival” job as an HR Assistant for a huge wealth management company. Although her entry into Human Resources seemed to have been a fluke, she recognized that she thrived in the field. Having an impact on the people around her, and nursing a healthy passion for creating change led Allyson to Learning and Development and a dual career for the past 2 decades.
Allyson’s job with BASF as HR Program Manager ticked a lot of the right boxes, but she felt she wasn't helping people in the way she knew she could. She attended a Women Unlimited development program that led her to coaching, and subsequently, a year-long iPec executive and coaching program that eventually led her to Bohler. Here, she would go on to build tools and programs that allowed individuals and leaders to learn more about behavioural skills as well as create talent management programs to identify employees with high potential.
Over the past 20 years of her corporate career, Allyson has often been called some version of “extra”. While it would generally carry a negative connotation, she notes that after the age of 40, it seems easier to be freed of other peoples assessments of you. Once she felt free from it, she realised that her particular brand of “extra” only aided her success. In addition to her promotions, her authentic expression and boldness creates a safe space for the people she works with and helps her teach people how to lean into their own authentic selves.
Allyson's biggest wish for the world right now is unifying the country and finding a way, in the world at large, for people to embrace the things we have in common, rather than the things that divide us.
For more information on becoming an excellent leader, do visit the Upspiral Leadership website, and do remember to tune in next week! Check out Allyson’s LinkedIn profile. If you would like to hear Allyson sing, you can find here EP Soul Stories on Spotify.
Dec 11, 202037:43
Elaine Rocha on Being a Bold Advocate for Others

Elaine Rocha on Being a Bold Advocate for Others

Rebecca Braitling of UpSpiral Leadership interviews Elaine Rocha, the Chief of Staff to the President and Global Chief Operating Officer of AIG, a multinational insurance and finance company. While at AIG, Elaine previously served as the Global Chief Operating Officer for their Investments business, and previously as Associate General Counsel and Vice President for several lines of business in General Insurance. She has been recognized throughout her career for her strong leadership and advocacy for diversity and inclusion.

[00:30] Introducing Elaine

[04:07] How Elaine Became a Bold and Authentic Advocate

[09:13]  Dealing with People’s Mistakes as a Leader

[14:01] How to Navigate Career Uncertainty and Changes

[16:16] How to Activate Positive Change

[21:05] Elaine’s Proudest Achievements

[23:10] How to Be a Good Mentor

[25:43] Lightning Round: A Series of Brief Questions

Ever since she was young, Elaine has been driven to advocate for those who cannot defend themselves. During her senior year in high school, Elaine recalls writing a letter to the Superintendent and Board of Education to advocate for her friend who got kicked off the wrestling team for punching someone to defend his sister’s honor. She then attended the Board of Education meeting, and successfully won her first case for her first client, despite not having been to law school at the time. Years later, her friend is still grateful that she took the initiative to step in.

Law and finance are fields with very high expectations. As a leader in these fields, Elaine encourages her subordinates to strive for excellence, she wants them to trust her and to be comfortable. If subordinates make a mistake, she expects them to let her know, so that they can figure out a solution together. Leaders must provide psychological safety and support. She walks in humility and welcomes constructive disagreement from her colleagues, knowing that the best decisions come from making the most of everybody’s strengths and expertise.

Elaine consistently chases and embraces disruption. She cites her transition from legal into investments as an illustration of this attitude of welcoming change. She did not know much about investments, but she took the time to figure it out. She encourages us to ask ourselves, “What is the worst that could happen?” Disruption enables us to learn.

Although she embraces uncertainty, Elaine does not condone nor embrace a lack of preparedness. If you have a passion, and want to invoke change, that is great! But building on this passion, you need to know your stuff, and to be able to “yell with data” to the naysayers and eye rollers.

According to Elaine, to be a great mentor, you need to be willing to be mentored. Using this humility and willingness to learn, you can plant this same posture in your mentees. Mentoring is amongst Elaine’s proudest accomplishments, and she enjoys building trust and shaping change in the lives of others, especially women.

Elaine’s greatest wish for the world is that we stop judging a book by its cover. After some time, we might decide that someone is not worth it. However, never make this decision prematurely. You never know what is going on, and you may risk missing the opportunity to know a wonderful person.

For more information on becoming an excellent leader, do visit the Upspiral Leadership website, and do remember to tune in to our next episode! Check out Elaine’s LinkedIn profile.

