Inclusion is more than just a buzzword – it’s a crucial component of a thriving workplace. When individuals feel valued and supported at work, they’re more engaged, productive, and committed to their jobs. However, creating a genuinely inclusive workplace takes effort and intentionality.


Dr. Steve Yacovelli, also known as “The Gay Leadership Dude,” is an author, consultant, and speaker specializing in leadership development, diversity and inclusion, and LGBTQ+ workplace issues. He owns and is the principal of TopDog Learning Group, LLC, a leadership and organizational development consulting firm based in Orlando, Florida. Join us as we explore the crucial role that LGBTQ+ leadership and workplace inclusion play in creating a more equitable and thriving workplace for all in today’s episode.

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  1. Workplace inclusion
  2. Leadership failures
  3. How to excel in your corporate and personal lives as a leader
  4. How can leaders address negative comments in a neutral tone?
  5. LGBTQ+ leadership and workplace issues

“I think we all want to be smart leaders, regardless of our own personal feelings toward a personality or an individual. Be mindful of how your interaction (or lack thereof) can impact the greater team”

- Dr. Steve Yakovelli



  • [02:53] Steve’s upbringing and a synopsis of his professional experience.

  • [11:05] What it takes to be a successful leader in corporate and personal life and how this applies to LGBTQ+ leadership.

  • [20:08] Reflections on Steve’s leadership failures

  • [25:20] Dr. Steve’s Tactic of Choice

  • [27:12] Queer leaders in the workplace are frequently targeted to lead Employee Resource Groups or be the spokesperson for a particular topic. How to avoid being constantly tapped for these roles so that they can enjoy their work without always having to carry the flag 24/7?

  • [29:22] Signature Segment Full Disclosure

  • [36:30] Signature Segment Karan’s Take


Steve Yacovelli has over 25 years of experience in leadership development and organizational effectiveness. He has worked with a diverse range of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, non-profit organizations, and government agencies. He is a recognized expert in LGBTQ+ leadership and has been featured in numerous publications and media outlets, including The Huffington Post, The Advocate, and The Wall Street Journal.

In addition to his consulting work, Yacovelli is the author of the book “Pride Leadership: Strategies for the LGBTQ+ Leader to be the King or Queen of their Jungle.” He is a frequent keynote speaker and presenter at conferences and events focused on leadership development, diversity, and inclusion.




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Episode 21| How Being a Consciously Inclusive Leader Skyrockets Success with Steve Yacovelli

Dr. Steve Yakovelli  00:00

Acknowledging that as a white cisgender gay dude, I have privilege and I know that and really using that to promote inclusivity for all of us others.


Voiceover  00:12

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  00:49

Hey there, superstars This is Karen, and welcome to today’s episode. The topics of diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging usually reveal strong emotions in sometimes unique perspectives. And as well as I can lead to very highly charged conversations. But as a leader, it’s important for you to muster the courage to not to shy away from these conversations, you got to put your active listening head on in order to better understand those that you’re working and collaborating with Ben to help us to sharpen our skills on getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. We have today’s guests, Dr. Steve Yacovelli, who is the owner and principal of TopDog Learning Group, LLC, and TopDog is a learning and development change management and inclusion consulting firm based in Orlando, Florida. And in this episode, Steve shares two great models that you can use, and backs them up with case study examples from his consulting engagements. Trust me his insights on inclusive leadership is priceless. Stay tuned to the end to listen to my closing segment called Karen’s take. And this is 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. Hello there, superstars. This is Karen and welcome to another episode of the elite at the top of your game podcast. We’re totally thrilled that you are with us today. And we have an absolutely tremendous guest with us. I am so pleased to introduce that to Steve Yucca Valley. I think I got that right, who is the founder and CEO of TopDog learning group, which is a learning and development group that’s focused on just general talent development, leadership development, and also does change management in the AI consulting. So he is a jack of all trades on the people side of business. So welcome to the podcast.


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  02:50

Thank you, Karen. I’m so excited to be here. Oh, we’re


Karan Rhodes  02:53

so excited to have you. And we’re eager to crack open your own leadership playbook because I know you got a lot of nuggets for us. So we’ll just jump right in, if you don’t mind. Well. First of all, Steve, before we get started into the nitty gritty for as much as you feel comfortable. Would you mind sharing a little bit about your background? Just maybe on a personal level where you grew up? And then a little bit about your professional journey thus far.


