Human Resources Management Articles on a variety of HR topics, Diversity and inclusion, leadership and more, offered by the Red Shoe Movement

Self Promotion is a Leadership Competency – Striking the right tone

Effective self-promotion, is essential for success, yet one of the main hurdles for women in business to overcome.

Most women have grown up with the idea that hard work will get them noticed. When in fact it is the strategic, effective, and explicit promotion of their achievements and their potential what gets women’s hard work noticed. The key, of course, is that all of it must be presented in an appropriate manner and context.

Unfortunately, this misconception around self-promotion is pervasive throughout all levels of an organization. A study on senior executive women conducted by Women of Influence suggests that the same challenges faced by many women in middle management still surface among women in senior management roles. The well-known secret for the sustainability of a successful career (regardless of gender or level in the organization,) however, is in fact ongoing self-promotion paired with political shrewdness.

Self promotion inspirational quote by Lily Benjamin - Communicating your accomplishments and value proposition doesn't only benefit you; it also benefits your team, peers and the organization

Understanding the real definition of self-promotion enables you to take full advantage of its power for career growth.

Redefining self-promotion

So it’s time to redefine self-promotion in order to really understand what it entails and learn how to do it gracefully, strategically, and effectively.

First, self-promotion is a leadership competency

The competency of self-promotion encompasses acting with intent, being assertive, and negotiating along the way. These are all fundamental leadership skills to influence vital stakeholders and gain access to networks in order to advance shared business goals.

Second, it’s not just about you

Communicating your accomplishments and value proposition doesn’t only benefit you; it also benefits your team, peers, and the organization. Any leader without this competency cannot actively engage others when promoting and selling her/his vision. The impact of a team is a clear indication of its leader’s abilities. Hence, when a leader promotes the accomplishment of their team, they are not only motivating their people but they are also indirectly promoting their own leadership capabilities.

Get over fear of speaking in public so you can effectively use self-promotion anywhere.

The challenge of self-promotion for women

Charlotte du Val d'Ognes by Marie Denise Villers from the MetMuseum Collection

Women were not raised to self-promote. We need to change that! Painting: Charlotte du Val d’Ognes by Marie Denise Villers from the MetMuseum Collection-

The concept of self-promotion is particularly taxing for women because they are not only challenged with the genetic predisposition to ‘tend or befriend’ that results in them putting others before themselves, but also with social norms of humility and modesty. This is very different from what men experience. Their genetic predisposition drives them to ‘fight or flight’, which generally means they put themselves before others, while social norms encourage their bragging rights. These are some of the main reasons why men are not only inclined to self-promote but when they do, they are perceived as competent and impressive. Whereas when women do the same they are perceived negatively as showoffs.

Being gender intelligent is essential to break through this inevitable genetic and social conundrum, as self-promotion is critical for a successful career path and for greater impact on business results.

Though we can’t change genetic predispositions, through awareness and behavior modification we can address social norms to successfully display a sense of self-worth, confidence, and competence.

Learning about being more assertive can help you master self-promotion.

Myths

Generally speaking, women admit that often the greatest barriers to effectively self-promote are themselves. But it’s also true that a lot of the social norms and myths reinforce these obstacles. So, let’s debunk several of those myths about self-promotion.

Myths about self-promotion
Myth Rationalization Fact
The Bitch “Self promotion will make me look arrogant.” Self-promotion done well is essential to a successful career. It gives the opportunity for others to learn and benefit from your contributions.
The Princess “If I’m good enough, people will hear about it.” (The princess waits for her knight…) Women need to take action to promote their contributions, rather than wait for the recognition to come to them. People are too busy to notice the contributions of others. No one can advocate better for your attributes than you can.
The Friends and Family ”Others (people who know me) should talk about my accomplishments, not me.” Relying on word of mouth alone, without influencing the key messages can be counter productive.   Effectively owning and promoting your personal brand and value to others, pays off big dividends.
The Martyr “You can’t control what people think anyway.” Women can influence what others think of them, by believing in themselves and displaying confidence through the quality of your work. The impact they have on other people, their teams, and organizations will strengthen your personal brand.
Self Promotion quote by Lily Benjamin

Achieving the competency of self-promotion is key to your career success

Your take away on self-promotion…

Self-promotion is an essential leadership skill. Learn how to believe on your strengths and attributes, while observing the impact you have on others and on business results. Then, share the value you and others add. Strengthen this leadership skill to further strengthen your confidence and reputation, while enjoying your continued success!

