As part of my series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Angel N. Livas.
When it comes to connecting to the hearts of audiences, you must be relatable, transparent, honest…and quite frankly you have to know what you’re talking about. Angel N. Livas marries her tremendous life experiences with her spiritual compass to guide others through managing life on and off the clock. Her direct nature draws audiences, but her keen story-telling captures their attention and provokes them to take action. She’s the award-winning producer for the I AM BLACK documentary “The Enlightenment,” the recipient of the 2019 Communicator Award for her radio program “The Woman Behind The Business” Talk Show, and an international best-selling author. Angel Livas is helping individuals not only live but be #ALIVE.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
After studying broadcast journalism at Howard University — I knew I wanted to create impact through storytelling. Upon graduation I was afforded my first opportunity in mainstream media at Bloomberg Television in Washington, DC. While I enjoyed the idea of being a field producer for a mainstream network — I wasn’t a fan of politics or Wall Street — so, that opportunity was short lived because I was working on the show Money & Politics. Fast forward through jobs at NBC and a local radio station I found my flow at AARP where I ultimately served as the youngest executive producer in their media department and earned the title as Director of Radio. I always say that Howard University made me — but, AARP raised me. I spent 10-years of my life being groomed for the moments that are my today and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and growth I gained through my time there. But with all things — time brings about a change. In 2014, my department went through a restructuring, which left me without a job.
As a child my dad always told us to have something to fall back on because no job ever owes you anything. He would say “You can be their best employee, but, if budget cuts come and you’re costing the company a lot…you’ll be the first to go.” When this became my reality — I wasn’t afraid or really worried — however, my overachiever nature felt like I had to figure out my “what’s next” and fast. After a few months of failed interviews and empty offers I decided to start my own business. I mean, why not — I’d made previous employers millions … Why not create that for me and my family? So, in 2015 that’s what I did when I created DC Media Connection and shortly thereafter launched the nonprofit The Woman Behind The Business.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
One of the funniest mistakes that I made when I started hosting television programs was funny, but also embarrassing. At one of the studio shoots that I was recording standups for — I forgot that my mic was hot (i.e. on) when I left the stage to rush to the bathroom. Fortunately, nothing embarrassing took place in the stall — but, just knowing that the control room could hear me peeing … it was funny and still embarrassing…lol. That moment taught me to always turn or take my mic off when I’m not recording!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My entire life has been a stepping block of opportunities afforded by those who were willing to invest in me. Whether it was Gail Earle (Johnson) who ensured that once my internship ended that I’d have another opportunity to continue learning and growing or Kim Hardy-Barnes who mentored me to ensure I had all the right tools to successfully sit in business meetings with the big wigs. Or, friends like Vandia Sands who encouraged me to expand my non-profit into international territories. You see — I have been blessed to have men and women guide me throughout my life. This is one of the reasons that I work as hard as I do…because I’ve had major investments deposited into me…and whether they know it or not — I carry the responsibility of gaining success so they can see a return on their investments.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
When DC Media Connection was founded the vision entailed being the go-to media resource for individuals and startups desiring to connect to their target audience through video production and digital storytelling. What I learned shortly after launching the firm was that most of the issues that start-ups have didn’t revolve around being able to connect to their clients…it was internal structural issues. See, while some business owners can successfully work on their business, while working in the business…the majority of individuals can’t maintain it. It was then that I learned that 90% of women-owned businesses run solo. That’s when I started strategizing ways that I could help business women maintain success on and off the clock. From there The Woman Behind The Business was established.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
One of the hardest situations I’ve ever had to navigate others through was in September of 2016. The nonprofit that I founded, The Woman Behind The Business was gearing up for our first international retreat. I had never planned an event of this magnitude — yet I had approximately two-dozen women traveling from the United States to Nassau, Bahamas for this caribbean experience with approximately the same amount of locals. The week before the retreat hurricane Irene began picking up speed and started heading straight towards Nassau. Now, varying reports were broadcasted — so I held off from making a cancellation because I didn’t want to risk the travel insurance not covering the cancellation. Throughout the week leading I kept all of our team members, speakers, and attendees well informed about what was happening. I can honestly say that the level of transparency and vulnerability that I shared allowed all parties involved to make their own decisions regarding how to move forward. Throughout that time every speaker, team member and attendee was engaged in the process and their thoughts and opinions mattered. Fast forward to their travel day…hurricane Irene hit landfall and I was able to postpone the retreat until November. To my surprise we only had two people who weren’t able to attend in November, due to prior commitments. This was by far the hardest situation that I had to lead people through because their money was on the line, the entire event was on the line, and my leadership, integrity, and professionalism would have been compromised, if I failed to navigate successfully through that storm.
I will say this — by postponing the event — we were able to add award-winning gospel artist Tasha Page Lockheart to the line-up, as well as, the First Lady of The Commonwealth of the Bahamas, Mrs. Patricia Minnis.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
I never once considered giving up. That is never an option…even if I wanted to crawl up under my bed…lol. The response from the speakers, participants and team kept me motivated.