Nov 27, 202036:15
Matt Mullens on Chasing Fear and Collaborating for a Better World

Matt Mullens on Chasing Fear and Collaborating for a Better World

Poyee Chiu and Sue Covelli-Buntley chat with Matt Mullens, Founder of Empasta Food, a vegan cheese sauce company, and SkillDivvy, a community platform to share common interests and to collaborate on projects. They discuss how Matt applied his passion for sustainability, his fearless grit, and his interest in collaborating with others to chase fear and achieve a shared vision to make the world better.

[00:30] Introducing Matt

[01:27] How Matt Aligned His Passion with His Purpose

[06:06]  How Matt Chases Fear to Break the Glass Ceiling

[12:05] How Matt Collaborates with Others to Improve His Vision

[20:14] Building SkillDivvy to Allow Collaboration Around a Common Purpose

[25:11] Lessons Learned

[29:25] Lightning Round: A Series of Brief Questions

Matt became interested in sustainability when he participated in a pre-college summer research program and his group was tasked with lifting a hot air balloon with renewable energy. The group used solar panels, which led Matt to later internships in Ghana and Hawaii to build solar panels. Later on, Matt developed a vision for selling vegan cheese sauce, aligning his passion for food with his commitment to sustainability. He built this business to align with his values and to benefit the world.

Sustainability is important to Matt because he believes that sustainability is an overarching problem that impacts so many aspects of our lives. Furthermore, Matt loves doing outdoor activities, so he is especially compelled to take care of the environment. Additionally, with his technical background in engineering, Matt is well-equipped to tackle this issue.

Matt discusses how he is building Skilldivvy, a community platform to allow people to collaborate around purpose-driven projects. Matt started Skilldivvy with a partner to fulfill their joint purpose of making the world a better place.

Matt has learned three primary lessons about himself from his entrepreneurial journey: 1. be authentic, 2. do not be overly resilient because you need to recognize each person’s strengths and bring them along, and 3. surround yourself with people who genuinely want to see you win, who are passionate, and who are positive.

For more information on becoming an UpSpiral leader, visit the Upspiral Leadership website, and tune in to this podcast for our next episode! Check out the Empasta Food website as well. And do connect with Matt on LinkedIn.

Nov 13, 202043:16
Judy Sammarco on The Power of Belief

Judy Sammarco on The Power of Belief

Rebecca Braitling, Poyee Chiu, and Sue Covelli-Buntley interview Judy Sammarco, who has been with UpSpiral Leadership since its inception, and has worked with each of the hosts individually before that. They discuss the importance of a positive mindset, and other tips for getting through tough times.

[00:30] Introducing Judy & What UpSpiral Means to Her

[04:40] Challenges Judy Has Faced

[09:23] Judy’s Battle with Ovarian Cancer

[13:56] How to Navigate Bad News

[18:26] Creating Your Own Reality

[20:15] Best-Case/Worst-Case Scenario Thinking

[23:17] Taking Control of Difficult Situations

[27:07] Lighting Round: A Series of Quick Questions

[32:26] The Flip: “Our Circumstances Define Us”

Throughout Judy’s career and in her battle with ovarian cancer, she exemplified UpSpiral Leadership. Judy shares several tips for dealing with adverse life situations: 1. keep a positive mindset, 2. take care of yourself, and 3. act on whatever is within your control.

According to Judy, cancer patients who sustain a positive mindset live on average 24 months longer than their counterparts. She recalls sitting at her daughter’s eighth-grade graduation and praying & believing that she would get to sit at the high school graduation. At her daughter’s high school graduation, she believed that she would make it to the college graduation. She says that her positive mindset is what keeps her going, and is the reason cancer has not defeated her yet.

Secondly, when dealing with any kind of conflict or bad news, Judy remembers to go to sleep or to more generally take care of herself before acting. This leads to better, and more rational decisions. Finally, Judy says she has always believed that she can make a difference. Even in scenarios that are very stressful, such as waiting for a medical test result, she finds some way to influence the outcome, for example by getting a second opinion. She knows what  is within her control and acts on it. At work, she describes being a spokesperson for various parties and not being afraid to speak up.

For more information on becoming an excellent leader, do visit the Upspiral Leadership website, and do remember to tune in to our next episode!

Oct 30, 202030:57
John O'Grady on His Leadership Journey, Effective Decision-Making Tools and Cultivating Workplace Inclusion

John O'Grady on His Leadership Journey, Effective Decision-Making Tools and Cultivating Workplace Inclusion

Rebecca Braitling and Sue Covelli-Buntley interview John O’Grady, who has had a career as a Division 1 Athlete, a leader in the army, and now a leadership coach. They discuss his leadership journey, effective decision-making tools, and how to cultivate workplace inclusion.

