Get ready for a captivating conversation that explores the intersection of marketing, customer experience, and organizational transformation. Today’s episode is a testament to the power of thinking differently, co-opting big ideas, and, most importantly, fostering a culture of collaboration and growth. Whether you are a seasoned executive, an aspiring leader, or an individual fascinated by the dynamics of C-suite roles, join us as we unravel the intricacies of leadership with Johann Wrede.

Johann Wrede serves as the Chief Experience Officer (CMO + CCO) at Emburse, a global leader in spend optimization. With a strategic focus on ensuring every Emburse employee contributes to delivering a best-in-class customer experience, Johann plays a pivotal role in shaping the company’s commitment to excellence. Moreover, Johann has built large followerships and successfully orchestrated organizational and operating model transformations to meet evolving business needs. His ability to cultivate high-performing teams and foster a culture of collaboration and personal growth has consistently delivered strong business results and attracted top-tier talent.

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    1. What do effective leadership, marketing, and customer experience entail for a C-suite leader?
    2. How can one influence a mindset shift in enterprise events?
    3. What are the critical marketing skills and leadership qualities that Johann finds essential?
    4. What is the importance of broadening skill sets in marketing?
    5. Why does Johann believe that leading with executive presence is crucial for becoming a strong leader?

    Control is an illusion. The best we can hope for is influence.”

    Johann Wrede



    [05:25] The Hybrid Role of a Chief Experience Officer

    [12:43] Transforming the Marketing Landscape

    [18:10] Breaking Barriers: A Journey Through Pushback and Transformation

    [22:50] Beyond Marketing: A Holistic Approach to Professional Growth and Leadership

    [29:15] Signature Segment: Garima’s LATTOYG Tactics of Choice: Leading with Executive Presence

    [32:58] Signature Segment: Johann’s entry into the LATTOYG Playbook: Energizing Leadership: Thriving at the Top of Your Game

    [36:16] Signature Segment: Karan’s Take


    Johann Wrede is a dynamic and results-driven Chief Experience Officer (CMO + CCO) known for his enthusiasm for transformation, leadership, and value creation. As a seasoned executive with global P&L responsibility, Johann brings a unique blend of technical and business acumen to the table. With a rich background spanning various marketing disciplines, he has demonstrated his prowess in driving success across diverse customer segments, from enterprise and mid-market to SMBs and across industries.

    Johann’s track record is marked by remarkable achievements, consistently delivering triple-digit YoY growth through strategic go-to-market execution and implementing modern, data-driven, multi-channel marketing strategies. Moreover, his expertise lies in crafting compelling marketing strategies that resonate with audiences throughout the customer journey, from awareness to advocacy. Known for his storytelling approach, Johann also excels in messaging and positioning, creating market differentiation, and inspiring engagement among target audiences.




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    Episode Sponsor

    This podcast episode is sponsored by Shockingly Different Leadership, the leader in on-demand People, Talent Development & Organizational Effectiveness professional services, all designed to up-level leader capability and optimize workforces to do their best work.

    Click the plus button on the tab to access the written transcript:

    Episode 56| Rethinking the Wow Factor in the Customer Journey with Johann Wrede

    Johann Wrede  00:00

    Part of the thinking is that where companies often go wrong, is they make promises to their customers that they can’t necessarily. And that’s often created by a disconnect because the teams that make the promises before the contract gets signed, are often completely disconnected from the teams that have to deliver on this promise.


    Voiceover  00:24

    Welcome to the “Lead at the Top of Your Game” podcast, where we equip you to more effectively lead your seat at any employer, business, or industry in which you choose to play. Each week, we help you sharpen your leadership acumen by cracking open the playbooks of dynamic leaders who are doing big things in their professional endeavors. And now, your host, leadership tactics, and organizational development expert, Karan Ferrell-Rhodes.