Look out for my upcoming post on successful self-promotion strategies!

5 Tips for Dealing with Emotional Outbursts at Work

Supporting someone’s ambitions when they have emotional outbursts at work is a challenge. But that’s exactly the time when you get to show your leadership.

Dealing with emotional outbursts at work is never easy. I give you that. But it’s a chance to show your leadership chops. Will you put the good of the team above your own ego or will you give into your own need to establish your authority?

Parody of The Scream by artist Meowza

Parody of The Scream by artist Meowza

Emotional outbursts have a way of arising in the least practical moments. Naturally, when people are most stressed over important deadlines or key decisions or situations, there’s a tendency for emotions to flare up. Or for any little thing to become the straw that breaks the camel’s back, which results in an unpleasant emotional outburst.

I recently finished a mayor project, a milestone in my career. A day 20 years in the making, let alone the several weeks leading to the celebration for which I had invested lots of preparation and energy. The day was here and everything was going smoothly. Then suddenly, one of my team members confronted me with the fact that I was not treating her the way she expected to be treated. She was having an emotional breakdown over this. It stopped me in my tracks. Really? At the very moment when I was celebrating a major achievement I had to deal with an emotional outburst? Well, that’s exactly how it usually goes, isn’t it? When you least need it… But then again, what is the right time for emotional outbursts in the workplace?

Here’s a post on Recognizing a Hostile Work Environment you might like.
Resolving conflict inspirational quote - Listening, honestly listening, is a critical piece of resolving conflict

How good a listener are you?

I realized immediately that to deal with my own stress that day I had adopted a “shorthand” style of communication that came across as imperative. I trusted that my colleague would be able to decode the fact that this was a temporary style change due to the demanding circumstances I was facing. (My bad, because we didn’t know each other that well yet.) I apologized right away. But she wouldn’t stop.

I could see that something else was at play with her. Regardless of what her perception was of how I treated her, I’m also aware that nothing I did deserved such an overreaction. I may have been short. Never abusive. And nothing that would justify such an emotional outburst. Nothing that couldn’t have waited a couple of hours to get resolved.

5 tips for dealing with emotional outbursts in your organization

This topic is particularly relevant when managing Latinos and other ethnicities who are known to have a more passionate communication style. At times that passion may come across as an emotional outburst when it’s only an expression of what they care about. And the truth is that you don’t want to eliminate passion from the workplace because it is what moves people and in the end, what makes it an interesting place to work. But there’s a difference between expressing your emotions and having an emotional outburst. So your role is to help people learn to modulate their emotional temperature to be more effective communicators.

These are 5 of the actions that have served me well whenever confronted by emotional outbursts in a professional setting.

1Breathe

Yup, that’s my first suggestion. Breathe and center yourself. Be present. Let go of whatever else is going on and focus on the here and now. On this person in front of you (or on the phone) who, if not dealt with in an adequate fashion, might turn a bad situation into a much worse one. After you focus for a moment you might decide this is not your biggest problem right now, and that’s fine. But you need to take a couple of breaths to decide that.

2Give people the benefit of the doubt

Head of a Woman by Pablo Picasso at the Met

Allowing the expression of emotions in the workplace is important. It’s emotional outbursts that we must learn to control.

All of us, particularly women, are subject to so many pressures from so many fronts all the time that there are likely many aspects of their lives you ignore. We expect people to leave their personal problems at the door but if people did that, you’d be working with robots. So you have to take individuals as a whole. And again, emotions are good indicators of what people care about. We are only talking about their most extreme expression. That’s why my next suggestion is that when someone behaves inappropriately you give them the benefit of the doubt at least once.

Faced with emotional outbursts or overreactions, stop for a second and entertain the possibility that there might be something else at play that has nothing to do with you. Not that this gives people a pass to have an emotional flare up at work but it may help you better understand their circumstances and be more lenient. You still will need to have a conversation about modulating emotional temperature and not taking things so personally. But it will help you put away your own feelings and temptation to overreact yourself.

3Don’t add fuel to the fire.

Emotions quote by Maya Angelou - People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel

When an emotional outburst makes someone feel horrible, they will remember and it will affect your professional future.

