It is your responsibility as a leader to make accountability and follow-through a part of your daily routine, this includes self-accountability.
We are living in the Renaissance of Work. Just like great artists know that an empty canvas can become anything, great leaders know that an entire organization — and the people inside it — can become anything, too. Master Artists and Mastering the Art of Leadership draw from the same source: creation. In this series, we’ll meet masters who are creating the future of work and painting a portrait of lasting leadership. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Angela Caufield.
Ange is on a mission to upend and rebuild the corporate leadership landscape. As a successful business consultant specializing in systems creation and SOPs, she helps her clients create evergreen profitable systems for their organizations to reduce operating costs, minimize stress, and increase revenue. As a speaker and writer, she helps organizations break the old-school rules to make room for a transformed workplace culture that celebrates humanity and community while still protecting the bottom line. Ange’s corporate background combines with her don’t-hold-back personality to set her clients up for success as leaders.
Thank you for joining us. Our readers would enjoy discovering something interesting about you. What are you in the middle of right now that you’re excited about personally or professionally?
I’ve got big plans for 2023! I am not here to play, we’re going all out this year!
In business, I’m actively building my speaking and writing portfolios, seeking a publisher for my book and masterfully curating luxurious 1–1 VIP experiences for my consulting clients. I’m absolutely thrilled to be attending Alt Summit 2023 in Palm Springs. It’s the premier conference for thousands of creative entrepreneurs and influencers. I would love to see some of you there!
Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing Taylor Swift on her Eras tour. No, I’m not ashamed to be a die-hard Swiftie. My family and I are planning a big, fancy Spring Break vacation. It’s something we’ve never done before and the kids are so excited!
Travel is definitely my love language.
We all get by with a little help from our friends. Who is the leader that has influenced you the most, and how?
There are 3 main people that have helped me shape my view on leadership.
First, my father. He spent over 30 years working in a Public Sector position, managing hundreds of employees and thousands of cases/customers over the years. Traditionally, like most people of his generation, he was taught that you get one job, don’t ask questions, and show up every single day until you retire. However, being the progressive and kind-hearted human that he is, in the last 10 years of his career, he began to shift his perspective. He listened to his employees when they spoke of their concerns about schedules and flexibility. He fought to change the regulations around the benefits packages of his organization. He finally understood that speaking out and standing up for what is right doesn’t make you a bad employee. It makes you a human. His willingness to change his thought process and continue to be a supportive and caring leader is something I’ll always admire.
Next, my dear friend Sarah Alysse Bobo. She is the founder and CEO of Live Well, Enhance You and focuses on helping corporations incorporate proactive stress-management practices and wellness benefits into their workplaces. She has the kindest heart. She is fierce and devoted to her work. Sarah is a performer and unafraid to thrive in her life. Some of the best conversations about work and our personal lives happened while wading in the Atlantic Ocean. Find a friend like this to go on your business adventure with.
Finally, Michelle Obama. Her strength, courage, wisdom, and poise are remarkable. I admire her as a mother and as a woman. Plus she is a fashion icon and has a legendary smile. Hey Michelle, let’s do brunch!
Sometimes our biggest mistakes lead to our biggest discoveries. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a leader, and what did you discover as a result?
Coming in HOT! Jumping in to try and prove myself to my bosses when my team knew what they were doing and I was clueless. One of the numerous challenges in my corporate career was that we were forced to move departments. These departments all operated differently, had different rules and regulations, different people, different struggles, job requirements, and measurements for success. Liking what we were doing or knowing how the department functioned prior to going in was not a requirement. In addition, there wasn’t a training process for managing your new department. Ready or not, sink or swim.
Want to know the fastest way to cause a mutiny? Go into a department of long-term employees that have been doing their jobs the same way for as long as you’ve been alive and in 2 hours tell them how many things they’re doing wrong and need to change.
Yikes. I’m embarrassed to even admit that. It was a hard and ugly lesson. While I don’t like the word humble and choose to use it sparingly, in hindsight, being humble, checking my ego, observing, learning, asking questions, and jumping in to help wherever I could, would’ve gotten me a whole lot farther.
How has your definition of leadership changed or evolved over time? What does it mean to be a leader now?
My personal leadership evolution has caused many waves in the past. It is the exact reason I only got to a certain level in my corporate career. It is the reason I am so deeply passionate about sharing my philosophies with others now.
First lesson, leadership and management are not the same thing. There is a poignant quote by John Maxwell “He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk”. How incredibly fitting.
You are not a leader because you say you are, or because your title says you are. You’re a manager because of your title. Leaders are not dependent on titles. Leaders do not blindly say “yes” to everything. Leaders think beyond the ‘dangling carrots’ and make decisions that are best for the organization and its people while upholding the values they stand for.
