Empower Leadership Pods & Blogs2021-10-14T13:02:51-04:00

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There are many different definitions of leadership and theories on what great leadership looks, sounds, and feels like. The Lead with Empower Podcast connects listeners with those who are “in the trenches” leading themselves and others each day in schools, on the field, in their offices, and in their communities. We will learn about their unique leadership style and identify common traits between tremendous leaders through our guests’ personal stories and insight – inspiring our listeners to unleash their leadership potential at home, school, work, or on the field, and in their community.

Featured Episode

Sean Banks
General Manager of the DC Breeze Ultimate Frisbee Team
“Be grateful, let them know how much you appreciate them – it goes a long way. When people feel valued, they are willing to do more to advocate for you”.

Scroll down for show notes and past episodes

Season IV of the Lead with Empower Podcast

Episode #3: Season IV

Sean Banks Leads with Empower

General Manager – DC Breeze

“Be grateful, let them know how much you appreciate them – it goes a long way. When people feel valued, they are willing to do more to advocate for you”

Sean Banks Leads with Empower
Sean is the General Manager of the DC Breeze, a professional ultimate frisbee team from the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL). Sean’s journey, from being a music education major in college to his current role as the GM of the DC Breeze, is inspiring and empowering! Sean shares his thoughts on professional ultimate frisbee, leadership in sport (and beyond), and the importance of persistence!
  • 00:33: Introducing General Manager of the DC Breeze, Sean Banks!
  • 16:57: Sean’s Leadership in Action
  • 46:30: From Music Education Manager to General Manager of a Professional Sports Team – Sean’s Leadership Journey
  • 01:04:28: Finish the Drill and Episode Closure
Tremendous leadership insight from Sean during our conversation, including discussions about:
  • The importance of saying “thank you” in leadership
  • Leading himself (and others!) through the “600-day off-season”
  • The impact team culture has on performance
Learn more about Sean and the DC Breeze:
Musical Credit to Matt Jaskot

Episode #2: Season IV

Christopher Koch Leads with Empower

Assistant Principal – Bunnell High School

“I’ve always believed that the further you allow yourself to get away from the classroom and the kids, the further you remove yourself from the fabric that makes up the school.”

Christopher Koch Leads with Empower
Christopher Koch is one of the Assistant Principals at Bunnell High School (Stratford, CT Public Schools). I was first introduced to Chris during a Spring 2021 Zoom team building event and developed a great relationship with Chris during our 2-week Summer Empowerment program with students from Stratford Public Schools. Chris has a unique ability to develop trusting connections with those that he leads – from students to faculty/staff and fellow administrators. You will hear about Chris’ thoughts on relationships, fear of failure, finding balance, and so much more during our discussion!
  • 00:32: Introducing Christopher Koch Leads with Empower
  • 16:04: Education Beyond the Classroom
  • 35:20: The 21st Century Summer Empowerment Program with Stratford Public Schools
  • 48:24: Christopher’s Thoughts on Himself as a Leader
  • 57:20: Finish the Drill and Episode Closure
Tremendous leadership insight from Chris during our conversation, including discussions about:
  • The importance of avoiding “disconnection” from the students, teachers, and classroom as an administrator
  • Strategies for task completion and finding balance
  • Learning to confidently (and responsibly) take risks and overcome fear of failure
Learn more about Chris and the amazing team at Bunnell High School:
Musical Credit to Matt Jaskot

Episode #1: Season IV

John Yeager Leads with Empower

Yeager Leadership Founder & CEO

The Coaching Zone: Next Level Leadership in Sports Co-Author

“The missing link is the relationships players have with each other and their ability to connect with each other.”

John Yeager Leads with Empower
John Yeager is the Founder and CEO of Yeager Leadership and co-author of The Coaching Zone: Next Level Leadership in Sports. The Yeager Leadership management firm helps organizations become more aware of how their ability to leverage strengths and culture, and to manage “healthy tensions,” leads to maximizing engagement, capacity and performance. John is a tremendous leader and leadership consultant who has a strong passion for understanding “the why of human behavior” and for helping his clients operate as high performing individuals, teams and organizations.
  • 00:33: Introducing John Yeager Leads with Empower
  • 16:52: The Coaching Zone: Next Level Leadership in Sports
  • 51:29: John’s Journey and Story
  • 61:08: Finish the Drill and Episode Closure
Tremendous leadership insight from John during our conversation, including discussions about:
  • Courage taking over for confidence
  • The importance of relationships] in leadership
  • Finding balance
  • The SARI structure (Situation, Action, Results, and Insights)
  • System I and System II Thinking
  • The HERO (Hope, Efficacy, Resilience, and Optimism) structure and building psychological capital
“The missing link is the relationships players have with each other and their ability to connect with each other.” Learn more about John Yeager, Yeager Leadership, and The Coaching Zone Book:
Musical Credit to Matt Jaskot

Episode #19: Season III

Joselyn DeFreest

Group Adventure Specialist

Leads with Empower

“We always joke about how we can never pin down my title; I just like to call myself an all around badass. I like being able to be utilized in every aspect of our operation.”

Season III of the Lead with Empower Podcast concludes with a wonderful conversation with Joselyn DeFreest, the Group Adventure Specialist from Empower Adventures Tampa Bay (EATB). Joselyn is one of the original EATB team members – joining soon after their opening in 2016. To sum up Joselyn’s role in one job title is nearly impossible – she is the ultimate Empower Swiss Army Knife!
We hope you enjoy our conversation about leadership, multi-tasking, self-coaching, family life, and so much more. Joselyn DeFreest Leads with Empower!

