Do you always feel empowered to be “brilliant out loud” at work? Or are their times when you feel your attempts are not valued?

Dr. Cenina Saxton, Director of Talent & Culture at Focus Brands, gives insights on what organizations can do to both nurture the brilliance of their employees and provide a safe space for that brilliance to thrive, even in times of failure. Brilliancy is connected to the tactic of Leading with Intellectual Horsepower.

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  1. Why it’s important to create an environment where individuals can immediately try new ideas, fail fast, and learn from those failures for the better good.
  2. Why building a network outside of the organization is crucial to growth.
  3. Cenina’s two additions to the LATTOYG Playbook

“One of the things that really stand out is they can hold their own and go to bat for what is right.”


    [03:36] Cenina shares her background and the why she couldn’t get away with mischief growing up.

    [07:15] Cenina explains the concept and importance of “Brilliant Out Loud”.

    [16:40] Why building a network outside of the organization is crucial to growth

    [21:43] Cenina’s first entry into the LATTOYG leadership playbook.

    [23:00] Cenina’s second entry into the LATTOYG leadership playbook.

    [26:50] Signature Segment: Cenina’s LATTOYG Tactic of Choice

    [29:00] Signature Segment: Full Disclosure

    [38:40] Signature Segment: Karan’s Take


    Cenina is a seasoned talent management strategist and change agent with a history of leading organizations through various change initiatives of varying size and scope. She has worked at prestigious companies such as The Coca-Cola Company, Emory Healthcare and most recently Focus brands, where she established a world class talent management and culture framework by developing integrated strategies to foster a top-down culture of inclusivity and diversity, establish a scalable and high-performing talent pipeline, shape the next generation of business leaders, and incentivize and reward professional accomplishments.


     Simon T. Bailey’s website

    Overview:  The Lead at the Top of Your Game Leadership Development Experience

    Article: Article on Adaptive Learning Organizations 

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    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 6 | How Being Brilliant Out Loud Advances Careers w/ Dr. Cenina Saxton

    Cenina Saxton  00:00

    And helping them see a path forward in the organization. If you’re doing that–helping them build their network that may be outside of the organization–it can only do great things for their career. It can… it can give them someone to reach out to, to bounce ideas off of, to do some benchmarking. It’s just… it gives them a different perspective that oftentimes, you don’t have when you’re only building your network in Toronto.


    Voiceover  00:29

    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  01:07

    Hey there, superstars! This is Karan, and welcome to today’s episode. You know, every executive leader I know is dying to see the true potential of their staff and every employee I know is dying to show their brilliance at work. I’m a true believer that everyone has personal brands inside of them. And whether it’s being talented as an expert or being an amazing salesperson or maybe an incredible team player, we’ve all got a little dose of that secret sauce within us. The trick is coaxing it out of us in a way that enables and inspires us to perform at our best. And once we do, leaders feel empowered to serve their teams at the highest level, and individual contributors feel confident in taking calculated risks to do their very best work. The problem is that most business people are not taught how to clearly or powerfully navigate workplace dynamics in order to bring out the best in both themselves and others. But luckily, Dr. Cenina Saxton and I have a little insight on this for you today. She is the Director of Talent and Culture at Focus Brands and we have a really rich discussion on what organizations can do to both nurture the brilliance of their employees, and provide a safe space for that brand to thrive, even in times of failure. So be sure to listen to her addition to our leadership execution playbook. And my closing segment called “Karan’s Take” where I share a tip on how to use insights from today’s show to further sharpen your leadership acumen. And now, enjoy the show. Hello, listeners! Welcome to our current podcast episode. I am super elated to have our guest today. Her name is Dr. Shanaia… Cenina, I’m sorry, Saxton and she has a long, long, illustrious history in the area of HR and talent development, and will let her tell a little bit more about her story but welcome Dr. Cenina. We’re so happy to have you!


    Cenina Saxton  02:48

    Thank you! I’m happy to be on the podcast, Karan. Thank you for having me!


    Karan Rhodes  03:25

    Awesome! Well, before we get started, I would love for you to share with our listeners just a little bit about your childhood story, a little bit how you grew up, and then can you give us a little bit about some of your current professional endeavors?