[00:30] Introducing John

[02:09] John’s Leadership Journey

[07:31] Tips for Struggling Leaders

[13:20] The Importance of Knowing Yourself

[21:22] Leading with Courageous Civility & Cultivating Inclusion

[31:21] Loving Your Future Self

[37:45] Lighting Round: A Series of Quick Questions

Oct 16, 202046:35
The WISER Board on Taking Initiative to Grow Self & Others through Community

The WISER Board on Taking Initiative to Grow Self & Others through Community

Rebecca Braitling of UpSpiral Leadership interviews the board of the Women in Industry, Science and Engineering at Regeneron (WISER) employee interest group. Regeneron is a pharmaceutical company in Tarrytown, New York. The board of the WISER group is composed of Rachel Kumar, Cindy Chen, Jennifer Liang and Belinda Tang. They discuss what WISER does, the impact of the challenges that they face as the board of this women’s employee interest group, and how building a community has contributed to their own growth and the growth of others.

[01:20] Introducing the Guests

[05:16] Why WISER is Important to Each Guest

[11:04] What WISER Does

[13:04] The Impact of WISER

[16:40] Challenges Faced in Building WISER

[23:29] Staying Motivated

[29:54] Lessons Learned

[34:08] Lighting Round: A Series of Quick Questions

All four board members have a history of involvement in diversity groups or groups for women in STEM in high school and/or college. Coming into Regeneron, they craved a community where like-minded women could learn together and support one another. WISER’s official mission is “to provide an inclusive platform for networking & mentorship at Regeneron while supporting women through professional development, well-being and community outreach activities.” The group provides programming, networking and education such as International Women’s Day, an online platform for community discussions, mentorship events, and service activities such as leading girl scouts troops.

The board members share how organizing events such as these has helped each of them to develop their confidence, to be more willing to ask for help, to build stronger relationships, and to be more intentional in the way that they organize their time. When asked how they stay motivated to keep working on the WISER group, they cite the pleasure of witnessing their events make employees feel seen, happier and more equipped to excel professionally.

For more information on becoming an UpSpiral leader, please visit the UpSpiral Leadership website (, and do remember to tune into the next episode!

Aug 25, 202043:53
Joe Makston on the Power of Vulnerable and Authentic Leadership

Joe Makston on the Power of Vulnerable and Authentic Leadership

Rebecca Braitling, Poyee Chiu and Sue Covelli-Buntley of UpSpiral Leadership interview Joe Makston, Director of Learning and Talent Development at Early Warning Services. Joe is also the author of a children’s book Tummy Tales: Questions with My Dad and a TEDx speaker. UpSpiral has partnered with Joe to design a progressive leadership development program at Early Warning. They discuss the vulnerability and authenticity that is at the core of Joe’s leadership philosophy.

[01:43] Introducing Joe Makston

[03:49] Joe’s Passion for Creating Change

[07:09] Authentic Leadership

[11:23] Leadership Struggles

[19:56] Influencing Other Leaders to Be Vulnerable

[25:07] Lessons Learnt

[28:00] The Impact of Joe’s Efforts

[32:30] Lighting Round: A Series of Quick Questions for Joe

As a member of middle management, Joe recalls talking to an executive at the bank where he worked. The leader’s main piece of advice was simply “don’t lose who you are.” Since then, Joe has embodied this philosophy, and in turn encouraged his subordinates to be vulnerable and authentic. This helps to create a work environment that has a good balance between prioritizing people and profit. Instead of churning people to work longer hours or admonishing them for not meeting KPIs, Joe nurtures relationships, community, collaboration and collective success. Leadership does not have to be lonely.

Joe’s approach to leadership is met with varying degrees of interest, enthusiasm and naysayers. To deal with this, Joe prioritizes compassion and respect towards those who disagree. Instead of trying to defend his approach, he influences people by his actions and by acknowledging these people’s value and contributions. Joe applies humility and a commitment to continuous improvement. He describes himself as a tree adding rings, as opposed to someone climbing a ladder where there is a clear end to progress.

Have you been inspired to become a more authentic, vulnerable and compassionate leader? To do this you might want to read Simon Sinek’s Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action or visit the UpSpiral Leadership website (

UpSpiral Leadership: Think bigger, act bolder, collaborate better.

Aug 04, 202040:03