Musical Credit to Matt Jaskot

00:00: Episode Start and “Roll Call”
  • Introducing Joselyn DeFreest – the Swiss Army Knife of Empower Adventures Tampa Bay. We dive into her family life during the pandemic. “The goal was to stay positive, stay healthy, and keeping the family busy!”
  • Joselyn shares some of her family’s silver linings from the 2020/2021 pandemic situation – “gave us a moment to slow down and enjoy being at home, talking together, and getting more creative…now we are never bored”
  • We also hear about Joselyn’s operational roles and responsibilities at Empower Adventures Tampa Bay
  • “We always joke about how we can never pin down my title; I just like to call myself an all around badass. I like being able to be utilized in every aspect of our operation.”
  • We also discuss why Joselyn has been able to become such a big contributor at EATB – “I am resourceful and I care a lot about what we do. Whenever I care, I’m going to do it right and make the best of it.”
  • Joselyn also shares funny stories about her first training experience at EATB (shout-out to Joe for his smooth lift operating!), her first trip to Empower Leadership (in CT), and our experience working with the Tampa Bay Lightning at EATB.
20:21: The Leadership Challenges of Juggling Responsibilities at Work and at Home
  • Joselyn shares some “self-leadership/coaching” tips that help her effectively manage all of her home/work responsibilities – “I love to go, go, go!”
  • We learn about Joselyn’s improved ability to effectively communicate and “control the controllable” – and how those skills have helped in her fast-paced multi-task world.
24:20: From Tampa to……Tampa – Joselyn’s Journey to Empower Adventures Tampa Bay
  • We learn about Joselyn’s passion for animals and her early professional experiences as a veterinary technician.
  • Joselyn also discusses her passion for event planning and how that led to a part-time opportunity with EATB.
  • We also discuss the importance of embracing the “happy accident” (recognizing unexpected opportunities)
31:45: Taking the Leap of Faith
  • We learn about Joselyn’s decision to join the Empower Adventures Tampa Bay team and how her working relationship with our founder (Joe DeRing) has impacted her ability to grow within our organization.
  • Once again, we hear another humorous story from Joselyn; this one is about her first day of “zip line guide” training with Joe and Calvin (EATB Operations Manager)
  • Joselyn also shares her thoughts on Joe DeRing as a leader
35:59: Lead, Inspire, and Empower
  • We discuss two moments – a “leadership failure” moment and a “leadership success” moment that have impacted Joselyn’s life. Joselyn shares stories for both as well as the impact those situations have had on her growth and development as both a person and as a leader.
  • On being a mom – “you’re constantly being a leader without even knowing it. It really does pay off when you teach them the right thing to do – to be nice and to be who you are!”
  • Joselyn also defines herself as a leader – “an intense open book” – and discusses her leadership strengths, challenges, and tactics to improve upon her challenges.
48:04: Five Years of Empowerment
  • We discuss the impact Joselyn’s five years at Empower Adventures Tampa Bay have had on her both in and out of work
  • “If you met me five years ago, you wouldn’t recognize the person. I’ve learned something from every person I’ve crossed paths with at Empower. It’s been an amazing experience that feels like family.”
  • Joselyn discusses the important leadership traits she feels are essential to being an Empower Adventures Tampa Bay team member.
55:50: Finish the Drill – “Don’t be afraid to fail and don’t be afraid of forgiving yourself!”
  • Joselyn and I finish the episode in traditional fashion – rapid fire Q & A! We learn (1) why adventure is important to Joselyn, (2) her favorite out of work adventure, (3) the leadership quote or saying that resonates with Joselyn, (4) a leader Joselyn admires, and (5) Joselyn’s advice for those who are in the position of balancing professional and family life.

Episode #18: Season III

Doug Whittington

Team Effectiveness Consultant

Leads with Empower

“Humanity is not an individual sport.”

Doug Whittington Leads with Empower and brings an excitingly fresh perspective on what it means to lead effectively in business, at home, and in life. We learn about Doug’s journey to (and from) the corporate world, his family’s current adventure (cross country road trip since February 2021), and so much more. We hope you enjoy our conversation!

Musical Credit to Matt Jaskot

00:00: Episode Start and “Roll Call”
  • Doug Whittington is an entrepreneur, husband of 20 years, dad of 2 daughters, and corporate team effectiveness consultant joining the Lead with Empower podcast from Lake Tahoe.
  • If you’re looking for a unique perspective on leadership and the different styles of effective leadership, look now further than our conversation with Doug Whittington
  • “Instead of talking about the glass being half full or half empty, we talk about the part that we can drink!”
  • We learn about Doug’s connection with Joe DeRing, Founder of Empower Adventures and Empower Leadership.
  • We also learn about Doug’s current work as a consultant – “I am fed by helping people; I aim to reduce the unnecessary suffering that occurs inside of workplaces so that we can work within our natural collaborative strengths of connection and communication”.
11:02: The Journey – Money Doesn’t Guarantee Happiness
  • “Companies asked me to leave certain aspects of myself at home. I worked inside of many systems that loved money and used people; and, I love people and want to use money.”
  • Doug describes the conflict of interest between how the companies he worked for made money and how Doug hoped to treat people.
  • “I believe that you can shear a sheep many times, but you can skin it only once. If we are into skinning sheep, we are not living up to the company’s values.”
16:15: Discovering the “Best Version of Doug Whittington”
  • Doug discusses his transition from “corporate life” to entrepreneurship and consulting in 2015.
  • Doug shares how some conversations with his wife and daughter helped him decide to make the transition – “I was miserable because of private self-loathing and everyone else was getting this really angsty version of me.”
20:38: Finding the Courage to Pivot, Take the Step, and Grow
  • Doug shares some strategies he implemented to coach himself through the challenge of transitioning out of the corporate world in 2015.
  • “Leadership to me is a service roll, it’s not a place of power. It’s not leadership over, it’s leadership for.”
24:38: The Journey, Part II – Noteworthy Experiences from Doug’s Highschool, College, and Early Professional Years
  • “I didn’t have a great plan going into college, I treated it like 13th grade. I was good at art, but that doesn’t mean I should be an artist.”
  • Doug discusses his love for art and the internal battle of not seeing the commercial value in it.
  • We also learn about Doug’s motivation to transition from art to “learn the science of sales”.
  • Doug shares the wisdom he would share with his 19-year old self – “money is not an end to pursue”
  • Additionally, Doug shares some advice for those graduating high school who are uncertain as to where their passions lie – “Get out and volunteer, humanity is not an individual sport!”
  • We also spend some time discussing Doug’s passion for sales.
44:52: Leadership in Action – Looking for Opportunities in the Struggle
  • From signing a strategic consulting partnership in 2019 to the global shutdown due to the pandemic – we learn about Doug’s current consulting efforts and his family’s epic cross country road trip!
  • “Our house served us well; however, when we really felt most connected to one another and alive, was when we were out doing things as a family. We were falling in love with the experiences we were able to do as a family!”
  • Doug gives us some insight into his family’s magnificent adventure that started in February of 2021 and is ongoing.
  • Doug also discusses his favorite area of leadership – “creating a context and understanding that perception is reality” – and what he hopes his daughters are able to take away from their family road trip adventure.
01:12:35: “Finish the Drill” and Episode Closure
  • We wrap up the episode in traditional fashion with some rapid fire/rapid response questions!
  • Doug shares (1) what has been his favorite location visited during your family’s road trip, (2) his favorite local food experienced during their trip, (3) what he prefers to listen to while driving over 15 tons of truck and RV, (4) his definition of leadership, and (5) why he feels adventure is important.

