Don’t Sell to Me! Hispanics Buy Brands that Empower Their Cultural Relevancy

Hispanic-cultureThere is a growing necessity for brand marketers to provide culturally relevant content and messaging that specifically targets US Hispanics.  In fact, Nielsen’s recent study, The Hispanic Market Imperative – clearly states that Hispanics are the largest immigrant group to exhibit significant sustainability of their culture and are not disappearing into the American melting pot. Now that we have confirmed that cultural sustainability matters to US Hispanics, companies must become more educated about the Latino community not just as consumers – but more importantly, as people and the identity we represent as a diverse community.They must recognize that Hispanics buy brands that empower their cultural relevancy.

“Studies show that embracing American culture does not strip Hispanics of their heritage or render them susceptible only to mainstream marketing influences,” says Armando Azarloza, president of The Axis Agency, a leading national multicultural marketing agency that focuses on the importance of tapping cultural movements. Hispanics in America are growing tired of being the target of new marketing campaigns by brands that are not creating cultural connectivity.  In fact, Latinos are more likely to turn away from brands that are only interested in selling to them, rather than empowering their cultural relevancy.   Hispanics are more inclined to build trustworthy relationships with people and companies that take the time to understand who we are and what we represent morally, ethically and culturally.    The Hispanic market can no longer be viewed as a short-term expense, but rather should be approached as a strategic long-term investment. 

The business case for organizations/brands to invest in the Hispanic consumer should no longer be a mystery.   The recent announcement by ABC News that it plans to join forces with Univision News to create a multiplatform news, lifestyle and information programming aimed at U.S. Hispanics – says it all.  If that doesn’t tell you where culturally relevant content is headed – the Nielsen study revealed that if US Hispanics were a standalone country, their market buying power would be one of the top twenty economies in the world.   The bottom line is that brands continue to misunderstand the Hispanic market opportunity. They are taking a traditional/mainstream approach that focuses on selling features/benefits to gender-specific audiences whose purchasing habits have been known for decades.   “The business case is simple, targeting Hispanic audiences with dedicated campaigns around cultural expression multiplies the entry points and opportunities for brands to establish meaningful connections that ultimately translate into sales,” continued Azarloza.   Hispanics represent a new type of consumer who is connected to their own cultural nuances that support the needs of their family, their heritage and customs.   The Hispanic consumer is looking to build loyalty with brands that properly represents their voices and authentic identity; and that empowers their heritage by effectively embedding their cultural characteristics in how a brand speaks to them.    Cultural relevancy is a two-way conversation.  This means marketers must allow the Hispanic consumer to influence how they brand their brands.   “Marketers must sustain a dialogue rather than continue the stale monologues of the past.  When you invite Hispanics to engage they will adopt the brand with their own characteristics and personal value,” commented Azarloza.  

“Brands need to find new ways to engage with Hispanics,” says Monica Gil, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Government Relations at Nielsen.  “It’s time for companies to understand the behaviors that drive Latinos to connect emotionally with their brands.  Until they do, they are leaving revenue and market growth opportunities on the table.”      Brands must empower the value of Hispanic Heritage in their messaging and communication strategies all year round – not just once a year when it is formally celebrated, September 15th – October 15th.    Brand engagement with Hispanic consumers is about being able to show that your organization believes that their purchasing power and voice matter.  This means that brands must measure ROI with a longer-term objective focused on helping the Hispanic community strengthen its voice across generations.    Hispanics want you to earn the right to become a member of the family.  This is how you build ultimate trust with Hispanic consumers. “To open this door, brands must identify and hone in on those unique and powerful cultural insights and triggers.  These ultimately will form the foundation of a compelling campaign that will foster consumer desire, loyalty and relevancy and set it apart from its competitors,” says Azarloza.  

With a median age of 28 years old, the timing is ripe for organizations/brands to make a firm commitment to the Hispanic consumer.  It’s time to strengthen a consumer segment whose identity in America has been weakened by brands that attempt to force Hispanic loyalty using traditional mainstream marketing tactics rather than earning it by empowering cultural relevancy.    “Corporations need to start feeling comfortable about being uncomfortable,” continued Gil.  “Brands need to start putting the Hispanic demographic shift conversation into action by making a commitment to understand what it all means to their brand(s).  Hispanics have a hunger for consumption, but prefer brands that speak their language and embrace their cultural heritage. Brands need to take more risks by sprinkling “Latinoness” into their mainstream ads (as Volkswagen did here), concludes Gil.