    Cenina Saxton  03:41

    Absolutely! So, I am originally from a small town and I do mean small town in Southeast Georgia. I grew up in Metter, which is probably about two and a half, three… three hours East of Atlanta. So midway between… I tell people it’s midway between Macon and Savannah (unintelligible) a sweet spot. And growing up in a very small town, there were some… some advantages. You knew… you… you really had an opportunity to get to know everyone which means you were never stuck at softball practice without having a ride home if your parents couldn’t pick you up. But it also meant that if you did anything during the day at school that you didn’t want your parents to know, that was not happening. They knew my mom… for most of my high school years, she worked for the county and so everyone knew her so I cannot get away with anything but going to school and playing softball that was it.


    Karan Rhodes  04:42

    ‘Cause the word’s gonna get back to Mama, huh?


    Cenina Saxton  04:44

    Absolutely! The word was definitely going back to Mom so there were no secrets going up in a small town. But I would say if I think about that experience and growing up in a small town, I didn’t have… there were not a lot of black women who had careers outside of education that I could really use as a blueprint for what I wanted my career to look like so, I just assumed that I… I’m always going to go to college, but I thought I was going to be a teacher, right?


    Karan Rhodes  07:33

    Did you?


    Cenina Saxton  07:43

    And once I… once I got a little older, I said, “No, I don’t want to do that. I want to go to law school; I want to be an attorney.” I don’t even know where that came from but that just made sense; that’s what I wanted to do. Fast forward, I went to undergrad at Georgia Southern and I realized I didn’t want to do any of those things. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do but I knew I didn’t want to be a teacher and I did not want to go to law school. I was in a HR course and I remember my professor asking what was my major and at the time, my major was marketing. And she said, “Well, what do you think about HR?” I said, “Oh, no, I don’t want to do this. That’s dealing with people or problems and that’s not my jam. I’m gonna try this marketing thing because I think it’s gonna be fine.” And she said, “Okay,” and that was the end of that conversation. But fast forward, I graduated from Georgia Southern with a… with a BBA in… in marketing, and really never use the marketing degree. My… my official first job, I worked for Bank of America and I transitioned into a call center into a learning and development role and I haven’t looked back since.


    Karan Rhodes  11:35

    Fascinating, fascinating. You know, I’ve had an opportunity in my career to work with call centers a bit, myself, and that is just a whole another world of… when you talk about talent development, performance management, work pressures, the whole dynamic. So there’s a special angel for folks like you who guide our companies or call centers around the country so…


    Cenina Saxton  12:06

    Absolutely, absolutely. Thank you!


    Karan Rhodes  12:06

    Well, one of the things we wanted to really delve deeply on and I know you’re very passionate about is around employees being able to really understand their brilliance, organizations, providing the air cover, space, and grace for employees to be able to demonstrate that and how those whole dynamics work. So I’d love to hear some of your thoughts around that and what have you seen work well and not so well?


    Cenina Saxton  12:06

    Absolutely, I really think that organizations should create the system, create the culture, dismantle or deconstruct any of those systems that don’t allow their… and people, their employees, that talent, if you will, to be what I like to say is brilliant out loud. I recall early in my career, I probably stifled my growth because I had these pretty good ideas but I wouldn’t share them. I thought, “Well, I’m not the most senior person in the room, or maybe someone else has been on the team longer than I have so I probably shouldn’t say anything.” And then, someone else would share an idea and it was very similar to the thought that I didn’t share ang that I was holding in and so I think it’s really important for the organiz… organizations to think about how do you do that. A part of it is around how you bring people into the organization, how you help them get to learn not only their role in their team but get to know the organization across functions, across the, you know, the COEs across the brands, however the organizational structure. I think that’s so important and that gives your talent that level of comfort when they know the business that I think that gives people the foundation that they need to be able to then go out and share their ideas because they can make… they can make the connection between here’s what this function or here’s what the organization does, and here’s what I do, and here’s how we kinda bring the two of those together. So what works well? Making sure that people build relationships early. Give them exposure to work outside of their… their scope of responsibility. Give people a safe space to fail fast, meaning don’t put so much pressure on someone getting it right all the time. Instead, give them as you said, give them some grace where the culture is you’re not going to always get it right and we’re okay because we know that that’s where really great ideas emerge when maybe you don’t get it right. We want you to learn from maybe some of those initiatives that didn’t go how you thought that they would. We want you to learn from that… from those and we’re going to give you space to do that. And I think if you can do that, and embed that coaching and feedback, I think that is really where you… you can ignite that passion and people and… and give them that safe space that they need to try new things and think about their work in a way that they haven’t before. And I think that’s when innovation really happens if you see those really great, bold ideas that we really want people to bring but we have to create the space for them to do that.


