Values Under Fire
“Women are looking for ways to have conversations. They are looking for guidance. They’re looking to understand how they can succeed and what they need to do and also how they can be heard. I spend a lot of time helping women understand that, as much as we have advocates, we have to be our own advocate. We have to we have to be prepared to talk about who we are.”
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Jeff Blanton Welcome to Constant Curiosity SD the podcast that provides the backstory of local successful San Diego leaders who bring hope, inspiration, and purpose to the work they do and the people they lead. Conscious Curiosity is sponsored by Conscious Capital of San Diego and the Better Business Bureau of San Diego. And I’m your host, Jeff Blanton from Jailbreak Leadership. We’ll hear from leaders, improve businesses, can positively change the communities they work and live in by seeking a higher purpose beyond profit. We’ll explore why they have come to lead in this way, rewards and challenges of being a conscious leader and their vision for the future of their businesses and the community of San Diego. Today we have a woman leader, on Conscious Curiosity S.D., that has made a significant difference in the world in multiple ways, from helping to save the planet to mentoring the next generation of young women leaders. We are blessed to have Kimberlee Centera on the show today. Kimberlee, welcome.
Kimberlee Centera Thank you, Jeff. Super excited to be here.
Jeff Blanton Kimberlee is the President and CEO of TerraPro Solutions, a major player in the renewable energy arena. TerraPro Solutions provides risk management expertise for the development and financing for large scale, complex high value projects and solar, wind and energy storage. Next time you’re on the road trip out in the desert and see miles and miles of windmills, think of Kimberlee. Those are the types of projects he’s working on. As a trailblazer in what you can imagine a highly male dominated industry. She’s been recognized many times over. She was the finalist for the Women in Power Award San Diego Business Journal, CEO of the Year, in the National Association of Women Business Owners Green Community Award. Often, we talk about leadership, we talk about power, but not too many leaders can talk about power being measured in megawatts. So, I know this interview is going to be electric today. Kimberlee. All right. Love it. Well, anyways, let’s get started. Lots of fun. What a great background you have. And I mean, that’s where I really like to get started is you got involved with renewables way before that was like thing to talk about. I mean, everybody knows about renewables today, but you’ve been involved for a really long time. What drew you to that? Well, what was the factors? I mean, I want to get into that space.
Kimberlee Centera Well, at the time, I was working for a small, privately held wind power developer here in San Diego. I was in the legal department. And about every other week, the head of development would come over to my office and he would say, you know, you’ve got to come and work with us. And development is where all the fun is and that’s where we’re building things. And, you know, I thought it was a little foreign to me. I really had never really built anything, didn’t really know a lot about renewables. But eventually I gave in and went over to the dark side.
Jeff Blanton The dark side where you get your boots dirty. Yeah.
Kimberlee Centera But, you know, it was it was very interesting, too, to really have a chance to work with people. And one of the things that I loved is all the early visionaries for renewables. And there were so many people out there that had been tracking renewables for a long time and wanted to be involved, wanted to find a way to contribute. And so, it was a really wonderful way to be able to partner with people in a lot of different ways through acquiring their land or working with, you know, title companies. I was just on a call today. We were going through a really difficult project in Iowa, and we were talking about how difficult it is to develop renewables. And you would think that we would be welcomed with open arms as the good guys, and it would be super easy.
Jeff Blanton But it’s not in my backyard. It’s a great idea, like that’s over there somewhere.
Kimberlee Centera So but I just loved that there were so many people just from a grassroots perspective, and I think you still see that in renewables, but I have really a special place in my heart for those people in the early days, you know, 25, 30 years ago, that got excited about wind projects in Texas or Wyoming or Colorado or Washington or wherever it may be.
Jeff Blanton Well, that is the fun part, right? That the early years when people have vision and are excited, they got passion. It’s just not a job. I mean, there’s a grander purpose to what they’re doing, and they have a vision for where it’s got to go. And I wish we got a little harder on that trail back in the day. Right. Maybe wouldn’t be the situation we’re in today. So, you’ve been in it for a long time. And then along the way, you decided that you were going to kind of spin off and start your own business. What led to that?