    Karan Rhodes  00:59

    Hey there superstars This is Karan and thanks for joining another episode designed to help you to better lead at the top of your game. Boy am I doing the Snoopy dance today because I am so excited to present you a whopper of an episode. On today’s show, we feature an executive who navigated so many of the career challenges that many of you are currently tackling right now. For example, for example, first he climbed the corporate ladder at a major tech company to provide irreplaceable value, which impacted the bottom line. He also learned how to gain the visibility of decision makers and use the magic of social proof to achieve big, audacious goals. And he was able to create his own C suite role at his current employer which is amazing. Our guest today shares these stories and more and we’re so happy to have Johann Wrede, who is the chief experience officer at inverse and inverse is the global leader in SPIN optimization. If you don’t know it’s been optimization is it’s like expense reporting, travel management purchasing accounts payable, I think you get the picture. But previous to this role. Johann was the Chief Marketing Officer at exactly, and the head of creative brand and advertising at s AP to get your notebook out because his stories are not only captivating, but they contain advice that you can implement tomorrow at 8am sharp. And as always be sure to stay tuned for just two minutes after the episode to listen to my closing thoughts. Karan’s take which is a segment where I share a tip on how to use insights from today’s episode to further sharpen your leadership acumen. And now enjoy the show. Hey there superstars This is Karan and welcome to another episode of the elite at the top of your game podcast. We are so happy that you joined us again this week and we have a fantastic episode and guests in store for you. We are so pleased to have on today’s show. Mr. Johann Wrede, who is the chief experience officer at Emburse is a global leader in SPIN optimization. And if you’re wondering what spin optimization is, it is corporate expenses like explicit management, travel management, purchasing accounts payable, I think you get the flavor there. But they have a suite of solutions that really help organizations of all sizes manage their spend. And previous to this role. Johann was the Chief Marketing Officer at exactly. And before that he was the head of creative brand and advertising at SAP. So boy does he has some experience and I bet some stories to tell. So welcome to the podcast, Johann.


    Johann Wrede  03:49

    Thanks, Karan. I’m super excited to be here.


    Karan Rhodes  03:51

    Oh, we’re super honored to have you. Well, we really want to dig into your background and experiences as a leader especially as a C suite leader because a lot of our you know audience members are either in corporate America or they’re in the C suite of smaller firms. So I know they’re probably had their notebooks out. They want to learn the good, bad and ugly of what you’ve experienced. But before we go there for as much as you feel comfortable, we’d love to get a sneak peek into maybe a bit of your personal life.


    Johann Wrede  04:23

    Uhh, well, I live in beautiful Bedford, New Hampshire, which is a suburb halfway between Manchester and Nashua. For those who know the the New Hampshire area, I live with my partner, Amy and we have two kids. One is 20. And he’s out on his own and one is is 17 and is a rising senior in high school and all that goes along with the college search. We’re in the middle of all of that, and I’m kind of a nerd I love. I have a lot of hobbies and interests that range from home automation. I love to play golf. I have an interest in wine and bourbon and I mean, we could probably talk for the next 20 minutes about got all the stuff I’m interested in. But I love to learn and try new things.


    Karan Rhodes  05:04

    You know, I do too, I think we are kindred spirits. Number one, my husband would love to go golfing with you because he’s a golf fanatic. And then number two, my dream one day is to be a symbol Yay. So I bet we could talk offline about a lot of our faves there. Well, it’s glad we’re happy to have you on the podcast. Johann. So let us start cracking open some of the insights to your own leadership playbook. And to give it context, I’d love to hear about what you’re currently doing at Emburse, and then maybe an overview of some of the what you did at SAP as well.