Listening, honestly listening, is always a critical piece of resolving conflicts. And for that to happen, the person who is having the emotional outburst needs to feel she’s not being ignored. At this point, avoid debating, contradicting or asking for explanations. Admit that you hear what they are saying and that this is not the right time to discuss the topic any further. Make sure the person understands this is not a delay tactic but a commitment to address the issue at a more appropriate time. Then, follow through.

4Don’t draw lines in the sand.

When someone is pushing your buttons at the wrong time it obviously requires a good amount of self-control to avoid the need to give ultimatums and draw lines in the sand. Once again, a trait shared by strong leaders and which reveals solid executive presence in those aspiring to be leaders. So exercise self-control for a better outcome.

5Have the conversation

Set up the meeting to have the conversation you promised them and calmly ask the person to reflect on what happened that day. Let them come to the realization that regardless of who was right or wrong, there is no room for emotional outbursts at work. This is a chance for them to identify their own triggers and find ways to better manage stress and deal with conflicts to avoid future emotional outbursts.

Overcoming emotional outbursts quote - This too shall pass... so take a deep breath

Leaders have a chance to show their skills when they deal well with emotional outbursts

During this conversation, you might want to share some of the consequences of emotional outbursts in a professional setting:

  • Erosion of professional reputation
  • Perception that she lacks self control, therefore executive presence and potential loss of future opportunities
  • Damage to one’s personal brand
  • Damage to team morale
  • Don’t miss this HBR wonderful piece on emotional outbursts!

Since the day of the emotional outburst my colleague has produced great work for me. It was a learning occasion for both of us but it has undoubtedly planted red flags in my mind in regards to assigning her future high stakes projects. And this is the message you must strive to convey to women in your team. When you give into the heat of the moment and have an emotional outburst at work, you impacting your career long term. So think twice before you jump off the deep end.

Beyond the Traditional Executive Presence Definition

Quite often, the standards for promotion of diverse talent are stricter than for the average employee. Expanding the traditional executive presence definition will help you grow your organization’s brain.

In this article we will cover the definition of executive presence and the impact this traditional executive presence definition has on diversity talent, particularly in women.

Myrna, a highly educated Latina professional, with impressive credentials and a track record of accomplishments, was in a career development path but was denied the opportunity to move to the next level because “she didn’t have executive presence.” This is a true story (although I changed the name of the protagonist to respect her privacy) and one that many people with diverse backgrounds can relate to.

white men and white woman in suits

We need to expand the narrow executive presence definition to allow for a diversity of gender, backgrounds and styles

The truth is that the real reason for which Myrna wasn’t offered the promotion was the fact that she was assessed against the outdated standards of the executive presence definition. Her merits and accomplishments were never questioned, only the fact that she displayed executive presence in a different way than expected. The outcome of her assessment was that she did not meet the conventional criteria to be considered “leadership material,” that she lacked “leadership presence,” the “It” factor, or the “je ne sais quoi” needed to be promoted to the next level.

As a result of her performance review Myrna received “another” chance to earn her promotion, but not surprisingly, “the chance” had nothing to do with addressing her leadership presence or with a suggestion that she went to executive presence training. The standards for her promotion were stricter than for the average employee in the organization. Myrna was given a series of challenging projects to prove herself again-and-again and demonstrate that she was worthy of the next level, which always seemed to be one additional challenge away.

Executive Presence pillars

Executive Presence pillars

In a study conducted by The Center for Talent Innovation 268 senior executive participants said executive presence contributed 26% to career advancement. One of their conclusions was that executive presence is the link between merit and success.

The Three Pillars of Executive Presence

This research suggests that there are three pillars of executive presence:

Communication: How we share information

Appearance: How we look

Gravitas: How we impress others.

As simple as these three pillars sound, they show up very differently depending on the lens you use to evaluate a person.

Let’s take a look at how communication, appearance, and gravitas show up in high and low context cultures. (“High” and “Low” refers to communication styles, while “Context” refers to how circumstances or facts are explained during communication.) For example, in high context cultures –Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America— messages are communicated indirectly and implicitly with metaphors, analogies, and symbols. In low context cultures —United States, Canada Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland for instance— communication is more direct, concise, and explicit with frequent use of facts and specific examples.