Culture is Like an IceBerg

Organizational psychologists often describe culture as an iceberg.  There are a few cultural traits that we can see or feel from the surface, such as language, skin tone, body type, accent, surname, and personal mannerisms.  Yet the more substantive aspects of culture are hidden in the water at various depths just like the iceberg that sank the Titanic, and not knowing about them can harm us.  Finding ways to understand those hidden aspects of culture can save your business deal or idea, relationship, communication gone array, and most importantly it can teach you things about yourself and those you interact with. When combined with the “immigrant perspective” it can turn on a sixth sense that most people are unaware of thus inspiring creativity. 

At one point or another in our ancestry we were all immigrants, yet we are often not of the same fresh mindset of a person who recently immigrated to the United States or somewhere else.  If you cannot think of a close first-generation relative who immigrated than you need to be reminded of the “immigrant perspective”.  According to Center for Hispanic Leadership Founder, Glenn Llopis the “immigrant perspective” helps us to creatively see opportunities everywhere.  Imagine a person who immigrated to the U.S. with only a few dollars in their pocket, developing English skills, and no friends or family; this person has a healthy curiosity, zeal to learn, and optimism about his or her new culture which can be a catalyst for business innovation and cross cultural collaboration.  

No one owns culture, yours or anyone’s.  Culture is adaptive, experiential, you can learn it, and it is ok if others seem to know your own culture better than you because the real question is do you know and learn from other peoples cultures?  When you embrace the “immigrant perspective” you are forced to answer yes to this question.  You are your culture no matter what, but your culture should evolve over time with many diverse socio-economic factors that are specific to you and no amount of words can accurately describe what you are - culturally and beyond.  Yet this evolution is a type of change and change is hard for most people.  The mere fact that you are or once were an immigrant means that you are or were open to new cultures and interpersonal risk, and that is ok and healthy in-conjunction with but not mutually exclusive to the world becoming more connected via social media, 24 hour news, smart phones and tablets, and high speed fiber optic cable.  This allows more business outsourcing and global entrepreneurship, and according to a recent Forbes article, “40% Of the Largest U.S. Companies Founded by Immigrants or Their Children.”

Yet for all the technological and economic advancements provided by globalization -- many organizations and people still do not go deep enough into the waters surrounding the iceberg of culture.  Like the captain of the Titanic, they float along on the surface and hope for the best not knowing what they don’t know.  To melt the iceberg of culture you must look beneath the surface to discover the deeper meaning.  After going deeper you will find clues about collectivism vs. individualism, gender, saving face vs. being correct, laissez-faire time orientation vs. punctual time orientation, eye contact, family structure, high context or low context communication, forms of acceptable social risks, dining etiquette, when to shake hands vs. hug or kiss, and much more.  Even when observing these clues, when you are invited to a religious, community, medical, or matrimonial event you must act within and learn from the confines of the culture where you are not necessarily convert for life. 

Lastly, always embrace “your” immigrant perspective with authentic emotion as the emotion will help you feel the story behind your cultural evolution and it will give you a sense of unique pride with the vision to know you will never need to assimilate.  This world is no more anyone else’s than it is yours and there is no true beauty or innovation without true diversity.

By Jeremy Swenson

Jeremy Swenson, MBA, is an experienced marketer, marketing manager, writer, sales person, and business analyst. He has extensive product marketing experience with financial products and retail electronics products (State Farm, U.S. Bank, and Intel at Best Buy).  He additionally has experience enhancing software, and has also served on the social media committee of the MN AMA (Minnesota American Marketing Association) and is the current Marketing Chair of the Minneapolis St. Paul chapter of NSHMBA (National Society of Hispanic MBAs).

Connect with Jeremy at:
Twitter: @jer_swenson
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/jeremyswenson00001
E-mail: jer.swenson@live.com  



US Economy at Risk if Corporations Ignore the Impact of Hispanics in America

Hispanics in America influence the future of the US economy yet this conversation remains quiet as corporations grow more uncomfortable with this time-sensitive issue.   The numbers speak for themselves.  The lack of commitment in giving rise to the Hispanic community is so obvious that it is becoming irresponsible as the risk profile increases.   Corporations know that Hispanics represent the fastest growing population (+$50MM) and workforce community in America.   They are also aware that Hispanic-owned small businesses are growing at over twice the rate of the national average (est. +$350B revenue annually).  On top of that, Latino purchasing power ($1.5T by 2015) is no mystery as there is growing tension in the boardroom with indecision about how to unlock this market segment.    Regardless of the escalating “Latino factor” – corporations are not being proactive enough to engage with this valuable demographic that will represent 30% of America by 2050.  As such, the US economy is weakening due to the lack of investment in the Hispanic Community that will soon dictate new business models and the ground rules for Wall Street analysts.

