Personal Branding Is A Leadership Requirement -- Not a Self-Promotion Campaign

IStock_000017098518SmallDeveloping your personal brand is essential for the advancement of your career and development as a leader.  Unfortunately, personal branding has become a “commoditized” term that has lost its intention as people have irresponsibly used social media as a platform to build their personal brand and increase their relevancy. They believe social media can immediately increase their market value for their personal brand rather than recognizing that the process of developing their personal brand is a much bigger responsibility; a never-ending journey that extends well beyond social media.     

This is why I always advise those who want to have a social media presence to think carefully about their intentions and objectives before opening an account.  Why?  Because the moment you start – you must not allow yourself to stop.   Challenge yourself to think about what your intentions are and what you are capable of delivering to the communities you are serving – both in and outside of the workplace.

Personal branding, much like social media, is about making a full-time commitment to the journey of defining yourself as a leader and how this will shape the manner in which you will serve others.    

Your personal brand should represent the value you are able to consistently deliver to those whom you are serving.  This doesn’t mean self-promotion – that you should be creating awareness for your brand by showcasing your achievements and success stories.  Managing your personal brand requires you to be a great role model, mentor, and / or a voice that others can depend upon.  For example, when I write a blog or an article – I am extremely mindful that my community of readers expects a specific “experience of thought” from me. 

More than that, I aim to attract new readers by offering something of value that will hopefully engage them enough to continue reading my work.  Sounds like a lot of pressure and a tremendous responsibility to your audience, doesn’t it?  Well – it is at first – but over time the responsibility becomes a natural and instinctual part of who you are.   This is the mindset you must develop and the level of accountability you must assume when deciding to define, live and manage your personal brand.   Every day you know you must deliver to a standard of expectation that you have set-forth for both yourself and those whom you serve. 

View your personal brand as a trademark; an asset that you must protect while continuously molding and shaping it.  Your personal brand is an asset that must be managed with the intention of helping others benefit from having a relationship with you and / or by being associated with your work and the industry you serve.

Have you defined your personal brand?   Are you consistently living your personal brand every day?   

If you’re like most, your answer to both is “no”.   Based on a survey conducted by my organization, less than 15% of people have truly defined their personal brand and less than 5% are living it consistently at work – each and every day.  Why?  It can be extremely challenging and it requires a tremendous amount of self-awareness, action and accountability.

What I didn’t tell you is that 70% of professionals believe they have defined their personal brand and 50% believe they are living it.   But when you “peel-back-the-onion,” you realize that their focus was centered on self-promotion rather than a commitment to advance themselves by serving others.  

So what is a personal brand?  A personal brand is the total experience of someone having a relationship with who you are and what you represent as an individual; as a leader.    Think about what that means to you. Let it simmer.     Ask yourself and then ask a close friend – what is the total experience of having a relationship with you like?    Write down the top 5 things you would expect others to experience and have your close friend do the same.   Are the answers the same or similar in meaning?  If they are, good for you!  If not, you have some work to do.

Every time you are in a meeting, at a conference, networking reception or other event, you should be mindful of what others are experiencing about you and what you want others to experience about you.    Each of these engagements is similar to a job interview – expect in these cases you are being evaluated by your peers.  Those who know how to live and manage their personal brand will earn their respect in any situation.  

At first, this is a bit of a challenge.  However, when you start to see yourself living through the “lens of a brand,” your perspective will change and you will become more mindful about how you approach the personal brand you are trying to define and aiming to live.  

Don’t confuse this with “acting a part.”   To the contrary, you should focus on being more of who you naturally are and want to be so that you can perform and serve at your optimal levels. Keep in mind that we have been conditioned to want to be more like others.  As such, we   are more likely to be accountable to others and what they want us to be rather than being true to ourselves. 

If your teammates and/or colleagues don’t know what your personal brand is, the fault is yours and not theirs. Having a personal brand is a leadership requirement.  It enables you to be a better leader, a more authentic leader that can create greater overall impact.  In fact, those who have defined and live their personal brand will more naturally demonstrate executive presence and as such may find themselves advancing more quickly at work.    

Personal branding is no longer an option; it’s a powerful leadership enabler.




