Discover the secrets of what gives individuals the courage to take up leadership roles and the mindset required to succeed. Gain valuable insights into how to approach unexpected curveballs that come your way and the importance of being adaptable and maintaining a solution-focused approach. Explore the transformative power of journaling and its benefits in building self-awareness, focusing, and reducing stress.


Sherika Ekpo is a trailblazing Chief Human Resources Executive, Board Director, Speaker, and Author. In this insightful discussion, we explore the critical aspects of leadership and how to navigate challenges in the ever-evolving world of work. Sherika shares valuable lessons to enhance your leadership journey throughout this illuminating conversation.

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  1. What gives the courage to take up leadership roles?
  2. How does one approach when a curveball comes their way?
  3. What benefits can be gained from journaling?
  4. What are some of the mega-trends occurring in the world of work today?
  5. How to tackle holding a senior leadership post inside an organization?  

Fear is very crippling.  I try to ask myself, ‘what’s the worst that can happen?”

- Sherika Ekpo



[04:10] Sherika’s Story
[09:28] How to handle unexpected challenges or “curveballs” when leading an initiative or organization.
[13:55] Use journaling as an opportunity to transform your next actions when you fail.
[16:57] Sherika’s methodology and insights as an interim Chief Human Resources Officer.
[20:27] The transition from peer to leader is a profoundly humbling experience.
[23:10] Signature Segment: Karan’s Take: Sherika’s LATTOYG Tactics of Choice
[31:07] Mega Trends in The World of Work: Increasing Interest in Diversity and Inclusion
[34:22] Signature Segment: Full Disclosure
[38:26] Signature Segment: Karan’s Take



Sherika Shaw Ekpo is a highly accomplished Chief Human Resources Executive with extensive experience leading global organizations’ HR strategy and operations. She is also a Board Director, Speaker, and Author, known for her thought leadership and expertise in talent management, diversity, equity and inclusion, leadership development, and organizational culture.

She is a member of the Forbes HR Council and has been recognized for her contributions to the industry through numerous awards and accolades. Sherika is committed to creating a meaningful impact by championing workplace equity and fostering a culture of inclusion that drives innovation, growth, and business success.






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Episode 22| How to Garner the Courage to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone with Sherika Ekpo

Sherika Ekpo  00:00

One of the things that I really lean into is stepping outside of my comfort zone. Because that has had the single largest impact on my career trajectory. It’s been exponential and that linear.


Voiceover  00:15

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  00:52

Hey there superstars. This is Karen and welcome to today’s episode. You know, we all try to show up as our best selves and our professions right? But at various times in your career, you may be asked to take on roles or projects that you may question if you want to take them or if you’re ready to take them. And while the requests may initially feel unsettling, there are particular aspects to consider to help you to determine if the opportunity is a go or no-go for you. Our guest today has had many such career transition decisions as it comes with the territory when you’re considered extremely valuable to your organization or business. I am so happy to have as today’s guest Miss Sherika Ekpo, who’s the former SVP and Interim Chief Human Resources Officer at Anaplan. Anaplan is a leading cloud-native platform for orchestrating business performance. And they were recently acquired by Tama Bravo, one of the largest private equity firms in the world. You know before her stint at Anaplan, Sherika held a leadership position at Google, the United States Digital Service, and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She is a master at storytelling and candidly shares her decision-making process when she faced numerous opportunities, some that she wanted in some that she wasn’t sure she wanted. So enjoy her stories. You’re gonna learn a lot from them. And be sure to stay tuned to the end and listen to my closing segment called Karen’s take 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 Karen and welcome to today’s episode at the leader of the top of your game podcast. I am super thrilled to have a guest on the show today who is the epitome of a person that has mastered resiliency in times of change in the world of corporate America and corporate business. On today’s episode, we are absolutely thrilled to have Sherika Ekpo, the chief diversity and inclusion officer at Anaplan. And Anaplan is an enterprise level software as a service company. And their solutions really work on transforming how enterprises see plan and drive business performance. So welcome to the show. Sherika. We’re so happy to have you.


