Who Influences You – and Who Do You Trust?

Thought leadership is nothing new. Strong personalities make up the fabric of business success folklore. Henry Ford. Richard Branson. Steve Jobs. Oprah. Sara Blakely. Mark Cuban. Jessica Alba.  Tony Hsieh.

Since becoming an entrepreneur in 2008, I have been exposed to so many more of these cult personalities that many folks who still work in corporate life have never heard of. Marie Forleo. Chris Brogan. Gary Vaynerchuk. And further,  there are those thought leaders that influence us in the personal development and lifestyle space: Mel Robbins.  Lisa Bilyeu. Glennon Doyle. Tony. Robbins.

Influencer marketing may be a fairly new concept, but thought leadership (which I equate as somewhat similar) has been around a long time. It’s a fabulous and authentic marketing tactic. Establish  yourself not just as a successful leader in your organization, but as a leader in your industry. Someone who has their finger on the pulse of trends and customer insights.

There are many influencers and thought leaders that inspire me. From whom I learn a lot. But I am very skeptical of those who get elevated to gurus, saviors, and absolute truth-tellers. 

It got me thinking about how we decide which influencers we will trust. Which we will follow. I don’t even like the word “follow”as it implies discipleship. 

And that is my fundamental problem with many of the “gurus” out there. When I started out in entrepreneurship, I immediately spotted such snake oil salespeople a mile away. They promoted how they knew the “secret” to your business success. If you learn their formula or do things exactly the way they will tell you (for the low, low price of $5,000), you will be able to buy a jet! They planned extravagant conferences, walking onstage to pounding rock music and fire torches going off. 

I saw new entrepreneurs, mostly women I have to admit, spending THOUSANDS of dollars they didn’t have to take a short cut promised by the so-called prophet.  It made me so angry, I even tried to pitch a Wall Street Journal reporter to do a story on it.  

We definitely need influence in our lives. But we have to be more discerning about who those people are, and what we expect from them. So how do you decide who to trust?

I believe it’s wise to avoid experts who raise these red flags:

  • Make you pay exorbitant amounts of money to learn their “secrets.”If they can offer a framework, or valuable lessons within a curriculum, that is one thing. But if they start making me think there is some secret shortcut to success or a
    “7-figure business”, I keep my guard up.
  • If their social media feeds are full of acolytes agreeing with every word that drops from their lips – or if followers expect them to have all the answers to the challenges in their own lives, I back away. We should never give anyone else that much power. 
  • Anyone who encourages people to go into massive debt to fund their dreams. Not responsible. And not sustainable. Just gross. I’ve heard one such current trendy expert tells her “students” that if they don’t go into debt and max out their credit cards, they don’t want it badly enough. Big no for me.

How do I know who to trust? Well, that’s harder for me to put my finger on. I value authenticity, but not manufactured authenticity. It’s kind of like pornography: You know it when you see it. With our eyes wide open, we can tell when someone is genuinely trying to help people or when they are trying to hustle them. I also value those who treat others with kindness, respect, and empathy and don’t believe they are “too good” to talk with them. And I especially value those who you can disagree with and they invite this with curiosity rather than having their authority questioned. 

We should always be questioning and conversing, not blindly following supposed influencers or experts. (TWEET THIS!)

No one has all the right answers, and we shouldn’t act like these people are gods. They are human. We can definitely be inspired by them, learn from them, and be open to new perspectives, but do so with our own self-confidence fully intact. 

Who do you love to follow and learn from? What makes you trust them? Who do you currently avoid? Would love to know so please DM me on Instagram @redslice.

Photo Credit: Zac Durant on Unsplash

 What if We Fueled Action with Love and Not Anger?

So much of what’s happening in the world right now is fueled by hate. Division. Us against them. And sadly, some of us are only moved to action when we get angry. Our blood boils, our pulse quickens, and we step into fight mode.

Rage can be a good thing if it fuels progress. And Lord knows marketers use fear, uncertainty and doubt all the time to drive people to purchase. 

But does it always have to be that way?