Why It’s Time for Hispanic-Owned Businesses To Become More Strategic

The 2012 U.S. Census revealed that Hispanic-owned small businesses are growing at nearly twice the rate of the national average with annual revenues at $350B (though many industry insiders believe this is a conservative estimate with the true figure being well-north of $600B).  The U.S. Minority Business Development Agency reports that between 2002 and 2007, Hispanic owned businesses grew faster than the national average of 44 percent in 28 states.  Clearly, the impact of the Hispanic population and the entrepreneurial spirit we bring with us is influencing the emergence of Hispanic-owned small businesses.   – and with this rapid growth the need for Hispanic specific resources and support to help enable revenue generation and profitability is at an all-time high.

In a recent Fox Latino interview, Hector Barreto, the former Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration under George W. Bush, said that there are many intangible factors inhibiting Hispanic small business growth.  According to Mr. Barreto, Latino business owners are filled with uncertainty and lack confidence in the U.S. government.

I respect Mr. Barreto’s candor in identifying the challenges that both Hispanic (and non-Hispanic) small business owners are faced with in our current economic environment.  However, for Hispanics in particular, the obstacles run much deeper and this is where the Presidential candidates and politicians across America are all missing the mark.   Hispanics, perhaps more than any other community, are rich in diversity and self-identify with their culture.  As such, they require tools, resources, government and educational programs that are culturally-relevant so that they can grow their business in ways they can identify with most naturally. This factor alone explains why Hispanic consumers (let alone Hispanic small business owners) represent the largest unbanked community in America

Can you imagine the incremental impact of Hispanic-owned business revenue generation to the U.S. economy? 

Many Hispanic-owned business owners are faced with the inability to consistently create and sustain relationships with Fortune 500 corporations.  Revenue generating and job creation opportunities are not being seized fast enough.  Hispanic business leaders are not at the forefront of supplier diversity programs at a time when corporations are looking to expand their business partnership outreach with the community.    

To overcome this challenge, Hispanic-owned businesses must lead and operate with a strategic versus a tactical approach.  There are many opportunities here, but for the purposes of this article,  I can recommend two fundamental areas:  leadership and operational excellence.  Learning how to apply both of these factors within a small business is the difference between success and failure and both can be attained through one variable:  executive education.   Business owners must invest to educate themselves on how to be better leaders and, at the same time, better business operators.   As a small business owner, you can’t do one without the other; this has been an unwritten rule amongst those who lead supplier diversity programs  (which are quickly becoming the standard).

According to Luis Cuneo, Hispanic Segment and Channel Market Development Executive at IBM, “One of the most common questions I am asked by Chamber Executives is: ‘How can we help small businesses grow?’ ”

His reply: “Teach small business owners to run their company as an executive and the company will start to thrive. For the past seven years, I have been engaging with hundreds of small businesses across the U.S., and I have noticed the following leadership barriers that inhibit these companies from growing: 

  1. The leadership style is Transactional. 
  2. Unable to delegate and empower their team.
  3. Haven’t identified their successor. 
  4. Haven’t created an exit strategy for both the owner and the company.” 

In August 2012, a survey of Texas Hispanic-owned Businesses with Paid Employees was sponsored by The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business, and the Kauffman Foundation.  Results from the survey suggest that Hispanic-owned businesses with paid employees need strategies that help them in two primary areas:

• increase business training in management and communication skills

• improve access to public- and private-sector customers

According to the survey, the following two critical findings revealed why Hispanic-owned businesses are performing behind mainstream businesses:

• Hispanics’ lower levels of assets and education, lower percentage of parents with business experience, and smaller networks than Caucasian business owners.

• Ineffective oral and written communication with customers, employees, and suppliers as well as limited access to procurement opportunities.

Think of the opportunities for job creation, economic growth and innovation if the majority of Hispanic-owned businesses increased their business training in management and communication skills – while improving their access to public- and private-sector customers? 

Finally, Hispanic-owned small businesses must forge greater levels of relations with the banking and financial management community. One of the Small Business Administration’s top priorities is to provide access and opportunity to small business owners in traditionally underserved communities. 

However, small business owners must minimize the risk profile for a potential SBA lender by showing them that their business is being managed and led with leadership and operational protocols that can be trusted.   In today’s risk adverse climate, small businesses must operate with the same strategic due diligence and leadership principals as a mid-size / larger corporation.  