Sherika Ekpo  03:30

Thanks for having me. How are you?


Karan Rhodes  03:32

I’m doing fantastic today. Thank you for asking. I’m even better now that I’m talking to you.



Girl, listen, I am excited just to share and learn from you and all of your wonderful concepts in your book and everything else. So


Karan Rhodes  03:48

Oh, thank you and right back at you. I mean, we’re gonna be having nuggets, I’m sure there’s tons of nuggets to share with our listeners. But before we get started, what I would love for you to do Sharika is just to even just share a little bit with our audience about your background, maybe where you grew up, and a little bit about your educational and career journey thus far.


Sherika Ekpo  04:10

Absolutely. So I am the proud daughter of Milton and Ida Shaw. And they are immigrants from the Caribbean. So my dad is Jamaican and my mom’s Asian. And I was born in Washington, DC. And so for those who don’t know, DC is the melting pot of culture and opportunity. And so growing up in the DMV as we like to call it DC, Maryland, Virginia, you know, there was a lot of opportunity to share that culture. But with that culture came kids being mean or me trying to figure out how to fit in. My parents are blue collar workers. So you know, I graduated from high school in Bowie, Maryland, went on to Howard University to study business and as a first generation college student, you know, I had to find my way. And so, you know, early on in life, I understood the benefit of having been mentors, because those mentors really helped shape who I am today by helping me navigate the college admissions process, you know, then on to career, aspirations and goals. But I really, along the way, struggled to fit in and made it my business to really join a lot of affinity groups and clubs and things while I was in college. And not only join them, but lead them. And that leadership in building community is what I did as I started my career in finance at JP Morgan. And, you know, I did that for about four and a half years, and then quickly realized that I needed to get some additional education. And, you know, my parents always saw the US and this education system as an opportunity for me to grow and learn and to do better than them. And so they pushed me and I went on to get my VA full time from the University of Maryland Smith business school, and then use that to transition into the federal government where I spent 10 years at a number of different agencies, like the IHS, and then ultimately, the White House. But I will tell you, throughout that entire educational and early career journey, I led a number of community groups. And that work led me to doing ERG and diversity work as a collateral duty. And then over time, I just that turned into my full time job, which is how it kind of led me to be the chief diversity and inclusion officer at Anaplan.


Karan Rhodes  06:24

Wow, what a story. I bet we could talk for a month on all of those experiences that’s you had. But one of the things that I that really has impressed me about you, and I mentioned it a little bit earlier was the amount of resiliency and courage to dip your toe in the water and to a few different things. And I’m curious as if that was something that was just part of your nature, or something that maybe your parents instilled in you, because I know a lot of people struggle with the unknown, and leading people in an area that you might not be as familiar with. And so just curious about what gave you the courage to, you know, take up leadership roles in college and do different try different industries. What are some of your thoughts? They’re


Sherika Ekpo  07:17

interesting? Yeah. So let me just say, I’m a Sagittarius right. So I’m a fire sign.


Karan Rhodes  07:24

I am too! Oh my gosh! When’s your birthday?


Sherika Ekpo  07:27

It’s December 4th.


Karan Rhodes  07:30

December 19. I’m right on that cusp.


Sherika Ekpo  07:36

Yes! We have so much in common, but…


Karan Rhodes  07:38

We do.


Sherika Ekpo  07:40

You know, as the stars align, I’m a very adventurous person. And I will say throughout my career, I’ve really centered myself on a single goal. And that’s to ascend in my career, but also making a difference at every step of the way. And I will say a lot of my ambition comes from my parents. And I used to joke when I was younger, but I would say I am Jamaican, for real, because I had about two, three jobs at a time, all the time, until at least 3030 years old. But I think that curiosity allowed me to never limit myself into one single industry or sector. And that’s why I can stand here today and say, you know, I’ve worked in the financial industry sector, I’ve worked in the public sector with the federal government, I’ve worked in the technology sector, and I’m still here now. And all of those experiences have helped with very well known organizations, in some lesser known, I’ve really just helped me to understand how people work. And better yet how I can contribute to that organization or that community while I’m there. And I always found it useful to pursue opportunities, where I felt like I could help shape the workplace or its trends or have a really meaningful impact, and love that.


