Aspart of our series about the “Five Things, You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Yamilette Cano.
Yamilette is a ballerina, professional speaker, and entrepreneur. As referenced in her previous article with Authority Magazine, Yamilette is a multi-linguistic speaker who is well versed in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Italian, which is a true testament to her high aptitude towards adapting and grasping new concepts with ease.
She had a wonderful career as a ballerina, and after she retired, she took the jump into entrepreneurship. In 2011 she arrived in Hong Kong and partnered with another Mexican to dive deep into the Asia events industry. After planning thousands of events, she gave Public Speaking a try and fell in love with the feeling of being on stage again and gracing audiences around the world.
She has had the opportunity to speak at countless venues for clients of all types ranging from government institutions, exhibition and conference organizers, corporate enterprises, among others in Asia, Europe, and North America.
Yamilette wanted to serve and give others the ability to confidently communicate in all areas of their lives, so she started LOUDER Global. A brand that showcases communication in all areas: training to become a confident communicator, speaking services, and communicating your personal or corporate brand through events, communication, and design.
LOUDER works with clients in-person or virtually around the globe. The LOUDER team is dedicated to helping empower and elevate brands to tell their story with boldness and passion! LOUDER communicates with Motion, Emotion, & Impact™.
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 was born November 13, 1983, and just three years later, in 1986, I told my mom that my dream was to be a ballet dancer, and that dream finally came true when I turned five years old. Ballet became everything to me; I breathed and thought of ballet every waking hour of the day. Little did I realize that my dream of becoming a professional in this sport was very far away.
At 11 years old, I was dancing seven days a week — no rest for the wicked.
And this was not my parents doing, it was all my idea, but I am so grateful that both of my parents have supported me in everything I have done. After years of blood, sweat, and tears, the time came to send in audition videos to all the dance companies I loved to officially become a professional dancer.
I received rejection after rejection, but I was determined to make my dreams a reality, so I trained even harder until finally, I got a YES from the Quinte Ballet School of Canada. I danced with them for many years, then returned to Mexico to begin my university career, where I studied International Relations and continued to dance at university as well.
After graduating from university, I had to decide to continue dancing or do something related to my studies or pursue another passion.
I knew dance would always be a part of me, so I decided to pursue new passions while also doing something related to my studies.
Dancing was my first career love, and I am very grateful that I found it at such a young age. It taught me that the world is full of possibilities; it taught me resilience, the ability to adapt and to be flexible and creative in seeking opportunities to achieve your goals.
Fast forward a few years to 2011, and I decided to move across the world to Hong Kong, where I partnered with another amazing Mexican in an events company where I fell in love with the adventure of entrepreneurship. By planning many Hong Kong events, I found public speaking and adored the feeling of once again being on stage and communicating with audiences around the world.
These experiences lead me to my true passion for helping individuals achieve confidence in their own communication style, whether it be on stage, at work, in teams, through negotiations, through your brand, or by reflecting your brand’s personality at your event. And through this passion, LOUDER was born, and this is where you’ll find me today.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
I could share so many stories, but the first one that popped into my head is when I was starting out in the events industry.
In the events industry, you buy various decor items to enhance the theme of the events, and the best place to get these items in Hong Kong is directly from factories in China. When ordering, they will send you samples to view to ensure all aspects look correct, and then you can go ahead and place a large order.
Now even though we had a fantastic individual in our offices who spoke and wrote fluent Mandarin, there was still a bit of a language barrier when doing these orders.
We had an outdoor family day picnic event for a construction company. We wanted to do custom picnic blankets with the company’s logo and their company colors. We received the samples, and they looked fantastic — it would enhance the event and be a great custom piece.
We received the great picnic blankets, and guess what! The 100+ picnic blankets arrived in different colors and with an incorrect logo. It was the day before the event, and we were unable to return the blankets, and the company did not want to use them because the logo was incorrect — which was totally understandable. As a company, we had to pay for the mistake, and thankfully, the construction company was able to repurpose the blankets for other things.