    Johann Wrede  05:48

    Yeah, I guess I’ll start with my role, which is an interesting, new type of a C suite role. So chief experience officer, some of your listeners may be wondering, what the heck is that, exactly? So at Emburse, the chief experience officer is a hybrid role, where I’m responsible for both the marketing organization and our customer success organization. And I feel really lucky because I had the opportunity to work with our CEO to define the role. And then I wound up being able to take the role. So that was, that’s like the most exciting part. But part of the thinking is that where companies often go wrong, is they make promises to their customers, that they that they can’t necessarily keep. And that’s often created by a disconnect, because the teams that make the promises before the contract gets signed, are often completely disconnected from the teams that have to deliver on those promises. And so by taking marketing, which is sort of the seat of the brand promise, it’s where we write the messaging and create the positioning, and we make all the glossy, beautiful things that tell you how great your experience is going to be. And putting that together with customer success, which is the team whose job it is to ensure that you get the value you were expecting to get. But putting those two organizations together, we now have a bridge, we have a bridge between the people who write the copy where we make the promise and the people who have to go out and keep that promise and talk to the customers and have hard conversations. And we’re already seeing I’ve been in this in this role. Now for about five months, we’re already seeing that bearing fruit, because there are so many conversations happening between CSMs and marketers, and the marketers had no idea what the customer experience really was like. And the CSMs had actually no idea what marketing had to offer in terms of content and assets that they could share with their customers. Because oftentimes, the people who evaluate and buy the product are not the people who wind up using the product. And so being able to connect the dots in both directions, has already started to bear fruit. And that’s why I’m so passionate about this role and about customer experience in general, because now we have a model that we can look at our business we can use to look at our business in a different way. And that’s exciting to see the benefit not only to the customer, but also to the employees.


    Karan Rhodes  08:20

    And that so makes sense, because my listeners know I my last corporate gig was at Microsoft, I worked almost 14 years there. And about half of the time there, I supported the sales division. And I still remember back then we had those separate, they were in silos, we had marketing. And then we did have a customer success unit. And there may have been some liaisons like every now and there, again, between the leaders of both, but they didn’t work very close together. And I think that may have been a big mess. And it sounds like by combining those and customizing for your industry, that that’s really been very successful and fruitful for Emburse, am I correct?


    Johann Wrede  09:13

    It is I mean, well, we’re five minutes into the journey. So we’re still in the early stages. But you know, I think even the mindset shift, because and when you think about the influence that the organization has beyond the boundaries of of the group that I lead, right, marketing does sales enablement, so the messages that marketing creates, the promises are repeated by sales, and then sales has to hand off to implementation, and then implementation brings customer success in and so we’re bookending the process. And so the implementation people are used to working with a customer success people and the salespeople are used to working with the marketing people. And so now we’ve got influence on both ends, and we’re bookending that customer journey To create more consistency, so it allows us to have a sphere of influence well beyond the scope of the team, and influence the way that sellers are positioning and influence the way that the implementation folks are connecting with the customer. And when we think about customer journeys, and this is something I would encourage your audience to, to really lean into is look at your job and the work that your teams are doing not through the lens of the employee, but rather, think about it the way the customer sees it. And when we operate in these silos, where every team does their own thing, and then there’s a handoff, and then the next team does their thing. And there’s a handoff, usually those handoffs is where the whole thing breaks down.


    Karan Rhodes  10:42

    You’re right, yes.


    Johann Wrede  10:43

    So I had someone say, your website was amazing. And then I had a salesperson who didn’t know that I had downloaded the stuff on your website. And then I bought the software from the salesperson, and the implementation team showed up and didn’t know what I bought. And then I got through the implementation, and the customer success manager came on board and had no idea what the challenges in my implementation were


    Karan Rhodes  11:03

    Right, right.


    Johann Wrede  11:04

    And so the customer is like, Oh, I had to


    Karan Rhodes  11:06

    explain to everybody.


    Johann Wrede  11:08

    Yeah, right. And so. So when we think about the customer journey, and we think about the whole business, and this is part of my, you know, again, since we’re talking about leadership here, part of my job as an executive is to influence my peers on the executive leadership team, to think about the work they do in the context of the customer experience. And so we’re rolling out a new billing platform. And, you know, certainly the finance team is of this mindset, like, Hey, we’re rolling out a billing platform, it’s a new tool, you know, it’s going to help us with all these great things,


    Karan Rhodes  11:41



    Johann Wrede  11:41

    But there’s actually this huge customer benefit, that we have to mark it. And it’s not a product benefit, it’s not a feature or function of the software that we deliver, it’s actually an experience benefit. Because it allows our customers now to log into a portal like they do with their cell phone provider or electric company, right, you can go and you can log in, you can see all of your historic invoices, you can see exactly what the charges were, you can see why you were charged, you can set up your payment options, and all of that in a very consumerized way, which is what customers want.


    Karan Rhodes  12:16

    That’s right.


    Johann Wrede  12:17

    But of course, the finance team is in charge of implementing this thing. And they’re just thinking about the benefit to the business and to their team. And I’m like, Oh my gosh, we need to market this. It’s actually a benefit to the customer.