Karan Rhodes  08:49

And I think that desire, a lot of your peers and colleagues, a lot of us out here have that same desire. We’re just I don’t think we wake up not wanting to be at our best and not wanting to make a difference. We go in waking up in the morning wanting to do that. But things kind of obstacles hit us sometimes during the day or during the week. That might distract us. So but how do you approach when a curveball comes your way when you’re having to lead either initiative or organization and here comes a curveball. You weren’t seeing? What are some of your initial thought processes? Because I know that’s a place that a lot of people struggle with, you know,


Sherika Ekpo  09:28

yeah, I think you know what? Fear is very crippling, right? And I really do try to ask myself, like, what’s the worst that can happen? And over the years, I’ve just found that you know, I had to rethink and figure out how I prioritize my family and my health and those kinds of things. But one of the things that, you know, I really lean into is stepping outside of my comfort zone because that has had the single largest impact on my career trajectory, right like it’s been exponential and not linear. And so I think that’s because I’ve looked at obstacles and fears as a dichotomy, right? Like, it’s part art and part science. And I don’t know, you know, I don’t have the answers to everything. But I will tell you, I am adventurous in my Sagittarius weighs in that I like to really just kind of test the waters. But you definitely have to have courage when you do that. And the courage is something that I think I’ve gotten from my grandmother, my grandmother, my dad’s mom is 93 years old. And she left Jamaica, she had nine children, but each and every one of them here, and she says she reminds us she’s like, Hey, I only finished school at the eighth grade level. But if you met her, spoke with her, worked with her, you know that you would never know that unless she told you. So the courage that she exhibited is something that I know was instilled in me. And so I really just tried to think about what I want to do, and really put my mind to it. And then I look around and ask myself who’s done it before, but I don’t get bogged down in what their journey is. Because I’m a unique individual. I do know that, right. And we all have our own story. And so I tried to use, you know, some of my mentors or my sponsors journey as a blueprint, but not as an exact science. So I use that outline, but then try to customize it to Sherika and Sherika’s journey.


Karan Rhodes  11:29

Okay, you’re just a sister from another mother, let me just put it out there right now. Because I in the same way, I’ve never been that girl to be put in a box, per se. And I’ve always been the one that was tapped on for special projects or big things because they knew I had the capability of doing that. And then similar to you, my grandparents on both sides. We did not finish school. Some stuff to Elementary in some in some stuff. Ninth grade was the oldest of both sides, my grandparents. And fortunately, they’re both passed away now but but similar to you to them that they wouldn’t have never known that they didn’t go to college, they were well renowned in their communities, super sharp and smart. It was just amazing. With that type of upbringing, I kind of understand where your gumption and your I won’t say fear lessness. But your ability to tackle the unknown comes from. And one of the things I always love to share with individuals, unlike you, as well, I do have a fear of failing. So I don’t like to fail now be out there and do it. But I always want to win. I’ve always wanted to do the best event or initiative or whatever it is I’m doing that I can do. But I always say there’s nothing short of murder that we can’t change the knowing that, you know,


Sherika Ekpo  12:57

I love that


Karan Rhodes  12:58

we should all at least try. Ya know.


Sherika Ekpo  13:03

I love love, love that. And you know, I mean, I agree with you, you know, being a competitive person, you always want to win. But I will tell you, Karen, I’ve learned the most from my failures, too. Yeah. And so it’s interesting, because, you know, social media IG and everything else, people only share their successes, they very rarely share their failures. But people learn them most themselves and others by learning what not to do. So I’m really trying to, you know, examine that as well. And use journaling as an opportunity for me to transform my next actions when I do fail.