Kimberlee Centera Well, it was 2012 and our small wind power company had been sold to a very large independent power producer worldwide company. And when we were acquired, I sat back and I said, this is it, I’m done. I can just do what I love, work with the people that I love and develop projects. But renewables has a way of being unpredictable and volatile and lots of peaks and valleys. And so, in 2012, the company decided they were going to exit renewables, that it was just too risky.
Jeff Blanton Oh, wow.
Kimberlee Centera And so my the head of the department at the time had come and actually even talked to me a little bit before. And he said, you know, Kim, the office is going to close and, you know, we’re all going to transition. And he was wonderful because he really wanted to make sure that I had a pathway, you know, forward. So, I knew this was a decision point. I was working on a very large financing for a solar project in Imperial, and it really set the bar for me. It was almost $1,000,000,000. So, it was this huge.
Jeff Blanton Serious project.
Kimberlee Centera And that really was the beginning. And honestly, I had never really seen myself as an entrepreneur. I never really saw myself as having my own business. But this opportunity really presented itself and I decided to take advantage of it. I worked on this closing and after that happened, then I had a decision point Did I want to stay with my own business or go and work for someone else? And I was actually in negotiations with a company to go work for them, and we were pretty far along, and I was really doing some hard thinking about where I saw myself and where I really thought my opportunities were. And I really decided at the end of the day to take just, you know, rely on myself, and just see where I could take it. One of the things I was talking to them about was building this renewable division. And so, I woke up one day and I thought, gosh, I’m here, I am. I’m going to go for another male dominated company and, you know, build something for them. And what if I do it for myself? What would that look like if I just did it for myself? And I called everyone that I knew in San Diego over a 30-day period. I had I don’t know.
Jeff Blanton You were on a mission.
Kimberlee Centera I was you know, I called everyone that I knew to go have coffee, to go have lunch. No. What do you think of this idea? And here’s what I’m kicking around and got some really great input. And I later on and I speak to two young women now that are building their careers. And that’s one of the things I really talk to them about is grow your network, build your network. I didn’t do that till later. And I realized the value of that now. And so, I really try to encourage people, you know, build that network, call those people, invite them out for lunch, go for coffee.
Jeff Blanton So were you hoping for someone to say, don’t do it? And everybody kept saying, yes, that’s a great idea.
Kimberlee Centera It sounds like a great idea.
Jeff Blanton And I got it really out of it.
Kimberlee Centera I was so touched by the people who had, you know, really great careers, so many awesome people. Howard Sussman comes to mind who spent a lot of time with me, just encouraging me and also giving me some ideas because I said, you know, I ask questions, what do you think I should do if I want to grow this business and create this business, what do you know? What do you think would be valuable? How can I demonstrate to people that all these years of experience and we talked about this project list that I came up with and eventually that grew into my marketing regime. But, you know, I talk to about stories and all that and it really helped me. I think we underestimate sometimes how much we know. For me, doing it every day, I, you know, I so many years of experience. But it was interesting to go back and look at the course of my career and see, oh, my gosh, I look at all these projects, look at all these contributions.
Jeff Blanton Combination of what we know and who we know to write because all those projects are meant. You had relationship there and so you didn’t walk out with a project in hand because sometimes in those scenarios like, Oh, I got a project to get started with, but you actually walked out like, okay, this is a cold start.
Kimberlee Centera Cold start startup mentality, you know, talking to everybody and, you know, eventually those coffee meetings and lunch meetings led to referrals to clients and led to introductions. And I do think, you know, having worked hard all those years and having a good work ethic paid off because people knew that I could bring value and knew that I was a hard worker. So, one thing led to another, and it just started to grow into a business.
Jeff Blanton Still very scary, moved up because, you know, you know about doing that work. But now it’s like I go find the work and the accounting and all the other things that come with running businesses. And I know when I started my consulting business, like, Oh, I know how to do projects, that’s my thing. Or I get to do more projects now. Now you’re a marketing guy, so.
Kimberlee Centera Exactly.