    Karan Rhodes  12:26

    That’s right!


    Johann Wrede  12:27

    So so like thinking, you know, my job is to influence all of my my peers on the on the executive leadership team to use that customer lens and apply that to their business. And then we discover all of these amazing things that we’re doing. And we’re not talking about,


    Karan Rhodes  12:43

    Right. Well, I think you’re right now I think they have the right person in the job. So five months in, I think you’re doing fantastic, from my perspective anyway. One of the things we do love to highlight are kind of real life case studies, things that you have gone through. And one of the reasons why we’re zoning in on SAP is you were kind enough to share how you influence the transfer, marketing transformation and how SAP thought about their content and how you galvanize the marketing team. And so I’d love our listeners to hear that story a bit. The good and the ugly, because I know it was all perfect, probably. But how did you help empower that transformation? for SAP?


    Johann Wrede  13:27

    Yeah, it’s an interesting one. And I think I love that story best. And the reason I put it forward is because you know, SAP has 100,000 employees. It’s a big, big company. You may know, but yeah, it’s, you know, much like Microsoft, Microsoft is even bigger, right? And so it’s not often that you have a sense of being able to really influence an organization that’s that big. And I had the good fortune of being asked by our CMO to step into this job. It was, I think, three roles back at SAP to build and lead a content marketing group. And it was an interesting journey, because when I embarked on it, I sort of took a more conventional approach of, you know, we assembled the team and we started coming up with content frameworks and trying to evangelize content marketing within the organization. And this is, you know, now some years back. So, content marketing then wasn’t what content marketing is now, but very quickly, it became obvious that, you know, a small group inside of a really big organization is challenged to have an impact. And so I took an unconventional approach. And I thought about okay, if I can’t drive an impact with my little team, and my small budget, whose budget can I steal, and whose spotlight Can I grab to get attention on my topic


    Karan Rhodes  14:50



    Johann Wrede  14:51

    And there is no bigger spotlight than sapphire which is saps premier event and you know, unfortunately because of CO Have it kind of, you know, the whole events industry changed overnight. But pre COVID, it was 25,000 people coming to Orlando, Florida, a million square feet of show floor space, it was the big show. And, and I thought, okay, if I can influence this event, and if I can transform the way that we use content, I will get every because every marketer in SAP was focused on sapphire, because it was such a big thing for marketing. And I thought, if I change the way, we do content at Sapphire, that will influence everybody’s thinking about the power of content and how to use content in their marketing efforts all year long. And so I found a really great partner in the global events organization, Nicola Kasner. She’s a really dear friend of mine. And she was open and receptive to partnering with me to rethink how sapphire got built. And we transition that event from being built as an experience, to being built as a content showcase, and fundamentally approach everything from space design, agenda, orchestration, show floor layout, like all of it, to act as the picture frame for the content, rather than the way that the focus had always been the event was supposed to be the star. And it really shifted, everybody’s thinking, we changed the rules on speakers that they had to come in with beautiful presentations. And they had to have customers in their presentations. And they had to tell stories. And so we really transformed the content. And then we designed to show around the content. And it had a massive impact on the way that every marketer thought about the importance of content, and the way the content, the consumption of content mattered. Because now we were designing an experience around the content. And for me, personally, that suddenly transformed, that transformed my role. And I was then asked to take over the leadership of, of global events at SAP, of course, that content thinking into all of our events globally. And then after leading global events, for a while, my cmo asked me to take on creative brand and advertising job, because we needed to drive content thinking into our advertising and into our brand creative, so that we were emphasizing not just the brand, because, you know, we had seen commercials we the company had done all these great commercials with with well known actors, and people would still ask, so I saw the commercial, but what do you do? Right, and we needed to get the content into the advertising. So people understood that it was about end to end business process, and, you know, ERP and beyond. And so it was, it was a really interesting journey for me, because I had co opted this really big thing, which led me to my next career step. And then my subsequent career step. And those are the things that ultimately prepared me for the C suite and to leave SAP and become a chief marketing officer.


