15 posts categorized "Hispanic Leadership"


5 Ways to Define Success on Your Own Terms


If you were to strip yourself of titles, job positions and education, what would there be?  Under all those layers of accomplishment would there still be a person considered to be successful?

Society has taken great pains to define success not just by a person’s riches, but by the many accolades an individual possesses. Very often this definition is one-dimensional and equates to material possessions, fancy titles and wads of money.  Think about all of those celebrities who have this and more, yet deep inside suffer from depression, engage in drug abuse and have legal problems.

So how exactly does one define success?  Who determines whether or not you are successful?  Whose validation do you need?  Success means many things to many people and should never be a form of validation by others, but more about how you feel about yourself.  Here are five tips for how best to embrace the meaning of success and help you move forward.

  1. Let Go of Pre-Conditioned Beliefs – Many Latinos have been conditioned either by their families or society (maybe even both) to believe that their heritage is a disadvantage.  What this has done is subconsciously prevented Latinos from dreaming and doing big.  Know that despite those “labels” and prior struggles, you have what it takes to be successful.  Challenge those beliefs.  Challenge yourself.  Find your inner strength and go out and do what it is you want.
  2. Define Success On Your Terms – What does success mean to you?  Answering this question may take some self-examination and deep digging.  Update any prior definition to mean what it should mean to YOU.  Don’t mimic that of someone else’s or let it be defined by others.  We often get caught up with believing that unless we have overcome some tremendous challenges, our success is not as fruitful as someone who has endured hardship.  Everyone has a unique story and when it comes to success we need not compare whose struggles were greater.
  3. Declare Your Success & Envision Yourself There – It is not enough to just “think” about how you want to succeed. Declare it!  Shout it out!  Write it down!  Think about what you have accomplished and what more you’re able to do.  Declaration allows you to see life from a broader perspective, see possibilities and help you understand what you need to change or improve upon.
  4. Break It Down, Set Goals and Create an Action Plan – In order to reach that next level in your life, you have to know what you’re working towards.  You have to set goals.  What are you hungry for?  What do you envision yourself becoming?  How are you going to make it happen?  Answer your questions by making an outline of where you see yourself and creating a timeline.  While you are encouraged to be as clear as possible with those goals, they don’t have to be perfect.  You can always tweak them, but at the very least it will give you a sense of direction.
  5. Fail – Some of the most successful people say that failure has contributed to their success.  The same can hold true for you.  Learn from your failures.  Avoid getting caught up in the all the reasons why you failed.  Analyze the situation, identify the lesson and move on.  The experience of failures makes us smarter, stronger and more than often mad enough to get up off our butts and make the impossible possible.

Our job is not to embrace success in a way that is limited by the conventional definitions spit out by society nor by accolades, but rather by the choice to do exactly what makes us happy.  When you are excited about your existence, challenges and all, success is easier to attain. Success also involves having a positive impact on others and leaving a legacy of leadership.  Whether that is your family, friends, colleagues or a segment of society, inspiring others is truly a testament of success.

I could not finish this piece without adding my perspective of what success means to me.  I first need to share that my goal in life was to emerge from the obscurity and poverty in which I  was born and rise to a state of affluence.  I then wanted to show and encourage others how to do the same.  I did this through education and by taking on some pretty tough jobs as I developed my career in Investment Banking.  To that extent, my definition of success is a mixture of failure, struggle, survival, change of gears, ultimate performance and blood, sweat and tears (literally) – experienced all at the same time.  At the core of my existence is a happy person who is excited about future possibilities.  I don’t compare my success to anyone else’s nor do I go by what someone else thinks.  Neither should you.  Success is a unique journey, not a destination.  It is your journey and therefore can only be formulated, executed and defined by the person whose opinion matters most:  Yours.



Top 8 Simple Must Do’s for Media Interviews: It’s Your 15 Minutes of Fame, So Make It Count

2012-KASHAPOV-0134You could say it was my 15 minutes of fame back in 1997 when I stood on the front steps of the Miami Beach Police Department shielding my eyes from the South Florida sun as I stared into the lens of a TV camera. I had a plastic device nestled into my ear with a live feed from news anchors in Atlanta who quickly rattled out questions about the unfolding high-profile serial killer saga involving the murder of Italian designer Gianni Versace on the steps of his Ocean Drive mansion. There I stood like the cliché of a deer caught in the headlights. I heard voices saying something faintly in my ear as the producer waved her hand prompting me to answer. I had no idea what they were saying. And to top it all off, it was live and in Spanish. That’s right, en vivo y en español. ¡Ay Dios Mío!