Hand holding colored gears

Look at your talent through a diversity lens

In a high context culture communication styles are notably different than the styles of people from a low context culture. Africans can feel that the Dutch insult their intelligence by explaining the obvious, while the Dutch can feel that African leaders provide no information. In Myrna’s case, the American executives responsible for approving her promotion found Myrna to be secretive and unforthcoming with information while Myrna found the American executives to be offensively blunt. These examples only highlight the element of communication and culture. We are not yet discussing how the addition of other diverse characteristics such as gender, sexual orientation, or age could further influence how a person’s communication impacts their executive presence.

The combination of diverse traits makes precise recognition and evaluation of the three executive presence pillars (communication, appearance, and gravitas) even harder. The traditional and narrow executive presence definition does not allow for the diversity lens to be applied to these three pillars.

Effective global leaders, however, are keenly aware of the complexity of these assessments, the need to use a diversity lens, and the importance of avoiding generalizations.

They redefine executive presence, champion diverse expression of leadership presence, and provide everyone a fair chance to be promoted based on how their authentic self contributes to the business objectives.

A couple of these effective global leaders were the ones that championed and coached Myrna, helping her get to the next level. These leaders were willing and able to see beyond the obvious, understand, and reward Myrna’s genuine executive presence.

Don't miss our Executive Presence Quiz, ideal to use with your women employees.

How to embrace an updated executive presence definition

How could you become one of these effective leaders with an uncanny ability to spot executive presence by transcending the narrow definition that keeps top talent out of the leadership track? Well, there are several actions you can take to objectively assess people’s leadership potential, honoring their uniqueness while enriching the thinking power of the organization.

Effective global leaders are fully aware of the need to use a diversity lens when assessing executive presence

Executive presence quote by Lily Benjamin

  • Provide constructive feedback. Build people by focusing on their strengths. Discuss what is working and what could be adjusted. For instance, “You have a very effective way of commanding the room (Gravitas) – give a specific example. During the presentation to the senior management group, last Friday, however, your report was too generic (Communication.) Unfortunately, that came across as though you had not done your homework or as if you didn’t want to provide specific information. This made you seem aloof to the needs of the audience and out of touch. Also, next time you have a meeting with this group, dress up more formally – a suit will work better with this audience (Appearance.) The combination of providing the correct and necessary information, while being dressed more on par for this audience, will enhance your executive presence and will help them connect with you.”
  • Provide executive sponsorship. Be the agent of your top talent. Talk about their strengths when they are in or out of the room. Highlight the value they add to the teams and the organization. Humanize them by sharing unique, valuable and relatable traits. Provide strategic public recognition. This means, ensure that in public settings this person gets appropriately praised for their merits and executive presence. Be their biggest Champion. Give others the language or qualifiers you want your talent’s brand to be remembered by. For example, “Myrna is a very influential and effective leader. She is credible and reliable. I trust her to do things right in any sensitive situation.”
  • Demystify the traditional (and very narrow) executive presence definition. A good way to spot authentic executive presence, regardless of diverse backgrounds, is to distinguish between myths and facts. Be mindful of the facts that can transcend any diverse element. By that I mean tangible diverse elements such as gender, sexual orientation, age, race, etc. or intangible elements such as diversity of thoughts, and diversity of styles in areas such as learning, communication, decision making, conflict resolutions, and so on. Below find a few myths and facts on executive presence.

Executive Presence

Myths

Facts

Bold: Shows a strong demeanor, vivid appearance, and ability to take risks Confidence: Is self-assured, calm, composed, with grace under fire
Vocal: Expresses opinions or feelings freely and emphatically, drawing people’s attention Clear Communicator: Shares substantive information, with great foresight, engaging and motivating people into action
Self-promoter: Publicizes self in a compelling and persuasive way Credible: Is authentic and persuades people, also ensuring that others get credit
Sophisticated: Demonstrates knowledge on and ability to discuss complex issues with ease Emotionally Intelligent: Is aware of, can control, and express emotions. Leads from the heart and head with empathy
Popular: Is liked, admired, accepted by many people, based on skills or knowledge Outstanding Reputation: Is known for her character, trustworthiness, and track record of accomplishments
Commanding: Expresses and projects authority, imposing points of view Assertive: Speaks up, expressing and owning feelings and opinions openly
Tenacious: Is determined and holds on firmly to positions and courses of action Courageous: Is not deterred by consequences of protecting principles and shared goals
The RSM Step Up Plus helps develop diverse women year-round.