    Karan Rhodes  18:10

    Wow. I want to go back to when you all came up with that idea, originally, having been in helped lead huge events like that. I can only imagine there was a sum. I don’t know how much but you have to tell us how much some pushback because those big signature events for enterprise level companies, it’s really hard to influence a mind shift or sometimes influence a mind shift around it because it is such a behemoth of a project or an event to carry off that, you know, any kind of tweaks have domino effect. So I’m curious when you propose the idea. Did you ever get any pushback? And if so how did you address it with your colleagues?


    Johann Wrede  19:02

    So my career, like I spent a lot of time in sales. So I used all of my selling skills, I used all of my marketing skills. And at SAP, we had a saying, you know, we would form the coalition of the willing. And I had been there for, you know, my career at SAP span, 15 years. And so I knew a lot of people, you know, I was a decade in, and I knew a lot of people in the business. And so I formed that coalition. And I got people on board, and had examples looked for look for data, look for insights, I had a really strong relationship with my CMO. And that certainly helped. But at the end of the day, it was about showing everybody how their objectives would be better achieved by taking a different approach and sort of saying, Look, you know, you can have the outcome that you’ve always had by doing the event the way you’ve always done it,


    Karan Rhodes  19:59



    Johann Wrede  20:00

    But understand, like the industry is moving on, people are looking for different kinds of experience. And at the end of the day, the question we have to ask ourselves is, is this experience Adding to all the work we’re doing? Right? Is the whole greater than the sum of the parts? Or is it just another part? And in a world, I think, I think maybe part of the benefit, too, was timing, because budgets for getting getting tightened. Yeah, you know, we had an activist investor in the business and, and everybody was scrutinizing expenses. And so part of my message was to say, You’re doing all this work all year long in marketing, across marketing, but then everybody treats sapphire as this one off, it’s like, we don’t we build all this content for Sapphire. And then we put it aside, and we go back to the regularly scheduled program. And that’s not that, like, that’s wasteful. It’s like going to the grocery store and just using the plastic bags at the store, instead of bringing your your your reusable bags, right. Like, we bought the reusable bag, we built the the reusable bag for Sapphire. If we do it, right, we can capture all that content, we can reuse that content, we can repurpose that content, if you design it correctly, you’re you’re creating a live moment that’s integrated into your digital motions, so that you can bring your audience on this journey. And suddenly now there’s an opportunity to get that audience out in person engaged. And it’s, it’s it’s a continuous thing. It’s not a disruptive thing. And it made sense. And I think that might have been, you know, this confluence of it makes sense. It supports the goal of doing more with less budget. And there were sort of enough voices that were like, Hey, we should give this a try. It looks good to enlist the support from broadly from across marketing. And quite honestly, I have to say, the events team, they were so incredible to work with, because they are people who enjoy a challenge. They love innovating in event experiences. And we actually won awards, we were recognized in the events industry for the work that we did on the on the 2019 Sapphire. So for me, it was on that. Thank you. Congratulations to the team. They did the hard work. It was it was you know, yes, I had some ideas, but it was then that that actually leaned in and executed on it. And that that to me is the the testament right is can you bring the team together? And again, you know, coming back to the theme of this podcast, that’s really what leadership is about, right? Finding a way to bring the team together, rally around an idea, build that consensus, get the Coalition of the Willing formed, and then and then go execute


    Karan Rhodes  22:50

    Love it. Absolutely love it. And I’m just curious, Johann, because you’re, you know, such an expert in this space. What do you think marketing professionals really miss as they build up their skill sets? What should they know more about and learn more about and focus on if the if those who, and there are quite a few that listen to the podcasts that are in this space? What do you recommend for them to kind of double down on to help build their capability in you know, the marketing or content or sales arenas,


    Johann Wrede  23:26

    Everything that’s not marketing. Really.


    Karan Rhodes  23:29

    anyone say that, tell me more.