Hispanic-owned small businesses can no longer be led through a tactical lens where the owners operate like an old-fashioned “mom and pop” shop.  Leaders must become executives, and learn to trust their employees to assume the responsibilities that the owners used to be accountable for when the business was new.   If small businesses are to steadily grow and mature, owners must begin leading and focus on developing the talent around them.   When this happens productivity multiples, a workplace culture begins to take shape and a “real business” begins to blossom with operational guidelines, organizational structure and leadership that is being strategic versus tactical in its thinking, planning and execution.

In the end, Hispanic-owned businesses must focus on building infrastructure and systems to support growth and business scalability. This requires strategic thinking enabled by leadership and operational excellence that continuously matures to foster best practices and relationships so that you can see and seize the opportunities that matter most.


Unleash Your Passion to Unlock Your Leadership

PassionMy father, Frank Llopis, who was a victim of Castro’s Cuba, always told me that he never had any regrets in life. (He turned 96 years old last Friday!) He said he’d been given opportunities that allowed him to live a more complete life – a life full of joy and contentment. But he also said that if he hadn’t taken action when faced with adversity, he would have been an incomplete person.    

Think of how many opportunities we miss because we didn’t tap into our passion when faced with adversity. What about the opportunities that others missed?

As a leader, do you ever step back and ask yourself about the consequences of your passion, or lack thereof? Are you only thinking of yourself, or are you thinking

about your team, your organization and the people who depend on you?

Passion is becoming a luxury because you must take some risks to live passionately.

How many times have you been in a meeting and had someone tell you, “That’s a great idea, you should do something with that?” And then what happens?  Most of the time, nothing. A great leader’s passion is infectious, and if given the opportunity it can inspire action. Passion is only a luxury when not managed responsibly. Be mindful of how you put your passion into action. 

Without strategy, change is merely substitution, not evolution

As leaders, we all recognize that we need strategies for change. Unfortunately, most leaders just don’t trust themselves enough to define their strategy, since this makes them accountable for their own vision. I have noticed that most leaders want to be accountable more for what others want them to be than for what they seek to be themselves.  

Your passion must define your strategy for change. In fact, your passion must always fuel your intentions. Think about what excites you most.  Are you living this every day in your work as a leader? Don’t hold anything back, and like my father, you won’t end up with regrets.

Think about the people you associate yourself with. Are they supporting and fueling your passion? Do you fuel theirs? Is it a one-sided relationship? This is why most leaders feel stuck in the workplace. They give too much of themselves to people who don’t reciprocate. Passion means you care and you open your heart to take action and make a difference for those around you. If your leadership passion doesn’t impact others, your influence will be short-lived.

Once, early on in my career, a boss told me that I was too passionate.  He said, “Tone it down a bit, Glenn.” When I shared this with my father, he told me not to ever stop being my natural self. My father told me that my boss had misinterpreted my passion as being emotional, rather than strategic behavior.  My father told me that the day I stopped being passionate would be the moment I would stop caring about the business, and I would start missing out on opportunities. Without passion, he said, I wouldn’t be aware of my full potential, and I would never find mastery in anything. My father reminded me that my passion would fuel others to be just as passionate about their own work. My father’s wisdom never let me down - and six months later, my boss was unemployed.

What’s the passion that you can unleash to get you going in your business – that unlocks your leadership?  When you go to work today, I encourage you to take a moment to share your leadership passion with your team. You’ll awaken new opportunities for yourself, your organization, and its people. Allow your leadership passion to create sustainable impact and influence in your work!


Will Mexico beat the U.S. in electing a woman president?

WomanI read with interest recent speculation that Mexico’s next president could be a woman, Josefina Vasquez Mota.  An article in the Los Angeles Times on February 19th emphasized that Vasquez used the “gender card” in order to succeed.  The article goes on to describe the fine line the candidate must walk to be taken seriously – if she is seen as too conservative, she will alienate many women yet if she strongly pursues issues women care about, the male power brokers will not support her candidacy.

By the way, I wish someone would explain clearly to me what the card is and how I can get one.  It’s as if some believe that there is a special deck of cards that we can suddenly pull out and all barriers are removed and the keys to the kingdom are ours – we become all powerful and supernatural wonder women.  I seriously question whether the imagined advantages to being a woman struggling to be considered a serious candidate in the cut-throat political arena truly exist.  Similarly, in most business and organizational environments that I live in, gender is considered either an impediment or at best ignored if women want to move into positions of power.