Jeff Blanton Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Interesting. So, in the world of conscious capitalism, we talk about higher purpose, that your business has a purpose grander than just, you know, the product or service of making a profit. Usually when someone’s willing to step out and do something, there’s a grander motivation, which I think is often that the higher purpose of, you know, here’s why I’m doing what I’m doing. So, what was behind that? You’re making some moves, but was there something that you were trying to make your business be or accomplish with the business that you felt you could do on your own, that you can never do inside another company? Or what would you describe as the maybe your higher purpose?
Kimberlee Centera I think I really wanted to create something with a certain culture. I really wanted to, you know, obviously working with other people, especially in small business, you see things that you say, I’ll never do that. And then other things where you say, Oh, I want to do that.
Jeff Blanton Unfortunately, it’s usually 80/20 that I’ll never do that.
Kimberlee Centera Exactly. But I realized that I really wanted to create an environment where people felt valued. Where? One of the greatest things I feel like, and I hope this is one of the legacies that I leave so many of the people that work for me had no background in renewables. They started out and they’ve learned it from the ground up. And we have an environment where we manage from strength. And so, if someone says, Kim, I really want to try this, I’ll let let’s try it. Let’s say you want to start negotiating leases. Let’s do it. Let’s give you that opportunity. And I have people that started out in admin positions and are now doing, you know, marketing communications or working on projects. And in a lot of cases, it’s been really exciting to see people grow and change and do things. I had people initially women who said, don’t put me on a call. You know, I don’t want to have to be on the call reporting to the client. I just want to work behind the scenes. And now they’re comfortable, you know, working and being out on the forefront. So, I love that. I love that I can take a chance on people and that somebody else can’t tell me, No, you can’t do that. You can’t take a chance on that person. Or you know, if you have a vision and an idea for something, you can’t do that. So, it was it was a big motivator for me to be able to create in a really innovative environment where, you know, there was no limitations. There wasn’t anyone telling me, you can’t do this.
Jeff Blanton I love that. The idea when you just describe it kind of popped in my head was how self-limiting all of us tend to be. I mean, the ones that aren’t you don’t worry about that. Right? They’re in charge and down the hill doing their thing. But a large section of the population really just kind of thinks that, you know, I can’t do this, or these are the rules, especially in a kind of in a corporate environment where sometimes the bosses are like, come on, step up. But, you know, the people aren’t. But there’s nothing more satisfying than what you’re describing when someone’s hesitating. It’s like watching a little kid jump in the pool for the first time. Like all those come out, you get, you could do it. And then when after that first run, they we’re ready to roll you. You talked about strengths, like maybe delving that a little bit. I mean, how do you how do you flush that out of that part of the hiring process? Is it something you do once you get people in-house or how do you really figure out where people’s real superpowers are at?
Kimberlee Centera I think, you know, certainly starting them, we have a mentor program. We like to mentor people. We have a certain way that we like to service our clients in the way that we like to work. And so, I think helping just build people just, you know, empowering people, you know, having a positive environment, we try to allow for questions and, you know, you can always reach out to me. I try to have regular one on ones with with everyone to find out what they’re doing and what they’re thinking. It’s interesting because I spend a lot of time talking to people, especially listening to women about some of the barriers and limiting beliefs. And a lot of it is leadership. You know, we don’t do enough to encourage people. And so, I think it’s really incumbent upon us as leaders to create an environment where it’s okay to make mistakes. You’re going to learn. And we’re all you know, we’re all in this together. It’s a team sport. And so, let’s work on this together. So, we’ve worked really hard to create that kind of environment where people feel safe. It’s okay to fail. You’re going to fail sometimes. We obviously really learn from our failures more than our successes. So, I think that’s really what I’ve worked really hard to create is, you know, a drama free. Let’s encourage, you know, one another and really work together. And I think one of the things that I’ve learned, too, is it’s constant. It’s not something that you can just say, okay, we’ve done that. We can check that box and we can move on. It’s ongoing. You have to really have those conversations all the time.
Jeff Blanton And it’s kind of funny. So somehow, we went through this one and done it’s not it’s the job is actually it’s a job. It’s actually a.