    Karan Rhodes  12:06

    You know, you those are just fantastic nuggets and you’re so right, because, you know, I’ve seen it work well throughout my career in corporate and I’ve seen it fall flat on its face as well. And I don’t know about you, but I have observed that when there’s not a culture of openness and, like you said, willingness to let individuals try and fail but fail fast, if the leadership at all levels does not focus on providing that space, then, employees just shut down, right? Because they’re very observant of.. if they watched their colleagues trying to make a suggestion or do something and someone shuts it down, then, they don’t even raise their hands or they don’t speak around that but I… It’s ironic that I when I talk to executives, they always say “I want to see more out of my people. I want to know what we can do to improve their… you know, here doing this day in and day out, then I hear employees say I really want to bring a lot to the table. I want to show, you know, ideas that I have for improvement.” But I can’t understand, me personally, why we don’t do or organizations don’t do a better job of matching that need that leaders want to see it, the employees want to do it but for some reason, they’re still hitting heads. Do you see that as well? Or have you in your experience?


    Cenina Saxton  12:13

    I have! I have seen it and I think sometimes, we get so focused on that which we should be, right? We should be focused on “Okay, what’s the result? What are we driving for?”, but sometimes, I think we can get so laser-focused on that that we were… we may revert back to the way that we’ve always done it because we know we’re gonna get the results. We revert back to those who we know can get the results that we want and so, we’re not bringing the other people into the conversation, right? Maybe someone who’s new in the organization, or maybe they’re not new in the organization, but they bring in a different perspective. We’re not bringing them to the conversation and I think, Karan, it goes back to… even sometimes some of our biases, right? We think we have a bias for working with those who have similar ways of working or have similar ideas. I think that gets in our way a lot more often than we are probably willing to share and it’s really important that we… that as leaders that there’s that level of self-awareness, right, when you understand, “Hey, I’m actually doing this. I’m not creating this space. I am… I’m setting the strategy. And then, I’m also a little bit too into the details of the execution and my people can’t do it and they feel like they have to do it the way that I want it done.”


    Karan Rhodes  13:40

    No, I agree. I so agree. So I want us to pull back the layers of the onion just a little bit for our listeners, and, what advice would you have for a people manager who is talking to one of their direct reports, and their direct reports may be saying, “I don’t know what my brilliance is or what I bring to the table?” Do you have any coaching that the managers can say or do or questions that they can ask to help their employees really uncover their own personal brilliance or any thoughts around that by chance?


    Cenina Saxton  14:24

    I do have thoughts around that. I think everyone is at a different place. Someone may be at the discovery place where I need to discover what my brilliance is and someone else may be more in the aspirational phase where “I know where I… I know what I aspire to do and I may need some support and guidance on how to get there.” So it’s important to meet everyone where they are and a part of the discovery or a part of the coaching is really helping people understand what are the things that are… that… that you’re passionate about as it relates to the work that you’re doing, and encouraging people to seek out different experiences, work on different projects that maybe they haven’t thought about before, and actually seeing them through to the end. And I say that because oftentimes you… you’ll… there may be a project or initiative that someone is working on and maybe a piece or pieces of the work may not be exactly what someone had in mind but it may be… it’s very foundational. So once we get through the foundational pieces of this, this is where the real fun, the real ideation, and the real innovation happen. So really coaching people to see it through to the end, I think, is important, but it’s all about what do you want it… well, I guess, if you don’t know what you want to do, that’s a tough question to put out there but what are some of the things that you… that you like to do? What are some of those parts of the business that fascinate you and that you want to know more about? So it could be… whether it’s doing a job shadow, it could be even doing maybe a gig, if you will, and another part of the… another part of the organization where you have thai very specific expertise that you can bring to this project, and you do that, but it gives you exposure to a different part of the business. So, I think all of those are things that you can help people do have those informational interviews with others in the organization, and also building their network outside of the organization.


    Karan Rhodes  16:43

    Can you say that one more time? Because that’s worth repeating.


    Cenina Saxton  16:46

    Building your network or building their network outside of the organization, it could be within the industry, or even outside of the industry, and sometimes, some leaders are hesitant to do that because they know their talent is great, and, then, they feel like someone else is going to poach their talent and, sure, that could happen. Right?