I saw how incredibly limiting and exclusive Corporate America can be and I experienced the effects of having a ‘push-back’ kind of personality. In my younger years, I didn’t know how to communicate my thoughts and feelings properly. There was a time and place for certain conversations and it took a long time for me to learn how to navigate that. I can take responsibility for the mistakes I made and the waves I caused without knowing what the best way to get my point across was.
I am bold. I take up space. I have a loud voice. I will not blindly say yes, and I will not ‘rah rah’ antiquated systems, policies, or procedures because “that’s the way we’ve always done it”. My philosophy is that the way we’ve always done it is the problem. The last few years have taught us that if nothing else.
It is our responsibility to learn and to do better. To uplift the historically marginalized communities of people that have been kept from the opportunities some of the rest of us have had. Safety, equity, and inclusivity are some of my core values as a leader in business and as a human in this world.
Success is as often as much about what we stop as what we start. What is one legacy leadership behavior you stopped because you discovered it was no longer valuable or relevant?
I had to stop ‘rewarding’ people by adding to their job duties because they were trustworthy or top performers. We still had a goal to achieve and a deadline to meet, even though there were team members that were consistently not performing to standards.
In my early leadership days, I gave my top-performing employees extra tasks because I knew they would get them done. There was no increase in pay, or change in job title. Simply, the ‘dangling carrot’ that told them maybe one day they’d be rewarded for their extra work.
This is not a reward. It is a punishment. To keep it in context, adding duties outside the job description without proper compensation is wrong. If their job duty is X and you ask them to do X, Y, and Z, your employee should be compensated for it.
There is nothing that will get a great employee to burn out quicker than giving them more work because they’re faster or more capable than the next person. In fact, giving one employee more work because others aren’t meeting expectations is a sign of poor leadership. It is a direct reflection of you.
Don’t be this leader.
What is one lasting leadership behavior you started or are cultivating because you believe it is valuable or relevant?
The leadership practice I will continue to implement until the day I leave this world is building genuine connections with my team. This is the only way to get them to buy-in to my business plan, or me for that matter. Show up for them. Listen to them. Eat lunch with them. Spend a few seconds getting to know them. Do they have a spouse? Children? Pets? Do they love to travel, garden, cook, snowboard, cross stitch, build motorcycles, or go to the ballet? Find out. It takes just a few seconds to begin this process. It doesn’t have to be lengthy or intense. It shouldn’t be awkward or forced.
A person who trusts their leader implicitly is a person that is happy to show up every day and give everything they can for the success of the operation.
We win by winning together.
What advice would you offer to other leaders who are stuck in past playbooks and patterns and may be having a hard time letting go of what made them successful in the past?
“Because that’s how we’ve always done it” is a tired and outdated approach. The workplace- the world have evolved in ways we never could have dreamed over the past few years. Sure, taking pieces of past success is encouraged. Creating duplicatable systems is literally how I help entrepreneurs and business owners achieve increased income and generate new revenue streams AND there must be fluidity to the system. It should be treated like a living, breathing entity.
Revisit and revise the system as needed. Make changes based on personnel, new company goals, and what hasn’t worked in the past. Change is necessary and inevitable but it does not have to be scary!
Many of our readers can relate to the challenge of leading people for the first time. What advice would you offer to new and emerging leaders?
Don’t make the same mistakes I did! Introduce yourself to your team, and humanize yourself. Let them know just a little bit about who you are and why you’re there. Be transparent and as honest as possible in your communication. Do what you say you’re going to do. Stand up for them when the time comes. Find ways to get comfortable having uncomfortable conversations.
Read books, reach out to leaders you admire. Set up a 60-minute call with me so we can chat about your approach to your new position and make plans to create a sustainable system.
Observe, ask questions, jump in, analyze, then enact change.
Based on your experience or research, what are the top five traits effective leaders exemplify now? Please share a story or an example for each.
Willingness to admit their own growth areas.
It can be a humbling experience to admit you don’t know everything. However, in recognizing your areas of opportunity, you humanize yourself and create a sense of relatability with your employees.
Your team needs to know that you are imperfect (an actual human being) too. It sends the wrong message when we have leaders that believe that “showing up no matter what” is the right thing to do for the business. If your spouse is in the hospital and you show up to work, you’re effectively telling each of your employees that you expect them to do the same.
If you know you’re terrible at creating graphics for presentations or social media, simply ask for support. (It’s me, hi. I’m the problem!)
Asking questions of your employees in an effort to learn more about their strengths and day-to-day experience will set you apart in your leadership. This builds camaraderie and strengthens the bond of the team.