Gianni_Versace_Cover_7_28_97_205x273For the life of me, I cannot tell you what I said that day, but in the chaotic days that ensued in the aftermath of Versace’s death and subsequent hunt for serial killer, Andrew Cunanan who was holed up in a houseboat off the intercoastal, CNN en Español had called the Miami People Magazine Bureau for someone who was bilingual and willing to discuss the story on camera. Being the only Spanish-speaking correspondent in the bureau, I graciously agreed. Apparently my on-camera reporting was not as much of a complete debacle as I thought because they actually called the next day to invite me back!

Since that time, I have faced many crisis-oriented phone calls with journalists and managed to handle them effectively. I have been media-trained several times for broadcast interviews yet I am still hesitant at the thought of being on camera. So when Atlanta Spanish-language stations, Telemundo and Univision called earlier this month to interview me about being named Center for Hispanic Leadership Atlanta Chapter President, I was thrilled, and in a tizzy! ¡Ay Dios Mío!

¡Cálmate! I told myself. I can do this. I might have been a bit rusty from my “live from the scene” appearance but was up for the challenge -- plus this was recorded, not live. With that in mind, I methodically practiced my talking points, selected an elegant outfit, and overall felt prepared for my interviews. However, as soon as the bright lights were turned on (interrogation style), I could feel the beads of sweat forming across my face. “Can you see me sweating?” I asked Univision Atlanta’s Mariela Romero as I fanned myself fervently with my notes. I looked fine, she assured. With the Telemundo interview, I was not as hot -- so no perspiring issue there, PHEW! However, I was concentrating so much on what I was saying that I forgot all about my delivery. I completely forgot to smile and connect with the audience. ¡Ay Dios Mío! (See for yourself, click video below!)


After my latest 15-minutes of fame experience, I have chalked them up and placed them in my lessons learned vault (it’s getting quite full).  That being said, here are my top 8 simple must do’s to remember before stepping into the spotlight.

1)  Do practice your talking points beforehand. However, here’s a tip. Practice by using only the word “la” for your words instead of actual words. This will help you focus on connecting with the audience utilizing only the tone and inflections of your voice to get your message across.

2)  Do practice in front of a mirror or even videotape yourself to see how you look, how you are standing, and how you are sitting. If you are standing, remember to stand with both feet firmly planted and resist the urge to shift your weight and swing back and forth.

3)  Do take three big breaths to compose yourself before even uttering your first word.

4)  Do become a storyteller and share your story, your experiences, your history, to illustrate your points and to help others really connect with you.

5)  Do unleash your inner Latina or Latino by using your hands to express yourself. You are who you are, so let people see the real you and hear your authentic voice.

6)  Do remember to take pauses between questions to collect your thoughts before answering. It may sound counterintuitive – trust me I’m all about the chit chat; however, there is a lot of power in silence. Learn to be comfortable in the absence of sound.

7)  Do stay away from tweeds and beige suits, which do not come across well on camera. Instead opt for dark suits with vibrant-colored shirts or even go for a bright-colored jacket such as red for women.

8)  And last but not least.....DO smile (until it hurts)! Another rather simple recommendation but one I clearly forgot to do in my Telemundo interview!

In the end, I have had many moments where I say to myself, “metí la pata,” (the equivalent to I put my foot in my mouth) but I also try to embrace each step as part of my professional learning and development journey.  Listen, we are all just trying to figure it all out and sharing our experiences with each other is a big part of the incredible opportunity we have to connect and lift each other up.

I would love to hear your “meti la pata” stories, what you learned, and how you’ve applied this learned knowledge in the workplace to advance your career and move closer to your goals. Remember, aquí, somos amigos de confianza!


Balance Is A Myth!

Yesi Morillo-Gual

In my office is a tall figurine of my favorite super hero:  Wonder Woman.  My staff members gave it to me as a birthday gift.  When I received it, one of them said, "No one can see that cape you have on, but we truly admire how you balance it all".

Daily I manage my career, handle an intense workday, care for two children, and run a small business.  Then around 11 pm or so, I try and get in some work for my doctorate dissertation.

Like many women with similar loads, I get asked how I manage to "balance it all".  I too have asked the question of others, both men and women.  Every single person eludes that this demon called "balance" can actually be tamed.  

It can't.  Balance is a myth.  Bull.  A fallacy.

A perfect day at work means no drills, drama or interruptions, and I get to eat at a reasonable time in a relaxed setting. On the really good days, I may get to the gym.  Home is also easy.  We get through homework, dinner and everything else smoothly while still having time to relax and get to bed at a descent hour.