Episode #17: Season III

Doug Waechter

Realtor, Broadcaster, Coach, Family Man, and Former MLB Pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays

Leads with Empower

“Don’t let other people tell you that you are not good enough to do something. Give it your best shot and prove them wrong!!!”

The Lead with Empower crosses enemy lines!!!! Dan Jaskot, the host and avid fan of the New York Yankees, is joined by real estate agent, former major league pitcher with the Tampa Bay Rays, and current broadcaster of the Rays, Mr. Doug Waechter. All kidding aside – what a tremendous time with Doug – he brings a wealth of leadership insight, humor, and engaging storytelling to the podcast. We hope you enjoy our conversation!

Keep up with the Tampa Bay Rays and all things Doug Waechter on Twitter!

Musical Credit to Matt Jaskot

00:00: Episode Introduction, Guest “Roll Call”, and Finding the Positives
  • Introducing former major league pitcher, current broadcaster, and real estate agent, Doug Waechter. Doug is from the Tampa area of Florida, grew up as a Tampa Bay Rays fan, and became a pitcher for his home-town team!
  • Between his years in the “big leagues”, his tremendous professional experience, and his commitment to faith and family, Doug brings a unique, exciting, and entertaining leadership perspective to the Lead with Empower Podcast!
  • We learn about Doug’s views on the Rays’ 2021 season and the current state of baseball. We also discuss Doug’s strategies for being successful in multi-task environments – “You gotta put your big rocks in first; make sure that the things that are most important to you are being taken care of”
23:55: The Leadership Journey: “You have to be self-motivated, find a way to succeed and keep your focus on the long-term goals”
  • We discuss Doug’s path to the big leagues, the leadership challenges associated with life in the minor leagues, and the tremendous start to Doug’s big league career.
  • Doug also shares a great story about an encounter with Hall of Famer, Frank “the Big Hurt” Thomas
  • We also discuss the importance of positive leadership and team chemistry in what can be considered a somewhat individual sport in baseball.
  • Doug sends a special shoutout to Tino Martinez and Louis Gonzalez for their tremendous leadership!
48:20: “Get comfortable with the uncomfortable” – Transitioning from the Big Leagues to “Civilian Life”
  • Doug discusses his retirement from baseball and how the decision to hang-up the cleats came to fruition.
  • “If you are a competitor by nature, you will find a way to compete and you will have that internal pride to be the best”
  • Doug shares his story of finding success outside of baseball!
59:30: “Finishing the Drill” and Episode Closure
  • We conclude our great conversation with Doug Waechter in traditional “Lead with Empower” fashion – rapid response questions and answers!
  • We learn (1) the best advice Doug has ever received from a coach, (2) his favorite current ballplayer, (3) favorite stadiums, (4) a skill of his that he’d like to pass down to his children, and (5) a message of inspiration for athletes who dream of competing at the highest level!

Episode #16: Season III

Dayna Adamowicz

HR Director for Empower Adventures Operations

Leads with Empower

“Help someone do something that they don’t think they can do!”
I first met Dayna when she interviewed for a seasonal zip line guide position with Empower Leadership Sports & Adventure Center in the winter of 2009. Dayna quickly became a key player in the Middletown operation and, since about 2016, the entire Empower Adventures Operation. Whether it was sitting next to her in the small corner office, working as a guide team – Dayna always did whatever it took to get the job done to the highest standard possible! It was so great to spend some virtual time catching up with Dayna – I hope you enjoy her tremendous stories and insight!
Learn more about the Empower Adventures Parks in Virginia, Greater Tampa Bay, and Connecticut.

Musical Credit to Matt Jaskot

00:00: Episode Introduction and Guest “Roll Call”
  • Introducing Dayna Adamowicz – the HR Director for Empower Adventures Operation
  • Get to know Dayna as she discusses “mom-life”, parenting during a pandemic, her family’s big move from Connecticut, and her hopeful silver linings from the past 14 months
17:50: Lead, Inspire, and Empower – Dayna’s Leadership Journey
  • Dayna joined Empower as a recent college graduate and she shares how experiences from college and her very early professional career helped her discover her sense of adventure!
  • We discuss the importance of talking yourself through self-doubt – “it’s always worse in your head; but then you do it, realize you’re ok, and it gets easier every time”
35:01: Seasonal Part-Time Zip Line Guide to Key Player with Empower Adventures
  • Dayna discusses her transition into the full-time roll with Empower Adventures – focusing on her willingness and excitement to go above and beyond while never shying away from taking initiative, and her willingness to “get her hands dirty” with whatever needed to be done for the team!
  • We discuss some lessons learned during Dayna’s time in the adventure operation
  • Dayna shares her favorite memories from her time at Empower’s original adventure park in Middletown, CT
59:00: “It takes 2 seconds of courage to try something new!” – Episode Closure
  • We wrap up the episode our traditional “rapid fire, rapid response” closure; including: 1. Dayna’s views of herself as a leader (style, strength, and weakness), 2. strategies for relationship/trust development, 3. her favorite Empower Adventures aerial course, single zip line, and team building initiative, 4. Dayna’s current inspiration, and 5. Dayna’s advice for soon-to-be college graduates who are trying to figure out “what’s next”

Episode #15: Season III

Eric Seidel

Mayor of the City of Oldsmar, FL

Leads with Empower

“People are only motivated out of two areas – either desire or fear. The problem with motivating people out of fear is that the moment you leave the room, so does the motivation. If you motivate people out of desire, they will go to town.”

