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Mutual Mentorship: The RSM Inter- Company Circles

Who would’ve told Nathalie Stevens that mutual mentorship would be responsible for placing her among the eight finalists of a prestigious award? Yet, that’s how it went. When attending the Red Shoe Movement Inter-Company Circle in Buenos Aires, Nathalie put in motion a process that placed her as one of the front-runners for $16,000 prize from one of the best-ranked TV stations in Argentina.

When it was announced that Nathalie Stevens had been selected for the Abanderados (Flag-bearers) award (an annual prize that recognizes Argentines who stand out for their dedication to others,) she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. She couldn’t believe she had the opportunity to amplify the work of her non-profit, La Fundación de los Colores (The Colors Foundation.) Her itinerant make-up school that prepares women who live in vulnerable neighborhoods to become professional make-up artists.

Nathalie Stevens founder of La Fundacion de los Colores

Nathalie Stevens founder of La Fundacion de los Colores

Feedback from a beneficiary of the mutual mentorship methodology

“The support that the Red Shoe Movement gave us is incredible! They opened many doors to us. The group is so generous! You really practice the 7 Principles daily!” Wrote Nathalie in a note to me after she heard she was a finalist.

Although not unique, Nathalie’s is a perfect case study to use as an example of how our mutual mentorship methodology works. This is the methodology at the heart of all our programs. In this case, at the center of the Inter-Company Circles, a space where professionals of different companies meet to support each other’s careers.

In Buenos Aires, where Nathalie story took place, the sponsor of the Inter-Company Circle is Novartis Argentina S.A., a global health company based in Switzerland. Their female talent from Canada to Argentina has been part of the RSM leadership development program for a couple of years.

RSM Inter Company Circle in Buenos Aires at Novartis

RSM Inter Company Circle in Buenos Aires at Novartis Argentina S.A.

Every month, a group of 15-20 business executives from various organizations along with members of the RSM team meet for about three hours at Novartis’ offices. They share their personal career challenges and exchange questions and advice with their colleagues. Facilitated by Gladys Benaim, Director of Business Development of Argentina, each Circle is unique since the agenda is set by the participants.

It was at one of these meetings that Nathalie started down the path towards the Abanderados award. It happened when she brought along Verónica Barbera, one of the Training Coordinators of La Fundación de los Colores. Her moving story shook the group up. She had been a housecleaner for many years but after taking La Fundación’s makeup course she managed to change her life and become one of the program trainers.

It was at that Circle that she met the successful Karina Mazzocco, TV conductor of Pura Vida, a popular show on Public Television. Moved by Veronica’s story of overcoming adversity, Karina invited her to be on her show. This, however, was not the only result of that mutual mentorship encounter. Inspired by Verónica’s story, María José Gómez Silva, the Novartis executive who champions Diversity and Inclusion in the LACan region, nominated La Fundación for the Abanderados award. And so it was that through this process of mutual mentorship, where everyone gives and receives advice on their personal careers, Nathalie Stevens and her organization became finalists for the award.

Veronica Barbera trainer of La Fundacion de los Colores

Veronica Barbera, trainer of La Fundacion de los Colores

Goal of the Mutual Mentorship Inter-Company Circles

There are few places where women who are already leaders or are looking for leadership positions can exercise mutual mentoring with peers with whom they don’t work. Colleagues from other fields, and with other specialties that can contribute to their growth through honest conversations, while expanding both of their networks. The goal of our Circles is to provide a safe meeting space. Facilitated by a member of the RSM team trained in our particular methodology, they have proven to be a resource that enhances everyone’s careers.

A similar model to the Mutual Mentoring Circles that you may experience at our RSM Signature Event (Featured here) you can experience in our Inter Company Circles

A similar model to the Mutual Mentoring Circles that you may experience at our RSM Signature Event (Featured here) you can experience in our Inter Company Circles. This Circle was facilitated by Ali Curi, at our 2017 event.

Benefits for participants

1A moment of personal reflection. This monthly meeting place in which attendees agree to maintain confidentiality, is a moment of reflection on their own desires, goals and challenges that participants face in their professional career.

2Recognition of one’s own wisdom and knowledge. The methodology encourages everyone to ask specific questions to get help from the group. Making it clear that only each individual knows the right question to ask to help them move toward their own goals. It also asks for everyone to be willing to propose solutions and share experiences when it is their turn to help others. In this rich exchange, each participant identifies in themselves areas of knowledge and wisdom that they probably weren’t aware of. In turn, they find new answers that broaden their perspective.