Kimberlee Centera Job. And I think it’s a demanding job because you have those conversations and sometimes you have to really ask questions. And, you know, during COVID, one of the things that we did when we had to pivot, because I like to have people be on video, but one of the things that we started doing and it was seems like a simple, intuitive action was we started calling people, we started calling each other and we started calling our clients, just calling and just say, Hey, checking in, how are you doing? What’s going on? You know? So, I think those kinds of real-life authentic things, people appreciate that even if you’re not perfect and when we freely admit we’re not perfect or trying to fix things. So, I think it makes a difference.
Jeff Blanton Kind of curious, you know, as you’re building this culture and then the folks you’re hiring, one of the guests I had or Delinda for site, she had a business and woman in a highly male dominant environment. And so, when she started hiring, she was hiring a lot of young folks because a cheaper and a lot of women. And that became kind of the complexion of her organization. And she’s now all about generational leadership and transitions and all these kinds of good things. Do you have a certain bent and when you kind of like hiring with this idea of the culture and who you’re trying to help along in their careers, I mean, or is like and then today I really need some experience or any, any bent in a certain direction there.
Kimberlee Centera I would say I’ve learned that you cannot teach character. Mhm. You know there’s a lot of things I can teach, I can teach someone about renewables, I can, you know, teach someone how to do things a certain way. But I really learned that you can’t teach character. And the thing that’s hard a lot of times is if, if something is off in your organization, it’s easy for it to kind of take on a life of its own and really affect you before you even really know how damaging it’s been.
Jeff Blanton Right. Right.
Kimberlee Centera And we actually went through that ourselves. We had we had gone through the process. And I want to say 2019 of redoing all of our values and how we went through an EOC process and really looked really hard at our company and the kind of culture that we wanted to have. So, we were so happy. You know, we spent all this time curating these values and, you know, you know, getting it out to the company. Here’s who we are, who’s who we want to be. And then shortly after that, I got notification of this like devastating issue and in the in the company. And it and it really was an eye opener for me. I because I thought, you know, on the one level, I felt like, you know, this is who we wanted to be. And, you know, you lay out values and you figure everybody is on board, but it’s not necessarily the case in real time. And it was a real eye opener for me to realize that, you know, we had to really take a hard look at everything. And, you know, it’s one thing to create all these great values, but all of a sudden when you have to make hard decisions, you have to really say, okay, do these values really mean something?
Jeff Blanton Um, so, so maybe if you could expand upon that a little bit. So, you created the values for Pearls Energy, and we’ve got these words made a plaque that I started reading. Right? And then essentially someone was calling you on your values in some fashion saying, you know, I wasn’t treated this way and thus lawsuit or whatever the outcome was here. But was that where the tension was? What was what was kind of the big kind of the big rub?
Kimberlee Centera I think the what we what we found is that there were issues going on behind the scenes. And as much as we thought and I think that was the thing that was hard for me, is I thought I was having these frank conversations, but I realized that there were other agendas with this individual and they had been able to kind of create a lot of chaos and mistrust. Mm hmm. And so, as we were trying to, you know, employ things in the company and there was working against us. And so, having to really confront that and what do you do? And we ended up having to terminate two people, you know, because we just it was the only way to resolve it. But I think I shared in the talk that I did that, you know, I got this 13-page letter of all.
Jeff Blanton These 13 pages. Wow. Yeah. That’s a lot of issues.
Kimberlee Centera I know.
Jeff Blanton It was big funds.
Kimberlee Centera Right. Right, exactly. But it did I think it was a real eye opener. And it really, you know, forced me to take a really another really hard look and make changes. But I think as a leadership team, we were able to really come together and really get behind that. I think it made our company a lot stronger because we got that clarity. You know, we sat down, and we said, okay, we’ve really got to take a look at this. And the you know, the challenge is, is the person where we had the issues was a great performer.
Jeff Blanton That happens sometimes, right?