I’ve been reading Bell Hooks’ book All About Love: New Visions, and man, it’s impacting my heart. Hard. It has caused me to question my very definition of love in a gentle, quiet way. Her writing is beautiful, provocative, thoughtful and concise. I wish I could write like that!

A recent chapter got me thinking: What if we strive for change, social justice, human rights, and equity with love not anger? Can love be enough to kick us into action just as much as anger and fear? What if we genuinely loved our enemies, those we fear, the liars, the charlatans, the power-hungry AND still took action? Could that be enough to catalyze massive change?

I’m not talking about being passive or sitting idly by. I’m talking about taking fierce action fueled by love, not anger and pain. When we are angry, we’re so tight, scrunched up, erratic. Could we get further – and be gentler to our own psyches – if we approached social change from love, not hate? Could we listen better, persuade better, and surprise those selfish children in front of us enough with our response that their own fears and facades crumble when faced with our tenacity  – and leave them sobbing in our arms? 

Could we be more powerful if we met tyranny and hate with love-fueled action rather than anger-fueled action? What if?. (TWEET THIS!)

Do you see this possibility or think it naive? Eager to hear your thoughts on this. DM me on Instagram!

Choose Your Words Carefully

Words matter.

Choose Your Words Carefully

How we name or articulate something defines how we see it. We often get lazy and use words in the wrong way (ever heard someone say “mute” instead of “moot” point?). But that can have a profound impact on how effectively we connect with each other.

If someone says they “love” you, it should mean something, Yet, I throw around the word “love” all the time whether I’m talking about my son, TV shows or tacos.

Studies show that language linked to gender bias differently impacts men versus women in performance reviews. Labeling men as “assertive” puts them in a  positive light, but women who are described as “assertive”are seen more negatively. Same word. Different meanings depending on gender.

Words have power. They can inspire, provoke, oppress, terrorize, mislead, persuade, or comfort. (TWEET THIS!)

We have to get better at intentionally choosing our words and not taking for granted that we know what we’re both talking about .

Speaking of love, the feminist writer and cultiural icon bell hooks wrote in All About Love: New Visions (Love Song to the Nation Book 1):  “imagine how much easier it would be for us to learn how to love if we began with a shared definition. The word ‘love’ is most often defined as a noun, yet all the most astute theorists of love acknowledge that we would all love better if we use it as a verb.”

Words matter.

One person I follow on LinkedIn and who will shortly be on The Empathy Edge podcast is Suzanne Werhtheim, Ph.D. She talks about inclusive language and posts great content about different words and phrases related to inclusion and how you can say something better to be more inclusive of others.

When it comes to your message, don’t take words for granted. Have empathy for your audience so they can receive your message with open arms and take action.   Words are nuanced. Words evoke emotion, depending on the lived experience of your target audience. Choose wisely.

Stuck for words? This is my not-so-secret secret brand story weapon.

Some related posts for you:

Does Your Story Connect With Your Customers?

Go Beyond the Focus Group for Better Customer Insights

Say No…But Try it This Way

3 Tips to Differentiate Your Messaging

Gain an Empathy Advantage: Global Workshop

Furious customers and failed business launches. Dysfunctional work teams. Workplace inequity. Partnerships abandoned out of fear, projects destroyed by misunderstanding.

Almost every problem that exists in the business world can be traced back to a single, common origin: Lack of empathy. (TWEET THIS!)

When we are unwilling to place ourselves in someone else’s shoes—unwilling to talk, listen, or understand another point of view—we remain paralyzed. Instead of finding solutions, we repeat the same mistakes. This impacts our brand reputation, team productivity, customer experience and organizational performance.

Our digital world does not let us off the hook in showcasing this deeply human connection. In fact, savvy consumers today demand that brands do more than ever to connect, engage and earn their loyalty. Companies and leaders have to be more authentically empathetic in everything we do if we want to keep customers, gain market share and thrive.

Empathy is not just good for society. It’s great for business and a true competitive advantage. But what does that look like in practice?

