In today’s episode of the HR Chat Series #otherfrontline, we were joined by a very good friend, Cheryl Czach, founder and CEO of Cheryl Czach Coaching and Consulting. The topic? CHROs make some of the best CEOs. In a UofM study, “which concentrated on 14 aspects of leadership, grouped into three categories: leadership style, thinking style, and emotional competency.  Except for the COO (whose role and responsibilities often overlap with the CEO’s), it was CHROs who had the most overlap with CEOs.” (HCAMAG Mar 2015). On top of this, she offered several other examples as well as her own story to prove HR leaders have what it takes to reach the top of the organization. As long as they’re willing to dream big for it and find creative ways to learn about the business.

Dive into Cheryl’s perspective on how to go from HR to CEO:

  • Be willing to learn: Find ways to step outside of HR and explore the business. Take on business projects, get formal training on topics you’re not familiar with (accounting, finance, project management).
  • Keep it simple: One of the best ways Cheryl learned the business was writing articles for the company’s customer newsletter. She interviewed employees across various functions and roles and shadowed them for a few days to see it all in action. By writing what she saw and heard, she learned so much about the business in a very short time. She used that information to ready herself for roles that took on some of those functions and prove her ability to effectively lead them.
  • Be daring: Find someone who’s willing to push you outside of your comfort zone. Someone who can help you realize the negative self talk in your head is simply your inability to see your own greatness. One of Cheryl’s pivotal moments was working with her first professional coach. She was in her early 30s and her first “real” leadership position. Without that accountability and support to step outside of herself, she never would have gone after roles that put her in charge of functions she never actually worked.
  • Solidify your role as a leader: Once Cheryl reached president, she focused on her role as a leader: facilitator and talent developer vs. doer. She centered her energy and strengths around leading her teams to find the answers for themselves and grow in their individual roles vs. being the expert in every single function.
  • Advocate for psychological safety: Enable a company culture that embraces failure without repercussions and be transparent with business decisions, even if you don’t have all the answers.
  • Dream big: “Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle.” (Christian D. Larson)

Check out the full episode here:

Cheryl is one of the most down-to-earth and engaging people I’ve had the privilege of connecting with in this world. If you’re interested in coaching and resonate with Cheryl’s style, check out her website and sign up to connect!

Today Stephanie Polen, executive coach and CEO of The Polen Group, joined us to talk about how to infuse unshakable leadership practices as we step into our “next normal”. Stephanie intentionally coined the phrase next normal vs. new normal to remind us that not everything we were doing was all terrible. There were a lot of things we did very well, but of course there’s room for improvement.

Key takeaways from Stephanie’s zone of genius:

  • Similar to airline protocol, take care of yourself first. As HR and business leaders poised to direct others, take time to outline your next normal before encouraging your teams/organizations to do the same.
  • Turn to your strengths for inspiration. If you’ve taken any sort of personality or attitudinal assessment, lean on what you learned do well. Utilize your innate strengths to find motivation and fortitude to move forward intentionally.
  • Tap into your ideal feeling state. Pinpoint what you want to feel as the result of something rather than the action of doing it. Detach yourself from the outcome. Focus on how you want to feel. Consciously seek to find your ideal feeling state today. You’re not beholden to finding it with specific tasks. (Example: You want to finish a project. Your actual “goal” may be the feeling of pride vs. the project itself. Knowing pride is your outcome, how can you find it before you finish the project?) *NOTE* Similar concept discussed here
  • Ask yourself these 3 questions to start shaping your next normal:
    • What do you want to leave behind?
    • What do you want to carry forward?
    • What are 3 words you want to describe your next normal?

Watch the full session here *NOTE* Technical difficulties with Stephanie’s camera. Her beautiful face isn’t there, but her wisdom and expertise shines through that much more! Contact Stephanie at to gain access to her framework and the handout she referenced in the video.

John McCarthy, CEO of The Purpose Promise, talks about finding empathy to connect with displaced employees in the Covid-19 world. The “new normal” labor market will be even more competitive than it was before it all started, so how HR and business leaders treat employees now will hugely affect recruitment, lasting engagement, and ultimately company culture and retention in the new normal.

Key takeaway from today’s discussion:

  • Employees, especially those displaced, want to be seen and heard. Employers who reach out will make a positive impact. The displaced employees will feel seen and heard letting them know the employer truly cares for them.
  • Approach employees with empathy vs. sympathy. By channeling authenticity and vulnerability, HR and business leaders demonstrate that each employees’ safety and well-being are at the center of their concern.
  • It’s not too late to start reaching out for any companies that haven’t been. It sends the message that you’re in this with them. You may not have all the answers or a defined plan, but you’re there for them and willing to support them in whatever way you can.
  • The post-Covid market will look very different than the pre-Covid market. The gig economy is on the rise and it’s imperative for HR and business leaders to know and articulate where they stand to attract top talent.

Learn more about John and the rest of the Purpose Promise team at: and listen to the Purpose Promise Podcast.

This week marked our HR Chat Series Kick Off. Last week I connected with a few former colleagues and we got to talking how we can give back to the HR community that’s doing so much to guide, manage, and protect their companies and its employees through these unprecedented times. Those who are making quick and sometimes incomplete decisions based on rough and unfinished information. Those who are gathering lists of individuals who will receive a salary reduction, furlough, or layoff and then communicating that 100s of times and carrying the collective weight of them long after they’re over. Those who are struggling to support themselves behind the scenes because they’re exhausted, overwhelmed, and scared of the uncertainty themselves.

