Home Interviews LaKitia Woodard of Corehesion Development Group: How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur

LaKitia Woodard of Corehesion Development Group: How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur

by Charles Purdom
LaKitia Woodard of Corehesion Development Group: How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur

Being a founder, entrepreneur, or a business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur  we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing LaKitia Woodard.

LaKitia Woodard, MBA is a Self Awareness Coach and Entrepreneur with 15 years of Corporate Management and Operation experience in the legal and retail industries. Over the years, LaKitia noticed the underutilization of employee’s natural talents and skills that caused their career and the company’s bottom line to become stagnant. To solve this major profit reduction issue, LaKitia launched Corehesion Development Group.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, 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?

LaKitia Woodard: Sure, I would love to share. Before all the titles and accolades were added behind my name, I was the typical first-generation college student born and raised in the projects outside Chicago. If that wasn’t traumatic enough I was sexually abused by my mom’s husband for 8 years. My dream since I was eight years old was to become the next Perry Mason. I may have just aged myself because Perry Mason is an old TV show. He’s an attorney who never lost a case and my mom loved to watch this show.

To my credit, the dream I chased all my life was falling into place. By God’s grace, I defied all odds stacked against me and found myself sitting in orientation class at Thurgood Marshall School of Law. However, I decided not to return to law school after the first year.

Why?

Because God told me I needed to go a different way. He’s always laughing at our “plans” right?!

Shortly thereafter, I set out to “find” my purpose. My “search” was inspired by the realization that for years I was chasing a dream that didn’t belong to me.

During my 15 year career in Corporate Management, I noticed the battle high achieving women had with bridging the gap between personal fulfillment and professional growth.

So, I decided to solve the issue by helping women to pivot from perfection to purpose for creating work/life harmony. Now I’m disrupting corporate cultures by helping organizations create a working environment that fosters emotional wellbeing for developing authenticity in leadership at every level. This major transition will help corporations improve their bottom line while creating a culture that promotes wellbeing and inclusivity.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

LaKitia Woodard: The majority of my Corporate experience stems from the title insurance industry. I landed the dream opportunity at one of the prestigious title insurance companies in this country. I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ready to take over the world. I had a newfound fire inside to move up the corporate ladder at this company. The first few years at this company I negotiated my promotions and raises. It seemed if I asked for it, I got it so I did…yearly.

As the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end and this included my career at this company. I hit the glass ceiling. At the time, it seemed the next best upward move required a legal degree. Well, I had already let that train leave the station.

Well, this was a company that had employees working for them for decades. In some cases, I had coworkers who started with the company the year I was born. So, I decided to engage in conversation with them about their career aspirations and career path at this company.

Quickly, I realized many of my co-workers were “forgotten” by the company and “lost” sight of their career goals. They became very comfortable in their position and doing the same tasks for decades. The company became content with them showing up and just doing their job day after day, year after year. Both my co-workers and the company were stagnant in their growth.

Then I had the “aha moment”. Maybe this company is still in the stone ages when it comes to technology, specifically, because the people are comfortable and not being challenged. For some, the comfort was due to not really knowing or understanding how to incorporate their natural talents & skills in their jobs. As a result, both the company and its employees suffered and then the light bulb went off. I decided to build a company that helps corporations to fully use their most valuable asset, their employees.

In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?

LaKitia Woodard: I say both. For as long as I could remember having my own law firm was my dream. Growing up in the projects, entrepreneurship wasn’t part of the conversation or even exemplified. Actually, I didn’t hear the term until years later while in college. However, my dream since I was eight always included having my own law firm and not working for someone else. I wonder where did the concept of “working for myself” come from. I’ve never been afraid to take charge or lead so entrepreneurship is naturally embedded in me.

On the flip side, over the years I’ve developed an aptitude for it as well due to gaining more life experience and exposure to different opportunities. I’ve been blessed to have people in my life along my journey who were able to see things in me I wasn’t able to see for myself. It was their belief and willingness to mentor, coach, and mold my natural skills and talents for moving in a purpose-driven direction.

Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?

LaKitia Woodard: Yes, I’ll never forget what happened. Since I decided not to return to law school, working for myself wasn’t a second thought. Well not long after hitting the glass ceiling I talked about earlier. I started to have this gut feeling to leave the company I worked for.

You see I’m the person friends and family turn to for help with brainstorming ideas, turning them into goals, and creating strategies for manifesting those goals. One day after one of my infamous brainstorming sessions with a friend, I started to wonder.

Why am I not able to figure out a plan for myself?

One day I emailed a friend to give her my ideas on how to grow her event planning business. That conversation turned into a venting session because I was frustrated. I was frustrated about not figuring out my own life’s direction but having no problem helping others figure out theirs. I’ll never forget my friend’s response.

She told me to figure out a way to track the results people have from taking my advice, package it up, and sell it. Honestly, I had no idea what she was talking about. It puzzled me to no end. So, I did what any person would do when they need answers.

I enrolled in Google University! I don’t remember the exact phrases I searched but they had “purpose” in them. Whatever was next for me I wanted it to be purpose-driven.

From my search, I learned about life coaches and was introduced to Lisa Nichols and Tony Robbins. My search helped me to understand the work Iyanla Vanzant does. But the turning point is when I ran across a free challenge called “Earn More Money”.

It was the Earn More Money challenge that literally gave me steps on how to uncover my God-given gifts and make extra money. By the end of the challenge, my entrepreneur journey had naturally and authentically began.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

LaKitia Woodard: My company stands out because our C.O.R.E. principles stem from purpose. We believe every person has a purpose for leaving an impact on their family, community, and business/career. We’re dedicated to helping our clients connect their purpose to their personal commitments and professional aspirations. When this connection is made, our clients on an individual level have clarity on how they can contribute to manifesting their employer’s vision for growth.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

LaKitia Woodard: Being transparent has contributed to my success. The sexual abuse I suffered as a child was the “family secret”. It was a secret that took away my voice and reduced my personal power. The more I was silent the worst my situation grew. Until the faithful day, I spoke up and told just one more person. That day my life changed forever and I never stopped telling my story. My courage to be transparent has allowed me to connect with my clients on a different and deeper level.

My second character trait is my ability to listen without judgment. I’m the last person who can point a finger or throw stones while living in a glasshouse. I know what it feels like to be judge unfairly, counted out, and dignity ripped away. I don’t want anyone to feel that way in my presence or while doing business with me. It’s important for my clients to feel seen, heard, and supported to fully embrace the change needed to grow personally and professionally. This is a personal life lesson I’ve learned on my journey that’s rolled over into my business operations.

The last characteristic trait I’ll mention is courage. In order to get out of the projects and not return to the projects, I had to find courage. Courage to do something no one around me had done before. Courage to look strange to people who didn’t understand what I was doing. Courage to move fearfully despite not knowing the outcome or what to expect. It takes courage to wake up every morning and say “Yes” to walking in your purpose for leaving an impact. I truly believe my background, despite how troublesome, prepared me to do the work I’m doing today.

Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?

LaKitia Woodard: Actually, it wasn’t advice but a comment or opinion about me that caused me to stop dreaming big temporarily. I was talking to a close family member about how I was motivated by the achievements of someone else. I was motivated to do bigger and better and this family member told me that I was a “one upper”. Meaning, I’m always trying to outshine or outdo someone else instead of following my own path. This comment stung and it caused me to questioned all of my motives and actions. We all know the closer someone is to us the deeper their words cut to the core.