Remember to give credit and acknowledgment where it is due. Good leaders do not take credit for work they did not do. “My team did an incredible job completing our project.” is a great example of receiving praise while giving credit to the participants.
Wisdom to hire team members that possess complementary strengths.
When creating a well-balanced team, it is important to note the strengths and weaknesses of individuals. Consider assigning duties based on the strengths your team members possess.
Your team will be highly-effective when each person is doing work in their zone of excellence or zone of genius. Happy and fulfilled employees are up to 20% more productive than unhappy employees. Therefore, when doing work they enjoy and are good at, your team will complete projects and meet goals and deadlines seamlessly.
Not only is it ok that your employees are better at certain things than you are, or possess skills you don’t have, it is encouraged!
Create genuine connections.
This is my number one tip as a leader. Getting your employees on board with you and the mission of your organization is crucial to your overall success. How do you do it? By creating genuine connections with them.
Taking the time to learn just a little bit about a person; who they are, what they like, and if they have a family or pets for example, allows for more organic conversation to be had. The more organic conversation, the stronger the bond of trust becomes. When your employees trust you and they feel supported and valued, they will want to come to work. They will want to give their best effort.
In my corporate career, I managed hundreds of employees. I was able to create these connections with the vast majority of them. It didn’t take hours of 1–1 conversation. But informal greetings as we passed each other, taking notice of certain clothing, the food they brought for lunch, or simply sharing a piece of candy or two opens the door for deeper connections.
Do not overcomplicate this or make excuses. Get to know your team and allow them to get to know you.
Do not shy away from difficult conversations.
Accountability can be incredibly uncomfortable for some people. Oftentimes, I will hear things like “I’m very non-confrontational” or “I don’t like conflict” etc. As a leader, you need to understand a few things.
First, not all uncomfortable conversations are confrontations. They are not personal attacks designed with the intention of being harmful. If you have a solid set of expectations and you’ve communicated them to your team, the focus of the conversation is the work, not the person.
Second, it is your responsibility as a leader to make accountability and follow-through a part of your daily routine, this includes self-accountability.
Finally, no one likes a consistently underperforming team member. Typically, it means goals aren’t being met, other team members are forced to pick up the slack and you as the leader are frustrated and unsuccessful in your position. A consistently underperforming team member is a sign of poor leadership. It is important to note the keyword is consistent because we all have bad days. Do not allow resentment to build among your employees by allowing certain people to have different expectations.
Appreciate their teams and add value by providing growth opportunities.
“If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” Where did that quote even come from? Regardless of origin, the validity of the statement rings true. According to a 2018 LinkedIn report, up to 93% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers. As a leader, the opportunity to grow and develop your team is all around you.
Do not gatekeep information. Do not withhold educational or promotional opportunities. Find out what your employee’s goals are. Give them real, tangible feedback on how they can improve and what skills/assets are likely to help them achieve those goals. “Keep doing what you’re doing” is not feedback, it is an excuse to get out of an uncomfortable conversation. It is harmful as it gives false hope to those who think they’re doing a great job, but may be lacking in certain areas.
Showing appreciation for your team and giving regular feedback helps prevent these false narratives from occurring.
American Basketball Coach John Wooden said, “Make each day your masterpiece.” How do you embody that quote? We welcome a story or example.
The great thing about art is that it’s up to interpretation. Listen, I love a good inspirational quote just as much as the next person. However, not every day in my life is sparkles, rainbows, and Bob Ross paintings.
I have 2 boys and 3 dogs. I’m a wife, woman, friend, sister, daughter, community member, and business owner. Quite frankly, I’m a tired-ass mess some days. Some days I’m the Mona Lisa.
Let’s be realistic when we’re having conversations about what it takes to be a successful business owner! On my best days, there is nothing that can get me down. On my worst days, I dream of curling up and sinking into my couch forever.
It isn’t about the output of the day. It isn’t about the circumstances, the experiences, what happened or didn’t. The beauty, the masterpiece is the lesson to be had in all things.
What is the legacy you aspire to leave as a leader?
I hope to be remembered as a leader that spoke up, even when my voice shook.
I hope to be remembered as a leader that was willing to really investigate my own privilege and the advantages it afforded me.
I hope to be remembered as a leader that educated herself, then did better.
I hope to be remembered as a leader that shows strength and courage even in the face of adversity.
I hope to be remembered as a leader that works right alongside my team until we have completed our mission.
I hope to be remembered as a mother that did everything she could to help raise kind, brave, and forward-thinking children.
One of the best compliments I’ve ever received is “The world needs more leaders like you”. It brings me to tears and I revisit it often.
How can our readers connect with you to continue the conversation?
Head to angecaufield.com, reach out directly [email protected], and follow me on Instagram @itsangecaufield
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!