Ha!  There are no perfect days. Each day is unique in delivery and challenges. I hardly get to eat at a descent hour, sometimes not at all.  There's always some urgent matter, a fire drill, people behaving badly and many things beyond my control.

What stays constant however, is my approach:  I don't expect, nor do I strive, to be balanced. Instead I work on prioritizing, staying flexible and focused, and not sweating the small things.

We have all bought into the concept that we can only be successful if we learn to balance; yet in the process of attempting to balance we drive ourselves into insanity, overwhelming guilt and just plain exhaustion.  The more we force ourselves to be balanced, the more challenging it gets.

Here are a few things that may work, not for balance, but rather for building a strong sense of accomplishment and a life where you're productive and robustly active in all that you do.

  1. Schedule Your Day - Make a to do list but don't overload it without a thousand things.  Instead try to carve out what your day can look like, leaving room for those unexpected interruptions.  If you find that you're left with some time (probably rare), use it to prepare yourself for the next day.  Personally, I make a list of the top five things I wish to accomplish in the coming week so I can stay focused on what needs to be done.
  2. Schedule "Me" Time - This sounds almost ridiculous, but I have to put "Lunch" on my to do list, in order to mentally recognize that I need to eat.  Do the same for any activity that helps you destress and refocus.  From getting a manicure to working out, it’s important to disconnect from the hustle or you will soon crash.
  3. Prioritize and Delegate - We waste a lot of time doing things that are not important, because we simply get distracted or engaged with someone else's problems.  Before you jump on the unexpected make sure you know why you're doing it.  Don't be afraid to push back.  Take a closer look at your responsibilities.  Is there anything that can be outsourced or given to staff?  Women are not good with having others do things for them, and as such, take on more than they should.
  4. Get Rid of The Guilt - In the past, if I missed a day of work, or an event at school I would carry the burden of having disappointed someone for days.  Let it go!  It is never your intent to be absent, but sometimes the unexpected has to be addressed.  I may miss a game but I've never missed a championship, graduation or performance and when I am there, I am fully present.
  5. Say No and Set Boundaries - Others can be quick to dump on us, or we often raise our hands for projects we simply have no time for.  Every time you say yes to one more thing, you are saying no to your priorities.  Let people know what you're willing to do and what you're not.  Never allow anyone to make plans with your time, space or money.  People tend to assume that because you're capable they can commit you without permission.
  6. Talk To Your Family - My children and husband understand my job (well just a little), my business and why I am seeking a PhD.  They are always willing to chip in and help.  Whether it's letting me sleep a little longer or helping around the house, our motto is "We're doing this together because your success is OUR success".  I respect and do the same for what's important to them.
  7. Ask For Help - Women in general are nourishers and the first to raise their hands to save the world, yet, are too prideful to say they need help.  It's okay to ask.  Never see it as a sign of weakness or inability.  You don't have to do and be it all.   
  8. Embrace Reality - Don't think about how hard it is, but rather how accomplished you will be.  Anything worth accomplishing is worth working hard for.  Roll Up your sleeves.  Quit complaining.  Suck it up.  Get moving.
  9. Stay Positive - It's easy to feel beat up by the end of a tough day.  We can start again tomorrow.  If your day goes bad, have some wine, put on some comedy and destress.  Vent with a friend or find any other positive outlet.  Try your best to discuss and let it go.
  10. Set Goals - If you know what you're working towards, and how you're going to accomplish it, setting priorities and staying focused becomes easier.  Embrace your higher purpose.

I will probably get asked time and time again, how I balance.  My response:  "I don't balance.  I live in the moment, with a higher purpose in mind, while prioritizing, staying flexible and doing the very best I can.

Your peace of mind comes not from attempting to balance, but rather from doing the very best you can.


Five Ways to Make Your Mark in the Workplace: Show Them What You’ve Got!

2012-KASHAPOV-0134I never thought I would have missed it, but on my first day at my new job, the beauty of wood-trimmed cubicle walls, the luminous fluorescent lights hanging overhead, and the feel of high pile carpet underneath my high heels was a sight for sore eyes. As I strolled down the hallway towards my new office, lyrics to a song bounced in my head, It’s a new dawn, it’s new a day, it’s new life for me, and I’m feeling good.

Yet, at the same time I carried an air of confidence, it also felt a lot like the first day of elementary school -- the same excitement and nervousness rolled into one but with an adult twist.  The first few weeks were a blur, so many new faces, so many departments, so many systems and passwords, and so many products and initiatives. I thought to myself (in a slight panic) how am I ever going to keep up? And more importantly how am I going to contribute in a significant way? After all, this is the big leagues, and I am the new kid on the block. I am going to have to show them what I've got.