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  03:19

Yeah, so Dr. C, Valley pronouns he him and his and so I grew up in the suburban Philadelphia area, families still up there, I escaped and I now live in Central Florida. So I’m insanely, especially this time of the year, I’m so happy. Depending on when you listen to this, it’s colder up north than it is down here in Central Florida. So happy with that figured out I’ll just jump right into the personal stuff, figured my authentic self out actually at around 24. So spent a little bit of time not sure of who I was. And finally, like, ah, that’s the deal. I like boys and all that good stuff and kind of move that forward. And I bring that up from a professional perspective, because I really entered the job force or the workforce around the same time. So I’m happy to say that you as knowing my authentic self, I’ve always been held within the workplace. So you know, that was 24 so it’s only been about 10 years. Just kidding, I’m in my 50s now and you know nowhere


Karan Rhodes  04:11

near 50


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  04:15

It’s a good lens, if you’re watching on video, but I I really have always been in the professional development training kind of space. I actually worked in software training and people are like you’re really good with people. I’m like, hey, thanks. And I actually went out and got my master’s in educational policy leadership so kind of focused more on the leadership stuff and then made my way to Disney for a while I was worked at Disney Cruise Line and some other areas mostly as a leadership consultant internal did a couple of things. I was with IBM for several years doing change management and resiliency. I was a professor for like a hot second after I got my doctorate was not my jam. Too much of a business person and then but back in 2002 My colleague while we were still at Disney He approached me and she’s like, Hey, we should start a side hustle. Like, what? No, I’m fine with this job like, no, no, we could we could do this, we can be the best chief learning officer together like, Okay, well think about it. So we went to our CEO or our VP of HR at Disney at the time, and we told her the deal. And she’s like, don’t use Disney stuff. Don’t use Disney time, have fun friends. And that’s kind of how TopDog learning group started. As a side hustle, flash forward to the end of 2007. I was working, I won’t say the company. But it was a global manufacturing company. I mean, I was the Global Head of HR, or excuse me Global Head of leadership within the HR function. And I walked in one day and they said, this isn’t working out your fire. To this day, I have no idea Florida’s right to work state and so for some reason someone did was not my friend even though I just like won a global HR award two weeks before I had my mid-year five and five stars. So big mystery. But anyway, it was a blessing in disguise. Of course, you know, one door closes a window opens. And that’s actually how I took TopDog as my full time gig in early 2008. And kind of have been riding that way for almost 15 years.


Karan Rhodes  06:01

Oh, amazing. Congratulations on the sustainability of the business because you knew how hard it is to run it. They’ve


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  06:09

the 2008 was a really crappy time. Yeah.


Karan Rhodes  06:17

But you survived to tell the story. Right.


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  06:20

Did and the COVID storm to Yeah.


Karan Rhodes  06:23

Oh, that is fascinating. Thank you so much for sharing that. And what do you and I don’t think we I knew this until you shared your story. What you and I have in common was similar. My last big gig before I started a firm was with Microsoft and similar. They had kind of two incubators before theirs were popular and saying things like, Hey, I wanted to do things. Don’t use Microsoft’s time don’t use Microsoft’s money or assets. But have fun. And so we have to share stories about that rally offline.


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  06:57

Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah. I mean, I’ve been fortunate that that I’m sure you find this to Karen, that corporate experience. And you know, I’ve been fortunate I’ve been with some really, really big companies. And those experiences are actually what what helps me understand my learners and my clients quite a bit better, especially through the rainbow lens. And I work with a lot of ERGs, especially LGBTQ PLU ERGs and can understand the nuance and the interesting Enos of being a queer person being an outdoor person within the workplace, especially in those big giant honkin companies like that.


Karan Rhodes  07:30

Yes, absolutely. And you know, what I’m seeing, I’m curious of how you experience here the past few years, I call it go through cycles of social awakening, social awareness, that kind of whole thing with the, during the tamp pandemic, we had one of those periods. I’m curious on how you experienced that and how your clients experienced that, because what I’m finding right now is, everybody was on board at the time, but now they’re getting a little tired. They’re not that they don’t want to do it. They’re just unsure of how to make it real, how to continue the energy around it. So what do you think, what are you experiencing?


