24: Leaders with Heart Strive to Serve First

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Today on the podcast we have Heather Heebner, former SVP of HR at Instawares Holding Company. We talked about leadership from the unique lens of a human resources executive. Heather shares her perspective on “happy employees”, and, instead, focuses on creating an environment that makes people proud to work there and do the work that they do. 

Heather opens up about an early learning experience with differing communication styles and how she had an awakening after one specific instance that drove her to hold herself and others to a higher standard. She relates stories of leaders who were “in-the-trenches” with their people, and they were much more effective as a result.

Heather enlightens listeners on the importance of active listening, serving others first and trusting the silence and allowing others to process what is happening.

Her key nugget? Look internally as a leader. Continually development yourself and find people who support you and hold you accountable.

This podcast holds a rich conversation about the role HR plays in organizations and as leaders-with or without titles.

Heather is accomplished HR leader with 22 years of progressive, hands-on experience. She is self-motivated, a passionate business partner, is competent at managing all aspects of human resources from program development to implementation and on-going maintenance and improvement. She is skilled at and enjoys coaching all levels of leadership relating to employee engagement, best practices and change management. Most recently, she has served as the HR leader for several mergers and acquisitions.

Heather is a graduate of Oglethorpe University and resides north of Atlanta with her husband and dogs. She can be reached at heather.heebner@gmail.com

“Happy Employees”

Everyone can’t be happy all the time. What is that that I look to next for my team members?

For me, what will let them take pride in their work? Where they will leave at the end of the day and say, a) “I gave it 110%” and b) “I’m very proud of what I do and I’m able to make a difference.”

I think that’s where I really want to focus going forward.

Don’t get me wrong, I think having the right culture is important; I think having the right leadership and having people that you love to work with and work for is of utmost importance. But how do we translate what the company is doing into what makes people proud to work there and proud to do what they do?

Recognize the Signs

Wherever I am, I try to have weekly one-on-ones with people, which I think is pretty standard of course for most folks nowadays. I’m checking in, and it was a very challenging time. There was a lot going on, and we didn’t have the resources – certainly not for HR. We had resources that we needed elsewhere.

I remember talking to this individual every week and I could hear their frustration, and I would try to go, “Let’s focus on this” and “You’re doing a really great job.”

It came to a point where one day, there was a very frustrating call for both of us. I think I was just in an off place, and they were continuing to feel the frustration and my positivity was not there.

They resigned shortly after.

I’ve always regretted that conversation, because I wasn’t there for my team member.

When I look back in hindsight, I should have recognized the clues sooner instead of trying to turn things into a positive note on each and every call.

I should have really gone and said, again, “What’s going to be what makes you proud to work here? What is going to be what you need this role to be and what you need this company to be?”

We need to do a better job of recognizing when our employees aren’t making that transition well, and if they don’t want to make that transition well. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

“How Can I Help You” Vs “How Can I Make This Better?”

We’re all in situations where we can’t make it better right where we are. We just can’t. That’s just what it is.

“How can I support you?”

“What can I take off of your plate?”

“What can I do for you?”

I think for each person it’s different, and that’s my leadership style – I’m much more of a servant. I consider myself a servant leader because I believe that by serving the people that you support, it just lifts them up to be better.

How can we shorten the distance between the awareness of what’s happening and maybe what we are doing, and how it impacts others and how we can pull back so that we can minimize the negative impacts? Click To TweetFor me, as a leader, I’m not comfortable with silence. #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetThis is not about being perfect; this is about continuous improvement. #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetLook internally. Constantly evaluate where you are and what you are doing. #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetAt the same time that you’re trying to help others, you should also still be working and refining yourself. #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetBecause you’re in a place right now where you’re struggling, doesn’t mean that you’re not meant to be a leader. It’s really important that you not throw in the towel because this will be one of the hardest things you do. Click To Tweet



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Email her at heather.heebner@gmail.com

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