The City of Oldsmar, FL

Musical Credit to Matt Jaskot

Eric Seidel – Mayor of the City of Oldsmar, FL – was kind enough to join us for a great conversation about community development, leadership, volunteerism, and so much more! Tune in for a great blend of valuable leadership insight, story telling, and engaging humor – enjoy Mayor Eric Seidel Leads with Empower!

00:00: Episode Introduction and Guest “Roll Call”
  • Introducing City of Oldsmar, FL Mayor, Eric Seidel
  • Mayor Seidel introduces listeners to the City of Oldsmar, its wonderful parks system, and their “downtown development” initiatives
11:05: Lead, Inspire, and Empower – “Have a plan, communicate regularly, and be aggressive in tackling the problem”
  • Mayor Seidel shares great insight into leading during the pandemic; discussing the initial state of emergency, Oldsmar’s 3-phase plan of action (Prevention & Essentials, Sustainability, and Recovery), and the current state of recovery in Oldsmar
  • “The smartest person in the room is the one that knows they’re not the smartest person in the room”
28:55: From Miami (Dolphins) to Tampa Bay (Buccaneers) – Mayor Seidel’s Leadership Journey
  • Mayor Seidel shares stories about his upbringing in Miami, his high school experiences (“not a very good student”), and early career in iron work and construction
  • We learn about Mayor Seidel’s transition to a sales job and a key takeaway from his sales manager, Joe Young – “if you’re going to do this job well, you have to become involved in community service”
  • Mayor Seidel also discusses his involvement in the Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees), entrepreneurship, and his transition to civil service
  • “I’ve been in Civil Service, on-and-off, since 2007. To me, it is community service – I don’t have any big political ambitions, I love the idea of making an impact!”
38:45: “Finish the Drill” and Episode Closure
  • We wrap up the episode our traditional “rapid fire, rapid response” closure; including: (1) Mayor Seidel’s leadership style, strengths, and challenges, (2) his favorite out-of-work adventure, (3) childhood idol/role model, (4) the “Coffee with the Mayor” initiative, and (5) advice for those seeking involvement in civil service

Episode #14: Season III

Joe Borelli, Dean of School Culture – Hamden Charter School of Science,

Leads with Empower

“The only place you see success before work is in the dictionary.”
Joe Borelli – Dean of School Culture at the Hamden Charter School of Science – Leads with Empower. In addition to his work as Dean of Culture, Joe is a CrossFit athlete and trainer, personal trainer, nutrition coach, and entrepreneur. Joe Borelli believes we all have the opportunity to have a tremendous impact on others and he wastes no time doing his best to do so! Enjoy Joe Borelli Leads with Empower.

Musical Credit to Matt Jaskot

“Whatever goes down has to come back up!”
00:00: Episode Introduction and “Roll Call”
  • Joe and I discuss the challenges of the pandemic, specifically when considering his work with young adults. “Human beings are social in nature and we all need to find ways to pick each other up.”
  • Joe Borelli as a leader – “is someone who always strives to do his best and help people get closer to becoming their best self.”
“The only place you see success before work is in the dictionary”
27:15: The Journey is Where the Magic Happens
  • We learn about Joe’s journey to becoming an educator, trainer/coach, and entrepreneur and discuss the people and experiences that have impacted him along the way.
  • “The acorn has a miniature Oak Tree in it. The Oak Tree grows and, when it does, it gives acorns out. Leadership is all about giving back.”
48:45: “Finish the Drill” and Episode Closure
  • We close the episode with a handful of “rapid fire, rapid response” questions – including (1) Joe’s childhood role model, (2) what inspires/drives him today, (3) how Joe defines himself as a leader, (4) Joe’s favorite Avenger, and (5) what inspires Joe about the people he works with!

Episode #13: Season III

Carl Johnson, Principal of Plainville High School,

Leads with Empower

“The memories of a man in his old age are the deeds of a man in his prime” – Free Four, Pink Floyd
Carl Johnson, the Principal of Plainville HS (Plainville, CT), Leads with Empower! Carl is a lifelong educator who joined us during the school’s April Vacation to share his journey from young history enthusiast to educator and principal, and to discuss the role leadership plays in the Plainville HS operation and in his life. A wonderful conversation with an even better human being!

Follow Plainville HS on Facebook and Twitter

Follow Principal Carl Johnson on Twitter

Musical Credit to Matt Jaskot

“Trying to look for positive disruptions”
00:00: Episode Introduction and “Roll Call”
  • Carl, currently the Plainville HS Principal, is originally from W. Hartford, CT and a graduate from the University of Connecticut. Carl has 5 years of experience in school administration (2.5 years as Vice Principal and 2.5 years as Principal) and over 15 years of experience in education.
  • We discuss the challenges (plus solutions and lessons) from the end of the 2019-2020 school year and the first half of the 2020-2021 year.
  • Carl shares the importance of effective and transparent communication, compassion, and empathy in leadership during times of uncertainty and challenge
  • What is Carl most proud about – the students, families, teachers, and staff who have made “collective sacrifices for the good of everyone else”
17:32: History Trips with Dad, the Passing of Mom, and the Power of Teachers
  • We learn about Carl’s childhood years, discuss moments that have had significant influence on who he is today as a leader, and learn about how Carl began his journey as an educator
  • “At this moment, you have a choice to make” – Carl reflects on sage advice from his MIddle School Principal after the passing of his mother
  • We learn about how Carl’s childhood trips to Fort McClary (Kittery Point, ME) with his father and how his love for history was cultivated
  • The Power of Carl’s Teachers – “My teachers saw things in me that I didn’t see; encouraged that to come out, and pushed me to be a better person”
31:40: Leadership in Action
  • Carl shares the “big surprise” from his first year as a teacher
  • We learn about Carl’s leadership strengths, leadership challenges, and tactics he’s implemented to continue is leadership development (be reflective and surround yourself with people who are brutally honest!)
  • Carl shares the leadership qualities he looks for in teachers – “As long as you’re doing right by the kids, you’re not going to make a bad decision”
  • We learn about the “Portrait of a Graduate” – the 5 key skills (Communicative, Collaborative, Resilient, Innovative Problem Solvers, and Mindfulness)
56:30: “Finish the Drill” and Episode Closure
  • We close the episode with a handful of “rapid fire, rapid response” questions – including (1) Carl’s Childhood Role Model, (2) Carl’s strength that he hopes to pass along to his children, (3) his hobbies, (4) a song that represents Carl as a leader, and (5) why the PHS students inspire him!