Let's broaden the executive presence definition! In order to diversify your executive levels you must expand the narrow executive presence definition

In order to diversify your executive levels you must expand the narrow executive presence definition

After being coached and championed, Myrna learned to communicate and use her strategic authentic-self more effectively, which strengthened her professional brand. A year later, she was able to turn her “naysayers” into “yea-sayers.” The leader that had denied her promotion became her biggest champion, seeing beyond Myrna’s cultural mannerisms and focusing on her contributions instead. Myrna now heads up a global function in a Fortune 500 company.

Cracking the code on how to spot executive presence regardless of your talent’s background will allow you to rip the benefits of their full potential. Most importantly, it will help you ensure that the organization leverages a vast diversity of thought to transform and grow.

 

How Latina Speakers Are Born – The Mariela Dabbah story

I frequently get asked how I became a speaker. There aren’t that many Latina speakers out there so I understand that regardless of the topic of my presentation, my audience is curious.

A Latina speaker is born

I came to the U.S. 25 years ago with two suitcases, a Master’s Degree in Philosophy and Literature and a new husband. The first job I landed, as secretary at a bilingual book distributor, sealed my future. It was such a small business that I got to do everything and develop a whole array of skills. Four years later, when the owner decided to retire, my now ex-husband and I bought the company in monthly installments.

Mariela Dabbah Latina speaker presents at high school in Texas

Mariela Dabbah, Latina speaker, presents at high school in Texas

As we distributed books to schools we quickly realized immigrant parents needed to be made aware of the importance of being involved in their kids’ education. We developed a series of workshops to teach parents a wide range of topics from how the education system worked to how to encourage their children to do homework. And everything in between.

Observing how easily parents shared their struggles with me, I discovered that I had a knack for connecting with my audience. And the best part: I enjoyed speaking in public. And that’s how I became one of the few Latina speakers in the country.

Mariela Dabbah’s path to become one of a few Latina speakers was full of twists and turns

I spent several years presenting parent workshops across the country. My most defining moment as a speaker was a training I did for the Yup-ik community in Alaska. I did a ton of research before I ventured across the continent to a little community called Napaskiak whose inhabitants still survive on fishing and hunting.

Latina speaker elicits reaction from audience at Tesoro Corporation | Audience reaction to keynote presentation at Tesoro Corporation, event organized by NSHMBA

Latina speaker elicits reaction from audience at Tesoro Corporation

Librarians and parents flew in from all over a school district the size of the state of Ohio. They came to hear me, a Hispanic speaker who didn’t have any children, speak about parent involvement. I spoke in English with a Spanish accent and we had interpreters translate everything into Yup-ik. It was during that trip that I fully grasped that I was able to reach any audience regardless of culture, language or background.

And for the first time I also realized that I wanted to have a career as a speaker.

Mariela Dabbah: From writing to public speaking

The reality is that it’s not easy to make a living as a public speaker. Much less so if you are one of few Latina speakers with a narrow focus. So I needed to expand the topics I covered and gain credibility in the space. I began teaching a course at a local college on how to get a job in the U.S. and soon realized that, much like with education, there was a need out there for immigrants to connect the dots. To understand how the system worked.

Mariela Dabbah Latina Speaker

Mariela Dabbah Latina Speaker

It was easy to see that writing a book on the subject would give me the credibility I needed. I developed the right connections until I was offered the chance to write such book: How to Get a Job in the U.S., Guide for Latinos.

As soon as the book was published I started doing workshops and presentations at community colleges and libraries, which helped me shape and refine my public speaking skills. Simultaneously, I began contributing media segments on CNN, Univision, Telemundo and other media to continue raising my profile as a speaker.

Shortly after, my publisher asked me to write a book to help parents understand the education system and I wrote: How to Help Your Children Succeed in School. After that came, Help Your Children Succeed in High School and Go to College and Latinos in College: Your Guide to Success.

Mariela Dabbah motivational speaker presents to parents with McDonald RMHC HACER scholarship

Mariela Dabbah motivational speaker presents to parents with McDonald RMHC HACER scholarship

By then, I was such a familiar face in Hispanic media that McDonald’s hired me as their spokesperson for their RMHC /HACER scholarships. I traveled the country doing parent outreach presentations in Spanish and English in front of hundreds of parents. That work helped me raise my profile as a Latina speaker to the next level.