The article describes how being a woman will not be a considerable obstacle to her election as much as her connection to an unpopular government.  Nonetheless, her gender was speculated to bring enough novelty to convince the public to give her a chance.  The author finds it noteworthy that Vasquez is able to negotiate without losing her head as if acting calmly under crisis is an unnatural act.

The criticism of Vasquez Mota reinforces the fact that it is often NOT womens’ lack of leadership skills that is the real culprit but rather outdated and stereotypical expectations of women that create the greatest obstacles.  Women can achieve remarkable outcomes and yet not be seen as great leaders as long as the eyes of the observers limit their perceptions.  Until those blinders are removed, there will continue to be an absence of representation by women in positions of power.  Gender card or not, we are not able to leap tall buildings with a single bound as long as our true skills are ignored and we are locked out of the board room.

One of the mysterious and annoying assumptions about Latinos in this country is that ‘machismo’ is somehow worse in our culture than in mainstream U.S. white culture/society.  My belief is that male dominance and chauvinism are equally virulent and damaging in the U.S. as in any country in Latin America.  One could argue that it is even more subtle and insidious in the U.S.  which makes addressing it even less likely.  Women are often lured into believing that we have achieved parity and therefore need not organize ourselves to gain greater economic or social power.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Even in situations where women have risen into the ranks of prominence and power, they often still face subtle exclusion and pressure to conform to male standards in order to be accepted.  I have had the experience of being asked to coach women executives who have become “honorary men” by becoming harsh and unfeeling taskmasters.  If women are too social and concern themselves with the well-being of employees, they are considered too soft and unsuitable for leadership at higher levels.  Men with the same skill set are seen as having emotional intelligence and strong teambuilding capacities.  In order to avoid negative stereotypes, some women go to extremes to downplay their femininity even hiding or minimizing their family involvement or commitments lest their seriousness about business or careers be questioned.

I have seen women in non-traditional roles such as firefighters or police officers forced to walk an impossible line – if they act like one of the guys, joking, cursing, or being physically competitive, they are chastised.  If they act too much “like girls” they are seen as threatening and unreliable.  There seems to be a narrow range of behavior that is acceptable and many potholes that can easily short circuit the careers of women in most fields.

One of the most powerful things we can do as Latinas is share our stories with each other and seek out ways to provide mutual support and encouragement.  There is nothing to be gained by working alone and keeping our nose to the grindstone in our careers.  When I ask women what they do to take care of themselves, the most common response is a blank stare.  We are often so busy taking care of the needs of others and getting the job done that we often forget to attend to our own needs and desires.  I challenge us to use our voices and collective influence to support each other.  There is much untapped power we can draw from but the barriers to our success are real and require our best collaboration to overcome them.


5 Signs that Employees are in Survival Mode

WorkplaceToday’s workplace is a reflection of the times: uncertain and unstable. As employees navigate this short-term, fast-paced, tension-filled terrain, they develop an attitude that creates an uneasy environment:  survival mode.  

The workplace used to be focused on the planning and execution of short, mid-range and long-term growth objectives. It was a place where careers were born and legacies were created. A place that encouraged teamwork, unity and advancement, fueled by collaboration, partnerships and client relationships. Today, long-term business goals have been eclipsed by short-term personal goals: survive the unknown long enough to stay in the game. For employees this means adapting to a role where time management is unmanageable and where everything is a priority.

As you think about the dynamics in your workplace, watch out for these five signs that your employees are in survival mode:

1)  Relationship Building Amongst Peers is Fading

In the past, having lunch with the colleagues you worked most closely with was normal. But now, you’re lucky if anyone in the office can spend time with you during work hours. Because employees in survival mode focus specifically on people who can salvage their jobs and careers, socializing is infrequent and relationships are fading.

2)  Meetings Are Frequently Cancelled or Rescheduled

Today’s survival-mode environment has made it increasingly difficult to get a team of people in a room, because they each have a different set of urgent issues to deal with. Canceling and rescheduling meetings has become more common than ever because people want to make sure that the right people are in the room so they can sell themselves, rather than advancing the organization’s initiatives.