    Johann Wrede  23:33

    So I kind of had maybe this is a factor of how I got to where I got to, I started as a coder, I started programming when I was six, got a degree in Information Systems, I studied electrical engineering, and then moved into information systems. i My first job out of college, I was a programmer, and I wrote code I implemented I went from writing software to implementing software to selling software and taking software to market I was part of a go to market launch team for business by design, which was saps first cloud ERP product, and then I went into marketing after that. So I learned a lot about the rest of the business. And I think the challenge if you’re a marketer, who has sort of come up through marketing, you’ve got a marketing degree and you worked in marketing and you’ve, you’ve progressed, first of all, it’s really important to understand all of marketing. So if you’re like a demand gen person or a digital marketer, like go learn events, go learn campaign development, go learn brand, understand the value of of design, right? Get conversant in those topics. If you’ve already got a lot of that under your belt, like get out there and learn sales, dig in with the sales ops people understand the sales motion, go sit in and listen to people cold call, like I had to build a territory. I had a cold call my way to building a territory. So I have a huge amount of empathy for STRS BDRs who are out there pounding the phones trying to get a customer to pick up and say, Yes, I’ll take a meeting. And that is what makes you valuable as a leader. Because it’s not only about sort of having a playbook or knowing how to run your function, it’s about being able to look at the leader that’s sitting across from you from a different team, from a different department, and saying, I deeply understand the pain that you’re in, because I understand the business processes and where the blockers are, and what the challenges are. So I can help you. And if you don’t understand the rest of the business, I think that’s where that glass ceiling hits, where you’re like, I’ve done all the right things I once had a I once had a marketer say to me, I don’t understand why I don’t get promoted. I’ve been so you know, like, I’ve really gone deep, I’ve like learned all this stuff. And I’ve seen all these other people who’ve jumped around inside the company, and then all these different things, and they keep getting promoted. And I was my message back was like, Do you think there’s a correlation, adverse experiences and had different stuff. And they were in marketing, they left marketing and they sold for a while or they went into customer success. And then they came back and we’ve taken those those circuitous routes, have picked up skill sets that go beyond their department, which makes them valuable, because they can then interface with those other teams in a more authentic and more connected way. So that’s my, you know, my, my, my urgent ask of marketers is, like, get out there, and learn more about what’s happening outside the walls of marketing, because it will make you a better marketer.


    Karan Rhodes  26:41

    You know, I so agree with that, Johann, cuz, you know, being in the, you know, people strategy and talent fields. I’ve been, you know, in a million of the rooms with the C suite, when we’re talking about when what professionals are employees in the business are more valuable than others. And I’m sorry, listeners, we do have those conversations business leaders do. And you’re so right, the ones that get the added value tag, or those that have a very diverse experience, base, and skill set, and are able to apply it in different ways in the business. So definitely heed Johann’s advice around that. Get out there branch out, learn it. And it’s just not marking, I’d say any profession, any profession that you’re in, if there are any segments or teams that you touch, get out their job shadow, get to know them, and put the pieces of the puzzle together on how you can best increase your value and be of support because they will remember that and that’s what the higher ups end up hearing. You know, it definitely positions you for either promotions, or at least new opportunities, you know, to broaden your skill set. So totally agree.


    Johann Wrede  27:57

    And to take us back to where we started. What’s interesting is, in this role, I’m learning something new, I’ve never led a customer success organization. So no matter no matter where you are in your career, old dogs can learn new tricks.


    Karan Rhodes  28:13

    Not a day over 21 Johann!



    Oh, this white beard says otherwise. But if you if you have that mindset of you know, I want to take the skills I’ve learned and I want to go and find new things and bring it in. Right. I’ve spent a lot of time talking about customer experience. And I’ve looked at customer journeys, and I’ve thought about what happens after the sale? And what are those steps. So I’ve spent time thinking about it, I’ve interacted with customer success teams. And so now I’ve turned that into a new role for myself where I’m learning and I’m growing as a leader because not only do I you know, I’ve been a chief marketing officer, I understand marketing deeply. I’ve spent a lot of time there. Now I’m really getting to understand the world of customer success. And I’m broadening my, my leadership portfolio. So I think that part of the message here is you’re never too senior, to stop thinking about how do I broaden my skill set? How do I go and learn more about disciplines that are adjacent to or outside of, of what I do today?


