Trudy Bourgeois

This entry is part 6 of 77 in the series

Trudy Bourgeois The Center for Workforce ExcellenceTrudy Bourgeois

The Center for Workforce Excellence
Owner, CEO and President

Years with company:  13.5 years;  (18 years prior in the consumer goods industry

Education degrees and professional/volunteer organizations:  BBA in Marketing/Business, Loyola University, New Orleans, LA; Volunteer organizations:  Special Olympics; Board service:  Network of Executive Women; University of Texas at Denton, PLP Program

Mentors and how have they assisted you in your career: The most important mentors in my life have been, without a doubt, my mother and grandmothers. They were all incredibly strong women. They were all women of conviction, character and resiliency.  None of them ever worked a day in corporate America but each knew the secrets to succeed in life and in the business world.  These women were born at a time when women of color didn’t have many opportunities, but they made the best of their season in life.

I remember my mother, Gerdiest Reid, telling me, “Be kind as you achieve success because the same people you see going up the ladder will be the same people you see coming down the ladder as everyone’s career comes to an end.”  What sage wisdom.  And my mother’s mother, Mary Elizabeth Stallworth, taught me that the most important thing that any person can do is to lift the spirit of another person – to help them realize their own greatness.  My father’s mom, Arzhelle Reid, taught me that character is everything.

These women intrinsically knew the power of relationships, the value of developing others and the deeper meaning behind achieving success. I drew on all of this wisdom in my 18-year corporate career and continue to draw on it every day now as an entrepreneur.

What are you most proud of in your career achievements? Do you have a defining moment of your career to date? My most treasured career achievement came as a result of a coaching relationship that I had with a woman in the consumer goods industry. When I first met her she was a manager.  She had so much capability but could not see it. Through coaching and self-discovery, she was able to find her voice and her power.  I literally witnessed her change before my eyes.  She became a better leader – a better person.

She is now a vice president  running a major business unit for a consumer goods organization.  What touched me the most was when she said to me, “Trudy, you are like food for the soul.  You infuse such as a sense of empowerment in me.  You make me feel like I can do better, achieve more. “

That’s when I knew that I was doing work that was meaningful and purposeful.  Since then, I have had the pleasure of being involved in helping unleash hidden talent in many people’s lives.  I am beyond grateful that I wake up every morning excited about the work I do.  I look forward to seeing others succeed.  And in the process, I succeed.  It’s just truly great.

Most challenging part of your job: The most challenging part of my job is that I am often called on to tell people things they don’t want to hear.  I have gained a reputation as “the truth teller.”  That label is one I am willing to carry because, to me, you can’t grow until you know where you are starting.  Honestly starting.  And that truth telling happens frequently when I am working in the diversity & inclusion arena or talking about leadership and bias.   It can be challenging telling people that they are their own worst enemy – the very source of their limited success.   One of the principles in the best-selling book, Good to Great, references a leader’s willingness to “touch the brutal facts.”  My goal always – no matter the audience or the client – is to deliver the truth “in the spirit of love.”  People often look at me like I have five heads.  The truth makes them uncomfortable.  And we don’t like being uncomfortable.  What I tell them is that great leaders become “comfortable” being “uncomfortable.”  It is a sign of growth.

Advice for upcoming younger executives: The first piece of advice I would share with younger executives is to respect the power of strategic relationships.  Don’t focus so intently on climbing the ladder.  Rather, focus on adding value and expanding your impact.  The title, the power and the influence will come as you add more value.   The second thing that I would share is that careers go upward, sideways and even backward. It is about always building new capabilities and maintaining an attitude of lifelong learning.  The final piece of advice that I would offer is to embrace change. So many companies, teams and leaders become irrelevant because they aren’t open to change.  Change is the new normal.  Everyone must get on-board – or get left behind.

Hobbies: I love to cook.  And my husband of 33 years, Mike, and I love to travel.