So glad you asked! Please join me on February 17 for a unique 3 hour global workshop like no other

Branding expert, best-selling author (any my own brand mentor) Marty Neumeier and his business partner, Andy Starr created the Level C Masterclass, a certification program for the next generation of brand professionals and are now offering Artisan Workshops:

“The Artisan Series of workshops presents accomplished practitioners guiding you through focused deep-dives into the nuances of brand. They’re brilliant thinkers, bold makers, and demonstrated leaders in core disciplines, and we’re joining forces with them to bring the power of difference-making to you.”

And they invited me to facilitate Empathy Advantage on February 17, 2022!

Learn how you as leaders and marketers can amplify empathy through your work, create a more empathetic brand experience and bring your organizations along with you to create a better world.


  • How to make the business case for empathetic practices that proves bottom-line benefits and market advantages to skeptical CFOs.
  • How to gather useful customer insights and turn them into personas that better inform who they are, what they want, and what they aspire to be.
  • How to craft richer stories and experiences that speak to emotion and logic to ignite action and loyalty.
  • How to create mission, vision, and values statements that serve not just as internal motivators, but as external magnets that attract exactly the right people to your tribe.

This interactive workshop will be held online via Zoom. Network and learn from other brand leaders, marketing experts, business leaders, innovative designers and other renegades who are changing the rules and putting people and purpose first in order to lead to profit! from across the globe. Sign up right here, right now  and hope to see you on the other side!

3 Ways to Start the New Year Off Right

As we close out on another year of a global pandemic, I’m struck by how much we’ve all learned about ourselves. How we rediscovered resilience, got creative, and finally started to live authentically. And by authentically, I mean getting real about issues ranging from racial inequity to mental health to standing stronger in our own political beliefs and convictions.

Can you relate?

As we kick off a new year, you will no doubt be inundated by the blogs, emails, and social media memes telling you, once again, how to live your best life. How to make your new year spectacular! How to reach your goals! How to have a kickass 2022!

I’m not going to do that to you.

What I am going to do is share 3 wise pieces of advice and encouragement with you. Golden nuggets that you can do with what you choose: Either pick up your shield and sword and run headlong into the fray, on a mission to MAKE S%&T HAPPEN!!!  

Or, glide gently into a new year, still a bit shaken from the last two years, but with hopeful expectations and optimism.

However you choose to enter 2022, or any new year, is the right way for you (TWEET THIS!)

3 Encouraging Pieces of Advice for the New Year

  1. Define Success on your Terms: We hear this all the time but in these times, it matters more than ever. Some of us want 7 figure businesses while others simply want to enjoy watching their kids grow up. Design the life you want, according to no one else but you. Be clear about your values and use them to determine where you will focus your time, money, and energy this year. Defining our values for the year matters more than a laundry list of resolutions we will most likely break by January 15!
  2. Prioritize your Mental Health: This is less a piece of advice and more of a plea. Especially after hearing of the tragic sucide of one of my friend’s son’s college classmates. It’s okay not to be okay. We are fragile humans, regardless of our socio-economic status, where we live, what we do for a living. We have been through a lot. Thankfully, the stigma around mental health is slowly disappearing. It’s actually hard to get a therapist these days! But there are apps you can use, or modalities like yoga, acupuncture or meditation you can try. More your body. Take a break. Call a friend and cry on their shoulder. Reach out for help and support and do whatever you need to do. Make your mental health as much a priority as charging up your phone.
  3. Love Your Loves: This gem is attributed to the amazing Diane Easley. She is an entrepreneur, coach, and friend who unexpectedly lost her husband several years ago and has been preaching this concept ever since. Take the time to discern who is worth your time and energy and hold those people close. Make them a priority. Tell them what they mean to you, every chance you get. Relationships are what matter in the end. We intellectually know this, but think we’ll never run out of time. We will. So make the moments you have count.

This year, I turned 49. That means, if I’m lucky, I will likely only get 40 or 50 more new years to celebrate. Think about that. 40 or 50 more new years, summer vacations, Christmases. 

