• News post

    We are Different and Yet the Same

    2 January 2019

    Several years ago, as I was making a presentation to a group of rising female leaders in Columbus, I encouraged the participants to ask questions. I further shared that any question would be welcomed, regardless of the topic.

    After I had completed my material, I opened the floor for Q&A. While I expected the queries to relate to some aspect of leadership, I shall never forget the first question posed by a young woman who was sitting in the front row. She wanted to know what guidance I might provide as male colleagues in her office whose wives were stay-at-home moms were openly critical of her because she chose to work outside the home.

    My immediate response was, “Has this scenario not improved since the early 1980’s?”

    I immediately had a flashback to my own experiences as a young mother who chose to pursue a professional career. I recalled the hurtful, open criticism I received from some mothers who opted to stay home after their babies were born. I vividly remembered that, shortly after the birth of my older daughter, a 70-year-old single, female consultant admonished me, stating that I couldn’t be an accomplished professional AND concurrently be a great mother. Of course, hearing what sounded to me like heresy further fueled my passion to excel at both.

    In the midst of the negative memories that the young woman’s question stirred, I also remembered with great affection a friend who remains special to me. This particular friend had chosen to stay at home with her children whereas my aspiration was to pursue a professional career while also striving to be a wonderful mother.

    Early mornings were not my friend’s favorite time of day. As an Early Bird, I was typically up before 5:00 AM to jog prior to getting my daughters ready for school. While my friend and I could easily have fallen prey to the “all too common “ trap of criticizing other people to justify our own respective choices, we instead found a way to support one another. As a result, I drove the early morning carpool (which helped my friend), and she picked up the children after school (which certainly helped me).

    I was recently thinking about this special friend and our mutual respect for our different convictions and corresponding support for one another. This led to my reflecting upon how, in 2018, our nation has become more polarized than we could ever have imagined. Regrettably, the crescendo of angst is accelerating as myriad individuals with different political and social convictions believe they are right and to @*#& with people who have different points of view. Hatred and divisiveness appear to be encouraged on a daily basis.

    In short, this has got to stop.

    As we begin the new year, may we all be challenged to communicate our passionate convictions (including spirited debate) with civility, decency and respect. May we look for common ground through which we might support one another. May we be reminded that other individuals are not necessarily bad or wrong because their views are not in lockstep with ours. May we embrace the possibility that it’s ok to agree to disagree so long as we do so with kindness. And lastly, may we be resolute in knowing that as different as all of us may appear to be, at our very core, we are all the same.

    Oh, by the way, I did share some guidance with the young woman who posed that sensitive and vital question.  More about those thoughts in a future blog!

    Have a kind and respectful new year! Blessings to you all… or should I say… to ya’ll!?!

  • News post

    A Legacy of Leadership

    12 December 2018

    Last week America lost one of her most memorable leaders with the passing of President George Herbert Walker Bush.  This War Hero selflessly served his country for decades and left us with a legacy of “how” great leaders are supposed to lead.

    In the celebration of his life, those who knew him well repeatedly described him as gracious, decent and humble. We were told that he knew each of his Secret Service agents as unique individuals. A man with a most demanding schedule, we learned that when he passed an employee who was known to have had an ill child, he took the time to inquire as to the little one’s well-being. And, among many other lessons of leadership he taught us, we learned about President Bush’s gift of building relationships with individuals ranging from front-line employees to world leaders. He knew that through trust-based relationships, more could be accomplished more quickly for the benefit of the greater good.

    George H. W. Bush taught us that leaders must role model simple, yet powerful acts of good manners and kindness.

    The leader of the free world, President Bush was known to be humble as he deflected praise and made it his practice to place the spotlight on others.

    Great leaders are not without controversy, and George H. W. Bush was certainly no exception. He made decisions that, although not popular, reflected his conviction to act in the best interest of our country. Yet, as our nation began to mourn his passing, the controversy and negativity of the past took a back seat to the resounding, harmonic message of “how” great leaders are supposed to lead.

    I believe that the recent focus on the leadership legacy of George H. W. Bush has provided a breath of fresh air in a country that seems to be drowning in a sea of leadership toxicity. In fact, I believe that most Americans are gasping for the life-saving oxygen that gracious, decent and humble leadership can provide.