I had many takeaways that I learned from this experience; however, I think the most prominent one that I continue to remind myself of to this day is to see the positive in every situation and enjoy humor in mistakes. Yes, the above was a mistake that affected a client and financially affected our business, but at least it became a funny story, and the blankets were able to be repurposed.
As a leader, when you look for positives and find humor in mistakes, it makes you a more resilient leader; it allows your employees to relax. On top of it, clients enjoy how lighthearted you are, and finding humor in various situations boosts your creativity.
So, trust me…next time you mess up, laugh a little and then laugh a lot.
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?
I am very fortunate and grateful that I have had many mentors along the way in my life. One of my mentors from an early age was my grandad. He was always journeying into various creative projects, and he had very high standards for ethical professionalism. He taught me that you should never harm people to achieve your goals regardless of the situation — there is always a right way to do things. My grandad always pushed me to reach out to people along the way and put effort into all of the relationships, whether personal or business.
I am also very grateful for my first business partner because she was open to give me the opportunity to partner and grow a business together.
Through this experience, I learned so much about entrepreneurship, leading a team, and adjusting to how business is done in Asia.
And lastly, I am grateful for my first client with LOUDER, who allowed me to test my services and has inspired me to have a kind and human approach to leadership.
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?
My vision when I started and continues to be to teach individuals and corporations how to develop high-quality and confident communication skills.
And to develop individuals’ vocal mindfulness, presentation literacy, stage presence, physical movements, mannerisms, intentional presence, personal branding, attire use, and the inner performer.
This helps my clients create the best version of their storytelling with power, strength, emotion, and reason.
My purpose and the purpose of LOUDER is to serve people and help them achieve communication with confidence. Seeing people achieve their potential through communication is the thing that drives me every single day. I also believe in progress and growth, so I am always encouraging my team to continue their learning through books, podcasts, and courses.
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?
There are great times and specific times when we get to lead our teams through all of the excitement and wins that we have. But there are, of course, difficult times, with the most recent being leading our teams through COVID-19. At the beginning of COVID-19, there were so many uncertain things like what would happen with events, travel, and all in-person activities.
When you are confident in your leadership and your team, it helps propel the entire organization through uncertain and challenging times. My leadership philosophy is that if you take care of your team and keep them engaged, they will take care of your clients, and the business will flourish. This is true in good times and in uncertain or complex times, the key to engaging your customers and being successful in engaging your employees. When your employees are engaged, they will have an emotional investment in your business which means they care deeply about the organization and the work that they are doing.
COVID-19 brought a whole new meaning to the global economy, events moving virtual with attendees worldwide, virtual training, clients that we were used to in-person changing to virtual, and so on. But the beauty of this massive change that occurred in early 2020 is that it opened the door for so many opportunities, and this is precisely how my team and I assessed the situation. We no longer look at the limitations of travel or venue size for events — we can now have meetings and events with hundreds of thousands of people from around the world.
I am very grateful for my global team, where we have embraced the global economy and the ever-changing technology around how business is done. So, when all events, training, and meetings went completely virtual in 2020, we were ready to take on this change with open arms. Since our team has always been located around the world and the fact that we work with clients in almost every continent, we were able to support our community by switching to virtual as well through our years of combined experience in this space.
As a leader, I had to ask myself what does my team need from me?
They needed me to be flexible, adaptable, and human. I needed to show my team transparency from my side and show them all the fantastic benefits of being transparent. When you model this as a leader, it encourages two-way transparency from your team. I started checking in on each of my team members more regularly to see how their work was coming along and to check-in to see how they are doing mentally. I am more of a laissez-faire style leader, so the past year and a half, I ensured I stayed very flexible with my approach and assisted my team with setting intentions to propel us forward.
By supporting my team and being flexible, we could navigate the COVID-19 times with confidence, without fear, and with LOUDER style — with Motion, Emotion, and Impact™.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
I have not considered giving up because I thrive on challenges, and being told that I can’t do something pushes me to prove people wrong.
