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The Legendary Leaders Podcast

Jan 18, 2022

Are you aware that the productivity of your organization is amplified when you develop good internal relationships? For success to prevail within your organization, you must meet people when they’re ready to be met to work better.  

In this episode of the Legendary Leaders Podcast, we have Debbie Cohen and Kate Roeske-Zummer. Debbie is the co-founder and author at HumanityWorks, who has held HR executive roles in different organizations, and has had her first Harvard business publishing released. Kate is the co-founder at HumanityWorks, a master coach, a former faculty of the Coaches Training Institute, and has developed leaders at organizations all over the world. HumanityWorks helps leaders and their teams to build the muscle required to work together as engaged productive human beings, which is the magic for success and better business results.  

Listen in to learn how to claim your value as a leader, by being conscious of the journey you want to be on and how you want to show up on that journey. You will also learn how to develop meaningful relationships with your people in an organization, rather than treating them like commodities.  



This podcast is sponsored by InnerProfessional online training programs. With courses geared specifically for Legendary Leaders, InnerProfessional provides an extraordinary catalog of leadership and professional development programs unlike any online training you’ve experienced before.  


Key Takeaways: 

  • How productivity can be achieved by forming good relationships between managers and employees.  
  • How to show up authentically and align with what’s important to you, as a leader.  
  • Do the work around the values that are important to you, to find alignment and be able to serve your people.  
  • How to be conscious about what you’re trying to create, as opposed to defaulting your way.  


Episode timeline: 

  • [1:13] Intro  
  • [6:50] The three programs and coaching they deliver to organizations aspiring to become more human-centered.  
  • [10:04] How to lead with awareness, choice, and the courage to change when messy moments happen. 
  • [14:07] How developing better relationships and making people feel good at work, can lead to better work productivity.  
  • [17:27] How to consciously align to your intentions and continue growing your people as a manager.  
  • [21:56] Claiming value – the process of knowing what’s important to you, how you align those values with who you are when you show up, and how you align it with the organization that you work with.  
  • [25:52] How they claim value in their business by showing up authentically and aligning to what’s important to them. 
  • [29:59] They explain how they assess whether they’ll bring humanity to an organization or not.  
  • [34:50] How to consciously assess what you want and how it will serve you and others.  
  • [37:38] Kate and Debbie describe their career paths and how they landed where they are now.  
  • [50:31] How to own your impact, by speaking up against toxic leadership that’s affecting you.  
  • [1:00:19] Learn to treat your people like humans and not like resources.   



  • “People are really the key to amplifying productivity, and when people work well together, the business wins and so do the relationships between people.”- Kate Roeske-Zummer [8:20] 
  • “Messiness can be super exciting if you sit with it, explore it, and if you see the opportunity in it.”- Cathleen Merkel [9:40] 
  • “When your impact is aligned to business outcomes and who you want to be, you’re more compelling.”Debbie Cohen [24:16]  
  • “Productivity is about people, and if you don’t pay attention to those people, then the success of your company is at risk.”Kate Roeske-Zummer [1:00:20] 
  • “Humanity is interdependent; the workplace relies on humanity.”Debbie Cohen [1:04:28] 

About Debbie Cohen and Kate Roeske-Zummer:   

At the time, Debbie was the Chief of People for Mozilla and Kate was co-owner of StepUp Leadership. Kate was in-training to become certified to lead this approach. Debbie was there as a participant to learn the model and assess if the approach had potential within Mozilla. What’s funny about their first meeting is when you are your most compelling self, others want to connect with you. It must have worked because they were drawn to each other and have been learning and working together ever since! 

Their first big collaboration was the leadership program Debbie was working on for Mozilla. She wanted to create something that spoke to the unique culture of Mozilla, which was a rapidly scaling global, open-source movement. 