Episode #12: Season III

Lori Stanczyc, the Rocky Hill Youth & Family Services Bureau Youth Coordinator, and her Youth to Youth Coalition, featuring Kylie, Abheri, Matt, Abhinav, Danielle, Parth, and Jasmine,

Lead with Empower

Musical Credit to Matt Jaskot

“It is really nice to do something that makes someone else smile because that always makes me smile!”
Providing youths with positive and safe opportunities to build trusting relationships, develop important life skills, serve their community, and learn to lead is an important facet of youth development. Young adults thrive when given the opportunity to do so!
This episode of the Lead with Empower Podcast features the Rocky Hill Youth and Family Services Bureau – more specifically, Lori Stanczyc, the Youth Coordinator, and Kylie, Abheri, Matt, Abhinav, Danielle, Jasmine, and Parth – the RHYFSB Youth to Youth Coalition.
During our conversation, we learn about RHYFSB and the Youth to Youth Coalition from discussions with Lori and her student group.
Lori shares the history of the RHYFSB and some of their current initiatives while the students discuss (1) why they joined, (2) some of their favorite activities and initiatives, (3) why other students should join the Y2Y Coalition, and how they hope to impact the community members of Rocky Hill, CT.
An absolutely inspirational listen – we hope you enjoy!!!
Visit the RHYFSB website, and follow the Youth to Youth Coalition on Facebook and Instagram, to learn more about these extraordinary young adults and all things youth development in Rocky Hill!

Episode #11: Season III

Farrand Violette

Teacher, Special Education Case Manager, and Assistant Football Coach

Leads with Empower

“It’s important to understand all the details, be a jack of all trades. Be knowledgeable about the things you are not supposed to be knowledgeable about. Be understanding and caring towards the things that you are not supposed to care for or understand. Be accepting so people can feel open to communicate, to learn, and to express themselves.”

“Life in 15 Minute Increments” – Farrand Violette Leads with Empower! Today’s episode features a great conversation with an old friend from Springfield College Football – Farrand Violette. Farrand is currently serving as a teacher, special education case manager, and assistant football coach in Knoxville, TN. Farrand shares great stories, anecdotes, and advice during our conversation – bringing his unique and engaging perspective on leadership to the Lead with Empower Podcast.

Musical Credit to Matt Jaskot

00:00: Episode Introduction and “Roll Call”
  • Farrand is a Teacher, Special Education Case Manager, Coach, and soon-to-be PhD Candidate in Knoxville, TN by way of Houston, TX, Springfield, MA, and Manchester, CT!
  • Our conversation includes a journey through Farrand’s educational, athletic, and professional career and discussions about the leaders and experiences that have impacted him as a leader and mentor to those that he leads.
  • “Take every day as a blessing, just embrace the opportunity to impact people’s lives and be transformative.”
15:30: Houston, Springfield, Connecticut, and Knoxville – Farrand’s Leadership Journey
  • Farrand discusses his upbringing in athletics, his decision to attend Springfield College, and his career journey while sharing insight into who he has become as a leader; including (1) advice for students who are in the college decision making process and (2) the importance of “failing gloriously”.
  • “You’re not going to get all the answers, you better come up with the answers; you have to figure it out and you have to find a way.”
22:58: Leadership in Action
  • “You have to set a standard for how you’re going to do things and how you are going to communicate.”
  • Farrand discusses how he helps his students and student-athletes become more confident in the face of failure, shares stories about the people and experiences that have shaped him as a leader, and provides insight into how he became a teacher.
  • “If you understand the content, you’re able to communicate well, and you can think quickly on your feet, you can teach.”
52:45: “Finish the Drill” and Episode Closure
  • As always, we wrap up the episode with a “rapid fire” Q & A session with our guest, Mr. Farrand Violette. While “Finishing the Drill”, we learn who Farrand’s favorite athlete was when he was a young child, the best advice Farrand received from his parents, advice he would give to his 18 year old self, advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, and the legacy he hopes to leave on the students and student-athletes he leads.

Episode #10: Season III

Justin Carbonella (Youth Services Coordinator) and Bonnie Daley (Diversion Coordinator), from the City of Middletown Youth Services Bureau,

Lead with Empower

“Every problem has a solution, we don’t let things that don’t matter distract us from the things that do!”

The Middletown Youth Services Bureau Team Leads with Empower! We are joined by Justin Carbonella, Youth Services Coordinator, and Bonnie Daley, Diversion Coordinator, from the City of Middletown Youth Services Bureau. I have had the pleasure of working alongside Bonnie, Justin, and many young adults from the MYSB over the years and can say with the utmost confidence that Bonnie and Justin are both tremendous community leaders and advocates for youths and young adults in the City of Middletown and beyond!
Learn more about the Middletown Youth Services Bureau by visiting their website and following on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Musical Credit to Matt Jaskot

00:00: Episode Introduction and “Roll Call”
  • We start the episode with a discussion about the MYSB, its role in the Middletown community, and we learn about the day-to-day leadership responsibilities of both Bonnie and Justin.
  • The MYSB is a multi-tiered agent of change focused on critically-conscious youth development. The MYSB prides itself on advocating for youths and families while providing opportunities for youth-led social change.
  • “There is a misperception that we need to shield young people from complicated and challenging issues, that we need to protect their innocence. That is not true; these are issues that young people care deeply about and are impacted by!”
18:02: Leadership Journey to Middletown Youth Services Bureau
  • Bonnie and Justin share their journey, leadership lessons learned, people who impacted them throughout, and a moment of failure that has had a positive impact on their lives!
  • “Seeing adults willing to take on extra work or create new paths; what that does to someone’s confidence and sense of worth – I think that becomes the thing I try to pay forward.”
24:40: Leadership in Action
  • Justin and Bonnie discuss their roles in activating as many youth/young adult leaders as possible by giving them the skills to bring their leadership to wherever their passions lie.
  • “It is important to have young people see your vulnerabilities and to see that, even as an adult, there are going to be moments that you struggle, but you have people around you who will support you through it all.”
  • Bonnie and Justin also discuss the importance of relationships in youth development and share their advice for those struggling to connect with the youths that they lead.
  • “Relationships are a huge part of leadership, it is a notion that is baked deeply into our theory of change and it is what allows us to help youths and young adults realize what they are capable of.”
76:35: “Finish the Drill” and Episode Closure
  • As always, we wrap up our tremendous conversation with a few “quick hitters” with Bonnie and Justin – including (1) their “silver linings” from 2020, (2) their favorite part of working at MYSB, and (3) the leadership quality they hope to pass along to the youths, young adults, and families they serve.
  • “Every problem has a solution, we don’t let things that don’t matter distract us from the things that do!”