Kimberlee Centera So from a technical standpoint, awesome. You know, so your kind of looking at the bottom line, the economics, and you’re saying, oh, gosh, from this standpoint, wow, you know, this person really impacts the bottom line in a positive way. And yet, from the business standpoint, you know, from the standpoint of our IQ or our, you know, soft skills, business acumen, all of that, it was devastating. So, we had to make a really hard choice around and really choose what what’s going to be first, the bottom line or the culture of the company and the people.
Jeff Blanton That’s what that’s where the rubber hits the road. Right? Right. And then that’s not an uncommon problem. It’s the high performer leaves a big wake. And the performance is kind of there’s a great book and I’ll actually put a link and the podcast written by this guy Jim Lehrer, and he does use the word values, uses principles. He says there’s two versions. There’s the what they say, the performance principles, you know, so things like focus and courage and discipline, you know, get things done kind of thing. So, the high performer. But then there’s the moral principles, which is the EQ piece, which, you know, honesty, integrity, all these other kinds of good things. If you have one without the other, you know, it’s a bad, bad equation. But it’s a great it’s a great book. And one of things you also described was that all values will fail under enough stress. And that’s why you have to really own them and keep reinforcing them, because the stress will come just like what you ran into.
Kimberlee Centera Right. And I think people are looking at you write it because, of course, it’s one thing to create these values. And I really felt like in a lot of cases as I was watching other companies that were having issues and right around this time, there was a lot of things that came out about companies up in Silicon Valley where really the problems start at the highest level. I thought to myself, you know, Kim, this is this is really where it matters. You know, what? What do you really stand for?
Jeff Blanton And everyone’s watching and.
Kimberlee Centera Everyone is watching because they really want to know, you know, are you going to back it up? Are you going to really be who you say you are? And it sounds easy to talk about it, but it’s really hard.
Jeff Blanton I think one of the funny things in those scenarios is that and I will say this almost every time I’ve been around someone getting fired or watching someone get fired when it finally happens, the person went through all this stress about making the decision and everyone comes up. Is this finally know? Because often that first the last one to actually find out what was going on in the whole organization was dealing with this havoc for way too long. And it’s always like, oh, I don’t feel so bad.
Kimberlee Centera Exactly. It really validates. And I think that’s why it’s a lesson for us in our role as leaders to really be aware. And I think we have to work at it. It’s not something that is always real evident. And I know sometimes just even having conversations with people, I say, well, you know, Kim, you’re the president or whatever. And so, your conversation might be different than even other people’s conversations. So, engaging the right people. I think also as a leader, it’s important to have people that have that great business acumen. Sometimes I’m the right person to make the call, sometimes I’m not. But if I reach out to somebody who’s trusted, you know, one way or the other, we need to have those conversations. And I think we’re going to be held accountable even more coming out of COVID, because I think part of all this great resignation, you know, people are not resigning really from companies. They’re resigning from their supervisors or their managers or people that they feel aren’t really listening and aren’t really paying attention. And we’re not going to be able to get away with that anymore.
Jeff Blanton I think is the positive COVID. I mean, this this this should have happened a long time ago. I think this is what’s kind of bringing this whole idea of like conscious capitalism, these other movements to life is like, oh, jeez, we have people here. They’re humans. They have heart. They care. So, yeah. Bringing humanity to businesses is a really important thing. I just kind of circled back. You were speaking about character. How do you know if you’re doing a new hire? I mean, how do you how do you sort through that? Because, you know, he’s that you’re talking like a janitor. Of course, I’m on his right. I mean, how do you figure that out?
Kimberlee Centera Gosh, it’s such a great question. Right. I think we’ve really tried to ask really good, really interesting questions of people. You know, I go a lot of intuition and but, you know, certainly I’ve made some missteps. It’s been a challenge in this environment. But, you know, I really look for how people show up and the sincerity. It’s kind of interesting for me because right now so much is virtual. And I will even go off of will somebody show up on video with me? You know because I’ve had some people that.
Jeff Blanton Won’t show their face.
Kimberlee Centera Right. That, you know, and that’s, you know, video is a really a really a media rich tool for us to be able to assess someone and their sincerity. So, I that to me is really important.