The following is intended to bring awareness to some of the tension points corporations can’t shake and that carry tremendous economic and societal implications if not solved immediately.  The goal is to highlight a few trends that identify the opportunities that are being missed if US Hispanics continue to be viewed as a recurring expense rather than a strategic investment.

I. Hispanics Must Make Banking & Financial Planning a Priority

More than half of Hispanics expect to improve their financial situation over the next year, while little over a third of all Americans can say the same. Yet, when it comes to financial planning, or even every day banking and insurance needs, Hispanics are still in the minority.

For banks and other financial institutions, they must begin to recognize that conventional banking as we know it may not be part of the traditional Hispanic upbringing. This has led to a general mistrust of banks and, when coupled with a natural skepticism, would account for the $53 billion attributed to "unbanked" Latino households according to a study by a research arm of the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business (download report: PERDIDO EN LA TRADUCCIÓN:  The Opportunity in Financial Services for Latinos).  Read More About This Topic Here

II. Hispanics Lead the Recovery by Occupying Walmart, not Wall Street

Hispanic growth is fueling an increase in buying power in this country that is yet to be seen in other economies.   According to Nielsen’s recent study, The Hispanic Market Imperative – it revealed that if US Hispanics were a standalone country, their market buying power would be one of the top twenty economies in the world.  

Given this knowledge, it's surprising that so few retailers have put much effort into learning about the Hispanic consumer and how to serve their needs. One very prominent exception is Walmart, which has been attracting increasing numbers of Hispanics to their stores by integrating them into all facets of its business, including merchandising, marketing, operations, and community outreach programs. One campaign called "The Best Heritage is a Good Education" addressed the need for higher learning while acknowledging the importance of culture - displaying a genuine understanding of what's important to the Hispanic community.   Read More About This Topic Here

III. Media and Entertainment Through the Hispanic Lens Brings a Paradigm Shift

In the world of media and entertainment, we are finally starting to see a positive shift in the portrayal of Hispanics. Cultural stereotypes are giving way to cultural authenticity. The attention usually given to Spanish-speaking Hispanics is turning to the English-speaking majority born in the United States. New Generation Latinos (NGLs) are making waves and changing the conversation. Not only are NGLs influencing traditional media, they are making Hispanics the biggest and fastest growing users of online and interactive technology, mobile devices, and social media.

Hispanics represent a huge opportunity for the news media, entertainment programmers, advertisers, online content creators - you name it. But captivating this trendsetting and game changing audience will take a different approach, one the industry is just waking up to. Unlike previous generations, largely here through immigration, NGLs are not looking to quietly assimilate. They expect mainstream media and entertainment to embrace and reflect their authentic voice and culture.   Read More About This Topic Here

Note:  On May 7th, ABC News announced its plans to join forces with Univision News to create a multiplatform news, lifestyle and information programming aimed at U.S. Hispanics. 

IV. Hispanics Buy Brands that Empower Their Cultural Relevancy

There is a growing necessity for brand marketers to provide culturally relevant content and messaging that specifically targets US Hispanics.   In fact, Hispanics are the largest immigrant group to exhibit significant sustainability of their culture and are not disappearing into the American melting pot.    Now that we have confirmed that cultural sustainability matters to US Hispanics, companies must become more educated about the Latino community not just as consumers – but more importantly, as people and the identity we represent as a diverse community.   They must recognize that Hispanics buy brands that empower their cultural relevancy.

Hispanics in America are growing tired of being the target of new marketing campaigns by brands that are not creating cultural connectivity.  In fact, Latinos are more likely to turn away from brands that are only interested in selling to them, rather than empowering their cultural relevancy.   Hispanics are more inclined to build trustworthy relationships with people and companies that take the time to understand who we are and what we represent morally, ethically and culturally.  Read More About This Topic Here

The United States economy is at risk if corporations ignore the impact of Hispanics in America.   If not addressed immediately, severe economic and societal recovery woes will prevail.   The rest of America must mature from being uncomfortable about a topic that has direct implications to their financial well-being and the future of their children.  The US economy demands that we all become more educated about Hispanics as they will soon represent the core of our country.   We must stop being in denial.


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!


Latina Leadership: How far have we come – how much further do we have to go?