Episode #9: Season III

Joe Dumpson

Community Leader and Shift Administrator for the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services

Leads with Empower

Joe Dumpson, Community Leader and Shift Manager for the State of Massachusetts Department of Youth Services, joins the Lead with Empower Podcast! I first met Joe, or as we call him “D”, in the Fall of 2003 at the Mill Pond School. Joe was the in-house room supervisor at the time and quickly became a mentor to me at the Mill Pond School due to his ability to connect with, and lead, the youths we worked with.
Joe shares his incredible story from being a youth/young adult who experienced challenges to becoming an adult who is advocating, leading, and inspiring youths in communities throughout Springfield, MA.
Musical Credit to Matt Jaskot
00:00: Episode Introduction and “Roll Call”
  • Joe discusses the leadership challenges brought on by the pandemic; focusing on balancing work, distance learning, and family.
  • Joe also shares the tremendous impact that Ed Tharion has had on him during a formative time in his life.
  • Joe discusses the importance of leading “in the trenches” vs. leading from the safety of “a bubble”.
  • “I’m going to give you as much love as you need, but I’m going to provide the structure that you need as well.”
33:45: From “Latchkey Kid” to Leader
  • Joe shares stories from challenges he faced as a youth/young adult in Springfield and how those challenges shaped who he is today as a leader and as a person.
  • We learn about how experiences at the Mill Pond School helped Joe mature into a community leader who is passionate about helping youths, young adults, and adults overcome and thrive!
  • “To panic during chaos, does not make it better!”
54:54: “Steel Sharpens Steel” – Community Leadership in Action
  • Joe discusses community initiatives that he has led; including the “Walking School Bus” for Springfield youths, Fitness Training for young adults/adults, and his Sunday Afternoon Men’s Group – Steel Sharpens Steel
  • “If you don’t empty the trash can, it will empty itself” – It is important for men to find an outlet so negative emotions/feelings/experiences aren’t buried.
74:15: “Finish the Drill” and Episode Closure
  • We wrap up the episode with some rapid fire/rapid response questions with Joe. We settle the debate of who was the “Chess King” at the Mill Pond School, we hear advice Joe would give to his 15 year old self, Joe shares his definition of leadership, and more!

Episode #8: Season III

Dan Jaskot Leads with Empower

One year ago, the Lead with Empower was just a random thought that flew through the somewhat empty space in my brain! Over the past 12 months, we have recorded 46 episodes with 62 unique guests who are all absolute inspirations when it comes to leading themselves and leading others!
The 47th episode of the Lead with Empower Podcast is a bit different. I step over to the “other side of the microphone” and am interviewed by the one and only Sara Stirling to recap the past year of adventure on the Lead with Empower Podcast.
This episode includes conversations about starting the podcast, “A-Ha” leadership moments experienced during our recordings, memorable conversations, dream guests, and much more!
Musical Credit to Matt Jaskot

Episode #7: Season III

Empowered Athletes Overcome Webinar

Featuring Coach Kevin Loney, Coach Laura Duncan, Coach Josh Edmed, Coach Kelly Thompson, and Coach John Klepacki

This episode of the Lead with Empower podcast is an audio recording of our most recent webinar – Empowered Athletes Overcome. The purpose of the webinar was to connect high school athletes, who aspire to compete in college athletics, with our panel of college coaches. Our panel includes:
  • Coach Kevin Loney – Bowdoin College Football
  • Coach Laura Duncan – University of New Haven Women’s Soccer
  • Coach Josh Edmed – Connecticut College Women’s Volleyball
  • Coach Kelly Thompson – Roger Williams University Women’s Basketball
  • Coach John Klepacki – Western New England University Men’s Lacrosse

The panel shares their insights and strategies to help high school athletes best prepare for the jump to collegiate athletics!

  • 00:00: Episode Introduction and “Roll Call”
  • 13:03: Topic of Discussion – Physical and Technical Preparation
  • 26:44: Topic of Discussion – Academic, Social, and Emotional Wellness
  • 43:14: Topic of Discussion – Communication and Accountability Throughout the Recruiting Process
  • 58:12: Webinar Closure – “Finish the Drill”

Episode #6: Season III

Zach Hoffman – Founder & CEO of Swiss-Army Leadership

Leads with Empower

“The most important thing for a leader to do is to earn people’s respect. Leave a legacy. By legacy, many people think accomplishments, accolades, and money. To me, it’s about lasting impact – people won’t remember my accolades or how much money I have, they WILL remember our interactions.”

