How to negotiate with confidence for what you want

The successful story of Elaine Del Valle

One of the best ways to learn how to negotiate in your career is to ask those who have done it successfully. Enter Elaine Del Valle. Award-winning actor, writer, producer and philanthropist.

You think you can’t have your cake and eat it too? Think again. When you are multi talented like Elaine Del Valle, it’s not really about how to negotiate for the roles you want but how to create them. And these roles are not only on stage or on screen but also as a writer and producer of the material she really cares about.

Elaine Del Valle headshot

Elaine Del Valle, actor, writer, producer and philanthropist is a great example of how to negotiate with confidence

Trained as an actor under the legendary Wynn Handman, Elaine wrote and developed her multiple award winning off-Broadway one-woman play “Brownsville Bred“– her true coming of age story set in the tough neighborhood of Brownsville Brooklyn NY. She’s been featured on films such as “Elliot Loves”, in comedies such as the web series “Los Angeles” and in the short film “Stereotypically Me.” Recent television appearances include CBS’s Blue Bloods opposite Donnie Wahlberg Elaine. She has hosted the Annual Hispanic Choice Awards taped for broadcast on CBS. And she also enjoys a long, lucrative voice-over career. Most recently, she licensed the series “Gran’pa Knows Best” to HBO. As a philanthropist, Elaine has raised over a million dollars for children with autism through the charity cycling event she founded The Mansion Ride for Autism Charity Cycling Event.

Having a career as an actor is not easy. When did you learn how to negotiate your roles?

I learned that being an actress, especially an ethnically ambiguous, commercial-looking Latina Actress, yielded little power. It wasn’t until I took on the role of writer that I yielded power. The question for me was not so much how to negotiate a role but how to create a role that fitted my interests and talents on the stage and on screen, and also behind the scenes.

I am best known for writing my autobiographical one-woman play, “Brownsville Bred.” The play has led me down more paths than I can state and is still creating inroads for me. Because it was my true Latina coming of age story, my audiences were privy to me and my life philosophy. It created powerful connections between me and those who saw it.

One such connection was with the Multicultural Media Forum and Time Warner Hispanic Employee Group, Viva. The groups invited me to perform my life story several times…I had the gift of being seen by network people and later being able to call them my friends.

I learned that my Latino community was hungry for a voice, especially a female voice telling a true story. I also learned that the voice was so strong that people remembered it.

Inspirational quote on how to negotiate by Elaine Del Valle . "I went into the meeting with a basic trust. The dealings were never adversarial. We all wanted the same thing."

To learn how to negotiate, you first need to know what you want.

I knew that I had to continue to write and so I created a web series, “Reasons Y I’m Single”. Writing, producing, directing and acting in the series became an impressive feat that marked me as a proven player in what we, in the NY Latino Entertainment inner circle, call “The Latino Media Mafia”. I built my reputation with hard work, fairness, helping others, appreciation and a very Latina Point of View. And getting to that point enabled me to negotiate projects that were always close to my heart.

These days I wear the hat that I need to in order to accomplish my to do lists. Every morning I wake up and say “I run my own studio. Del Valle Productions, Inc.” It has many divisions, and I act on the needs of each division as they arise. It also means I’m constantly negotiating.

Don't miss 3 Key Negotiating Strategies for Women

Where did you learn how to negotiate larger and larger contracts like the one you just signed with HBO? Did you have mentors and coaches that guided you through the process?

When I was going into the negotiation for HBO to license “Gran’pa Knows Best” I did my homework on the network and how to negotiate with it based on its past negotiations. I spoke with three people who had had former dealings with them. They acted as my mentors and coaches. I felt this was important to get a foundation, so that nothing would take me by surprise.

I was reassured each time that HBO was the very best network to deal with, especially for first timers. I went into the meeting with a basic trust. The dealings were never adversarial. We all wanted the same thing: For the series to air on HBO. I didn’t bring in an attorney until the very end, because I learned long ago that attorneys make money when there is conflict and I didn’t want anyone to mess up a relationship that I worked so long to cultivate. I went to the attorney with the contract that I was happy with and consulted with her to ensure that I understood the legal language correctly.

In a way HBO held my hand through the process. They spelled out what they needed and I worked my way through to the fulfillment of their needs. It was a great example of how to negotiate by focusing on the outcome both parties want rather on what only you want.

Read more about coaching and mentoring here!

Tell us a little bit about the series. It’s a first of its kind on HBO, right?

Elaine Del Valle and William D.Caballero, director / creator of "Gran'pa Knows Best", the new HBO series

Elaine Del Valle and William D.Caballero, director / creator of “Gran’pa Knows Best”, the new HBO series

Yes, it is. I am currently in production of Season 2 of Gran’pa Knows Best—A comedy web-series starring a 4 inch 3D printed likeness of our Director/Creator, William D. Caballero’s 87 year old grandfather, Victor Muriel. Originally from Puerto Rico, Muriel voices the character and offers his real advice on various subjects. The series offers viewers an interactive experience as advice seekers. The questions that grandpa answers.on each episode are selected from social media users who post tweets tagging @ask_granpa and using hashtag #GranpaKnowsBest. Those whose questions/topics are selected get featured in an episode by way of their first name and social media profile photo.

