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 Kim E. Woods.
Kim E. Woods, MBA and Spiritual Consultant to high performing entrepreneurs and global leaders, has founded multiple 7 figure brick & mortar businesses. Her life truly began once she recognized that while she had checked all the boxes, so to speak, she still lacked a true feeling of satisfaction, power and contentment. When Kim finally embraced her own “Spiritual Coming-Out,” she was not only able to physically heal her son but also to help herself and her thousands of clients around the world to find their true purpose and step into their power, creating alignment, profit and a feeling of unparalleled satisfaction.
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?
I have the typical degrees in business, both undergraduate and MBA, and climb to a coveted position over the decade in the corporate world. I move from accounting and finance to a senior director level of $10MM consulting practice at Oracle Corporation with a 30+ person team. I hold leadership positions at every level.
My corporate career gives way to entrepreneurship once my first child is born as you can envision the shift in priorities that occurs with the start of family. Actually, I begin my business strategy firm with my husband and we grow it to a successful 7-figure one with lasting results. For different reasons, we both grow bored and seek other opportunities.
For me, I’m successful by anyone’s definition with a stellar career, loving husband and 2 beautiful children, but I’m unhappy and want to discover why. I dive deeply into my inner life, where I find a systemic negative effect having grown up with a narcissistic mother and emotionally unavailable father. The result? I don’t actually know, like or trust myself. This is devastating to discover and takes me along many different paths. Fortunately, I rise to the challenge and now, I’ve revolutionized the typical know-like-trust (KLT) factor into the True KLT Factor ™ to help business leaders find their own purpose, power and prosperity.
As my clients align with their inner knowing of their true life purpose, they not only become rich and powerful, they also find fulfillment, passion and ease.
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?
When you’re starting a business, you want to cut any cost possible, so you do a lot of things you’re not good at and really have no business doing at all. I signed up for an Instagram stories course online to do my own Insta stories. Now, I’m dating myself, but it’s difficult to read my phone, never mind post from it. Cleary, Insta stories is an area I shouldn’t be attempting.
I disregard this and show up for the online course, where I’m welcomed into the Zoom room to meet the other participants. As the instructor begins, I look around and realize everyone is looking at their phones. I look around my work space and realize I didn’t even bring my phone to the class! I sheepishly skulk out of the room to get my phone.
I never got the hang of Insta stories.
I’m happy to report we now have an entire marketing team to handle all things social media.
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 mentor in business, Christine Sullivan, also becomes a valued friend and I’ll never underestimate her belief in me and my abilities at a time when I’m both a new mother and entrepreneur. She runs a CEO group and asks the most penetrating questions to reveal your vulnerabilities in order to give sage advice. She always said, “It’s the third thing you tell me that’s the most important. The first one is your spin to sound successful, the second thing makes you look intelligent and the third thing is what you need help solving.”
It’s too true.
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 whole-heartedly agree with the findings of the purpose driven business, in fact, it’s the basis for all of my company’s work. Business leaders need to truly know themselves in order to deeply connect with the company’s mission and vision.
My company’s purpose is to bring successful business leaders to their own inner knowing for enhanced purpose, power and prosperity.
Its vision is to revolutionize the leadership paradigm by integrating the feminine ways of intuition and collaboration with the masculine approach of focus and determination.
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?
I lead with fortitude and a focus on the long-game. Perhaps it’s the decades of experience and appreciating the cycles of economic and hardship downturns along with the growth and expansion. I remind my team of the 1991, 2001 and 2009 contractions and explain about the growth and expansion in between these times.
I also have an unwavering belief in my company’s purpose that’s infectious. In fact, our client’s and prospects think so too.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
Yes, in fact, I can be honest and say I wasn’t sure I had the energy to begin another business. Starting another business when you know EXACTLY the circumstances of how big the climb is to success takes almost too much. It’s different when you don’t actually know all of the ins and outs of the challenges. It’s another to know them all and say YES anyway.
My motivation was my true life purpose and the purpose was bigger than my hesitation in starting another business. Now, I’m filled with the power of the purpose and there’s no challenge too big.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
A leader needs to be inspiring all of the time, but especially in difficult times. When a leader holds the potential of the company in his or her hands, everyone can rally — employees, contractors, clients, prospects, leads and followers.
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?
