Anese Cavanaugh | Active Choices, Inc.

“Illuminating the Journey and Impact of Anese Cavanaugh, Award-Winning Author and Speaker, Advisor, and CEO of Active Choices: Redefining Leadership through Intentional Energetic Presence® and the IEP Method®.”

Anese Cavanaugh hails from Rocklin, Calif. and has made her mark as a prominent business advisor, founder, and CEO of Active Choices, Inc. She is a future-focused expert in leadership and culture transformation and also an award-winning author and keynote speaker. 

Anese is the creator of the IEP Method®, founder of the Positive Energy Workplace Initiative™, and devoted to innovative, human-centered frameworks for the workplaces of today. She serves as an advisor, teacher, and strategic partner to some of the most forward-thinking companies and business leaders today — from organizations on the Global 2000 list to entrepreneurial groups and impact-focused teams. Top innovators and executives call on Anese and her team to learn how to communicate more effectively, be better leaders, and create healthier workplace cultures.

Anese has published four books and written a robust library of articles focused on creating authentically positive energy workplaces. Her insightful contributions have been featured in esteemed publications, including Inc. Magazine, Forbes, Financial Times, HBR, Huffington Post, Business Insider, and other business and leadership publications. 

Tell us about Active Choices and how you decided to create this brand?

Active Choices was founded in 2002, marking our 21st anniversary this year. The inspiration for the company emerged from my background in health, productivity, corporate health promotion, performance optimization, and change management. My son was two years old at that time and, after working in these arenas, I desired a path that allowed me the freedom to devote my creative energy in the spaces that I knew could create the most impact, while also providing more flexibility for my family.

I identified and amalgamated highlights from these various work experiences and combined them with the skills I knew (and had witnessed) as essential to creating effective results in business and leadership. I built the company and methodology around these best practices with the intention to serve leaders and organizations who wanted to be better.  

What is the IEP Method®? And how does it help create a “Positive Energy Workplace”?

The IEP Method was born from years of experience working with leaders who were taught that their skills and credentials were the most important assets they had. I saw the challenge with this mindset when I observed highly “skilled” leaders — many with excellent professional pedigrees — who were exhausted and falling short of their goals. Their people felt unseen, unimportant, and uninspired. I saw again and again leaders experiencing burnout, attrition, poor collaboration, and ultimately subpar products, services, and results.

In the methodology, a person’s most essential “skills” are actually in the intentions they set, the energy they bring to interactions (and how they take care with their own energy), and their presence (how they “show up” in a room). These three factors create one’s “IEP” and, when your intentions, energy, and presence are aligned, all skills, credentials, and competencies are amplified.

When leaders and teams use the IEP framework to embody clear intentions, positive healthy energy, and present-mindedness, they cultivate an authentically positive energy workforce that flows, creates great results, and helps everyone feel good in all areas of their lives. We’ve partnered with hundreds of companies and thousands of people and find this result to be true again and again.

What are some significant transformations that occurred in your personal and business growth journey?

In my journey as a mom, entrepreneur, author, and mentor, I’ve experienced a range of transformations, especially when I started the company. I lacked knowledge and experience around running a business and selling to clients. In my initial attempts, I built the product and infrastructure, and then waited for the phone to ring.

I eventually accepted another role, only to witness business inquiries for my private practice coming in six months later. I’d quit too soon! My learning? Pick up the phone, ask for help, make sure you’re clear about what you want to create, and don’t quit. Get curious about what’s limiting you, and find another way to make it happen.

After becoming a mom, I felt limiting beliefs show up around my ability to be a good parent and business leader at the same time. I focused on being intentionally present in all aspects: If I was working, I was with my work; if I was with my son, I was fully with my son. 

My realization was that if I prioritized being fully present in any situation, felt clear on my intentions, took care of myself, and managed my energy, it alleviated stress AND facilitated success. With this approach, I actually had more energy and was more effective in both roles! 

Now, I more consistently prioritize self-care, practice grounding, set clear intentions, and practice presence and energetic self-leadership. This experience (and learnings from working with leaders) was the initial foundation for the IEP Method (Intentional Energetic Presence), which became a pivotal evolution for our company. 

Another evolution occurred In 2009: a client opted out of using the IEP methodology, and we set aside the curriculum to honor their preference. Within two months, I noticed issues affecting their team dynamics, employee engagement scores, and the quality of output the team was creating. I proposed a reset and we reintroduced the IEP methodology. After one month, positive changes were evident, and the leaders acknowledged and admitted that earlier adoption could have yielded even better results. This marked a turning point — we prioritized the methodology as the foundation for our culture work, which led to creating the Positive Energy Workplace Initiative.

You navigated the challenges of being a working mother over twenty years ago. How was the landscape different then, and what advice would you offer to women facing similar challenges today?

Over two decades ago there was a lot of skepticism about women’s ability to successfully juggle both career and motherhood. The societal narrative often conveyed that it was challenging for women to excel in both realms. 

My advice for women facing similar challenges today is to be kind to yourself. Focus on clear intentions and align with your true desires (rather than external expectations). Let your knowingness be stronger than others’ doubts. Notice any self-imposed limitations while you authentically navigate this journey.

I also like to emphasize being of service — both to others and oneself. Balancing self-care with a dedication to serving others creates a resilient form of leadership. 

What are “positive energy workplaces”? Can you elaborate on this initiative and your vision for creating more positive work environments?

The Positive Energy Workplace Initiative is a commitment to support authentic, positive energy in workplaces, regardless of size. I believe this is essential to our future as a human race. We spend too much time at work to have it be something that is not life-giving and fulfilling, and in my experience, so much of the drama and dissatisfaction and burnout that happens in the workplace is wildly preventable.

Organizations may join the initiative and our community network, and experience membership programs, training tracks, and pursue Positive Energy Leadership Certification. The core premise is that by sharing our knowledge and creating a network of accountability to practice the IEP methodology in our work and personal lives, we collectively contribute to a corporate revolution — creating a generation of authentically positive energy workplaces and healthy organizational cultures. 

In an era with many discontented employees, I believe workplaces can be a source of inspiration and fulfillment when leaders prioritize the fundamentals of IEP along with solid business practices. Our vision is to propagate this methodology and continue to develop a network around the world of workplaces where individuals can perform their best, align with organizational goals, be healthy, and end their work day feeling fulfilled.

Photography Credit Jacqueline Pilar

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