How Iconic Brands Are Leading the Pack During Transitions

What Your Company Needs To Be Doing to Blaze Its Own Trail

Iconic brands lead from the top down but they know that execution works from the inside out.

Major corporations are shifting leadership at a rapid rate. Take Nike for example, announcing a new CEO after Mark Parker catapulted stock and success over the last decade. But Parker’s not going anywhere, he’s been a long-time player in Nike and has come up the ranks in well-earned form and it shows.

The new CEO John Donahue who steps up in mid-January brings with him, the technology piece that will inevitably keep Nike leading the pack and springboard off the powerhouse leadership of Parker, IF leadership can navigate the transition just right.

Here are 7 keys you need to blaze a trail in the new year:

Now more than ever you have to be reinventing yourself, pushing yourself, furthering your understanding and capabilities. It’s just not possible to stick your head in the sand and expect to stay on top. Always be paying attention to the market place.

“Change is inevitable with the pace of technology, transitions might need to happen fast and ideally they need to be as smooth as possible.” Renee Schlachter of Extensis


Congruent clarity creates a culture of common alignment. Say that 3 times fast and instill that kind of confidence in your people practices and that’s how you transform a workplace. Culture comes from a leadership that is established through clear alignment to values. Once that’s in place, leadership better be setting a good example. Then train your people from the beginning with common and congruent language the exudes through your brand.


This is not just with your external marketing message, it also happens to be the biggest factor in the success of the internal operations and function of some of the most successful and iconic brands. Leaders lose if they don’t come from a place of congruency in their actions. Ever hear this: ‘Your actions speak so loudly I can hardly hear what you’re saying…’

The past year has shown some of the highest rates of leadership changes in the most iconic brands. With a new CEO, you’ll often see a big rebrand, especially if there is an ego. If you go in reinventing you better be clear from the top down.  If you don’t change mindset and culture to go along with that big rebrand you’ll shrink your lead from sheer confusion.

4. KEEP IT REAL in all levels of leadership

If you can’t relate to all levels of the organization while remaining steadfast to your core values you’ll lose your internal infrastructure. It may not happen overnight, but each part of the scaffolding of the organization will begin to implode.

5. BUILD from within

“If it makes sense – advance and train from within.” VP of XeniumHR, Alishia Young

Many companies have had exceptional success when they hire within, however, if you need to bring in fresh, outside eyes and the specialized skills to take your company to the next level, then that’s your best choice.

Nike’s shift of leadership comes from the clarity of taking their company to the next level using technology, as a result, they’ve made a congruent move bringing in that outside expert.


Staying on top means ensuring your employees have the skills and support of expanding their skills internally. Constantly learning and improving yourself and making sure your managers and employees are doing the same is crucial. People are no longer hired for a certain skill, instead, they need to be multi-faceted and be able to implement or adapt. If you don’t have the skills consider training employees internally and find a balance going forward.

“Balance your birds-eye view and continue to push forward and evolve at a faster pace.  No department can turn a blind eye to what’s coming” VP of XeniumHR, Alishia Young

7. LISTEN to people

Which way technology needs to be deployed and at what speed is a big conversation you better be having. Listen with the intent to understand, to learn, to help. If you want to become a better listener, the best place to start is not talking.

After returning from a Comcast Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning conference recently, I’m more aware than ever that the game of listening has changed. NBC/Comcast is fast and furious on this. Their algorithms are set up to listen to every single customer – not just their words but every keystroke and swipe. The infrastructure in place with AI is making every person’s preferences available down to when they start to push back – with their money, their time and their attention.

There is no standard any longer. Not with the ability of AI to calculate and make algorithms that change on a word, inflection or swipe. This is huge. It changes the playing field for those brands that can afford to pivot quickly. But it’s still consumer-driven. AI can be used to track every move of the consumer and if you pay attention, you’ll recognize it as ancient wisdom and use it wisely.

Listening to what people are saying is still one of the biggest factors in any iconic brand.

Is there still room for small businesses and entrepreneurs in the world? You bet. People still make up the world.

People want to be heard. They want their voice to matter. Whether that’s your employee, your leaders or your customers.

And there are big answers in what people are saying. But you can’t be reactive to them.

You have to see the bigger picture and stay focused on your deliverables.

Hoard your stock, your inventory and you won’t be a viable organization. Whether those deliverables are apps, movies, a service, or people in seats or scrolling on their phones, it’s about high touch service and being a partner with your customers, employees and leaders.

Start implementing the above and watch your results. The metrics will tell you a story. Whether you are in the middle of the confused chaos of a big transition or a small rebrand, implement the advice above and you’ll see your brand take the lead.

Stephana Johnson is an entrepreneur and founder of Powerhouse Leaders, she writes, speaks and through her coaching programs helps entrepreneurs and execs get more results with less BS for themselves, their team and their bottom line. Visit or contact

The 3 Most Important Questions You Must Answer To Never Fail

How This Subtle Piece of Wisdom Can Change Your World

One of my darling’s of Literature is Leo Tolstoy and his story of  “The Three Questions” impacted me profoundly as a mother and as a business owner.

