Today I have the honor of bringing you my heart-centered conversation with the remarkable Kim Cerda! Kim is the highly skilled and talented Chief Human Resource Officer with HudsonLake, a strategic communications firm based in Alexandria, VA. I’ve had the privilege to collaborate with Kim on a few projects over the past couple of months, and I’ve learned so much from her that I carry with me professionally and personally. Not only did Kim and I form an immediate connection with work, but our hearts also bonded as we shared openly about our relationships and experiences with our only sons! In our authentic conversation, Kim revealed crucial philosophy-shaping periods of her own leadership journey and what the next generation of women leaders need to know.
Kim’s basic operating principle is to always remember you’re working with actual people – real humans who, at the end of the day, are mothers, fathers, wives, sons, and daughters. They’re all different so take the necessary time to get to know them. When people feel seen, heard, and cared about, they will perform better. When your team leaves the workplace, every day feeling valued and respected, like they have something to offer, they perform better at home and back at work the next day. They will perform better all the time – at the grocery store, in the school pick-up line, and in life in general.
To be an inclusive leader, Kim advises to meet people where they are. When you engage with them as human beings, not just employees you help them to become their very best selves. Beyond the four walls of your office, you can make the world a better place, and help them grow as individuals. Most leaders are taught to maintain boundaries at work and use caution when developing relationships with their people. Kim firmly believes you need to take care of each person as a whole individual. Kim makes every effort to ensure that anyone who has worked for her never doubts as to whether she cares about them.
Leadership is not just about the job; it’s about making lives better. It takes some risks, being open and vulnerable about yourself as a leader and person so others will feel comfortable sharing with you. If you put this into play, you will find it much easier to have the tough conversations and make a meaningful and authentic impact. Your people will trust you and believe that you’re doing it for them.
Kim had always thrived in a corporate environment but now, as a consultant, she’s guiding those in earlier stages of their career. She specializes in helping others further their positive leadership impact beyond the walls of their office.
Bringing non-traditional, heart-led leadership methods to the table is Kim’s superpower. Making sure her strengths affect desirable outcomes, at the right time, is a skill learned over many years. And it was a lesson she didn’t learn on her own.
Kim remembers a leader early on in her career who noticed a tendency for her to become somewhat intense and emotional at times. He counseled her to manage when she was frustrated or upset because her failure to do so was negatively affecting the team. She had underestimated her own influence and the impact she had on her peers and her team. Had it been a different leader, someone she didn’t trust or connect with, the aftermath of that conversation would have gone much differently. She felt the heart behind what he said and while it stung, it motivated her to change. She had a newfound insight into how she was perceived and how to leverage her influence.
Trusting your gut could mean a myriad of things to any number of people. But Kim’s perspective shows how it can help you have the greatest level of impact. Listening to your intuition not only shapes your core values, but it also helps you clarify business decisions. This sense is developed over years of experience and with making many tough decisions.
When you’re faced with decisions in terms of what people need, what makes sense now, or whether something should be pushed, or let go, the inner knowing or instincts of what to do only come to the people who pause and pay attention to them. And knowing the right thing in your heart isn’t always enough to drive consensus. You must be able to influence the outcome you want to achieve. Kim suggests bringing everything you have to the table, because ultimately, you want your organization to benefit from your strengths and talents. Your impact is what people evaluate, not your intentions.
Kim learned back in the nineties that having a personal board of directions is a great strategy for personal and professional growth. Someone or a few, select people you trust in your corner who will be your truth-tellers. Not a “yes man,” but someone who can act as a check and balance. They must be secure in their relationship with you as a leader and accountable to you. Someone who will not only tell you the meeting didn’t go well but will also tell you when it’s your fault.
Kim also believes we need to do more to support women in the workplace. Competition in the workspace, especially among female professionals is an ongoing issue. We need to value each other as unique individuals and foster the environments to cultivate strong and successful women leaders. Our own experiences can be examples to help others grow but not serve as the benchmark or expectations for the people behind you.
Find a way to make it different and even better for the next one that comes along. Kim believes this mindset shift will elevate the collective, rather than just the individual, especially in the corporate setting. As more women hold decision-making roles and operate from a place of abundance, rather than scarcity – meaning support each other, don’t compete, we will finally see a shift in the balance of the corporate environment.
Traditional leaders are often rewarded for their ability to juggle many things and “get stuff done.” But this often leads to burnout, exhaustion, and frustration. For Kim, the ultimate achievement as a leader is when you cultivate the skill of multiplying your impact. Your influence is carried on by those you lead and you’re not stuck rowing the boat on your own. This is absolutely the kind of leadership Kim exemplifies herself and teaches her teams and clients to embody. Kim is a shining example of an authentic and heart-centered leader!