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  08:07

You know, when 2020 happened, of course, we had the pandemic. And then we had the horrible things with George Floyd and all these things, and a lot of companies saying, you know, what, yeah, maybe we need to rethink this. And yes, awesome. Yeah, that silver lining piece. But but you’re spot on, Karen, a lot of companies, either one, the engine is running out, especially if some of the initiatives were more employee centric versus company centric. And so you have that, like all of us, others, I mean, we only have so much energy to put into the changing of the workplace culture. But then I also think, too, that some organizations are just trying to figure out what’s next, where do we go. And I see a lot of folks playing around with inclusive language a little bit more looking at psychological safety as a different area of focus, and getting beyond a lot of those performative ally ship pieces, like the rainbow washing every June of our logo, and, and all those things. Yeah. And you’re seeing some good companies do it, you see some that are still hiccupping, even large awesome ally, folks. I mean, you know, the time we’re recording this, the World Cup is still going on. And you see a lot of folks who have you June there have these gorgeous rainbow logos, but they’re also over supporting, not the coolest space for the queer community when you look at where the World Cup is, and so that those folks trying to figure out folks being corporations how to maneuver through and really be a better ally than just rainbow washing or look okay, it’s blank month and we’re going to celebrate that whatever blank is


Karan Rhodes  09:35

right. Now your smile on and when you go into clients are most of your clients are already self aware that that interventions need to happen. Are you having to sell them on the whole inclusive cultures positioning?


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  09:53

Yeah, it depends. We have a couple that are they know they want to do like this one. It’s it’s a global manufacturing. It’s based in Europe, but we work primarily with their North American offices. And they know they need to change. But they’re like we’re engineering. And we know, I mean, when you look around the office, it’s perceived middle aged white dudes. And they know that that’s a problem. They’re just trying to figure out how to change that. And so that’s one of the things that we kind of have a chat about them. So that self awareness is there. And they also know it’s systemic, but they’re not sure what to do. And so we have those conversations. Other folks are so down the path of inclusivity. And creating that sense of belonging that you know, I just come in, or my team could just comes in as yet another arrow in their quiver of change. And so they’re already doing some cool stuff. And they’re like, You know what, let’s bring the gay leadership dude in and have him do a Keynote or his team come in and do that one day inclusive language program that you do. And, and so, you know, some folks are more on that continuum, where they’re beyond the Yay, it’s blank month, that they’re more like, let’s change our forms to be more inclusive of the different genders that are out there. And all those other little tiny things that absolutely means so much when you’re trying to make change within your workplace culture.


Karan Rhodes  11:05

I love that. I love that. And I’m just curious for you, personally, because you’ve had a long experience in kind of the corporate side of life as well. And especially with the dynamic dimensions that are part of your full life and authentic personality. What does it what did it take for you to be successful, a successful leader in both corporate America and now because there’s still biases out there as you weren’t aware?


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  11:30

There are N? Thank you for asking that. Karen. I think the first is acknowledging that as a white cisgender gay dude, I have privilege. And I know that and really using that to promote inclusivity for all of us others. And so I think there’s that self awareness has helped, and really being mindful of what to do with that, for lack of better than that positioning, like I know, for example, that when I go into these global manufacturing companies that have a lot of middle aged white dudes who are there, I can tell them things and as a white cisgender, dude, I can get away with it, where somebody who might be like a woman of color, or queer person standing up for the room, you might not be able to, to get that same message. I hate that the world’s like that. But it is. And so being mindful of that, I think is one thing that can help be really helped me as an inclusive leader kind of make some headway. And I think the other is, what I teach in a lot of our leadership programming is just listening. You know, I don’t think and you know, this as a leadership expert, like, I don’t think listening is as stressed as it should be within the leadership world. Yeah. And you got active listening, and asking those right questions, and then shutting the heck up and listening, and listening. And just like listen, and like I’m listening to understand not to respond as Steven Covey kind of paraphrases. And I think that’s been a really powerful thing that I personally done, and I try to teach my students to do is, is just the power of that listing, and really hearing what’s being said, and what’s not being said as well.


Karan Rhodes  12:56

No, that makes a ton of sense. And how do you buy there? What do you think are critical aspects to more inclusive cultures?


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  13:04

Well, one of the things that we teach, and actually, in my signature talk, Keynote things I do, I kind of was really thinking about this when I was creating it and use the graphic here, if you’re watching the video earlier.


Karan Rhodes  13:15

All right, really quick, listeners, this is gonna be added to our leadership playbook. So pay attention.