Eventually, I stopped dreaming big or setting audacious goals because of this comment. But being a Self-Awareness coach, I tapped into my inner world to really dissect the “why” and the “drivers” behind my actions. What I realized is so many goals, scary goals, float around in my head all the time. Like so many of you, I let my dreams run wild to the point where I naturally question if it’s possible. So, when I run across someone, regardless if I know them or not, who has made the impossible possible, their achievements fuel my drive. Ultimately, I’m not a “one upper”. I’m being recharged to think bigger and pursue the dream or vision that was given to me relentlessly despite how difficult it may seem.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?

LaKitia Woodard: This is a great question! Here are simple low to no-cost solutions for helping employees avoid burnout and feeling overwhelmed. For starters, encourage cross-training among direct reports. Simply having someone in their department that can perform tasks makes it easier to ask for help. Secondly, add automatic timers to desktops and laptops for locking computers to encourage break times. Unfortunately, some employees need a little bit of a nudge to actually take their break. A 15-minute walk for some vitamin D and fresh air does wonder for slowing down the mind to relieve stress and burnout.

Lastly, wellness training goes beyond counting calories and prescription discounts. These are still great tools as well. However, holistic training teaching your workforce how to create work/life harmony by focusing on their well-being is important. Most times, overwhelm and burnout is a byproduct of homelife being a little off balance. At Cohesion Development Group, we can help with the holistic training virtually or through self-paced learning. For more information visit www.corehesiondevelopmentgroup.com.

What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?

LaKitia Woodard: The best way to build trust, credibility, and authority in any industry is to have a service mindset for assisting all employees and customers with respect in an equitable and inclusive manner. The service mindset expands beyond the business’ product or service because you’ll see the employee and customer as an individual. As the business grows and scales it’s easy to take “human nature” out of the equation and see employees and customers as dollar signs. Having a service mindset makes it easier and more comfortable to display empathy, enthusiasm, and compassion to the feelings, experiences, thoughts, and ideas of employees and customers. People, in any compacity, will support an empathetic and sincere person.

Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?

LaKitia Woodard: Honestly, it’s always been essential. Employees, consumers, and concerned citizens are now making sure to hold industry leaders accountable for their business practices. The shift really started to happen due to the murder of George Floyd. Our society as a whole had no choice but to acknowledge the wrong in that situation which ultimately led to self-reflection both personally and professionally. Then we realized in order for change to happen we have to speak up in every room, including board rooms, we walk into and hold everyone accountable. Honestly, the majority of people want to do the right thing but are too afraid to do so. However, they will rally behind a leader who is empathetic and compassionate about everyone regardless of background. The truth is we don’t live in a vacuum, therefore, it’s impossible to run successful and profitable businesses in one so building trust, credibility, and authority are vital.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

LaKitia Woodard: A common mistake that not only affects the bottom line but it also shifts the company culture in a negative way is treating your workforce like robots instead of human beings. Remember your team has a family, commitments, a purpose, and dreams outside the workplace. There’s an old saying “never mix business with pleasure” adapted in the corporate world to prevent violation of the ethical code of conduct. We can all agree ethics is important, however, this mode of thinking has stifled productivity and growth. Unfortunately, this statement doesn’t promote an attitude of being your authentic best self in the workplace. Inadvertently, employees are possibly juggling two personalities, their work personality and their home personality. This juggling act is causing burnout, stress, and depression. By creating a culture that truly accepts your team’s natural skills, talents, interests, and knowledge will decrease turnover, improve morale, wellbeing, and productivity. People want to feel seen, heard, supported and the best way to make this possible is by investing in their whole being. Furthermore, creating leadership teams that reflect the workforce as a whole and the community it serves helps everyone in the company feel more included.

Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?

LaKitia Woodard: Every entrepreneurial journey is different and every journey will have highs and lows. The depth of those highs and lows will depend on how invested you are in the journey. Entrepreneurship presents daily challenges that are both rewarding and humbling at the same time. Every day is not the same and you have to become the person who is flexible, willing to learn, and able to fail with grace. Yes, fail with grace because failure will happen. A product launch will flop; a marketing campaign can offend your customer, and bad reviews come with the territory.

