#WomensMarch: When Words Create Realities You Can’t Ignore

If you didn’t know there was a #WomensMarch in Washington DC and in major cities across the country and the world January 21, it’s time to get out of your head.

A powerful #WomensMarch with massive number of people marched peacefully in NYC on January 21, 2017

A powerful #WomensMarch with massive number of people marched peacefully in NYC on January 21, 2017

After the election of Donald Trump as President, many Americans and people around the world have been in shock. I have to admit I’ve been one of them. Wondering what’s going to happen to the rights of women and minorities once this man who has insulted just about everyone assumes office. Wondering if I could avoid the media for the next four years to avoid hearing yet another distortion of reality. As many people,  I didn’t even pay much attention to the #WomensMarch organization until the very last possible minute.

Words matter. Love is always a powerful word when hate speech threatens tolerance.

Words matter. Love is always a powerful word when hate speech threatens tolerance.

All that stops today. I’m an immigrant, I’m an American, I’m a woman. I’m a Latina. I’m a leader. So today I marched in the #WomensMarch in New York not to chant that Trump is not my President. Because he is. Right now he’s the President of all Americans.

Why I marched at the #WomensMarch in NYC

I marched in #WomensMarch NYC to show I care about words.

I marched in #WomensMarch NYC to show I care about words.

I marched in the #WomensMarch in New York City to show I care about words. That the words Mr. Trump said during the long presidential campaign meant something. That words create realities out of fake news and have the power to incite hate, fear and division. I marched to show that I care about open and implicit threats against Muslims, Mexicans, women, people with disabilities, and others. That this country hasn’t spent decades promoting tolerance around the world and at home to suddenly start advocating for the exact opposite.

And I marched because what we all saw and heard in the months leading to this election warrants vigilance on the part of the American people. It warrants that we all have our representatives on speed dial so that the moment we see something that goes against our values and beliefs we let them know. “This is what democracy looks like,” as many marchers were chanting today. Only by staying on top of sensitive issues and letting our voices heard in a consistent basis will we keep our democracy working for all of us in the long run. I marched to show that we can use words to help heal the divisions and the fear that has become evident as of late. That we can create a future that works for all of us.

If you care about Diversity and Inclusion, don't sit out this conversation.

If you care about Diversity and Inclusion, don’t sit out this conversation.

What to do after #WomensMarch

For those who sat this election out, it’s time to jump in. Find something you can do to be the change you seek. For those who voted for Mr. Trump believing he was the solution to all you think is wrong about our country, stay alert. Hold your candidate’s feet to the fire. Demand that he makes good on his promises.  For those who are feeling disempowered and think there’s little you can do, think local. Get involved in your local government. You can exercise immense influence in your local and state politics and stop your legislature from passing unfair laws that then move across the country.

Read about recognizing a hostile work environment here.

For anyone who cares about an inclusive world where America’s diversity is at the core of it’s global advantage, this #WomensMarch is just the beginning. We are in the process of redefining who we are and who we want to be. Don’t sit that conversation out. Your words can make a world of difference. Let them be heard.

Here are 10 actions you can do in 100 days to keep the conversation going.
Inclusive families are part of the fabric of our beautiful country. They marched to show they care about everyone's rights.

Inclusive families are part of the fabric of our beautiful country. They marched to show they care about everyone’s rights.

Ace Proper Introductions with the Best Kept Insights

If you’re serious about building your personal brand, learning to ace proper introductions is a must. Elevating someone else’s profile is a win-win situation. Here’s how to do it well!

First, let’s get on the same page. When I stress the importance of learning how to do proper introductions, I don’t just refer to etiquette. Which of course, we’ll cover here in a minute. I’m also referring to learning what to say about the people you’re introducing.

Way too often people miss a prime opportunity to look good by making others shine. It’s such a gracious thing to do that it has always puzzled me that so few people know how to do it well. One occasion to make others look great is when you introduce them. Whether it is during the introduction of a speaker at a large conference, an individual contributor at an internal meeting, or a colleague at a cocktail party, by conducting proper introductions you stand out as a powerful professional and a great connector.

Always know what to say about others in order to make not only the proper introductions but memorable introductions.

Always know what to say about others in order to make not only the proper introductions but memorable introductions.