The Gran’pa character poses are modeled by Chang Kim, using the computerized Zbrush program, and are printed in polymer resin using 3D printer technology. Each one is hand painted by Amy Yamashiro and Kate Keisel. They are then placed in a miniature model home designed and 3D printed by Seth Burney. Graphic design and text animation by Chris Cookson accompany the voice and real advice of Gran’pa Victor Muriel. William D. Caballero directs the series, filming in macro perspective, alongside dozens of miniature and life size props. B roll is added to enhance the visual and comedic effect.

Elaine Del Valle and William D. Caballero film HBO series GKB

Elaine Del Valle and William D. Caballero film HBO series GKB

Were you nervous about meeting with HBO about how to negotiate with a large media company?

As anyone could imagine the idea of sitting in the offices of a huge, respected network such as HBO could be intimidating. While I was nervous, my years of stage performances afforded me the luxury of being able to work through the nerves. Of reaching a relaxed center that gave me the ability to focus and more importantly, LISTEN. I think listening is the most important thing you can do in any meeting. Active listening allows for organic reaction. Knowing what you want to accomplish in a meeting is important. But being overly rehearsed, can make you anxious to get your point across and never leads to the openness that the best working relationships are built on.

More on negotiation: 3 Sure Fire Negotiating Tips

What were some of the lessons that can help others learn how to negotiate with a much larger counterpart?

Know what you are willing and able to give before you enter the meeting. Click to Tweet
Never over promise. Get a baseline on what to expect, so nothing shocks you out of sorts. Take notes. Use those notes to follow up with. In my case, we negotiated terms and I sent an email that spelled out the agreed upon terms. They were happy to have them and used my notes to develop the contract.

Elaine Del Valle Headshot

Elaine Del Valle has succeeded in her career thanks to finding her voice and letting it be heard

Listen to the needs of the company. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. For a licensing deal, there are insurance requirements, deadlines you have to be able to make, Trademark and copyright, clearances, etc. It is a long and arduous road that I learned a great deal from accomplishing. And I’d add that if you have never negotiated anything important before, seek mentors and coaches who can guide you on how to negotiate.

For many women it’s hard to negotiate salary and contracts. Particularly difficult for women who are in the arts and social sciences. Do you have any suggestions for them?

Research. In my case, I reached out to a friend whose attorney had many negotiations with the company, another colleague who had a deal that did not reach fruition and a friend who had successfully licensed a film to HBO. I learned from listening to all those experiences.

 You can connect with Elaine Del Valle at:

Tweet her @BrownsvilleBred or @Ask_Granpa

Instagram users can follow her on @DelValleProductions. Follow her on Facebook @DelValle Productions & Casting and @GranpaKnowsBest

And Best of all WATCH GRAN’PA KNOWS BEST on HBO Latino, HBO GO, and HBO NOW! New episodes are on every Wednesday at 7:55pm and also air in between programs on HBO Latino.

 

Never shared secrets on how to prepare for a job interview

There are tons of generic tips on how to prepare for the job interview out there. But very little that is this insightful, and particularly addressed to diverse women.

Lily Benjamin

Tips to ace the job interview form Lily Benjamin, one of the top talent management experts

In a room full of people, you may first notice her because of her physical appearance. Tall (5.8 without heels) attractive and vivacious, she looks much younger than her age. But don’t be fooled, her wisdom goes beyond her years. Her young energy coupled with her insights, attracts all types of generations, including Gen Ys, among other diverse groups. Yes, this is Lily Benjamin, one of the most insightful and successful Talent Management and Organization Development executives I’ve met in recent years. Her depth of knowledge and her ability to convert it into concrete advice makes her the ideal person to discuss little known secrets on how to prepare for a job interview, among other subjects.

Lily has over 20 years’ experience in Organization Development, Talent Management, and Diversity and Inclusion. Throughout her career, she has traveled all over the world acquiring a rich international experience while working in multiple industries: health, pharmaceutical, finance, and consumer goods. These experiences have fed her passion for cross cultural leadership development and for building inclusive environments that foster meaningful contributions to the business.

Make sure to check out: 3 Sure-Fire Negotiating tips for Women

What are the three most important things women should keep in mind when they prepare for a job interview?

Ready yourself to bust stereotypes

It is important to recognize that all human beings have biases, some of them are conscious, and others are not. They just need to be effectively managed. As an interviewee, it is important that you are aware of this and anticipate which unconscious biases may pertain to you, and be ready to bust any stereotypes. The way in which you bust those stereotypes is to intentionally bring your uniqueness into the conversation as an asset and discuss how it complements the work you do. For example: “As a woman, I tend to be cautious, yet committed, which makes me reliable…” If it’s a global company and you are Latina, and the job could grow into the Latino market, you can say, “As a Latina I bring the perspective and richness of the Latino market into consideration to help broaden our perspectives…” The ‘busting of stereotypes’ has to be subtle. Do not overdo it, as it could come across as disingenuous and hurt your credibility. A personal example I use to bust whatever stereotype is out there regarding my accent is to directly talk about it. I do so by referencing how speaking several languages has given me insights into the nuances of different cultures. Busting the stereotype of accents is valuable and gives me a competitive advantage in a world where our clients are increasingly more multicultural.