    Karan Rhodes  29:15

    No. I love that. I love that. And you know it now it makes a lot of sense. Johan Nina, we always love to ask our guests, you know which of the leadership tactics that I write about in my book really resonated with them. And you were so kind to share quite a few but one in particular was leading with executive presence and listeners, if you remember leading with executive presence is all about kind of influence. It’s all about having very influential presentations or conversations in order to influence others to follow your lead and you have to be very prepared and be very focused on what their pain points are. And it’s not about you, it’s about the person that you’re talking to. So can You share your thoughts on why you think leading with executive presence is really key as to becoming a really strong leader.


    Johann Wrede  30:07

    Well, I think, you know, the stories I’ve shared, the theme that you’ll see is is that influence?


    Karan Rhodes  30:14

    Yeah, absolutely.


    Johann Wrede  30:16

    Even as a C suite, executive control is an illusion, right? We can’t throw people, we can’t make people do things. It’s just, it’s a fundamental truth, if you’ve ever tried to get a child to clean their room, and they’re, they’re digging their heels in, and they’re saying no, or if you watch like people with toddlers, and they’re trying to feed them, and the kid just has their mouth shut, and they’re shaking their head, like, you’re not getting the spoon in their mouth. happen, if they don’t want to let it happen, it’s not going to happen. So, you know, I’ve always thought about controls and illusion, the best that we can hope for is influence. And that means that we have to sell our ideas to others, we have to influence them, to consider what we have to say, and be open to saying yes, to beat it, to adopting it. And then sometimes we have to plant the seed like the movie Inception, right? Like the the most artful, artful form of influence, is getting someone else to think that your idea was their idea.


    Karan Rhodes  31:17

    That’s right.


    Johann Wrede  31:18

    And, and if you can do that, right, and as an executive, I think it’s, I never think about, oh, I want to be credited for my ideas. That’s like, I think that’s, that’s actually a place where a lot of people go wrong earlier in their career, they get worried somebody’s going to steal their idea. My philosophy was always, hey, I’m going to have another idea in five minutes. If you love my idea, go take it and go run with it.


    Karan Rhodes  31:42

    And most people won’t even take it and run with it, they’ll you know what I mean?


    Johann Wrede  31:46

    Yea! So I think that’s where ability to create influence, build consensus, persuade other people. That’s why That’s why this theme of executive presence otherwise, that’s really what I think executive presence is all about is being able to create that coalition of the willing and get people to do it. And I think actually, for a lot of people who aspire to be leaders who might be individual contributors, today, there is a golden period. And I say this to people all the time, when I have mentorship conversations, there is a golden period in your career, where you will have the opportunity to lead people without having to manage them. And that means you can have great ideas and go find followers because all it takes to make you a leader is to find one


    Karan Rhodes  32:35

    one follower, Yes.


    Johann Wrede  32:37

    Who says, Okay, I’m with you tell me what we’re gonna do. And I’m in I’m going to support you, right? Find that follower, or that group of followers, and you inspire them with your ideas, and they’ll follow you. And guess what, you don’t have to approve their expense reports, you don’t have to deal with HR issues, you don’t have to do annual reviews, you don’t have to make compensation decisions, you are unburdened from the all of the hard part of management, and you just get to lead. So I often I encourage people who who want to eventually become managers, I’m like, look, take advantage of the golden time when you’re not a manager, but you are senior enough to have ideas and influence and develop your leadership skills, then. Because if you get promoted into a management job, and you’re, you’re like suddenly having to plan budgets and having to manage vacation times, and, and all the annual reviews and all the write ups and all the check ins with HR and all that stuff, you’re going to have less time to actually leave. And if you haven’t built the leadership muscle, if that’s not second nature by them, it’ll be really hard to build both skill sets. So anyway, that’s my advice on leadership and why executive presence is so important.


    Karan Rhodes  33:49

    Oh, thank you. That’s priceless. Johann absolutely prices. And I definitely agree with that, too. Well, before we let you go, I got to ask you one last question. Because you are so accomplished. You everyone can tell you’re high energy have a lot of insights. I’m just curious, what is it take for you to lead at the top of your game?


