Helping others to be the best that they can be
Dr. Angela Joyner was already an executive on the rise at ConAgra Foods when she stumbled across information about a new Organizational Leadership program at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology on the pages of Psychology Today.
But she didn’t pursue a Ph.D. to be a better vice president. She did it because she wanted to be a better leader—one that’s equipped with the positive psychology tools required to help inspire employees and foster success.
“Before coming to The Chicago School, I was always trying to assimilate to other leaders,” explains Dr. Joyner, Vice President and General Manager of the Refrigerated Foods Portfolio at ConAgra foods and founder of a coaching practice for women called The Wonder Loft. “Now, I have the ability to leverage who I uniquely am through my leadership at work.”
One of the questions that resonated with her during her research at The Chicago School was “What about the people?”
“People want to feel like they matter,” explains Joyner, who grew up moving around every few years with her father’s job for the YMCA in New Jersey, making friends and learning about new, diverse communities of people along the way. “You have to have the knack to identify what each person can bring to the table, enhance that value, and leverage it for its maximum impact.”
A dedication to service
Wherever her family moved, Angela was drawn to service and would often volunteer as a lifeguard, a camp counselor, or a day camp director. “A sense of values had been instilled in me early in life—family, community, and leaving a place better than the way I found it.”
Those values of empathy and awareness carried through the start of her career at Hallmark Cards and later Sara Lee Foods, where she had the opportunity to travel to manufacturing sites in Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, and Dominican Republic. There she was exposed to not only the stark differences in working conditions in different countries, but also saw first-hand the connection between quality people and quality products.
“Throughout those experiences, I kept thinking, how can I help others really perform at their peak, regardless of what the job was?”
These early observations at factories and production plants around the globe stayed with Dr. Joyner as she moved through the Organizational Leadership program at The Chicago School.
“At the time I wasn’t sure I wanted to leave my job full-time in order to pursue my Ph.D. What I loved about the program was the flexibility,” she says of the combination online and on-ground program. “It was fantastic. It allowed me to take the concept and theories that I was seeing in class and our discussions and apply them in my business. The combination of positive psychology, character strengths, and focusing on executive woman, has opened new doors for me.”
Leading by example
So while Dr. Joyner continues to win accolades for her professional work, she leads by example in the community as a volunteer—with a special focus on coaching and supporting professional women.
“Many women have a dual responsibility—providing for our families while working professionally. They’re always worried that something might fall through the cracks,” explains Dr. Joyner, who founded The Wonder Loft in 2009 to create a safe and nurturing place to build future woman leaders through programs that are connected to various nonprofit initiatives. “I want them to feel like each one of them is contributing to a greater good and making a greater impact.”
Dr. Joyner, who is also the current co-chair of the Chicago chapter of the Network of Executive Women (NEW) and received the organization’s Bobbie O’Hare Award in 2015, says one of the biggest hurdles for professional women today is mindset.
That’s where her love of “positive psychology” comes in.
“You have to be comfortable in your own skin,” she says. “I watch the women on my team, and it’s just the mechanics of being able to believe that they can do it and having the confidence to know that they can lead.”