At a job interview bust all stereotypes

Be ready to bust stereotypes that may play against you

Know your audience and prepare for them

Leverage any social media to learn about the interviewer that you will be meeting, the leadership of the company, and the history of the job (if it is public.) Align your examples in a way that is relatable to the person who is interviewing you; that references past experiences of that person as captured in social media, or that are relevant for their generational group, cultural background, and so on. For example, you should read about the communication styles of Baby Boomers, Gen X or Gen Y and be prepared to flex into the uniqueness of their respective styles. The caveat here is that a lot of what you read are generalizations. Don’t forget that each person is an individual. So stay alert to adapt as you deem necessary in case your interviewer does not meet the generalizations that you researched. Always avoid putting everyone in one box.

Promote your personal brand and competitive advantage, tastefully

At the interview you have to ‘sell a product’, and that product is YOU. You must sell your brand and competitive advantage. Be clear on how to communicate both in good taste, without turning people off.

Promoting your personal brand and competitive advantage plays a really big part in preparing for an interview. Could you speak to this?

Your competitive advantage is what makes you unique and the reason why someone should hire you over any other candidate. One of the tools that have been very useful to me is the StrengthFinder from Gallup. Take the test online and identify your strengths. They constitute your competitive advantage. Then consider how that strength can be value added for the job you are interviewing for.

Your brand is the image you want to project in a consistent basis. How do you want people to refer to you when they speak about you? Do they think of you as a trouble-shooter, as a thought partner, as indispensable? Then you need to make sure that you project that image. During the interview you can give clear examples that reinforce your personal brand, and how you want the interviewer to remember you. Ensure the communication of your brand is done with taste, which is what we call ‘healthy self-promotion.’ For example, if they are looking for a trouble-shooter, you may say, “My teams know me as being resourceful and good at trouble-shooting. Whenever there are issues around technology, people tend to reach out to me. I can usually help them resolve the situation, and if I can’t, I find the way to partner with them and sort things out.”

In preparing for an interview remember that you are your own agent.

If you don’t do some healthy self-promotion, no one will do it for you. Generally speaking, it is something hard to do for women and for certain cultures. But remember, potential employers are calling you in to talk about you, provide context, examples, and so on.

From a recruiter’s point of view, what is the one thing women do much more often than men at the interview stage which loses them opportunities to get hired?

In some cultures more than others, women can come across as tentative, apologetic, or not able to effectively balance assertiveness vs aggressiveness. And no one wants to hire an ‘insecure, aggressive’ person. This is an opportunity to bust that stereotype, by not coming across as such. Aim for balance, by reading the impact you are having on your audience and recalibrating accordingly.

Let’s talk about this. Can you share how women can come across as assertive and not be considered aggressive?

Unfortunately, being a woman, even if you are not being aggressive you may be stereotyped as aggressive if you speak up. But don’t panic, this label is also bustable. You just need to be aware of this fact and be intentional with your actions.

Understanding the fine line that distinguishes assertiveness and aggressiveness is a big step towards a successful job interview

Understanding the fine line that distinguishes assertiveness and aggressiveness is a big step towards a successful job interview

First know the difference between the two. Aggressiveness shows up declarative, individualistic, and close minded. In essence, it looks as though a person is pushing their perspective on others. Assertiveness shows up self-assured and confident, yet open and not threatening others’ points of views. In order to do that, you need to be very aware of how you convey your opinion, how it is received, and how people react to it.

I refer to it as you being ‘part of and apart’ from the conversation. That means that while you are confidently communicating your perspective, you are being part of the conversation. When you separate yourself from your perspective to see how others are receiving your words and how they are reacting to you, you take yourself apart. You distance yourself from your perspective and get closer to the perspective of others. So be prepared to share your experience, while reading your environment and checking frequently how you and your stories are been received. Be mindful that when it comes to communication your words only account for 7% of the message, 38% is your tone, while 55% is body language. Be in the look out for how you are received, as well as assess the tone and body language of your interviewer. For example, as Latinas, we can be passionate and extremely expressive, which can be misconstrued as being aggressive. If you are aware of that, it is easier to effectively manage a stereotype by articulating your intend, or what I call “flashing your intention.”

Here’s an example of how to flash your intentions to erase any gaps between them and the impact your communication produces:  “As a Latina I am very passionate about ‘this’, so if you see my expressions changing and my voice raising, is all good. This topic is very close to my heart…”   By articulating your intention, you are preparing the interviewer not to unfavorably jump too quickly to conclusions.

Although the interviewer asks about your past experience, they really want to assess your potential. How do you let them know what you’d be able to do for them and justify it with your past experience?

Organizations that recognize great talent and hire well, value experience yet look for potential. Interviewers look for both. When they choose to recommend you to the next step in the process, their credibility is on the line. Be a good partner from the beginning and support them by representing yourself accurately and demonstrating what you do, as well as what you can do in support of the shared goals. Start by preparing yourself for the process. Have your story organized around what you have done (experience) and what you can do (potential.)

An interviewer asks about your experience but is assessing your potential

To ace the job interview, make sure you address not only your experience but your potential

Demonstrate depth and breadth with examples.