Karan Rhodes  13:42

Tell me a little bit more about your journaling. I try that, but I’m not consistent with it. But I know it works for a lot of people. So it might be a resource for our listeners to try. What do you get from journaling?


Sherika Ekpo  13:55

Let me tell you something. First of all, I got one journal for this activity, another journal for that activity…


Karan Rhodes  14:05

Oh look at you! You can run the world with all that.


Sherika Ekpo  14:10

Like literally like just three different journals for different walks of life. And I will tell you, one is for work, okay. One is for my board seats. And the other is like for community activities and giving back and I will tell you, I’m old school in that way, because I need to write things down to commit it to memory, but it’s also just turning the pages and going back and being reflective. And so journaling is just another way for me to go back and be reflective. And if I go in my office, I can show you like journals from years and years and years. So it’s also a really good opportunity for me at the end of the year when I start trying to do like my vision board for the next year or so I start to try to hold myself accountable for the goals or accomplishing or not the goals that I set for myself and so I’m not perfect with it either. I don’t do it. Like every single Today what I will say for meetings and things like you know, people have their iPads or other meeting electronic ways of taking notes. I prefer to write, I just prefer to write. And I think it is something about committing my thoughts to memory. That gives me that extra energy to go forth and achieve my goals. And the one last thing I’ll say is really about manifestation. Not only do I write it, but then I speak it. And the guy Lord above helps me to achieve it. Absolutely.


Karan Rhodes  15:31

Preach girl. Preach! Yes. I love that. I absolutely love that. Well, you know what, you’ve inspired me to try it again. Maybe I just, it’s okay not to do it every single day. Maybe I just pick a couple of days during the week, because I do like to reflect. And I usually do that in the moment. But committing it to a journal probably would be very helpful to be honest with you. Definitely, definitely. So should we go? No, one of the things that are more recent experiences you’ve had was that you were, you know, tapped on for an interim Chief Human Resources Officer stint. And the reason why I wanted to bring this up is because a lot of our audience listeners are, you know, tapped on for special projects or interim roles, or, or what have you. And I’m so I’m just curious, if you could share, of course, not on any details about the confidential details about the role, but how you approach it and thought about it once you were tapped on that knowing that you would be doing, you know, a major leadership role within your organization had a lot of eyes, I’m sure, watching you and a lot of ears listening to you. And I know you have the great skills for the job. But I would just love for you to share how you thought about tackling that type of role. And as much as you can share a little bit about your learnings in that experience.


Sherika Ekpo  16:57

Wow. Yes, absolutely. Well, thank you for asking that. I will go back to something you said earlier, right around that fear. When I was tapped on the shoulder, early July of 2021. I said, No. I was like, thank you. That’s so nice. I think that’d be great. But you know, I’m good. Where I am?


Karan Rhodes  17:17

How did they take you saying no? Were they shocked?


Sherika Ekpo  17:21

Well, they didn’t take it actually, they were like, just think about it, you don’t have to. And I’m glad they gave me that space, because it gave me a chance to step outside of my comfort zone. And what I know, Karan is when I took the job with Google years ago, and I moved my entire family across country from Northern Virginia, to Santa Clara, California, that was a huge risk, and it paid off exponentially. There are several stories like that in my career that I can share with you. But I felt like this is one of those moments. And so I had to really sit back and ask myself, what do you have to lose? Right? Going to Anaplan as the inaugural chief diversity officer, I was drawn to Anaplan because of its culture, viability, to have impact, the Anaplan values, you know, all of that, and none of those things had changed. So I asked myself that, why would you not do this? Well, some of the considerations, you know, I had to take into account as being a wife and a mom, right? So I’m the proud mom of three kids, one have an adult daughter, doing very well for herself. So I’m living in New York, but I also have two little ones here and first in third grade. But I have a very supportive husband and Jana Mae and he said go for it like I got it, don’t worry about it. And I think having a supportive spouse and family is one of the key learnings were you asked about what I learned, I learned what I think you need is is that right? Having that support, because I knew that it was going to stretch me and pull me in directions that I have not yet seen. And when I tell you that when I said yes, it actually, you know, I asked for some conditions to be met. And they met them. Right. So our board was extremely supportive in providing me with a mentor. Our board was extremely supportive in providing me with some additional vendor resources. And our board was, you know, supportive in providing the transparency that I needed to lead at the CHR o level. And it was an absolutely exhausting experience. But an amazing one because being able to take a business from the New York Stock Exchange to a private company and build the leadership team up to where it needs to be in order for the business to be successful is one of my greatest accomplishments.