The overarching vision is to provide encouragement, inspiration, a chance to laugh, and a chance to learn for official and unofficial HR leaders!  Our focus is to be to be insanely simple, insanely valuable, and insanely immediate. We start each week with something fun or funny, showcase a subject matter expert who will  provide usable content, and give those who have the HR title or play it in their organizations, a chance to breathe, laugh, and respond.

In today’s session we talked about the change curve model from Vicki Shillington.

Phase 1: Chaos/Frenetic energy – eyes on HR to lead the way >> emotions ramp, quick decisions are made based on fear and incomplete information

Phase 2: Acceptance/Settle in – get used to what’s happening >> everyone’s finding some comfort in working from home; focus on one thing at a time with an emphasis on self care

Phase 3: New normal/re-entry – eyes back on HR >> gear up for what’s coming including re-ramped emotions; time to tap into creativity and innovation to be of highest value for the organization

One thing is for certain. We’re not going back to the way things used to be. How can we use this time to actively influence the new normal and create work environments that are inviting, inclusive, and full of unlimited leadership and potential?

Leaders are in the business of motivating others – to get things done, to believe they’re capable of more, to reach new heights in their careers. And the quickest way to do that is through … wait for it … emotions. Logically we all know this, though in application we often fall short, particularly at work, because there’s a misconception that emotions don’t belong. 

And to that I say, “Ummmm, yeah. That’s not realistic.”

  1. Work involves humans who feel emotions … regardless if they want to or not
  2. Feeling anything is a sign of life; a sign that someone cares enough to react*

*It’s a misconception that the opposite of anger is happiness or the opposite of agitated is content. The opposite of any emotion is actually the absence of emotion. It’s not feeling at all. 

So why is this important to leadership?

First, engagement. The buzz word running rampant in every organization, and the biggest challenge to productivity and success that only seems to be getting more insurmountable. Why? Because more and more employees are feeling disconnected from the work and the company. Why? Because they’re not connected with on a human level. They’re seen as commodities not individuals with unique talents and valuable insights, and their emotions are not being tapped into. Any article on engagement will tell you there are more people who fall somewhere in the abyss of indifference between engaged and actively disengaged than anywhere else on the engagement spectrum. So when an employee is feeling something, anything at all, it’s a sign that there’s enough to react to and it’s an opportunity to dig in.

Second, we’re all human and share in this experience we call life. We all want to feel included in something bigger, so shunning or ignoring emotion only adds to the feeling of isolation and ostracism, which contributes to employees feeling disengaged. And round and round we go.

Even when emotions are “negative”, there’s a great deal to learn for both you and the employee about what’s happening and why. There’s a very valuable reason for the emotion being felt at that moment. So next time, an employee displays emotion:

  • REMOVE JUDGMENT. It makes perfect sense that you might get agitated when emotions surface. There’s already a lot to handle, one more thing can seem impossible to conquer. But emotional moments are the time to really dig in. Whatever your employee is feeling is perfectly normal for him/her – based on years of experience and exposure to similar situations. Take a deep breath and remember, “yeah, it’s not how I would react, but this isn’t about me. Whatever Sarah is feeling is what makes sense to her right now.” Simply acknowledging someone else’s story immediately diffuses judgment. 
  • QUESTION MORE THAN ANSWER. Get Sarah talking. Your position as leader is to listen to her thoughts and corresponding emotions. You can tell a lot about what someone is feeling simply by listening to the words they use and the non-verbals they give. It’s called objective listening. You’re listening to what she’s saying … and potentially not … vs. how you’re going to respond. If you feel the urge to launch into how you’ve experienced something similar, ask another question. 
  • AVOID ‘I UNDERSTAND’. Because you don’t. You couldn’t possibly. You’ve not walked in Sarah’s shoes; you’ve not shared in Sarah’s thoughts, so therefore it’s impossible to genuinely understand where she’s coming from. Through more objective listening, you gain a sense of what’s going on behind the emotion, and so the more appropriate response becomes “it’s understandable you feel this way because…[paraphrase what you just heard]”. This helps Sarah feel more at ease and normalizes her reaction vs. feeling shame and putting her on defense for having it in the first place. 

While our core thoughts ultimately drive what we feel and how we (re)act, it’s our emotions that make us human and serve as the most effective way for leaders to connect and inspire. It’s why “People may not remember what you say, but they remember how you make them feel,” carries so much weight. Long after the brain and logic have moved on, what we feel and where we feel it linger – for better or for worse. Your ability to link with your employees on an emotional level is paramount – for you and them – to ongoing success.

Lauren is a certified professional leadership development coach and mentor dedicated to radically shifting workplace cultures by empowering leaders through self awareness around how they show up and harnessing their energy to lift [others] as they climb. She works with leaders who are in the process of figuring out the most effective way to bring their definition of leadership to life to positively influence themselves, their teams, and their overall workplace environment. She fosters an open and engaging relationship to fully explore what’s going well as well as what’s holding leaders back from stepping into their full potential. Want support in tapping into your employees’ emotions and/or maybe even your own? You can find more information on, LI and FB: Unlimited Leader, LLC; IG: @mrslaurenammon