For instance, Marisa, a woman I recently coached, had been part of different teams in her previous job. She had a specialized role in each team, but she understood well the roles of every person as well. The job Marisa applied for required for her to actually do the jobs of all the team members. So during the interview process she shared what she actually did (experience) and put the focus on discussing what she knew of the roles of others, which illustrated to the interviewer what she could do (potential.) She spoke with confidence and authenticity, and she got a job that had responsibilities beyond what she had done before. Due to her successful performance, just recently, her responsibilities have been expanded even further. The caveat here is that you must do your research and know all of those roles you’re speaking about to demonstrate your interest and knowledge on the subject. That’s how you show potential.

What’s the best way to prepare for an interview?

Prepare, prepare, prepare, prepare, and once you are ready, PREPARE!

How to dress

  • Dress on par with expectations, don’t be afraid to dress better than what the job requires.
  • Be conscious of body odors: have fresh breath; smell good but stay away from overwhelming perfumes.
  • Heels are ok, but don’t overdo it; do not wear shoes you will wear to a club.
  • Keep jewelry to basics, don’t have your attire be memorable or compete with what you bring to the organization.

How to present yourself

  • Be on time and mindful of time.
  • Show up organized, with your questions ready for them – have questions categorized on strategy, industry, people, job, structure, cultures, etc.
  • Be the expert of your subject, and show both experience and potential.
  • Read your audience and adjust accordingly to the clues you are picking up.
  • Share relevant names or contacts if they can strengthen your credibility, but don’t come across as a ‘name dropper.’

How to follow up

  • Send personalized, brief, thoughtful thank you notes, one or two days after your interview so you have time to organize your thoughts. 

How to ace the job interview with amazing research

What kind of research will help people ace the job interview?

In order to ace the job interview you must seek to understand the job description, know the industry, know the business, know about their competitors, and learn about the company’s culture.

You are the best at being you. You're powerful. You are strong. You can do anything. Never forget that!

Forget about trying to be someone or something you are not. Interviewers can easily detect your lack of authenticity. You are best at being you.

One of the many ways to learn about the culture is by researching their history, vision, mission, and values; all of this is available online. Leaders set the tone of a corporate culture. So learn about the organization’s leadership and any relevant information that can connect the interview conversation to them. This means, look up the leaders’ career path, where have they been before, what kind of culture those companies have.

If the leaders you are meeting with published something, read it. Then, only if appropriate, mention it to your interviewer and connect it to the job you are going after. This gives you an opportunity to relate to the company and to show you have done your homework, something all interviewers like to see.   In addition, seek to network with people that do the job you are interviewing for in other organizations and ask them questions to help you understand better what the job entails. This practice will help you show your potential by speaking about specifics and possibilities.

What other considerations are critical when preparing for the job interview?

Preparation is essential. Most interviews are behavioral interviews. What that means is that the interviewer is looking for specific examples. The best way to use your time with them effectively and memorably is to come with your examples ready and organized; put them in a CAR. That stands for C = Challenge (situation), A = Actions taken, and R = Results accomplished. And make sure that you stress your role and contributions in the examples.   The interviewer doesn’t necessary need the details, unless he or she asks for them. Be mindful of how you are sharing your CAR, communicate it as an engaging story with a clear ending. For example:

Question: “Give me an example of how you conducted a project you are proud of.

Answer:

  • Challenge: “We needed to establish a Corporate University.”
  • Actions: “It takes a village for this type of projects, so I used my relationship building skills (promoting your personal brand) to create strategic alliances with senior leadership, put in place business cases, put a team together, found a sponsor and budget, created the strategy, and led its implementation.”
  • Results: “Consequently, we created learning opportunities for all segments of the organization— senior leaders, managers, and individual contributors. These increased engagement scores as seen in the Associate Engagement Survey, as well as retention levels. My responsibility was to spearhead and lead the initiative.” (If you have numbers, offer them.)

In this example you have promoted your personal brand with confidence, and succinctly provided a description of the impact that you made in the organization. Have the interviewer ask for details if they need them. Emotions are contagious. Your preparation and ease on how you present yourself will fill you with confidence, which will in turn make the recruiter feel confident about you and more eager to promote you with the hiring manager. Ensure that before you are done, you clearly and succinctly ask about the next steps in the process. Then send a personalized, brief but substantial thank-you note. You have one to two days to do so. Take your time to be thoughtful.

Many people think that to ace the job interview they must only focus on the interviewer but there are many other people involved, right?

 The process starts with the receptionist at the door, and it includes everyone you cross paths with in the hallway, the parking lot attendant, and security personnel as well. Be poised through the entire process and promote your brand with good taste by leaving positive and memorable experiences of you. Be thoughtful when you speak with people or connect with them. All of these considerations are important because the hiring manager will ask others what they think of you. Even if they don’t ask others, and people’s experience of you were either good or bad – in a memorable way – they might volunteer their opinion of you. Once you pass the screening process with the hiring recruiter, find out with whom you are interviewing next. Be mindful that the interviewing process is not only with the people you are scheduled to meet with. In addition, we are talking about your personal brand, so make sure that after you are hired you keep that image of you to strengthen your reputation and grow in your career.