Karan Rhodes  19:46

Congratulations. That is amazing. I know you’ve done a lot of great work in a short period of time there in the interim role, but anyone who’s been through any type of major transformation or change knows how difficult it is not only to execute it, but to bring others along on the journey, as well. So it sounds amazing that you had a great support network. But to be honest with you, a lot of folks out there don’t. I mean, you were pretty lucky to be able to do that, like, you’re blessed to be able to have that when there are things that you may not have known the right process or have known the way. How did you tackle those?


Sherika Ekpo  20:27

Can I just say, going from being a peer to the lead is a very humbling experience, because you have to build trust within your team, and you have to earn it, it’s not given to you, right? And so building that trust allowed me to exercise a bit of humility, because what I know is what I know, but there are things that I don’t know. And so I wasn’t afraid to ask questions. And I tell people all the time, it’s one thing to, you know, take a role and be Mr. or Mrs. No at all. But it’s another thing to be curious. And so for me, I went in with this curiosity that allowed me to ask questions, and all the dumb ones too, right? Like I and I was able to say, Hey, I’m new to this helped me understand this, or that or this process. And because there was a level of familiarity, in most cases that played in a positive light for me, but in other cases, right, I needed to make sure that I was well positioned to succeed, and to continue to lift up my HR Lt. Who used to be my peers, right. So that I will tell you, that is probably one of the more challenging areas. But I also really leaned on a strong community of other HR practitioners and CHR OHS, because what I quickly realized is that we were all dealing with the same types of people issues, right. So yeah, we didn’t have to try to tackle this alone. And we never had to share, you know, like proprietary details or anything, but people are people and what I say all the time where people are unpredictable, so I don’t care how well you plan, just plan to have your plan. derailed. That’s right. People are unpredictable. But yeah,


Karan Rhodes  22:11

all right. Well, we’re gonna add that to our leadership playbook of Brown, you know, when you’re having to take on expansive roles, having the courage and the vulnerability to ask questions, and to position it as admitting that you don’t know what you don’t know. But you’re very curious about their input and feedback and opening that door to getting more data and information, as well as finding a supportive network that you can go to, in confidence, to bounce ideas and to talk through and learn from best practices. Okay. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. Let’s see. Well, Neil, you know, as you know, I did write a book on leadership execution. And I always love asking our guests, if there were one or more of those tactics, that are always involved in any leadership effort that really resonated with you. And I was curious, maybe one or two that might have resonated with you that you’ve used throughout your career?


Sherika Ekpo  23:10

Yes, I think this thought about being an intrapreneur is key. And I think that kind of goes back to me asking the questions and stepping outside of my comfort zone, because I’ve always known myself to be a builder. And a lot of people are pushed externally go start your own business go, and, you know, build that community. But everybody is not meant to do that for themselves. Some people are meant to do that within organizations. And what I have found is that I have an innate strength and capability to do just that, to measure to build and to really hold people accountable. And so I really, you know, that concept, as I read it, I started to think more about what it means to build a diversity, equity and inclusion strategy from the bottom up. And that’s what Anaplan brought me in to do. And when I ascended to the CHR o role, what I started to ask myself is now what does it look like to expand our people strategy to include more retention, and more opportunities, and more thoughts around how we meet our customers at their level, and actually secure their planning needs and help them make strong business decisions. And when I tell you that, like being an intrapreneur is, in some cases, harder than being an entrepreneur,


Karan Rhodes  24:34

It is! Because you’re having to work within the red tape and office politics and the industry dynamics, right?