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  13:23

So when I think about and I use the phrase, being a consciously inclusive leader, and a quick story that started when I was actually at Disney, teaching, like one of my first classes and unconscious bias. And I remember us doing this session, and you know, there was a lot of people who volunteered to be there. But there was one individual, I remember who was clearly voluntold, to be there, you know, that it was against their, you know, their desire, but someone above them said, You should go to this course that Steve’s doing. So they’re sitting in the back of the room, and we’re having a conversation on unconscious bias. And you can just feel that their discomfort in the body language and all that stuff. So break came up, and I went up to this person, and we’ll pretend their name is Pat. And I said, Pat, you know, what’s on your mind? Well, Steve, you said it’s unconscious bias. And like, that’s correct, well, it’s unconscious, I can’t do anything about it. Thank you, Pat, for educating me. So ever since then, I’ve used the consciously inclusive phrasing. And I know some other folks do as well. But to me, it’s active, you can do something about it. And that’s kind of what is framework here. For those who aren’t seeing, it’s just a graphic that has three phrases on a linear line, think in speak up and act out. And so when I think about think in, it’s about you, as the human as the leader, you got to get your own house in order first. And that’s looking at your own unconscious biases, thinking about the words and the actions that you do kind of getting in that mindful state and just observing the way you interact with the world and others around you. And really try to get your own stuff together to be more conscious, inclusive. So the thinking piece if, for example, if you go to Project Implicit if you’re not familiar Google that. It’s a great way to start to explore what potential unconscious biases you have that you may not be aware of. So Project Implicit, really cool resource, then it’s speak up you He’s really thinking about the folks around you, and especially how you interact with them. And so a lot of this has to do with the language that we’re using and having that courage to when someone says, a disparaging comment, to have the courage to say, no, no, that’s not how we roll. I’m not going to silently agree with you silent collusion, but I’m going to have the courage to speak up and call you out on those things in a respectful sort of way. And then act out is really what can we collectively do as a workplace to look at the processes and the procedures and, and all the different things and analyze them from an inclusive or exclusive perspective? You know, the forms that we do an HR are policies on bereavement? Do they include all those types of folks, I remember working with one client, and they’re like, you know, what, we just change our bereavement policy that pets are now considered family, because we have people out there who they don’t have human children, they have canine or feline or feather in children. And I’m like, that’s inclusive. Thank you very much. And that’s an example of act out. You as a parent you like it’s a great example. Yeah. So we as conscious inclusive leaders can do it through those three lenses to think in to speak up and the act out.


Karan Rhodes  16:09

Oh, gold, straight gold right there. And I’m so thank you, and how does this show up in LGBTQ plus leadership? How is that connected? And how can we use that framework to maybe address some of the observations we see in the workplace?


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  16:27

Yeah, I’ll focus on the think, excuse me, the Speak Up one. Okay. And as a good example, so, you know, this is an absolute true story, man fact did happen in your neck of the woods, Karen, I was in Atlanta, in Atlanta. Yes, I just had a client and myself and one of my top doctors Laurie was there. And we were doing we did a change management project for like a month and a half. And it was like the last hurrah, gay there’s like 38 other folks in the room. And Laurie and I, and you know, just kind of like the wrap up of the project. And at the head of the table is the senior executive sponsor of the program. And he was the big Wagan. In his gender is important the story of July. So he and we’re just about to start the meeting, and youth voices are dying down. And you hear the senior executives say, hey, you know, all women drive? Yes, Karen your face, if you can’t see, there’s a she just did the whole shocking thing. We all did that in that moment, we kind of looked towards him at the head of the table, but no one said a word. So at that moment, we were tacitly agreeing or what’s called silent collusion. And as queer leaders as really any leader who wants to defend the rights of others in the workplace, you can’t let that happen. And so the Speak Up gives you strategies, and I use this and we can even put the link in the chat. It’s a free training we do called mob Sam. And so six strategies that you can do in that moment to refute, and beat silent collusion. And so one in your mob, Sam and I do this cheeky little thing where mop is like a pulling up dog and his name is Sam. And it’s cheeky. It’s silly, but it’s memorable. And so yeah, it’s an I’m a dog person and TopDog learner group. And there’s branding there at all. But the A and mob Sam, which is my favorite one is the strategy is in that moment, you ask a question. And so I could turn to say, Bob, the senior executive who said your women drive and say, Bob, what did you mean by that comment. And so that’s a way that we, as leaders who want to create that inclusive space, can address and hit those negative comments in that moment, it also sends a message that you know what, as an inclusive leader, I’m not on board with that kind of stuff. That’s not where it’s going to make, I’m not going to support that. And you also have to be mindful and how you ask it like, Bob, what do you mean by that statement, you know, Bob’s influences go up shields up kind of thing. But if you ask it in that neutral tone, a couple of things happen. And that’s actually what did happen in this in this example, you know, Bob’s unconscious, it threw it into the consciousness like, Oh, I didn’t mean that. Well, you’re just did, Bob. Yeah, I messed up. And then you know, and so then Bob starts to backpedal on stuff, but at least it’s addressed in that moment. And so, exactly, and so now, everyone, the other 39 people in that room, including Bob knew that Doc EOC is my students use call me Steve is not on board with that kind of behavior. But I wasn’t disrespectful to senior executive Bob, we’ve literally signed our checks. I just said, What do you mean by that statement, and left it there. And then you see what happens. And so I think, for us, leaders, create leaders and awesome allies who want to create that sense of belonging in that safe space. That’s just one example of what we can do in order to create that sense of belonging for every other who’s in the room.