3Increased self-confidence. As a result of practicing mutual mentorship, the participants of the Inter-Company Circle increase their self-confidence and the inclination to take on new challenges.

4Development and strengthening of everyone’s network. Regular participation allows for the development of strong networks among people who know each other’s background well, and therefore have a greater commitment and incentive to help one another.

RSM Mutual Mentorship in action

RSM Mutual Mentorship in action. This Circle was facilitated by Lucía Ballas-Traynor at our 2017 event.

Benefits for the companies in which the participants work

The participants of the RSM Inter-Company Circle are mostly women and men who work in large organizations. Given that our mission is to accelerate the representation of women in decision-making positions, we focus on this target. What is the benefit for the companies in which the participants work?

1Greater employee engagement. When individuals feel heard and find the resources to overcome challenges, job satisfaction increases.

2Generation of ideas. By sharing the specific challenges of their current positions as well as their long-term career goals, the participants exchange a host of inspiring ideas.

3Exposure to an effective model of diversity and inclusion. For the Inter-Company Circle to work optimally, a diversity of participants is required. Women and men in diverse functions, in companies that operate in a wide range of fields and cultures, have diverse educational backgrounds, social class, political, and religious inclination. Experiencing inclusiveness helps participants replicate this best practice in their workplaces.

4Amplification of the network. Strategic networks are the electrical wiring that facilitates our communications and interactions. The more solid and extensive, the better the results. This group is an excellent way to expand and strengthen the network within other leading companies. All of which encourages innovation.

5Ongoing leadership training. The fact that leaders of an organization meet consistently every month to talk about their own careers works as ongoing professional and leadership development.

6Personal agency. Participation is voluntary, which fosters the self-determination and self-leadership necessary to attend consistently.

7Inspiration. As a result of honest conversations and shared solutions, participants report being inspired by the mutual mentorship they experience at our Circles.

Mutual Mentoring in action. Circle facilitated by Cosette Gutierrez at our RSM Signature Event 2017

Mutual Mentoring in action. Circle facilitated by Cosette Gutierrez at our RSM Signature Event 2017

Benefits for the sponsor of the Inter-Company Circle

1Establish itself as a leader in Diversity and Inclusion in the market. Being the host company of the Inter-Company Circle where colleagues from diverse fields meet monthly to exercise mutual mentorship, is an excellent way to project leadership in the D & I space.

2Talent magnet. When the word spreads that the sponsor organization opens its doors to women and men of the most diverse fields with the purpose of enhancing their own careers, the organization becomes a talent magnet for both those who attend the Circle in their facilities and for those who learn about the initiative word of mouth.

3Strengthens Corporate Social Responsibility. Given the diversity of individuals who come to be part of the Circle, the sponsor has opportunities to leverage their CSR initiatives with Circle participants. A clear example is what happened with La Fundación de los Colores.

Nathalie Stevens and Karina Mazzocco met through the Red Shoe Movement Inter Company Circles where we practice mutual mentorship

Nathalie Stevens and Karina Mazzocco met through the Red Shoe Movement Inter Company Circles where we practice mutual mentorship. Karina announced the winners of the Abanderados competition in a public ceremony that was televised. Here, she hugs Nathalie when she gives her the award.

In the end, Nathalie Stevens didn’t win the $16,000 award. But the relationships she built, the exposure she gained and the amazing opportunities that opened up for her organization as a result of mutual mentorship and support are much more valuable. This is only the first step in a brilliant future for La Fundación.

If you’d like to find out about hosting our Inter Company Circles at your organization, let’s talk!

 

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.

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!

Cross Cultural Mentoring: Mentoring 2.0!

Cross cultural mentoring relationships offer unique opportunities to broaden perspectives and reduce unconscious biases. Here’s how they work.

Given the rapid changes in workforce demographics, understanding the potential challenges and opportunities created by a cross cultural mentoring relationship has become as critical as finding a compatible mentor.

Try cross cultural mentoring to receive insights into your unconscious biases.

Try cross cultural mentoring to receive insights into your unconscious biases.

The Blackwell Handbook of Mentoring defines cross cultural mentoring as “relationships where mentors and protégés differ on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, socio-economic class, or other group memberships.” Note the definition goes beyond race and ethnicity to include other social factors that shape mentors and mentees values, beliefs, and behaviors. This broader, more comprehensive way to define cross-cultural mentoring is the core factor to identify the challenges and opportunities this new scenario presents.