Zach Hoffman – Founder and CEO of Swiss-Army Leadership Leads with Empower. Zach is originally from Pittsburg, PA and grew up with dreams of playing in the NFL. While Zach’s childhood dream did not come to fruition, Zach discovered his true calling as a coach, mentor, and leader! Zach shares his story from college athlete in the States and professional American Football Player in Europe to authoring a book (Finding the Good Life as a SWA Leader) and founding Swiss-Army Leadership!
00:00: Episode Introduction and “Roll Call”
  • Introducing Zach Hoffman, the Founder and CEO of Swiss-Army Leadership. Zach joined the Lead with Empower podcast on the tail-end of his trip to visit family in California. He will soon be arriving back home in Austria to continue his work as a coach and small business owner!
  • Zach introduces Swiss-Army Leadership and shares how his experiences in 6 different countries helped form the tools leaders need to effectively relate with others.
  • “It is so easy to assume that the way we were brought up and the way we grew up is the only way to lead. However, it is not until you step out of your own realm when you realize that it’s not the only way. The most important thing a leader can do is to earn people’s respect.”
13:15: The “Dorm Room Decision” – Zach’s Journey to from the United States to Europe
  • Coming to the realization that his NFL dream was not going to happen led to a difficult decision.
  • His subsequent trip to Poland showed Zach “the world from an outside perspective”.
  • “Without the tough decision and adversity, I would not have written a book and started a business to mentor young people.”
24:30: Professional American Football in Europe
  • Zach discusses differences in the game when compared to his experiences in the United States as well as the tremendous amount of growth in Europe from 2012-2021
  • Zach also shares insight into his transition from professional athlete to youth coach – highlighting the following lesson from his playing days:
  • “Run towards adversity and step out of your comfort zone. On the other side of that adversity is our happiness, our destiny, and our legacy.”
34:16: Swiss-Army Leadership (SWAL)
  • We learn about Zach’s inspiration to take an adventure into entrepreneurship and how his passion to connect with people drives the mission of SWAL.
  • “Listen to people’s stories, ask questions, not answer questions. This strategy will make you a more well-rounded person, a person that people want to follow. It will allow you to create your legacy.”
43:33: The Home Stretch and Finishing the Drill
  • As always, we wrap up with 5 quick-hit questions; including (1) Zach’s “out of sport” role model as a child, (2) his favorite athlete, (3) most memorable sport accomplishment, (4) future vision for SWAL, and (5) advice for aspiring leaders!

Episode #5: Season III

Sara Stirling – VP of Marketing Operations

Empower Adventures & Empower Leadership

Leads with Empower

“Just do it, take the first step. Tomorrow will always be tomorrow until we stop saying it.”

Sara Stirling is back for part 2 of a 3-part “podcast mini-series” focused on Goal Setting and Goal Achievement in 2021. Sara shares her personal goal for 2021 (Create 10 new art pieces per month), her plan for achievement, and an update as to how things are going 5-weeks into her goal achievement journey!
Check out Sara’s Art Live-Streams on Twitch
View Sara’s Art on Etsy
00:00: Episode Introduction and “Roll Call”
  • We catch up with Sara Stirling, the VP of Marketing Operations for Empower Adventures and Empower Leadership, to receive a “5-weeks in” update on her goal achievement journey
  • Sara also provides updates on her with with the Empower Adventure Parks in Florida, Virginia, and Connecticut
12:06: A Refresher on Episode 1
  • Sara provides a “refresher” for those who missed the first episode of our podcast mini-series including what her actual goal is and why it is important to her
23:28: Formation of Success Habits – The Foundation Has Been Laid
  • Sara provides an update on her goal achievement journey that focuses on the formation of her success habits
  • Sara also dishes on some of the challenges she has faced thus far, strategies implemented to overcome those challenges, and the concept of “resetting expectations”
33:15: The “Home Stretch”
  • 5 question “rapid fire” to finish off the episode, including (1) Sara’s inspiration for her upcoming art creation, (2) what music Sara is currently listening to, (3) what Sara is currently watching, (4) Sara’s key strength and weakness, and (5) Sara’s advice to those who haven’t started their 2021 goal setting and achievement journey
  • “Just do it, take the first step. Tomorrow will always be tomorrow until we stop saying it.”

Episode #4: Season III

Ulish Booker – CEO Spartan Global Network

Leads with Empower

“At the end of the day, you stop running as fast, jumping as high, and hitting as hard – Father Time is undefeated. You have to have something to rely on and for me, education is that formal process that helped me complete tasks. You will need an education to reimagine and re-develop who you are!”

Episode IV, Season 3 – Ulish Booker, CEO of Spartan Global Network, Leads with Empower! Ulish is a retired professional football player, with World Bowl (NFL Europe) and Super Bowl rings, who has taken the jump into the adventure of entrepreneurship. Ulish shares his story and leadership lessons learned along the way from West Haven High School to Michigan State University, followed by his jump to the professional ranks, and his most recent adventure – founding the Spartan Global Network!

00:00: Episode Opening and Guest “Roll Call”
  • Ulish introduces us to Spartan Global Network and shares his thoughts on Super Bowl LV, Tom Brady, and his former teammate, Plaxico Burress
14:10: From West Haven High School Football to Entrepreneur
  • “I wasn’t one of those guys that put the playbook on his head and learned by osmosis. I had to work tirelessly on my study habits both on and off the field.”
  • “A lot of the experiences and adversity that you face as an athlete – if you’re smart, you take those things and transition them into your civilian life and it makes you a better person.”
35:45: A Time of Transition – Challenges Faced and Strategies to Overcome
  • Ulish discusses being cut by an NFL team and the work/determination required to continue his chase towards becoming a professional football player.
42:03: The Importance of Education and the Entrepreneurship Adventure
  • “At the end of the day, you stop running as fast, jumping as high, and hitting as hard – Father Time is undefeated. You have to have something to rely on and for me, education was the formal task that helped me complete tasks, while reimagining and re-developing who I was.”
45:09: Spartan Global Network
  • Ulish shares his insight into the birth of SGN and discusses the services offered via the SGN Online Platform- including health and wellbeing, travel, small business, and life insurance.
  • “The value of who you are is the legacy you leave behind.”
  • Learn more about Spartan Global Network
55:15: The Home Stretch
  • We wrap up the episode hearing Ulish’s thoughts on (1) the Pizza Capital of the World, (2) leadership lessons learned from Coach McCarthy, Coach Saban, Coach Williams, and Coach Cowher, (3) a football lesson that sticks with him to this day, (4) future vision of SGN, and (5) advice for high school athletes aspiring to compete at the next level.
  • “Remove all doubt, remove any questions, and leave no stone unturned so you are best prepared and able to perfect your craft.”

Episode #3: Season III

Alex Blaise, Jess Stanley, Nick Perkins, Lisa Daly, and Chase du Pont

from the Peer Leadership Program at Hamden Hall Country Day School

Lead with Empower

“The emotional quotient is a huge part of the Peer Leadership Program. And it is also important not to discount the importance of someone having a passion to be a leader.”

“I thought that having an experience where you get to be in a real-world leadership situation would be very useful and practical going forward.”

We are joined by three students and two advisors from Hamden Hall Country Day School. Lisa Daly and Chase du Pont, the two advisors of the Princeton Peer Leadership Program at Hamden hall, as well as Jess Stanley, Alex Blaise, and Nick Perkins, senior students and Peer Leaders, join the Lead with Empower podcast to discuss their leadership experiences, their upcoming “Quarter 3” projects, and much more!