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly- By Robert F.Kennedy

Dare to take risks and you’ll see amazing rewards!

When speaking with the hiring manager or others, it is good practice to ask the interviewer how ‘this role’ (don’t say job, you don’t have the job yet) will interact and support their role. You will be showing partnership and collaboration.

When gathering your thoughts to write the thank you note. Make sure that you took good notes during the interviews on topics or conversations that you feel were important to the interviewer and relevant to the job. Go back home and do some research about those topics. If you find a brief yet relevant article on that particular subject, share the link and make the connection with its relevancy regarding the position in your thank you note. That will demonstrate thoughtfulness, partnership, and resourcefulness. It will show your interest in learning and demonstrate healthy levels of ambition; this combination is inspiring and welcomed.

If you need coaching to get you ready for the job interview, consider signing up for our RSM Step Up Program. We'll help you be you. Amplified!

Any final words?

You are the expert on YOU and know the value that you add to teams and organizations. They are looking to learn more about you, from you. So don’t be nervous, be confident.

Remember that while the interviewers are making their assessments, you too have the opportunity to assess if the organization is a good fit for you. Take every job interviewing opportunity seriously; the interviewing process is a job that you must excel at. If you are not selected, having had a good experience will further prepare you for the dream job that is awaiting you. So be positive and welcome each opportunity. This perspective should strengthen your confidence so you can be at your best.

You are the one who makes your future happen. Go for it! Best of luck!

You can connect with Lily Benjamin on LinkedIn

Finding Your Passion: The True Door to Success

Nothing makes better company than a good storyteller. And there’s no better way to become one than finding your passion and purpose.

Let’s face it: One of the reasons why you may not be as successful in your career as you wish is because you may not have made finding your professional passion a priority. When you stop to think for a moment about what really intrigues you, what interests you, what engages you in a way that time dissolves between your fingers, what do you come up with? Are you involved with “that” (whatever it is) in your professional life? Or is what you do when you leave work?

Finding Your Passion is the true door to success

TSalon’s founder Miriam Novalle

Many people weren’t raised with a mindset that made finding your passion a priority. And in many areas of society and the world, women still aren’t encouraged to go down that path. We grew up with predetermined ideas of what we could and couldn’t do or what we should or shouldn’t study. Many of us got to were we are by putting one foot in front of the next: high school, college major, Master’s degree… Only the very lucky ones discovered early on what their passion was. The rest of us just got here. So if when you take stock of your life you realize that your most treasured activity happens outside of work, it’s very unlikely that your career is as successful as you wished it were.

Today we talk with a woman who oozes passion from every pore of her body. That passion is tea. But before tea it was fragrances. Miriam Novalle, founder of T Salon, is not only one of the most successful women in business in New York but one of the most inspiring people you’ll ever meet. She’s a consummate storyteller, something that happens naturally when finding your passion in your career.

Finding your passion and purpose with your nose

Let’s start at the beginning. Before you founded T Salon. How did your professional career start?

During the early 70’s two of my dear friends and I inherited a 400 seat movie theater in the Catskills. Out of nowhere we were selecting our favorite movies and creating concerts on the weekends, building an organic health bar and living out our fantasies, Always staying true to our passions and sharing that with our fans.

Would you like to know how Finding Your Passion changes everything? read on!

TSalon at Chelsea Market

I moved from the Catskills to Woodstock where I met a lady who was developing and creating essential oils. I knew then that I had found my true-hearted passion. In 1975 I opened up the first “Body Shop”-style store in Woodstock NY, We blended and created fragrances out of essential oils that were sold alone and added to lotions, bubble baths and love oils. As the business grew, so did the product line to include lingerie and women’s accessories. It grew from one store to five.

In 1982 I sold the concept to Sears and Roebuck. They failed at it royally because they were a self-service store and the product needed a hands-on sales team.

If you’d like to read about another very successful woman in the chocolate business, don’t miss this interview with the founder of Mariebelle, one of the most iconic NYC chocolate boutiques and now a global empire!

What does it mean to be “a Nose”?

A nose is someone who can smell and define flowers, herbs, and barks, and understand their level of intensity. It’s someone with the ability to know how to mix and blend these smells into a successful perfume.

TSalon loose tea samples- Finding your passion is not a one-time thing. Your passion may change along your life.

TSalon loose tea samples- Finding your passion is not a one-time thing. Your passion may change along your life.

I am a self-taught “nose”. I opened my senses to the universe and developed a fine ability to create notes for fragrances and blends of perfumes. My nose was later insured by Lords of London for a million dollars because of its value to the industry.

Want some additional incentives to follow your passion? Read this blog to learn how finding your passion changes everything!

Was finding your professional passion a one time thing or did you have to look for another passion once you changed industries?

Yes, fragrances were a passion of mine. But my true love has always been and still is – painting. I sold my first art installation to Chase Manhattan Bank. I traded my art and abilities while I was in school at Lorenzo de Medici in Florence Italy for a used BMW. (The dealership wanted their family portrait painted.)

I showed my work at the Royal Academy in London. I also concluded a 2 -year study in studio arts in NYC and learned to collaborate with other artists to create installations, knowledge which I would later use to design and create all my packaging for my tea business.