Why is this important? Gaining a clear understanding of the dynamics of cross cultural mentoring provides a layer of information that could enrich the development and launch of mentoring programs and proactively address potential blind spots.

Challenges of Cross Cultural Mentoring 

Any type of mentoring relationship– from peer mentoring to a more formal set up (i.e. experienced and junior individuals)—will encounter the challenges of starting a new relationship. It takes time to develop and cultivate trust. Interactions between mentors and mentees are influenced by underlying biases, assumptions, and beliefs. When you add the element of culture to the mentoring experience, unforeseen challenges could emerge. Two challenges come to mind:

  • If you are looking for an honest cross cultural mentoring relationship, you definitely have to go beyond the food. But going out for a bite is a great way to get the conversation going!

    If you are looking for an honest cross cultural mentoring relationship, you definitely have to go beyond the food. But going out for a bite is a great way to get the conversation going!

    Biases and Assumptions. Research shows that every single individual has unconscious biases. The ability to be biased allows individuals to discern information and make decisions. Biases could jeopardize a cross cultural mentoring relationship when either mentor or mentee make wrong assumptions about each other because of their biases. For example, a mentee could assume that her mentor—because he is older—is less experienced and tech-savvy. A mentor could assume that her mentee is unfamiliar with American popular culture because she was born outside the U.S. Both circumstances could lead to condescending behaviors—also known as micro aggressions. Behaviors based on unfounded biases can take many forms. A senior leader in the financial services industry said when asked about her current mentee, “I don’t see her as Indian because she has no accent.”

  • Differences in values, beliefs and expectations. Historically, mentoring programs have relied on matching pairs who are as similar as possible. The logic was that people who are alike (i.e. same race, gender, ethnicity, etc.) would have a higher degree of fit and compatibility. Once pairs are matched, the focus shifts to setting expectations and goals. A mentoring pair that is cross cultural would benefit from taking a step back and learning what expectations and goals look like to each other individually. For example, an expectation is to have an open door policy. The mentee, however, places a high value on formal authority and believes that rank trumps any other directive. Her expectation is that the mentor will initiate communication despite the open door expectation. This could lead to frustration and create an unnecessary distraction if not addressed proactively.

Opportunities of Cross Cultural Mentoring

Ready to move to the next level of your career? Experience what it means to be supported by thousands of professionals like yourself!

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Despite potential challenges presented by a cross cultural mentoring relationship, there are opportunities to consider:

  • Perspective and mindset tune up. Engaging in a cross cultural mentoring relationship provides a rare opportunity to broaden perspectives and mindsets for both parties. The mentee—from the previous example–who identifies herself as Indian but has no accent could leverage that exchange to discuss with her mentor that the lack of accent does not determine her cultural affiliation. The mentor, in turn, has the opportunity to become aware of this bias of assigning an American identity to those with no accent.
  • Innovation partnership. When two people with different backgrounds are invested in a mentoring program, the benefits of mutual mentoring become clear. What a better chance to brainstorm on new ideas than with a trusted thinking partner. Building on the trust cultivated through comparing and contrasting their beliefs and assumptions, mentors and mentees could strengthen their bond by directing their conversations to topics beyond career advancement and office politics. They could consult each other on business issues. Their different perspectives become a potential asset to fuel out-of-the box solutions.

Engaging in an effective cross cultural mentoring experience (HBR: Race Matters) goes beyond going out for mojitos or Thai food. Cross-cultural mentoring not only offers the opportunity to learn about others perspectives and expand your own. It also helps mentors and mentees become more agile in their thinking as decision makers and leaders.

Finding a Mentor to Propel Your Career Forward

If you are the first in your family to go to college or to work in a large organization, and you didn’t have many professional role models growing up, you may not be fully aware of the value of finding a mentor. Yet, the sooner you realize it, the better for your career prospects.

The practice of mentorship systems goes back to ancient Greece and to the beginning of most religions. But the modern use of “mentor” and “career mentorship” in the U.S. started in the mid 70s. That’s when advocates for workplace equity tried to identify and address obstacles for the career growth of non-dominant groups.

Inspirational mentoring quote by Marisol Gonzalez

Finding a mentor is a wonderful way to make your journey a much more fulfilling one!

Marisol Gonzalez, Producer at HBO, shares the impact of mentors in her career: “I have been lucky enough to have great mentors. People who believed in me even when I didn’t believe I could do something.  Mentors have impacted me greatly.  They have guided me to be the best I can.  They have pushed me to always work towards excellence.  The biggest impact that my mentors have made in my life is that I know I am not alone on this journey. They have my back, and they are there for me.”