00:00: Episode Opening and Guest “Roll Call”
  • Lisa (Teacher, Arts Department) and Chase (Teacher, History Department) share some background about the PL program and help introduce our student guests, Jess, Alex, and Nick
  • Jess, Nick, and Alex discuss why they applied for the PL program
17:50: What it Means to be a Peer Leader
  • Alex, Nick, and Jess discuss their development as leaders through participation in the PL program as well as other “out of classroom” opportunities at Hamden Hall
21:12: Personal Development
  • The Peer Leaders share some strategies they have implemented to guide their personal leadership development and discuss initiatives they are part of to build community at Hamden Hall
27:50: “The Why” – Peer Leadership Quarter 3 Project
  • The PL program includes various student-driven projects and we learn, from Chase and Lisa, the importance of providing students with hands-on “learn to lead” opportunities
36:00: Identify the Needs, Create a Plan, and Act Courageously
  • Nick, Jess, and Alex share the concepts and the why’s for their upcoming Q3 projects
41:05: The Impact
  • Lisa and Chase discuss the impact of the PL program on the students who participate, highlighting “perspective” and the “say yes challenge” as key takeaways for the Peer Leaders
44:25: Finish the Drill
  • Alex, Jess, and Nick share (1) who their inspiration is and why, (2) what their next adventure in life is, (3) how Hamden Hall has prepared them for their next adventure, (4) their nerves or fear as they prepare for their next adventure, and (5) the positive impact they hope they leave for the Hamden Hall Community Members

Episode #2: Season III

Ken Martin

Co-Owner of Colony Grill Development, LLC and Adjunct Professor of Hospitality at the University of New Haven

Leads with Empower

“Business is about how you make people feel. Either close people off and be a gatekeeper, or open your arms and be an advocate.”

Season III of the Lead with Empower Podcast continues with another tremendous guest! We are joined by Ken Martin for episode 2 of season III. Ken is co-owner of Colony Grill Development, LLC (Colony Grill) and has just begun his first year as an adjunct professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of New Haven. Ken does a wonderful job sharing stories and leadership insight about his professional career, athletic experience, and so much more!

Check out Colony Grill’s website, of follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!
00:00: Episode Opening and Guest “Roll Call”
  • Ken Martin, co-owner of Colony Grill – Bar-style Pizza and Beer restaurants with locations in Connecticut (Stamford, Norwalk, Milford, and Fairfield), Virginia (Arlington), and NY (Port Chester)
  • Adjunct Professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of New Haven
  • Little League Word Series Champion (Trumbull, 1989)
08:01: Leadership Challenges in the Restaurant/Hospitality Industry
  • Ken dishes on the importance of communication in mission alignment and in team functions
14:55: Leadership Challenges During the Pandemic
  • “We focused on being present and out in front to decipher the most important information to disseminate to our team members.”
20:54: Without Struggle, There is No Progress
  • Ken discusses some “silver linings” from 2020 and how Colony Grill is stronger and more aligned in 2021.
24:30: The “Essential Skills” of a Colony Grill Employee
  • Ken discusses the importance of interpersonal skills in the Restaurant/Hospitality Industry
27:58: Experiences that have shaped Ken Martin
  • We learn about Ken’s experiences as a Little League World Series Champion, college student-athlete, and professional career prior to Colony Grill.
  • “Every experience that you have as a young child, high school or college student, and young professional lead to opportunities and interactions that you can take a little bit from and put in your tool box.”
41:00: The Educational Side of Hospitality
  • Ken shares his inspiration to become an adjunct professor at the University of New Haven
  • “You don’t realize how much you’re teaching everyday in your own business. For the past 11 years, I’ve been teaching at some level.”
  • “Business is about how you make people feel. Either close people off and be a gatekeeper, or open your arms and be an advocate.”
50:08: The “Home Stretch”
  • We learn about Ken’s childhood idols/role models, his dream “pro athlete” scenario, and what skills he and his wife hope to instill in their children.
  • “It’s up to you.” and “Why not you?”

Episode #1: Season III

Sara Stirling

VP of Marketing Operations – Empower Adventures and Empower Leadership

Leads with Empower

“It was just something in my gut that I knew I had to do for my future, for myself – just to be the best version of me!”

Season III of the Lead with Empower Podcast has arrived and we could not ask for a better guest to help us get things going strong in 2021 than Sara Stirling! Sara joined the Empower Team back in 2018 and currently serves as the VP of Marketing for Empower Adventures and Empower Leadership. Sara recently published a Lead with Empower blog article titled “Making Moves in 2021” and shares her leadership journey, along with her goals and plan of achievement, during our conversation! This is the first of 3 podcast episodes highlighting Sara’s goal achievement journey.

Check out Sara’s Art Live-Streams on Twitch and her Art (available for purchase) on Etsy
00:00: Episode Opening and Guest Introductions
  • As VP of Marketing, Sara is a key contributor to the ENTIRE Empower Operation!
03:45: Guest “Roll Call”
  • We learn about Sara’s journey from student at the University of Florida, to young professional in the live-entertainment/events industry, and to her current role with Empower Adventures and Empower Leadership.
  • “It was just something in my gut that I knew I had to do for my future and for myself – just to be the best version of me!”
10:15: The “Leadership Field Experience”
  • Being an Empower Team Member is a true exercise in leadership! Sara shares stories and insight into her thoughts on “getting out of your comfort zone”.
16:25: Doing “Empowerment” Differently in 2020
  • Sara discusses the “what and why” behind the Lead with Empower Newsletter and other “digital” products developed during the pandemic.
22:38: “Making Moves in 2021”
  • We learn about Sara’s most recent blog article – Making Moves in 2021 – that was featured in the January edition of the Lead with Empower e-Newsletter
27:37: Time to Create
  • Sara shares her personal goal for 2021; including “the why”, her plan for achievement, and what she hopes to learn during her goal achievement journey.
38:48: Live-Streaming Art??? You Betcha
  • We wrap up the episode learning about Sara’s desire to help others create!

Lead With Empower Podcast

Listen to Season I

With 24 episodes filled with leadership insights, Season I is still available to listen to.

Visit our archives page to check out these episodes!



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