April 17th, 2017

“You can either fight characteristics millennials bring to the workplace or you can harness and direct them”

Sam started her leadership journey early in life when she was elected to be a mayor of a fictional town in a high school program. A testament to her wisdom and brilliance from the start, Sam struggled with and over time learned what it takes to build alliances and support networks, make unpopular decisions and empower others to want to follow.

In this incredibly dynamic, informative episode Sam shares specific tips and strategies on how to lead a high functioning, connected, happy workplace; build a strong culture based on authentic expression of values; and naturally harness the talents, strengths and tendencies of the newest and fastest-growing generation of workers, the millennials!

What you’ll learn

  • How Sam’s small town upbringing has influenced her personality and perspective
  • How being elected as a mayor of a fictional city in high school shaped her thinking about leadership and her identity as a leader
  • Importance of connecting with like minded and like hearted leaders and ones who are completely different and stretch our thinking
  • Crucial elements of building a happy, connected, high-performance organizational culture
  • Importance of articulating and intentionally living organizational values and empowering employees to take the lead
  • Four questions to assess alignment with organizational values: do you hire for them; fire for them; make decisions based on them; are they expressed in your space?
  • How to avoid “cultural waterboarding” in your organization (and what that means so you definitely don’t do it!)
  • Characteristics of millennials and how to harness and direct them as a leader
  • How to help channel millennials’ intelligence and drive to benefit the company and the individual employees
  • Tips and strategies for helping to grow employees in environments with modest budgets and resources
  • How to help employees fulfill their professional destiny by being honest about their strengths and weaknesses from the beginning
  • What we can learn about firing people from a nun (really, it’s a great story!)
  • And so much more!

Links & Resources

  • Social Tables – Sam’s awesome company
  • Motley Fool – Sam’s former company known for its great organizational culture
  • Delivering Happiness – fantastic book about developing value-centered organizational culture by Zappos founder Tony Hsieh
  • The Alliance – book Sam recommended about managing talent
  • Leadership Greater Washington – incredible networking organization for leaders in the D.C. area Sam and I belong to (and yes, you have heard it referenced in another episode or 10 ;)

About Sam Cicotello

Sam Cicotello is an expert in organizational development and corporate culture. She is currently Vice President of People Operations at Social Tables, a DC incubated startup and was previously at The Motley Fool for more than a decade. She speaks frequently on the topics of corporate culture and the importance of happy employees.

Sam’s career began as an intern at The White House in 1996 (where she is grateful not to have had access to the West Wing).  She cut her teeth in business working as a non-profit fundraising consultant with Adams Hussey & Associates where she served several large national clients and developed expertise in marketing, analytics and membership retention.

In 2003, Sam was recruited by The Motley Fool as a marketing manager. During her tenure, she was asked to lead several different teams within the company to maximize collaboration and data-driven results. Given her broad business background, she was ultimately surprised to find herself working on the HR/People team as the Chief Learning Officer. It was in this role that she began to see the deep business value of investing in organizational excellence.

As the CLO, she identified the needs of individuals to develop top talent for the future success of the organization. She was responsible for facilitating learning throughout the company and led the fellowship program to develop dozens of high-potential employees identified as future leaders. While in this role she was able to meet with and learn from some of the most amazing business leaders in the country including Jack Welch, Steve Wynn, Elon Musk, Tony Hsieh, Ari Weinzweig, Jeff Weiner, and John Mackey.

Sam was added to The Motley Fool’s innovative approach to culture development including core values, performance management, compensation, recruiting and onboarding and was fortunate to be surrounded by innovative coworkers that helped her get to “yes” on people ideas.

In 2015, she went to Social Tables to expand her expertise. Over the past two years, she has helped to more than double the size of the business (in both headcount and revenue) and is managing a workforce composed of young and energetic employees (over 90% millennials). She currently manages all aspects of Human Resources.

Sam has been recognized with awards from the Washington Business Journal (Women Who Mean Business) and SmartCEO (Corporate Executive) and has been quoted in The Washington Post, HR Magazine, USA Today, Human Resources IQ, SmartCEO, and the Washington Business Journal.  She has also appeared on CNN and CNBC and presented a much-acclaimed TED talk on Reinventing the Workplace.

Originally from Tennessee, Sam attended Vanderbilt University and now resides in Washington, DC with her husband and two energetic children.


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