What is your number? And are you going to make this next one count in all the ways that actually matter? 

If we hold fast to these guideposts, then our year will surely be full of joy, success, and delight, come what may. Happy New Year!

More advice for the new year!

4 Ways to Shift Your Brain and Get New Ideas

My favorite ways to look at setting goals

How to redefine success with empathy

Why you are called to create something that matters

3 Ways to Be a Role Model and Influencer

Mother and Child looking at a book

Quick. Name an influencer or role model you adore. Someone you follow on social media, or listen to their podcast, or read every book they’ve ever written.

You may think you are so far from becoming that influential. And you’d be dead wrong.

My dear friend, coach Jamie Greenwood has said in the past that we get to be culture makers and culture changers. And my book The Empathy Edge was all about being a role model for success within your own sphere of influence.

You impact many more people than you realize. Your family, friends, colleagues. Those you interact with at the coffee shop or grocery store. Those you volunteer with. Those you run into on the street.

You don’t have to be some famous influencer to impact change. Here are 3 ways you can be a good role model:

  1. Motivate with love: You can ditch the old “command and control” methods and show how positive motivation far outweighs punitive action. How do you parent, lead a meeting, manage others? Examine which gets you better long-term results, engagement, and loyalty.
  2. Treat yourself with compassion: When you model that you are gentle with yourself, you show others that they can be gentle with themselves as well.  This does not mean you lower standards. It means you minimize negative self-talk and give people permission to take risks, make mistakes, and get things wrong so that they can learn and  improve for next time.
  3. Prioritize fluidly: Do you set the right boundaries and model to others that this is a path to success? Being able to prioritize differently as life comes at it is what we should strive for – not perfect balance that does not exist. Sometimes you work late when there’s a deadline. Other times, you don’t schedule meetings at 3 pm because you have to pick up your kids. When you perform and achieve while being clear on priorities, you show others what’s possible.

You have the power to define success differently. To manage your work differently, to behave differently, to love yourself differently. 

We get to be culture makers and culture changers. There is immense power in being a positive role model within your own sphere of influence. However big or small. However many Instagram followers you have! (TWEET THIS!)

More like this:

Use Your Platform for Good

How to Redefine Success with Empathy

How to Break the Rules of Success

Photo by Adam Winger on Unsplash

Let’s Redefine “Kind” in Business

Conscious capitalism. Compassionate workplace. Empathetic leadership. Kindness at work.

What do all of these terms even mean?

Many times throughout my career, I’ve dealt with dysfunctional workplace cultures, leaders who were at best disinterested and at worst emotionally abusive. Co-workers that yelled at me. Like, screaming so nonsensically, I had to hang up on them.

We talk about this behavior os “unprofessional” or “counterproductive.” But I have a better term. It is mean. It is unkind.

But what does it mean to be kind in business?

Is it simply bringing cookies to work, or covering for a coworker, or saying please and thank you? Is it letting people walk all over you, or shrinking back, or saying yes to everything? Nope.

Let’s redefine kindness in business to mean….

clarity. Being crystal clear about instructions, expectations and next steps. So no one is left unprepared or guessing.

...listening. Holding space for other ideas and viewpoints with judgment or defensiveness.

managing expectations. So one is ever disappointed. Contracts, agreements, clearly worded objectives and goals.

random praise. It’s not always about telling people what they can do better. It’s about sharing what someone did well, and doing it everyday. Not just during a performance review or project debrief.

good timing. Showing up on time to respect someone’s time. Managing meetings so goals are met in a timely manner. Knowing when to share something with the group and when a private conversation is required.  Giving feedback in a timely manner.

…having tough conversations. Not avoiding conflict but openly and directly discussing when tensions are running high. It’s kind to address issues rather than sit on them and fume.

…loving honesty and directness. Honestly saying what you think and how you feel because you genuinely care. “I share this because I want was is best for the team and for you” versus “I share this to cut your down, shame you and make you feel bad.” See also Good Timing as a complement to this.