Is there a process for finding a mentor?

Well, if you’re not surrounded by professionals in your field, finding a mentor is a task you must undertake deliberately. You should join professional organizations and attend conferences where you can easily meet the right people. Start developing the relationships as you would with anyone else, and eventually establish either a formal or informal mentoring relationship. Most people’s first mentors tend to be their bosses. The advantage here is that your boss knows your job, the culture of your organization, and your field. The disadvantage is that if conflict ever arise with your boss, then you have nobody to consult with.

Finding a mentor inspirational quote by Will Robalino

Most mentors agree that they derive great satisfaction from seeing their mentees’s dreams become realities.

So you may start with your boss and then set out finding a mentor outside of your organization. Keep in mind that you can have more than one mentor and you can also change mentors as your career evolves and your interests change.

Informal mentoring relationships

Also, when finding a mentor, it’s good to admit that many mentoring relationships are pretty informal. If you have a relationship with someone you really trust, admire and like, you may be able to “use” them as your mentors without formally asking. These can be very fulfilling and productive relationships. Lily Benjamin, SVP Leadership development and organization transformation at a large financial institution in the banking industry, shares:

Two women talking

Have you ever tried this powerful modality of mentoring?

“I have never had a formal mentor, but have had many informal mentoring relationships.  Everyone has valuable attributes that we can learn from, whether we admire or disapprove of them.  Given that we, humans, are evolving creatures, to become our better selves, it is imperative that we are conscious and open to continuous learning.  Being humble and receptive is necessary to make the best out of our relationships with either formal or informal mentors.  That is why I believe the Chinese proverb that says, ‘when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.’  Because I am a perpetual learner, I learned from my mentor-figures how to think critically, network, and be respected.  As a result, I am very comfortable with ambiguity, navigating through complex matrix environments, and building meaningful relationships in support of everyone.”

Difference between formal and informal mentoring

Some research shows that finding a mentor and establishing a formal relationship results in more promotions than informal relationships. So besides having a supportive group of informal mentors, you should find someone who understands what it takes to make it in your field. Someone with whom you can establish a more formal mentoring relationship. That means, someone you meet regularly, who sees your potential, challenges you to achieve what you sometimes feel impossible, and helps you set your goals.

What you should know before you go off finding a mentor

Before you go off finding a mentor you should know that research shows that diverse employees (and women) tend to have less access to mentors in their organizations. And often, when they are assigned mentors, they tend to be of lower hierarchical level. Inevitably, this affects the access that the mentor has and the probability he or she will become a sponsor for the mentee. So, if you find yourself in this situation, it may be time to talk to your boss or to the HR team so you may be paired with an executive who can mentor you.

It’s also worth understanding why someone would invest time in your development. To this effect, the answers from these two executives resonate with most mentors I know.

Lucía Ballas-Traynor, a senior marketing and media executive, said:

Lucia Ballas Traynor mentoring quote

It’s important to know your potential mentor’s motivation for investing time and energy in you.

“My main trigger on mentoring others is the fact that I did not have mentors who truly understood the unique challenges faced by a Latina early on in my career.  I had no one to turn to when I needed advice, words of encouragement or just a likeminded sounding board who could share lessons learned from their real-world experience, when I needed it most!  I find that companies and leadership (especially male-dominated) are not taking the time to coach and develop the next generation of professionals.  Consequently the need for mentorship has increased.”

William Robalino, VP, Controller at Prudential Annuities, shares: “There are many reasons I enjoy mentoring. My biggest is the satisfaction I get in seeing someone’s goals and interests become a reality.”

Don’t miss my article on coaching and mentoring where I review different types of mentoring relationships.

The more you know the value you can bring to you mentor, the more productive the relationship. And the more interested your mentor will be in investing time in you. That’s why my biggest recommendation is: Think of the mentoring relationship as a two-way street. Bring as much value to your mentors as they bring you. Explore your mentor’s agenda, their goals, their aspirations and find ways to support them.

Role model inspirational quote by Mariela Dabbah

Role model inspirational quote by Mariela Dabbah

Role models inspire you by showing you what is possible with their own example. Mentors help you manifest your dreams and goals. They can help make the impossible possible. So surround yourself with the greatest mentors to achieve your greatest potential.

And if you are serious about finding mentors and coaches to propel your career forward, consider joining our Step Up program.