That’s right. Just because you landed a secure job and feel a sense of accomplishment from all those late nights of emailing resumes and attending networking events and figuring out your LinkedIn strategy, it's no time to rest on your laurels. ¡Ay Dios mío! Can’t I just take it easy now, you might ask yourself? Quite the opposite, my dear. Once the new job smell wears off a bit, it’s time to really dig in. It’s a fresh start, an opportunity to reinvent yourself and learn from your past foibles and stumbles.

As you know, networking is complicated but "netweaving" – as a colleague of mine puts it – is about timing and continuous exposure. So while you are assimilating into the new corporate culture, you’ll want to make sure to mingle with colleagues in other departments as well as your own. This will help people get to know who you are, while at the same time give you perspective about the company’s products, initiatives, and business objectives.

You will have to keep your eyes open in order to find new opportunities, wherever they may lie. Use your innate passions to help guide you. For example, because I have worked so many years in the nonprofit world I naturally gravitated towards volunteering for my company’s local grants committee. Additionally, I joined the company’s Latino Business Resource Group and soon after, became involved in the planning of an internal conference. In a short amount of time, I have leveraged my passion to begin making my mark. However, in reality it’s been more of a combination of both deliberate action and organic evolution. It seems that once you begin to
take on new challenges in your role or give of your free time for good causes, more opportunities present themselves. Case in point, I just accepted the role as President of the Center for Hispanic Leadership's inaugural chapter in Atlanta. Always remember that opportunities like these are yours for the taking.

Here are the top five things to keep sight of once you are in sitting in your new office and ready to seize the day:

  1. Netweaving: As you attend meetings and events, remember to always introduce yourself, get business cards (yes, even within the same company – remember, it’s netweaving) and follow up with LinkedIn invitations. After a while, you will also notice that you’ll find ways to connect people and projects with each other for the benefit of all involved.
  2. Volunteer: If your company is involved in the community, seek out the volunteer opportunities from donating books to digging holes for a community garden to building homes. Remember, you are fortunate to be where you are, so give back as much as
    you can.
  3. Ongoing Education/Training: Often, companies will offer online or in-person leadership development workshops and courses as well as host internal and external speakers’ series. Take advantage of these early on since they will help you meet a cross-section of individuals as well as aid you in your professional development. Keep yourself motivated to continually augment your repository of skills to become more well-rounded. This is your life, your career. It’s important to continue to deliver your brand with conviction and dogged determination.
  4. Business Resource Groups/Corporate Affinity Groups:  If your company has BRGs, then join them. Remember to be an active participant and even help support the other BRGs by attending their events as well. No BRGs, you say? Then start one from the ground up.  You will need to think about what the business case is for creating a BRG. This way your leadership will know that you are equally passionate about your heritage and culture as you are about being a professional and in growing the company’s business.
  5. Size Doesn’t Matter: Whether you are in a small company with less than 50 employees
    or in one with over 200,000, there are still a myriad of opportunities for you to step up to the plate, contribute, and be noticed for taking the lead. It could be something such as organizing an employee task force to help boost morale with a scheduled employee appreciation event every quarter or asking your colleagues to bring in their hotel shampoo bottles and soaps to donate to a local women’s shelter or at your weekly staff meetings raising your hand to take on a project that’s been sitting on the backburner. It is these moments in time that will begin to define who you as a person and as a professional. Follow your passion, let your light shine, and you will become a trailblazer who leads by helping to bring out the best in others.

Remember that every day is a new day to work towards your goals, to be bold, to ask questions, to become engaged, and to do what may have not been done before. Sure, it’s scary. Don’t think for a moment that I don’t sometimes also have qualms or misgivings about my abilities, but I know from experience that the risks are always worth taking. Cue the music, crank up the sound, hear the lyrics, It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me, and I’m feeling good. Now, show them what you’ve got.


The Enigmatic “It” Factor: We All Got It, So Sell It

2012-KASHAPOV-0134In my professional career, I have always been the type of person who worked diligently, produced good work, and excelled in my roles. I always assumed that by doing a great job I would automatically be rewarded, promoted, and given that coveted pat on the back. After all, weren’t we always taught – especially women – that good things come to those who wait? So why was it that individuals in the workplace, who were inept and inefficient at their jobs, somehow move up the corporate ladder and succeed time and time again? Believe me, I have experienced my share of this and have always had the same question pinging in my head. Does the leadership not see what seems so clear to me?