...admitting when you’re wrong. You respect others when you admit you were wrong about something and find a way forward together. You set a model that failure is okay and risk-taking is encouraged.

Clarity, listening, managing expectations and all the rest may seem like simply good communication tactics. And they are. But when done with love and respect for others as individuals and thinking, feeling, human beings, they become kindness. (TWEET THIS!)

More on how kindness and empathy show up at work:

Why does purpose matter?

5 ways your business can make the world a better place

3 ways to practice empathy at work

How to redefine success with empathy

Use your platform to do good

Photo Credit: Andrew Thornebrooke on Unsplash

3 Tips to Deliver a Great Speech

Maria Ross - 3 Tips to Deliver a Great Speech

Have you had to deliver this yet? That once-in-a-lifetime speech.

You know the kind of speech I’m referring to: the pivotal presentation that defines a person, cause or culture — that crucial communications moment your audience members will remember for weeks afterward. 

This could be a TEDx talk, like one I recently did for TEDx CWRU, or your first all-hands meeting as CEO, or your plea to the United Nations for funding, or your crucial VC meeting where the entire future of your dream and company are riding on a YES.

The best speeches are those where the stakes are high to inspire and convince (TWEET THIS!)

Here are 3 tips on how to deliver a great speech (Adapted from an original article I wrote for Entrepreneur)

1. Make your first words count.

“First words matter. Make them better,” communications catalyst Dia Bondi reminds us. Bondi helps women ask for more in their careers and lives and has helped executives, humanitarians and government officials prepare compelling speeches. She knows the deal.

Dia understands how to bring crucial communications moments into stark relief: “Your time on stage will be defined by the first words you utter into the mic,” she says. “Starting strong tells us what the rest of your time will be like, who you are and what you’ll be expecting of us as you move through your content.” 

Dia advises: “You’ll know how best to start if you write your first words last. Get your story out on paper, speak it through once or twice and then ask yourself, What is the most compelling verbal entry point for your time on stage? A metaphor? A personal story? An image on the screen that provokes?”

2. Use emotion and logic to motivate.

We are humans. And even the most tech-driven B2B companies re now learnding that you hav to appeal to emotion as much, if not more than, you appeal to logic if you want to persuade people. 

When you’re delivering a high-stakes speech, your No. 1 goal is always to get someone, somewhere to act differently. Never lose sight of this goal. 

Ghostwriter and editor (and my fabulous writing partner!) Sally McGraw warns you to not mistake persuasion purely as presenting data and facts. 

McGraw has helped authors around the world craft compelling proposals and pitch letters to successfully secure deals. “In my experience,” she says, “persuasion is more about the heart than the mind. If you want to sway someone to your side, you need to convince them emotionally as well as logically.” 

Authors of Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, Chip and Dan Heath heavily researched the best ways to convince people to make a change. They use the metaphor of the Elephant and the Rider. Every human in your audience has an emotional Elephant side and a rational Rider side. To move them to act differently, you’ve got to address both sides.

3. Succeed at being you.

When I was prepping my TEDx talk, I asked successful speaker, activist and entrepreneur Taylor Conroy, “How can I avoid delivering a cliche ‘TEDX TALK’, to avoid being a parody of them all??” He smiled and replied, “Be yourself. That’s how you avoid being a ‘typical’ TEDx cliche. No one else presents like you.” Wise words! Get your head in the game, prepare, leave yourself time, practie presence and then just go in there and BE YOU.

Structure your talk like a story and remember that the audience is there specifically to be inspired, to be persuaded. They want you to succeed just as much as you do. They don’t want to waste their time listening to a failed speech, either. You are both after the same goal.

Giving the speech of a lifetime is an amazing opportunity. While it might feel like intense pressure, know that if you are well prepared, the odds are good you’ll hit it out of the park. Take these tips with you. The next time you step up to speak, you’ll deliver a speech that gets things moving.

Do you need a dynamic speaker that can knock it out of the park for your next workshop, conference, or corporate event? Let’s inspire and ignite your audience! Discover what I can offer you as an empathy speaker, brand speaker or motivational speaker. Would love to chat!

