Get to Know Chantalle LeFriend, Chief Operating Officer at Grade A

Welcome to our leadership series! Over the next several months, we’ll be featuring different leaders from our company and discussing their paths to their current role, their leadership styles, and the philosophies that help them guide us towards Grade A’s vision.

Chantalle LeFriend is more than a Chief Operating Officer. She’s a mother, wife, mentor and more. At her core, Chantalle is an expert at seeking out the human side of businesses and developing it in a way that benefits everyone involved.

When you’re “in action” doing what you love, what does that look like?

“About 10 years ago, I had the opportunity to facilitate a learning and development course for the first time, on performance and development goal setting. The content hadn’t been developed and it had a pretty senior audience at a time in my career where I wasn’t in a very senior role yet. I was terrified. And someone gave me really good advice. They said “You don’t to see the duck’s feet paddling under water on the surface, for everything to look really smooth on top.” It ended up being an exciting and, in some ways, a career changing moment for me. Not only did I realize I could do it, but I realized just how much I loved doing it. I loved seeing those moments where people kind of had this a-ha, or really connected with something that they hadn’t thought about before.

Since then, I try to hang on to those moments in individual interactions with people too. You don’t necessarily have to experience it in a group setting, sometimes in an individual one-to-one setting it can be just as satisfying. I really love those moments where you see people learn something new.”

How did your upbringing influence your path and leadership style?  

“When I was growing up my dad was in the RCMP and we traveled all over Canada. Every couple of years we had a new posting. When you’re forced to look at situations that could be a little uncomfortable like new kids, new schools…it influenced us as kids. It also meant that we relied on each other as a family unit. That’s where most of our relationships were the strongest because that was the one constant in our lives when we were moving and other things were so new. I think in many ways it influenced me in the sense that, even now as an adult, my pack is pretty small and tight knit.

I still find myself uncomfortable at times in new situations where I have to deal with a lot of people at once. It’s still something that I really have to work at. It also taught me that even when things are uncomfortable you can still get through it. You get on the other side of it, and all of those little things that made you uncomfortable make you stronger in the long run. In those moments where I doubt myself, I know that if I persevere I can get through it.”

What motivates you the most in your current role?

“What really motivates me is the people. Obviously when you think about the scope of the team, how it’s growing and all of the things that are constantly changing, it would be really easy to get overwhelmed. You can’t lose sight of that, but what really motivates me is our people. Doing everything that I can to support them, to articulate strategies in a way that’s easy to understand and implement, to just get obstacles out of people’s way. I really see that as my role. It’s very energizing. It’s that feeling that makes me want to keep doing it every day.”

What has been the biggest obstacle in your career?

“The biggest obstacle in my career, to be honest, has been myself and learning how to overcome disappointment. I never thought of myself as a risk taker, but when I do look back at my career I see that I have taken some strategic risks, such as applying for positions which traditionally weren’t held by women, or weren’t held by a person who wasn’t technical in that field. I’ve taken a lot of pride and joy in hindsight in being able to move the bar on those things a bit, and show people that it is possible. Was I successful every time? No. When I wasn’t, it was incredibly disappointing.

I have learned that things really do happen for a reason. For every one of those opportunities that didn’t pan out, I learned something and gained insight into myself and my capabilities. Time really does heal everything, and gives you perspective. Being resilient, learning to cope with those disappointments and channeling them into something equally different or new or energizing has really paid off for me and taught me some valuable lessons. Every time I take a risk now and worry about the outcome, I remind myself of how it has paid off for me in the past.”

Is there anything that you’re trying to improve on as a leader?

“Always. For every success that you have, there’s always disappointment. Historically, I can be an impatient person. When I get it in my head that I want to see something head in a particular direction, I want to get there quickly. But quickly isn’t always better. I’ve learned that over time.

In this role, the thing that I’m working on is balance. Recognizing the value in considering different perspectives between the human side of the business and the financial side. Things seem to work best when both of those things are considered in balance with one another, not too far in one direction or the other. I would say that is the quality that I’m working on at this point in time.”

What’s your philosophy?

“My philosophy is that I’m always the best version of myself when I stay true to my values.

Whenever I’m in a situation that is pushing me outside of my personal values, it’s very stressful and it takes a lot of energy that could be better used for other things. Being true to my values means working with great people, whose values are aligned and whom I admire and respect. Treating people with empathy and respect, and continuing to try and get better. Recognizing that I am human, and I’m going to make mistakes. Just staying true to who I am.”

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