The etiquette of proper introductions

So let’s get the protocol down first and focus on what to say about the people you introduce later.

1After you name the person with higher hierarchy in the conversation, the person considered of lower rank or social hierarchy should be introduced to the person of higher rank. Meaning: Introduce the younger analyst to the senior executive. The proper introduction would be: “Mrs. Peters, let me introduce to you Martin Smith, one of our brilliant analysts. Martin, this is Mrs. Alice Peters, our Senior Vice President of Marketing.”

2A work colleague should be introduced to a client: “Julia, let me introduce you to Margaret Thomson, one of the most brilliant marketers in our company. Margaret, as you know, Julia Rodríguez is our largest distributor in the Midwest.”

3Introduce your newest acquaintance to someone you know better. When introducing colleagues at an informal occasion, name first the colleague you met most recently (or are less familiar with.) “Johanna, let me introduce you to Glen Williams. He’s new at our firm and could use some friends. Glen, Johanna Gómez has been a great mentor of mine for most of my career.” If you forgot the name of your latest acquaintance, you can look at them as you are making the introduction and say: “Sorry, what was your full name again?”

4If they are of similar hierarchy, introduce men to women as a sign of deference. “John, let me introduce you to Sonia.”

5In a social context, younger people are introduced to older people. Your boyfriend to your aunt. “Aunt Letty, let me introduce you to John, my boyfriend. John, this is my mother’s sister, aunt Letty.”

6Also in a social setting, it’s a sign of proper introduction to present your friends to your family. Here, your family has “higher hierarchy” than your friends.

And just a note: When you are at a social gathering, wait for an opening before you make your introduction. It’s best to avoid interrupting someone who is engaged in conversation as they won’t be as receptive.

Make it your business to know what to say about others to make them interesting to those to whom you're introducing them.

Make it your business to know what to say about others to make them interesting to those to whom you’re introducing them.

What to say about the people you are introducing

Now that we’ve covered the etiquette around proper introductions, let’s focus on the important task of what to say about those you are introducing. Keep in mind that even though the stated purpose of the introduction is for two people to meet or for a group of people to learn something about a speaker before he/she presents, there are many benefits of being introduced rather than introducing yourself.

  • It’s easier for others to compliment your performance, speak of your reputation or put you on a pedestal than for you to do it yourself.
  • It conveys immediate credibility.
  • It conveys authority.

As the situations can vary widely, here are three tips that apply to the majority of cases.

1Learn as much as you can about the person you are introducing to someone of higher hierarchy. Then phrase it in a way that underscores their unique contributions. “Alice, this is Keisha Lawrence, the engineer who came up with the solution to avoid the delay in our product launch. I know we are all grateful that we launched on time, but I thought you’d like to meet the person who made it possible. Keisha, Alice is our Senior VP. She’s been a champion of this product from the beginning.”

2Express the common ground. As you’re hopefully introducing two people so they can carry out a conversation without further intervention on your part, make sure to mention the reason you think they should connect. It could relate to work, hobbies, shared experiences or people they know in common. “Tom, meet Lisa Jenkins, the head of HR at Acme Inc. She’s looking for a new D&I program and I told her about the success you’ve been having with the latest initiative you brought to your organization. Lisa, this is Tom Collins, VP of HR at XYC Corp.”

3When introducing speakers, highlight a few amazing accomplishments. Express how honored you are that they’re presenting for this particular audience. Quite often, event organizers let timing constraints interfere with proper presentations. They skip through them with phrases like: “Well, I’ll let Tim introduce himself.” Or “I’m only going to say a few things because I know you want to hear Carolina speak and not me.”

Read about my story as a Latina speaker here.

Don’t fool yourself. This reeks of lack of preparation. It reflects poorly on you and it puts your speaker in an awkward situation. Why? Because one of the benefits of a proper introduction is that it conveys authority. It leaves a fertile terrain for the speaker to present their content from a place of inherent trust. Do it properly and you make their job much easier. As a result, the speaker will be grateful and your colleagues will want to be on the receiving end of one of your future introductions.

Without a doubt conducting proper introductions is a unique chance to show your leadership while shining the light on others. Now it’s your turn to put these insights into practice. So, who will you introduce next?