If you aren’t familiar with the story, it’s based on a king’s idea that he would never fail if he knew the answer to these three questions:

What is the right time for every action?
Who are the most necessary people?
What is the most important thing to do?

Just as many intelligent and capable business owners seek answers to questions like these every day, you will always get different answers.

Are you paying attention?

There will always be more information out there, there will always be more “answers”.

Until you fully understand the questions through application, you will be left seeking instead of succeeding.

As a business owner, you are naturally innovative. I am asking you to shift your thinking now, so you can finally understand the answers you seek – have always been there.

In fact, I’m quite certain you’ve held the answers all along, but they’ve been fragmented and you’ve been distracted from them.

We’ve been taught to always be reading – but why? Is more information going to be the answer?

We’ve been told we have to work harder – but why? Is more hustle going to be the answer?

I don’t believe you need more information – there’s no magic book, coach or program that if you just had it or did that or hired them – you’d have the answer.

So where do you break this cycle?

When you continue to seek you will always find someone who is willing to give you their answer.

Until you experience the answers for yourself you may never understand the meaning of your own purposeful gifts. As in Tolstoy’s story, so many men attempted to answer the king’s questions, but they all came up with different answers.

When the king decided to ask a wise hermit in a nearby village he had to disguise himself as a peasant, leaving his guards behind.

The hermit was tending his garden when the king arrived. The king asked his questions, but the old hermit went on digging. The king was inclined to offer to dig for him for a while and after digging for some time the king asked his questions again.

Just as the hermit might have answered, a man emerged from the dark woods bleeding profusely from a terrible stomach wound.

The king immediately tended his wound and took care of this man, staying the night in the hermit’s hut. The next day the man was greatly improved but incredulous as to what the king had done for him. The man confessed he had known who the king was and that the king had his brother executed and property seized, he, in fact, had come to kill the king! But the king’s guards had wounded him.

The man pledges his allegiance to the king and goes on his way.

Up until that point, the king had forgotten the questions. Once again the king asks the hermit and this time the hermit responds that he had just had his questions answered.

When we come to know the answers for ourselves it changes everything. As an entrepreneur, as a friend, as a parent, as a human being.

May you come to know the answers for yourself.

The most important time is now. As the present is really the only time over which we have power.

Whomever you are with is the most important person.

To do good to the person you are with is the most important thing to do.

Allow this idea to simmer and see how it evolves in your own life. You have enormous capacity and ability to affect the people in your world profoundly. If you aren’t realizing your own potential in the 3 core areas of your life, reach out for a chat. I just might be that optimizing hermit you’ve been seeking.

How Smart Women Leaders At Top Tech Companies Benefit From Breakthrough Innovation

Make no mistake, women have come a long way in the tech world.  While threads of self doubt still weave at every level of leadership, at their core, smart women leaders benefit from these breakthrough ideas.

Nobody gets to be a leader by themselves

“It’s collaboration… with mentors, managers, sponsors…nobody gets to be a leader by themselves. From above, below and around – the collaboration from coworkers and colleagues… their passion is infectious. Their smarts, their drive…that’s what gets me up every morning.” Elizabeth Robillard, VP of Partnerships at Lytics, one of the fastest growing startups in Portland, OR and Principle at

“Support is the key word – when a manager offers herself as a resource, it’s immense for coworkers. Anything I do,  it takes a village, no leader can do it on their own. The level of support from my circles, all the way up and all the way down, is what makes all the difference.” Tami Wood, Community Lead at Jaguar Land Rover Innovation Labs and 2019 Winner of Portland Business Journal’s Women of Influence Award.

Cultivate a culture that allows the team to freely collaborate

A big struggle in the process of innovation is when teams don’t feel safe to bring their ideas.

We need to push each other to do our best and bring ideas, innovation is a team sport.

Thrive on being pushed forward

Women tend to be over prepared, because they’ve usually had to work harder as young girls. My parents pushed me hard. I pushed myself to be the best, to get all As. But you don’t get As at work. That’s not what you do it for.”

Now you don’t work hard to get the grade, you work hard to build something lasting. You have to be passionate about what you are doing. Find people that inspire you to be your best self at work.” Elizabeth Robillard

Be present for the chaos

“So what that you haven’t done that job before. I’m like a Swiss Army Knife, every day I show up and it may feel uncomfortable, but that’s the difference of being present for the chaos of innovation.  It’s not about making perfect decisions. It’s about making the right decision, right now, with the information we have at the time.” Elizabeth Robillard

The power is in staying curious, not having to be right

“It’s a big challenge to stay relevant in today’s world. Who are you relevant for? Why do we care? Why do we operate the way we do? That curiosity factor changes every outcome for the better.” Cindy Tortorici, CEO and Owner, The Link, LLC

The more we risk the more we learn

“It’s about taking risks… healthy risks, but the more you take, the more you learn. That’s what innovation is all about.” Cindy Tortorici

Be loud enough to be listened to

“There are always going to be obstacles and challenges. It’s common for women to strive to work harder, to get our voices heard in any industry, but definitely in tech. I’m more aware of this in tech… of having to prove myself… sometimes that’s harder than actually having to do the work. “

“You have to be loud to have your voice heard, but being loud, too often, women are being told they are coming across hard and angry or complaining too much and that’s when the ears shut down. You’ve got to figure out the balance – how to be heard, but more importantly, listened to.” Tami Wood

Call out what you bring to the table

“Too often women miss their own magic because it comes easy to them.  They don’t often celebrate or pay attention to it, maybe they’ve never even named it.