Jeff Blanton To speak to that.
Kimberlee Centera Right. I mean, it just.
Jeff Blanton Gives the tips really.
Kimberlee Centera Well, yeah, right.
Jeff Blanton How you using the tool? How do you how do you decipher it?
Kimberlee Centera Well, you know, when you’re when you’re looking at someone and how they’re presenting themselves, how they’re they’re answering questions, I think that openness I started asking the question in interviews, you know, tell me about a time when you made a mistake and, you know, what happened and how you fixed it. And it’s interesting, the responses that I’ve gotten to that I’ve had people really tell me some really, you know, bearing some really difficult situations where they made a mistake. There was really a lot of implications to it, but how they dealt with it, and that tells me a lot about their character. You know what they’re willing to reveal, how.
Jeff Blanton You know, how steak. I don’t remember mistakes.
Kimberlee Centera Right. And, you know, how vulnerable are they willing to be? Because I think there’s a certain amount of vulnerability in business. You know, it’s something that I think a lot of that we used to separate from business and say it doesn’t really belong in business, but I think it does now. And so, I’m looking for that authenticity. I’m looking for that vulnerability. I’m looking for that person who’s willing to share that. You know, I asked one person and, you know, it was interesting and they just kind of said, well, you know, the attorney gave me the wrong information. So, I really you know, and it was like, was it with me?
Jeff Blanton It was the other. Yeah.
Kimberlee Centera And so I thought, okay, not a good fit.
Jeff Blanton Well, that’s there’s a tip for the folks out there, ask people why when things didn’t go so well and see what they got to say, see who they blame. Right.
Kimberlee Centera That’s the they blame. Exactly. If they’re willing to take some of the ownership.
Jeff Blanton And this it wasn’t me, but I just happened to be a bystander. Well, that’s good stuff. That’s really good stuff. Um, I, again, I want to circle back to, like I said, when all of a sudden, your values kind of came under a bit of an assault and say, did that lead to changing the values at all? I mean, did you step back and say, well, let me reassess one or two of these or maybe how we apply them? I mean, was there an out so that happens or was there a did it have an impact on kind of how the values are being addressed in the business?
Kimberlee Centera Well, I think one of the things we did in response was to make sure that we were having conversations with people, you know, picking up the phone and taking the time away from the day to have conversations, even for me, taking the time to touch base with people and just putting that time on my calendar to give people the opportunity to share with me where they are. And, you know, it sounds it’s you know, it’s kind of intuitive or we should know better. But just asking questions and letting people really have a chance, you know, how can I help you? What do you need? Do you have the tools that you need? So those conversations and ongoing. Yeah, I think are super important and we forget about that also a touch of real you know we have a lot of kids in our business and we’re on virtual calls and people are on video. And every once in a while, there’s a little face that pops up. And I kind of love that. I feel like it’s a real great piece about our business and just things being real.
Jeff Blanton You know, we are humans here, you know, you say that. That reminds me my very first job. I was a manufacturing engineer working for a Honeywell, so a big manufacturing facility. And I remember the like the machine operators were still talking about a plant manager who like two prior to me coming there, right. Seven years ago, it was working there. And what they always talked about was every morning he walked the floor, just walked the floor, had a presence, had a relationship, had a right. So, when I had that job, I walked the floor because that’s how you find out things. And yeah, good advice and we’re so busy, we tend not to do that. Right.
Kimberlee Centera I know it’s one of the first things that we lose.
Jeff Blanton What’s that TV show with the boss guy where he pretends to be an employee or whatever? It’s always this like major. So, I didn’t know what was like to be an employee.
Kimberlee Centera This company is at the office. Maybe.
Jeff Blanton I know. It’s like they always end up crying. I forget the name of it, but it’s an opportunity where the boss goes and sees what like what looks like it feels like to work in his own company or her own right. And it’s always this big eye-opening things like really? You just never bothered to get out of your office once the good runners see what’s happened. So, and interesting stuff I like to touch upon. I know you’re doing a lot in the area of mentoring women and women leaders. Share a little bit about that. What does that look like and where is the big need and what should other leaders be thinking about in that space?