Leverage your passion. Read the top qualities of a leader, explore this blog!

From fragrances to tea

What was the turning point when you decided to get into tea?

My sister was about to marry a man from Liverpool England. I was going to school in Florence at the time, and went to meet her new family and about to be husband.

We had something that I’d heard of but had never been treated to personally, “Afternoon Tea.” What a delight of tastes and smells and tea. Wow. We had scones, Devon cream, jams, and small tea sandwiches, along with tea. Except that the tea was an awful, dark water with loads of sugar and milk. I then realized where to put my nose and my palette of colors: into the tea biz!

Love and passion of what I do fuels the fire within- Quote by Miriam Novalle

Love and passion of what I do fuels the fire within- Quote by Miriam Novalle

How did your experience in the fragrance industry help you in the tea business?

I was blessed and honored to partner with Herb Albert of A&M. He wanted to create a personalized perfume. I would put up my nose and he would fund it. We became partners and we launched a successful, first ever, celebrity perfume called “Listen.” What an amazing ride.

I learned that notes of fragrance were similar to notes of tea. Both fill the senses.

Fragrances to me are on the emotional side, they have a memory of someone that you once loved, someone that you met in a fleeting moment, and the only thing you can recall is that fragrance whiffing by, or that pillow the next morning… Tea to me has the same memory, it’s the morning after, it’s the sitting in that quiet place with yourself or someone else. It is as ancient as the fragrance industry.

Tea is thousands of years old. It was drunk by the old Tibetan teachers, and Buddhist monks in order to achieve wonderfully long and silent meditations. I think they both have historical value. We are steeped in history with both products.

You went from having the largest tea salon in the world to having no stores. Were these adjustments you made in order to continue finding your passion and purpose?

TSalon Private label lines

TSalon Private label lines

“Adjustment” is an understatement. It was a true internal ride to avoid falling into the depths of depression when you think that you have failed and wonder where did you go wrong. It was a process to realize that you have the ability to manifest what you believe in is a great product, but in a different format. To give others the ability to communicate your passion in a different viral way through social networking, newsletters, blogs, mentoring, through your website, through creating pop-up stores, through other stores carrying your product, through hotels serving them in their lounges, restaurants and spas.

Do you ever get bored? How do you continue to fuel your passion?

Never, never do I ever get bored. I collaborate with so many amazing folks daily on new ideas, new ways to bring tea to the forefront. Ideas flow out of my head every day. Love and passion of what I do fuels the fire within…

If you manage Millennials, here's a great piece on how to leverage their enthusiasm and passion!

Advantages of successful women in business

Are there any gender advantages that successful women in business share?

Internal intuition!!!! Vibrationally, women of the past and women of the future speak the same language. We could do anything we put our hearts into… We have big hearts and we are the elders who share our wisdom with the younger generation, and we rock!

You are very interested in health and sustainability. Tell us about some of the initiatives you’re involved with.

Do we have all afternoon? I’m on the board of The American Sustainable Business Council. We go to the White House to speak to men up on the hill on sustainability, on women in business, on making a difference for the next generation.

I’m involved with Urban Zen created by Donna Karan. Bringing yoga and tea to hospitals, wellness centers, and educating the health practitioners to understand there are many ways of healing the body and mind, and tea is big factor.

You’ve had and continue to have a fascinating life. Do you find the stories or do the stories find you?

Both. I think when you’re truly in your skin your life becomes a story.

You can connect with Miriam Novalle at:

asktealady@gmail.com

Facebook

Twitter – @TSalonNYC @TSalonLA

 

How finding your passion changes everything

Want to know how finding your passion changes everything? Hear it straight from this 92-year old Guinness World Record holder, art-teacher who thinks age is just a three-letter word!

Before I met Conni Gordon, there was only one 90+ woman who had completely changed my mind about aging. My great-aunt Marietta Abeles. One of the most beautiful women I ever met, who at 94 continues to give me fashion advice. (And relationship advice too if you want to know the truth!) I’ll talk about Marietta in another post because once you see her picture you’ll want to know how finding your passion in life changes everything. Most noticeably, how you feel about yourself and about what life has to offer at every age.

 

How finding your passion changes everything | My great-aunt, Marietta Abeles, who at 94 gives everyone fashion advice. You can see why!

My great-aunt, Marietta Abeles, who at 94 gives everyone fashion advice. You can see why!

But I digress. Today is all about Conni. Another vibrant 90 + woman who holds the Guinness World Record for the World’s Most Prolific Arts Teacher. She taught 17 million people how to paint. Read that again. It’s the equivalent to the entire population of Chile! Undoubtedly, Conni is the epitome of how finding your own passion leads to a happy, healthy, and long life. A veteran of World War II, Conni has taught President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter, Sammy Davis Jr., Roger Moore, Larry King and many, many others. She’s appeared on more talk shows than any other person alive and is getting ready for an appearance on Univision, as she tries to share her amazing methodology with the Hispanic market.

How Finding your passion really changes everything

Conni Gordon, at 92 teaches us how finding your passion changes everything!

Conni Gordon, at 92 teaches us how finding your passion changes everything!

Did you know you had a passion for painting when you were young?