As the years have passed, it finally dawned on me that these individuals were actually quite astute and strategic. Whatever skills and abilities they lacked they made up for in presentation, in the ultimate sale. They had the “it factor.” Suffice it to say, it rarely mattered that they could not really execute nor deliver because they usually found someone on their teams who could.  With these experiences in mind, I decided that instead of focusing on the inequality of these situations that I should turn my attention inward. What could I change about how I presented myself to my colleagues, my boss, and potential employers? After all, this was an important variable I could control.  What was my “it factor”?  What was my brand?

Now, these weren’t questions that were easy to answer especially because I am a woman and a Latina at that. Self promotion is not something your Mami or your Abuela teaches you.  So when I lost my job in March of this year, with a mortgage, two kids under five, daycare/preschool expenses, and a family member with significant health issues, I couldn’t afford to think that I was anything less than a superstar.  At a moment in time, where I might have been squashed, I had to instead lift myself up literally and figuratively. I had to rise. It’s this frame of mind that propelled me forward as I walked through the Department of Labor’s glass doors to file my paperwork along with the other 12.5 million who applied for unemployment benefits this past April.

It turns out that I was more fortunate than I had first realized. Because in my last job (the one I lost) I was tasked with building relationships with organizations, businesses, and individuals, I had learned rather quickly how to make friends and most importantly how to connect the dots. As you well know, networking is key component in your job search. I think the stat is that 80% of the jobs are unadvertised. You might be thinking how will I find these contacts? Find these secret jobs? Well, I am here to tell you that networking alone will not get you where you want to be. That being said, it’s really the art of networking and how to extrapolate it to other situations that can really aid you in landing a great job.

If you take this idea and marry it with the understanding that you are a brand and can control how you are marketed, then you can start promoting yourself through different channels. We live in an amazing time in which we can access a plethora of information and connect to individuals all over the world in seconds through the Internet.  One of my great career resources has been LinkedIn (love this site! I visit it more than Facebook). I used this to research individuals in different companies, join groups in my field, and most importantly position my brand. Sell Marisa. In addition to my LinkedIn profile, I capitalized on creating my own website where I could showcase my accomplishments, projects, awards, etc.  You can easily do the same with an affordable yet incredibly professional template you can purchase online.

Let’s recap. If you are on the job hunt, you need to figure out what your “it factor” is. Network with your contacts not just about job leads but instead candidly tell them about your dreams, your skills, and your passions. It’s this process that will help you understand who you are as professional. Further, capitalize on online tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to broadcast the superstar that you are and sell your brand.

Here are my top recommendations to using LinkedIn as your online calling card.

1)      Contacts: Build up your network and connections by seeking out individuals who are in similar fields, contacts you have met at business functions, etc. You want to strive to get the “500+” designation.

2)      Profile: SEO the heck out of your LinkedIn profile. What I mean by this is, look at other profiles of individuals in your field. See how they describe themselves in the summary, key skills, and experience sections. Select specific key words related to your industry and pepper your profile with them so that it’s easier for recruiters to find you.

3)      Summary: This means simple. No more than two paragraphs summarizing who you are as a professional.

4)      Headline:  Make sure it’s an attention grabber and not just your current or past job title. Make it descriptive to highlight your abilities.

5)      Recommendations. Reach out to past and current colleagues and supervisors who would be willing to endorse your work. Request that they be specific to projects and programs you worked on and your successes. Again, the more descriptive the better. Aim for about 10 recommendations and make sure to spread them out over time so you don’t have five recommendations posted in one day. (If you are currently employed it might arouse suspicion).

6)      Groups: This is a great tool on LinkedIn to meet other people in your field or other professions you would like to explore. Think of it as “cyber networking.” Seek out those groups that have at least 1,000 or more members. Surprisingly there are many VPs and C-level executives in these groups. It’s a great opportunity to connect with them through the group and try to get your foot in the door. Remember to actively participate in group conversations and contribute interesting information.

7)      Companies: If you have applied online for a job at a company, the honest truth is that your resume – even if you are highly qualified – may be overlooked by HR departments and the automated screening process. Your approach should be two pronged. Apply online and then conduct a search on LinkedIn for the company and titles of individuals you might report to (the hiring manager). Once you find it (there may be several), then do an Internet search for their company and email address. Send them a direct email and express your interest in the open position you saw posted. Trust me, this works more often than not. Don’t be afraid to seem “too aggressive.” As a woman and a Latina, this was probably my biggest challenge.

8)      Languages: If you can speak more than one language, even if it’s only to order in a restaurant, ask where the bathrooms are, or provide a cab driver with directions, put it down on your profile. It helps showcase that you understand other cultures , have traveled, and can work in an international environment.

9)      Profile photo: Yes, it may seem more appropriate for Match.com; however, people are social beings. They want to see what you look like. (You'll notice I have included my photo in this blog at the top.) Many companies and recruiters will skip your profile if you don’t have one.