    I rather suspect that George H. W. Bush left this earth without a full appreciation of the long-lasting, positive impact his leadership example will provide… especially at this point in our history.

    What lessons can we learn from his legacy of leadership? More importantly, what will each of us do differently in our respective organizations to lead in a more gracious, decent and humble manner?

    From non-profit to proprietary organizations and from universities to governmental entities led by elected officials… regrettably, there is currently no shortage of examples in America for how “not” to lead.

    I challenge you to join in the movement to become a fully respectful leader. The time is now, and those who follow you at work, at home and in the community at large are counting on you.

    Let’s carry forth the legacy of President 41 who taught us “how” to lead by becoming gracious, decent and humble leaders…  starting today!

  • News post

    A New Perspective About Gratitude

    20 November 2018

    Several weeks ago, I had long-delayed, but much-needed surgery on my foot. I opted to get this surgery behind me prior to the beginning of the busy Holiday season.

    I am grateful for a highly competent, caring surgeon who is leading the way to get me back into my jogging shoes and on the road again as soon as possible. For me, slowing down is difficult at best, and I am learning a lot about the imperative for patience. I’m spending six weeks in a “fashion statement” orthopedic boot with crutches as a required accessory. I then eagerly anticipate six weeks of PT. Within the first two phases of the surgeon’s game plan, we’re three weeks down… nine weeks to go.   

    How has this required pause in my routine impacted me as I’m typically “pedal to the metal”? The answer…. much more than I expected!

    The inability to be readily mobile means that I have been unable to take care of the most basic needs of daily life. While I already knew my husband was Prince Charming, he has been nothing short of amazing during this entire journey as he is taking remarkable care of me.

    What have I learned from this experience? In short, I have learned the importance of being purposefully grateful for little things that, heretofore, I had taken for granted.

    I learned that I should never take lightly the extraordinary gift of independence that mobility provides… such as the ease of getting into and out of the shower… going up one step, to say nothing of traversing an entire flight of stairs. With my admittedly stubborn insistence to regain independence, I learned how exhausting it can be to retrieve soup from the refrigerator, pour it into a bowl and then place the bowl in the microwave…. not to mention having to get a spoon from that “far away drawer” so I could actually eat the warmed soup before placing the empty bowl in the dishwasher. Whew!

    I learned that a trip to Costco could provide to me as much fun as a fieldtrip for a third grader. Being elated to leave the house, I was reminded how beautiful the autumn leaves are just before falling from the trees. And as a Type A who always has our Christmas tree up prior to Thanksgiving, this past Saturday I sat on the sidelines and witnessed the excitement and sincerity of our two toddler granddaughters as these little ones and their mothers carefully placed each Christmas ornament in its own special spot on the tree.

    At a time in our nation’s history when civility and decency appear to have been forgotten, I found myself being the welcomed recipient of kindness from strangers as they would hurry to open the door when I entered or exited the restaurants where we were dining.

    And with great humility, I learned that those individuals who find themselves with long-term immobility truly deserve our accolades as they struggle every day to accomplish routine tasks that most of us take for granted.

    Yes, this temporary experience of immobility has provided me a bird’s eye view of how easy it is for us to take for granted the little things in life that really make a big difference.

    As leaders, we do the very same thing as we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of our daily routines. How easy it is for us to take for granted the little things our employees do every day that make a big difference for our organizations and our communities.

    In Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before, I devoted a chapter to the critically important belief that Gracious Leaders Are Grateful.  Within this chapter, I challenge leaders to embrace the probability that extraordinary results can be achieved by ordinary people when leaders are purposeful in expressing gratitude. In an era in which all leaders must constantly figure out how to do more with less, the power of a simple and sincere “Thank you” is immeasurable. You see, employees are starving to know they are making a difference, and as leaders, it’s our responsibility to ensure they know we are grateful for all they do. What better time than now to start looking for opportunities to say “Thank you” to your team members!