“You’ve got to name it.  Call it out. Call out what you bring to the table, not only for yourself but for your team and your company.” Cindy Tortorici

Learn to negotiate for yourself

“Know your value and worth then make sure it’s clear to those who are in power. It’s not always ‘I’m working really hard.’ We all work really hard… we are all juggling things. Your value is unique and has to do with outcomes that your team values. Yes it’s teamwork, but recognize yourself, so others will too.”

“We can undermine ourselves if we don’t know our own value.” Elizabeth Robillard

Constantly be developing, personally

“As a leader we have to continue to grow ourselves, not only does it set a model, but if we plateau it’s harder to lead.”

“Knowing there is always room for improvement for yourself, you look at others with more empathy. What I’ve been through gives me insight to sense about what people have been through in their own lives.”

“Don’t overlook what stops others with their confidence. As a leader you greatly impact decisions and behavior. Lead from a problem solving view. This fosters real innovation.” HsuanHua Chang, Executive Coach and Seattle Network Director for Women In Technology International

Never Give up

“Set a goal and pursue it with clarity of purpose.  Have the confidence to see beyond the challenges. Every situation has at least two sides…learn to change perspectives, this can expand your vision. Just don’t give up.” HsuanHua Chang

See beyond the challenge

“We all have personal challenges. I came to this country in 1982 and I still face discrimination as an immigrant. You have to continue to show up and be who you are and your presence will overcome any bias.” HsuanHua Chang

Your magic is who you are at your core

“Women tend to take themselves out of the game when they lose touch with their core values. The imposter syndrome creeps in… you tend to want to become invisible, but that’s when you’ve got to get back in the game and realign with what makes you unique.” Cindy Tortorici

Align your workplace value with your core values

“Always be looking for alignment between what you value and what your company values. When you get that, you’ve got the best definition of success. You won’t ever be happy in a place that is misaligned to your values.” Elizabeth Robillard

Find a Sponsor

“Mentors are great but sponsors are more impactful. Sponsors have the power to help identify the next level of leaders, while mentors helps you grow… two different things. Get the people in power to believe in you, get them to help.”

“Networks, friends and family are incredibly important, but you need somebody who doesn’t just give you advice, they actually put you forward. They believe in you so much they actively move you forward in your career. That’s very different than a mentor.” Elizabeth Robillard

We are all imperfect

“There is always something we are working on.”

“I feel like I’m a powerful woman and leader…well respected and results driven… and still that doubt of ‘Am I good enough?  Can I do this job?’ …that’s there.”

“I still work on this every day. It’s why being around people who are going to support you is so important. We are all going to have these moments.”

“We are all building something that hasn’t been built before. After all, that’s the definition of innovation. The fear that you are going to fail….that’s real and inevitably you do fail. Be ok with failing, pick yourself up and try again. Ultimately fail fast.” Elizabeth Robillard

Believe in the power of the work you do

“Making sure I am valuable to the people around me and doing what I can to make things better for other people…that’s what works for me. Knowing what I’m good at and using that to benefit other people, that gets me through the best of times and the worst of times.” Tami Wood

Your career success is ultimately up to you

“You must figure out what you want. Then go ask for it…negotiate for it…make room for it and be pushy about it.”

“There is a legitimate pay gap between men and women, but it tends to come from not putting yourself forward. My best advice is to figure out what you want for yourself, for your career and then figure out how to go about getting it.”

“Seek out the resources…find out what you need in order to be successful. Your boss doesn’t know, only you know until you make it known. So you have to get that out on the table, don’t hide from it.” Elizabeth Robillard

Lift each other up

“There is always going to be somebody smarter, better, faster…we will only prevail if we lift each other up. We are grown ups here, I’m not saying unconditionally, but we have to find ways to help each other… to see their gifts and spotlight them.

This is only going to benefit the whole.  I’ve had wonderful women as managers, as mentors, teachers and friends, my mom… Without those women lifting me up and supporting me I couldn’t find those creative moments and couldn’t always see that value in myself.” Tami Wood

Grateful acknowledgement to the powerhouse women leaders who shared their insights for this article. In honor of International Women’s Day and to all the women of this world, you are smart enough, you are strong enough. You CAN do this! Stephana Johnson works with powerhouse leaders who want more results with less BS, for themselves, their team and their bottom line. Contact through