Yes, for painting and music. My dad was a theatrical agent. He hired strippers and other entertainment acts and someone had to accompany these women while they were practicing on stage. So I played the piano, the accordion and the organ to help him out. I tell you, everyone should have a childhood like mine, so free of prejudice!

I also had a Kindergarten teacher who got me interested in painting. The decision to choose painting over music came to me quickly when I was in finishing school in France. They told me that if I wanted to be a pianist I had to practice 12-14 hours a day. That was it. I became the fastest artist in the world!

Painting by Connie Gordon. Finding your passion is he key to a long, happy life.

Painting by Connie Gordon. Finding your passion is he key to a long, happy life.

And then you got a Guinness World Record for helping millions of people learn to paint fast!

Yes, that’s true. I was interested in being on top, being head of this or that, the valedictorian. It was always a challenge to be up front. Not in the back.

Finding your true passion

So when did you realize that your passion was more for teaching others than being an artist yourself?

Most artists want to paint for themselves and that was never my aim. From very early on, when I saw the women that came through my dad’s business looking all the same, I decided I was going to do something nobody else in the world had done. That was a passion that developed when I was 12, 13, 14 years old. It was about giving back to others. To me it was always more important to do for others, to help them improve their self-esteem, and make them feel that they could do more than they thought they could do, than it was to become an artist myself.

You are constantly developing materials, techniques and concepts to help people create art. Tell us a bit about that…

My interest is to develop concepts that a person who knows nothing about art can create. It’s a technique. My passion is opening the world of art to millions of people around the world. I’m very good with materials. So I developed materials to teach people to paint even when they are blind. Their paintings had become a way for them to make a living.

And I also developed a creative thinking method called TILS, which is a simplified approach to Mind Mapping and it helps people find solutions to their problems.

Throughout my career, I’ve always balanced between taking a high paying gig in a Fortune 500 company and a free presentation to people who need help.

How to find your passion

Why do you think so many people have trouble finding their passion?

Conni Gordon quote: If your attitude is that life has passed you by, then it has.

Unwrap every day like it’s a gift, suggests Conni Gordon

They don’t think for themselves. They accept what the family or friends tell them. People are afraid to look within themselves. If you have a hobby you enjoy why don’t you think about it as a business? Think about it. What could you do to turn it into a business?

What has been the biggest learning for you in teaching so many million people tap into their inner artist?

Painting by Conni Gordon

Painting by Conni Gordon

The fact that most teachers don’t give their students a feeling of immediate success! They talk about technical terms, they make it complicated. My thing is help people do something where they see the result right away. You can’t fool people. When they come out with a picture they can recognize they get interested in finding out more. (That’s why I stay in the realm of realistic art.)

What would you say to someone who’s trying to answer the question, “How to find your passion?”

To look into their heart and answer these questions: What do you really, really love to do? What keeps you happy? Being by yourself, or in a group? What makes you different? What talent do you have? Do you want to help others or do you want to live a selfish life? Those are the questions that lead to finding your true passion.

How has winning the Guinness World Record impacted your career?

It has been very important because it was the highest recognition at an official level you can get. Everyone knows if it’s in there it has been researched. It’s proof. It has made me proud and it helped in selling and convincing other people that may be my method has power. All that without paid advertising!

Have you felt at any point that your mission of teaching people to paint became a burden?

Conni Gordon-GRUMBACHER

Conni Gordon-GRUMBACHER

The only burden is that I’m growing older and I can’t go around the world as I used to! But I do it through books (they’ve sold 17 million copies!) online, and I franchised the method to someone in Russia, Lithuania, and San Diego. And I’m now training Cecilia Bertomeu, who I met while she was taking classes with me, to continue my work.

What would you say to women who think that their age is an impediment for starting something new, better aligned with their passion?

Age is a three-letter word that doesn’t mean a thing. It’s your attitude. If your attitude is that life has passed you by, then it has. If you look forward to opening up every day as a gift, then it will keep you going. You need to have something planned to look forward to everyday.

Blaze A Unique Career Path All the Way to the Top

You can’t put her in a neat box. She doesn’t fit any Latina stereotype or female stereotype for that matter. Hers is a unique career path that she blazed one step at a time. Get inspired! Read on!

How often do you meet someone who’s excited about their career and a few minutes later you scratch your head perplexed: How did she get that job? When you look at her resume it’s hard to figure out how she went from one position to the next. It’s obvious to you she followed an unusual career path. She probably broke every rule any recruiter would ever advice you to follow. And yet… she’s wildly successful. Not only because she has a fantastic job but mostly because she loves what she does and it shows. Maybe that has been her secret all along. Pay no attention to the rules, the naysayers, or the box makers. Just define a unique career path that suits your personality, your multiple interests and talents and voila! You got yourself a happy life.

Cosette Gutierrez, an amazing example of unique career path. Get inspired! Read on!

Cosette Gutierrez, an amazing example of unique career path

So who is she? And what does her unique career path look like?

Cosette Gutiérrez, Senior Group Manager, Community Relations at Target (in charge of Target’s Education giving across key markets in the Northeast Region), a Member of the Board of Directors at the Association of Corporate Contributions Professionals, and Chairman Emeritus, National Board of Directors of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs.   That’s for her current occupations.