It’s doesn’t matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur you’ll have points on your journey when you feel on top of the world. Then you’ll have times when you just want to stay under your covers and never leave the bed. This is natural and every entrepreneur has these days. Why? Because we’re all human. Whether we believe it or not, personal commitments and decisions affect how you show up in your business.

What makes the distinction between the entrepreneurial journey and working a regular job is the level of risk. As an entrepreneur you inherit all the risks. Everything falls in your lap to make the decisions that will either drive or destroy the business. You literally have people livelihoods depending on every move or decision you make which is very stressful. This is a risk and responsibility you get to avoid totally working a regular job because it’s easy to just leave when the ship is sinking. For the record, there’s nothing wrong with working a regular job even though some people make it seem like it’s the worst thing to do ever. But without employees how can we run the businesses we have?

Also, understand I’m not saying you don’t experience challenges, failures, setbacks, joys, celebrations, etc., working a regular job. You absolutely do! However, the experiences are on different levels based on the amount of risk and investment involved.

Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.

LaKitia Woodard: Sure, I remember the time like it was yesterday. I felt unusually high during my first TV interview to discuss my story and how I turned my pain into a business. It was very early on my entrepreneurial journey. Honestly, I hadn’t received any accolades at the time of the TV interview. But the experience taught me a valuable lesson because the TV interview didn’t just fall into my lap. No! I put myself and business out there and pitched the idea. Before this time, I had never pitched myself before and didn’t have the system I use now. However, this experience taught me some opportunities I’ll have to create on my own instead of just sitting back and waiting.

Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.

LaKitia Woodard: My entrepreneurial journey started as a partnership that went south very slowly. Due to mistakes on both sides of the table, the partnership ended and not on the best terms. But leading up to the split, I felt the lowest and started doubting what I accomplished in the business. I found myself holding back not really giving my all into the services or my clients. Since I knew my best wasn’t being put forward it made me feel even lower. I fought against ending the partnership and closing that business for a long time. Eventually, I had to because it was turning toxic and the toxicity was spilling into my personal life. For some reason, many entrepreneurs don’t acknowledge the connection between their personal and professional life. We’ve been programmed to think personal and business can be separated. But the truth is there is one very, very strong link that keeps the two connected. It’s YOU! How you show up in your personal life will affect how you show up in your business.

Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?

LaKitia Woodard: Absolutely! I used Self-Awareness as a tool to re-evaluate why I choose entrepreneurship in the first place. Then I focused solely on the impact I’ve been created to make in this world to avoid tying my self-worth to the success of my business. Once I refocused, I viewed my business as a vehicle for making an impact on the lives of my clients. This was not easy. It took time, honest self-reflection, courage to admit my wrongs, and forgive myself. Once forgiveness happened, I gave myself permission to start over. So many people wait for someone else to give them permission to start over instead of granting it themselves. How can someone give your permission to do something they’re not comfortable doing? We have to stop being afraid of failing publicly and/or pivoting when it’s necessary. Once we have really understood this point, we can go further in life and business.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.

LaKitia Woodard: Sure these are my top 5 for successfully riding the emotional highs and lows of entrepreneurship.

1- Understand Your Purpose. There’s a common misconception that your business is your purpose and this is incorrect. Your purpose is the impact you’ll have on others. Your business is the vehicle you’re using to operate in purpose. When you know and understand the difference, you’re less like to tie your self-worth to the success of your business.

 

2- Support Team. Most people have a scarcity mindset when it comes to “people” that leads to inadequate support. It’s important to remember that people are a resource and just as valuable as time and money. This is a valuable lesson I learned after joining an accountability group specifically for my business. This is a group where I can talk forever about my business to strategize new ideas and get valuable feedback on projects and proposals. This is golden because now I’m talking and learning from people who are on the same journey and have the same mindset.