Read about how motivational speakers make money

Hispanic speaker who speaks to anyone who will listen

Every one of my books opened up an entire new world of possibilities. Each one provided an additional layer of understanding and empathy towards yet another audience. From jobseekers to immigrant parents trying to help their kids, to students as young as third grade all the way up to graduate school, to Latinos who worked in large corporations (The Latino Advantage in the Workplace) to women looking to succeed in their careers (Find Your Inner Red Shoes.)

Mariela Dabbah, Hispanic Motivational Speaker, signs books at Harvard Business Club

Mariela Dabbah, Hispanic Motivational Speaker, signs books at Harvard Business Club

Learning about the experiences of different people is the most fascinating aspect of my work. On the one hand it forces me to be a lifelong learner and on the other it enables me to easily connect the dots. Because I’ve researched and worked with people at such a wide range of life-stages I can see the larger picture.

Since the launch of the Red Shoe Movement most of my work as a speaker is in corporations around women’s career advancement and success. The topics include networking, branding, women empowerment, career advancement, negotiation, executive presence and work-life integration. And of course, I continue to speak to college students, professional organizations and parents.

Public speaking at Vital Voices El Salvador

Public speaking at Vital Voices El Salvador

Being a Hispanic Motivational speaker

My goal is to inspire my audience to fulfill their dreams. I do it by provoking “aha” moments and by sharing subtle insights, concrete tools and resources. I’ve never called myself a Hispanic motivational speaker even though I get excited when people feel motivated by my presentations. I believe that if you call yourself a Hispanic motivational speaker you set up the expectation that you will only get people hyped up, a feeling that tends to be short-lived. I prefer to offer actionable tools to help people move to the next level of their lives and careers.

Reaching all audiences as a motivational speaker

Reaching all audiences as a motivational speaker

Are you looking to become a public speaker?

If you’re reading this because you’re considering a career as a public speaker — or to be one of the few Latina speakers to boot— I have a few suggestions for you:

  • Think of an area you’re passionate about, like health, finances, love, or beauty.
  • Identify a few topics within the area that really interest you. In health, for example, it could be exercise, or natural foods.
  • Learn as much as you can about your chosen topics.
  • Decide how you will raise your profile and gain credibility as an expert in the topic. It could be by offering a podcast, webinars, publishing a book, writing for highly reputable media, etc.
  • Join your local Toastmasters to develop your skills.
Mariela Dabbah Keynote speaker at Hispanic Retail 360

Mariela Dabbah Keynote speaker at Hispanic Retail 360

  • Start small and practice. As you gain confidence you can venture in front of larger and larger groups. The biggest mistake I ever made was to do my first parent workshop in front of a large audience. I was new to public speaking and freaked out because I didn’t know how to speak while holding a microphone. I spoke so fast, people couldn’t understand a word I was saying so they got up and left. The more people I lost, the faster I spoke until there were only three or four parents left. I was devastated.
  • Talk to colleagues to get an idea of how much you should charge every step of the way. Latina speakers particularly need to consult with white men because they command the highest fees. Develop a group of trusted colleagues with whom you can share this sensitive information.
 Here's an article about How to become a motivational speaker that you might enjoy.

Granted, public speaking is not for the faint of heart. But if you have a powerful message to share and love to be up there connecting with an audience, it’s an adrenaline rush like few others. Prepare for it and you’ll do great!

 

How engaging men in your career will take you to the next level!

There’s no question that engaging men in your career must be a top priority if you want to move up the ladder.

In the last few years, a lot has been said about the need for women to have career sponsors and not only mentors. I’d venture to say that this is even truer for multicultural talent. Being on the radar of career sponsors goes a long way when it comes to being tapped for powerful opportunities. But you shouldn’t wait until a career sponsor comes along. You should be doing amazing things that make you visible to them. Like what? Well, like seeking cross-functional opportunities to shine, stretching yourself and leaving a great impression. Through it all you should be engaging men in your career. Some of these men will become your sponsors, others your mentors, and others will just be amazing colleagues that will make your journey a lot more enjoyable.

Gerard Borda on engaging men in women's initiatives | Discover how engaging men in your career will take you to the next level!

