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7 Questions with Cathleen Trigg-Jones
helps you in your leadership.
7 Questions with Cathleen Trigg-Jones
Name: Cathleen Trigg-Jones
Current title: Founder and CEO of Catscape Productions
Current organisation: Catscape Productions
Cathleen Trigg-Jones is a former journalist who now serves as the Founder and CEO of Catscape Productions, which houses iWoman Studios + TV. For over 20 years, the uber-talented CEO has dedicated her time, energy, and expertise to create a full-service media and production company, Catscape Productions. Under her leadership, the Catscape team has created and produced content for CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX, BET, VH1, ESPN, CNN, TNT, MSG, CNBC, MTV, Showtime, and Discovery networks. She developed, shot, produced, and starred in the docu-series “We are the Joneses” which aired on BET Centric and Discovery Life She is also the executive producer and host of her own televised talk show, “Chic Chat,” which aired on FOX and can now be seen on iWoman TV. As a wife and proud mother of four, Cathleen believes it is crucial for women to be represented in all industries and chooses to amplify the female voice in entertainment through her content. iWomanTV is a means of distribution for talented female content creators who have been left out of conversations nor have had an opportunity to get through the doors to pitch shows.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
An executive never sleeps. And even if they want to, they can’t. That is the biggest difference. When you are the leader, all the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Especially when you’re a leader who’s also a founder or the owner of a company, an entrepreneur - it is lonely as hell at the top. I don’t know a lonelier place in the world than being an entrepreneur or an executive leader because, in many cases, specifically for people/women of color, you’re charting uncharted territory. Many times, executives don’t have a mentor or someone who brought them in or handed them the reins. This can be extremely difficult, specifically, for a black female like myself, you are expected to know everything. By the time you get to this point, who do you ask? Who do you admit to not knowing everything? You don’t know what you don’t know until you cross that bridge. As an executive, you’re a leader and expected to lead. However, in my opinion, the smartest leaders have an even smarter executive team around them. If you’re the smartest person in the room, what does that say? Find another room! You can’t lead effectively if you’re afraid to put other people around you that might outshine you. So as an executive, you’re the one calling the shots, setting the tone and direction for that company. You’re the one that is praised when there are wins and you’re the one that’s blamed when there are flaws. You really have to be all in and have to know your stuff, but also be honest with yourself and realize that you don’t know everything - and no one is expecting you to. The goal, as an executive, is to find out what you don’t know and to put the right people in place who do know so there’s no room for error.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
It’s been 15 years since I’ve had the idea of starting my own network and it came to me in a dream one night that it was going to be called “iWoman.” I really had faith in myself and pushed forward with the idea of “build it and they will come.” I knew women needed something like this. They needed a platform to tell their stories and support other women who feel like they can’t, and just showing them through my own example that they can. I felt, somehow, the little girl that was an orphan, that no one wanted, was exactly the person who was supposed to launch this network to show other women that they are wanted and have a voice. It would serve as a voice for the voiceless.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I rarely get any sleep! But I will say every day there are a million things on the agenda. I have a very supportive and organized team behind me that helps me schedule meetings, calls and other obligations and prioritize them.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
The biggest myth is that when you make it to the top, becoming a CEO or executive, that you got it made, you don’t have to worry about anything, you’re set financially and you can kick back and relax. That cannot be further from the truth! Once you get to the place where you are, as a leader of a company, you are holding the weight of everything on your shoulders. You’re personally responsible for making sure everyone in your organization and their entire family eats every single day. You’re the one that has to think about food on the table for everyone who works for you. I know that sounds rudimentary, but that is how I feel. If I mess up, or don’t keep money coming in the door, no one here eats. Once you get to this point, this is when the real work begins. You can fake it till you make it up to a certain point. Once you become a leader, that’s when true colors show and you’re either going to sink or swim, and if you sink, you’ll take the whole ship down with you.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
One of my favorites is Michelle Obama's "Becoming." She is the epitome of "Black Girl Magic," and showed not only myself, but other women of color, that regardless of their background, no dream is too big. If a young girl from the Southside of Chicago can make it to the White House, anything is possible! She continues to change the narrative.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
By diversifying my workforce. When you diversify your workforce, you open the door to so many possibilities. As people of color, we’ve had no choice but to put ourselves in uncomfortable environments and situations where we’re not represented or supported, not promoted, not given opportunities, we’re having to fight our way, we don’t always fit in, and yet we still have to soar and make a way out of no way. If we continue that trend, we will continue to miss out on a whole sector of amazing leaders, amazing ideas and innovations that can actually change the world. I think it's uber important for every company, whether you’re a white-owned company or black-owned business, to have a diverse executive team. I hold myself to those same standards. I am very cognizant of the people I hire. I want to make sure that even though I have launched a female centric business and had a female centric production company for many years, it’s still really important for me to have a white male or two working for me, just as important it is for me to have African-American, Black, Latina, Asian, and Caucasian men and women working for me. I really want to be the leader when it comes to not only supporting diversity, but actually promoting diversity in every single thing that we do behind the scenes and not just in front of the camera.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
I personally lead a little differently than most executives might lead and I hope I never change this one side of me. In my organization, I don't see a difference where I stand versus where my housekeeper stands, where my intern stands, where my assistant or producers stand - I treat everyone as if we’re on the same level. I treat them with the same amount of respect I want them to treat me with. Sometimes it does create an environment where people think that they’re your friend and that makes it difficult when you have to discipline or come down on someone harshly. However, I believe that, if we can make work exciting and fun for everybody, then they’re going to be more productive and enjoy coming to work. A great example of this is how I supported my graphic designer at the time. After his typical work day at my office, he would dress in drag and bartend at all these different places. My staff knew, but I didn’t! I guess they hid it from me because I would think he was unfit for the position at my company, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! So finally, I confronted him about it and proposed he use the production crew, studio and equipment (after hours, of course), and use it to create his own show where he mixed drinks in full drag and created his own content for his own brand/socials. It made him love coming to work and he loved that his boss supported him, so he worked even harder. That’s a prime example of why I lead the way I do. My advice is don’t get caught up in being the cut-throat executive, but foster an environment where people really enjoy coming to work.