Here’s what we mean by a different career path. Prior to her current position, Cosette was a Store Team leader at Target, Senior VP at Bank of America, Commodity Manager at Honeywell International, Assistant VP at Citibank, and Product Coordinator at H. Muehlstein and Company. Her education? A BS from MIT and MBA from Indiana University. Yup. A Latina graduate from MIT who went from managing the procurement of Natural Rubber from Indonesia to banking to retail to philanthropy in one sweep lifetime.

Cosette Gutierrez

Cosette Gutierrez

Are unique paths created with a master plan?

How did this happen? Did you have a master plan for your career or did it just turn out to be a unique without you realizing it?

I definitely did not have a master plan for what my career would be like! I have always been flexible and eager to try new things, which led me to many opportunities. I always focus on a very simple formula for achieving success: Performance + Passion = Promotion.   Performance is about working hard, and striving to be the best at every job you have. You will never get to the next great job without being a rock star in the one you have today. Passion is about loving what you do, every day! If you don’t love the job, it is time to find another one. Life is too short to be doing something that you don’t love! When you perform, and you are passionate, it shows, and that’s how you will get that next role, where you’ll begin the formula again…Performance + Passion = Promotion!

What allowed you to think that you could break away from any preconceived notions of what your career should look like?

Believing in myself and my capabilities, and learning to not take “no” for an answer! If there is something that I want to do, but don’t know how, then I focus on learning how to do it. I’ve always been an avid learner, and focused on filling “my toolbox” with all kinds of skills. Some you use often, others not, but you have them there, and you’d be surprised when they are needed! Like public speaking for example. People always compliment me on my ability to speak to any audience, ranging from an intimate gathering around a dinner table, to a large room of thousands.

Cosette Dec 2014 American Latino Influencer Awards Miami

Cosette Dec 2014 American Latino Influencer Awards Miami

They are also surprised when I tell them I was an introvert as a child and hated speaking in public. While in college, I knew this skill would be very valuable, so I took an acting class, where I learned how to think and speak on my feet, as well as memorizing lines, and manage my emotions. At the time, my MIT classmates teased me about my “acting class”. Fast forward to today, I am very grateful for that experience as it allows me to shine in all that I do!

Sometimes being the first person in your family to do something makes it harder to stray away from the known paths and pick a unique career path

Were you the first in your family to go to college? Did that give you more or less freedom to choose a different career?

Neither of my parents completed high school. My aunts and uncles attended college in our native Dominican Republic, and my great grandfather was a self-taught doctor, so we knew that it was in my genes J. Navigating the U.S. college system was not easy, but I was extremely fortunate to have a mom who believed in me, and always pushed me to achieve more. She knew that education was the key to success in the United States, and I was encouraged to study, many times at the expense of being with friends, and going to parties. I grew up watching my mom work in the bridal business, something which brought her much joy, and she always told me to “do what you love darling”. So, as I began to navigate different career options, her questions were always “Do you like the job? Will it make you happy? Are the people nice?” Of course, she usually followed up with “I hope the pay is good”! As long as I answered yes to her questions, I knew that I’d be okay. Thank goodness, it has turned out better than okay!

Her unique career path took Cosette Gutierrez to her current job at Target. Here, about to get on the Target Jet! Read her story!

Her unique career path took Cosette Gutierrez to her current job at Target. Here, about to get on the Target Jet!

What would you say is the secret to your success? And let’s not chuck it to luck.

I mentioned Performance and Passion before, and will reinforce that Performance is critical to success. Work, work, work, work – successful people work really hard! My experience has been that successful people aren’t hanging around resting on their successes. Once they achieve something they have been pursuing, they move onto the next achievement.   In addition to hard work, having great mentors and listening to them, especially when you do not like what they have to say, is part of the success equation. I have been blessed to have strong mentors in my life, leaders who believed in me, and supported me in some of my craziest adventures. My motto on mentors is simple…if your mentors only tell you that you are awesome, it’s time to find other mentors. Find people who care enough to give you true feedback and push you to take risks that you wouldn’t think of taking.

FInd out how to find corporate mentors and career sponsors.

Cosette Gutierrez Quote on Mentors

Cosette Gutierrez Quote on Mentors

What would you say to women who don’t fit in a box? What’s the best way to go about creating your unique work path even when you have few role models to show you how to do it?

My recommendation is to make your own box! It’s much more fun that way than trying to fit into someone else’s box. I love it when people say to me “you did what?!?” Your life is only yours to live, and you should do so with no regrets. I’m saddened by people who live lives that are less than what they want or what they are capable of. There are too many people in our society who are happy with being average. Don’t settle! Take risks, and don’t be afraid to fail. There are learnings in every failure. The key is to not make the same mistakes twice.  Lastly, do not be afraid of asking others for help. You are probably not the first person to experience the situation that you are in, and for those of us who have been there before, it would be our pleasure (and our responsibility) to help you. You are never alone!

You can follow Cosette Gutiérrez on Twitter: @CosetteNYC

If you want to discover your unique career path, explore the RSM Step Up Program. You’ll be amazed at how fun it can be to start your own discovery journey. It’s You. Amplified!