Photo Credit: 

How to Redefine Success with Empathy

Modern market trends, as well as the pandemic, show us that leaders and brands acting with genuine empathy are winning right now. When companies have been there for the community, valued employees, even made tough decisions like layoffs or closures with respect – the market has paid attention.

Just look at the media attention lavished on Zoom for offering free K-12 access to schools, Salesforce offering extended paid family care leave, or Starbucks increasing employee mental health benefits.

Beyond that, Research shows that Millenials and Gen Z demand a new kind of work culture. 71% of them want their workplace to feel like a second family. Top talent will no longer accept workplaces that don’t see, hear, and value diverse viewpoints. They’re demaniding respect. Work life balance. Empathy.

Companies and leaders ignore this shift at their own financial peril.

But why? Is it simply because you are too caught up in the day to day fires and stress to strengthen that muscle? 

Sometimes we avoid developing good habits because it’s easier to stick with the bad habits we know. Don’t let this happen with your leadership style. (TWEET THIS!)

There are so many organizational benefits to adopting an empathetic lens. Even if you need that kind of external motivation to ignite internal change, that’s fine. Just get there….before it’s too late.

Don’t wait for your CEO or “others” in your company to issue some decree. Start where you are. Be a new model of success in your own sphere of influence, wherever your sit. If you act with empathy through genuine curiosity, active listening, practicing presence – you’ll be able to get more done and be successful. You’ll reap all the rewards that research and experience shows empathetic leaders enjoy.

And when others see your path to success, you’ll start that ripple effect “Wow, look at how she operates. I can find success that way, too”  

You redefine success for others when you show them a model. They now see it’s possible to be compassionate and competitive. Ambitious and empathetic, Representation matters.  

We can bring influential leaders on board by showing them how empathy positively impacts the bottom line. And their behavior can have an exponential impact in redefining success.

Check out The Empathy Edge podcast to discover more real-world stories of leaders and brands that are redefining success through empathy.  

More reading for you about empathy as a new model for success:

 3 Leadership and Innovation Lessons form 50 Interviews

3 Ways to Show More Empathy to Your Customers

Does Empathy Make You A Better Leader…and Thought Leader?

Photo Credit: @smartworkscoworking via Unsplash

Representation Matters

Be Resilient. Stretch. Adapt. Succeed.

If motherhood has taught me any important lesson that has benefitted my business the most, it is this:

Be resilient.

My son is now four-and-a-half and he tests my patience, grace and sanity on a daily basis.

But he’s also taught me how to think on my feet, come up with creative solutions, adapt on the fly and roll with the punches.

Yes. Motherhood has made me elastic. ☺

When he won’t do as he’s told, I come up with creative ways to motivate him into action. No, yelling does not work most of the time, but I sometimes forget that. NOTE: My on-the-fly winning games and stories will be fodder for future children‘s books, mark my words!

When he’s hurt or upset, I put down what I’m doing and focus on him – no small feat for me. I have learned to adapt to quickly shifting my attention.

When he asks questions that stump me (“Mommy, what does ‘ever’ mean?”) I dig deep, think hard and learn how to explain things in a new way (or figure out where to look them up.)

All of these actions require resilience. I must stretch and bend to be creative, thoughtful and innovative.  I must not let failure or the unexpected knock me down.

And, damn, it feels good to flex those muscles!

There is no better lesson for anyone in business.

Resilience is a trickster: It helps you stand firm against the wind while still propelling you forward at the same time. (TWEET THIS!)

The winds will knock you. Work will paralyze you. Failures will upend you. But never stop growing, expanding, stretching, learning…..all while STANDING TALL.

Learn how to bounce back from criticism and failure. Or at least learn how to keep you head up and filter criticism so you can find the seeds of improvement.

Read more about varied topics. Dive deep. Go beyond the surface and fluff.

When you get stuck, learn how to extend out and grab inspiration.

Photo by Swaraj Tiwari on Unsplash