Talk, talk and talk some more. Spread the vision, mission and confidence in living and achieving both. Hold formal meetings with your direct reports and then have them hold similar meetings with theirs. Walk around and have informal conversations. With COVID, if you’re all working remotely, this doesn’t happen in the same way. So, schedule discussion groups. It’s a bit more intimidating for employees to open up online in a scheduled meeting, so you want to be more open and inviting. Use humor and show a hint of vulnerability to let them come forward. Make sure there a frequent discussion periods throughout the week to ensure open communication. Ask all of your managers to reach out in this way too.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
Just do it. Seriously, be concise, honest and direct. A leader can do more harm when trying to soften the message. When doing so, the message often gets distorted or worse, missed altogether. Depending upon the news, make a communication plan, schedule the communication, then if appropriate, offer discussion time. Sometimes, this isn’t appropriate. If that’s the case, say it clearly and concisely.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
Every business leader should be following trends and extending his or her own experience and knowledge to make plans for the future. Honestly, even without the current pandemic, the long-term negative bond yields have been growing, which is good for those investors who want to buy, but not so good for the overall economy. Any company following economic trends would have already been positioning themselves against downward impact. This involves shoring up balance sheets, improving cash flow and searching for additional growth opportunities.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Be in tune with your instincts and follow them. You’re the leader of the company, it’s your job to guide the entire enterprise through any and every difficulty. By following your instincts, you have more solid footing to successfully navigate the turbulence.
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?
In difficult times, companies often forget who they are and jump onto other’s methods of success. This dilutes their brand and message and confuses the marketplace. It also reeks of falseness that turns off customers. Another mistake is taking too long to respond and missing the opportunity the difficulty may offer. Finally, companies react too conservatively by divesting or refusing to commit to any further investments. Either of these inhibit their ability to recover over the long-term.
Having a solid business purpose helps companies avoid these mistakes. They stay in their lane, have the depth of allegiance to remain on course while pivoting enough to absorb the blow of the difficulty and to remain committed to the long-term.
Additionally, leaders always want to have a few contingency plans that will allow them to pivot relatively seamlessly.
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?
Be nimble and immediately dive into the emotions your customers are experiencing. Based on these, revisit your short-term approach to include these new emotions. Then, be open with the marketplace by developing a messaging strategy to let your customers know how you’re supporting them. This may involve calling your top customers and partnerships, giving your sales team more leeway with bonuses, promotions or programs and blanket marketing message campaigns. There may be a PR component as well.
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 5 most important things in descending order are:
1.) Double down on your company’s purpose
Recommitting to your company’s purpose removes doubt and uncertainty for you and, more importantly, your employees and customers. Providing inspiration for the purpose through passionate communication demonstrates commitment. In recent months, as President and CEO, I’ve made myself available for any and all media opportunities to spread the message of how important purpose is for business.
2.) Make transparency paramount
When COVID began, as company leader, I went LIVE every single day on social media to let people know we were available and willing to dive into the breach with them. I reexamined our messaging and included past messages of calm to provide additional support. Additionally, I instituted a policy of periodic wellness checks with clients and included bonus support materials for each and every client.
3.) Remember your core values
Whatever your business core values, ensure you’re making decisions based on them and not on economic events. Upon inception, you spent time and resource on building the foundational pillars of your business. You did this for the challenging times, not the glory ones. As leader, it’s up to you to follow them by letting your core values guide you.
4.) Ensure your team’s authority and responsibility match
It’s so easy to give too much responsibility or too much authority inappropriately when under duress. Review your teams and ensure your managers and supervisors have the right level of each. Make any adjustments necessary.
5.) Create opportunities
In 2008, I reviewed our book of business and realized most of our portfolio was in the financial services industry. I didn’t like the risk this may have created, so we expanded into other industries. Thank God I had the foresight and our teams pivoted even when things were looking great. Due to this, 2009 was one of our biggest years.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You don’t become what you want, you become what you believe.”― Oprah Winfrey
While most are talking mindset, we’re talking purpose. Mindset still involves the mind and your mind can only handle the familiar so it protects you by wanting you to play it safe.
You’re only limited by your mind and imagination, so thinking about what you want, has it limitations too.
Instead, take a leap of faith and get to know yourself deeply. Follow your inner knowing. Once you do that, like and trust yourself enough to align with your true life purpose. As a leader and entrepreneur, base your business on this and you can grow under any circumstances. My business and I are living proof.
How can our readers further follow your work?
You can check out our website: https://www.kimwoods.com
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