10)   Awards/Volunteer Boards/Causes/Professional Affiliations: This is a great opportunity to include information that you may not ordinarily include on your resume. It will help give individuals a more complete picture of who you are as a professional and as a person. Hiring managers hire people they like. 

In the end, losing my job was the best thing that ever happened to me. I wouldn’t change a thing. It forced me to realize that you are your best marketer, and it’s not enough just to be good at what you do. You have to be great at selling you.


Are you a Latina Expert?

On Naming and Claiming our Latina Expertise


Expert =  adj  thoroughly skilled; knowledgeable through training or experience. Noun a person with special skills or training in any art or science.  (Webster’s New Century Dictionary, 2001)

When we first considered what to name this website, we considered a wide range of choices before arriving at LATINA EXPERT.  It seems important at this point to be explicit about what our intention is in choosing this name and also about our vision of how this site can be used by all Latinas to further grow our sense of ourselves individually and collectively. 

In my work with Latina professionals in organizations, I am constantly amazed at the wide range of talents and depth of experience these women have developed.  I am sometimes also amazed at how unaware or unassuming they can be of their capacities and how remarkable they are.  There are many people in organizations with much less going for them who are more than willing to “toot their own horns” and make grandiose claims about their abilities.  I wonder about how we as Latinas can best acknowledge and utilize our gifts in ways that feel right to us and yet allow others to see more clearly all that we have to offer to our organizations.

Let me start with a story.

I and another colleague were presenting our research at a national conference.  As part of the program, we listed our titles, which for me included the Ph.D. after my name.  Unlike others in the program, the question was raised about why I chose to list my degree as part of my identifying information.  Others went so far as to suggest that I was elevating myself over the participants by listing this credential.  When the conversation came up, an African-American gentleman disagreed with the previous comment by stating his view that it was helpful to know my training and background because it gave him a better sense of what I could offer and what competencies could be assumed by knowing someone had received a doctorate at an accredited university.  What I find interesting and troubling is how my white male colleagues are not challenged when they certify themselves as “experts” but when I or other women credential ourselves, we are seen in a less positive light.  This is not the first time nor do I expect it to be the last that this issue comes up as I move about in my career.  One of the reasons I think it is important that I include my title has to do with serving as a role model for young Latinas who may be wondering if they can reach for their dreams or if they have what it takes to succeed in competitive, male dominated fields or environments.  I have often been told by young women how much it means to them to see my accomplishments and how they are inspired to pursue their own dreams as a result.  Other Latinas have mentioned the difficulty they sometimes have with standing out for their accomplishments and letting themselves be seen in their full competence.

To understand these dynamics and to be able to modify them, I think it is important to recognize their origins – how we came to be this way.  Of course our early experiences in our families and communities shaped us significantly.  We learned from watching others that elevating yourself over others was sometimes frowned upon and that working to support the well-being of the collective was necessary for survival and harmony.  We saw role models in our mothers, tias and vecinas who sometimes sacrificed their own needs to insure that others had enough.  Doing for others without expecting to be acknowledged or praised was accepted as the norm.  Humility was valued in our communities while boasting or pridefulness was frowned upon especially for women. 

Now we find ourselves in organizations where self-promotion and branding ourselves as distinctive are expected and encouraged.  How do we navigate through these seemingly contradictory worldviews?  How do we remain consistent with our values and cultural styles while also succeeding in large, competitive organizational cultures?

Latinas are finding ways to do this creatively in many fields and industries.  For example, realizing that claiming our expertise is a service to others in our communities and organizations.  Letting others know what we have to offer allows them to access our talents and utilize our skills in a wider range of venues.  Making ourselves small or invisible serves no one.  Identifying and expressing our vitality and competence makes a huge contribution wherever we are.  Speaking confidently about ourselves as “experts” is necessary and supports the advancement of our teams, furthers the organizations mission and allows our own careers to blossom and grow.  Actions that are consistent with our words makes us powerful contributors.  When people see that we deliver on our promises in unique and creative ways, we gain respect and are given greater opportunities to lead.

We are each “experts” in our own arenas.  It is crucial that we gain clarity about our own particular contributions, be able to name those talents confidently and seek out opportunities to demonstrate them consistently.  This is the best way to marry our expertise with what the world desperately needs from us.  How are you a Latina Expert and what can you do today to further expand your expertise to make the world a better place where you live?


Take the Lead On Your Career

More than often, Latinas leave the responsibility of advancement in the hands of their immediate manager, or hope it will happen by chance or solely because of hard work.  If only it were that easy. So what exactly are you responsible for? What do you need to do to advance, secure that promotion, or move up the career ladder? The answer lies in taking the lead on your career and committing more energy to it than anyone else.  Below are a few pointers to help you gain some perspective.