How to give constructive feedback to a colleague effectively

As a Human Resources Executive, people frequently ask me: How can I give constructive feedback to a colleague without hurting them? Today I share with you how to do it successfully.

There’s no doubt that our current networks of multidisciplinary and diverse teams enrich our work and promote innovative solutions. The constant interaction with others to reach common goals, however, has its own challenges. One of them is evidenced when we know a colleague could benefit from some constructive feedback about a behavior that affects their work, and we don’t know the best way to deliver it.

One of the Red Shoe Movement’s 7 Principles is anchored around the value of feedback. It encourages us to give honest feedback to other women in our network avoiding hurtful or unnecessary criticism. And the core RSM methodology (the RSM Circles,) is partly based on ongoing feedback among colleagues.

Giving constructive feedback is a cornerstone of the 7 Principles of the RSM

Giving constructive feedback is a cornerstone of the 7 Principles of the RSM

In fact, due to our social nature, humans tend to look for external validation and are motivated by what others have to say. There is plenty of research around this. One survey conducted this year by the international leadership consulting firm Zenger/Folkman found out that 65% of the people surveyed would like to receive more feedback, and 57% said they preferred to get feedback about what they need to improve rather than what they do well.

To give effective feedback is one of the most generous gifts one can offer a colleague. To give feedback in a constructive way, however, you must keep in mind certain rules. The secret for feedback to be delivered effectively can be found in the answer to these three questions.

Three questions help you provide constructive feedback effectively

Three questions help you provide constructive feedback effectively

1Is my colleague open to receiving feedback?

The first thing to consider when thinking about giving feedback to a peer is whether they are emotionally open to receiving it, particularly if your feedback is about something that they need to improve or change in the future. Despite a positive intent to help, your feedback might be touching on a sensitive topic. It is worth noting that often at work we get to know only one aspect of the other person’s reality. We are usually unaware of other areas of their personal history, past experiences, beliefs, and limitations. That’s why it’s important, s to ask if the other person is open to feedback. Here’s how you could frame the question,, “Louise, I have some observations related to the presentation you gave on Monday. Would you be interested in discussing them?”

2Do I have specific and objective information to give constructive feedback?

If our colleague is willing to receive feedback, it is important to offer it properly. For that to happen you must have thorough information about the situation you wish to address in order to frame it correctly. The more objective and specific the information you have, the better. Try to avoid vague observations that will not allow the other person to know what they need to change moving forward. For example, avoid a comment such as, “Louise, I think your behavior is unprofessional in team meetings”. This type of feedback is not only too generic but also it focuses on personality, which will make the other person more defensive and less likely to hear what you have to say. The correct way to give constructive feedback would be: “Louise, I noticed that in team meetings you tend to speak over other people which is not well received and affects the mood of the meeting.”

3Is my feedback constructive and will it help my colleague improve?

The third Red Shoe Movement Principle talks about the spirit in which feedback should be offered. “Provide honest feedback to the women in your network and avoid hurtful comments or unnecessary criticism.” Emotions play an important role in giving and receiving feedback. My advice is to keep them under control, especially if you are giving feedback around a behavior that has frustrated you in the past. When it comes to non-verbal communication, it is better to sit side by side (to level the playing field,) speak in a direct and pleasant tone of voice and be aware of the other person‘s reactions to your words. If you notice that your feedback is not being well received, invite your colleague to express their own point of view rather than imposing yours. For example, you could say something like: “Louise, I can see that you have a different view of the situation. Would you like to share your point of view?”

Learn how to frame your feedback and you will not only help a colleague but also strengthen the relationship.

Learn how to frame your feedback and you will not only help a colleague but also strengthen the relationship.

Giving feedback to a colleague who is a peer requires certain level of maturity and sensitivity to avoid hurting anybody’s feelings or negatively impacting the working relationship. You should not refrain from offering honest feedback, however, since doing so could deny your colleague of a valuable learning lesson and an opportunity to adjust professional competencies that could contribute to their future growth. Genuine, timely feedback that is delivered properly can not only work magic for the professional development of your colleague but also strengthen your working relationship. After all, taking the time to give constructive feedback to your peers is a concrete demonstration of your interest in their career success.

 

3 Networking Strategies Shy Professionals Can’t Miss

No matter how you slice it, your career health depends on your relationships. Here are three powerful networking strategies that work even if you’re shy!