    During this special week when individuals throughout our nation are pausing to reflect upon all for which we should be grateful, I plan on being at the head of the line. I’m so thankful for excellent health and to be well on my way to restored mobility. I’m grateful for my loving husband for being my best friend and soulmate in this journey called life. I’m grateful for my daughters for blessing me with the most gratifying job I’ll ever have… that of being a mother. I’m grateful for all my family and friends, both near and far, for the care and love that they selflessly share. And, I’m thankful for those individuals from coast to coast who are uniting in a deep conviction that respect and civility can be restored in organizations of all types when we all are accountable to lead with goodness and with grace.

    Blessings to you and yours during this holiday season of gratitude. While I can’t physically run the Turkey Trot this Thursday, I’ll be cheering from afar and will look forward to being back on the road again soon!

  • News post

    Navigating the White-Water Rapids of Business

    29 October 2018

    Last summer my husband and I spent a week at a Dude Ranch in Colorado. As we prepared for this vacation, I expected to participate in new and different outdoor activities. Little did I know that during this week of adventure, I would learn important lessons about leadership.

    We decided to experience white water rafting in a nearby river. What we didn’t realize was that the river was running wildly as the snow was quickly melting from the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Prior to our departure, we were given a tutorial in safety measures, and we were told to follow our guide’s instructions. We then climbed into the raft and started our journey.

    While the water was indeed running fast, the early experience was quite enjoyable as the water was easy to navigate. I thought to myself, “Not bad… I can handle this.”

    Rocky waters

    The guide then pulled our raft over to shore and became very serious. She shared we were about to hit some very rough rapids. She gave specific instructions on how to traverse the rocky waters. She was emphatic that to ensure our well-being, we were to follow her instructions precisely and to function well as a team.

    We didn’t realize we were heading for a level four rapid.

    As we approached the rocky waters, my anxiety grew. We started down the rapid and while our raft felt incredibly unsafe, we did not capsize as did other rafts within site. However, an elderly man from our raft had gone overboard. The man’s son was rightfully frantic as he feared for his father’s safety.

    Yet in the midst of this “storm,” the guide stayed focused on her game plan. She provided clear instructions to the team. She shared that her first priority was to get eight people safely to dry land and that she would ensure the elderly man would be rescued.

    Preparation, focus and adaptation

    This experience reinforced to me the leader’s role in navigating an organization through white water down cycles that are inevitable within any business.

    Like the guide, a great leader coaches the team comfortably through the good times and anticipates rocky waters before they are encountered. A great leader prepares followers by teaching them to adhere to guidance and to execute flawless teamwork. A great leader remains focused on the game plan but makes “in the moment” adaptations when circumstances change. And, a great leader looks out for the interest of the greater good while also showing extraordinary respect for every stakeholder.

    I learned about leadership from that rafting experience last summer. From the white waters of a Colorado river to the C-suite or boardroom, the leader’s anticipation, team preparation, focus and adaptation are all required to ensure sustainable organizational success in the midst of difficult times.

    And yes, the elderly gentleman was safely reunited with his son and quickly traded his seat in the raft for a welcomed glass of wine.

    Originally published on Ocotber 25, 2018 by Smart Business

  • News post

    Finding the Courage to Advocate for Yourself

    14 October 2018

    Since Gracious Leadership was released in late January, I have been extraordinarily humbled at the overwhelming response this book’s message is receiving. Within my blog posts and public presentations, I talk openly about the need for leaders of all types of organizations to be fully respectful as they seek to guide their teams to peak performance.

    Respectful leadership “should” be for one and for all. What a novel concept that ought to be readily embraced!

    However, in reality, this concept is not novel; it’s just not consistently applied and as such, has become grossly underrepresented as the obnoxious noise of toxic leadership strives to dilute the harmony of respect so desperately needed across our nation.

    We must do better than this!

    Certainly, there is no better time than now for advocates of fully respectful leadership to stand up and be counted.

    Respect for one and for all does not pertain solely to showing respect to others. It also means that we must take a stand to respect ourselves. That means that we need to become our own best advocates.

    Within Gracious Leadership, I included a chapter entitled “Gracious Leaders are Courageous” with a section of the chapter challenging readers to find the courage to advocate for themselves.