    Karan Rhodes  17:06

    And I’m just curious for you, I know, you have held many leadership roles and have many leadership experiences. How do you stay on top of your game? What do you do to help be the best leader that you can be?


    Cenina Saxton  17:10

    But that’s,,, that’s… the likelihood of that happening is probably going to be contingent upon well, are you developing them and helping them grow and… and helping them see a path forward in the organization. If you’re doing that–helping them build their network that may be outside of the organization–it can only do great things for their career. It can… it can give them someone to reach out to, to bounce ideas off of, to do some benchmarking. It’s just… it gives them a different perspective that oftentimes, you don’t have when you’re only building your network in Toronto.


    Karan Rhodes  17:43

    You’re so correct. You’re so great and I’ve found that a lot of individuals get so comfortable within their current employer or company if they own their own company that they miss the external network as well because you’re right. They bring so much additional learnings and perspectives, as well as opens, potentially, future doors for new opportunities down the road so that is extremely… extremely important. One of the things I wanted to delve into… you were talking about how to help individuals truly understand their brilliance if they didn’t know it upfront but I’ve also found it helpful to have individuals reflect back on, say their work for the last three to six months, and identify experiences and the learnings that they’ve gained, and how they shine during that when they a lot of times brilliance can be brought to the surface for individuals with reflection. And to your point, you had some great questions on asking them, you know, what did you enjoy? What would you love to do more of for almost free, you know? Where were your passions? How did you impact that made you feel good? Those types of reflection experiences can also be valuable as well. Yeah, definitely. Definitely. Fantastic. So I’m curious, in your opinion, what… Well, let me start with this question. First, what were some of the traits, think about some of the leaders that impressed you, could be in your work history, or it can be external people, but what were some of the characteristics that impressed you for great leaders?


    Cenina Saxton  19:46

    Absolutely! I think the leaders that I’ve experienced in my career who really made a meaningful impact, their level of emotional intelligence and self-awareness was almost a match. That is… that’s one of the things that I think I’ve seen in really great leaders. They seek out ideas from others and they rely on their teams to leverage their expertise in a way that allows them to allows them to shine. And it goes back to the failing fast, I think too, they create a space where their people feel comfortable trying new ideas. I would also say leaders, a leader, or leaders that I think have just made a lasting impression… One of the things that really stands out is they can hold their own, too. (unintelligible) but still maintain relationships. And they can do it in a way that’s respectful, and they still garner respect, and they can really hold their own, and they can influence and they will go to bat for what’s right whether it’s for their team, or if it’s the right decision for the business, they will… they can go to bat for that. But still, they’re being respectful and they’re bringing other people along and helping them see the vision along the way.


    Karan Rhodes  21:26

    They’re almost like the total package of a great leader, right? 


    Cenina Saxton  21:32

    They’re a little scrappy, too, I would say.


    Karan Rhodes  21:36

    And I’m just curious for you. I know, you have held many leadership roles and have many leadership experiences. How do you stay on top of your game? What do you do to help be the best leader that you can be?


    Cenina Saxton  21:53

    I surround myself with people who know more than I do.


    Karan Rhodes  21:58

    Very smart! I try to, too.


    Cenina Saxton  22:01

    I surround myself with people who know more than I do. On my team, I don’t try to be the SME about everything. I’ve done a lot of things in my career, I’ve had experience and learning. I’ve had experience and leadership development, DE & I but what I… what I will tell my… what I will share with someone is, I’ve done a lot of things over my career. Some of the things that I’ve done is dated, and my ideas may not be as fresh so I want a fresh perspective. So that’s one of the things that I do. I always look to have a strong external network so I can reach out to others. Not just a bit smart, but to help me kind of give me a reality check too to make sure that I’m not getting in my own way. I’m going to ask for feedback, whether it’s from a leader, whether it’s from my team, whether it’s from peers, even friends. I’ll sit back down, call in a friend, and walk them through maybe something I’m grappling with at work, and then I’ll say, “Okay, you know, put me in check. Am I… am I on the right track?” And I’m really open to that different perspective, even though I like my ideas.


    Karan Rhodes  23:21

    We all do, right?


    Cenina Saxton  23:22

    I like my ideas!


    Karan Rhodes  23:25

    They’re brilliant!


