Introducing Talent Advisement and Human Resources Transformation at Leverage to Lead
In 2021, Leverage to Lead expanded its offerings in two ways. In addition to individual coaching and organizational transformation, we now have Aubrey Jones as our Head of Talent Advisement, and Kim Ho as our Head of HR. You’ve already seen their stories and insights throughout this year’s newsletters, and we are grateful for the depth and range they bring to our work. Today, we want to formally introduce Talent Advisement and Human Resources at Leverage to Lead and share the story of our growth.
Seeing the Human in Human Resources
In 2019, Jennifer reached out to a contact from her previous position in law firm management because she was noticing a pattern: organizations were coming to Leverage to Lead with a single desire—help us hire for diversity. Too often, she saw organizations hire women and people of color without a culture to support or even fully see them, leaving them to feel tokenized, to fend for themselves, and eventually burn out or leave. Quick hires and one-off “diversity seminars” do not transform organizations.
Jennifer recalls, “Kim and I worked together for years at the same law firm where she led HR, and I did recruiting and office management. By 2019, I had known for a while that DEI work at Leverage to Lead couldn’t be separated from HR—it’s how you understand exactly how equity and inclusion are or are not working in your organization.
“Kim had two beautiful kids by then and wasn’t working at the time. But I needed her. I knew that if an organization was going to go through a values excavation and transform their entire culture, they couldn’t then try to hire with their old job descriptions or compensation packages or lack of professional development. So, I asked Kim to work with me.” Jennifer laughs and adds, “Just part-time, just for a few job descriptions, just for a little bit!”
But timing was fortuitous for Kim. “My kids were getting older,” explains Kim, “and I was starting to think about what my plans were. Jennifer’s call was perfect timing. And I enjoyed the work—how creative it was, how it truly helped organizations. The big pull for me was helping organizations connect to their values and improve their culture. Work impacts a person in so many ways. Transforming HR is really about building employer-employee partnerships, building processes and procedures that are based on and are representative of the values and culture of the organization”
California legislation made the timing right for Jennifer as well. “In January 2020, California mandated independent contractors be hired as employees. So, if I was going to hire people, I needed to do it well. We tell clients they need to think about hiring equity, design positions with care, create solid job descriptions, etc. This was my moment of opportunity. And I have always wanted to do HR work with clients.”
In describing Kim’s role, Jennifer notes that she was “instrumental in building our organization and structure. She can get to the heart of an employer’s expectations or a candidate’s needs, and then she puts language to how we report to each other or how we do performance evaluations. She creates clarity, procedure, and structure. Kim has built the HR function of Leverage to Lead, and it has been exciting and fascinating to be part of that process.”
Co-creating a new hire’s roles may sound counter to an employer’s position of authority and control, but it’s exactly the kind of creative and gratifying work that Jennifer has been advocating for her clients for years. It’s in the collaboration, which requires authenticity and vulnerability, that something truly new emerges—a position that supports an employee’s humanity, aligns with the organization’s core values, and serves each with abundance rather than scarcity.
Building Opportunity is DEI Work
Before founding Leverage to Lead, Jennifer’s corporate recruiting experience also spanned Wall Street and several other law firms, and the many pain points stuck with her. “I remember recruiting attorneys into an office that had no place for them to sit,” Jennifer recounts. “And so, when I made the change to executive career coaching and helping women of color build their careers, it was always in my mind that we should be placing them in the right opportunities. I always wanted Leverage to Lead to be a hub of connection, through which people could gain opportunities.”
She knew, however, that recruiting would not be the area she would head. “I know the recruiting work, but what I love is individual coaching and working with organizations. If we were going to build this arm of the business, I wasn’t going to be recruiting. Just like with the new HR arm of Leverage to Lead, I didn’t need or want to be in charge of it.”
It was MJ’s connection to Aubrey that started the conversation in earnest. Leverage to Lead needed someone with the capacity to not only recruit talent, but to imagine and build an entirely new department.
“I knew,” Jennifer reflects, “this would be core to the work we do. But I didn’t know exactly what it would look like. We needed someone to help us build it from scratch. And, as a team, we committed to supporting this person’s time and investing in them. For example, we would build up the client base so this person wouldn’t have that pressure while they were trying to create something new.”
For Aubrey, coming on board was an opportunity to be intentional about her own DEI commitments and experiences. “In my last agency role,” Aubrey explains, “I talked to my supervisors about creating a DEI practice group. Firms always talk about wanting diverse hires, but they don’t do anything outside of finding a person of color and shoving them into a role. I wanted something much more beneficial to candidates.”
That discussion pushed Aubrey to follow a piece of her own advice. “As a recruiter, I always ask candidates to be clear about why they want to leave a position. And I ask whether they tried to do their most meaningful work in their current position before aiming for a new role. In my case, I tried, and my company was just not going to give me the support I wanted.”
Over the next few months, Jennifer and Aubrey imagined her new role and what Talent Advisement would look like. There were no resumes, cover letters, or interviews. Aubrey describes what it was like to realize that Leverage to Lead prioritized her humanity. “It was a series of conversations, not a traditional job interview. Over at least two months, I spoke to Jennifer and the whole team. I told them where I saw my career going, what my capacity was, and what I was searching for in a role.
“In my previous roles as a recruiter, the part I enjoyed the most was creating connections with people, going beyond just placing them in an organization and helping them find a role where they could be happy and build a career. Jennifer and her team told me what they were able to provide, what they expected, and how we could work together. I appreciated being seen as a human with needs and goals. So, I came on board.
”We’re grateful to Kim and Aubrey for bringing their skill, expertise, experience, and perspective to our team. In our next newsletter, we’ll share more about the work of Talent Advisement and HR Transformation, what client engagements look like, and why we help organizations do deep values work before hiring.
The Leverage to Lead Team
Jennifer McClanahan-Flint is the founder and CEO of Leverage to Lead.
Kim Ho is the Head of Human Resources at Leverage to Lead.
Aubery Jones is the Head of Talent Advisement at Leverage to Lead.
Melody S. Gee is a freelance creative content strategist.
© 2021 Jennifer McClanahan-Flint of Leverage to Lead.
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