Leadership Development Event with an Entirely Different Approach

It’s always hard for those who haven’t attended, to figure out how a leadership development event can be so without speakers or workshops. Yet, our Signature Event is an experiential conference where participants develop their leadership skills hands-on . Here’s a taste of it.

A leadership development event without speakers

A unique leadership development event, once again the RSM Signature Event took place at MetLife in 2017

A unique leadership development event, once again the RSM Signature Event took place at MetLife in 2017

When I first sat down with a group of young women Ambassadors to imagine the RSM Signature Event back in 2011, I knew I didn’t want another leadership development conference with speakers, breakout sessions, panels and presentations. I wanted an experiential event. So from the get go, we created a unique format that fosters participation, a leveled playing field where everyone had a chance to teach and learn from each other,  and a high level of energy.

Left: Susan Podlogar, EVP, and Chief Human Resources Officer. Right: Elizabeth Nieto, Global Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer

Left: Susan Podlogar, EVP, and Chief Human Resources Officer flaunting her red soles. Right: Elizabeth Nieto, Global Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer

And given that the Red Shoe Movement is at the intersection of fashion and self-leadership, we wanted that extra oomph. We finally found it in 2015 when Farylrobin (designers for brands such as Anthropologie and Free People) became our event sponsor. For the last three years we’ve given away between 50-70 pairs of amazing shoes, specially designed for us, at early registration.

In 2017 our event was once again,  at MetLife, our Platinum sponsor for the fourth year in a row. This time, at their amazing new facilities by Grand Central Station!

The Keynote Interview

One of the hardest things to do when you organize an annual leadership development event is to resist the temptation of having a keynote speaker. It’s tough because it’s what most people expect, both the attendees and your keynote guest! You have to convince your guest that the interview format allows for a more relaxed, intimate conversation. That makes for a much better experience for the audience as they get to see the vulnerable side of a leader they admire and hear insights they seldom hear in a straight forward keynote speech. In our recent event, the keynote guest was Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, and one of the honorees of our 2017 Hall of Fame.

Lisa was warm, honest, funny, humble… She shared some difficult times in her career in a way that made her completely relatable.

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo and Philip Klint during the Keynote interview at RSM Signature Event 2017

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo and Philip Klint during the Keynote interview at RSM Signature Event 2017

After Philip Klint, Emmy-award winning, journalist, producer and anchor of NY1 Noticias in NYC, interviewed her, it was the audience’s turn to ask Lisa questions. And unlike any other leadership development event where people tend to shy away from the mic, this group had a bunch of incisive questions for her.

In the final part of the session the guest asks questions of the audience. And so did Lisa, closing the circle of mutual mentoring we practice throughout the event.

“Aha” moment from the Keynote Q&A session

“After I heard Lisa share her story, I realized that while I have achieved some career success by moving up to an executive role (where at times I am the only Latina in leadership meetings,) this role is not my final goal. I have more steps to climb to be able to open doors for other Latinos(as).  It was like an epiphany to hear Lisa because this new thought formed in my head and I figured out what my next career goal should be. To that end, I contacted one of my mentors who is a CIO at my company. I warned him that I was aiming high because I wanted to be part of his SLT team (the majority of which are white males.) His reply was that it was a good aspiration that required that I build my skills and experience.  Lisa lit up a fire in me and infused me with energy to come out of my comfort zone and pursue a new dream.  I am eternally grateful to her,” Beth Marmolejos, Anthem

Our mutual mentoring circles go farther than workshops in a traditional leadership development event

The RSM Mutual Mentoring Circles

I spoke about our Mutual Mentoring Circles on another post but it bears repeating that they are at the core of our leadership development event. It’s a chance for participants to experience our methodology.

At our leadership development event, the RSM Mutual Mentoring Circles are a core part of the program

At our leadership development event, the RSM Mutual Mentoring Circles are a core part of the program

Right after the interview with Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, we went into two rounds of six RSM Mutual Mentoring Circles. These are conversations about critical career topics, such as Your Brand Already Exists, Successful Negotiation Strategies, and so on, which were facilitated by six executives who are trained in our methodology. Judging from our facilitators own comments, these are among the hardest conversations to facilitate. The key is to let the conversation flow without sharing their own expert opinions. Which, as they are all senior executives with clear insights into each conversation, it’s a challenge.

This year our star facilitators were:

Lucía Ballas-Traynor, EVP Client Partnerships, Hemisphere Media Group, Inc.

Lily Benjamin, Global Talent, Organizational Development & Change Management, Bank of America.

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

Joe DiGiovanni, Director, Member Engagement, The Conference Board

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

Stephen Palacios, Partner and Principal Ahzul

From Left to right: Stephen Palacios, Joe DiGiovanni, Lily Benjamin, Mariela Dabbah, Lucía Ballas-Traynor, Ali Curi and Cosette Gutiérrez.

From Left to right: Stephen Palacios, Joe DiGiovanni, Lily Benjamin, Mariela Dabbah, Lucía Ballas-Traynor, Ali Curi and Cosette Gutiérrez.

“Aha” moment following the Mutual Mentoring Circles

“Learning from colleagues and peers is a wonderful way to learn. We will practice this inside our company,” Alejandro Barranca, Novartis

An experiential leadership development event for all participants

The Executive Circle

This year we launched our first Executive Circle. A group of executives who meets on stage to exchange personal questions and advice on the topic of the Importance of Learning from Failure. Moderated by our expert facilitator, Lucía Ballas-Traynor, the group alternated between asking questions about this topic and sharing insights and experience. Very much along the lines of what everybody had been doing doing the Mutual Mentoring Circles but this time, in front of the entire audience, fishbowl style.