Sherika Ekpo  24:42

Absolutely. And so, when you think about that, that is something that you have to think through and you have to start to really do what I would you know, a normal SWOT analysis right for right, what are the strengths of the product that you have? What are the weaknesses of the strategy, what are some of the industry opportunities or industry threats that you need to be thinking through. And the more I think about it, I really align with that. Because for me questioning what processes already exists, so that we can increase efficiencies and have better outcomes are what I pride myself on doing


Karan Rhodes  25:19

Amazing. And, you know, I think almost every employer seeks that from their organization, you get rewarded for finding ways to improve or build new products, or build new products, services or processes, or improve upon current products, you know, services, and that’s what they’re looking for. And that’s what you get rewarded for noon, you’re sitting on your hands not doing anything, but checking into email, that is not what will cause the leaders to really recognize what your your contributions and what you’re doing. And we all want to do


Sherika Ekpo  25:57

Or move the business forward, right? Like Innovation is key.


Karan Rhodes  26:00

You know, we always know when we see a good leader, we kind of know, in our hearts, it’s hard to describe it. But we know when we see a good one, and we know when one is how struggling not doing so well. And so I want you to think about a time or situation where you either witnessed or experience leadership gone wrong. And I don’t want you to mention anyone or any company in particular. But can you just share a little bit about what was happening, when something about that leadership effort or something that person did went wrong, and how that affected the whole either initiative or team?


Sherika Ekpo  26:40

Well, it’s interesting. I mean, I have a number of experiences that we can pull on, but I’ll just keep it general and say, and actually tie it back to one of your principles, right? Like you talk about leading, right and leading with this stakeholder savvy. And I will tell you working in the federal government for 10 years and working for very large agencies, you know, I witnessed what it means to say it’s not what you know, but who, you know, literally witnessed and every day, and a lot of that came because within the federal space, there are changes of administration every four to eight years, their policy changes daily. They’re people’s lives that are impacted, minute by minute. But what I found is that leaders who have the innate ability to number one, listen and understand what the American people wanted, and more importantly, knew who to talk to, in what order, they needed to talk to the people to resolve the conflict problem or issue were the most successful. So when I saw a leader who was unsuccessful, especially in the federal space, it was because I saw a lot of this joint administration changes. And you would have new people come in who would you know, have this air or or about them that they were more important or knew more, because they are now connected to whoever the new political leader was. And they would discount all of the knowledge and contributions of the federal workers who have been there 20 or 30 years, and wouldn’t even ask their opinions, ask about background content issues, anything. And they quickly came to realize, I mean, that attitude, maybe lasted 30 days, they quickly came to find out that if you did not talk to the gatekeeper, right, like if you just omitted that program manager who had sat in the role and manage that program for 20 years that you couldn’t get anywhere. So a lot of the lessons that I learned from the federal government that I actually took with me to Google, and I think partly why I was so successful there is because I recognize that each member of the team played a very important role. And it wasn’t about the title that you held, but more importantly about the contributions that you made to the team. And as you think about stakeholders savvy, it is about knowing what information you need from that stakeholder and how to connect the dots with the information that’s given. And a lot of that, in my opinion, just based on what I’ve seen is about making sure that you talk to the right stakeholders in the right successive order. And making sure you close the loop.


Karan Rhodes  29:15

close the loop, and if I can “yes and,” let me add to that. And as you have conversations, make sure you touch base on topics or items that are important to them to Yes, right so it resonates with them so that you’re gaining their buy in absolutely at the same time.


Sherika Ekpo  29:34

It’s all about the buy-in Karan. You hit the nail on the head.


Karan Rhodes  29:37

All about the buy-in


Sherika Ekpo  29:39

Engagement is all about buy-in.


