It’s time for the latest chapter in our #MeetTheTeam series, introducing you to one of RBLP’s terrific instructors. This week we’re delighted to sit down with Kanessa Trent, RBLP-T!
Hi Kanessa! Thanks for chatting with us. Tell us a little about who you are and where you’re from.
Thank you for this opportunity! My name is Kanessa Trent. I grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I’ve just retired from the Army (currently on transitional leave). I have a beautiful son, and we love to travel (pre-COVID), read, explore and genuinely create new adventures together.
What can you tell us about your education and career background before you started working with RBLP?
I graduated from high school in 1990 and went to Ball State University. I worked three jobs my senior year to save enough money for college, and got through the first year with the money I had saved plus working five days a week on campus. I earned a 3.8 GPA while doing that and was so excited about my sophomore year. That summer in-between I worked two jobs, but only saved enough for one semester, so I joined the US Army Reserve in August 1991. I went to basic and AIT with the intention of going back to college having only missed one semester, which I did. What I didn’t expect was that I would love the Army so I went into active duty for 28 years as a public affairs professional. I served in a variety of positions from brigade to four-star command; my last four years in the Army, I served as an instructor at the Sergeants Major Course. I earned my BA in Journalism from Thomas Edison State University in June 2005, followed by an MA in Leadership Studies from University of Texas –El Paso in May 2012 and my M.Ed in Adult Education and Lifelong Learning from Pennsylvania State University in August 2017.
Who is a role model that you’ve interacted with in your life that inspired you toward this career trajectory?
I knew from the time I was five years old that I wanted to be a writer and specifically, a journalist. I’ve always loved writing and reading, and I don’t recall ever considering another option. The US military was not something I ever contemplated, the opportunity presented itself to join and pay for college. I fully expected to dislike the Army – I wasn’t athletic, I did not know anyone who served and I thought it would be difficult for me – while I was physically in more pain than I’d ever experienced the first few weeks of basic training, I loved everything about the Army. I loved the tradition, the focus, and the idea that we were all a team. I was so young, I didn’t really understand what I’d gotten myself into, and I truthfully joined for purely selfish reasons. I finished basic and the DoD’s journalism course and immediately wanted to go active duty. I stayed for selfless reasons – The Army challenged me in so many ways, and I was able to push myself to be the best version of myself and be a part of something that mattered.
So, no one pushed me toward the military or my desire to write for a living. In fact, everyone who knew me well laughed loudly that someone as “girly” as me was joining the Army. I will say though that my mom, my grandma and grandpa always told me I could do anything I put my mind to, and I always believed them.
What drew you to the role that you’re fulfilling with RBLP as a certification instructor?
I first learned of RBLP after I saw a comment that Jason Politte made on a thread on LinkedIn. I liked his job title (VP, People and Program Development), so I sent him a note to ask if that was a real job or if it was just a cool title to interest possible employers. We began talking and the program just resonated with me; it makes so much sense to me that a civilian certification like this should exist to help any and all companies, businesses and leaders at every level create the best environment for its employees. I knew that I wanted to take the course right away but when Jason and Dr. Gene spoke to me about becoming a member of the RBLP team, I was absolutely thrilled!
A year ago when I began my transition from the Army I was asked, “What do you really want to do when you retire, Kanessa?” I responded that I wanted to teach online from home. That I get to do exactly that with RBLP and coach others in a one-on-one setting, which fosters the best learning outcomes, is a gift. Being an RBLP certification instructor allows me to combine everything that matters to me: My education, my experiences and my passion for teaching and helping others. I was not sure I would find that following retirement from the Army, but RBLP makes it possible. I’m incredibly grateful to be on this team and a part of the family.
In your mind, what is the best definition of “resilience” for those who might be unfamiliar with the program that RBLP offers?
When I speak to people about RBLP, I explain that it’s not enough to have individual resilience as a leader, but that leaders have an obligation to be deliberate about organizational resiliency. I define that as ensuring that every member of the team (or company/business/institution) feels valued, invested in and committed and that no matter the challenges, changes, or chaos, each of the teammates will feel collectively able to overcome whatever significant obstacles or eventual adversity are put in their way. That, to my mind, is the reason organizations need to understand and be purposeful about organizational resilience.
What are the three most important components, in your opinion, that you try to convey to every team that you train under the RBLP certification program?
For those of us fortunate enough to facilitate this curriculum, we know that each session builds on the other. However, if there were only three things that a client remembered, I’d hope that what I repeatedly communicate to them is this:
There are three things that every leader, regardless of which level they work at, must always be mindful of if they desire to create and maintain an exceptional workplace. Those are being authentic, being compassionate and ensuring that trust is fostered up, down and sideways. If a leader is authentic, then he or she will be honest and will look to create a positive climate. If a leader is compassionate, he or she will be empathetic and foster an environment that is safe, all-inclusive and respectful. If a leader ensures trust from them to employees and vice versa and laterally across the organization, then the elements of developing cohesion and ensuring the team succeeds, regardless of level or mission, will permeate.
What is one of your own best personal experiences in your career that has influenced or inspired you in your certification training?
Gosh, I can think of so many reasons why I believe so sincerely in the RBLP certification. In my own career in the Army, there were many times when my soldiers and I showcased what it means to be a world-class team in times of crisis. I personally believe, now more than ever, that every organization can benefit from this certification program. COVID-19 has created a lot of challenges in the world and for business leaders around the globe, but also acted as a catalyst and required leaders to create a purposeful culture and climate that is focused on organizational resiliency.
In your time as an RBLP instructor, what is one of your best memories and why?
This is hard for me to answer given that I’m still a new member of the RBLP team. What I will say is that every session I conduct with a client is personalized and focused entirely on them, their past experiences and their goals and desires for professional and personal growth going forward. That’s the real genius of this program. Dr. Gene created RBLP to meet every person where they are – they bring with them their life experiences, which ultimately informs their leadership style. Facilitating this course one-on-one allows for honest dialogue that fosters deeper learning and encourages sincere reflection.
Pivoting a bit from the program – tell us a little about yourself outside of work! What other activities or hobbies do you love?
Outside of work, my focus is on my son. We love to travel – we love all things related to sun, sand and surf! We both love to read, hike and watch movies. When I’m lucky, I can even get him to exercise with me.
Can you give us a quotation that you feel really inspires you to continue inspiring others?
“The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn …and change” – Carl Rogers
The reason I love this quote so much is that it reminds me that lifelong learning is essential. Change is a part of life and every time I hear people say that “no one likes change,” I find it so strange. The only way we evolve as people is embrace change and learn and grow as a result of it.
RBLP leadership certifications are about Building Resilient Teams™ that overcome adversity and then can adapt and grow together! As always, we are #StrongerTogether.
Learn more about the requirements for the RBLP Certification program.