A lot has been written about developing your network. But if our monthly Step Up Plus coaching sessions are any indication, this continues to be an activity most of us could learn a bit more about.

One of the most effective networking strategies: find ways to support the people in your network!

One of the most effective networking strategies: find ways to support the people in your network!

Steal these Networking strategies

I’ll keep it short, sweet and to the point. Let’s look at three particularly effective networking strategies you can start implementing right away.

1Be the organizer

No doubt, this is one of my favorite networking strategies. Nothing beats the opportunities to expand your network like being the organizer of anything. Think about it. Just for starters: The organizer manages the agenda, the guest list, and the communications. Three great touch points for networking. So whenever in doubt, organize. Conferences, webinars, workshops, after-hours, small get-togethers where you can introduce people to people, anything of value. And if you are shy or introverted, partner with a colleague who’s more outgoing or extroverted. You can divide the activities and conquer.

The day of the event, it’s always easier to network alongside another person who knows you well. You can take turns to introduce each other and to highlight the other person’s virtues. In this case, not only would you have your co-conspirator with you, but also people will approach you, as you will be their hostess. This makes it easier to meet people. It saves you from having to approach them yourself.

Among the best networking strategies you can practice is to be on the organization side of things.

Among the best networking strategies you can practice is to be on the organization side of things.

2Make yourself useful

Whenever I’m invited to a party or to an event where I don’t know many people I find my way to the kitchen or any other “behind the scenes” area to offer my help. When I’m more engaged with the organizers of the party or event I feel less anxious about not knowing anyone there. It’s easy to make friends when you’re helping out. The secret is to do it tactfully so your host feels grateful for the extra pair of hands rather than annoyed that you’re overstepping. For this networking strategy to really work, you can’t just make a general offer such as: “Let me know if there’s anything I can do.” Because most people will respond with: “Thanks, but we have everything under control.”

My approach is to identify the people who are actually busy preparing, guiding guests to the coatroom, setting up any event materials, and clearly say: “Give me something to do.” Or, “tell me what I can do to help.”

Being on the helping side of things has many advantages:

  • Exposure: It’s easier for others to notice and remember you.
  • People get to know you as you’re working alongside them.
  • Playing a role takes away from standing awkwardly waiting to “meet” people.
  • It gives you an excuse to talk to strangers: “Are you looking for the coatroom? Let me show you were it is. By the way I’m so and so, nice to meet you.”

Here’s the caveat: Don’t become “the help” in the way in which often the help is invisible. Use this role as a chance to meet others reducing the stress that you may feel in these situations.

A great example of this took place in Argentina a few months ago. We invited Nathalie Stevens, the founder of La Fundación de los Colores (an NGO that trains women in vulnerable neighborhoods to do professional make-up,) to join us at an event we were doing at Universidad Austral. Rather than coming on her own, Nathalie asked if she could bring three of her women to do our team’s makeup. They had a chance to become acquainted with the Red Shoe Movement team, we introduced them to journalists and key contacts, and they interacted with others at the event from a completely different place than they would have, had they just attended as participants.

We invited la Fundación de Los Colores to one of our events. Instead of just attending they asked if they could do our makeup. Making yourself useful is a great networking strategy.

We invited la Fundación de Los Colores in Argentina to one of our events. Instead of just attending they asked if they could do our makeup. Making yourself useful is a great networking strategy. https://www.facebook.com/lafundaciondeloscolores/

3Amplify others’ agendas

Not your traditional networking strategy, but one that proves infallible and that you can carry out regardless of how shy you are. You do have to be active in social media, though.

This is how it works:

  • Identify the people you’d like to actively network with.
  • Start interacting with them via social media by amplifying their messages, and commenting and sharing their posts. Be careful not to cross the line and become a stalker. 🙂
  • If you have a chance to help them, do. Whether it is by introducing them to someone useful, bringing them as panelists to one of your company’s events, etc.

It doesn’t really take much to be noticed by someone who you’re helping them. As long as you remain professional, it won’t be long before you can establish a connection that can easily be moved into the real world. If that’s what you want.

Here’s the caveat for this networking strategy to work: Even though you’re approaching someone via social media, it doesn’t mean you can skip the natural steps you’d take to build an in-person relationship. Build trust before you expect anything else. And always be the first one to offer help.