Kimberlee Centera Well, I just gave the negotiations workshop to a group on Friday. And so, a lot of my takeaway from that is women are looking for ways to have conversations. They are looking for guidance. They’re looking to understand how they can succeed and what they need to do and also how they can be heard. And I spend a lot of time helping women understand that, you know, as much as we have advocates, we have to be our own advocate. We have to we have to be prepared to talk about, you know, who we are. We it’s great to work hard, but you can’t just assume that because you work hard, it’s going to be the automatic, you know, succession plan. You’ve got to really be purposeful about that. And I think it’s something that women really need to pay attention to. When I I’d spent a lot of time talking to women that do want to succeed in renewables or whatever, and I, I just hear a lot of frustration. I hear a lot of frustration with leadership, not understanding what the succession plan is, not knowing what steps they need to take, not really having the guidance, the mentors.
Jeff Blanton I think true for men as well as the women, I.
Kimberlee Centera Think it can be true for men as well. Right. So, I feel in leadership, it’s really important. It has to be reciprocal. This is one thing that’s really resonating with me as we cannot put the burden entirely on, you know, the women or the men or whoever it might be. It has to be something that leadership embraces, and they realize that they need to take an active role in how they encourage people and how they show up. And a lot of the time I’ll tell women, you know, reach out, ask someone to go to coffee and then ask questions, you know, what podcasts are you listening to? What books are you reading? You know, I really want to move to the next level. What skills and strengths do you think I need to develop? How should I show up at the next meeting? I really want to be a contributor and I share a lot of real-life tactics with women. You know, there’s interesting there’s subtle things that women do sometimes that work against themselves. So.
Jeff Blanton Such as? Well, do tell.
Kimberlee Centera Oh, so one interesting thing, but there’s a couple of things. But one of the interesting things I share with women is, you know, taking a seat at the table. We hear a lot about that. But, you know, I challenge women, you know, don’t sit in the back of the room. Don’t sit at the end of the table. You know, a lot of times women walk in and, you know, the men maybe kind of are all near the head of the table or whatever. And the women are, you know, they’re a little fearful or they’re not. As I heard.
Jeff Blanton You tell a great story at a conference you were at. Oh, sure. Share that story, because now you’re telling other women, this is what I did and it doesn’t hurt, right?
Kimberlee Centera Well, yeah, I’m not even sure which story it is because there’s so many, but there is one in particular. And maybe this is the one you’re thinking about. But I, I was at a conference, it was actually in the Southeast that was one of the Infocast Conferences and everyone was going to lunch. Is this the.
Jeff Blanton One? I think so, yeah. And you showed up late?
Kimberlee Centera I showed up late. And so, I’m walking in with my plate into this room. And if anyone’s ever been to a renewable conference, you know, you know, it’s mostly all men and, you know, navy blue and black suits. So, all pretty much all the seats were taken. And there was one table that was a few women and a few men. And there was obviously open seats, but there was one table that was pretty crowded, and it was all men. And I thought to myself, okay, Kim, you can go take the seat at the safe table or you can go just kind of barge in at the other table where it’s all, you know, all the men and, you know, they were so gracious and obviously welcome me. And we ended up having a great conversation. And I, I did all the things that I try to tell other women to do, you know, ask questions. And so seated next to a great guy from Duke Energy, and he was telling me we had this awesome conversation, you know, what books he was reading. And I came home with all these notes. It was really fabulous. But even me, in my stage of my career, you know, I find myself thinking, okay, do I make the safe choice or what do I do? But this is you know; this is what we need to do as women. We need to remind ourselves.
Jeff Blanton And so I’m going to say that’s men, too, right? I mean, I would have that same conversation in my head if I watch. Exactly. There’s the safe table, right? No, there’s some hitters or there’s the speaker or whatever. Right. And it’s like. Exactly. Do I belong over there? Yeah, right. But that could be your game changer. It could be could change everything.