Motivation for me comes from the satisfaction of helping individuals tell their stories with their unique frequency, rhythm, and rhyme. When I see others achieve their communication goals and tell their story with confidence, the feeling I get motivates me to put in the work and make things happen. I also find it very helpful to change my word choice when there are tasks at hand: instead of saying I “should” do this, I alter my word choice to say I “must” get this done.
My drive is sustained by three major things:
1) Breaking Big Goals Down:
It is so important to set S.M.A.R.T. goals for our personal lives and our business lives. Creating S.M.A.R.T. goals set me up for success by making my goals specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. And to further aid my success, I break down big goals into smaller chunks to help me achieve them. I love looking at the big picture and setting goals to challenge myself that may be outside of my comfort zone. Sometimes we crush these huge goals right off the bat but sometimes, procrastination, fear, perfectionism, and other factors can often get in the way of achieving these big goals. This is where breaking goals down comes in handy!
2) Managing Expectations:
Manage your expectations so that they don’t manage you. I always ensure that I communicate with all parties involved to have a clear understanding of what to expect and when to expect it. I believe that it is better to over-communicate than to under-communicate — I don’t leave things up to chance. I learned a long time ago that you should never ever assume — when in doubt, I ask for clarification. I also find it helpful to anticipate various scenarios with my team. Most problems that come our way have been predicted, and thought out a solution is readily available.
3) Me Time:
It can be challenging to turn work off as an entrepreneur because you feel like time not spent on work is wasted time. But it is so important to realize that this is not the case. I set up “work hours” for myself and try to step away from work throughout the day. I find stepping away and having boundaries with work allows my brain to have a breakthrough moment. Some of my favorite “me time” activities include going to yoga, exploring beautiful Hong Kong outdoors with Hong Kong Outsider, where I have faced many fears, and spending time with and spoiling my chihuahua Pepe.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
I believe the most critical role of a leader during challenging times is to be a coach with compassion, not a coach with compliance, and have a strong emotional intelligence. I also believe in being a resonant leader and reading my team.
I plan one-on-ones with my team to stay up-to-date on their progress and their goals. As a leader, it is essential to keep on track with the direction your team wants to go in — as a leader, you should empower your team to make the choice that leads them to change, so they find their goals.
As mentioned, I lead in a laissez-faire style, but I try to ensure I am also creating a caring environment where each individual in the organization matters. When you coach and use your emotional intelligence as a leader, you anticipate the needs of your team by identifying with them and actively enhancing their well-being. Many leaders naturally coach with compliance where they instruct their team members to act the way the organization thinks they should work.
Be a coach for your team, not a manager. Translation — drive your team’s performance to get them to their next level rather than just be someone who organizes the work and processes.
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 three big things that I find boost morale, inspire, motivate, and engage my team:
1. Authentic Communication
As a leader, communication is critical — good leaders are good communicators. As a leader, it is so important to think clearly, express ideas, and share information internally and externally. When you communicate as a leader, it is so important to be authentic.
Stop thinking about how you should sound and just be yourself! Be honest, sincere, and find your own voice — people don’t appreciate inauthentic people.
Employees nowadays want to feel like they have a say in an organization and their work matters, so they must believe in their leaders. Be a leader with intention, integrity, and consistency whenever you communicate — this will allow your team to have confidence that you will be calm and practical even during the most uncertain times.
As leaders, we must also encourage two-way communication to ask questions and voice their opinions which helps them feel empowered, which will lead to more outstanding performance and morale down the road.
Like anything, authentic communication takes practice: see what works for you, what doesn’t work, and adjust as needed.
When your team feels appreciated, it increases job satisfaction and employee morale. Employees want to know that you care and notice their work; when they know you care, it increases motivation, team engagement, and productivity. So how do we show our exceptional employees that we appreciate them?
Acknowledge Accomplishments Immediately
Celebrate the accomplishments of your team — even if they are small. Show your appreciation for their achievement right away, whether through a personal note, a phone call, or a text message. Always praise a job well done; your team can’t read your mind.
