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 Angela Bradford.
Angela is a Senior Marketing Director with World Financial Group. Within five years of transitioning from the blue collar world of trucking and training horses, to the white collar world of finances and training people, she has opened multiple offices and started expansion into two countries. She has an amazing team working with her and has the goal of creating a presence in every state and province in North America in the next 5–10 years.
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?
What brought me into the financial industry was my choice to take an opportunity that came up just over 5 years ago. I believe in taking opportunities and seeing where they take me. Life is short, so I want to live it to the fullest!
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 most interesting stories I can think of right now was once when I met someone on a bus to the airport. They didn’t seem like the type of person that I was looking for. I was prejudging them.
I decided to chat anyhow and got their business card. This meeting was the start of a big money opportunity, and a positive ongoing relationship with a good person.
What did I learn? Don’t prejudge others. We have no idea who people really are based on an initial opinion.
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?
This is so true! There are so many people that have helped me get where I’m at in life and in business. But today the person that comes to mind is my dad. My dad has always loved me no matter what I did or didn’t do. Even as a “terrible” child, he loved me unconditionally. He is always happy to see me, and I know he is always proud of me.
I saw that my dad had an incredible work ethic, and I remember watching him work very hard to provide for the family. He also was very ethical, for example, I remember once when we went to see a customer but instead of selling him some parts that it turned out he didn’t need, he canceled the order.
When I asked him about it, he said they just didn’t need those parts. Later, this same customer came back with a much larger order — because he trusted my dad! I was only 10 or 12 at the time, yet this experience has impacted my life, and now my business, immensely! Always do the right thing for the client, no matter what.
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?
I will be honest, when I first started my business, I really didn’t have a vision or purpose for it, I just was testing it out so to speak. But as time went by, I started to see the impact we could have on others’ lives and so I reshaped my previous goal to build ranches across North America using horses to empower women. My revised goal now it to use the platform I am on to empower women. I want to change the world, though I know that sounds cliché, I believe it can be done.
In addition, since I strongly believe I was put here on earth for a purpose, I am excited to see where my business takes me and people I am privileged to lead.
I want to build a big enough agency to be a force for good in the world!
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?
For sure I can. In 2020 a pandemic hit that of course no one could see coming. It changed the course of the world, and definitely changed the course of our business. Financial services were very much a brick and mortar business, that is a face to face, in home, or in office, type of business.
Because of the pandemic, we could no longer meet in person, so my firm and our industry had to pivot to an online platform. I helped my agency make this transition, so we could continue to help our own families while helping other families at the same time.
When people are used to doing something in a certain way, sometimes change is hard. For some, it was very difficult to go from the culture of meeting in person to being online; they had to learn how to create a sense of community in a now digital world.
One specific thing I did at the beginning to help foster a sense of community, was to do a nightly get-together on Zoom where people could chat about what was going on in their lives, and where people could build relationships even though they could not meet in person.
Our team had weekly “get togethers” with food and drinks on Zoom. These meetings seemed to encourage a lot of people in the agency to build stronger connections and not to feel so alone. We learned to transfer what we were learning together to develop meaningful online meetings with clients. Throughout this pandemic our team has actually doubled its production, evidence that relationships can developed in person or online.
I have had numerous other brokers reach out to me as the year has started coming to a end for tips and ideas on how to change their businesses as we changed ours.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
This is a very good question, and yes I have. Many times. What kept me going, and what keeps me going, is knowing that the world needs leadership to build stronger communities and stronger families; and, while I don’t feel like I’m necessarily the best person for the job, I do know that I was put here for a purpose, and as long as I keep getting up every day and fighting for others and for the future, I will have an impact, one family at a time.
A couple things that help me sustain my drive, is a very solid morning routine. My morning routine includes reading, good audio, meditation, and affirmations. Starting the day with a strong mindset helps me get through the days that are tougher.
I also am conscious of my associations. We are the average of the five people we hang out with the most. I’m always looking at the people I hang out with, and seeing if they are good examples of what I want in my life. If they aren’t, I look for the people that are, and I make the effort to make them my friends.
Both of these choices have helped me immensely with my mindset on the days that I want to quit. I hope they help the readers as well.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
I would say the most critical role of a leader during challenging times is to be there for their people. If your team knows that you aren’t freaking out, they are more likely to stay calm. If they don’t know how to reach you, or talk to you, they may believe they have been abandoned.