    Women especially tend to be excellent in advocating on behalf of other people. However, when opportunities present for females to ask for stretch assignments or advancement, we often will opt to become more reserved… and we shrink into the comfort zones of our current roles. It’s no wonder that as a society, we still have not made adequate progress in having a representative number of women leaders in the C-Suites and in our Board Rooms.

    Why are we so bashful about advocating for ourselves?

    When I was a young executive, I decided to ask my CEO for a title change so the nomenclature of my role and the magnitude of the work would be better correlated. After giving my request some thought, the CEO said, “Yes.”

    Was this title change important to a 28-year-old young executive? You better believe it was. And it became even more important 20 years later when I again garnered the courage to advocate for myself. I asked for the opportunity to lead a hospital without having had one single day of hospital operational experience. Thankfully, the answer I received was “Yes.” And this particular “Yes” allowed me the joy of experiencing the nine most gratifying years of my professional life to date.

    As I make presentations and challenge my audiences to find the courage to advocate for themselves, I always share that if they are already trusted, proven performers, the probability of getting a “Yes” when asking for opportunities should be increased. However, I also caution participants to understand that just because they are already trusted, proven performers does not necessarily mean they will automatically be offered those coveted advancements. Sometimes you just have to ask!!

    Since releasing Gracious Leadership, I have been delighted to hear from several individuals who, after reading the book or hearing this advice, have taken the risk to raise their hands and ask for advancements. For those who have shared with me their progress in finding the courage to advocate for themselves, they’re batting a thousand!

    To maximize the respect you show to others, it’s critically important that you first show respect for yourself. So whether you are aspiring to secure a promotion or if you find yourself in the horrific position of being subjected to inappropriate sexual overtures, I encourage you to respect yourself without hesitation by garnering the courage to find your voice and let it be heard in your own way. In so doing, you can become your own best advocate.

    Fully respectful leadership starts with YOU. Respect yourself first so you then can lead others like you’ve never led before.

    I can’t wait to hear your stories about how you are finding the courage to advocate for yourself and elevating your voice to make your self-advocacy real! I encourage you to begin this journey today!

  • News post

    The Birthday Gift and a Missed Opportunity

    11 September 2018

    After racking my brain about the best birthday gift for my husband, I placed orders for travel clothing from two competing companies. I chose expedited shipping to assure the items would be received before his birthday.

    The order from Company A arrived according to plan. The order from Company B was like a customer service train wreck.

    While Company B sent an order confirmation stating all items were available, several days later they sent a separate communique that two of the items had shipped, and the other three items were on backorder. When the package appeared to be missing in action, I checked the tracking status and learned the expected delivery would be two days AFTER my husband’s birthday.  

    Upon calling the company to inquire about the problem, the Customer Service Representative acknowledged the catalogue’s expedited shipping verbiage was a “misrepresentation”. She shared she had encouraged the “catalogue people” on multiple occasions to change the language, but they had not done so.

    The saga continues….

    The day following my husband’s birthday, I received yet another notice that one of the items would not arrive for another week.

    And the story gets even better….

    When I called a second time to talk with Customer Service, I learned that one of the remaining items was no longer available and another was on backorder for two months!

    While Company B refunded the expedited shipping charge, it was at this point I decided to conduct a little test. I thanked the Customer Service Representative for her assistance and shared I knew she was trying to help with a problem she did not create.  

    I decided to push a bit more…

    I shared I had also ordered birthday items from their competitor and all their items had arrived on time as promised. I expressed my experience with other companies that, when falling short of expectations for any reason, would take action to “make it right”.   

    The Customer Service Representative put me on hold to confer with her supervisor. She quickly returned and shared there was nothing else they could do.

    And so I thanked her kindly for trying, I sincerely wished her a great weekend, and I concluded by politely stating that we would not order from them again.

    Company B missed its moment in the sun as the culture of the company obviously does not view problems as opportunities to serve. And as a result, they lost a customer.

    Within the book How to Win Customers and Keep Them for Life, Peter LeBoeuf shares that when you respond promptly and proactively to customers who complain, they are highly likely to be even more loyal than if the problem had not occurred.

    I have certainly found this approach to be true. The power of a prompt and sincere apology for disappointment incurred coupled with a commitment to improve have been very effective in customer retention and in reducing organizational risk exposure.