Identify specific actions that you found admirable so that the praise feels sincere.
Your employees have lives outside of work! Allow your employees to enjoy life, send them home early, tell them to come in late, and don’t let them think about work while they are on vacation. Get excited about the fun things your team is doing outside of work and support a strong work-life balance.
Provide Opportunity for Advancement
People want the chance to continuously learn and cross-train to learn different departments. Encourage your team to keep learning and show personal interest in their personal and professional goals. Encourage mentoring and job shadowing in your organization which benefits staff wanting to move up and senior management. Senior staff can provide professional guidance to employees with less experience, and they can benefit from the fresh perspectives of up-and-coming employees.
Empowering your employees means giving your employees permission to take action and make decisions. When you entrust your employees, you build trust in leadership and encourages creativity.
Show employees that feedback is essential both ways. As a leader, you must encourage your employees to provide feedback to you and the organization — and make sure that you actually use the feedback and assess it. Feedback shows us how to effectively empower our teams.
When employees feel empowered, it rates buy-in, and they will have an emotional investment in your organization. By empowering them, you will create excitement and encouragement while improving your employee’s emotional well-being.
What are the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
Situations like delivering difficult news to one’s team and customers are why we need to have high emotional intelligence as leaders.
- Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Be sure that you have everything prepared before you enter into the conversation. You need to understand the how and why behind the tough news, understand who was involved, and know the rationale behind the problematic information. When you do an excellent job of preparing, you’ll be able to effectively communicate the difficult news and adequately answer any questions that arise.
- Be Direct
People will react in different ways based on how the information is delivered. Being direct isn’t only about the words you choose but also about the body language that you use. Be confident in your approach, use eye contact, check your posture, and don’t fidget — poor body language will send the wrong message when you deliver the news. Use your emotional intelligence to be thoughtful and caring with your communication but don’t sugarcoat anything.
- Next Steps
Once you deliver the news, answer any questions and then direct attention to positivity about the future. Show your team, or your client’s that you will be there for them with whatever they need. The receivers of the hard news will need your support, so make sure that you are authentically there for them.
And most importantly, be empathetic during the entire communication process. Empathy is a crucial attribute of emotional intelligence and leadership effectiveness.
Empathy improves our interactions with one another and leads to more effective communication.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
Life as a leader would be boring if the future was always predictable!
Influential leaders bring certainty into uncertain times. It doesn’t mean that the leader has to have all the answers, but it’s the certainty inside you that together with their team, you can find the answers and move ahead.
As leaders, we often know what to do, but we don’t do what we know.
We second guess ourselves out of fear and go off course but trust our instincts and do what we know.
Leaders must continuously work on strengthening their emotional intelligence. I don’t believe that it is something one is born with, but it is something that we can learn and practice like any other skill. Through our emotional intelligence, we can become more flexible and use humor, playfulness, compassion, and creativity in the middle of stressful times — allowing you to tackle any challenge with your team.
When you constantly practice your emotional intelligence and have consistency in your intentions, people will look to you for support, insight, and guidance.
Create a vision for your team, give them an idea of what the future can hold. When a vision is put in place, it gives your team a desire to grow, improve, and offer a sense of purpose. Having a sense of purpose gives you, the leader, and your team an understanding of “why.”
And any minor setbacks or obstacles will seem insignificant when you have a strong vision in place — it helps us persevere through the tough times.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
The number one principle that I would say can help guide a company through turbulent times is communication. There are various aspects of communication that leaders should focus on, especially during turbulent times. Communication is so important because it puts everything into perspective for the organization.
- Be Versatile in Communication Style
A skilled leader in touch with their emotional intelligence will adjust their communication style based on who they are talking to, the medium they deliver their communication, and the timing. Be in tune with your team and give them the communication style that they need at that moment.
- Communicate Often
I don’t really think that it is possible to over-communicate — keep in mind communication is a two-way street that involves a lot of listening and not always talking. Communicate a vision to the entire organization so that teams in all departments can feel inspired and work towards a common goal.