Latina-leadershipAs I begin this series, I dedicate these blogs to young Latina professionals who are the leaders of the future.  Women of my generation, baby boomers born between 1946-1964, have spent our careers fighting different battles and learning very different lessons than the next generations that follow us.  Having said that, I believe that our experiences shed valuable light on the current political and economic realities that youngerLatinas are facing.  My hope is that future leaders can stand on our shoulders and see further as a result of our struggles.  Much has changed since the late sixties when I graduated from college and began my professional life as an organizational consultant, researcher and university professor.  Unfortunately, much has not changed.  Latinas were then and continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions in all institutions and sectors.  I was considered a rarity when I achieved academic and organizational positions of authority.  My background was traditional working class which meant that my father had a high school diploma and worked in a steel mill while my mother was a stay-home worker raising eight children.  I had no role models for pursuing an education or a professional career.  When I encountered sexism or racism, I was unprepared to even recognize much less confront those experiences.

 One of my passions as a researcher and consultant has been understanding Latina professionals and supporting their development as leaders.  Frequently young Latinas want to know how I have overcome the barriers I have encountered and want advice about how to deal with the challenges they face.  Older Latinas tell me their “war stories” about how they have broken through glass ceilings and how they continue to struggle to balance demanding careers with their over-committed family and community lives.  I see great benefit in having us engage as Latinas across these generational divides.  There is much we can learn from each other.  I can see that my daughter’s generation of young women have special skills and self-knowledge that my generation didn’t have.  I want to better understand how gender roles have changed and how they are forging new partnerships with their male counterparts in the work world.  I don’t agree, however, that gender is no longer an issue or that women have achieved equality in today’s society and I worry about the impact of naively claiming victory over sexism or racism.  There are still too few Latinas seated around the table when significant decisions are made or where power is wielded. 

In future posts I will explore the complex range of factors that maintain the current state – some are very real organizational barriers and others are equally powerful self-limitations that we have come to accept as normal.

 A recent example demonstrates my point.  In the current election frenzy, there is much speculation about the role Latinos will play in electing the next President in 2012.  A recent article by Carlos Harrison on February 20th in the Huffington Post went so far as to ask “Who could be the first Latino President of the U.S.?”  He conducted his analysis without a single mention of any prominent Latinas who would even be considered.  It apparently didn’t even seem worth mentioning that only men were worthy of his speculation.  If this were the 1950s, I might have been prepared to be ignored – but in 2012, really? 

 So the challenges to Latinas being taken seriously as leaders and power brokers in this country continue to be significant.  Strategies to address these challenges require sophisticated and nuanced analyses.  I invite Latinas from various generations, sectors and regions to join me in asking these tough questions. And I hope we won’t rest until we find answers that matter.  Dondeestanlasmujeres?  We are neither invisible nor are we silent – our voices need to be heard now more than ever before.


Creating Cultural Relationships for Your Hispanic Business

Hispanics will control $1.2 trillion dollars of purchasing power in 2012, yet most brands are still struggling to earn the loyalty of this key group. In order to cultivate long-term business growth, your organization will need to make a serious commitment to this community. 

At a time when Hispanics in America are looking to establish their authentic voice and identity, they’ll embrace those brands that seek to create a meaningful long-term relationship, a relationship that grows organically and helps Hispanics gain influence. Brands that reach out to the Hispanic consumer with an authentic and dedicated approach will dominate their respective industries.    

Cultural Characteristics Are Crucial to Your Brand’s Success

Research conducted by the Center for Hispanic Leadership (CHL) has identified the following six inherent characteristics that not only define Hispanic leadership (download ebook) but also show organizations how to most effectively market to Hispanic consumers:

  • Immigrant Perspective: See opportunities others don’t see
  • Circular Vision: Lead and manage change
  • Latin Passion: Pioneer new possibilities
  • Entrepreneurial Spirit: Humanity fuels innovation
  • Generous Purpose: The spirit of giving to the community
  • Cultural Promise: Serve to leave a family legacy

Whatever industry you’re in, your organization must become a natural part of the growing Hispanic consumer community. Your brand must earn the relationship that you seek.

To win the trust of the Hispanic consumer, your organization must execute the following four steps:

Step 1:  Business Strategy (Define the Relationship)

To define your brand’s relationship with the Hispanic consumer, you have to embrace the cultural nuances that influence how Hispanics think about the products and brands they purchase.

Why do you believe your products or services will benefit the Hispanic consumer? Although Hispanics are open to exploring new things, your products or services must consistently answer specific needs for the security of their family, children, home, education and financial stability. Your business strategy must involve building trust organically across generations. Your brand’s relationship with Hispanic consumers must advance their community and help them to get closer to the American dream. 

