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Women Of The C-Suite: Liz Agboola of Moses Behavioral Care On The Five Things You Need To Succeed As A Senior Executive

Executive leaders usually have a mix of both soft (interpersonal) skills and hard skills. These skills are used to inspire employees, create a vision and overall mission, solve problems, improve the business processes, develop and exemplifying their organization’s corporate culture and learn and evolve.

As a part of our series about strong women leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Liz Agboola.

Liz Agboola is the CEO of Senior Placement Services (SPS), an assistance program that provides housing resources for vulnerable veterans and homeless individuals who are unable to live independently due to medical or mental health conditions. Additionally, she is the CEO of Moses Behavioral Care (MBC), a group of community-based mental health facilities offering 24-hour, long-term care for the SMI (serious mental illness) population. Based in Phoenix, Liz has successfully spearheaded many community efforts ensuring suitable housing is available for the disenfranchised.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I got involved in this career path very much by accident. My parents saw a problem and they asked me to figure out a solution. I quit my job in corporate learning and development and went on this unexpected journey — it’s been amazing!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Honestly, every day in this profession is an interesting day. One story that sticks out is when I was downtown and I walked out of a building and I saw a few police officers questioning a man that I could tell had a mental health illness. You could tell that the man was in distress and that his anxiety was kicking into high gear. He became combative and uncooperative. I am happy that I was there at the right time to assist them because the outcome could’ve been way worse than what it turned out to be. I was able to help the distress man calm down, get him the help he needed and I actually saw him from time to time when I was regularly visiting the shelters before COVID-19.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One of the funniest mistakes I made when I was first starting out was I assumed that the parent who was accompanied by her son was the client in need of assistance. They both let me go through the entire interview process before laughing and letting me know it was the son who was in need of assistance. I learned to never make an assumption.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have two; my parents. They volunteered their time in hospitals and saw that these people who had mental illnesses had no help once they were released from the hospital. After identifying this major problem, they came to me and asked me to help figure out a solution. By working together, Senior Placement Services was born.

In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?

I meditate! There is no great story behind meditating, but I am happy that I discovered it. I also set reminders on my phone to take deep breaths before I send texts and emails.

As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?

The census bureau released the race-ethnic population estimates back in July and it showed a more diverse nation than originally predicted. Four out of 10 Americans identify with a race or ethnic group other than white. Meaning that ‘white’ is starting to become the minority. It’s proven that more diverse companies are often more innovative and creative because these people come from varied backgrounds and experiences and will each have unique ways to improve your products and services you’re offering.

As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.

We serve the undeserved population and strive to ensure the teams that serve them are also representative of the population that we care for.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?

Executive leaders usually have a mix of both soft (interpersonal) skills and hard skills. These skills are used to inspire employees, create a vision and overall mission, solve problems, improve the business processes, develop and exemplifying their organization’s corporate culture and learn and evolve.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?

The right credentials are needed to be a CEO or Executive. Remember that Bill Gates, Larry Ellison and Oprah Winfrey all dropped out of college. I think most degrees are pointless (unless you’re a medical professional or lawyer) It’s about your work ethic.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

  1. Being treated equally–From being held to a higher standard than their male counterparts, to facing persistent gender stereotypes, women are systemically placed on an uneven playing field.
  2. Advocating on their own behalf–Ambition in men is considered a sign of strength, but women cannot rely on their ambition being perceived as a positive attribute.
  3. Most people in the room are men–One of the uncomfortable realities of being a female leader is walking into a business meeting and realizing that you’re one of the few women (if not the only woman) in the room among your male counterparts.

What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

The administrative aspect is the most striking difference between my actual job and how I thought it would be. I didn’t realize how much paperwork I would be doing daily in place of working on what the business is intended to do — providing more hands-on care and community interactions.

Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?

Honestly, there’s no specific trait. I’ve come across people who partied their way through college and are now Executives at large companies. But, I do believe an executive must have humility, compassion and confidence.

What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?

  1. Take care of yourself–even if it’s taking a day off just to catch up on sleep.
  2. Take risks–“you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
  3. Find mentors–every influential leader didn’t rise to the top without one.
  4. Practice resilience.
  5. Have humility.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I am currently working on an Executive mentorship program through the Valleywise Health Foundation called Emerging Leaders. For the program, we’ll pair a diverse group of ambitious, goal-driven young professionals (mentees) with Executives (mentors) throughout Phoenix for a 1- year mentor opportunity. 10–11 diverse mentors will work with 40 mentees who are nominated by their employers — approximately 3–4 mentees to each mentor. They will work on self-development, crafting professional and personal goals and will create a Community Engagement Project that will be launched into a marketing campaign for the foundation. Mentees will also have the opportunity to be selected for a Junior Board position with Valleywise Health Foundation. With the help of community mentors, future leaders, philanthropists and change-makers will be formed!

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Sleep is obsolete–I only get about 3–4 hours nightly because I am constantly working.
  2. Say goodbye to vacation–I can’t tell you that last time I took a vacation and wasn’t working most of the time.
  3. Build relationships that matter.
  4. Create a healthy distance between yourself and work.
  5. Lean and trust the employees you hire.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Black Lives Matter.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” — Dalai Lama

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Elon Musk–Overall, he is trying to revolutionize the modern world. He is continuously thinking about how to push our society and culture into the future.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.

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