3)  People Don’t Trust One Another

Because everyone has their own survival agenda, employees have grown to distrust one another. Since people don’t know their colleagues’ hidden agendas, employees are wary of engaging with those who may violate their trust to advance themselves. One example might be two people who were once close colleagues competing for the same promotion within their department.

4)  Turnover is High and Employer Loyalty is Low

People become disenfranchised when survival mode takes over. Think about it: When you go to work and people are only interested in themselves, what’s the incentive to give more. For example, when your manager is focused more on his or her own advancement than the betterment of the team, it sends the wrong message. Over time you realize that you are not valued and thus you begin to lose that fire in the belly and you lack the desire to give it your all. You become a victim of someone else’s survival strategy and thus begin to lose loyalty for your organization. Ultimately, you leave the organization.

This year I have seen this scenario play out more often than not. In fact, people work more on their resumes than their own jobs.

5)  Self-Promotion is Out of Control

Self-promotion is the ultimate sign of survival mode. When employees get desperate they begin to sell themselves in ways that become irresponsible and that can harm the organization and client relationships. Survival mode creates a fierce dog-eat-dog mentality. Even the least likely employee can turn on a dime. Keep your eyes wide open, so that you don’t get blindsided by the lack of organizational loyalty the survival mode can create.

They don’t teach survival mode in school. None of us started our careers hoping to work only for our own short-term goals. But survival mode takes over in more and more workplaces each day, as uncertainty looms and the future becomes unclear.   



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.

Latina-leaderLeadership 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!


6 Essential Characteristics All Business Leaders Will Need in 2012

Businee-leaders The United States is undergoing great change -- and at an ever-accelerating pace – during these tough post-2008 economic times, with upheavals in the political, social, and economic spheres all at once.  The political mood is bitter, the social fabric is ripped in many places, and the economy continues to deliver bad news in terms of foreclosures, business failures, and high unemployment. 

How to survive in this tough, fast-changing terrain?  When my Cuban parents came to the United States in the wake of Castro’s revolution, the most precious possession they brought with them was their perspective.  It was that perspective – their immigrant values – that enabled them to adapt, reinvent themselves and ultimately thrive in a new country, a new culture, and a new set of challenges.  That’s what we need today.  The following represent the six (6) characteristics that define the immigrant perspective on business leadership that will be essential for business leaders to embrace in 2012:

1. Keep Your Immigrant Perspective:

Like an immigrant who comes to a new country with nothing but faith, hope and love, all employees must not have myopia where opportunities are concerned. We need to see that opportunities are everywhere, every day, and we must make the most of those that cross our path.   We need to see the opportunities that others don't see.

2. Employ Your Circular Vision:

My family – like most immigrant families – experienced crisis and change in our mother country – strengthening in us a sort of essential sixth sense, an ability to anticipate false promises and unexpected outcomes.  Because our immigrant perspective allows us to see opportunities others cannot, we have wide angle vision and are proficient at anticipating crisis and managing change before circumstances force our hand.  All leaders in 2012 will need to develop this ability to see around the corners up ahead.      

3. Unleash Your Passion:

Our ability to inject intense passion into everything we do makes us potent pioneers. We not only blaze paths few would go down, we see them through to the end.   Our passion opens new doors of possibilities that we aim to share with others.  When the terrain is difficult, only passion for the quest will see you through.

4. Live With an Entrepreneurial Spirit:

In America, you might be an entrepreneur. In Latin America and other developing countries, you must be one, just to survive. The ability to see and seize opportunities to build relationships, advance commerce, and better humanity is an inborn survival mechanism for immigrants – and must become one for all business leaders in 2012.    

5. Work With a Generous Purpose:

It is our nature to give. We are raised to consider others’ needs as much as our own. This begins with giving inside our family when we are young, and then, when we are older, we are taught that we are a part of a larger family all around us. Our propensity to give to others from our harvest ensures us a perpetual harvest.  Business leaders who adopt this abundant, glass-half-full attitude will find 2012 a year of surprising opportunities.   

6. Embrace Your Cultural Promise:

Our familial style of relating brings potentially everyone within the circle. The strongest bonds in business, across the entire value chain, occur when employees, partners and distributers alike are treated like family. The treatment is reciprocated and opportunities continue to arise. Our cultural promise is that success comes most to those who are surrounded by people who want their success to continue.  Business leaders – and their companies – that embrace this attitude, and practice this skill, will thrive in 2012.