Karan Rhodes  19:27

Oh, gosh, that was such a wonderful and powerful example. And real world because that is nothing so far fetched. That’s something that goes on daily in means I’ve seen it myself and as a woman of color sitting at the table with usually people in the majority I’m the only in the room. Those comments just kind of slip out when they can become comfortable, you know, with you, and that’s a fantastic way, definitely to address it. And so that was a great example of someone who kind of put their toe in the water In the wrong water, you will have had to get the toe back out. But I always like to say, you know, we really know great leaders when we see them, right. But we also know, you know, awful rate leaders or those who had are exhibited awful actions that weren’t productive. And so I’m curious if you have one more additional story of leadership gone wrong, and it can be any kind of like, personal professional or what have you. But just an example,


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  20:26

I will tell you a real story that happened me that taught me a gorgeous lesson on inclusivity. And more. So the feeling that an inclusiveness can have on on the team member. So I was working on I won’t say the company, but I was working on a special project. And it was enterprise wise, like a big deal. When I was one of seven people on this team to be on this big software rollout, I was in charge of change management and the training facet of it. So you know, but we are the core team doing this, and the project manager slash basavich. We knew each other, We’re BFFs. But we had a professional relationship, but we weren’t going to go and have drinks after work, all that stuff. That’s fine. You don’t have to and everyone but you know, I was also the only male on the team. And I you, I’m not saying that. That’s the reason why there was something about me that she just wasn’t into, she just wasn’t meant to be. And that’s fine. But as the project went along, but at one point, I remember coming into the office on a Monday and my colleague, and we happen to share like this big office together and my colleagues, she turns to me, and she’s like, Well, where are you Friday, like my work? And then I left? She’s like, well, you weren’t at the team building event. And, you know, I was told that you had a previous engagement, we really missed you. And I’m like, what team building event and this boss had told everyone else on the team except me to go, we’re gonna get out rent a boat and have cocktails and go out. And, you know, you could turn around and watch the sunset. And so that’s what the whole team did, except for me. And two things happen in that experience. One, I felt horrible, because I’m like, what is it about me that she just didn’t want me so much that she invited me on the little boat for the team building event,


Karan Rhodes  22:08

the team building and contains a m,


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  22:11

but then two, once my office mate found out the reason, then she felt horrible. And so I think when we want to be smart leaders, regardless of some of our own personal feelings toward a personality of an individual, it’s really being mindful of how your interaction or lack thereof, can impact the greater team. And I think that’s the lesson I took from that. And actually, it’s a good lesson, and I still keep that to this day is, you know, you’re not always going to connect with everyone within your workplace. And that’s okay. But be mindful of how you interact with them, how you don’t interact with them, and how that that reaction in that relationship can really ripple out to those around you.


Karan Rhodes  22:49

That’s right. It creates a domino effect, especially once because I bet your team member did not keep it just between you and them. They mentioned it to others. It was like, Hey, did you know Steve Wynn even invited, you know, so I’m sure there was a ripple effect of feelings.


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  23:07

Yes. And that leader actually eventually got separated from the company. So it wasn’t the only


Karan Rhodes  23:13

wonder why.


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  23:18

Time and it really wasn’t just me, there was a pattern of behavior we found out and so there’s, so it felt it stung a little less once we


Karan Rhodes  23:28

Yeah, but it’s still things in the moment. And you know what, you and I are talking about it today, you know, late years later, probably?


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  23:35

Exactly, exactly what good lesson.


Karan Rhodes  23:40

Well, speaking of good checklists, turn it to the good side of leadership. You know, one of as you may be aware of what, during the right before the pandemic, I commissioned a research study on high potential leaders, and out of that work came out some of the top behaviors that were critical to any leadership efforts. And I was just curious if any of those top seven that we wrote about resonated


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  24:02

with you? Well, absolutely, Karen. And what’s funny is when I was reviewing the list, and then I reflect on the six competencies that I talked about, in my book, pride, leadership, as well as what I’ve observed, for leaders who are rockin and rollin or crashing and burning with these six, I love that we had so many alike.