- Use Your Storytelling Skills
Everyone loves a good story, which is now arguably one of the most effective ways to communicate. Storytelling gives purpose to what you are saying, and people are more likely to buy in when they understand the meaning behind a decision or a vision.
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?
- Resisting Change
It can be scary for any leader to realize that their business is no longer sustainable. And so often, when leaders get to this point, they will automatically resist change out of fear and be closed off to new ideas.
In these situations, leaders have to think back to when they started their business or got into their career when they went against the norm, challenged the status quo, and made some pretty amazing things happen. Use some creative thinking and a disruptive mindset to once again challenge the status quo and embrace change.
- Not Effectively Communicating
No one likes to be the person who has to deliver difficult news, but this is all part of being a leader. Communicating with your team and partners through good times and challenging times is all part of being an effective leader. Sometimes you have to be the one to have those difficult conversations and make the hard decisions, so we must realize that this is our role as leaders.
During tough times your team will be scared and possibly even feel uncertain about their job security. Leaders need to be transparent and honest about challenges that the business faces, even if they do not have all the answers for their team. Leaders who continue to be compassionate and transparent during these times will create more loyalty and trust with their employees.
- Learning from Experiences
So often, when a leader makes a mistake, they will just beat themselves up for all the things that went wrong and continue to live in the past. But what do we achieve from this? Instead, take a step back and learn from the experience!
Ask yourself some empowering questions: What could I do better to positively impact my success?
What evidence could I have been more in tune to and picked up on? What will I do in the future to be sure that this does not happen again?
- Sacrifice Quality
When we are going through difficult times, we need to keep a handle on costs, and we need to get employees on board with our vision and any changes that are being made.
When we cut costs and make changes, it is so important that we do not sacrifice the quality of our product or service. Find a happy medium that works for you to keep your existing quality in place.
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?
First off, if you can do well in turbulent times, you will do amazing in the good times, rough times can offer excellent wealth-building opportunities, and turbulent times do not last forever.
Some of the strategies I use:
- Look After Your Team
Simply put, if you look after your team, your team will look after you. You look after your team, they look after the customers, and your customers look after you — it’s a cycle. Looking after your team starts with hiring the right people, so spend some time in your hiring process. Once you have the right people on board, listen to them, coach them, offer flexible work hours, be there to assist them with their goals, and celebrate the small accomplishments and the significant accomplishments.
- Find Opportunities
How do we find opportunities in a challenging economy? Look for industries that have seen the steepest decline and ones that are poised for geometric growth. Chat to your team, get feedback, ask your mentors, and join groups of like-minded people.
- Search Out Asymmetric Risk-Reward
Look for opportunities where there is a small amount of risk but a high level of reward. So often, we think that the only way to grow our business and win is to take huge risks and sometimes even risk losing it all. So, step back and look into areas where you can protect your downside while maximizing the upside.
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.
1. Effective Communication
An effective leader needs to be a skilled communicator for internal communication and external communication. Leaders who do not have strong communication skills can directly impact employee satisfaction, motivation, and even productivity.
Ensuring that your employees are motivated for a shared vision and driven for success should become a top priority for all leaders. As leaders, we need to think with clarity, express ideas, and share information with multiple audiences within the organization and outside of the organization.
I learned a long time ago that effective communication as a leader goes way beyond expressing communication verbally. It’s also listening, body language, authenticity, and attitude.
When leading seminars with senior leaders in organizations, this is always something that I stress to my clients: create awareness in all avenues of your communication within the organization.
LOUDER is very interesting as an organization because we have a global team.
My communication style as a leader needs to consider different cultures, backgrounds, and time zones.
When COVID began, I also had to take into account the various situations each of our team members was in — some were in lockdown, some were not, lockdowns were different on every continent where some people were able to leave their house for extended periods, and some were not. As a leader over the past year and a half, I had to remind myself to be human, put myself in my teams’ shoes, and check in with my team often to see how they were doing mentally. As a leader over the pandemic, my goal was to project confidence and strength and be united as an organization.
