Kimberly Tang saw firsthand that classrooms are powerful incubators for innovation, problem solving, and leadership development. Now, as Success Labs’ newest consultant and coach, she’s applying lessons from a career in education to her work with businesses across Louisiana and the Gulf South.
From Los Angeles to New Roads
After graduating from UCLA, Kim wanted to do good and pay it forward. Coming from a family that believed strongly in the value and importance of education, joining Teach For America was a natural step towards putting those values to action – in a rural classroom in New Roads, Louisiana. “My parents thought I’d only be out here for a couple of years,” Kim says, laughing. Ten years later and she’s still in south Louisiana, having grown her career from teaching students to training teachers and managers in how to work with diverse, inclusive and innovative teams.
“I enjoyed teaching and loved my students, but eventually realized I truly loved working with adults. Teachers create the conditions for students to thrive, they can help them succeed after seeing them fail. And managers set the conditions for teachers to thrive. In the classroom and in schools, it’s all about leadership – does your leader believe in relationships and innovation? Is your leader moving things out of the way for you?”
Kim transitioned from the classroom to work as a TFA staff member, managing and facilitating leadership development for teachers, managers, teams and executives seeking to broaden their skillset on culturally competent management. She earned a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Columbia Teacher’s College and was eventually promoted to be in charge of TFA South Louisiana’s team and teacher learning and strategy.
“Things that are true in education are also true in the business world.”
Kim finds parallels between classroom teaching and line workers in other industries, pointing out that when you are in the classroom all day, the barriers to success can be significant because of things happening beyond you. That’s why developing great managers and leaders is key.
“Sometimes we don’t think about the fact that the things we do set the conditions for someone else. We can empower or prohibit people from thriving.”
She spent her time at Teach For America helping leaders look through the lens of their privilege and standing to either lift up or inhibit the growth of their students, or the work of their teams. She points out that in order for the people around us to do their best work, they have to feel like the organization (or the school) is a place for them – a place where they can be empowered to move and change systems, if necessary. Recognizing the power of diversity is an important first step in creating a vibrant and innovative workplace.
“Do you believe that diversity is our strength, and that everyone has a strength? Are you willing to find new solutions to problems? That’s what it means to do good, meaningful work – value differences and conflict, be an innovator, and leave the world a better place than you found it. That’s what TFA taught me.”
Building the next generation of leaders at Success Labs
With her passion for creating and sustaining equitable teams, Kim looks forward to working with Success Labs on developing and retaining teams for the long-term future of organizations.
“We’re in a space where culturally competent leadership is essential. We’re a diverse country in race, gender, socioeconomics, and sexual orientation, to name a few, and have to learn how to work together and appreciate everyone’s unique strengths. This will require more conscious, self-aware leaders – leaders who care deeply about the people they work with and for.”
Her career began in the classroom, recognizing that teachers have a huge amount of power to lift up young people for success. And just as teachers have the responsibility to recognize that power, managers also have to recognize it and learn how to build others up. Kim points out that the strongest leaders don’t think of their roles as top-down – they think about how to involve others in decision-making, get to know their people, and utilize the strength that exists throughout the organization.
Kim has now made Baton Rouge home, building community with her husband through their ministry at Vineyard Church and serving on the board of IDEA Public Schools. In her down time, she can be found with a cocktail at Hayride Scandal or sipping a hot beverage at Light House Coffee.
Success Labs is a leadership development and management consulting firm in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For more than 25 years, our expert team of consultants has worked with hundreds of companies to explore their business potential and improve their company and cultural performance. Contact us to get proactive about your people strategy.