Karan Rhodes  24:20

I know I noticed that as well. And I looked at their website.


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  24:24

I was like, Yes, so the one that resonated for you, all of them really resonated with me. But the one that I speak to now is the courageous agility, which of course we deserve as well because, you know, doing the right thing and having the courage to do the right thing like the mob Sam, and you’re all women drives scenario, that’s vital for leaders and having that courage, to be honest and to have that integrity. I love that my definition of integrity and several other folks have it is, you know, integrity is doing the right thing when no one’s watching. And so being able to do that, and also being prepared for the consequences when that happens. And, you know, I often say to the folks, I coach and we talk with a TopDog learning group is, you know, leadership, courage cannot be undervalued. And it takes that kind of courageousness to facilitate lasting change within your workplace, especially if you’re trying to be more inclusive, and create that sense of belonging for all the folks. So I would say, courageous agility is the one I would pick.


Karan Rhodes  25:22

Oh, I love that. That’s so resonated with me. And for those listeners who aren’t able to see the video, would you mind relating your other five really quick?


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  25:31

Absolutely. So the way my latest book by leadership started was I was gonna write just a quote unquote, generic leadership book. And I kind of went through and looked at the competencies that I’ve seen leaders over my almost 30 years doing this stuff, the ones that display these six behaviors really are the ones who are successful. So it’s, it’s being authentic or authenticity, having courage, leveraging empathy, effective communication, building relationships, and shaping culture. And then as I was going down the path, I can’t remember the first Sex in the City show. Yes, yes. Remember Carrie Bradshaw, the main person would sit down at her computer Lomax, and she’d always start her column, I couldn’t help but wonder. And so I was kind of getting the six common C’s together. And I’m like watching my queer brothers and sisters and siblings who are doing, you know, leadership work, volunteering, and the little Carrie Bradshaw went on my head, I couldn’t help but wonder, is there something about the LGBTQ PLU experience that lends itself to exercise these six competencies just a little differently. And so my book went from the generic leadership book to one through what I call the rainbow lens. And so it’s looking at authenticity through the lens of a queer person, being courageous through the lens of a queer person, and empathy, communication, relationships, and culture through all those lenses. And for those who aren’t seeing the graphic that’s on the video. Of course, these are laid out in a lovely little rainbow flag, each of the six that wasn’t by accident friends, but it was it does really make you think, like, for example, authenticity, if I’m out at work, if I’m a trans person being my authentic self in the workplace, that’s a power. And you can channel that power into being a more effective leader with great results.


Karan Rhodes  27:12

Yes, absolutely. And what do you advise? Like, for example, clear leaders in the workplace, sometimes you’re targeted to be the lead of employee resource groups, or the lead conversationalist about a topic, what do you advise some of them in the workplace to do so that they’re not always tapped on that they can enjoy the world of work with that I haven’t to carry the flag? 24/7 If they don’t want to, you know, if they want to, that’s fantastic. But if they don’t have what do you advise them to do?


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  27:45

That is a such a beautiful question. Because most marginalized people are put into the educator role at somewhat for and I mean, for some of us, you know, hey, that’s what I do. And I’m happy to play that part. For others. It’s just exhausting. It’s like, you know, I work with a lot of pharmaceutical companies, a lot of the career leaders I work with, they’re like, I just want to be a chemist, I mean, leave me alone, I just want to make drugs, you know. I’m, like, I got that, you know. So I think it’s, you know, one of the things that and matter of fact, I talked about that in the shaping culture chapter of leadership, but it’s about the network you build around you. And if you have the battery, you know, with or the bandwidth or the battery level, or whatever you’d like to say, take it on, you use your personal platform to educate and share with others and but also be mindful to tap out and have someone else step up. And so that’s where that network comes into play. And so you often see this with ERGs, we’re, you know, it’s not a compensated role for the most part, you know, your your day job and your day job. And for those, you know, do it for a while, always be thinking about succession planning, or someone else, you could tap in and signal Steve, I got this event, you go have a seat, you go sit down, oh, it’s June, you’re tired, go do your thing. And we’ll catch up with you in July or whatever. So I think it’s being mindful of that. And it’s also being self aware, what toll educating others has on you personally. And you, Karen, you and I, before we started recording, both admitted to being lovely extroverts. So this might be our jam. But if you’re more introverted, then that takes even more energy when you’re in that space. And so just having that mindfulness of your own resiliency, I think is important as well.