    Cenina Saxton  23:28

    Exactly! Don’t you know they’re brilliant? Oftentimes, I have enough humility to know that maybe my ideas are not… it’s not the right time for them, or maybe it’s just not the right solution. And I think that really helps me to not only just maintain a level of humility, but also bring out the best in others, too. I think… I think that’s really important. See, I don’t know it all but I bet you… I bet you know something that I don’t know, and I want to hear that idea. It’s… Oftentimes, I think it’s so easy to just take something and run with it because we’ve done it before and we know how to get it done but that’s such a disservice to others who are still learning and growing in their careers. Like, have a little patience, pause, take a timeout, and have some patience for someone else to take a path.


    Karan Rhodes  24:24

    I love that. And I know it’s hard and difficult sometimes, especially when we’re in a results-driven society but taking that pause is so critical. So critical.


    Cenina Saxton  24:34

    Exactly! And being okay with 80, you know, 80 percent sometimes is… is good enough. Sometimes that’s good enough. It doesn’t have to be great and it definitely doesn’t have to be the way that Cenina wants to do it.


    Karan Rhodes  24:49



    Cenina Saxton  24:50

    It doesn’t have to be because that may not be the right way or the best way. It’s just one of the ways that we might…


    Karan Rhodes  24:55

    One of the ways. That’s right. One of my friends was teasing me a couple of weeks ago, and she said, “You know, Karan, your C game is probably other people’s A+ game, right? That in comparison, like, what you bring to the table, you know, and you really want perfection and what have you. A lot of people will be happy with, you know, just a little bit less, and they’ll think it’s fabulous. So that’s a hard lesson for me, you know, to learn because I just want to bring the best at all times but sometimes, you’re not able to do so. But if you’re very thoughtful, and planful about what you are wanting to do, your… your natural desire for excellence and results will just come out.


    Cenina Saxton  25:44

    Absolutely, I have worked in some really complex industries and in… in complex organizations, and one of the things that I have to be mindful of is it’s okay to keep things simple sometimes. You don’t… you don’t have to overengineer everything because that is when you really struggle to get the buy-in—when you make things so complicated. Whether it’s a performance management system, it doesn’t, you know, bells and whistles are nice, but if no one is going to use them, or people don’t understand how to use it and you have performance ratings that people don’t understand and “Oh, we have to wait things.” And sometimes maybe you do wait some… some goals higher than others but you have to really figure out where is the organization. What does the organization have an appetite for? And sometimes, keeping things simple is the right approach because you’ll… the adoption rate will be so much higher.


    Karan Rhodes  26:41

    Love that! That’s my nugget right there. I’m taking it home with me. Oh, so another question for you, I… As you know, I wrote a book on leadership execution and I would love your opinion of the… you know, the seven tactics that most successful leaders use in some way, shape, or form at any point in time. Was there one out of the seven that resonated with you a little bit? And if so, which one?


    Cenina Saxton  27:11

    Absolutely. Intellectual horsepower resonated with me a lot and I think it goes back to bringing your brilliance to the table at all times. You’re in your role for a reason. You have a certain level of expertise that you bring and I think as leaders, no matter where you are in your career, even if you’re earlier in your career, or your leader, remembering there’s a certain expertise that you bring, a certain intellectual horsepower that you bring to the team, to the organization. And so, leveraging that to… to be able to look ahead and understand this is where the business is going or this is what our talent data is telling us and being able to go back to the business and having some really healthy conversations. “We really need to be focusing on turnover for the last 18 months. Turnover has been continuously going up; there’s been an uptick so this is something that we need to work on. Here is what some of our other data is telling us. Whether it’s our engagement survey, exit interviews, or wherever else we may be pulling insights from. This is something we need to address and here are a few ways that we might be able to do that.” And I think as leaders, you have to always remember to bring that horsepower with you. You’re in… you’re in your seat for a reason and people are looking to you to help make some really impactful recommendations to drive the business forward.


    Karan Rhodes  28:42

    Love that. Absolutely love that. All right, well, we’re gonna open with… close, I’m sorry, with our final segment. It’s called “Full Disclosure” and I promise you there won’t be any gotcha questions.


    Cenina Saxton  28:54

    I love it.


    Karan Rhodes  28:55

    But I would love for you to share just a little bit on a personal level with our audience and my first question to you is, how do you love to decompress and relax?