2012 – the year of the immigrant perspective.  Because the times demand it, and all business leaders need to embrace the opportunities this perspective provides. 

Executive Presence in the Workplace: Do You Have it?

ExecutiveIn the new normal workplace, corporate social responsibility (CSR) must come alive in how employees express their generous purpose in meaningful ways that touch the business every day.   An undervalued  behavior that must represent the core of an employee's generous purpose is their ability to have executive presence; a critical success factor to support a healthier, happier and community-minded high performance workplace culture.

Executive presence is not about selling a business transaction, or showcasing your knowledge, capabilities and skill-sets.   Executive presence is one’s ability to create a moment; an experience that ignites others to want to know more about you, your personal brand and your business.  Executive presence is mastered over time.   It requires self-trust, confidence, self awareness and the ability to navigate the needs of people.   Executive presence is about being a good listener and the ability to quickly connect the patterns of conversation in order to detect ones personal interests, leadership style and business needs.  Executive presence is about earning the right from others to explore a more meaningful and purposeful business relationship.  Executive presence is not about you; it’s about others.  The one with highly effective executive presence is invited to the next meeting with the opportunity to create a more formal relationship.  Executive presence is about having impactful, long-lasting presence that inspires others to want to know more.

I have worked with many prominent corporate executives.  The most successful executives, visionaries and pioneers had the best executive presence.  They made you feel that you were an important part of their initiatives.  They allowed you to learn more about their personal life and always seemed highly engaged to learn about yours.  They took the time to ask questions and you never felt that they were trying to sell you or convince you about anything. They always made you feel important, wanted and needed.   The most effective executives always do. Executive presence is not about exercising your power and influence; but rather the ability to make others feel your powerful presence in a safe environment.  For those that desire to intimidate others with their power; their executive role and influence will be short-lived. 

As a fast track executive in my 20’s, I remember the wisdom my father shared to help me successfully navigate the dynamics of the corporate world.   He said, “if you ever want to start a conversation with a person of high authority and influence, always be prepared to ask questions that are important enough to them – that it will ignite a meaningful dialogue.    In order for people to take me seriously in the United States in the mid-60’s, as a Cuban immigrant who had an accent, I realized that to build new and / or sustain existing relationships that were meaningful and purposeful, I had to always add-value (lots of value) to the lives of others first.  I treated them like family.  When people realized that my intentions were genuine and responsible - actions ensued; opportunities became abundant for me – and the treatment was reciprocated.  I always expressed my generous purpose.    I built a reputation of being authentic, reliable and trustworthy.  These are the types of relationships highly influential people desire.   They don’t have time to waste.”  In retrospect, my father’s immigrant perspective represented the tenets of Executive Presence.

One point of caution: many people in positions of authority do not always have executive presence.  Their self-doubt, lack of confidence and preparedness may not lead towards developing a more formal relationship.  Most often, they are concerned to reveal their own personal and professional limitations and insecurities.  Just because someone has an important job title doesn’t mean they have character, and / or are well intentioned.   In the end, it’s all about people.

Take a moment to observe some of the world’s most influential leaders like as Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump, Barrack Obama, Bill Clinton and others (see 2010 Time List).   What makes you want to know more about them (whether you like them or not) is their mysterious appeal driven by their Executive Presence.

Here are a few characteristics of executive presence:

• Your presence is felt once you walk into a room
• You inspire people; you are likeable and trustworthy
• People are very curious to know more about you
• People want to be your friend; build a relationship with you
• You are perceived as important, valued and respected
• You have an elegant way of approaching, engaging and getting to know others
• You ask timely, relevant and thought-provoking questions that ignites a dialogue
• You are social, well read and share fresh perspectives
• You always leave behind a thought-provoking message that people remember
• You relate equally well with different types of people (regardless of hierarchy or rank)
• You positively impact others and those around you immediately
• You share and create opportunities for others
• You smile, maintain eye-contact and always make people feel important and hopeful

I welcome your comments, thoughts and experiences with executive presence in the workplace.   

May this Immigrant Perspective on Business Leadership, serve you well.

How Diversity Will Drive Business Growth

DiversityGrowthDiversity management is the key to growth in today’s fiercely competitive global marketplace.  No longer can America’s corporations make excuses about their lack of cultural intelligence.  Organizations that seek global market relevancy must embrace diversity – in how they think, act and innovate.  In today’s new workplace, diversity management is a time-sensitive business imperative.