Karan Rhodes  29:42

It is Love it. Love it. Love it. So a couple last questions. I know we’re running a little short on time, but I must get these. In. A few months ago, I spoke at the global talent summit 2022 at the Gallup headquarters in DC and But I was speaking on some of the lessons in the book, but then also mega trends that are occurring in the world of work. And one in particular, I just wanted to get your thoughts on was we talked about the AI v plus space. And one of the mega trends that I spoke about was how leaders in general, leaders were very interested in the I mean, we’ve had many revolutions of social justice awakenings, and people, you know, very focused in the inclusion space. And it happened during the pandemic, but now companies are struggling with sustainability and moving their strategies forward, and keeping the same intense focus. And so we had some rich conversations in the room around that. And I’m curious, is that something that you too are seeing in the industry, whether or not is that Anaplan? or not, but in the industry? Do you see your peers I won’t say struggling, but really trying to keep their organizations having diversity, inclusion, top of mind,


Sherika Ekpo  31:07

You know, what I think what you’re seeing and experiencing is a shift, it is a shift in priorities. So that naturally leads to this inability to maintain the same momentum that you saw in 2020. And I think the macro economic headwinds are making it such that companies are able to easily excuse the fact that they have made little to no progress. Good point. Good luck, I strongly believe that you cannot take your foot off their neck right now. Can’t do it. Not at all, I think, now more than ever, as people are, you know, reimagining what their next jobs will look like some people are being laid off in various industries, others are expanding their scope and taking on new roles. It’s important for people to make sure that they feel like they belong. And so I really did focus my last 2022, around belonging and published, co published with the Center for equity and gender leadership with UC Berkeley at belonging playbook. In that playbook. You know, we really talk about what it means to have these key drivers of belonging and why that matters to the bottom line. And overall, I would want to say in 2022, we talked a lot about retaining talent, what it means to identify who critical talent is what it means to create this employee onboarding experience. That’s good, what our employee engagement model looks like. So to your to answer your question directly, yes, companies, our companies are struggling because they’re shifting their priorities. And so I tell our leaders, I don’t want to hear about what your priorities are, I want to see what your priorities are. And a lot of times you can see what the priorities are, if you follow the money, I started my career in finance. I started my career in finance, and even in the federal government, I often work for the CFO, and she, I worked for CFO Radha Sokar. I will never forget her. And she says, Look, people can tell you what their priorities are. But you know exactly what their priorities are by how they fund them. That’s right. So we have to continue to provide those human and financial resources to our dei be initiatives and continue to ask for the metrics that show the progress, albeit small, in some cases, let’s understand that this is not an overnight fix, and that it will take continued pressure and resources to see and hold folks accountable.


Karan Rhodes  33:37

That’s a drop the mic moment right there. That’s what we need to try to infuse and keep top of mind for all of our leaders that are in decision making seats, especially at the priority and budget levels. Yes. Oh, my gosh, we could have a whole nother podcast about that. All right. Well, one last thing before I let you go, our final segment is called Full Disclosure. There will not be any gotcha questions, I promise that but it just a couple of fun questions to ask you if you don’t mind. Okay. So the first one is, I’m curious, what is the one either app or resource that you just can’t live without? in your daily life? Oh, I never the journaling.


Sherika Ekpo  34:22

Yeah, the journaling was a is one for me. I will tell you that I can’t live without


Karan Rhodes  34:28

or you’d hate to live without, yeah, anything on your phone that you go to constantly to help you keep organized or


Sherika Ekpo  34:36

Well, I will say I do my best thinking in the shower, in the shower on a wall. So we talked right before this started like I gotta get my book today. And so the Notes app on my iPhone is something that I have. Right now I have 700 different notes. Because as I’m walking sometimes something will just come to me and so I have to jot it down just that minute or I get out of the shower and I My oh my God, let me jot that down really quickly. And my phone is always near me, the journals are not. And so I use that as a way to capture some of the ideas and then come back to them at a later time. So


Karan Rhodes  35:11

That’s perfect. I do the same thing I listened to a lot of things when I’m walking, but I did listen to some podcasts as well. And there’s usually a nugget or something that I will either want to look up as a resource or remember, and I definitely need some notes. for that. I think you have maybe one more note than I do. But I have a lot of notes as well. Probably need to clean them out, meeting me to what would be a great birthday present for you?