Gerard Borda on engaging men in women’s initiatives

I had a chance to talk to Gerard Borda, Head of Talent Management for Veritiv, an industry-leading B2B distributor of packaging, print, facility, publishing and print management solutions in North America, and former VP Leadership Development at Sun Trust Bank. A man who’s very interested in Diversity and Inclusion and who’s been a long-term strategic partner of women in the organizations where he’s worked. We talked about engaging men in your career as one of the best ways to achieve your goals.

What’s the best way for a woman to get you to support her career goals?

I’d like to have interacted with her prior to her request. It’s always better if I have seen her work or if I have worked with her in some way. It’s easier to support someone who shows initiative to learn more about my work in the organization. And it doesn’t have to be something formal. There are so many opportunities to interact with someone who works in your own organization. You could do it at a town hall meeting. It could be casual, like for example coming up to me to ask me about what I’m working on, or if I did a presentation and they come up afterwards to comment on something I said. It shows initiative and that’s important.

The science behind engaging men gender initiatives.

What doesn’t work at engaging men in your career?

Desperation. It’s okay to be unhappy in your job, I get that. But when someone comes to me because they are drowning in their career and they try to reach out to me solely as a life vest, that’s a turn off.

And also just because something is urgent on their calendar, it doesn’t mean it’s urgent on mine. If someone I don’t know approaches me to meet immediately, I might postpone the appointment on purpose to see how they react to the unexpected. I want to know if they appear frustrated or upset because of the last minute change.  Then I wait to see if they reschedule or follow up. If they don’t, it lets me see that it wasn’t that important to them after all, so why should it be important to me.

Men and women together for success. Discover how engaging men in your career will take you to the next level!

Get on the radar of career sponsors and make sure you engage men in your career

When do you feel you’re most effective as a partner of Corporate-sponsored women initiatives?

Like any corporate initiative, I have to see that there is clarity of goals, and understand how they see my role. I want to be clear about what they are trying to accomplish, the way in which they plan to do it, and make sure I believe it.

But it’s very much influenced by the organization because we all have very limited time. When an initiative is supported by the C-suite, then people are committed. But when you are being told this is something you have to do, (and it’s just the flavor of the month,) an executive sponsor will only give it little time. It’s the difference between compliance and advocacy.

What makes you want to get involved?

I believe in inclusion. I’ve been the beneficiary of inclusion and have seen first hand the effect of being a minority. I get that the world isn’t fair. I get that some people experience privilege and that their networks give them a leg up. But I’ve also seen that that privilege doesn’t guarantee anything.

What do you do to show your support for a woman’s career ambitions?

I will help a woman see the realities of the organization and ask her if she’s willing to adapt to that reality. The truth is that the organization is not going to change for one individual. It only changes over time. I help people define their values and priorities given where they are at in their lives and career.  I then offer my perspective on the values and priorities of the organization. Using these two points, I help them try to navigate the different opportunities available.

Discover how engaging men in your career will take you to the next level! Men wearing red shoes to show support for women's career success

These are some of the amazing men who show their support for women’s career advancement by wearing red shoes on Tuesdays! Identify your allies in your organization.

What suggestions do you have for women who are seeking the support of the male executives in the organization?

If you’re looking for an advocate for your career, that’s something you don’t formally ask for. It starts with your performance. Executives recognize good performance. You get on their radar because you make their success synonymous with your success.

In addition, women need to know what they want and what is required by the company to achieve what they want. If the role requires you to relocate, and work late nights, you better figure out how you will do that if that’s your priority.

On the other hand, executives need to evaluate if that position really requires relocation, working late nights, etc., or if they are not being creative enough to figure out a different way to get the job done. There are some roles that have requirements that are non-negotiable (for instance, sales people need to be in front of client,) but oftentimes that’s not the case. The reality may be that the organization is not progressive enough to adjust to the woman’s life stage and offer alternatives to avoid losing that talent.

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What suggestions do you have for women’s assertiveness not to be misconstrued as aggressiveness?

Look for other assertive women who are viewed positively and observe how they communicate, how they strategize inside and outside of a meeting to win sponsorship for their ideas. Being assertive means to put forth your point of view in a convincing way to influence your stakeholders. Women have to find their voice and use it effectively. I find they listen more actively and have greater collaboration tendencies, two skills, particularly useful in the world we live in. So they can use those skills to gain support for their ideas.