    Company B could have taken some easy steps to “make it right”. They didn’t express remorse for creating disappointment on my husband’s special day. I suspect we are not the only customers experiencing disappointment from their poor service as they overpromise and underdeliver.

    As a leader, what will you do to assure that disappointed customers receive prompt and sincere care, attention and resolution? Just remember that problems actually are opportunities to serve, and disappointed customers present a huge opportunity to be transformed into loyal patrons.

    And oh, by the way, we’re still waiting on that final item to arrive from Company B!

    For more information, please see the chapter entitled “Gracious Leaders See Problems as Opportunities” within Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before.


  • News post

    Rounding and Three Powerful Questions

    20 August 2018

    I was recently invited by Kelly Borth of Greencrest Marketing to participate in an Ignite Your Business Podcast which was released today, August 20, 2018.

    The podcast entitled “Making the Rounds and Gracious Leadership” is available via:

    Part of our conversation in the podcast relates to the topic of rounding and how effective leadership listening can contribute to highly engaged teams.

    While the word “rounding” has traditionally been utilized within the hospital and health system space, I have found that the use of “strategic rounding” processes can yield a high return within industries and organizations of all types.

    Throughout my career I have employed a broad perspective about “rounding” and the positive impact it can have upon corporate culture. In my opinion, rounding represents any opportunity to build trusting relationships through providing a transparent means for open and honest, two-way communications.

    In short, rounding is one of the best ways that leaders can seek feedback from their most important organizational asset: their people. When leaders make listening to key stakeholders a top priority, the likelihood of realizing peak performance can be optimized because employees who follow these “listening leaders” are more likely to feel valued, appreciated and respected. Leadership listening can be the catalyst that results in real-time relationships of trust between management and the front line.

    To get a firsthand view of your organization’s corporate culture, unannounced rounding provides a great opportunity to meet employees where they are and to ask them important, open-ended questions. Of course, the goal should be to obtain employees’ unfiltered feedback regarding their work environment, customer satisfaction or any other hot topic that might be on their minds.

    I believe the most effective leaders who drive sustainable success understand that one of their most important leadership responsibilities is to listen with purpose and to respond with care. Purposeful leadership listening is so important that I dedicated several chapters to this important topic within Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before.

    Within the chapters entitled “Gracious Leaders Listen with Purpose and Respond with Care” and “Gracious Leaders Seek Feedback”, I introduced the concept of Three Powerful Questions that can be used whether you are involved in unannounced rounding or if you’re hosting employee town hall meetings or other systematic listening venues. I encourage you to take note of these three simple, yet profound questions and begin to incorporate them into your ongoing rounding and other listening processes.

    1. What one thing should we change to make our customers’ experiences better?
    2. What one thing should we change to make your work life better?
    3. Is there anything else you’d like to discuss?

    Time and time again, throughout my career I have been amazed at the unvarnished truth that employees are eager to share. Frontline employees are the people who have the best view of how an organization is living its values (or not!). They’re just waiting for someone to ask them with sincerity and with a commitment to honor thoughtful feedback that is shared.

    Whether your rounding is occurring through what has traditionally been called MBWA (Management by Walking Around) or if you’re hosting a series of stakeholder input sessions in Town Hall Meetings, just remember that the individuals who will feel the best about conversations once they are over are likely to be those individuals who did the most talking!

    To build real-time relationships of trust with your employees, start today by asking the Three Powerful Questions and then open your ears and your hearts to hear with purpose the feedback that your team just can’t wait to share.



  • News post

    Blind spots and expecting the unexpected

    26 July 2018

    Several months ago, I attended an event to celebrate the professional excellence of Central Ohio executives. When I entered the sparsely lit, underground garage, I decided to be strategic about where I would park to avoid congested traffic following the event. I spotted the perfect space… one that might save a few minutes at the end of a very long day.

    Before I backed my car into the coveted spot, I assessed my surroundings, mentally gave myself the “all clear” sign and proceeded to park. Suddenly I was startled by a loud bang.

    My heart raced, I put the car into park and I exited the vehicle to evaluate the situation. I thought I had been cautious in looking out for potential hazards. However, I had backed into a massive, concrete post that blended with adjacent surroundings and wasn’t visible within my vehicle’s blind spot. Because I had failed to expect the unexpected, the unscathed post won as evidenced by the significant cost incurred to repair my SUV.