I always remembered that it wasn’t about me — it was for the greater good of society…the greater good for the women who invested in being at the retreat.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
You don’t have to be a superhero to be an effective leader! True leaders rely on their ability to be honest and transparent with their teams through whatever uncertainty arises.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
Be vulnerable. Speak from a space of authenticity. When you can share your truth with your teams it matters. Right now, thousands of parents across America have been “voluntold” that they have to fill the role as a virtual learning instructor. Now, no matter how well the school’s online system is — you’re still going to need to step in to assist from time to time — especially if you have young children. Being able to have weekly videos of you, as a leader sharing your human side will make members of your team feel more connected to you and possibly work harder for you. It’s important for your team to see that you’re just like them — doing your best to maintain balance — your sanity — and to keep your good job!
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
One of the best ways to deliver difficult news to your collective team or customer is provide a space that allows for open dialogue. It’s important to create a space where thoughts and opinions can be heard, acknowledged and addressed.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
No one said planning required a 12-month or a 5-year projection…planning can take place on a monthly or even quarterly basis during times of uncertainty. Right now companies should be considering:
- lessons learned from this experience
- What do our customers need right now? (…not what we think they need!)
- Are there any processes or procedures that we should extend past the pandemic?
- Is there anything that we can do better?
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Don’t be afraid to pivot. A number of businesses collapse during turbulent times because they want to hold on to doing things the same way that they’d traditionally done things. When major shifts disrupt your business model — you must evaluate the needs of your customers or clients. If their needs shift — so should your execution. For instance, a lot of restaurants closed due the pandemic — because customers were no longer going out to eat or even ordering food. But, what about essential workers — if they’re working around the clock — they probably don’t have time to cook every meal…if a restaurant were to pair up with a hospital or day care and be their “cafeteria” (if you will) — you’ve now pivoted your clientele.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
Here are my top 4 mistakes that businesses make during difficult times:
- Afraid to pivot (see above)
- Stop marketing — when uncertainty strikes this is the time more than ever to put your brand out front. Just make sure you’ve modified your marketing to be relevant
- Go silent. — This is a great time to connect to the hearts of your clients through transparency. Talk to your clients via email distributions or social media — everything doesn’t have to be about selling however, it should be about connecting.
- Price gouging — When you know times are hard — this is when you should creatively implement some social good in your work.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Throughout every season of growing your business it’s important to listen. Most times business owners get comfortable until revenue drops and then they want to figure out what’s going wrong. Consistent listening to your clients is key to understanding what they like, dislike, and what they are looking for. Having regular surveys are imperative to ensuring that your customers are satisfied and it provides you an opportunity to learn if there are additional services or products they’d be interested in purchasing from your business.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
The five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain times include:
- Communicate: Don’t shut down communication — even if you’re still working to figure it all out…say that. Allowing your team and customers to feel as though they’re a part of the transition process makes everyone feel like they’re invested in the success of the company.
- Listen: Be open to listening to your team members — even if they’re not a part of your executive team. You may have a brilliant mind on your team that has never had the opportunity to show just how valuable they are…utilize your team. You might just have some precious gems right in your organization.
- Be Honest: If the company is in trouble tell your team — they deserve to know. If the company is in good standing — tell them. Don’t leave people guessing or questioning the vitality of their job.
- Lead By Example: Showing vulnerability doesn’t show weakness…it actually shows your strength. When people can connect to your human side and respect your professional acumen they will go above and beyond to support the initiatives of the organization.
- Celebrate: I know this one might sound weird — but, taking the time to acknowledge your team’s efforts go a long way. Everyone wants to feel valued — especially when you can’t receive the same level of positive reinforcement that you may have been accustomed to receiving in the office.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My Life Lesson Quote is “Do it Scared” … throughout my life I have always been willing to take a leap of faith and do things that most people my age wouldn’t think of doing. For instance, just over 4-years ago, I launched a nonprofit for women entrepreneurs called The Woman Behind The Business. The original concept was to focus on the woman behind her various roles. I was in my second year of business ownership full-time and was beginning to understand the wrath of entrepreneurial burnout. It was then that I realized that 90% of women entrepreneurs probably felt just like me because they too were attempting to work on their business and in their business simultaneously. I also understood the guilt that can arise by taking a break when there is so much more work that needs to be done…so, I launched the Woman Behind The Business Retreat. I knew that in order for me to get away without the guilt — I’d need to gain something from the experience…so, that’s what I created for other working women like me. Now, I had no idea what I was getting myself into…planning an international retreat, because yes, I’m extra…and if I was going to do this…I wanted it to be worthwhile. So, with every ounce of creativity, passion, and fear I launched my first international retreat 4 years ago. The retreat was an absolute success and earlier this year, we hosted our 3rd retreat titled “Vision 20/20: Using Scriptures to Propel You To New Dimensions”.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Please follow me on all social media platforms @angelnlivas and my website is angelnlivas.com