To better understand this fast-changing terrain, I reached out to three notable diversity executives -- pioneers within their respective industries – to share their insights and perspectives regarding the future of diversity and some of the new best practices that will allow diversity to play a more strategic role in cultivating sustainable business growth:

  • Dr. Rohini Anand, Chief Diversity Officer, Sodexo
  • Ron Glover, Chief Diversity Officer, IBM
  • Kathy Hannan, National Managing Partner, Diversity & Corporate Responsibility, KPMG LLP

Make it Real or Lose Your Authenticity

 Most corporate leaders pay lip service to diversity but don’t really live it.   Diversity is more than employee demographics and support for a few non-profits.  You can’t buy diversity, and organizations that continue to embrace this approach will tarnish their brand.  If you are not authentic, consumers and employees will begin to question the sincerity and leadership of your organization. 

As Rohini Anand says, “The traditional representation perspective originated from the Civil Right era.  This will never go away entirely.  However, diversity must go beyond this mentality.  At Sodexo, diversity is embedded in our brand.  The Sodexo brand is synonymous with diversity.  Though the Sodexo brand is not a known consumer brand, diversity leadership defines our brand – it’s all about talent.  Diversity is about responding to the needs of our clients in a holistic way.”

And Kathy Hannan adds, “Companies must take a long term strategic approach to engage diverse talent.  Companies must define their role in the global marketplace.  The train has left the station.  You may not be where you want to be with your diversity strategy, but you need to get started!”

Executives Are Still Short-Sighted

 I’m reminded of a pre-recession discussion I had with a consumer goods executive who said: “Diversity is another way of saying affirmative action and we are forced to support it in order to protect our brand in the trade and amongst our consumer audience.  Diversity has no real value tangible to the growth of our business.”   Unfortunately, many executives still share this opinion today.

 Rohini Anand says, “Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies have been particularly effective with diversity from a marketing initiative standpoint.  However, this is different from embracing diversity holistically.  Companies must think about diversity beyond addressing niche needs.  Diversity is not just about accessing multicultural markets.  Companies must look more broadly to reinvent the way we think about how business is done.  How can diversity be pulled out of this commoditized mentality?  Diversity leadership must drive innovative perspectives.  Companies have not yet figured out how to unlock the potential within markets and processes that must be enabled globally.”

Diversity is much more than just a multicultural issue.  Diversity is about embracing many different types of people, who stand for different things and represent different cultures, generations, ideas, and thinking.  As Ron Glover says, “Innovation is about looking at complex problems and bringing new views to the table.  Diversity has allowed IBM to be innovative and successful for 100 years and to work across lines of differences in 172 countries, amongst 427,000 employees.”

For example, are you paying attention to the Internet and how online communities continue to grow and represent different voices and points of view – and opinions about your company?

 Kathy Hannan notes, “Diversity has moved from a nice-to-have, to a must-have for companies as a strategic business imperative.  KPMG has a multinational client base.  We must understand their protocols, their ways of doing business.  Diversity must move from just a value, to being operational.”

Anand adds, “Diversity must drive the formation of new business models.  Leaders must think about the changing landscape.  The economy is changing, how business is being done is changing, so the question is how can diversity be utilized as a strategic enabler in today’s changing landscape.” 

And Glover says, “Diversity is a core belief of IBM in how we succeed in business. In order for IBM to successfully expand globally, we need a workforce that understands the local market.  Our clients are as diverse as our employees.  And there are now 5 generations in the workplace.  We must focus on building communities inside of IBM to embrace differences to drive innovation globally.”

 Diversity needs a Refresh

 Diversity clearly needs a refresh.  The misinterpretations of what diversity means and what it truly represents have limited its ability to have the real impact and influence it warrants in America’s corporations.     In fact, the executives who get it today will tell you how concerned they are for their business, because their people, products, and services do not connect naturally with the new faces of America.   As one executive told me, “Our business demands diversity and we are more uncomfortable with our lack of diversity preparedness than ever before.  We are in trouble if we don’t fix it!”  As a result, most companies have been forced to react not only to the changing face of America and but the mindsets of the global marketplace.    Consequently, executives have started to confront the inevitable: a new business model that fully integrates diversity as a business growth enabler.  