    Cenina Saxton  29:09

    How do I love to decompress and relax? I like going for long walks. Most days as… most… most days I’ll kick off the morning with a walk. The gym may or may not happen.


    Karan Rhodes  29:24

    Me, too, but I’m walking myself. I hear you.


    Cenina Saxton  29:28

    That will happen. It will definitely happen and that’s so important for me because it’s my time. It’s my time, you know, it’s my 45 minutes, my hour to myself to think about my day, to reflect maybe on some things that didn’t go as well as I wanted them to go, and “Okay, what did I learn from that? And what can I do differently?” It’s my time to think about “Okay, what are the two or three things that I am going to accomplish by the end of the day or by the end of the week?” And then just from, you know, just from a health perspective, I think getting those steps in is important as well.


    Karan Rhodes  30:06

    It is. Very much so. We’re two peas in a pod on that in that respect. So, can you tell me one song that would be on your music playlist?


    Cenina Saxton  30:21

    I can. It’s actually my high school’s or my school’s not just my high school, my school’s fight song. It’s an older song, but it’s “Eye of the Tiger”.


    Karan Rhodes  30:33

    Eye of the Tiger?


    Cenina Saxton  37:33

    “Eye of the Tiger” is my school’s…


    Karan Rhodes  37:35

    Oh my goodness! That’s right.


    Cenina Saxton  37:35

    And I know sometimes we get so excited, and we have questions and I can give you a pass there but if your interruption is not intentional, meaning that you’re just finishing someone’s thought, or you’re taking the conversation in a different direction, that… that frustrates me a little bit because I want to know what you have to say. I want to hear your ideas. And I think what that can do over time is really cause people to shut down and to just stop sharing.


    Karan Rhodes  37:35

    Absolutely. You’re so right. Alright, two last questions and then we’ll wrap up. The… The first one is… Well, see, I have so many in my mind. You know, I’m gonna go with the fun one. What is your favorite beverage of choice and it can be a cocktail or a non-alcoholic drink.


    Cenina Saxton  37:35

    That is easy. I’m a Starbucks gal.


    Karan Rhodes  37:35

    Are you?


    Cenina Saxton  37:35

    I am!


    Karan Rhodes  37:35



    Cenina Saxton  37:35

    I am, I’m there literally when they open at 5:30, 6:00 every morning. I live across the street from Starbucks. I live so close that I could walk. I don’t; I probably should. I’m really trying to reduce my consumption back to just one grande a day.


    Karan Rhodes  37:35

    How’s that going for you?


    Cenina Saxton  37:35

    It’s not going well. Before (unintelligible), I was… I was waiting in line. The line was long out into the street almost. I’m okay. I’m gonna wait. (unintelligible) I can wait. I can wait. We’re still working on it but that is definitely my beverage of choice. Grande (unintelligible) with extra extra half and half steamed.


    Karan Rhodes  37:35

    Extra extra, okay, half a half. Gotcha. All right. And so the last question, I’m actually going to turn the tables on me. What is one question that you’d like to ask me? You’ll get to return the favor for your gift of time today.


    Cenina Saxton  37:35

    Absolutely. What is it If you… and I know you’ve been in this space for many years, and you have such great expertise and you’ve had an opportunity to work with… with some really great organizations, what is the one thing you wish you knew when you started your career?


    Karan Rhodes  37:35

    Oh, wow! That’s a fantastic question. I wish I knew, and it’s kind of on the thing that we’ve been talking today, but I wish I knew that even the senior executives are insecure too. When I rose through the ranks and became a confidant of them, that was what really hit me was I thought they had it all figured out when I was first coming into the workforce out of school. They had the fancy titles, and you know, they were being renowned in their industries, and they were speaking on panels and conferences, and they seem so confident in front of the employee population. And I’m not saying that they all aren’t, but it was very eye-opening to know that they are human too, that they have insecurities, and… and always would be open to even better suggestions than their current thinking because one of their biggest fears, as I learned, is that they had a fear of failing because their failure was on a broader scale and impacted a whole lot more employees and, potentially, jobs. So to your point about give it a little space for fear of failure, they really had a fear of failing for a number of reasons. So I guess to sum it up, is that the C-suite are human too.