    This experience provided an excellent opportunity to ponder different types of blind spots within business and how they can cause a collision course within our careers.

    It is estimated that 30 percent of executives are toxic leaders. They have blind spots. They don’t see that their negative leadership styles prevent their teams from optimizing organizational performance. Other leaders have communication blind spots that directly correlate with a poor ROI on their human capital. Regrettably, the list of leadership blind spots is vast.

    Clear eyes for making deals

    High-cost blind spots can exist when executives are engaged within M&A activities. I recall a time when our corporation was involved in an opportunity for market share gain. The development officers were “over the top” excited about the high-value possibilities expected from this deal. As is often the case with M&A, time was tight with pressing deadlines, the multiple contracts were complex, and in this instance, the work of the proposed entity represented uncharted waters for our company.

    When the deal was done, celebrations ensued, and, within a matter of months, the new business enterprise began to falter. Our multi-disciplinary team had reviewed the proposed contractual language for proper business terms. Amid our haste and naïveté, however, we didn’t slow down long enough to ask ourselves a vital M&A question: “What language needs to be in the contract that is currently missing?”

    Our blind spot of failing to expect the unexpected contributed to a bad business outcome.

    Be purposeful; learn from the past

    As you find yourself in the adrenaline rush of M&A activities, I encourage you to be on the alert for blind spots. Be purposeful in expecting the unexpected. Document your experiences from each successive deal and learn from any mistakes. Don’t take for granted any aspect of the transaction and work closely with all team members, not only to review the “ink on paper” of the proposed contracts, but also to include the “must have” business terms and associated language that can position the new business enterprise for success.

    Originally published on July 26, 2018 by Smart Business

  • News post

    Reaching Back

    19 July 2018

    We frequently talk about the need to “pay it forward” in the workplace and in life at large. As leaders, it’s our responsibility to invest our time, talents and (hopefully) our wisdom into our mentees so they can seek to become all they were created to be.

    In addition to paying it forward, have you ever considered the importance of reaching back and expressing your gratitude to those who invested in “your” growth and development?

    I recently was meeting with a mentee, and we had a delightful conversation regarding her career aspirations and strategy for her advancement. After we talked about her professional roadmap, she shared she recently had an opportunity to thank her mother for the sacrifices she had made as she supported her daughter’s growth and development.

    This conversation made me long to turn back the hands of time and talk once more with my parents, both of whom are deceased. To my mother, I would thank her for being a role model of kindness, encouragement and compassion. To my father who was an attorney, if only I could find a way to see him try a case in court. And, I would ask him to share all he experienced as he advocated for Equal Rights at the pinnacle of racial unrest in Mississippi in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement. Regrettably, my father passed away before I had a full understanding of the courage he displayed as he assumed a high profile, high-risk role in advocating for respect for all people without regard to their ethnicity, gender or socioeconomic status.

    Because of the lessons I learned from my parents, I seized the opportunity to honor them by dedicating Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before to their memory. Clearly, they were incredible role models of several of the Key Ingredients of Gracious Leadership.

    Writing Gracious Leadership also afforded me an opportunity to reflect upon the impact of other mentors who shaped me into the leader I have become. As I reflected upon all I had gleaned, I reminisced about four individuals in particular who had a pivotal impact upon my professional journey. And, I decided to honor them by sharing within my book the profound impact they each had upon my career.

    As I contacted these individuals to describe my intent, each leader displayed abundant humility as they learned what I wanted to share. It gave me such joy to have the opportunity to thank them for believing in my potential and for taking a chance on me as I traversed the professional pathways I was meant to follow.

    As a leader, I am confident you will pay it forward as you seek to help your mentees realize their full potential. While we can all readily agree that life and work are busy, and there are never enough hours in any day, I challenge you to be purposeful in reaching back and thanking those very special individuals who believed in you and who inspired you to be all you were created to be! Start reaching back today! You’ll be so glad that you did!

