How one leader is creating her own success
All rising stars begin somewhere. For Erica Parks, President of CBE Companies, it began with a goal: to become a Chief Financial Officer by age 30.
While it’s been said that true success is achieved when one works hard under the aegis of steel perseverance, it’s not the defining marker that helped Parks build her career. Her path to success embraces a genuine, human-centered understanding of who people are, where they are, and what they do.
Empowered with empathy
When asked if there are specific skills that helped her see her next step, or a skill that helped her rise to the next-level job, Parks responded, “It’s all about being a learner.”
She advises leaders to worry less about themselves and instead focus on “working themselves out of a job.” By focusing on developing the people around her, she’s opened doors for her colleagues and herself.
“To be a leader, I must ensure someone else can do my job. And to do that, I focus on developing the people coming up behind me. It’s a common sense element of human management to inspire people, and it’s a philosophy I’ve always embraced.”
Stimulating trust on a personal level
In the early days of her career, Parks often mingled with her coworkers. She wanted to hear their ideas but mostly wanted the team to feel comfortable around her, rather than intimidated. She understood that when individuals are allowed to be themselves, to feel free, and to feel comfortable, they’re more inclined to be self-motivated. That’s how she’d get the best out of them; she trusted them to trust in themselves.
Trust is a two-way street, and Parks earned it at the start. Two of the biggest challenges she overcame were being young and female. Starting her career in manufacturing, Parks was one of very few female engineers telling men they were using tools wrong. From there, she moved into public accounting. And now in the financial industry, it just cascades. Although she’s beginning to see a shift, there are still more men in leadership roles than women.
Amazing things happen when it all works together
Faith is the catalyst that has driven Parks on a path to better decisions. “My husband and I are always very faith-based, and we seek that answer first. It’s individuals in leadership who also have that sort of faithful background and are doing the right thing under their faith-view versus the typical social norms. One thing is certain: my faith is central to my success.”
Binding her faith to her experiences in her work is perhaps the most honest component, and it’s how she can stand her ground when she needs to.
Being the boss and making the hard decisions
For Parks, the most critical leadership lesson she’s learned is that when you’re reprimanding people, you have to be a boss, and you sometimes have to be uncomfortable so that the actual message is received. “As a woman, how you ‘message’ is critical. No matter the severity or level of the message I am delivering, I am extraordinarily rational.”
Parks asserts that not only do leaders need to be mindful of what is said, but how it’s said. First-hand experience taught her that slowing down and speaking in a language the other person can understand is the only way to be effective.
“One of my first bosses told me, ‘You can be the smartest person, you can be the best CPA, you can be the best whatever, but if you can’t convey the message and slow down so the person on the other side can receive it, it doesn’t even matter.”
Finding balance at the top of her game
We asked Parks two questions about her mindset and how she stays balanced and at the top of her game:
- What energizes you about work?
- How do you unplug from work?
“What energizes me is the impact I make on lives. We have 1,200 employees at CBE Companies, and for every new-hire class for professional and management, I get to spend time with them and get to know them, and it is the best hour of my month.”
By getting to know them and communicating how they fit into the CBE family and how it all pieces together, she is impacting their lives, and in return, they’ll have a better phone call on the other end. They’ll pass the same positivity and energy to the person they are talking to.
Those closest to Parks will tell you that her energy is off the charts; she doesn’t stand still. Though she’s a go-getter, she doesn’t short-change the need to unplug. Outside of her role at CBE, she grounds herself in family life. Her husband helps her slow down, making it a point to weave some downtime into their personal lives.
When we look closely, Parks not only indulges in everything life has to offer, from career to side hustle to family and travel, but this rising star continues to rise — and we salute her.
(Side note: We have it on good authority that Parks’ most notable indulgence is Oreos!)
To learn more about CBE Companies and the people behind its success, visit CBECompanies.com.