 Kathy Hannan says, “No homogeneous talent pool can be innovative.  Diversity is essential.  And, there are broader implications across the whole supply chain.  Diversity is about how you do business across the board.”

 The Future of Diversity

 To better understand the future of diversity management and its role as a business growth enabler, think back to when Information Technology (IT) was viewed as just a cost center.   IT was not associated with driving business growth 20 years ago, but rather as a required cost of doing business.  Just like diversity today, many people then thought IT got in the way of business.   Today, IT is considered a profit center by many and a high priority for organizations as a business growth enabler.   In fact, many CIOs (Chief Information Officers) are next in line for the CEO role.

 CDOs (Chief Diversity Officers) will experience many of the same functional role and responsibility shifts as have CIOs.  They will not only be required to assume their practitioner responsibilities, but they must also learn to play a more integral strategic role in the design of new business models.  Glover notes, “Diversity is a critical leadership success factor at IBM. Globally diverse leaders are maximizing the effectiveness of our teams.  IBM has recognized the importance of building teams across the company from different countries.    It’s not just about leadership, but capability.  Diversity is fundamentally focused on talent!  Those differences create real opportunities for those who learn to master them and a disaster for those who do not.”

Diversity management will begin to develop rapidly, out from under the traditional human resources and talent acquisition roles, to assume more dotted-line responsibilities that will touch corporate strategy, corporate social responsibility, organizational design & effectiveness, corporate marketing and even sales.  Therefore, the requirements to be an effective CDO will mean that they must include operating more holistically in a general management and operational capacity to ensure that diversity becomes an embedded mindset with common threads that touch all functional areas (internally) and the supply chain (externally).  

 Hannan notes, “Good intentions are not a substitute for accountability.  Everyone must be accountable for advancing diversity.” 

How you manage diversity in your organization from today forward will determine your long-term success or failure in the global marketplace.

We Must Stop Being Recognition Addicts in the Workplace

Self-promotionIn the world of business, we recognize those who sell well, but we respect and remember those who give well.

There’s nothing wrong with recognition.  It helps to advance a career, company, or cause. The worker must ensure that his boss sees his success. The company must ensure that its consumers see the effect of its product or service. The nonprofit must make its needs known. But smart people don’t seek recognition alone. In fact, they don’t seek it primarily.   Those that lead with the immigrant’s perspective understand that respect is more lasting than recognition.

A regional sales manager takes his team to the top ranks in revenue and keeps them there for three consecutive quarters. Several company executives recognize his success and wonder if he is a candidate for a higher position, perhaps the new vice president of North American sales. It is a position that will soon be vacant.

The sales manager also sees this opportunity.  Perhaps, he tells himself, his hard work will finally pay off.

However, the question is not whether the candidate deserves recognition. The numbers speak for themselves, and for these he will be recognized as at least worthy of consideration.  No, the question that remains – the question that will determine whether this man’s harvest will expand further – the question that will dictate whether he sustains his good fortune, is whether or not he has earned respect.

As the interview process begins, company executives will give the man an opportunity to speak for himself, but they will also speak to those he has managed and those with whom he has done business. Do they like working with the man? Do they trust the man? Do they think he will continue to succeed? Ultimately, these questions culminate in one: Do they respect the man? Any wise executive must have reservations about the man who can get people to work for him and buy from him but cannot earn their respect.

The great difference between the recognized man and the respected man is the difference of the head and heart. The recognized man appeals to the head where things are easily forgotten. The respected man captivates the heart.  And the heart does not forget.

Unfortunately, the corporate world has taught us to be recognition addicts. In a world of fierce competition, we have come to believe we are our own best allies. We believe we must rely only on ourselves. We believe we can sell ourselves better than anyone else.  But these things are a great long-term danger to one’s career.

Smart workers know that others are far better promoters of their fortune than they are.  So always make certain that your work includes others, and touches their hearts.  Always ask, “How will my work make the biggest impact?”

You should keep track of your successes.  You’ll need to be able to talk about them, and have confidence in yourself when you do.  But you never want to rely on your resume alone.  You must earn respect to sustain good fortune.  To do so, you must set out to share your harvest every day.

Featured Videos
Latina Empowerment
Hispanics in America
Hispanic Leadership
Al Punto with Jorge Ramos