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We’re passionate about the world of work, and how we can make it better. To help satisfy our curiosity, we’ve launched an interview series where we pick the brains of experienced leaders, business owners, managers, and individual contributors to get their thoughts on how we can collectively build better.

Cara Barnes

Join us in our next installment below as Cara Barnes, Founder and Chief People Officer at Good Carma Consulting LLC, shares her sage advice.

We’d love to get to know you a bit better, tell us a bit about your backstory.

Hi, I’m Cara Barnes, Founder and Chief People Officer at Good Carma Consulting LLC. I believe that our actions and intentions today directly influence our future, and I started my company because I wanted to help small businesses build a solid foundation to ensure a more sustainable future.

I work with small startups who simply need someone to take point and provide hands-on support for any people-related projects. The clients that see the most value in my services are those who are in a transition stage. They need help with company identity, vision, mission statements, and values or more assistance with attracting and retaining top-quality employees. Or simply need assistance in building out their HR foundation.

I love what I do and I’m good at it because I get energy from meeting new people and have a knack for turning ideas into action. 

cara barnes surfing graphic
Cara encourages companies to incorporate play and authenticity into their employee experience—and she leads by example.

If we were to ask a friend to describe your personality to us, what would they say?

I actually did an exercise recently asking 50 of my friends, family, coworkers, and clients to pick 7-10 words that best described me and I matched them as close to the Clifton Strengths Results. These were what continually popped up: Activator, Empathy, Connection, Creativity, Developer, Humor, Harmony, Innovation, Integrity, and Positivity. I also asked them when was the last time they saw me really light up and most of them had a story about me talking to people with similar interests. 

Thinking back to your career journey, what’s an interesting story that stands out?

I think I will always remember when I worked as a receptionist for an accounting firm. It was my first “real” office job in the city and I wasn’t quite good at it. Being an administrative assistant takes some real skill and there are some people who just excel in this career choice, I just wasn't one of them. Not only was the professional work environment new to me but I was working with professionals that were quite serious most of the time. These were accountants and the nature of their jobs meant that they caught all of the small details. Each of the partners had their own idiosyncrasies and a way they did things, even down to the type of font to use on their mailers to their clients. I remember being so afraid to make a mistake.

Until one day, they hired an outside consultant to help with their Business Development and I was in charge of managing the partners calendars and was assigned to work directly with this consultant. He got to know me more, learned about my interests, my strengths, and found that I was better suited as a Business Development Coordinator. Just like that my role was switched. I started taking more ownership on Business Development, Marketing, and Sales Training and it came to me naturally. I wasn't just good at it, I was REALLY GOOD at it and I LOVED it! 

I remember he told me that oftentimes corporations don’t take the time to learn more about their people and their interests. It's a shame because they can truly miss out on the skills and talent that's already there. He ended up being a mentor, and I still utilize a lot of his teachings with my current clients.

This story stands out the most to me, obviously because it gave me direction in my career, but more importantly, it made me want to pay it forward. I told myself that I would be a mentor one day. That I would help find something that was uniquely special to someone and help bring it to light. I remember feeling grateful for being seen and valued, and I want to help someone else feel that same way.

What’s the most impactful lesson you've learned over your career thus far?

Be your authentic self. Sounds cheesy but it's true. Whenever I’ve followed my gut it has steered me in the right direction. I found that being myself, got me the best clients, the best sales deals, and the best opportunities. Being true to myself, allowed me to feel comfortable around C-level executives. This allowed me to learn from brilliant people who were more successful than I was and exposed me to so many different types of people and experiences. I honestly believe that when I chose to be my authentic self it not only made me happier but I became more successful because of it.

Thanks for giving us some insight into who you are! Let’s jump into things. When you hear the phrase “build a better world of work”, what comes to mind?

I think the pandemic really sped things up in a way that pushed for a better world of work. On the top of my head I think, flexibility, competitive salaries, equal pay, room for growth, career advancements, benefits, trained managers on empathy and conflict resolution, and a culture that is built on integrity.

How can we build a better world of work? Please share at least one idea.

On a federal level, I think having Universal Healthcare would make a big difference - It relieves the burden from small businesses to provide benefits that are extremely expensive and use that money on other areas like training, perks, etc.  I also think that happier employees make for better business and giving them access to affordable therapy would help the world of work.

Another way would simply be to have open communication without fear of retaliation. An openness to diverse ideas and a culture where it's ok to question leadership. 

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For you, what’s the main blocker you see as standing in the way of building a better world of work?


How do you see miscommunication as holding us back from building a better world of work?

From my experience, most of the founders and CEOs I work with want to do what’s best for their employees, but don’t have true insight into their people. For example, even a small team could have 3 different generations that they manage with various backgrounds and demographics and their ideal world of work can vary from each of them. Is it free beer and ping pong tables or is it more education that these employees want? Who’s to say one is more important than the other?

A lot of times, conflict can also happen from poor choice of words or phrasing. Especially organizations that have a global workforce. Things can get lost in translation when feeding information up the ladder from middle management or in team collaborations.

How would you recommend someone overcome miscommunication in their team or organization?

There should be a system in place that tracks employee feedback. Survey quarterly and communicate back any concerns employees are having. There should also be an open door policy and safe space for employees to voice concerns or even express what they enjoy about their job.

From a DE&I perspective, it’s not enough to do mandatory training. Having “coffee chats”, “bag lunches” or team events make a big difference in company morale and make for a better world of work.  

Cara Barnes Interview Quote Graphic

And more importantly, training on empathy, written email etiquette, and conflict resolution is a must for management.

Can you share one thing you’ve experienced, seen, or read about that is leading us towards a better world of work?

The personal is blending into the professional. People are getting more real and more open. You can see this shift in Linkedin for example, posts about the realities of being a working mother, dealing with mental health, or struggling with the political climate. More open discussions about race, gender, and how to combat harassment at work is becoming more so the norm. Because of this openness, there's been a lot more flexibility in how we communicate in the office. There's a push for more flexible work hours. More incentives to help provide student loan assistance, child care, well-being reimbursements, etc. for their employees.

I’m curious, thinking about building a better world of work, is there a company and/or leader who stands out to you as someone we should follow? If so, what are they up to?

Salesforce seems to really understand what it takes to attract and retain their people. Salesforce is giving back to their communities and they provide a great work-life balance. They provide pretty competitive salaries, with respectable PTOs and even do well-being reimbursements.

What is the one thing we can start doing today to build a better world of work?

Be a good person. I highly recommend everyone to read “The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday. The stoics believe that our one vocation in life is to be a good person and yet we become experts on how to avoid doing it. 

How can our readers follow your work?

They can find me through these mediums:

Thank you for adding your voice to People Managing People’s interview series on How to Build a Better World of Work!

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By Tim Reitsma

Tim has deep experience in HR, people & culture, leadership, business strategy and operations with a focus on building great teams who are excited about their craft and their organization. With over 15 years of leadership experience, Tim has always been guided by his core values: faith, family, curiosity, and fun. He is a coach, mentor, speaker, advisor, and an active volunteer in his community. Tim loves spending time outdoors with his wife and two kids as well as mountain biking in the north shore mountains.