2. Tactful Empathy
Using tactful empathy as leaders, we can create a more substantial buy-in and work together to understand the change required to execute various strategies and successfully implement them. Tactful empathy allows us to understand and provide employees with what they need to succeed, which gives employees trust and strengthens our relationships with our employees.
Characteristics of empathetic leaders include listening attentively to what your employees are telling you and putting a complete focus on the person talking through eye contact, body language, and not fidgeting. It should be your goal to spend more time listening than speaking to better understand any difficulties they are facing, and your employee will feel heard.
As a leader, I make it a point to understand each individual’s individual goals and purpose on my team so that we can work together to align these with the organization’s goals. I also have bi-weekly sit-downs with my team to check in on their goals and get their thoughts and ideas on various projects. By being more in tune with my employee’s goals, I can create a tactful approach to accomplishing the organization’s goals.
3. Impactful Intentions
When you set impactful intentions as a leader, you create a new and specific state of mind that serves the purpose of yourself and the organization. You want to set intentions that describe how you want to show up, be visible, and contribute. They represent the core values of you as a leader and the organization and aim at creating an attitude so that you commit to following through with the intentions that you set.
Intentions differentiate from goals because they don’t focus on one single outcome. Plans are more focused on the future, whereas intentions are focused on the present moment and how you want to be moment to moment. When you set your intentions, they should be positive, uplifting, and in the present tense.
As a leader, I am constantly setting intentions for myself and my company, and I share these intentions with my team. My intention as a leader is to be a confident leader who supports my team with achieving their dreams, living their lives, and enjoying laughs along the way.
I remind my team that we are not brain surgeons, so stop stressing out and enjoy life! I also encourage my team to set intentions for projects, clients, and presentations to help them express their authentic selves in everything they do.
4. Never Stop Learning
When we feel we are growing and learning, it gives us purpose. When we stop growing, we might feel fear and anxiety — sometimes without even realizing it. I’m always reading a new book, taking a course, or listening to a podcast. I love learning new skills! As a leader, I also make an effort to connect with other entrepreneurs, female entrepreneurs, and industry experts to share knowledge, experience and discuss ideas.
The most empowering knowledge that we can learn with our teams is not a particular set of skills or competencies; it’s knowing that you can learn anything you want to know — you have the power and the choice. And this is something every leader should have in their core values and encourage amongst their team.
I encourage my team to keep learning and give them the tools to do so, which provides them with a purpose. As a team, we chat about the new book we just read or a course that we would recommend everyone to take. When there are uncertain times, there is one thing we can stay certain about as a team is that we will keep learning. Through COVID, we were able to find various companies doing super cool stuff with online events, connect with them, and remember — there have been some great opportunities in this space.
5. Take Care of Your Team
Simply put, take care of your team, and they will take care of you and your business. Culture is the personality of your business and the environment that you create for your team. As a leader, you must live and breathe your values, so it is vital to make them authentic so that it’s just second nature to you. If your business is going through uncertain times where perhaps you need to cut costs, do not cut company culture and engagement — your people need you.
Taking care of your team means having strong employee engagement and a workplace culture. I am a firm believer in flexible work hours, so I encourage my staff to create work hours that accommodate their lifestyles, and if they take the afternoon off to go to the beach, I’m all for it! When you make an effort to engage your team and make them feel like they have a say, they will take care of your customers, and your business will thrive.
This past year, I made more effort to check in on my employee’s mental well-being, safety and security, and free time. With the lockdowns taking place around the globe, I found it difficult for myself to step away from work because what else was there to do? But I made sure to take time for myself and ensured the same from my team.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life lesson quote:
“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away.” — Maya Angelou.
In my life, I try to do things, be with people, spend my time and energy positively, and pour my heart into moments that take my breath away. Life is a beautiful thing so let’s live it!
How can our readers further follow your work?