Sherika Ekpo  35:37

Time with family and friends that I really love and care about. Because I’m gonna tell you, you can get everything else back. But you cannot get time


Karan Rhodes  35:45

You cannot get time. I love that. Let’s see. What is a recent movie, you saw an article you read, or song that you love to listen to?


Sherika Ekpo  35:59

Oh, so I’m like a old soul kind of person. And What movie did we see? I’ve actually done some like, mother, like some kid movies. Kind of date.


Karan Rhodes  36:13

Yeah, with little ones like that.


Sherika Ekpo  36:17

Yep. So the one that we watched most recently was the one called “Yes Day” on Netflix. And it was really around a family with three kids, mom, dad, and the kids said that the parents were no fun. And the camp parents said no to everything all the time. And they had a bet that the parents couldn’t say yes to everything that they asked for within parameters. And just watching it with my kids actually having these thinking about what it is and how I parent and you know, how they think and what they think is reasonable or unreasonable. So I just again, going back to what is a great birthday present for me, it’s really about time so that Yes, “Yes Day” movie is something that I would encourage all parents to go take a look at. It’s cute is easy. And if you have kids, elementary aged kids like I do, it’ll give you a couple ideas.


Karan Rhodes  37:05

Well, I have a granddaughter myself, but I’m gonna go back and watch that, too.


Sherika Ekpo  37:11

Is really, really cute. I think she’ll like it. And you will too.


Karan Rhodes  37:13

Do they like she just graduated from college. So yeah, I could still appreciate the messaging. All right, very good. This has been absolutely fantastic. Thank you so much for the gift of your time and the gift of the knowledge that you share it with our audience members.


Sherika Ekpo  37:34

Thank you so much for having me, Karan. It’s a pleasure. And I hope that you have a wonderful day.


Karan Rhodes  37:39

Thank you, I will and listeners. Thank you so much again for listening to another episode of the elite at the top of your game podcast. Please like, subscribe and share with your friends. We’d love to expand our network and our impact and influence. And we look forward to seeing you on the next episode. Have a fantastic day yourself and take care. Bye bye.


Well, I hope you enjoyed our conversation today with Sharifa epco former SVP and Interim Chief Human Resources Officer at Anaplan 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 of choice, and at lead your game And now for Karen’s take on our topic of stepping outside of your comfort zone, you know sure he could did a great job of sharing with us how to step outside of our comfort zone. And now I want to cap off her sage advice by emphasizing the benefits upon doing so. So one of the benefits is that the exciting parts of life are out there waiting for you. You just have to grab them by the horns. Real life exists beyond the bubble of your own personal thoughts, feelings and beliefs. So I encourage you to embrace all possible experiences, not just the ones you’re comfortable with. Another benefit has to do with challenging yourself, you should challenge yourself to dip into and utilize your intellectual horsepower. You have no idea what you’re made of until you use your expertise for ventures outside of your daily normal activities. Another benefit involves taking risks, you know, take your risk, regardless of the outcome or growth experiences. Even if you make mistakes, those become learning experiences that you can tap into into the future. Remember, the word fail really means first attempt in learning. And then the last minute that I wanted to share with you is that leaving your comfort zone ultimately helps you to deal with change and making a change in a much better way. Each time you transition. You move to another level of excellence and inevitably these Life translations will transform you for the better, maybe better. Understanding these benefits of stepping outside of your comfort zone will give you the courage to take a chance and see what the world has to offer you. Thanks so much for listening to the Lead at the Top of Your Game Podcast. And we’ll 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 spelled k 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 shackling 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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