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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!