It’s hard to imagine coming away from an interaction with Cassandra Worthy and not feeling invigorated. The vivacious founder and CEO of Atlanta-based Change Enthusiasm Global is a tsunami of energy, extolling the virtues of embracing opportunity even in times of upheaval.
And she’s bringing her disruptive-but-productive brand of leadership training as keynote speaker for the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) annual convention, Truckload 2023: Orlando.
“Change, regardless of what it is, is always presenting us with an opportunity,” Worthy explained. “We’re in that seat of choice to figure out how we use that particular change, or the aspects of the change, to work for us as opposed to against us.
“It’s a matter of perspective. The tool I like to employ when going through change is emotion,” she continued. “Emotions are a resource that’s in infinite supply, but it’s up to us to understand how we use that resource as a tool to signal us when there are opportunities and to guide us when we’re moving forward and to fuel us into growth.”
Worthy acknowledges that bringing emotion into the workplace is a hard concept for many to hear, especially after the professional world has undergone so many years of conditioning with such long-accepted mantras as, “It’s not personal; it’s business.”
However, she says, to check one’s emotions at the workplace door is to leave an important tool — and a powerful one, at that — behind. Following one’s emotions can be particularly insightful and effective, especially during times of uncertainty or transition.
“Change enthusiasm is really focused on the individual, and there is such fruit from consistently practicing this mindset,” she said. “It’s all about emotional self-awareness and stepping into your moment of opportunity, granting that grace and trusting that difficult emotions are there to serve you, to invite you into an opportunity.”
If all that sounds like a mere catchphrase, Worthy cites research to back up the power of emotion in navigating changing business currents.
“Our company partnered with a leading research institution, CGK, and the idea was to understand change and emotion in the workplace,” she said. “We found some staggering information. Seventy-eight percent of working Americans are more ready and more motivated to engage in a change initiative when they feel comfortable expressing their truest emotions.
“That tells me emotion should not be checked at the door — it should be our carry-on,” she exhorted. “We should carry it with us, and when we allow our workforce to share those more difficult emotions, then we can help them get about the business of transforming that energy into growth.”
Worthy says her keynote talk during TCA’s March convention will not only explain the concept of harnessing emotions for embracing change, but it will also provide several key suggestions for implementing these strategies into any corporate environment. The process begins with company leadership creating a level of trust with employees that allows emotions to be expressed and then harnessing those emotions into positive action.
“You really want to have that empathetic type of leadership where employees feel comfortable emoting, expressing that energy and then getting about the business of transforming,” she said. “To do that, you have to have a nurtured trust throughout that organization, or at least from individual to individual.
“One thing I think is practical is what I call listening sessions, where the company cherry-picks some of the senior executive leaders to sit on a Zoom call and invite a handful of employees to join the Zoom and share,” she continued. “What’s working? What’s not working? What are you struggling with? What are you challenged by?”
Another effective leadership strategy for harnessing emotion to create a constructive environment and embrace change is simply to lead by example, she noted.
“It’s what I call ‘confident vulnerability’ when you, as a leader, can show a level of vulnerability in feeling some of those more difficult emotions but that you trust in the vision and the mission of where the business is going,” she said. “You’re opening this door and granting permission to the rest of the organization that it’s OK, we’re in the same boat together. Vulnerability is huge.”
Worthy’s message about looking on the bright side of change and running toward one’s feelings isn’t mere sunny-side up pap. She lends depth to her talks by sharing her struggles as a former victim of the rat race, corporate burnout, and, in her words, “a gratefully recovering alcoholic.”
“What I have learned about me is I often suppress or ignore really difficult, challenging emotions,” she shared. “Before I was practicing change enthusiasm, I numbed out those difficult emotions. I drowned them in booze. And even though I had a lot of success in my corporate career, my trajectory, my success was stalled because of not embracing the more difficult emotions of going through whatever was happening at work.
“When I said ‘yes’ to my alcoholism, stepped fully into sobriety, and started practicing this mindset on a daily basis, I granted myself that permission to acknowledge my more difficult emotions, to understand that they are natural and it’s OK. And then, I moved into the second step which is recognizing these emotions are presenting me with an opportunity to learn and to grow.”
A veteran of the boardroom as well as the motivational speaker stage, Worthy graduated from Georgia Institute of Technology in 2004 with a degree in chemical engineering. After 11 years with Proctor & Gamble and three more with Duracell, Inc., she launched a career, leading C-suite workshops and appearing as a keynote speaker at conferences and conventions around the nation. In 2017, she founded We Are Change Enthusiasts, and Change Enthusiasm Global was born in 2020, the same year Worthy published her first book, “Change Enthusiasm.”
“What I want audience members to take away is that the emotions of change are real, that they cannot be denied, and they must be acknowledged in ourselves as well as those around us,” she said. “I think that we are doing ourselves a disservice by putting our emotions in a binary, moving from negative to positive.
“Emotion just ‘is,’ and I think (it’s a) gift. It’s up to us to determine how we allow those emotions and how we then leverage them to work for us instead of against us,” she concluded.
Dwain Hebda is a freelance journalist, author, editor and storyteller in Little Rock, Arkansas. In addition to The Trucker, his work appears in more than 35 publications across multiple states each year. Hebda’s writing has been awarded by the Society of Professional Journalists and a Finalist in Best Of Arkansas rankings by AY Magazine. He is president of Ya!Mule Wordsmiths, which provides editorial services to publications and companies.