 

3- Sleep! Lack of proper rest can affect your emotions on your entrepreneurial journey. For some, they’ve bought into the façade of “no days off” or “sleep is for suckers” mentality in order to experience true success. But the opposite is true because sleep deprivation can cause memory lapses, impair your judgment, and reduce the quality of your work. Some of my best ideas come to me after a full night of sleep which is why I keep a notebook and pen on my nightstand.

 

4- Patience and Grace. The entrepreneurial journey is a marathon not a sprint. You have to give yourself patience and grace in every area of your business. When I pivoted to a B2B model it took some getting used to because decisions didn’t come instantly. You have to keep in mind more people are involved in the decision-making process and there’s more “red tape”. Corporate business takes time and it’s a process which I learned when my first contract took three months to solidify the deal.

 

5- Strategy. This may seem a little odd since we’re talking about emotions but having a strategy for recognizing and managing emotional triggers is essential. We have to understand that our personal and professional lives will comingle no matter how hard we try to keep them separate. Your business and personal life has one common denominator. You! So, I like to create if/then statements to provide strategy on what to do when fear, imposter syndrome, or perfectionism kicks to refocus on the task at hand.

We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

LaKitia Woodard: I define resilience as the ability to move forward and/or take action despite difficulty or obstacles. A quality you’ll find in resilient people is a growth mindset. They know that difficulty is a possibility with failure to follow, but they don’t let it stop them from pursuing their goals. They will also have a positive outlook on life despite how stressful a situation can become and remain hopeful. More importantly, resilient people are able to accept delayed gratification and less likely to take the easy way around an obstacle or compromise.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?

LaKitia Woodard: I was sexually abused by mother’s husband for eight years and it was the family secret. Yes, members of my family knew the sexual abuse was happening and did nothing to stop it. This secret took away my inner power, voice, and confidence. But I was able to reclaim my power by using my voice to advocate for myself when no one else had the courage to do so. Enduring trauma for any length of time can destroy your dignity and worth. But submitting to the healing process helps with resiliency and rebuilding your self-worth.

In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?

LaKitia Woodard: Yes, I do because positivity is the key to surviving difficult situations. My dream of becoming a lawyer helped me to hold on to hope when I was being abused. My dream gave me something else to focus on, hold on to, and keep going when it felt like my life was going to end. The fact I’m here, a survivor, helps me to keep perspective in difficult situations. We’re all survivors and we tend to forget this fact every time we’re faced with a bigger mountain to climb. Reflecting on previous courageous moments and overcoming obstacles is the best reminder or emotional boost needed for moving forward.

Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.

LaKitia Woodard: Positivity is contagious just like any other form of energy. Most people watch more closely to what you do than what you say. Your actions have to speak louder than your words. This fact is important in a leadership role at every level of business. When you’re in a leadership role those around you will look toward you for direction on how to feel as well as which move to make next. The reality is every day in business will not run smoothly, every quarter will not produce profit, and recessions are cyclical. Creating and maintaining a positive, yet realistic, attitude about what’s going on in business will keep your team and clients in your corner to continue working towards the company’s vision.

Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?

LaKitia Woodard: Well, it’s not a quote. It’s something my grandmother would always say to me when I was kid. Anytime she “disturbed” me by asking me to do something I would respond “Grandma I can’t do it”. Her response every single time was “can’t is not a word now go do (fill in the blank)”. Of course, as a kid, I would get upset and frustrated while doing the thing I just said I couldn’t do. At the time, I didn’t see the value in the lesson she was teaching me. My grandma was teaching me how to turn my “I can’t” into “I can” simply by taking action anyway. How many times have you said “I can’t (fill in the blank)” and never took action? Probably more than you’ll care to admit right? Well, this simple, yet, a powerful lesson has helped me to live without saying “shoulda, woulda, coulda” because remembering my grandmother’s words helped me to put one foot in front of the other despite how scary the road seemed.

How can our readers further follow you online?

LaKitia Woodard: You can find me across social media platforms @LaKitiaWoodard or visit www.corehesiondevelopmentgroup.com/  

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with
this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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