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7 Questions on Leadership with Angela Reid-James

Name: Angela Reid-James

Title: Director Workforce Operations

Organisation: (previously) Highmark, Inc.

With over 20 years as a key contributor in corporate operations and performance, Angela Reid-James is a progressive thought leader who brings order to chaos through strategic thinking and cross-functional collaborations. She uses her operations, workforce and project management experience to develop to help organizations increase functionality, productivity and efficiencies through strategic guidance, planning and innovative implementations. Early in her career, Angela worked on a project that pioneered the transmission of data, telephony and media through fiber optics vs cable - now known as FiOS. She joined the Healthcare industry in 2009 and in 2015 joined an International division supporting Brazil, France, and Australia affording her the opportunity to work in Brazil for almost a month.

Angela has several non-profit affiliations including a founding member of the Empowerment Generation Development Corporation and minister in the National Association of the Church of God who owns the oldest Black owned Campgrounds in the United States located in West Middlesex, PA.

Angela currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Woodlands Foundation in Wexford, PA. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology with additional advanced studies in Business Administration and Entrepreneurship. She has a Certificate of Completion for the Executive Leadership Academy from the Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business. She is the CEO/Chief Designer of AMRJ Shoe Designs, her own company of designer shoes handmade in Italy. Angela is married to her childhood sweetheart David James and has 3 children and 6 grandchildren. Angela is looking to expand into professional coaching and mentoring in the near future.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Angela's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

Having to prove and validate myself being a female leader of color. Balancing being a strong female leader and withstanding or discrediting the mislabeling. Being respected and my expertise acknowledged and accepted.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

By stepping up and into a place with there was no leadership. Being willing to take the lead on projects, make suggestions, bring solutions to the table. Bringing order to the chaos. My biggest leadership step happened after a big manager walk out at a telecommunications company in California. I was the senior employee there and most of the others were contractors. By default, every came to me to ask what do we do. So, I stepped up and took the lead. I had great senior support which was helpful. We were in the middle of a multi-million dollar project (this was back in the earl 90s) so there was a great deal of visibility on my department. The initial reaction was to disband the department and move the work but I asked them to give me 3 months. I met with the team and told them, we have 3 months to show what we can do. We extended our operating hours and got to work. One thing I made sure to do was let the team know I was in it with them. I was there at 7am for the first shift and left at 9pm with the last. We not only completed the project but increased performance from 47% to 97% accuracy. I was promoted 3 times over the next 18 months.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

Morning time of mindfulness - meditation, devotion, prayer, during dress time and at desk, even if only 5 minutes. Set up desk for the day - headset, mouse, keyboard, water, coke zero, everything laid out so my day starts in order not in disarray.

Boot up computer. Check calendar. Then checkin with team, check for urgent emails, log into meetings. Meetings often monopolize day but try to block focus time. Strive to be present at meetings so I avoid side chats and reading emails or unnecessary multi-tasking whenever possible. Set times for email check sweeps once every hour or two, helps keep me from getting off or side tracked. Use after hour for focus time as well. Set weekly time with team with daily checks and chats as needed.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

Reminded that leading is a privilege and that it is about your people. Also, Leaders need good leaders too! If a leader does not have a supportive, leader that empowers them, it will impact how that leader performs just like any other direct report. If you don’t have a good leader supporting you, you will suffer, mentally, emotionally and it will impact your performance. Get a mentor in the interim so you have some support, but do what you can to change leaders or change positions.

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?

Monday Morning Leadership by David Cottrell. It addresses some common but unrealized mistakes leaders unknowingly make. One quote stands out to me “hire easy, manage hard, hire hard, manage easy”. It basically addressed putting in the work to find the right person for the job on the front in will save you some of the management work on the backend. That and other points inspired me to develop a comprehensive interviewing through onboarding process for leaders which improved leadership performance substantially.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

Manage the process but LEAD your people. Meaning, it is not a “one set of rules fits all” sort of deal. Just like with raising children, you love them equally but have to raise, teach and train them differently. The same with your team. Get to know your directs as individuals so you can understand and know how to support them, empower them, encourage them, inspire them, lead them. That’s YOUR job as their leader. Put in the work!

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

I was at an event and there were several people there that had attended some workshops I had conducted. I was speaking to a senior leader and one person joined us and began to share the impact that I had on him as a leader. He had attended a couple of my workshops and he had also attended other meetings I had either led or presented in and he said he learned so much from me in those few interactions. He had observed how I handled being challenged, how I engaged others, how I made everyone feel heard. This was someone who did not report to me but I had still affected. It was humbling and inspiring to hear as what he experienced is what I attempt to do.

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