    Cenina Saxton  37:35

    Absolutely. I would absolutely agree. And I think sometimes, too, if I, you know, go back, I think that fear of failing and not being brilliant out loud for a fear of maybe not getting it right kind of goes back a little bit to childhood and how I grew up I was you were rewarded for getting all A’s. I remember bringing my report card home, and my dad said, “Hey, you get $5 for every A’s.” I was like, “He just doesn’t know. His kid is smart.” And all of (unintelligible), he’s gonna be coming out of his pocket like 40 or $50 but if that’s what he wants to do, I’m not going to stop him. (unintelligible) we were rewarded for getting it right and being (unintelligible) and I think sometimes that, in retrospect, it might have stifled my growth a little bit because I was always rewarded for getting it right getting the A’s and not getting an A meant I didn’t get the $5 for the A’s and I wanted the $5 for the A’s.


    Karan Rhodes  37:35



    Cenina Saxton  37:35

    Just so I… At least that was my experience. So I just wonder if that is, you know, oftentimes, with leaders as well… other leaders is because we’ve… we’ve been rewarded and that’s how our performance is measured and that’s how we, you know, grew in our careers by doing it right, if you will. Yes! “Eye of the Tiger” is my school’s fight song. And so, that has been on my playlist since I can remember from, I guess, it was our fight song since like the 80s, I guess and I grew up in the 80s, early 90s, so that is always going to be on my playlist.


    Karan Rhodes  37:35

    Oh my gosh, the reason why I’m laughing is because a couple of episodes ago, one of the guests, that was their song, one of their songs in their playlist and then, you know, my last big role in corporate America before starting my own firm, I worked with Microsoft and that was one of our theme songs at the company, too, at the time. So “Eye of the Tiger”, I think we single-handedly made it number one between our networks. That’s so funny. So can you tell me one of your pet peeves? It can be anything.


    Cenina Saxton  37:35

    What are my pet peeves?


    Karan Rhodes  37:35

    One. Just one.


    Cenina Saxton  37:35

    One. Not letting someone finish their thought or idea. I… that is a huge pet peeve—interrupting and talk… and I know we all do it. I’m guilty of it, too, but I try to be so mindful of it because oftentimes, what it tells someone, especially in the work environment is “I’m not really interested in hearing what you have to say.”


    Karan Rhodes  37:38

    That’s right. That’s right and we act in the way that we’re incentivized. And in that way, it was a little bit of money, but it was also the Father’s love and he’s probably being so proud of you for getting it fantastic, of course. All right, so Dr. Cenina, thank you so much for your time today. You have been an absolute dream. We have tons of information for our leadership playbook. And, listeners, all of these tips will be in the show notes so come on back for our next episode next week to add additional items to your leadership playbook. Thanks so much and have a great one. Bye! I hope you enjoyed our conversation today with Dr. Cenina Saxton. She’s the Director of Talent and Culture at Focus Brands. Links to her bio, her entry into our leadership playbook, and additional resources can be found in the show notes both on your favorite podcast platform, and at Now, for the segment called “Karan’s Take”. Today, I want to share two quick thoughts around the topic of brilliance. The first I wanted to share is the ultimate subject matter expert on the topic of brilliance, in my opinion, anyway, it’s Simon T. Bailey. He’s my number one go-to on the topic in… of brilliance in the world of work and he’s world-renowned as a speaker and as a former Disney exec who’s actually the author of a series of books on brilliance including the titles, “Release Your Brilliance”, “Shift Your Brilliance”, and “Brilliant Living”. I’ll have a ton of information about him in the show notes but definitely take a note to check him out. The second thought I had I wanted to share with you today is I want to encourage you to establish a “No Hoarding Zone”. This is what I call it a “No Hoarding Zone” and so you’re probably wondering “What in the heck is that?” Well, have you ever heard the phrase “Iron sharpens iron.”? Well, we researchers in leadership development know that high performers develop more quickly when collaborating with other high performers and an environment of hoarding information or hoarding influence or ideas is not only toxic for the workplace, but it also stifles the brilliance of your teams. So I personally recommend that employers should infuse the concept of a “No Hoarding Zone” into their company values in order to help foster a culture which welcomes great ideas, innovation, and process improvements. Do this and I bet you’ll see a high return on investment. So, if you enjoyed this topic, there’s more on developing stronger leadership acumen that can be found on our website Thanks for listening and see you next week.


    Voiceover  40:41

    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 leave your seats at any employer, business, or industry in which you choose to play. You can check out the show notes, additional episodes, 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 liked 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. Bye for now.

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