It was humbling to hear Katherine Blostein, partner at Outten & Golden, LLP, a NYC law firm, share her mother’s response to her news of not passing the Bar exam the first time around. “It was a mistake to bring you to America.” After which she hung up the phone on her distraught daughter. It was one of many moving stories that the circle participants shared with each other. “Eavesdropping “on this conversation inspired the audience to keep going, to trust their own abilities to reach any position they aspire to.

At our annual recent leadership development event, the Executive Circle. From Left to right: John Basile, Katherine Blostein, Alejandro Barranca, Lucía Ballas-Traynor, Frank Gómez and Elizabeth Nieto.

At our annual recent leadership development event, the Executive Circle. From Left to right: John Basile, Katherine Blostein, Alejandro Barranca, Lucía Ballas-Traynor, Frank Gómez and Elizabeth Nieto.

The Executive Circle participants were:

Alejandro Barranca, HR Head LACan Oncology, Novartis

John Basile, Head of D&I, Fidelity Investments

Katherine Blostein, Partner, Outten & Golden LLP

Frank Gomez, Executive Director, External Relations, ETS

Elizabeth Nieto, Chief Global D&I Officer, MetLife

Facilitated by: Lucia Ballas-Traynor, EVP Client Partnerships, Hemisphere Media Group

“Aha” moment following our Executive Circle

“As the daughter of a working mom, it resonated with me when Elizabeth Nieto talked about not being home for her children as much as other non-working moms. And the fact that later on her adult daughter told her she didn’t remember most of those times. I would like to do something with the Red Shoe Movement from the perspective of being the daughter of a working woman,” Ginaly Gonzalez

The #RedLookBook

Inspired by the idea that everyone should find their “inner red shoes” as expressed in my book Find Your Inner Red Shoes, this year we launched our #RedLookBook booth.

It is a space with a “red carpet” —which is actually black to help us highlight red shoes— where people flaunt their style. Participants choose one of the 7 RSM Principles and in the picture they appeared framed by that principle. It helps us continue to disseminate the idea that identifying your style is critical to your success. And I don’t just mean your clothing style but your style as a person. How you communicate, how you relate to others, how you resolve problems. And in a leadership development conference, this is an important insight to have.

The four winners of the #RedLookBook won an experience at our sponsor Farylrobin’s studio where they’ll learn how shoes are designed and made. And of course they’ll walk away with a pair of shoes!

The winners were:

MEejie Chaparro-Traverso 

Elvira Ortiz 

Rosmery Osuna

Theresa Torres

The team behind our leadership development event of 2017

Annerys Rodriguez, Director of our RSM Signature Event with her Red Shoe Leader award

Annerys Rodriguez, Director of our RSM Signature Event with her Red Shoe Leader award

If you ever put a leadership development event or any other type of conference together, you know it takes a village. People who during months plan every single detail so that they day of, everything flows seamlessly. This year, we recognized Annerys Rodríguez, with our Red Shoe Leader award. She’s the Director of the Event and our oldest team member who is also our EMCEE. Since the beginning of the Red Shoe Movement she’s been behind the success of our Signature Event.

Year after year she trains and leads a team of committed Ambassadors, young women interested in advancing their careers, who are part of our community. It is this team that makes the wheels turn at this unique leadership development event with a very demanding format.

Ambassadors at our RSM Signature Event 2017

Ambassadors at our RSM Signature Event 2017- From Left to Right, sitting: Johanny Paulino, Cheyenne Vancooten, Concha Valadez, Annerys Rodríguez, Teresa Correa, Mariela Dabbah, Adrienne Loiseau. Standing from Left: Robin Bolton, Daisy Ortiz and Krystal Rodríguez.

One of the key people on our team is Gustavo Carvajal, our #IDEAcatalyst, the person behind our communications campaigns like the #RedLookBook and innovative ideas that help us continue to grow.

Gustavo Carvajal at #RedLookBookGustavo Carvajal at #RedLookBook

Gustavo Carvajal at #RedLookBook

And we couldn’t have done it without Concha Valadez, part of our PR team, Teresa Correa, our first Head of Ambassadors, Paul García, our Head of Experiential. And our facilitators and Ambassadors who make this amazing day possible. And of course, a big part of the success of an event like this is due to our social media partners. The amazing people who help us disseminate the information about our event. For that we are grateful to: LatinaCool who took over our social media and did a FB Live, Fairygodboss, the Latino Networks Coalition, Planet M, Latinas in Business U.S., Dreams in Heels, HPNG, Prospanica, and Latinas Who Travel.

As phenomenal as this year’s event was, I have no doubts that next year it will be even better. Because we are a community whose members are constantly mentoring each other, learning from one another, we get feedback, we tweak and grow. And that helps us offer you a better experience every time. So we hope to see you at the 2018 event!

And of course, if you want to bring this leadership development format to your company, drop us a note.

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Award-winning, best-selling author, corporate consultant and international speaker on career success and women empowerment. Frequent media contributor on CNN, Univision, Telemundo and others. Her latest book "Find Your Inner Red Shoes" is the backbone of the Red Shoe Movement.
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