Another critical role as a leader is to stay consistent and create order. People are more relaxed when there is order around them. They are better able to concentrate on their job. Consistency, and powerful habits, both help people to stay on task and work with enthusiasm when times are difficult.
In a time that seems ‘crazy’, the more leaders can do to ensure their people are confident in their ability and in their job security, the more they will step up and continue to do the work that is necessary in those times.
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?
There are lots of uncertain times in each of our lives. We can choose our attitude in these times. One way I help my team to become their best, even in these times, is by offering them encouragement. I encourage them to step into the discomfort and continue to grow. I encourage them to read and listen to good audio often.
What we put into our mind and soul will grow us internally so we can grow more externally. Another thing I believe is key is setting the example: showing up earl; working late; and always being there for the team. When they see the leader worried or slowing down, they will do the same.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
Avoid the fear and just hit it head on and bring up the conversation that is needed. Book a Zoom meeting to discuss the situation or whenever possible, at the very least make sure to have the conversation on the phone rather then text or email.
Frame the news in a positive way. Deliver it as fast and painlessly as you can and move on.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
We can make plans, but in the end only God knows the future for sure. I always say, live like there is no tomorrow but plan like there is. We could all be gone in a moment, but we need to plan like we are here for years and decades to come.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
I believe there are a lot of good principles, but one that is easy to be forgotten in tough times, and must not be, is to stick to your core values. Even in the darkest times a person and organization needs to stay true to who they are and what they want to be known for. Lots of times it’s easy to change core values in order to make a sale. This is a temporary fix with a negative long term consequences. Stay true.
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?
Sure I can. One thing I have seen with other businesses is they retract in difficult times. They cut the budget. They fire their sales staff. They cut back on marketing and ‘the work’ of building a business.
In difficult times, businesses need to expand! They need to think outside the norm and figure out ways to provide value to the people they serve so they can create a niche in those times.
Another thing I have observed is that businesses also cut prices to try to attract more customers. Once again, sometimes you can up the prices IF you put up the value. Makes sure the value you provide ALWAYS exceeds the price tag.
The third thing I have seen, is when inner unrest happens and creates breaks between the partners and business owners. The employees see it, even if leaders think they don’t, and they get worried about their jobs and often begin to act out in various ways. When the top members of a company aren’t in harmony, the company will start to crumble from the top down.
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?
Yes for sure! I am proud of my agency for GROWING in the 2020 Covid pandemic. How? We focused on the daily habits successful people do: making calls; and connecting with clients, past and future. We also continued our individual daily personal development to become better internally. One thing I have learned is that, when the internal changes, the external changes also.
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.
During turbulent times there are a few ways to lead effectively that come to mind.
- Lead by example. Your team will do 100% of what you do wrong, and only 50% of what you do right. One example of leading from the front is getting to the office first. Another one is getting up early and having a consistent work schedule. If you as the leader, for instance, making 5 calls in a day, your team is lucky if they make 2. If they make 2, the question to ask yourself is, “will they win doing that?” If the answer is no, pick up your game so they can pick up theirs!
- Create a culture of teamwork. Build a culture of working together as a team into your business. Teams that build together stay together and help each other in those tough times. One way to build this culture, is by encouraging others to help each other. I have found it easier at times to just step in and help, but when I step back, it lets others step in and they start to build triages of relationships.
- Have a mission and crusade. Having something for the team to fight for that is greater than them helps build a culture of lifting others up. When you make things about more than one person, they become more. Those that want to make a difference rise up to the challenge!
- Commit to building each other up. Teams that work together accomplish way more then teams that don’t. As they build each other up, they conquer greater goals as a team. This takes building a culture of team work and core values when times aren’t tough, so in the tough times they strengthen the bonds.
- Don’t panic, pivot instead. In tough times, many leaders can get worried and that drifts down to the team. People that are uncomfortable, shut down. This is a major key to growth in tough times.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite quote at the moment is “life happens for me, not to me.” I have found that as I have gone through the tough times of an auto-immune disease of MS, first getting diagnosed in 2019, and then living with the changes, I have found more fulfillment and success than I knew before. I feel that in the tough times, we can rise like an eagle to new heights.
How can our readers further follow your work?
They can follow me on Instagram @realangelabradford as that would be the best platform and feel free to DM me anytime!