Kate, and her then-business partner became Debbie’s partners of choice. Their goal was to create a leadership program that was transformational not transactional. Working together, they co-created what became branded as LEAD: Leadership Exploration And Discovery, a totally unique approach to developing leaders. This exploratory leadership model allowed people to uncover who they really are, as well as who they want to be, and bring that full human potential into their leadership. Micha Anderson, the Senior HR Business Partner who supported the very large engineering function, notes “Mozilla’s director population really shifted from a victim mindset to people really leaning in and using their voice to make change.” This program became the catalyst for TRIBE, a deconstructed version of LEAD, focused on providing skills and techniques to help all members of the Mozilla community gain insights about themselves and work better together. It ran successfully for over 8 years. 

Fast forward several years, Kate was now running StepUp Leadership on her own and Debbie had left Mozilla and gone on to do a number of other projects. Debbie and Kate began taking on several projects together, most focused on group dynamics of leadership teams. They began to notice some repeating themes: lack of trust in one another, inability to constructively navigate conflict, self-protective behaviour, and repeated cycles of reactive behaviour. The impact of these behaviour’s (and others) was gridlock – a lack of forward momentum for the company. No amount of process and procedure could fix what was broken. 

What these teams needed, and what Kate and Debbie were able to provide were insights, tools and techniques so people could get into relationship with one another and work better together. 

It was working. The work they were doing in organizations was working, again. 

​​They were also exploring organizational gaps and pain points. They honed their focus on front-line managers, using mountains of qualitative and quantitative evidence to indicate this as the high-leverage layer to effect change and drive engagement within most organizations. Their working assumption: if managers were functioning from their highest potential, a ripple effect could be created with the humans they are responsible for and with those they work interdependently with. A bit LEAD-like, the idea used a cohort model to affect a sea-change in how people were working together to get things done so organizations and their people would thrive. 

Simultaneously, they had been talking about whether or not this is a movement, a “gorilla sea-change” for HR or, a big shift in the way it contributes to an organization’s success. Kate and Debbie reached out to a group of people they lovingly refer to as “The Dream Team” to talk about the impact that they were having. Kate and Debbie had been approaching the dialogue through the perspective of creating a new product, a program for HR, which would be part of the overall mix of programs they offered. And from a quiet place of contemplation on the couch, Mihca (one of our dream teamers) boldly declared: “You cannot lead a movement part time, YOU are the champions of this movement.” In that moment Kate remembers her heart dropping; Deb’s hands were beginning to sweat. Their eyes locked on each other and without saying anything, they knew they were being called forward. HR was not their target it was all people in the workplace. We had bigger things to do in the world. It was up to us to help bring more humanity to the workplace so we could change the world of work for everyone because Humanity Works Better together. 


About Cathleen Merkel:   

As a Thought Leader in the Mindset & (Self-) Leadership space, Cathleen supports high achieving, but worn-out women to create a more content & balanced life, without sacrificing their hard-earned success. Following a simple 6 step framework, she helps you to not only reconnect with your inner feminine side; Cathleen also supports you to rediscover your REAL YOU!  

Cathleen focuses on women who lost their sense of purpose, who feel they are running in a hamster wheel, trying to please everyone but themselves. She helps you to turn your careers, your social connections and personal life around, so that you will start feeling fulfilled and excited again about the days to come.  At the end of the process, Cathleen's clients will feel healthier, happier, energised and clear about their future.   

With over 15 years of leadership experience in Retail, Media & Broadcasting, Engineering and Property Investment, Cathleen has not only experienced the challenges and opportunities of a female leader herself; she has also been leading and supporting various leadership development initiatives within large, complex, multinational matrix organisations.  

Only by deeply experiencing her very personal life challenges – ‘hitting a wall experiences’ – Cathleen was able to redefine her own purpose, deciding to bring ease and content to as many women as possible on the planet! 



Find | Cathleen Merkel 


On Instagram: @CathleenMerkel 

On Facebook: @CathleenMerkelCoaching 

On LinkedIn: @CathleenMerkel 

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Find | Debbie Cohen and Kate Roeske-Zummer  

Business (HumanityWorks): 


On LinkedIn: @debbiecohen @kateroeskezummer @HumanityWorks  

On Twitter:  @humanityworks_ @KateRZummer @debbieuntapped2 


Subscribe to this Podcast On:  Apple Podcasts. 


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