Start With A Self Inventory

Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses.  Identify the things you are exceptional in and those in need of improvement. Solicit formal and informal feedback from trusted individuals that can help you identify those areas.  Leveraging your strengths and working on your weaknesses will make you a well-rounded professional and better prepare you for advancement.

Set Goals and Envision Yourself Where You Want To Be

What are you working towards?  What heights do you want to reach?  Identify your goals and get a realistic perspective of what you are aiming for. Review your goals regularly to ensure they are in line with what’s really happening and adjust them if necessary as things change.  Don’t forget to use the performance review process as an opportunity to further identify goals recommended by your manager.

Focus On Performance

Skills are doubtlessly important, as they are your first line of defense in proving yourself and your abilities. Understand your job responsibilities and be prepared to consistently deliver results.  Don’t assume you’re doing an outstanding job.  Ask your manager, even if informally, as well as your colleagues.  Outstanding performance and strong skills gain you respect and opens up new opportunities.  A job well done is a job remembered.

Hone Your Skills

Look for consistent ways to improve your skills or obtain new ones.  For instance, if public speaking is not your forte, look to improve it.  This will help your confidence and speaking abilities when in front of senior leaders. Many organizations offer training and development courses, as do most local colleges.  If you’re gearing for a new role, figure out what that new role requires and get the training necessary to excel in it.  Ignoring chances for self-improvement means you’re holding yourself back from accelerating.

Raise Your Hand and Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Staying in your seat with your head down pushing out work will not get you noticed.  Step out of your comfort zone by raising your hand for stretch assignments that will challenge your skills and get you recognized by senior leaders. You can do the best job possible and have excellent skills, but if they are not being put to use or you are not being noticed, your chances for advancement remain low.

Build A Board Of Directors

Seek out professionals to ask for their guidance, learn from their experiences and benefit from their wisdom.  It is important to build a support system comprised of trusted individuals that advice, counsel and champion for you.  The very best relationships are informal so don't get caught up with formality.  Also, keep in mind that mentorship relationships don’t necessarily have to be with senior leaders.  Creating a networking comprised of lateral relationships is extremely helpful, as are relationships outside of your immediate division and/or organization.

Gain From Networking

You need to meet as many people as possible in your department, in the company and outside of it.  Never pass up on opportunity to meet other influential leaders and colleges.  Get your name out, learn what people do and allow people to learn what you do. When opportunities open up, they are going to have you in mind.

Build Your Brand

When people think of you, you want to make sure they do so in a positive light and in terms of your capabilities.  Build a reputation that is associated with top potential.  You want people, especially those in upper management, to know about your skills, leadership abilities and any competencies that are associated with executive leadership.

Career management is one of the least thought of, yet most important aspects of advancement.  Indiviudals look for a path to follow but oftentimes there is no set path.  Instead your advancement is dependent upon the path you establish by stepping up to create the career and opportunities you so desire.  Failing to focus on this dimension of your life is simply a waste of your talent and potential.



The Case of the Missing Latina Leaders

LeadersThere is a well-documented and dramatic absence of Latinas in leadership positions in many organizations in this country.  In my experience as a researcher looking to identify Latinas in upper management for my research and as an organization consultant focusing on building inclusive organizations, I have consistently noted that the higher one looks, the fewer Latinas one sees at the decision-making table.  While there continue to be more examples of Latinas assuming prominent positions in many industries, the numbers are far from adequate when one considers our representation in the population.

The question becomes how one explains this absence.  Of course, there are those who are quick to attribute this dynamic to the lack of leadership competencies or experience among this group.  Latinas are seen as lacking the ambition or competitive drive to move into senior positions.  Instead their consideration for the well-being of others and concern for the collective needs of the whole are seen as deficits which make them unfit to lead.  The problem, however, lies not with Latinas themselves but rather with how leadership is defined and enacted in most organizations which is based on a stereotypical model of a strong, competitive, individualistic, rational, task-focused male leadership style.

Leadership theories have typically focused on what was called “The Great Man” approach, which described the ideal leader as a hero of superhuman ability to inspire and lead his followers into battle.  In this model leaders were born with traits like charisma and dynamism.  You either had it or you didn’t.  Other theories framed leaders as demanding task masters who got the work done by holding people to high standards and providing incentives to workers to perform in a fairly transactional manner – a days pay in exchange for a days work.