Sharing via social media a presenter's slides supports their agenda by amplifying their work. It's hard not to get noticed when you're helping someone.

Sharing via social media a presenter’s slides supports their agenda by amplifying their work. It’s hard not to get noticed when you’re helping someone.

Now go out and practice these networking strategies in real life. I’ll be waiting to hear how you do. And if you have some amazing tips, please share them here!

 

RSM Mutual Mentoring Circles— The Secret of Our Success

I believe that everyone has something to teach and something to learn at the same time.  At this one-of-a-kind event (no speakers or panelists) our RSM Mutual Mentoring Circles speak for themselves!

Nobody knows everything and everyone knows something. Understanding that we learn from each other in a reciprocal fashion at all times is the first step to growing together. And a powerful incentive to engage with your colleagues for mutual career support.

The power and effectiveness of mutual mentoring surpasses anything you could get from a one-directional mentoring relationship. When both people clearly benefit they both invest in the relationship equally. In other words, leveling the playing field does wonders for everyone involved. Today I share why our mutual mentoring methodology, which infuses our RSM Signature Event, is so successful.

Here's a post on coaching and mentoring to clarify some of the different relationship options.

 

 

At our latest RSM Signature Event, MetLife Conference Center. A partial group of attendees.

At our latest RSM Signature Event, MetLife Conference Center. A partial group of attendees.

Our Mutual Mentoring Methodology

The belief that in life we are all learners and teachers is at the core of our methodology and permeates everything we do. That’s what makes our programs and our events so different and so effective. This methodology is behind our annual Step Up Plus leadership development program during which participants set up RSM Circles in their organizations.  And it’s the centerpiece of our Onsite and Signature events. It helps to make our training self-sustaining.

At the core of our methodology: we are constantly learning from each other. Mutual Mentoring is where it's at.

At the core of our methodology: we are constantly learning from each other. Mutual Mentoring is where it’s at.

Experiential leadership: RSM Signature Event

After months of preparation, the Red Shoe Movement Signature Event 2016 at MetLife Conference Center in Bryant Park, NYC, was gone in a flash. It is an unusual kind of event. No speakers or panelists. No “topic experts.” Our RSM Mutual Mentoring Circles speak for themselves. Literally.

Like many professionals, I’ve attended my fair share of conferences and leadership events throughout my career. Maybe a bit more often than doctors would recommend given that, as a speaker, this is what I do for a living.

There are many outstanding events out there where you are exposed to great, new ideas and make powerful connections. Conferences where you listen to industry leaders and get inspired by amazing role models. Yet, after years of participating both as an attendee and as a speaker, I felt that there was room for a more experiential conference. A professional event the nature of which would elicit curiosity, self-discovery, and empowerment. An exciting experience that would shed light on individuals’ interests and passions, and that would reveal areas of knowledge they weren’t aware of.

So when I founded the Red Shoe Movement, I set out to design a completely different type of leadership event. I wanted to create a situation where people could actually learn from each other. I particularly wanted women to realize how much more they know than they give themselves credit for. I craved an event where the attendees would be the real protagonists. Where there wouldn’t be a division between “the experts” and “the participants.”

We achieved our goal of leveling the playing field at our conference by putting into practice our mutual mentoring philosophy.

Mutual Mentoring Circle topic: How to Have a Difficult Conversation led by Lily Benjamin

Mutual Mentoring Circle topic: How to Have a Difficult Conversation led by Lily Benjamin

How does the mutual mentoring methodology achieve positive results?

Our event features two rounds of Mutual Mentoring Circles (RSM Circles) where people alternate between playing the role of the expert and the explorer. The facilitator’s role is to keep the conversation going.

This methodology demands that people participate actively, invest plenty of skin in the game, reveal their curiosity about different career concerns, and ask the relevant questions for their own careers that nobody else could ask. The methodology also requires that people share their knowledge and experiences with others, even when they failed. This openness creates a level of trust that fosters a candid exchange. The payoff is huge.

Practically all participants say they walk away with insights that they can immediately apply to their jobs. These are not a list of tips they could get off the Internet. They are insights people discover about themselves that generate behavioral and attitudinal changes. The best part is that once internalized, the mutual mentoring methodology carries beyond the RSM Signature Event.