Step 2:  Brand Positioning & Messaging (Build a Trust Platform)

Hispanics in America have trouble trusting others because they’ve lived with corruption, struggled for independence, and fought for opportunity in their mother countries. How will your brand earn trust from people who are naturally skeptical about those who sell to them? Why should your audience believe that your product or service will provide them long-term opportunity and advancement? How will your brand’s message lift the Hispanic community’s voice and identity?

Step 3:  Interactive (Empower Voice & Identity)

Most companies start phase I & II and never finish; they fail to connect with the Hispanic immigrant perspective. Can you provide an online experience that will encourage the Hispanic consumer to engage with your products and brands? This experience should be unique to your targeted audience. It should speak to the Hispanic community’s authentic voice, and help to build the community’s leadership pipeline.

Step 4: Technology (Expand the Relationship & Measure Outcomes):  

Hispanic consumers are the fastest-growing segment of the online and mobile world today.  Leverage technology to expand your relationship with Hispanic consumers and measure the outcomes of your investment.

Are you designing mobile applications and management systems to continuously interact with and become more knowledgeable about your Hispanic customers? Are you creating a social media platform that allows your Hispanic customers to feel safe when sharing their ideas? Do you have the tools to measure how Hispanics contribute to your business, corporate social responsibility, and talent acquisition strategies? Do you have loyalty programs that specifically target Hispanic consumers to assure that your relationship is authentic?

Why does the Hispanic community require a unique approach?

Most organizations are still ignoring one very important point about Hispanic consumers: Hispanics are not a homogenous community. However, focusing on these three points will help your organization capture brand loyalty and create viral local-market momentum:

  1. Learn the six Hispanic cultural characteristics. Your brand must speak with the community.
  2. Remember that Hispanics in America are a leaderless community. Help empower Hispanics as community and business leaders.
  3. Focus on building long-term trust. Listen carefully to what Hispanics really need.

Brands that break through the walls of doubt and connect authentically with the Hispanic consumer will enjoy profitable growth for years to come.


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. 

Hispanic Leadership in the Next Decade

HLeadershipNxtThe successful recall of Russell Pearce in Arizona shows what a powerful political voice Hispanics can have when we work together. It is critical that in the next decade our community unites to exercise similar influence in the corporate world.

When I founded the Center for Hispanic Leadership (CHL), one of the first things we did was to carefully listen, observe, and learn from other Hispanic professional organizations and their leaders.  Our findings were disturbing:  our community is overly protective, we don’t trust one another, and we don’t often collaborate with one another. 

 There is no central agenda that each organization can act on to support the advancement of its Hispanic professional members. Hispanic professional organizations operate in silos, they are territorial, and they don’t do a very good job of finding ways to unite to accelerate the advancement of the Hispanic professional community.  At the current rate of development, the Hispanic identity crisis will last for generations.

 We Hispanics continue to create barriers to our own advancement. In the next decade, we must unite to empower ourselves as Hispanic professionals. This begins by being transparent with one another and sharing our intentions, challenges, goals and objectives – openly.  We must activate our generous purpose within our own community.  

It’s time to learn from the lessons of other cultural groups that have been faced with similar challenges in the workplace. Let’s employ our circular vision. If we don’t manage our Hispanic brand, the marketplace will do it for us.  

The challenges for Hispanic professionals could overwhelm the resources available to all Hispanic professional organizations - combined. We must not view one another as competitors, but as strategic allies.   At CHL, we want to unite, empower and expand the leadership of our community, so that those from the outside can begin to experience the cultural promise that is inherit in the ways we think, act and innovate as managers and leaders. 

It’s time to unleash our Latin Passion - with proper focus - to engage those around us in ways that can create opportunities and innovations to create and benefit our whole society. 

The next ten years will define our Hispanic leadership legacy. Instead of thinking why we shouldn’t unite, let’s think about our entrepreneurial spirit and how we have limited our potential for advancement because we continue to find reasons to disconnect.

 Let’s connect our immigrant perspective and our powerful voices to work as one.  I have been told by many corporate diversity and talent management executives that we are unlikely to unite. Collective leadership is the only solution to our problems, and it must be developed within our community. We must embrace the unique cultural difference and the deep-rooted diversity that exists with our community. We must educate the doubters by being more accountable than ever.

 Hispanic professionals have been forced to assimilate to seek equal opportunity in the workplace. In the next decade, we must teach others the value of assimilating to some of our ideas, by focusing on being our whole selves in everything we do.

 Hispanic professionals are in a unique position to take advantage of the many untapped opportunities that the post-2008 economy has created. But that will only happen if we can unite as Hispanic leaders, and create a platform for sustainable impact and influence.

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