Karan Rhodes  29:22

Well, this has been fantastic. I could talk to you all day. But there’s one more segment that we need to do before I can let you go. And our final segment is called Full Disclosure. I will say there are no gotcha questions on this either, but as to bring a little additional flair to your episode, if you don’t mind. So my first question for you is, what are the easy one? What is your favorite meal


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  29:50

with your meal meal? Ooh, so I vacillate behind that kind of depending on moods. I’m pretty flexible. I’m lucky enough that my husband is a phenomenal cook because I am not. We’re almost 25 years together. And so thank goodness because otherwise I’d be like, you know, take out you know, salads from Publix here in central Florida or whatever. So pretty much anything he makes. What I will say recently, I have to admit as much as I tried to not do the meat-eating thing. We do meatless Mondays for most of the time, but a good grilled steak is like…


Karan Rhodes  30:26

Oh, you’re my heavy would-be best friend. The less I’m not a steak person. I’m a seafood person. But yeah, ayou all would be best friends.


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  30:37

Lucky. I love seafood too. Good steak is probably my favorite. Yeah,


Karan Rhodes  30:41

good stea…a good steak. Gotcha. Well, I know we’re both dog lovers. But can you tell me a little bit more about why you named your firm TopDog learning group?


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  30:53

So thank you for asking that. And what’s funny is when we named TopDog what we did in 2002, I didn’t have a dog. My friend Ruth, Ruth bond, who I started TopDog with, it’s still one of my best friends to this day. She is a massive dog lover. She’s a dog whisperer. She’s so smart. And when we were trying to figure out a name, you know, she’s she’s British. And of course, her name is Bond. So it’s just so classy. And we’re like bond and Yacovelli. And associates. I’m like, yeah, it doesn’t roll off.


Karan Rhodes  31:23

That’s a mouthful. Yeah,


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  31:26

My last name is not easy. And so we started just brainstorming. And I’m like, Well, I like dogs. And she’s like, well, clearly I do. And that’s kind of where we went down the path of TopDog. And then what’s kind of fun is flash forward to 2008 when I decided to go full time with with the business, and I rebranded to kind of the logo that you’re seeing here. And as it turns out, the first dog I got, which was in 2009. So this is about a year and a half after I went full time, Ella, my she’s now unfortunately passed away. But she looked like that. And it was totally by happenstance. So every time I see my logo, I think of my beautiful little Ella bean. So


Karan Rhodes  32:02

and you have to smile, right?


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  32:05

Well, I had to smile. Now I have another canine son who’s awesome as well, but he doesn’t look like that.


Karan Rhodes  32:12

Well, we had two Ollie who passed away at 19. Last year, they had long spoiled life, the love myPo life and then we now we have Poppy that’s still with us and Poppy is a Papillon. Then he’s hovering outside the door waiting for the podcast to be over.


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  32:32

Russell is in the back room with he’s got a treat. He got his water bowl, and I shut the door. I’ve learned how to do that. Because otherwise he will make a cameo on any public.


Karan Rhodes  32:42

saying well. And then my final question to you, but I’m gonna allow you to turn the tables back on me since you have been so kind and gracious with letting me pepper you with questions. What is one question that you would like to ask me?


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  32:56

So clearly you have and if you’re not seeing the video, you need to go to YouTube and see because Karen has just a beautiful office. It’s so inviting. I want to ask how curated is that?


Karan Rhodes  33:08

Honestly, the only thing that’s curated are the flowers on the side. And there’s the thing. I love flowers. And so my husband gives me a big bouquet every week. We’re just here, the rest of the office is not curated, but I had backgrounds I had done and I would sometimes take them off to change them. And people say why don’t you just use your office that ground it looks so great. So honestly, I have the curated background like you but then since people seem to like it, I’m using it.


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  33:41

I love it. I know it’s really cool. And I find it’s because that’s when I know I’ll switch if you’re watching a video. This is actually what’s behind my green screen, I took a picture of what’s behind me just to have it you in case I’d like my office hours and stuff. And I’m really I find it really fascinating. That’s one of the benefits of of a pandemic and now doing a lot of virtual work is you have these little windows into people’s true worlds. And I think you can you get a lot of data in a good way about the person that’s behind them. Now assuming that it’s not just a burglar background or someone’s unmade bed, which that didn’t tells you something. But I just always love to ask if there’s a rhyme or reason behind the background because I always think it’s kind of cool.