Though today’s workforce has changed dramatically from the 1950’s and 60’s when these theories were developed, many organizations have not significantly changed their ideas about what leadership is or needs to be.  Today’s younger, more diverse workers are looking for new models of leadership that allows for power to be shared and provides them with opportunities to have influence on the context in which they work.  The skills needed to work well and manage these new workers are more related to collaboration and team engagement than the top-down styles of the past.

Now is the time where Latina leaders are most needed yet their talents to lead are under-recognized and not fully leveraged to meet the needs of these changing organizations.  Organizations and their leaders need to take off their blinders and appreciate the unique style of leadership Latinas exemplify and provide developmental opportunities so these qualities can flourish and mature.  While Latinas interact and lead in non-traditional ways, the results they are able to produce speaks volumes about their abilities.

Co-workerPart of the equation involves Latinas themselves recognizing and amplifying their leadership skills.  They sometimes take for granted that their emphasis on the well-being and productivity of the work group or team are important.  Their upbringing taught them that success in any endeavor is related to attending to the needs of a diverse group in order for each person to contribute to the overall task.  Their ability to build long-lasting relationships and networks allows them to create cohesive teams and build trust among diverse co-workers. 

When the mystery of the missing Latina leader is solved, organizations will see that the leadership ability they bring are exactly what is needed to inspire today’s workers – and these powerful “mujeres” have been hidden in plain sight for far too long.  Perhaps 2012 will be the year when these patterns are recognized as unworkable and Latina leaders will gain the exposure and prominence they deserve!


Why Companies Should Invest In Latinas:

The ROI For Latina Success?

Too many organizations create mission and vision statements that include references to valuing diversity yet fail to treat these issues with the same seriousness that they place on other organizational imperatives.
We have seen too many examples of where managers with strong technical skills were allowed to wreak havoc with the people side of the operation with few consequences.  In fact, some of them continue to be promoted regardless of well-documented instances of employee neglect or even abuse.  Latinas bring skills on both the people side and the business side to their organizations. 

Typically, managers who focused on developing others or the emotional needs of their teams are seen as weak or placing too much attention to the “soft” side of their operations. Recent attention to the value of emotional intelligence and building solid relationships has begun to shift this paradigm. The relational abilities of Latinas need to be reframed given this new perspective. When these interpersonal abilities are recognized and elevated to their proper importance, Latina talent will be more fully valued.

Managers need support to understand how to interact and manage a diverse workforce.  Expecting them to magically know how to relate to workers who come from different backgrounds is unrealistic and unfair.  Once they have been given the training and tools they need to manage inclusively, managers’ performance needs to be tied to reward systems and performance evaluations.  When developing people and building authentic relationships becomes as important as the financial ROI, organizations will be on the path toward truly
living their values and tapping into Latina talent and leadership potential. 

(Link to: Wasserman, I. C., Gallegos, P. V., & Ferdman, B. M. (2008). Dancing with resistance: Leadership challenges in fostering a culture of inclusion. In K. M. Thomas (Ed.), Diversity resistance in organizations: Manifestations and solutions. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.)

Latinas Team

How Latinas Build Inclusive Teams

The key to competitive advantage in today’s diverse and challenging business environments is the ability to build and support inclusive teams that maximize rather than minimize differences to unleash innovative ideas and multiple perspectives.  Latinas come from backgrounds that taught them how to include people from a wide range of styles, abilities and interests.  They know how to promote a team environment where all can feel valued and bring their best thinking to bear on complex problems.  They know that it takes more than simply putting together people from diverse viewpoints and expecting them
to perform. In fact, failing to intentionally manage differences in diverse workgroups is a recipe for failure.

Most people have a tendency to move toward sameness and build relationships based on commonalities.  (See Developing Intercultural Competence)


The new workplace calls for the counterintuitive ability to amplify and move toward differences.  Cross-cultural competence requires individuals to know how to learn about and work effectively with people who share very little with them.  This competence can only be developed by living and working with people who are different. 


From their diverse families Latinas learned that you can’t treat everyone the same and still have positive outcomes.  As they moved through their academic and professional careers, they were often the only or one of a few women or Latinos.  When they moved up in institutional hierarchies they had to learn to understand and engage others from a wide variety of backgrounds, cultures and life experiences.
Being curious about differences and knowing how to inquire about what they don’t understand is a critical skill in building inclusive teams.  http://hbr.org/2011/06/defend-your-research-what-makes-a-team-smarter-more-women

Life has taught Latinas that having an open mind and the ability to bring people together including their differences is the only way to build high-performing teams where all can add value in their own way.  As demonstrated by innovative companies, finding ways to maximize diversity by creating passionate and dedicated teams will be the difference between competitive success and stagnation. Latinas can help make the critical difference.


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