  • News post

    Caramel Cake and Culture

    24 June 2018

     I recently received a message on LinkedIn from a woman who had attended one of my book launch presentations. This professional was hosting a Round Table Discussion, and all the participants were reading Gracious Leadership in anticipation of a group conversation regarding this time-critical topic.

    The woman was specifically writing to share that she was making a Hattie Bell Caramel Cake to serve at the Round Table, and she was having difficulty getting the icing to be thick enough.

    I smiled to myself as I read her message. You see, I had experienced the same frustration many times throughout the years as I tried to master both the science and the art of making a Caramel Cake. It’s really tricky to get the icing “just right.”

    Now, you may ask yourself, “What in the world does making a Caramel Cake have to do with Gracious Leadership?” The answer is actually quite simple.

    Making “this” particular Caramel Cake definitely requires all the key ingredients as specified within the recipe, but it also calls for the “art part” … meaning the right amount of patience, persistence, perseverance and, yes, even a little bit of love!

    Becoming a Gracious Leader and building a healthy, high-performance work culture are like making a Hattie Bell Caramel Cake. Simply put, neither aspiration is easy.

    As with any recipe, all 13 Key Ingredients are required to become a Gracious Leader. Not even one ingredient can be omitted, and no shortcuts are allowed. This, my friends, is the science of Gracious Leadership.

    As a Gracious Leader, to guide your team to peak performance, you will need to be purposeful in building and maintaining a healthy work culture, one in which your team is empowered to soar to new heights while achieving the right results. So, in addition to teaching your followers the Key Ingredients of Gracious Leadership, you will also need to add your own version of the “art part” … the right amount of patience, persistence, perseverance, and love that are emblematic of your personal leadership style.

    Whether you’re making a Hattie Bell Caramel Cake or you’re well on your way to become a fully respectful leader who inspires a healthy corporate culture, when you get it right, you will absolutely know it!

    Just as this woman reached out to me, I hope to hear from you, too, as you aspire to become a Gracious Leader. If you have not yet begun this journey, please start today, and together let’s lead like we’ve never led before.

    5 from 1 vote

    Hattie Bell's Caramel Cake

    Author Mrs. Hattie Bell Johnson, Carthage, MS



    • 1 cup butter
    • 5 eggs
    • 1 cup milk
    • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 2 1/2 cups sugar
    • 3 1/2 cups flour
    • 1 tsp vanilla

    Caramel Icing

    • 3.5 cups sugar
    • 1 cup milk
    • 1/2 pound butter
    • 2 tbsp white Karo
    • 1/2 cup Cremora
    • 1 tsp vanilla


    For the Cake

    1. Cream butter, add sugar, and beat until light and fluffy. Add whole eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla to milk. Sift flour and baking powder. Add part of flour mixture, add milk and then remaining flour and beat until smooth. Pour batter into three greased and lightly floured 9-inch cake pans. Bake 30 minutes in preheated 375-degree oven.

    For the Icing

    1. Mix sugar, Cremora, Karo, and milk in a large pan. Cook for 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup sugar that has been browned, cooking until it forms a soft ball when dropped into cold water. Add butter and vanilla and cook until butter dissolves. Beat until icing is right for spreading between layers, then beat until creamy for icing the remainder of the cake.

    Recipe Notes

    I have passed along Hattie Bell's Caramel Cake recipe exactly as it was written in the New Hope Baptist Church Cook Book. This collection of favorite recipes was published to honor the American Revolution Bicentennial 1776-1976.

    I will add a few clarifications. These steps represent the "art part."

    • Be sure not to overcook the cake so that it will not be dry.
    • Cook the icing in a 5 quart, non-stick pot. Use powdered Cremora. In addition to the 3 1/2 cups of sugar required in the recipe, brown 1/2 cup of sugar in a small, non-stick skillet during the time that the sugar, milk, Karo, and Cremora are cooking.
    • I use a candy thermometer and cook the icing to 236-237 degrees, still applying the soft ball text that is required in the recipe.
    • After adding the butter and vanilla to the icing, I beat the icing with a mixer until it reaches the right consistency to spread between the layers. I then beat the icing by hand until it reaches a creamy consistency that is right for icing the remainder of the cake.
    • Remember that no shortcuts are allowed. Always use patience, persistence, perseverance, and love to get the icing "just right."