Karan Rhodes  34:20

Oh was very cool. It just really quick I will share I was on with someone and their adult daughter came in knew that they were recording that came in half dressed and that’s it and I was like, oh, okay, should we continue or you know, obviously we ended up cutting that piece out there like it’s free will and over here we’re just a casual household.


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  34:46

I was doing a job interview early in the pandemic with someone and so they were going to be working with my business and there was like, you know, an unmade bed behind them and I’m like, oh, okay, and all sudden the unmade bed moved on And I’m like, what was and one of my top doctors was was with me. And we’re going, we’re slacking back and forth like Did you see that I just saw. And so all of a sudden the pile moves. And it’s a person, the woman I was interviewing it was her girlfriend. So, so you’re seeing like that just in terms of the camera waves and that goes on her mind. Like, this is a job interview my friends.


Karan Rhodes  35:23

It is amazing. I bet if we could collect stories from all over the world on these, like unusual events over zoom or video, we can probably read encyclopedias. But again,


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  35:34

I’m about authenticity. That’s totally fine. However, yes. However, it probably leadership be talking about context and managing the context, but still being authentic. And I think that was a good example.


Karan Rhodes  35:46

That’s an excellent example. Well, that is the thank you so so much for your time. I mean, I literally blanked and I looked up and I’m like, oh, gosh, or even past recording. So listeners, thank you so much for your patience. Any last words of advice out there, Steve will have information in the show notes about you. But anything that you want to let our audience know where to find you.


Dr. Steve Yakovelli  36:08

Yeah, I mean, TopDog learning dot biz is probably the best spot or if you’re curious about my latest book, prize leadership, you can just go to Steve on Amazon, it’ll redirect you. And in a few months, that redirect will send you to the next book that’s coming out later next year. It’s called your queer career. So stay tuned for that, and hopefully can give some good advice from the gay leadership, dude,


Karan Rhodes  36:30

that’s all right. I love that. So we’ll have all of that in the show notes, listeners. Well, thank you so much, listeners for hanging in with another episode. Be sure to let your friends know and like and share the podcast as well share with them because I could use another listener to we have a lot of fun as you’ve listened today. So let’s not keep it to ourselves. Let’s share with the world. Have a fantastic rest of your day. And we’ll talk next episode. Take care. Bye. Well, I hope you enjoyed our conversation today with Dr. Steve Yucca Valley, owner and principal of TopDog learning Group LLC. 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 at lead your game And now for Karen’s take on today’s topic of being more consciously inclusive. So I wanted to take a moment to take a deeper dive on better understanding what is conscious inclusion. Conscious inclusion is when we are very strategic in driving the thoughts, beliefs and behaviors that allow us to value and leverage individual differences in others in order to achieve superior results. Being a consciously inclusive leader requires us to not only work to uncover and understand our own unconscious biases, but also to actively cultivate a culture of belonging. So how do we precisely do that? Well, I have a few tips to share to get you started. So the first thing you can focus on is to listen more and talk carefully. You do this by don’t interrupting others, avoiding gender specific words when speaking to a group, avoiding assertive language that others may take as the wrong way or an inappropriate tone. And also be conscious of avoiding any weird facial reactions to what people say. A second tip is to challenge stereotypes, stereotypes and avoid assumptions. Try asking yourself, what is your inner voice say when you are in the presence of others, and analyze if any of those perceptions refer purely to identity aspects, such as race, gender, religion, or education or financial status, and then try to exclude them from your mind if you can, once you’re able to do so then you can challenge yourself to uncover areas of commonalities with the people that you’re working with, in order to build a better relationship with them in the future. And then my third tip is to be proactive in educating yourself, become curious about aspects of others of which you may not be well versed. Sometimes Google can be your friend, look it up, but be sure to verify the legitimacy of the sites that you’re getting your information from, but it’s a great first step. And also, don’t fear about making a mistake. Most people are very understanding and appreciative of your curiosity, as long as you phrase your questions appropriately, in a non threatening way, and share that you’re just trying to seek to better understand and I’ll close by saying, If you keep the behaviors of self awareness, courage, curiosity, vulnerability and empathy, always top of mind, you’ll be well on your way to being a more calm Just late, inclusive leader. Well, that’s all for today’s show. Thank you so much 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, bonus resources, and also submit guest recommendations on our website at lead your game You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn by searching for the name Karan Rhodes with Karan being still KR 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 to bye for now.

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