Kimberlee Centera Well, because it does it forces you to get outside of your comfort zone. It forces you to have a different conversation. It forces you. And I think, again, if you’re smart, ask questions, you know, don’t necessarily use it as an opportunity just to talk about yourself. You know, ask people, you know, what’s going on? What are you thinking about? What?
Jeff Blanton That’s great advice. Be curious.
Kimberlee Centera Be curious. Exactly.
Jeff Blanton Yeah, yeah. Don’t make it about you.
Kimberlee Centera Exactly.
Jeff Blanton But like you said, super welcoming. Yeah. Come on in. We got room like, boy, we can make up a lot of stories in our heads. Yeah, we.
Kimberlee Centera Exactly. You know, we’re our own. Our biggest barrier, you know, sometimes, too.
Jeff Blanton That’s a great tip. What else you got? But the heat. I knew.
Kimberlee Centera I know.
Jeff Blanton Wow, that was awesome.
Kimberlee Centera You know? Well, the other thing and this is again, it’s subtle, but it’s kind of funny when you think about it. But a lot of times when you see a room and, you know, people are sitting around the table, a lot of times women are just taking up a really small space. They sit down at a table, and they put everything right in front of them and they’re all very organized and keep their elbows in. But if you notice, all the times men go in and they’re not afraid to take up space, and it’s something that we’re not even aware of. Right. But if you go into the next meeting, you know, you can look around and see, that’s kind of interesting. But men are not afraid to spread out, take up space. So, I encourage women, you know, take up space. Have a presence, you know, be willing to take up the spit because it’s all about, you know, feeling small and feeling maybe little. And I don’t have a lot to contribute. So, you need to set yourself up to be in a position where you’re you’re able to contribute. And I always I challenge women to, you know, sit across from the presenter, sit across from the decision maker, sit across from the person who’s going to be, you know, in the power seat, so to speak. Because, again, a lot of times we don’t do that and I’m as guilty as others. So, these are all things I’ve had to learn right through my career.
Jeff Blanton But to your point, I mean, that’s just body language, right? People just read that, you know, nothing consciously. You read that, you know, the. Right. Yeah. Versus here I am.
Kimberlee Centera Yeah. Really? Exactly.
Jeff Blanton We’re about out of time. What’s the what’s the big thought? Big idea? What would you like people to walk away from this podcast with? Something maybe I forgot to ask the question on or something you want to reinforce. What’s the big idea?
Kimberlee Centera Well, you know, I guess a couple things. First of all, I want to really challenge leadership. You know, for us to really step up more and more. I I’m realizing as I have all these conversations, that it’s incumbent upon us to create a reciprocal environment where not only are we challenging our people to step up and ask for that, you know, ask for that role, ask for that project, ask for that promotion. But we need to create an environment where people feel like they can do that. And if they’re not ready, then we’re going to have that conversation with them and say, here’s what you need to do. I’d love to see you succeed. I want to see you do this. You’re ready for this, whatever it might be. But I think it’s so important now for us looking to attract and keep people. You know, I can’t always compete on the basis of cost, but I will compete on the basis of my culture and my people any day who get on the phone interview and say, we love our culture. It’s super important to us. We’re going to protect that. We want to know that you’re going to be part of our culture in a really positive way. So, I think it’s just so important.
Jeff Blanton And you know, that works. That’s what this is. What the great resignation is about is because people say it’s not about the money. I want to go work for the company like Kimberlee’s running over there. Right.
Kimberlee Centera That’s what I.
Jeff Blanton Want. I want to be seen. What have you seen? And that’s about leadership. This needs to change, right? This is what this is what the movement’s all about.
Kimberlee Centera Absolutely.
Jeff Blanton Well, Kimberlee, thank you so much for coming in and taking the time to be on the show today and sharing your amazing experience and insights and wisdom and for all the work you’re doing here in San Diego and really run around the country and try to help us live in a little better planet. Well, that’s our show for today. If you enjoyed it, please subscribe, and share the podcast with a friend. That’s the best way to help us to continue to get the word out, to help the conscious capitalism movement here in our own community of San Diego. I’m Jeff Lantz. And in the meantime, oh, do what you do. Go do what you do. Best friend. We are counting on.
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