Mutual Mentoring Circle topic: Your Brand Already Exists, facilitated by Cosette Gutiérrez.

Mutual Mentoring Circle topic: Your Brand Already Exists, facilitated by Cosette Gutiérrez.

Granted, this approach is not for everyone. Our feedback surveys often reveal a few people who would have preferred “topic experts” to facilitate our Mutual Mentoring Circles. Having speakers who present their topics with a Power Point. Panel discussions. Facilitators who capture key learnings on flip charts. And there’s nothing wrong with preferring that kind of conference. It’s just not what we do.

Our Facilitators

From Left to Right (standing, kneeling and standing): Stephen Palacios, Jolanta Kordowski, Johanna Torres, Mariela Dabbah, Cosette Gutiérrez, Ali Curi and Lily Benjamin.

From Left to Right (standing, kneeling and standing): Stephen Palacios, Jolanta Kordowski, Johanna Torres, Mariela Dabbah, Cosette Gutiérrez, Ali Curi and Lily Benjamin.

Our RSM Circles’ facilitators are high-level executives from large organizations who honor us with their participation. They are specifically trained in our methodology. Their mandate during these conversations is to leave their “expert hat” at the door and to adopt the role of the curious explorer. An experience they cherish so much, they keep coming back year after year to facilitate at this annual conference.

This year’s star facilitators were:

Lily Benjamin, SVP, Leadership Development & Transformation, U.S. Trust, Bank of America.

Ali Curi, President, Hispanic Professionals Networking Group (HPNG.)

Cosette Gutiérrez, VP, Operations & Social Responsibility, DonorsChoose.org.

Jolanta Kordowski, AVP, Organizational Effectiveness, MetLife.

Stephen Palacios, General Manager, VP, Lieberman Research Worldwide.

Johanna Torres, Editor-in-Chief, MamasLatinas.com.

Action planning session and beyond

After two rounds of Mutual Mentoring Circles, our event attendees participate in an insightful Action Planning session. It’s the chance to put pen to paper and work through some concrete career goals. After all the conversations that have been taking place, it’s time for some introspection. And then, everyone has the opportunity to partner with someone to practice mutual mentoring after the day’s activities come to an end.

Setting up career goals during the Action Planning Session

Setting up career goals during the Action Planning Session

Our Q&A with a top female leader

In addition to our Mutual Mentoring Circles, for our RSM Signature Event we invite a successful leader to share how she made it to where she is in her career. And you couldn’t ask for a more candid leader than Marta L. Tellado. Marta shared the career trajectory that led to her current position as CEO of Consumer Reports, the largest consumer advocacy organization in the world. Ali Curi interviewed her and then turned it over to the audience. And in typical Red Shoe Movement fashion, we then had Marta ask questions of the audience. This is how mutual mentoring works. An even playing field at all times. As an explorer, what did Marta want to ask the audience? “What do you find most fascinating and most challenging about the American corporate culture?”

Ali Curi interviews Marta Tellado, CEO, Consumer Reports

Ali Curi, President HPNG,  interviews Marta Tellado, CEO, Consumer Reports

The fun part

Alexandra Contreras of Colgate-Palmolive picks up her Farylrobin shoes (while wearing another pair she won last year!)

Alexandra Contreras of Colgate-Palmolive picks up her Farylrobin shoes (while wearing another pair she won last year!)

And of course, we wouldn’t be true to our name if there weren’t some actual shoes involved, right? So to help more people celebrate #RedShoeTuesday, we gave away dozens of pairs of red shoes during early registration and at the event. They were two styles specially designed for the Red Shoe Movement by our great partner, Farylrobin.

We also raffled LolaRamona shoes and, this year for the first time, we gave away red ties! As the number of male attendees grows, we want to make sure they have the right accessory to support women’s career growth in style.

Winner of a Cyberoptix tie

Winner of a Cyberoptix tie

It’s been a fabulous year! And next year will be even better. I can’t wait to see you at our next event!

Testimonials of our attendees

Hear first hand what participants had to say about the event.

If you want to bring this level of engagement to your organization, let us know. Our RSM Onsite Event is the in-company version of the RSM Signature Event. ‘Till next time!