    Johann Wrede  34:11

    I think I think it’s about emotional energy. That is really at the end of the day. When you reach the C suite, your biggest job is to keep everybody else energized. And so you might be having a bad day. But you can’t let that show you have to. And it’s not about being fake, but it’s about finding that energy to say look, I’m with you. I understand this is hard. I’m going to be by your side. I’m going to carry you when you need to be carried. I’m going to drag you when you need to be dragged. I’m going to push you when you need to be pushed, like we’re in this together. I’m going to roll up my sleeves and having that energy that is what it takes to lead at the top of my game.


    Karan Rhodes  34:49

    Awesome. Well, this has been absolutely wonderful Johann. There were tons of nuggets that I definitely wrote down and I hope our listeners did as well. Before I let you go, we’re gonna have all your information in the show notes. But would you like to give voice to where people can find you? And also more information about Emberson? In case they’re curious?


    Johann Wrede  35:14

    Yeah, you can, you can find information about Emburse at, it’s And you can find me on LinkedIn. I’m the only Johann Wrede on LinkedIn. So you can find me there


    Karan Rhodes  35:27

    Won’t be hard to find you at all. Well, thank you so much for the gift of your time. We really appreciate you joining the podcast Johann.


    Johann Wrede  35:37

    Thanks, Karan. This has been a lot of fun.


    Karan Rhodes  35:39

    And thank you to listeners for joining our episode, please be sure to like and subscribe to the episode and share with just one friend so that we can also help them to lead to the top of their game. See you next week. I hope you enjoyed our conversation today with Johann Wrede, the chief experience officer at Emburse. Links to his bio his entry into our leadership playbook and additional resources can be found in the show notes, both on your favorite podcast platform of choice and on the web at And now for Karan’s Take on today’s topic of the customer journey. Now in order for any great leader to be successful, they must prioritize the customer journey of all of their stakeholders. So your list of stakeholders can include multiple people or groups, such as your boss, your team, your clients, or customers in the market. And maybe even your family members, especially if you want your family members to support you and your professional endeavors, their partner or customer stake stakeholders as well. I write in my book lead at the top of your game about the four critical steps that influence the impact and quality of any customer journey. And I want to quickly outline them and share them with you. So the first step is for your customer to become aware that you even exist, and has something of value that they might be interested in. Until you catch their attention, you won’t earn the right to be heard by them. The second step involves you know, now that you’ve caught their attention, it requires that you help your customer better understand why you and why what you’re offering matter. capture someone’s attention doesn’t mean that they’re fully sold and still support you. So you’ve got to do this extra legwork to answer the question for them. Hey, what’s in it for me. The third step is once your customer reviews, all data and facts that you present it and has confirmed that what you’re offering or saying is indeed of legitimate value, then the next step is helping them to trust the rest of the process. This is where you they get to ask you any final questions, you’re able to answer them. And then if you do this successfully, they’re going to award you the gift of gaining their buy in or support. And then the last step is helping your customers become what I call ready to once you have captured their buy in your customers will then be eager and want to know exactly what you want them to do next. This is where you give them concrete instructions on what’s next for them, like how to purchase your product or service, or what assignment that you love for them to take on and a leadership effort. This is where you close the deal and you move them into action. Now these core steps help you build a solid case where your customers have why they should follow your lead. And when done correctly, it’s more likely than not that you will be able to sit back and enjoy the benefits of your hard work. Now hope this framework helps you to think more deeply about the customer journey of your own list of stakeholders. And if you’d like to learn more about leadership and action, we have more information on the web at developing your Thanks again for joining this episode. Remember to subscribe to the podcast and just share with one friend because performing this one selfless act will empower you to also help others to lead at the top of their game. Thanks again for listening and see you next week. And that’s our show for today. Thank you for listening to the lead at the top of your game podcast, where we help you lead your seat at any employer, business, or industry in which you choose to play. You can check out the show notes, additional episodes, and bonus resources, and also submit guest recommendations on our website at You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn by searching for the name Karan Rhodes with Karan being spelled K a r a n. And if you like the show, the greatest gift you can give would be to subscribe and leave a rating on your podcast platform of choice. This podcast has been a production of Shockingly Different Leadership, a global consultancy which helps organizations execute their people, talent development, and organizational effectiveness initiatives on an on-demand, project, or contract basis. Huge thanks to our production and editing team for a job well done. Goodbye for now.

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